How To Get Organized During the Holidays

How To Get Organized During the Holidays

So, I just sat there nodding my head and smiling til I felt like a crazy person because Rachel was speaking to my soul.

I stalk follow her on Instagram and have yet to find something that doesn't speak to my organizing heart.

During our #TalkEarly Summit last year, Rachel talked about how our lives aren't curated. As influencers especially, we feel the need to keep the clutter out of our images and only show you the perfection that surrounds us. Want to see what currently surrounds me?

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Letter of Gratitude to My Daughter

Letter of Gratitude to My Daughter

It is 4:51 a.m. I've been up for a bit and I'm wide awake. You are asleep. Not beside me on the pillow that you love to take over but, in your own bed. Mami should be asleep as well but, I don't know what's keeping me up.

Words. I think words are keeping me up. Words keep me company, you know. They weave themselves in my head and, by the time it's all said and done, they form a body that can be easily confused for a real person.

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The Why Behind the Asks: Parenting and Safety

The Why Behind the Asks: Parenting and Safety

These are some of the questions I've gotten, like, since this morning. I have given my child a "questions" notebook but she never seems to have it on-hand. I am from the "because I said so" generation so, the concept of framing responses is new to me. And, it's exhausting, y'all!

We have had late nights around her feelings and her thoughts and processing questions and responses. On nights like those, I message my girlfriends and profess the melting of my body into the couch or bed a fact.

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Working Through the Emotions of Losing And Learning

Working Through the Emotions of Losing And Learning

The day after election day. I was up past 3 a.m. I left the safety of my war room after midnight for the reality of exit polls and concession speeches. I've been seeing a lot of discussions about percentages of people voting. About who voted how. Breakdowns regarding race and gender sliced and diced to serve up with a large side of anger and hurt.

Throughout the next days, weeks and months, I think we have to take a hard look within our own communities to acknowledge some facts, dig into the figures and get a game plan together for this future that we so desperately need.

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Single Parenting With a Chronic Illness

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(this is part of the Soulful Sunday series)

This past week I've had a few aha moments. As I woke up on a Saturday, I had to do some extra running around in order to make things work, and I started writing this list in my head.

Of course, as the day went on and my endo belly made its appearance, the list grew.

I have been told I am not a single mother because baby girl's dad is in her life. I've been told that I am better off than most people because my brother lives with me. I've been told a lot of things by a lot of people that fail to understand and honor my reality.

And, while I still don't think it's everyone's business to know the intricacies of relationships, juggling, compromises and let downs, I think I owe other single moms (and especially single moms with chronic illness) this little list.

And let me say that the list isn't mutually exclusive. I know mamis that don't have chronic illnesses that deal with some of this. But, because I am a single mami and I do live with a chronic illness, there are days of strong intersections between the two. Sometimes, out of necessity, one informs the other.

What it means to be a single mami with a chronic illness:

  1. It means you spend a lot of time at home. More than you'd like and you battle the guilt of your child being indoors more often than the general recommended times.
  2. It's staying up into the wee hours, doing laundry and packing a bag full of clothes for a trip she will not take while also packing yourself up after dropping her off at school in the morning for a trip you must go on.
  3. It's finding out that all the plans for that trip suddenly changed with one forgotten calendar item discovered while you're in the air.
  4. It means missing meetings that you'd like to attend because you don't have your mom (or any other family member) by your side to perform the essential "watching" required for a slice of carefree parenting when you have things to do or things you like to do come up.
  5. It's never having a choice about holding it down but people acting like you do.
  6. Chronic illness means finding and making up new games to keep your child laughing and happy when your pain level is at a steady 7-8.
  7. It means having people look at you, your smiling face, your happy child, and proclaiming that all must be right with your world as you struggle with the reality that a second child is further away than a first child ever was.
  8. It's people telling you that you are lucky because "at least you have her." As if the prayers of gratitude don't play in your head for the better part of each day.
  9. It's people thinking that because the dad is involved, your day-to-day life is easier but having no clue about what the fuck your day looks like.
  10. It's your child learning to make her own breakfast when you have a 2-week bout with pain and no one you can turn over to in bed to ask if they can take care of it.
  11. Single parenting means smiling when people stop and tell you about the beautiful co-parenting relationship you have simply because they read Facebook posts and don't have access to your text messages.
  12. It means always fielding questions from your child that you cannot answer while promising her that you'll always tell her the truth.
  13. Chronic illness means backing out of commitments because you did too much the day before even though you push yourself for one good hour or two in order to still bring some normalcy and fun to your child's life.
  14. It's means people with skin in the game saying they are there to help but still showing how their values system contradicts their words. Over and over again.

