A Single Mom is not a Father

A single mom is not a Dad. 

We can stop the, “Happy Father’s Day to me because I’m doing it on my own.”
A single mom is a Mother who is handling the responsibility meant for two people, by herself. This is noble, this deserves respect, and should be celebrated…on Mother’s Day. 

A Father is a man who contributed not only half of his DNA but half of his heart to a child. A Father is a man who fell in love with a woman and chose to love her the little ones who came from her as well.  A Father is a man who signed papers, went through numerous court appearances, and paid money to become the father of a child whose parents decided they couldn’t. A Father is a man who noticed that young man or woman who needed him. 

He had to introduce himself, remain consistent, and invest in raising a little girl to know what a mans love should feel like and a little boy to know what a man should be. 

It’s a daily walk of being a picture of strength throughout your day and being a soft spot for the family when you get home.  Being a Father is hard but I’ll be damned if I haven’t seen more guys grabbing this title proudly and excelling in it. 

A single Mom is not a Father. She’s a warrior of a woman who deserves recognition on her day. Let’s leave Father’s Day for the Dads. 

So, You Want To Be Married?

Today, I walked past the church where my husband and I got married almost three years ago. The church is beautiful and I fell in love with it the moment I stumbled upon it walking home from work one evening in 2012. I had to get married there. And we did. I sometimes walk past it just to be nostalgic and mushy and today one of those days. It looked the same, except, one door was open. Typically I walk by in the early morning or late evening during the weekday and the doors are closed. But not today. It seemed to be inviting me in. I said to the open door jokingly, “What? You want me to get married again?” Joke or not, truth is, I do get married again. Everyday. 

When we were planning our wedding we were excited and giddy. We would tell couples who had been married for 10 plus years that we were getting married and I remember this look they all gave. It was a mix of joy, hope, “poor baby”, “who left the milk out?”, and indifference all rolled into one. I didn’t understand it then but now I do. As a mother for almost ten years now, it’s the same look I give childless people when they share their “tips” on how to be a good parent. Chile, THE DOOR.

And my issue is this: 

As married people, we say “I am Married.” Like a title, a descriptor. It’s really cute to say when you first become married. You feel proud. Accomplished. After a couple of years though, I sort of cringe when I say it because I feel like marriage is not something I am, it’s something that I’m actively doing everyday. Working on it. Getting better at it. Getting stronger in it. Yeah, you’re married. But are you in a marriage?

“If I have to pick up your clothes from the floor one more time I will die.”

“You wait until the last minute to tell me we have to do something. What’s up with that?”

Those are both things that my husband and I have said to one another in the past week. The first one is mine. Couldn’t you tell? DRAMATIC! The second is his. We get on each others nerve. But if you ask either one of us, right after we said these statements, if we’d want to do marriage with any one else we’d both answer “Not a chance.”

All married couples have aspects of marriage that they do really well. Some are great at getting one-on-one time in with one another, or running a business together, meeting financial goals, or planning family activities. Me and my husband are excellent communicators. We kick all categories of ass in communication. Our disagreements are level headed, inclusive sessions of seeking understanding. We don’t get petty and hurtful. 

That right there? That’s not us. But what was brought to my attention through my church family recently is that evil will use what you so believe in against you in an attempt to get you to fail (like Satan tempted Jesus). Take us for example: we are so good at communicating and understanding each other that sometimes we forget to verbally do it! Isn’t that a trip? We just think the other gets it and understands but they may not. We still have to actually communicate. Because if we don’t, other things will start doing it for us. When other things in this world like Facebook, “friends”, and work start doing our marriage for us we are bound to fail.

The game changes constantly so it’s impossible to just BE married. You have to DO it daily. You have to revive it, rebirth it, and readjust it constantly as your marriage grows and changes. 

I choose to forgive everyday. I choose to work on getting to know him more everyday. I choose to get better at being a companion. And it’s work, but it’s not hard work. It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever had to do because out of all the things I don’t get to choose in life, I got to choose him. And I’m going to be active in my choice. The title isn’t enough for me. Saying “I am Married” is outdated and speaks of a moment in our marriages lifetime. It was born on October 26, 2013 but its toddler now. It’s fearless, independent, emotional, pure, and full of potential. 

