That Motherhood Moment When $h!t Just Got Real

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OMG last week was HARD!!!!!!!

My older son (who is also my bestie) has been in the ROTC program in college for the past few years and was just informed that in May, he will be commissioning as an Active Duty 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. He’s over the moon about it. Apparently, it’s a coveted position in an environment where there are so many spots to go around nationwide for so many university ROTC students competing for the same.

When he called me on Monday, I congratulated him. After we got off the phone I locked my office door, cried for a few hours and didn’t speak with anyone all day. When I got home, I drank some Jack Daniels, which I rarely do. Coping mechanism, see?

Worrying….That’s our job as moms, isn’t it? But, if they are happy and are being responsible then we must be supportive and slap a smile on our faces, despite how we feel. A million things flew around my head. What if he gets deployed? What if he gets hurt? What if he gets sent so far away that I can’t see him often? What if he goes and gets married and has kids and we’re so far away from each other I can’t be there for them? What if something bad happens…..I can’t even!!! I feel like Rochelle from Everybody Hates Chris, with my thoughts on the future spinning out of control.

You see, the whole military thing came about when he was around 12 years old. He was never a bad kid, he was actually a really great kid. He just didn’t like school much so he was a total slacker. One summer he got bad grades on two of his classes, so I sent him to a military school in Virginia for the summer (“This will fix him!”) There, he would be able to retake the classes and learn in a more disciplined environment. Well, that backfired because he ended up loving it. Then, he joined ROTC in high school. Then, he joined ROTC in college. Out of 80 or so ROTC students in his freshman year, only 9 remained to the end of their college careers, with him being one of them. So, this is a huge deal.

Initially, I tried to get him to join the Navy or the Air Force (“It’s safer!”) No dice. I tried to get him to pick a specific job that I thought would keep him out of harm’s way…. He picked other, more dangerous stuff. I snapped at him when he was telling me what duty stations he chose. I’m having so much trouble with all this. BUT!! I could never be that mother that would forbid him from chasing his dream or making him feel guilty for worrying me. I never understood moms who dictate to their kids what they can/should do with their lives. So, i’ll just shut my pie hole and smile like Melania. I’m happy for him, really. He got what he wanted and worked super hard for it. I’m just so worried…. this is where my faith has to come in.

This is a real struggle, because as Mom I want him to be SAFE from harm, I want him to be happy, healthy and all that good stuff. I’m freaking out about this shaky political climate. I’m worried about the decisions the new ‘administration’ will make and how that will affect all our kids in the military. I’m convinced that these next 4 years will bring drastic weight loss for me, because when I worry I can’t eat. I’m formulating a prayer plan and trying to figure out how to avoid losing my hair from the stress. I’m adding in a budget line item for all the care packages i’ll be sending with enough beef jerky for him to share (that’s some expensive stuff).

I’m revisiting all the mistakes I made when raising him, all the times I yelled at him or fought about his grades or schoolwork. The things he didn’t get to experience because I was a broke teen mom on welfare trying to get through high school. The fact that his father was never in his life and how that somehow must have been my fault. The times I neglected him because I had a paper due. Stuff i’m less proud of, like leaving him with Grandma so I could have some time to myself. I’m even regretting dumb things I complained about, like having to trick his laundry into the hamper (boys NEVER wash their clothes, didn’t you know? The clothes are dancing on their own by the time they wash the clothes- that’s why we always do it for them). I don’t know why i’m having all these thoughts- I guess I did the best that I knew how but I do have some regrets.