There are many more. And let me say that one does not discount the other and as a whole, none take away from the life full of gratitude that I live and the blessings that abound.

I'm so mindful of my blessings. I not only try my best to talk about those blessings but, to do right by them. To make sure that I am putting my money where my words are, where my intent is, where my actions live.

I have good days and bad, like everyone else. And I am grateful for them all.

Good day, friends.

How to Process Boundaries, Toxicity and Actions For a Better Life

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I've recently headed back to therapy. Processing being disconnected from my father and the continual pushback experienced from family members that don't really have my best interest at heart but rather, they're own need to justify the trauma they experienced. Among other things.

Over the last few years, I've continually shed fucks in a manner not dissimilar from a long haired cat shedding hair, consistently and without a care in the world.

This has led to a deeper understanding of boundaries. How they are NOT a negative (this is what narcissists that want to continue leeching all that you contain within your spirit will tell you) and how they have to be continually reinforced.

One of the simplest things my therapist says to me while I'm working out the shenanigans in my life is "that's not their values system" as a starting point of discussion when faced with something someone else is doing. It is amazing how much that phrase puts into perspective. And how much it takes off of me. Guilt, hurt, anger, questions.

[Tweet "I have learned that there's more than measuring someone by just their actions."]

People sit on a different wavelength than you. Even when they tell you they're right beside you. That wavelength is informed by the way their own stories have been woven together as they made their way through life and whatever generational trauma was handed down along with the hair color gene.

I have learned that there's more than measuring someone by just their actions. We say that a lot: actions speak louder than words.

But here's the kicker: they don't. A great deal of times, those words are also reinforcing the action. But you have to look and really hear what someone says. At face value it might mean one thing but, once you analyze the pattern of words and actions and how they affect your life, you will see exactly what they mean.

Sometimes, that package adds up to:

  • I want you to do the work.
  • My time is more important.
  • I won't change my priorities even though they don't align with what I say I'm doing/want in my life.
  • I'm not interested in what you have going on so long as I get what I need.

Those sound a bit harsh, right? They never sound like that, I promise. It might look something like, though:

  • Your friend constantly calling and only talking about her problems and when it's your turn to vent, telling you that she has to go or reminding you of how much worse her life us.
  • A loved one telling you about all the issues they have going on, you helping them with all that emotional labor only to find, weeks later, that the person has taken zero action and is back to complaining and telling the world they don't know what to do because sympathy feels better than facing our demons.
  • Your spouse waiting on you to get back from a business trip to go grocery shopping because he didn't think the kids wanted to go (like you ever have this choice).
  • You having to have your space and time invaded on a Wednesday night because your partner was handed last minute tickets that he just "couldn't pass up" on the day that you'd agreed would be your mental health day.

As women, we are raised with the idea that we have autonomy and choice but rarely, especially as mothers, do we actually feel like we have those things. They are not given to us but we must take them.

It's generational, it's cultural. But whatever it is, it needs to stop. Because it is also toxic and harmful.

I fucking refuse to hand this down to my child!

It has taken me the better part of 40 years to get to a space where I am not afraid that what I say will lead to harm. That my actions won't lead to pain. And let me say that I rarely, if ever, felt like the harm would be physical. I'm talking about the psychological and emotional harm that so many of us wear like second skins without really grasping they are there.

[Tweet "I refuse to let a different value system diminish my own."]

I refuse to let a different value system diminish my own. I refuse to take down my boundaries out of fear of repercussion or emotional abuse, I absolutely refuse to let anyone else step into my space and prioritize themselves over anything that is meaningful and purposeful to me.

And in those refusals, I have found peace. I have found renewed and ever growing faith. I have found air for my lungs and light for my eyes.

Go into your week being clear about your values system and understanding that a difference in others means you have to operate from a different standpoint, not compromise your beliefs system or your situational comfort.

I'm wishing you light for this week, my loves.

Being My Girl's Best Teacher While Learning Along the Way

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Disclosure: I'm a #TalkEarly ambassador. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I'm writing this in karate class. No, I'm not so talented that I can type and karate chop all at once (GOALS!). I'm attempting to distract myself as baby girl takes her first consistent after school activity. It's slightly nerve wracking. I have to fight the urge to yell at kids as they practice their kicks and punches. Whose idea was it to have parents spectate?

