Thursday, December 4, 2014


Me at about 2 years old #nofilter

38 is an even number. Its only divisors are 2 and 19.
It's the birthday year I'm celebrating today!!! 

Last year, I believed 37 would be a year of greatness, and it delivered! It was odd and prime, just as it was supposed to be. Here's a little of what I had to say last year:
Y'all, 37 is about to be a big one. I'm bout to get it! Don't know what exactly "it" is yet, but I'm on a mission to find out. I believe God is about to get loose all over my life. I mean, look at 36. He loves to show out! I'm about to make my inner-10-year-old proud as I grow in fearlessness.
Well, I hope I did her proud.  I tried. The big highlight of 37: I HAD A BABY, Y'ALL!  Yup, a whole little person.  I'm still in awe. Birthing Little Miss TJ took all the courage I had. I'm afraid of hospitals, needles, hard drugs, etc... So let's just say the emergency C-section didn't help.  My doctor called me a "splash & dash" patient, which means she made the split-second decision to operate (more on that in a later post). While I lamented for quite awhile about not having the labor and delivery I'd planned, I have to say there's something rewarding about coming out on the other side and having a story to tell. I survived, and Little Miss TJ is thriving.

In last year's birthday post, I discussed how I wanted to work on being fearless.  I believe I did just that.  There was something empowering about carrying and birthing a baby.  While lying in the hospital feeling incredibly vulnerable, I simultaneously felt really strong.  All throughout the pregnancy I remembered that I had another set of ears listening, so I tried to be sure that I stood up for myself to teach her (even while in-vitro) that we have to stand in what we believe.  Whether fighting for some semblance of maternity leave or reminding a student to be respectful, I felt a sense of fearlessness that I hadn't felt in a long time. Not to mention that pregnancy did a number on my brain to mouth filter, so I found myself releasing and expressing a little more than usual.  It felt good, and I don't plan to give it up any time soon.  

I spoke a big year 37 into existence. God showed out, just as he always does, but I won't say that it didn't come with some bumps and bruises.  Motherhood has increased my selflessness, which means that there have been many sleepless nights, unwritten journal articles, forgotten appointments, and extensions for meetings and assignments. 

So since 37 was an odd, prime year, here's to 38 being an even one. A year of recalibration and renewal. A year of trying to find some semblance of balance. A year of teaching Little Miss TJ that while she and her daddy are my greatest gifts, I also have to take some time for self-care if I'm going to be my best for them. A year of reclaiming my health and fitting back into my get 'em girl jeans.  A year of pursuing my research which I LOVE. A year of getting to the money finding grants to fuel my passions. 

May I be fearless enough to place the metaphorical mask over my own mouth before I breathe life into everyone else's endeavors.

Yep, 38 is even, and I like it! 

Until next time . . . I'll be over here having a date day with the hubby while rocking out to my birthday song. 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

On Bodies and Babies (Part 1)

First a little theme music: Donnie's Beautiful Me, an ode to loving our bodies.

I posted here and there about pregnancy, but I finally feel like I have enough distance to really talk about it.  Little Miss TJ 3.5 months (yikes!!! It's happening too fast!!!), and I'm finally ready to start losing some weight.

While signing up for Weight Watchers the other day, I started thinking about all of the changes my body has been through in the last year and a half.  I'm in awe of the body's ability to heal and repair itself.  I am a true testament to this. 

This blog post started getting really long (and heavy), so we'll just call this Part 1. 

I've never had any major health issues, so the journey to pregnancy and birth introduced me to the world of hospitals and needles and doctors.  After trying for over a year to conceive, my husband and I decided to try IVF

----Before I continue ----

I have gone back and forth and forth and back about whether I would disclose this information.  I've finally decided to share because I know that hearing my story will bless someone.  I've been shocked by the number of women who have emailed or called me to ask questions once I mention that we used IVF to conceive.  Infertility brings about shame and stigma that it shouldn't. I'm telling my story to encourage others. Ok, I digress...