When I found out that this is official… he’s actually going in… was my ‘when $h!t got real’ moment. But, this is another phase of letting go. I let go a little when he went to his first day of school, then he went to his first dance. Then, he graduated from 8th grade and I was like, where did the time go?!! Then he graduated from high school and went off to college and the house was so quiet and empty. It took me about a year to get used to cooking for less people, washing for less people, etc. I thought about him all the time, worried about him all the time (“What if someone slips him a roofie at a party? What if someone clubs him over the head and steals his car? What if he gets robbed at gunpoint? What if…”)

He’s a man, he wants to serve his country and be a leader. He wants to have a career, and he is happy- REALLY happy. So despite my feelings, I have to let go of all those worries and understand that he is doing what he wants to do- and is genuinely happy. His happiness is what counts, not mine. That’s what we have to believe, as moms. And we also have to have FAITH. Now what I need to work on is to keep him covered in prayer, because I genuinely believe that will keep him safe. And I need to stop panicking.

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The Importance of Teaching Our Kids About History

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This past weekend was sad but was also eye opening. My intent was to join my buddies and go to the Women’s March to join the 500k (!!!!!!) people in D.C., but was nervous due to reports of counter-protesters in white sheets/Confederate flags and having to explain that to my kid. He was disappointed about not going- he isn’t fond of the new President either and he came to that conclusion on his own accord.

But I couldn’t let this weekend go to waste, so I took the opportunity to teach my son about why people were protesting and about our history. And it was really very sad to have to explain to him all about slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, racism, and the ugly things that happened to slaves once they got here.

We visited the Banneker Douglass Museum, which has two prominent exhibits. One exhibit is a timeline of African American history from 1600 through the 1970’s. The other exhibit is housed in the old church building next door- a history of marriage ceremonies since slavery and the stories of 8 black couples, past and present, who had/have been together for over 50 years.

The museum tied these two exhibits together beautifully. Long story short, they detailed stories of Africans being brought here by force, their family unit disintegration, not being permitted to marry, learn to read, etc. And despite all these encumbrances, they maintained normalcy by creating their own rituals to share with their families (jumping the broom, singing spirituals, praise and worship), which eventually culminated in these 8 couples with amazingly strong marriages and beautiful families.

We talked a lot about Roots by Alex Haley; there is a memorial by the Annapolis docks in his honor.

We talked about how people on the slave ships were treated (“but Mom, how did they go to the bathroom if they were chained together?”)

We talked about how babies were taken away from their mamas and sold off (I got a blank silent stare on that one).

We talked about how families were separated and how kids were separated from their moms and dads.

We talked about the two sides of the Civil War and what the war was all about.

We talked about Harriet Tubman, how the Underground Railroad worked and how she helped so many people escape to freedom.

We talked about what Jim Crow laws were and saw actual signs on display, segregating black and white facilities (“these are DUMB laws, mom”). He saw the differences between the little short black water fountains and the big, gleaming white water fountains (“but that’s not fair, mom”).

We talked about how black kids couldn’t go to school with white kids and how the white schools had all the advantages, good books, nice clean buildings and bus services, while the black schools had to fight for the few crumbs of resources the government threw at them.

We talked about Martin Luther King Jr., sit-ins, protests for fair employment, protests for fair housing, Freedom Riders, how both black and white activists fought for the enforcement of laws meant for equality for everyone.

And I watched his reactions closely as we went through each of the exhibits.

I caught a picture of his face as he was listening to one of the narratives of a slave who was beaten for looking his master in the eye. And it was a look of distress. When he saw footage of the riots where people were beaten and hit with fire hoses, something clicked: “But mom, I’m colored, too”. He had never heard the term ‘colored’ before visiting this museum.

I felt like I had to seize this opportunity to teach him this stuff (and expand upon the undoubtedly watered down version that he learned in school). And he was upset, the same way i was upset when my dad taught me all this stuff. I didn’t even get into all the long term resulting consequences of slavery; the modern day slavery/unequal justice system, the surreptitious inequality in the workplace and how black people have to fight so much harder than everyone else. That, i will teach him little by little.

Because people who don’t know their history are at a higher risk of repeating this type history. And if people don’t think we have a dangerous ship of fools in this administration, they haven’t been paying attention.