Third grade. We. Are. In. Third. Grade. I cannot believe it. After a pretty chill summer, it seems that we have hit that milestone of "oh hai! Let me show you what stress looks like!". Her dad and I have already engaged in tense conversations about grades and the dreaded FSA here in Florida.

Everything is new. Including struggling to deal with the anxiety my child is showing. It's been there for a while but, not until late spring did we really notice it blooming in spite of all the steps taken to dissuade it.

At times like these, I am reminded that I am always a new parent! That title doesn't go away because a child is growing up. Each stage is new to me. And with each stage, I find that community is key in helping me navigate it.

Last Fall, I had the great pleasure of meeting Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure. I learned SO much from that book. Not just about my child but, about myself. It has been a book I quote and talk about regularly with friends and one which I've counted on to help guide me through times like these.

First, I became keenly aware in first grade about some anxiety and insecurities in the Frog Princess. It was something that I worked hard to help her overcome. We started off shaky due to her needing glasses and her school brushing off my concerns about reading early on. That led to a loss of confidence and then, there we were. Here's what I learned from that experience.

  1. The Frog Princess is my child, she is NOT me. We might not have the same tastes or talents but, I love her still. I love her for being herself and as long as I can encourage her, cheer her on, help find tools that will help her with her challenges, I'm doing what's best for her.
  2. I CANNOT compare her to other kids. This was a difficult one as I had a few conversations where it was obvious that the parent was attempting to engage in oneupmanship. I had to learn to say baby girl was at grade level and feel good about that. When did it become a goal for our kids to read 4 grades ahead? Not knocking the kids that do but, I recall being in and around conversations where it was obvious that was the "thing to be".
  3. My ego does not make for a good parent. I can love my child through anything but loving her through my ego would cause more harm than good. So, I had to make sure my expectations were set based on HER knowledge, HER skillset and HER ability to produce. Not my own.

When Jessica was talking to us at the #TalkEarly Summit last year, a big statement that stuck out to me was directive/controlling vs autonomy supported parenting. It is easy to get sucked into providing direction every step of the way for every little thing that a child does. I think I always loved the idea of autonomy supported parenting and I have tried my best to do that even though I know I sometimes fall back to directive parenting. But, having this information at hand helped me identify when I was doing something that wasn't necessarily best for my girl so I could pivot. Y'all, this book is all the things!

Here's a quote that slapped me upside the head and that I'm considering tattooing on my body. [Tweet ""Competence is the anchor for intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation happens best when kids are engaged for the thing itself – not what we are dangling in front of them.” - Jessica Lahey #TalkEarly"]

It's another way to create open communication and trust. One of the things I've really appreciated is having the Frog Princess open up about her insecurities and her anxieties. I thank her when she tells me these things and assure her that I am a safe space. These hard conversations start now (why hello, #TalkEarly). I like to tell people that we don't parent teenagers when they are teens. We parent teenagers when we have their full attention and the ability to build a foundation of trust. That starts in the early years. I used to say "I'm not parenting a 3-year old, I'm parenting a 13-year old" and folks used to think I was nuts. It starts early and I hope this foundation leads to us having a continual discussion about all the things.

When I cannot help her because I don't know something or I am at a loss, I say that to her. And I tell her that I will find the information out or get us some help. It's how we found a therapist helping her with her anxiety issues. Again, I'm not parenting an 8 year old, I'm parenting an 18-year old and I want to get rid of all the barriers now while they are molehills in front of her growing feet.

Between The Gift of Failure and #TalkEarly, I've learned so much! I'm grateful to them both and continue to use them over and over again in every stage of my parenting life.

How's back to school in your neck of the woods?

 

The Tale of Two Silis

I'm in the car, on the way to an apartment with a perfect sea view. I’ve spent the day in what would be considered an undesirable area of the city. The electricity we consumed today came from a small power plant used to barely keep the fridge running, a few light bulbs and a lonely fan that tries its best to cool down a small house never intended to hold so many memories or so much love. Every day that I have made this trek I am amazed at the duality of life these days. There are lessons here.

But, all I can feel is the exhaustion. And the hot tears that I fight to hold together, at least til the Frog Princess doses off in my arms, exhausted from playing with her primos all day in a house that has never seen central air conditioning. She sleeps quietly as the scenery changes right before us. Some days our car has AC, some days it does not.