I don't like needles. AT. ALL. So the poking and prodding associated with IVF took it's toll.  I can remember going for blood draws/hormone level checks every other day on top of the daily injections of drugs I had to administer at home. One particular morning, my vein just wouldn't cooperate as the nurse tried to draw blood, and I just lost it.  The tears wouldn't stop.  I had just finished my dissertation and started a new job, and there I was staring another huge life change in the face. I'm so grateful for the love of my husband.  In the beginning, I was so afraid I wouldn't allow him to give me any injections. I thought that my hand was the most steady, and that I knew best how not to make the injections hurt. Boy was I wrong.  My husband took the sting, literally and figuratively, out of daily injections.  The more I write about this, the more it's coming back to me. I would mix the prescriptions while he would dim the lights and put on some relaxing sounds like ocean waves or the rain forest. He would ice my tummy, say some encouraging words, help me breathe and encourage me to close my eyes.  He would be done before I even realized it.  

IVF happens in stages.  First we had extensive health exams.  We were tested for everything under the sun.  At the conclusion of it all, we learned that we had unexplained infertility. Once all of the testing was done, the next phases involved hormone injections to develop healthy eggs, harvesting the eggs, and fertilizing them.  Well, we got through all of those phases with a lot of prayer and deep breaths.  The next phase would be to transfer the embryo(s) and wait to see if we were pregnant. Given my age and health, my doctor suggested that we try to conceive using only one embryo for the first round.  In some cases, doctors transfer two or more embryos, which sometimes leads to multiples.

Once we had embryos, it was time for the waiting game.  The fertility clinic continued to monitor my hormone levels, and to my surprise, I got "the call" a week earlier than I anticipated.  I remember the day clearly.  My best friend and I were shopping on a Sunday evening around 5pm.  I was trying on clothes, but on the fence about buying anything because I knew that a pregnancy could be on the horizon.  The fertility clinic called to say that it was time to take what's called a "trigger shot." This is the shot that alerts your body that it's time to prepare for the embryo transfer. I continued to shop and tried to remain cool, but I was having a complete freak out on the inside. It was time. Lord!!! IT WAS TIME!!! So we wrapped up our shopping session. I ended up buying a loose-fitting dress that I knew could take me through the first trimester. I called my husband on the way home to let him know I got "the call."

Once again, Dr. Hubby came through. I mixed the prescription, and with loving and steady hands, he gave me the injection.  Fast forward two additional hormone level checks, and it was time for the actual embryo transfer.  I remember trying to draft an email to my students to let them know that class would be canceled.  I wanted to write, "Hey y'all. I'm about to embark on motherhood!!!" Instead, I gave a brief and vague explanation for canceling class at short notice and anxiously looked forward to the transfer.

Transfer Day was rather uneventful. The whole process took about 10 minutes (if that). Once they transferred the embryo, we went home, and though I didn't have to, I decided to rest.

Then came another waiting game. We had to wait 2 weeks for a pregnancy test.  That meant 2 weeks of acting like I was pregnant in the case that I was.  I'm sure I got a side eye or two for refusing cocktails at a few parties we attended.  We were advised not to take a pregnancy test at home, and though we really wanted to, we didn't.  I now laugh at my naiveté.  Given my lower back pains and frequent, long naps, I don't know how I didn't know I was pregnant.  The day we were to find out, we went to the clinic for a blood test.  To kill time, we did a little light shopping, but soon enough fatigue kicked in, and I was on the couch asleep.

The Big Call woke me up from my nap.  We were pregnant. On the first try. With one egg. Ain't God good?!? We were super excited, but we decided to hold off on telling everyone so we could just sit with the news for a while, plus my graduation brunch was on the horizon, so we decided to share the big news with all our friends and family at once.

Pregnancy took my body on one long a$$ roller coaster ride . . . More on that in another post!