It is NOT OK to use threats against people because of their immigration status. This country was built on the backs of immigrants. Its not OK to objectify women and say stuff like “grab them by the pussy” or “blood coming out of their…. wherever”. (Who says that?) Its not OK to make fun of people with disabilities. Its not OK to shoot off at the mouth and be irresponsible in communicating with the public. And lastly, it is not OK to lead your people with the use of fear tactics. Its manipulative. This is the highest esteemed job in the world, act the part.

He re-energized the base of people that were desperately grasping at the little bit of superiority they felt they had left. The same people who said they would fight President Obama at every turn- no one can tell me that wasn’t about color and being resentful of leadership by a black man. This election made all the closet racists a little more bold, which is scary. Very scary.

And so, I had to have some very candid conversations with my child about history. To those who say marching and demonstrating wont do anything, I would respectfully disagree. Marches and demonstrations throughout history have paved the way to changes in policy. Selma to Montgomery, Tienanmen Square, Berlin, Boston (Tea Party) and the list goes on.

So, we will be at the next march- I am certain there will be another march.

30 Days of Thankfulness

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How many things do we have to be thankful for? I can’t even wrap my mind around all the things we have that we can thank God for… the key to happiness is being grateful for our blessings, even through times of hardship and adversity. You might think you have a terrible life, nothing to be thankful for, nobody loves you or cares about you, or money troubles might be a factor in your unhappiness. I have news for you:

* The simple fact that you woke up this morning is reason enough to be thankful, despite any problems you might have. You’re alive to fulfill a purpose. It’s up to you to figure out what that purpose might be.

* YOU are the engineer of your own happiness. Not your husband, partner, friends, your financial situation, kids, job, stuff you have, etc. You have to consciously think about the blessings you have, and keep them in your thoughts at all times.

* Something people don’t like to talk about: MONEY, stuff, name brand clothes, cars, houses, prestige, status, jewelry, wealth, material things don’t mean CRAP. God can take everything away in a heartbeat. Remember that you can’t take any of that with you when you die. And- having the means to buy stuff won’t make you happy. Being able to buy the finer things in life won’t give you happiness. What will happen, though, is that you will never be satisfied and you’ll always want more. Be content and happy with the relationship you have with God, your family, and friends- in that order. Everything else will fall into place. And do you really want to be known for what you have instead of what you’ve good done in the world? Personally I’d rather die a broke missionary than a rich but lonely and morally corrupt mogul. That’s just me, though.

* Something that you are taking for granted, someone else is praying for. So, that spouse you have who doesn’t behave affectionately towards you but is responsible or a good parent will look mighty good to some lonely person out there. A mother who buried her only child would love to appreciate that kid you have that doesn’t call you on a regular basis but texts you instead. Someone who doesn’t have a job would love to have that job you hate…. Think about it…

During the month of November I’m going to periodically post what I’m thankful for. I would love it if you would share what you are thankful for as well. I would love to read about the many things you have surrounding you that you feel grateful for, no matter how small they may be… For example, even though my car broke down yesterday, I was thankful that I made it home safely, for my supportive family, the AAA guy who did the towing, etc.

Today’s thankful moment: I am thankful for my children, who love me despite my flaws, and who I would give my life for if I had to. There is no better feeling to me than being a mother and I thank God that he gave me the opportunity.

A Lesson in Humility

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I became saved in 2008- and as my best friend Nicole warned- everything in my world hit the fan. The adage that bad things happen when you become saved is absolutely correct. The enemy is extremely upset when he loses a soul and does everything in his power to divert your attention away from your new path to righteousness.

With this in mind, it has been a challenge to change my behavior, my way of thinking, the way I react towards difficult situations, because I had been living my way for 29 years. There are many, many references in the Bible as to how we should behave- and I remember reading some of them and thinking to myself… : “I’m supposed to do what?” To name a few:

James 1:26: If anyone thinks he is religious, without controlling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless.

James 1: 19: My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for a man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.

Luke 6:27: But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.

Romans 12: 19: Friends, do not avenge yourselves, instead leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.