I stare at the changes. The dilapidated houses behind bars that hold treasures that can only be found by those that have little possessions, turn to condos, then residences behind gates, high rises.

There are lessons here. But, all I can think of is how I have always felt at home in all the spaces. The one where I have carried my own water to bathe with and the one with the infinity pool across from the blue ocean that has always beckoned me home.

I will be leaving this place shortly. All these places. I imagine it will be as it always has been. But so very different at the same time. Filled with tears that can no longer be caught by either of my mothers' hands or comforted by their arms. Trailed behind by promises of calls and return trips, with thoughts of the memories I have made not just on this trip but since the day I was born, 43 years ago, on this very island.

This is no longer my home but it will never be anything else.

I live in the folds of the waves of the ocean, in the veins of the leaves of the flamboyan tree.

I see lack and lush grounds. Privilege and those that will never truly experience the meaning of that word. I see it all on my drive. It is both overwhelming and humbling. Duality showing up at every turn of my travel. The sun rising and setting. The old couple walking hand in hand and the man that has paid for his date. The well-fed man on the beach and the starving dog at his feet.

I navigate these roads but it is not without a cost. I need a new phrase to replace emotionally spent. I feel as if every night, my heart is rung out and put out to dry only to be thrown in the spin cycle again the next day.

I am child and parent. Giver and taker. I am happiness and tears. I am a tale of two Silis coming together at the intersection of responsibility and grief, duty and love.

After arriving home, I sit in silence for a bit. The frog princess stops by to hug me, having been on high alert with my soft heart most of the day.

She hugs me as if giving the tears permission to exit their station. When she notices them she asks disapprovingly how long I've been feeling this way.

I do not lie. I explain it's been a difficult time for me. She says she's sorry I've been feeling this way and why hadn't I told her. I think because, dammit! You're a kid and I don't always want you to carry the burdens of my heart. But instead, I tell her it just is and that I am working through it. As much as I do not want to upset her, I've learned it is important for her to see my emotions and to hear how I process some of them.

Then I say, "Thank you for loving on me."

And she quietly, confidently and with her arm still wrapped around my head as it lays on her shoulder, says: "You're welcome. But I'm not done getting all the emotion out of you."

Neither is this island, baby. But I'm grateful for it and humbled for each and every experience.

The Bag She Carries And The Memories She Leaves Behind

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She picks up a bag with a bible, a blouse, her toothbrush, perfume and whatever else she might have slipped in there when we weren't looking. At times, when she puts it down and cannot find it, she tells me that someone here is stealing her things. But when I direct her to whatever stolen thing she's told me about, she quickly corrects, agrees and says yes, she knew it was there.

We sit in front of the open door with the fan circulating the July heat through the small spaces of my youth.

The walls that saw me take my first steps, that were witness to countless hugs, kisses and tickle fights now stand sentry to circular conversations, frustration, tears, joys relived and discussions about travels that never will be.

I watch her and try to ease the latest bout of anxiety. This time, about the people sitting across the street. She is worried they are looking at her. Nervous that she is in someone else's house and they will arrive to kick her out.

I try to ease her mind. Remind her I am here. That this is her house. Her fears leave her momentarily when I stand up and she puts her arms around me. I rub her back, her head. Pray over her. That the ancestors bring her mind some peace.

Sometimes she falls into the spaces in which she lived. The ones where we are more than a distant memory. She excuses herself from the fight. Says something comes over her but tells me she loves my godsister, her child, and doesn't mean to get mad.

These are precious moments. I rush to call Bea to us and repeat what was said. I know her heart needs this. Caregiving is never easy. Caregiving a loved one who has dementia is probably the hardest thing one can do, especially when they get extra ornery.

"Bea, is this my house?" she finally asks at one point. "It is." Bea responds.

This eases her mind a bit. When we move her from the front of the house, she starts up again. Finally, I stand before her, rub her arms and she smiles big for me, all at once, releasing the worry that seems to have gripped her for the last few minutes.

I tell her she is okay. That she doesn't need to worry. That she is not alone. I cup her face and kiss it. She laughs and thanks me for the comfort I just brought her.

I might have to do this again before heading to my temporary home while I visit. Before changing my skin and leaving behind my heart.

But for now, we hold hands. For now, her heart knows mine. And I am grateful for this moment. For this grace.

Misericordia.