Until next time . . . I'll be marveling at Little Miss TJ. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

3 Months In (Motherhood Randomness)

...well almost.

Someone has figured out that their hands work. 
I can't believe my little peanut is almost 3 months old.  Time flies, and I now understand why parents say kids grow up so quickly. They do.  In a matter of 3 months, Little Miss TJ looks like a totally different baby.  I burst into tears looking at her pictures from the hospital because she's growing so quickly.  She's literally doubled in weight, and she's cooing and laughing and giving the warmest and gummiest smiles in the world.  I still marvel in the fact that my husband and I made her.  After a long journey to conceive (which I finally feel ready to share), she's really, really here.

Over the last few months, I've thought of tons of things to blog about, and I'll write about some of them, but today all I can offer to the blogosphere is some random musings about this new adventure in motherhood.

~ I've never known this level of exhaustion. Ever. If I could think of a word beyond exhausted, I'd use it, but I'm too tired to think of one.

~ Despite being exhausted, it's amazing how one big, toothless smile can set you back on course.

~ Things newborn babies do not understand: "Give me a minute..." "Hold on..." "It's almost ready..."

~ Mommy ears are amazing.  I can hear her smack her lips while she's in another room.

~ I'm amazed that my body can produce sustenance to grow another human being.  Breastfeeding is the most fulfilling, annoying, inconvenient, and intimate thing I've ever done. Shuttling your pump and all its parts to back and forth to work is no joke, but seeing the look of satisfaction on your baby's face makes it all worth it.

~ I'm a hardcore breast feeder, but I'm not a member of the anti-formula brigade.  Let mommies live!!!

~ Motherhood makes me want to simultaneously love and box my husband.

~ I have been humbled by motherhood. I just can't do it all. I have to apologize to people. I have to ask for extensions. I have to reach out for help.

~ Everyone is excited when your little one enters the world.  The calls/emails/visits are nonstop.  New mommies need people when the newness wears off. Call your girlfriend who has a 4 month old just to check in. See if you can wash a pile of laundry or just watch the little one so she can do her hair in peace.

~ Speaking of doing hair, my hair LOVED being pregnant.  I went from a big chop to a full puff! Now if I could just find the time to style it.  It, literally, took me a whole day to twist my hair.  It used to take about an hour.

~ Babies are far smarter and resilient that we acknowledge.

~ I have a newfound love and respect for my mother that I don't think I'd have if I hadn't become a mother.

~ With that being said, I have to remind my mother that I'm Little Miss TJ's mother.

~ I have a newfound love for babies that I didn't have before I had one because I now know how special someone else finds that baby.

~ My baby is the smartest, prettiest, most amusing baby in the whole wide world. And so are all the other babies whose mommies think so, too.

~ Dads, grandparents and aunties are probably the only people in the world who want to hear you go on about how special your baby is.  "Omigosh, she just blinked!!!!" <--- Only Dad, grandparents, and aunts will appreciate this blow-by-blow, second-to-second analysis of your baby.

~ Motherhood has left me wondering if women can have it "all" (whatever that means). I am starting to believe that some area of your life has to be slighted in order for the other areas to thrive.  We'll see how this unfolds.

~ Maternity and paternity leave have to become universally instituted in this country, and 6 weeks isn't enough.  I felt like just when I was getting the swing of things, it was time to jump right back into work (though I never really stopped working).

~ I am humbled by the opportunity to be Little Miss TJ's mommy.  I'm learning so much about myself through this process.  She's an awesome little teacher. Everyday I ask her, "So what are you going to teach me today?" There's so much to learn.

Until next time . . . I'll be over here mothering, writing, teaching, pumping, kissing, and nursing. Oh yeah, and thriving!

Monday, August 11, 2014

She's Here . . .


I can't describe the love. 

I'll be back when I can articulate my thoughts. 

Until next time . . . I'll be kissing and counting baby toes! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On the Cutest Baby Shower Ever

Yup, I'm talking about mine!