So to my soon to be married ladies and gentlemen… Enjoy the wedding. Enjoy checking the “Married” box on your tax forms. Enjoy calling him your husband. Enjoy calling her your wife. But also enjoy getting married again every morning until your marriage is potty trained, graduates high school, and has 401(k). *Disclaimer: This will likely take a lifetime.

Is anything original?

I have a belief that there are no original ideas left. This is my inherent suffering as a writer.

My writing time goes a little something like this…

Maybe I should write a novel about a slave who tries to rebel and escape but is wounded by…nah, that’s “Roots”.

Perhaps, my literary prowess can take me on a magically journey. A kid, grows up orphaned. Raise by his relatives buts discovers he is speci…Hello “Harry Potter”.

A young woman meets rich man with a kinky fetish who.. that’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” …and my Daddy would return me to the earth.

I even tried to stop reading for a while. I thought that by reading I was shoving their awesome stories into my head and by some new medical miracle pushing out my original thoughts. But my reading strike didn’t work. I’d get through writing a few chapters of a new story that had me excited…but then I’d think “This is too good. Someone MUST have written this already.” Pencils down. Test over.

So, what do I do when I want to know if my plight is unique to me? I Google it to see what other people are thinking about what I’m thinking. Sly little minx aren’t I? To no ones surprise there many people who feel the exact same way that I do. That all the great American novels are already on bookshelves. On high school reading lists. In people’s hearts and minds. There’s no need to waste more paper.

But I enjoy wasting paper. Writing my words and having other people react to them and connect. What do I do with this feeling that was put here? I’ve written fan fiction since I was a child. Crouching low in my desk during Social Studies. Instead of taking notes, I was writing the next great saga about B2K. My friends taking notes and letting me peak at them for the answer if I got called on by the teacher. These stories were real to me. Until I got older and writing couldn’t just be fun anymore. It had to provoke change. It had to entertain. Most of all it had to make money.

For me that’s when the pressure set in. I need to be unique. I need to unravel a plot line that will have people taking extra therapy sessions to work through all the buried issues in their lives that MY BOOK unearthed. I was going to be THAT DEEP y’all. And I mean, if i’m reaching for that, no wonder my engine conked out under the pressure. No wonder I stalled.

But lately, I’ve done my share of complaining, Prayer, and Googling (the millennial Trinity. Amen.) I’m chasing the wrong thing. I’m chasing uniqueness. Something that I don’t have to chase because I already am. What I actually am looking for is authenticity. See, even great stories like Harry Potter and Star Wars have the same plot line. Think about it. It’s true. Orphaned kid, raised by relatives, discovers he’s the second coming of badassness and vows to avenge his parents deaths. Yep, thank you Google (and Melissa Donovan).

Aren’t these stories still epic? It’s because they are rooted in an authentic feeling, a heartbeat that we can all sync with until the last scene in those stories. The anger. The confusion. Hurt. Happiness. It all flows through. That’s why we soak it up. That’s why it is celebrated. Because it’s real and authentic. Human. It’s the human experience and it was written well before I came into existence so I can’t hope to rewrite it any better. What I can hope to do is keep connecting with the source and keeping connecting with others. This will keep feeding the well. There will be no need to search for it because it will already be full and waiting.

I’m not going to worry if the next words I write are unique.

Whatever I write will be unique because I am but it will be authentic because of who we all are.

“Before I created you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart; I made you a prophet to the nations.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭CEB‬‬

I’m Angry. Delightfully so.

Angry
I’m angry. Am I’m delighted. I’ve been chasing anger for miles but it’s always a little faster than me. Always a little farther out. Farther than my resolve.

 It was less than a year ago I pulled my co-worker into an empty office. Confused. But she was my confidant because she’d been in this confused placed before. I told her that I thought my husband may be interested in another woman. May be cheating on me. She gave me the “Oh honey. I’m sorry” eyes and quickly corrected her. That’s not why I’m coming to you. For sympathy. No. I’m coming to you because when the thought of him with another woman raced across my mind…I felt nothing. I was not hurt. Mad. I was not. Angry. What does that mean? Shouldn’t I be? “No.” She said. “When you’ve been hurt a lot it’s sometimes difficult to feel strong emotions again.”

 It was a little over a year ago that I stepped on a scale. Curious more than anything. I’d had a baby and my pre-baby clothes were cutting off my air supply but still I wanted confirmation. Exactly how fat was I? The scaled ticked and waivered before it stopped. Forty pounds more than when I peed on a stick for the first time. My eyebrows raised. And then lowered. I stepped off, slid the scale back under my bed and went and ate. No disappointment. No hurt. No anger.