Two things I have the most trouble with are forgiveness and my temper. I have improved (a lot!) only because God has proven to me time and time again that I dont need to fight my own battles, He will take care of them for me. You might feel satisfaction on the surface if you get even with someone who hurts you. But, you still carry that seed of resentment in your heart, and you still feel anger. Handling your own business means you dont trust Him to handle it. Release your troubles to Him, pray about them, and leave them at His feet. He will handle them better than you ever could.

My temper was another issue- very quick to condemn, curse, yell, lose my cool. Condemning others is something many of us Christians are known for. There is an underlying sense of entitlement; some of us feel we can condemn because we are saved. But- the Bible says the following:

Romans 2: 5: But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement is revealed.

Romans 12:9: Love without hypocrisy….

I remember a few months back I saw a Facebook post about a woman who was proud to be ‘the other woman’ and was gloating about it. Having had loved ones go through infidelity, and knowing the pain of that myself, I let this woman have it. I told her in no uncertain terms what I thought of her. How dare she tear a family apart for her own selfishness! Then, (this is how God talks to us- if we pay attention!) I saw a different post a few minutes later that read “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”- Gandhi.

I remember thinking, wow… Would Jesus condemn this woman like that? I was ashamed at my reaction. We are supposed to love the sinner but hate the sin. (Luke 6:37: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven…”) How could I call myself a Christian and behave like that? I deleted my comment and gave thanks for God’s immediate correction on my lack of understanding. It’s not my job to judge; its my job to pray. Simply put, if your feeling is to judge, feel superiority, anger, bitterness, then that is not of God. But- if your feeling is to reach out to someone who is making bad choices, leading you to pray for them, help them heal, help them feel love despite their choices, and help guide them to make better decisions, that is what we as Christians are responsible for. Have a great week Fam…. XOXO

A Bright Smile That No One Sees

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of serving the homeless at our annual church Thanksgiving event. My church is a very small but close-knit church; we start compiling clothes, shoes, blankets, food, and start getting ready for this event about 3 or 4 months in advance. There was an awesome spread of food; turkey, macaroni and potato salads, rice and beans, drinks, desserts, and hot dogs and hamburgers, just in case we ran out of food. Not only do the homeless in the neighborhood come, but a lot of needy families show up as well. When I was looking for a church family, I purposely selected a church that was in a low-income neighborhood, because there is more opportunity to help and do the meaningful type of work that God has called me to do.

This year, I was asked to help market the event. During the process of posting fliers at the bus stops and stores around the neighborhood a few weeks ago, I ran into a homeless man who ‘lives’ outside the Family Dollar a block away from my church. He didn’t have any clothes, blankets, or any possessions that I could see, but he did have a large bag full of trash. It was almost like since that was the only thing he owned, he didn’t want to part with it- even though to us, it was just trash. I approached him to tell him about the upcoming event, and he politely declined, saying he didn’t need anything, but thanked me for the offer. I went on my way.

Yesterday during the event, I walked up the block to see if he was still there- and he was. Wearing the same clothes, with the same bag of trash, sitting at the curb watching the traffic go by. I asked him again if he wanted to come by- and again, he politely declined.

I couldn’t help but notice that he is a very good-looking guy. He is tall, thin, with bright blue eyes, and can’t be more than 35 years old. He’s soft-spoken, meek, and won’t make eye contact. I went back to my church, put a bag of clothes together, grabbed one of the guys, and we took the clothes and two plates of food back to my new friend.

Although he didn’t want to accept the stuff “You didn’t have to do that”…, I saw him smile for the first time. My friend Frank (who is wonderful at praying over people) told him that Jesus loved him just the way he is. We wished him well and went back to the church.

I came to a few realizations during this experience.

– The homeless are the voiceless. The more people see them, the more they are ignored, either because people are scared, don’t know how to help, or are disgusted by them because of their appearance. It’s a vicious circle. The more the homeless are ignored, the deeper they sink into depression, hopelessness, or addiction… because they believe that no one cares. The fact that the first thing he said was “You didn’t have to do that” told me he has low self esteem and doesn’t feel he deserves someone to care about him. But- the Bible says that Jesus was also homeless (Matthew 8:20- And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”) So- how do we know that that homeless person you see on the street doesn’t have some great gift for the world, just like Jesus did?