I couldn't have put together a better shower.  It's like my family and friends read my mind.

I have to take my hat off to my sister who planned the entire thing from Houston.  Can you say planner extraordinaire! Arranging a swank baby shower for about 45 folks from another city was no easy feat. She took a few pics from my pinterest board, my love for owls (which represent wisdom), clean & modern design, and favorite color teal blue and planned an event that was warm yet sophisticated.

The hostess with the mostest taking a moment from organizing to celebrate and make a toast. 
Everyone who attended made my day so incredibly special, but there were a few folks that really went out of their way to make the day perfect.

My parents traveled all the way from Houston.  Their plane touched down, and they went right to work making sure everything was in place. 

Can you believe my mom made that beautiful centerpiece? The work she does with her hands is amazing. 
My girlfriend Dr. K. couldn't make the shower, but she touched my heart by making the cutest invites that captured the spirit of the event. 

I also have to thank my bestie for helping with the decor and planning one of the most fun and creative games I've played at a baby shower.  It's an original game she created where she took snippets of songs that had the word "baby" in them. Guests had to listen closely to see if they could guess the artists.  

The bestie and I - COORDINATED! 

My auntie made the yummiest cupcakes. They were a hit, and I still want to know who ate my extra key lime one that I'd stashed away.

I'll leave you with a few more pics, but for more up-close details of our special day, please visit the blog of the florist (and mentee and former student of mine), Violet Gardens Floral Design, who helped to transform Smith Commons into a venue worthy of hosting the cutest baby shower ever! PUH-LEEZ visit her blog.  Her detail shots are so much better than my iPhone shots. While you're there, take a look at all of the beautiful work that she does. I'm so proud of her. 

My pics of the decor do the space no justice. 

Smooches from my babydaddy <3
Mommy, cousin, and Auntie responsible for those yummy cupcakes.  
Hubby and my father-in-law 
Good girlfriends and my cutie-patootie!  

Some other mommies-to-be in the building!  
Hubby and I with his mom and grandma
Until next time, I'll be over here reusing those beautiful paper flowers in the nursery and working on the rest of my thank you cards. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

On Releasing

Borrowed from here

I read this last night and knew I had to share.

“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” ~Rumi

I've been getting little messages here and there about releasing emotion, and they have been right on time. This pregnancy has brought extreme emotional highs and lows, and at first I tried to suppress them; I was afraid that they would "harm" the baby. Then I read this. I can't get enough of this blog. She taps right into my crunchy, granola side, and I love it! For those who don't have the time to read, here's my favorite nugget.

"Acknowledge how you feel and let it out. It is only when you keep it inside that it will find other avenues and possibly manifest within your baby; it has to go somewhere."

After reading this a few weeks ago, I felt so much freer. And then I began to release!
A friend hurt my feelings . . . I let her know.
My former landlord was on some shady sh!t . . . I let her know.
I missed a family friend who passed away . . . I shed the tears and moved on.
My husband got under my skin . . . I shared my displeasure and let it go. 

Like the Rumi quote above, I've invited in the emotion, felt it, entertained it, and sent it on its way. 

Happy Monday everybody. Release, woo-sah, cry it out, or do whatever you need to do to kick Monday's a$$! 

Until next time. . . . I'll be enjoying my first work-free day in a while until someone from work emails me to try and steal my joy

27 days and counting 'til Little Miss TJ makes her arrival! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

28 Days!!!


I'm 28 days from my due date, and I was going to do this long catch-up post, but I've decided to share a bit about what's happening over here in pictures.