 It’s been almost two years since I’d written a single creative word. I’d deleted the blog app on my phone. I’d never make a living as a writer. No one would read my ideas. I couldn’t waste time on this…leisure. Useless is what writing is. A waste. Indifferent. Not angry.

 “Hey, I missed you at church this Sunday.” She was being polite. She’d missed me at church every Sunday for the past few months. I could barely pull myself out of bed to get to Jesus. I figured he’d come to me if he really wanted me right? I didn’t have the energy to smile. To pretend to pray when I was thinking about my empty bank account. My husband, possibly not loving me. My frequent courts visits to fight for a child I’d raised and loved since he was in my womb. The executives who looked at me across a conference room table and I could hear them thinking “You’re not good enough.” My apartment in the ‘hood. Where a group of guys smoking. Drinking. Playing loud music greeted me and my babies every time I came home from a long day’s work. I don’t want to pass them. I shouldn’t have to pass them. To get home. The home I pay for. But I have to. I have no choice.

 I part the cloud of smoke. Hold my breath as I step on the rank elevator. I push the smooth silver button. 9 levels of humid rank heat. My hands shake as I open my door and before I know it my keys are flying. Down the dark hallway. Ricocheting against the cement walls. My chest heaves. I can’t breathe but it’s way too much air. I’m hot even though it’s cool. And I know what it is. Anger. I caught it. I caught up. It’s here and it’s everything. All-encompassing and surrounding me and I miss it and hate it and want it to stay and wish it would go away. I’m so delighted. Delighted in anger.

 The last time I was angry I lost fifty pounds. The last time I was angry I finished four semesters in college as a single mom while holding a full time job. The last time I was angry I packed up all my ex’s shit and gently delivered it to his grandmother’s house for safe keeping. The last time I was angry… I wrote. A lot. The words poured out and I would re-read them and marvel at how beautiful they were. The last time I was angry I met the love of my life because I wouldn’t settle for anything else. And I know he loves me. But I was angry that I didn’t, once again, love me. See, when I’m angry, I’m changed. My anger isn’t all raw emotion with no destination. It’s a pusher. A dynamo. A life-changer.

 So, I’m angry now. And. I’m delighted.

In the Absence of Hunger

Scene: A writer locks himself inside his small studio apartment. He works vigorously on his novel day and night. He pounds away on his typewriter even though we’re well into the 21st century. The unpaid bills pile up at the door. He ignores it all; blocks out everything and survives on cereal because his soul simply can not rest until the world consumes his words. End scene.

This isn’t me. I wish wholeheartedly it could be. I am not a starving artist. I’m well fed. My bills are paid and I don’t own an antique typewriter. I do like cereal though. I work tirelessly at a job I love and when I get home the last thing I can muster the energy to do is write the great novel that’s been swirling around in my head, itching to spill out. I wish I were hungrier. Instead I’m well fed comfortable and distracted with day to day rituals and responsibilities.

Whenever I delve into the worlds of my own creation I feel that perhaps I should be resting up for the long workday ahead instead. Maybe I should preparing my sons lunch for tomorrow. Picking out what to wear. Cuddling with my husband. Watching reality TV. Working on my presentation. Anything but writing about Bridget and Yuri, characters that have become so much a part of my life over the last six years that I should’ve sent them an invite to my wedding. I shouldn’t be wasting time on something that may never see the light of day. A hobby.

I’m well fed. My bills are paid. All responsibilities of mine have been handled by me helping others pursue their dreams. But when I sit down at the table to pursue mine I feel selfish and indulgent. I’m not hungry. My life and my well being do not hinge on meeting a deadline or getting these words out of my head and on to paper, and getting that paper onto an executives desk so they can tell me whether missing my rent payment or eating ramen for months was all for a good reason. I’m not a starving artist and I’m not I always feel that I’m at a disadvantage.

I sometimes drift off in my cubicle staring over the Manhattan skyline and think of
an alternate universe where I have unkempt hair, ripped jeans, and a backpack that carries only the few essential items I need to survive. Holding my thumb out as I hitch rides and weave through different cultures. Different realities. I use everything I experience to pour my soul into the next brilliant American novel. I can almost feel the dirt under my hands as I learn how to plant vegetables from the natives. That hunger feeding me and driving me to greatness.