– Anything helps more than just ignoring someone. What could have possible happened to that homeless man to get himself into the situation he’s in? Maybe he’s a veteran. Maybe he has no family. Maybe he lost his job and has no way of picking himself up without someone to help him. Addiction, maybe? It doesn’t matter. Everyone deserves to be loved and acknowledged. Even if you can’t afford to give a few bucks, a simple greeting can work wonders to let someone know they are noticed. Maybe your greeting will give that person the hope they need to get some help.

– His smile showed me how happy he was that someone thought of him. So, if this one tiny gesture made him so happy, how long has it been since someone acknowledged his presence? It was hard not to get choked up while we were talking to him, because I couldn’t help but think that this man was someone’s little boy once, and if it were my son were in the street, I would want someone to help him.

– It is God’s expectation that we help each other, look out for each other, and love each other. (Luke 10:25-27- And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”) It’s difficult to care about everyone, especially people you don’t even know. But it’s our responsibility. The Bible also says that we will be rewarded for doing His works. (Proverbs 19:17- Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.)

My point to writing this is, that during the bustle of the holiday season, take a second to thank God for all that you have. Even if you don’t feel you have much, you have way more than MANY people on this planet. There is always someone worse off than you, and you can also lose everything in the blink of an eye. Stay grateful. Also- take a second to notice the less fortunate. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice much. Even a smile or a ‘hello’ can lift the spirit of someone who hasn’t had anyone to care about them.

Matthew 25:34-40

34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

XOXO

A Note to Single Moms: Further Your Education

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A surefire way to descend into a life of poverty, financial and mental, is to neglect your education. Education is extremely important. Furthering your education will ensure that you can continue to provide a good living for your babies. Most importantly, however- you will provide a good example to your children by doing so. Since their birth, I have conditioned my kids to believe that furthering their educations is the norm. I don’t allow mediocrity; I expect and require good academic performance. But I set the example by going to school myself. My children always see me reading books and newspapers, studying, watching educational material on TV, etc. (I won’t sit here and lie- I watch silly stuff like Phineas and Ferb, Hey! Arnold, and Seinfeld. The Golden Girls!!). But I also make sure that they watch stuff that is educational for them.

Furthering your education certainly doesn’t mean you have to earn your PhD (unless you want to!) It just means that you should always strive to be better than you already are. Some people do not find joy in formal education, or are not cut out to go on and receive degrees after high school; that’s perfectly OK. What I’m getting at is, always make an effort to learn something. This will benefit you and your children in the long run. If you’re happy being a secretary, or a nurse, or a day laborer, or a doctor/lawyer, or a stay-at-home mom, that’s great! But always do yourself one better… take a cooking class, take a parenting class, learn sign language, learn how to do nails, whatever! Just learn something. Your babies will follow your example.

My oldest son saw me struggle through high school (I was 15 when he was born), college, graduate school, and study for exams required for my job in finance. Many times, I was exhausted, because I had to do a lot of my work after he went to sleep. But- I understood that my primary job to make sure HE makes it in life OK. This meant many sleepless nights- I had to work full-time to provide for him, help him with homework and be involved in his education, then pull all-nighters. I can’t tell you how many times I ate coffee grinds and Mountain Dew to stay awake studying for finals while he slept, then going to work, then getting home and playing with him. But I did it- and you can do it, too. I’m more than halfway through my MBA right now, and I can tell you that the day I finally graduate, I will be the happiest girl on the planet.

You can do or learn absolutely anything you want to- and in the long run, anything you learn or any formal education that you earn will help you get back on your feet quickly if you ever find yourself without a job. Always remember, you can do anything you decide you want to do, as long as your heart is in it.

XOXO