The picture above pretty much sums up my life these days

  • Organizing the baby's room - Have you ever seen a cuter little sock in your life?!?
  • Watching my belly grow (and drop!)
  • Finally doing some reading about breastfeeding 
  • Picking out some fun and culturally relevant books for Little Miss TJ. I cant wait for this modern-day Rapunzel (with locs!!!) book to get here. 
  • Trying to do some self-care - One of the moms at my baby shower (more on that in another post) gave me some 3rd trimester tea.  Not only is is good for me, but it's good TO me. Yum! I've decided that from here on out, I'll always include a little something for mamas in my baby shower gifts. This is hard work. 
Besides trying to tackle all of the little to-dos before the baby comes and forcing myself to be somewhat productive regarding work, I finally feel like I can catch my breath, slow down, and enjoy these last few days while we wait on our little girl. 

Until next time . . . I'll be over here grooving to the hospital playlist my hubby is putting together. You know two hardcore music lovers need some music to set the tone for the arrival of Little Miss TJ.  Oh yeah, I'll also be sitting at the computer with my fingers itching to turn on my out-of-office message for my work email. . . *sigh* It NEVER f&cking ends!!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Say Cheese!: Our Maternity Shoot

Long time, no blog, huh?

I was on my way to bed, and something told me to check my email. Lo and behold, our photographer, Namsrai, at Nabu Photography sent me a little treat in the mail.  Last weekend we took some maternity photos, and we weren't expecting them until the end of the week, but Namsrai knew this expectant mama was waiting with anticipation. I love when people under-promise and over-deliver. We highly recommend Namsrai and his wife Burt (get it, Na-bu?!?) if you're looking for a photographer in the DC area.

Where do two hardcore music lovers go for their maternity shoot? Well, to the record store of course!

One of my favorites of the day

He really, really does. 
Of course I needed one with The Boss, Ms. Diana Ross
She has the best taste in music. She always kicks and moves around to songs I love!
Hubby's dad is a veteran in the music industry, and this pic is a nod to him and his work. 

Right before we changed for our fancier shoot, Namsrai took this shot in our basement.
This is my favorite picture of the day.
We had so much fun doing this shoot, and I had such a hard time picking a few pictures to share.  We took some more formal, fancy pics (some with the doggy, too!), and hopefully I'll get a chance to come back and share a few of those. 

I'm 31 weeks and counting, y'all! Little Miss TJ is still cooking, but the finish line is in sight.  

Until next time, I'll be obsessing over these pictures! 

Friday, May 2, 2014

I've been . . .

Hey y'all! Happy Friday. We survived the week!

A bump update - 6.5 months!!! 

I saw this list on some blogs that I follow, and I thought it would be a nice way to share a little bit of what's happening in my world. Lately I've been . . .

Making: room for baby stuff. We are in the midst of a HUGE purge
Cooking: a roast that melted in my mouth with carrots and potatoes.
Drinking: spa water with lemon, ginger, cucumber, and mint. Yum!
Reading: my students’ papers. Whew!
Wanting: this semester to be totally over.
Looking: at bassinets that expand to cribs.
Playing: some of my favorite songs near my tummy so SHE (yes, SHE) can hear them.
Wasting: time when I should be grading papers.
Wishing: this semester was totally over.
Enjoying: watching my tummy move. She’s a kicker!
Waiting: for all these back-to-back meetings at work to end. Ugh.
Liking: the project I'm working on this summer.
Wondering: if the US government will intervene and help to bring the Nigerian school girls home to safety.
Loving: my husband for picking up some of my slack and being really patient with me.
Hoping: that Tyson (our dog) adjusts to the baby. He’s spoiled.
Marveling: at all that I accomplished this year, while simultaneously lamenting that I didn’t do enough.
Wondering: What our baby will look like. We did the 3-D ultrasound the other week, and I swear she has my nose and my hubby's mouth.
Needing: a deep tissue massage.
Smelling: new perfumes. I need a warm-weather scent.
Wearing: dresses for comfort (when the weather allows. . . smh).
Following: my dreams, even when it doesn’t feel like I thought it would to reach them.
Noticing: all the little changes in my body.
Knowing: that things always works out for my good.
Thinking: when will this semester be over, Lord?!?
Feeling: excited because my sister is on her way to visit this weekend.
Bookmarking: lots of baby advice on Pinterest.
Opening: emails when I should let them wait until the next day.
Giggling: at our dog Tyson. He’s a clown.
Feeling: blessed, overworked, excited, and tired. Did I mention I’m ready for the semester to end?