But I’m well fed and dirt makes my skin crawl. My hair is neatly coifed. My suit jacket tucks neatly around me in all the right places. Writing in my world means sitting down with guilt, waning drive, and disinterest and humbling myself to my inner author. Giving the old typewriter inside of me a chance to whir and click because it can’t in the real world. I write for the feeling at the end. When the writing process is over and I’m a few letters closer to my goal. I’m not a starving artist but have one inside of me and for periods it goes ignored. But it’s always been patient with me. It’s always there whenever I’m ready to resume my work and that’s why I remain loyal.

I don’t have the luxury of abandoning my day job and writing to my hearts content and I’m not sure if I even want to. I enjoy my full tummy. But since I don’t have that hunger in my gut I need to keep it in my soul. “Never stop writing” is the best advice I’ve received from seasoned writers and I’m keeping that close to me. I could feel bad about being inconsistent but instead I’ll just pick up where I left off. Thankfully my characters don’t move forward without me. 🙂

What the Comments Section Taught Me

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There is almost never a time that I read a great article online and don’t scroll down to the angry pit of despair known as the comments section. It’s like a car crash. I know that what I will see will assuredly disgust me and depreciate my faith in the human race but I can’t help but crane my neck and take in the full breadth of mayhem. In person people can be mean. Online people are demonic.

I’ve typically operated under the notion that negativity is the minority. I believed that most people’s natural inclination is to be kind to others and that only a select few deviated into the bowels of evil. The select few being those who were teased a little too much in school, or whose Mom locked them in a basement while she had wine with the girls, or whose Dad threw a baseball at their head at supersonic speeds in the name of teaching them sports. I am wrong. Very wrong. The comments section on social media websites have taught me that the first reaction to hearing a heartwarming, life changing, humanitarian effort or a heart wrenching tragedy that someone is facing is typically to be a sarcastic, ruthless, mean bigot. Of course it’s easy to be mean while safely tucked away behind the illuminated screen of a jizz stained computer but why would anyone want to be?

What the comment section has taught me is this; Positivity is a skill. It’s not something that comes naturally. Positivity is an active choice. It’s a choice that we make several times a day. I can’t count how many times in one day my mind switches over to self-loathing and harsh criticisms but there’s something, a little annoying voice that pipes up, screaming, “This is not helpful! “and I switch back to clouds and rainbows. Clouds and rainbows lead to positive thoughts and forward movement. But sometimes it’s just easy to sit in a Pret A Manger and pick apart random strangers in my mind. It’s easy to see a person or observe a situation and just draw a conclusion. And it’s even easier for that conclusion to be vile.

Positivity is a skill that I’ve developed to keep myself from feeling like poop. It’s developed out of my need to evolve. Negativity in itself is stagnant. It may change but it never really progresses. There’s a cap on evil. The worst thing you can do to another human is torture or kill them. That’s as far as it can go. Death is inevitable anyway so when you really look at it negativity loses a little more of its edge.

On the other hand, there is no cap on positivity. The innovation that positivity nurtures is powerful and on my worst day I’ll chose it. The most powerful tool in our belt and yet still so many ignore it and opt for the flawed, capped, and truncated weakness of negativity. It makes sense, positivity requires work. It requires inward reflection and not outward criticism. Out is easy isn’t it? I’ve always heard from couples who have many years under their belts that walking away is easy. Leaving is easy. Staying requires work and compromise. Only the strong survive the stay. Only the positive ones.

Sticks and Stones and Words Do Hurt

you suck

“Mom you shouldn’t eat pizza. You should eat healthy. You don’t want to be fat!” Justin was on a health kick. His school had just gotten a new Sports and Fitness Director and let’s just say he was doing his job. Well. My son just called me and his Dad out. And my feelings were hurt. My brain sort of shut down on me as I tried to figure out a way to explain to him that what he said wasn’t wrong. He was right. But that his approach was a little harsh. Six-year-old harsh.
I can recall being twelve years old and for the first time having someone, who I did not know, make a mean comment about my weight. For years I’d been blessed to have family, friends, and classmates around me who saw me for me and not just my physical appearance. When I came across something that was such a contrast from what I’d become used to I was a bit shell-shocked. I was hurt and went home and cried. I cried a good long pitiful cry.

My Dad eventually noticed my preteen meltdown and took me into his arms. It took much prodding before he got the story out of me. I am dramatic at times and I can remember summing up my story with something along the lines of “No one likes me. I shouldn’t live anymore!” Yea, I know. I cringe as I write it now and even at the time I knew I had no intention of ending my life but it sounded like something you were supposed to say after someone was so unnecessarily mean to you. My father’s reaction though was not what I expected. I thought he’d continue to console me, beg me to return to being the bright young girl I was and get rid of all the negatives sentiments.

You know sometimes when the opposite of what you think is going to happen, happens? Stay Tuned.

What my Father did was, peel my wet face off his shoulder and shooed me (he literally shooed me) away from him.

“Now you’re just talking nonsense. If you can’t see how much people love you, you’ve got big problems.”
Good Bye and Good Night! That was the end of the conversation. I went back to sulk under the weight of my failed attempt at gaining sympathy from my Dad. But I couldn’t even muster up another tear. My irrationality was leaking out instead. I realized that I was being foolish as soon as the words left my mouth. Just saying the words out loud felt foreign to me. I’d tried on a new self-loathing coat that did not fit properly. In reality, for that one negative comment from a stranger, I’d had hundreds of positive commentary from the people who had front row seats to my knowledge, my personality, and my heart (i.e. those who mattered). The sing-song children’s rhyme pinged around in my head.

“Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

Except they do. Especially when your six-year-old tells you you’re fat.

The power of words. I’ve seen them used as vehicles for change. Bold, centered letters on picket signs. Prose eagerly written for a college entrance letter. The first word your child learns to write. “Mom”. I’ve seen words used to oppress. Laws written barring the right to vote. Slurs scrawled across doors of homes. Notes passed in class about how ugly someone’s shoes are. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. Those words from that stranger hurt and though I did get over it the fact that I remember it so vividly all these years later proves that it did have an impact. For some children the words don’t roll off so quickly. Children take their own lives in an effort to escape the words being spewed at them from little mouths barely old enough to walk to school on their own. It’s hurtful and it stings and can even be deadly.
As a parent now I struggle with this concept of words as weapons. I’m a writer who is trying to teach my son, for his protection, that words don’t hurt. That they hold no real power. It’s hypocritical and just plain ole wrong. But there’s still a natural urge for me to protect my son. I want to give him all the tools and the fortitude to tackle any obstacles that may come up in his life. Now, as a first grader he’s not necessarily dealing with the crux of life issues but he is learning how to interact socially with others. More poignantly, he’s learning how to interact with others who sometimes say things that he does not agree with. Teasing and making fun. How do I teach him the importance of words, and the strong feelings they convey while simultaneously urging him to let harsh words roll off his back because they are after all “just words”? Oh, the struggle.

Words are our strongest weapon. They give us the opportunity to share openly as a community, to attempt to resolve differences without violence, an avenue to share joy and hope…and they hurt. I’m seeing a shift in society. It’s now cool to be cynical. It’s funny to say mean things. The “Mean Kids” culture is really taking on a new power and its impact is felt through the numerous news stories of children, barely even teenagers, taking their lives because of the constant teasing, taunting, and pure meanness of their peers. I fear having my child on either side of that coin. The aggressor or the victim. I also don’t want him to be a person that skirts the line and goes along quietly without opinions.

But I’m learning (we’re learning) that as with any weapon it’s imperative that the use and safety are taught concurrently. It’s a tricky situation but getting my son to know how important using his words responsibly and effectively is an ongoing lesson. Quite honestly it’s one that I haven’t totally mastered as an adult. We all have our “oops” moments, poor choices of words, name calling and generalizations. Being aware of what we’re saying and how its landing on the ear (and the heart) of another is the first step.

As it turns out, Justin understood totally. I have to start giving that kid more credit. His focus is now on celebrating health instead of admonishing fatness. And I’m in the process of losing some of those hearty LB’s. Win, win.

I Don’t Know Someone, Who Knows Someone

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Mostly about working and making a living at what you’re good at. When I decided to finally get serious about this writing thing, being the compulsive researcher I am, I delved into finding out what it takes to make it in the literary community. I found a wealth of knowledge. Workshops to improve writing skills, techniques to improve discipline (still trying that), and how to choose the right agent. Most articles gave all this great advice but typically surmised it all with something like “Many writers get rejected 300 times. Don’t expect to have your pitch or manuscript even be considered unless you have loads of experience all ready (I do not) or you know someone who knows the business well but GOOD LUCK! :-)”. I imagined the smiley face but it wasn’t actually there. It’s my attempt to soften a definite blow. The blow that is all boiled down to a single hard pluck in my forehead. You have to know somebody, who knows somebody, who can make your dreams come true. All the studying and preparation in the world cannot replace the value of a well-placed friend in a position of influence.

My eagerly inflated balloon popped and whizzed around the room before landing squarely on my head (where I’d just been plucked). I was deflated. I was defeated. I don’t know someone, who knows someone. This was going to be a task.

Almost in direct response to my defeat, the universe, as it continually does, began to show me little nuggets of positivity to guide my way. My husband and I share an insane love of all things music. We’ve been glued to the television all year watching all of the awards shows for new sounds and talent. In true groupie fashion we were front and center (in our bedroom) for the Grammy’s this past Sunday. As usual there is always one artist or group that cleans up at the Grammy’s and walks home with a mob of tiny gramophones. This year one of those groups are an independent duo by the name Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. They are currently shutting things down in a huge way and changing the music industry in the process. They won four Grammy’s off of their independently released studio album “The Heist”. Yes, INDEPENDENTLY released. No major record label backing whatsoever. Intrigued? So was I.

Everything always comes back to writing for me so instantly my brain perked up. What about writers? Are they doing it for themselves? Of course! Google couldn’t get me the information fast enough. Big name authors that have become household names started out via the self-publishing route. E.L. James, author of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy first launched her novel from a self-published platform. John Grisham, acclaimed author of “A Time to Kill” and “The Firm” also self-published and later rose to success (understatement of the decade). I could feel my fingertips tingling as I scrolled through story, after story. I was inspired. Maybe I don’t have to know someone, who knows someone, after all.

The idea of networking is not foreign to me. I know that socializing and making connections is just as tantamount to a career as education and raw skill. BUT I always thought, rather naively, that the job would always ultimately go to the person/people best suited for the position. Oh how the stark realities of adulthood have reared their ugly head! I’m realizing that, in reality nepotism is a four letter word, and the CEO’s nephew who got three DUI’s last year could possibly be signing my checks for the rest of my life. In the words of TV personality, Nene Leaks (RHOA), “Chile, bye!”

When did we stop self-endorsing? I get, on a quintessential level, the need to have a body of work recognized by one’s peers. I think it’s become more than that. It’s not just about recognition, it’s become about validation and that’s a dangerous game that I’d rather not play. All artists should feel validated by what they create. The sheer effort it took to sit down and commit to completing something that comes from the soul. Completed with a concerted effort to make a statement, or bring joy, or change society, or just make a ripple that may cause a tsunami sized shift in humanity holds within itself an instant validation.

I want to get back to artists simply creating and sharing. Allowing the masses to dictate what it wants instead of a few choice executives in those few top publishing firms…or record labels…or museums…studios. That’s why I’m completely in love with this social networking and advanced technological age. I get to go on blogs and get passion from its source. Not watered down or truncated but real, and raw and I can tell those artists that they are amazing and they can REPLY directly to me! What a gift. This, what’s being created in this generation, is the birth of a movement that I’m proud to be a part of. In this generation, this new wave, I guess I do know someone, who knows someone, who can give me my dream. Me.

 If it’s been a white boys club for 70 years, that’s a lot of white boys hiring one another. And I don’t believe that happens out of any specific racism or sexism or prejudice. People hire their friends. They hire who they know. It’s comfortable. You want to be successful, you don’t want to take any chances, you don’t want to rock the boat by hiring people of color because, well, look at us. Both Betsy and I like the world that we work in to look like the world that we live in. Different voices make for different visions. Different visions make for something original. Original is what the public is starving for. – Shonda Rhimes (Writer & Producer, Scandal)

“I Do”… Now What?

My house was a complete wreck. Clothes strewn across the floor. Take-out boxes piled haphazardly on one another. Every closet door in the house was thrown open and I couldn’t see the bottom of my kitchen sink. Ahhhh, just the way we left it. Home sweet home. My new husband and I looked at the mess, cleared out a space on the bed, and laid down. We were home.

A week long honeymoon in Cancun seemed like it wasn’t enough but just enough at the same time. It left us with beautiful memories and we vowed to make it back soon.

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(Us, sad to be leaving Cancun)

But for now we were back home and ready to get back into the swing of things. Needless to say the mess stayed on site for a few more days before I had the strength to tackle it all. I started in the bedroom. I picked up debris and stuffed it into a trash bag. I made my way lazily through the room for a while before I came across a pile of stuff from my bachelorette party. A frilly pink boa, a huge plastic ring in the shape of a diamond, a heart shaped button that had been strapped to my chest almost two weeks earlier while I twirled and danced my heart away in a foggy ladies club. I instantly laughed at that night. Me and my best girls out on the town to celebrate my last night as a bachelorette. I spotted a picture of all us from that night. Me, seated with my pink boa, all of us surrounded by yummy men oiled up and shirts missing. It was a fantastic night.

I also came across a left over invitation from our wedding. I sat down at the desk looking at all these items. Memories created. An event that changed my life. Before I knew it I had tears streaming down my face. Real tears. I was freaking myself out. What the hell was I crying for?

My husband came into the bedroom to see me, his brand new wife, head bowed crying over a picture of half-naked men. Needless to say, he was confused. He consoled me and asked what was wrong. I’d never been embarrassed around my husband. We’d always spoken about everything. Shared crazy thoughts and ideas. Did silly dances in front of one another. But I found it hard to spit these words out. I thought I’d sound ludicrous, childish, spoiled, and shallow and I didn’t want to say the words. He asked me again what was wrong and I fessed up. I said it.

“I miss the wedding.”

I was afraid to say it because I didn’t want him to think that I was only in our relationship for a wedding. I was in it for him. In it for the way we completed one another so perfectly. In it for how secure and normal he made me feel in a world of chaos. I was definitely in it for him. But I’d said it. I missed the wedding. The realization hit me hard. I said it so many times, “Athena, you are NOT one of this girls.” One of those girls who dreams about the Barbie wedding. All sparkles and frilly crap and prince charming in a tailor made suit at the end of the aisle. I’d never thought of my wedding as a little girl, didn’t dream about it growing up either. I wanted a marriage. A marriage like the one my parents had. Thirty years of solid arguments and love, good behavior and bad manners, honesty and white lies. I wanted that. So, why the hell was I sitting here crying over a pink boa?

First off, to fess up…I missed being the center of attention. My family and friends are the cream of the crop. They dropped everything and made sure to do whatever was needed to make sure our wedding was wonderful. They supported us monetarily, emotionally, physically (I couldn’t squeeze my ass into that dress without at least 4 people), and spiritually. It was beautiful to feel the love that I always knew was there so abundantly out in full force and on steroids. Everyone checked in constantly to see how we were doing. I could be a hypersensitive and super emotional and everyone would say “Oh, I know dear. The stress of it all. I’ll help you with whatever you need.” That wasn’t really life though. It was the life I’d lived for the past year of planning the wedding but it was not even close to real life.

Secondly, what was I supposed to do now? Let’s talk about that year of wedding planning. I slept, ate, and breathed every detail of my wedding. I memorized swatch colors, whizzed around New York City meeting vendors, telling them what I wanted and making them promise they would make it happen “or else”. I picked out complete looks from head to toe for everyone. I booked flights, hotels, make-up, and steam cleanings. I worked at my job from 9AM-5PM and came home and started my second job of Wedding Coordinator from 5PM-2AM (or whenever my butt started to hurt from sitting at my computer for too long). My little six-year-old son became a full blown wedding critic having had to sit with me for hours watching wedding show, after wedding show, after wedding show (he thinks ball gowns are prettier than A-line dresses, who’s he kidding?). It was all consuming and all-encompassing and in a matter of hours it was entirely, completely, and strikingly… over.

I blurted all this out through tears, drops staining the pecks of one naked man in the photo. My husband listening attentively to the whole thing. I was ready for him to call me out. Expose me as the narcissistic fake that I was and question what I was in this for. Him or some damn wedding? He nodded and looked me.

“I kind of miss it too.” He laughed and made his signature “I’m Caught” face. To say I fell deeper in love with him would be an understatement. I laughed and wiped my tears. He helped me throw all that stuff into an old sneaker box and shove it into the top of our closet. And now when I glance up at it on the rare occasions that I’m cleaning, I don’t feel sad anymore. I remember what the whole wedding was all for. It was for someone I could sit in my bedroom with, tear stained and surrounded by adult memorabilia, and laugh with about missing our stupid wedding.

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Am I Raising One of Those Adults?

He waits until he gets to the counter at Starbucks to look at the menu. The twenty people in line behind him groan in unison.

She leaves her cart in the center aisle while grocery shopping. Everyone must maneuver their grocery laden carts around it like a produce glacier.

I fear these people daily. I have a reservoir of bottled up rage from years –decades even– of meeting up with these people as I go through the mundane but necessary tasks of life. I come home to my 700 sq. ft. slice of the pie, downtrodden and beat up by the idiocy of it all. I slump down onto my couch.

“Hi Mom!” Justin, my six-year-old son, launches the greeting over his shoulder as he flies around the room. I watch my little boy. So happy and carefree. He’s uninhibited and completely –and do mean totally– oblivious to the fact that he dropped a huge glob of peanut butter on the floor during lunchtime and is now smearing it all over the floor while in the midst of his most recent Spider-Man induced psychotic break (he’s shooting non-existent webs out of his wrists. imaginative play or psychosis? You decide.) I groan and the thought flutters in on the wings of worry. Oh my God. Am I raising one of those adults?

I worry about my son constantly. Is he happy? Is he healthy? Does he know he’s loved? Does he know that, seriously, Starbucks lines are long and you can optimize your wait time by browsing the menu and deciding on a selection before you get to the counter so you don’t hold up the line? These are just a few of many worries that burrow into my motherhood for residence.

Nature vs nurture always rears its ugly head eventually. I wonder if I have any control at all in determining who he becomes or does he have a biological disposition to being Starbucks dude? Of course, it’s a combination of countless factors such as culture, socio-economic status, heredity, and so on and so forth. In a nutshell, it’s pretty much unpredictable. But let’s not let that stop us from worrying, huh? Yea!

I was surprised they allowed me to take my son out of the hospital after his birth. A short stint of two days after an emergency cesarean and BAM! I’m driving through the streets of Brooklyn with a hostage. No formal training necessary. No pop quiz before the discharge papers are signed. My god, they even let me call him whatever the heck I wanted. This seemed irresponsible on their part and thus my worrying began.

I worried about diapers, onesies, new teeth, old teeth (a fairy does what exactly?), kindergarten, high school, college, and careers before my precious little boy even made his first tar-like poop.  He was the most beautiful thing and I didn’t want to screw him up. Could I screw him up? Could I make him a lifelong Venti-Mocha-Frap-with-skim-blocker?

As most wisdom does, my first nugget of knowledge on parenting came from my mother. She watched me patiently from the kitchen table as I tried to get my son to eat his first spoonful of solid food. As soon as I’d get that little rubber spoon lined up for the landing he’d purse his tiny lips shut and turn his head away. I’d read books and articles and more books that said he should be eating solid food by now. I dropped the spoon into the bowl and along with it went my last resolve. I dissolved into a frustrated teary mess on my mother’s couch.

“He’s NEVER going to eat!” I always had a flair for the dramatic.

My mom calmly shook her head.

“No, that’s not true. He’ll eat when HE wants to eat. Just give him what you have until then.” She was referring to the bottle of formula but her words went past that bottle and hit something deeper inside me. I could actually hear the ding and see the light bulb illuminate in my head.

My son was his own person. Even at six months old.

His natural disposition told him he wasn’t ready for the food and that was okay.  As his mother I felt I knew what was best for him and that was okay too. So, should I force the solid food issue until his little tummy rumbled? No. I had to give him what I had. What he would accept. I had to nurture him with the tools that best suited him.

I may know what’s best for him and I will always worry when he takes an alternate route but I rest assured that he knows what’s right for him. He’s teaching me this constantly. A few days after the solid food debacle of ’07 he ate his first spoonful of solid food and he’s been a proud picky eater ever since.

So, if a baby could help teach me such a fundamental lesson, maybe–just perhaps–Starbucks dude and produce glacier lady are here to teach me things as well. Like patience and sharp maneuvering techniques. Maybe they skipped the lesson on proper coffee line etiquette but took second helpings on taking as much time (and blocking as many paths) as you need to make the right decision. If that’s the case, then I’ll be happy to raise that kind of adult.

photo (5)(Justin with his go-to snack)