What have y'all been up to? What are you thinking, making, marveling?

Until next time . . . I'll be waddling to the finish line of this semester. . . *sigh.* 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

On Downsizing: Home Is in My Heart

Happy Thursday! Here's a little mood music for this post. Today I offer Home by Stephanie Mills from  the Broadway production The Wiz

My husband and I realized early on in our relationship that we have distinct skill sets.  Because we acknowledge each other's talents, we try to let each other shine when it comes to our areas of expertise/interest/strength. One of my areas of interest, and dare I say, strength is finance.  Maybe it has to do with my love of mathematics.  My sister laughs at my skills to hold onto a dollar and make it stretch and grow.  Maybe my knack for money management comes from years of being a teacher and "making somethin' outta nothin'" (shout out to Juvenile, Ha!). On a recent road trip home from Philadelphia, I listened to consecutive episodes of Dave Ramsey with joy (learn more about him here)!  I don't always agree with him; he can get a bit right-wing for my taste, but I love his straightforward talk and conviction.  I wouldn't say that finance is an area of my expertise by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a healthy fascination about getting, keeping, and growing our coins. 

Lately we've given our financial state a lot of attention - probably because we have a little one on the way, and realize that the baby is going to hit our pockets HARD. I've been researching childcare, and the rates bring tears to my eyes.  We've also made some tough decisions.  We've decided to downsize.  Downsizing will allow us to reach some big financial goals before our little one is old enough to realize the sacrifice we're making and before we try for Baby #2 (Yup, I want to do this again, God willing.). 

Downsizing for us means moving into a smaller, but really nice, place. I'm fortunate that my job has some great deals on housing. We feel like we're making an even trade - we'll be in a newer, nicer, less expensive space, yet sacrificing some square footage. This move means selling furniture, clothes, and odds & ends that would occupy too much space in our new abode. It means making some decisions about what's important to keep and what needs to be let go. To some, our move probably won't seem that drastic.  I was doing some research on downsizing and ran across folks participating in the tiny house movement. They're some soldiers. We ain't built for that. 

So cool, yet so not for us. Picture borrowed from here. 
I decided to title this post based on a conversation I was having with my girlfriends about our decision to downsize. I was talking about making the transition, and told my girls, "I just told my husband that home is wherever he, Tyson, and the baby are."  After stepping back from the comment, I realized that it was sappy my deep-down truth.  I mean it. As long as I've got them I'm alright. I learned this lesson early in life.  When I was young, my family moved around quite a bit. So whenever I would think of home, I would think of people, not necessarily a specific house. Well now I'm extending this same line of thinking to the family we're creating, not just to my family in the South. 

So I've wrapped my mind around this change, and I'm excited.  We're already seeing the fruits of our frugal-minded labor.  Just before I wrote this post, we paid off two big debts.  Dave Ramsey would be proud. So as the financial coordinator of this family, I've decided to organize our money using a few tenets: 
  1. We hate debt.  Debt takes money out of our pockets for saving or doing other worthwhile things. 
  2. We don't make any purchases that involve exorbitant interest rates. 
  3. Less is more - even though I still don't believe this when it comes to shoes.  I'm working on it, y'all. 
  4. Being debt-free is our goal, and it is possible. 
  5. Sacrifice in the short-term is worth it for the long-term.  
I'll be revisiting this post as I start to tag items to sell and as we have heated convos about what stays and what goes.  It's hard putting theory into practice, but we're determined to do it.  Onward and upward, y'all.!!! 

Until next time, I'll be over here with my mind on my money and my money on my mind (shout out to Dr. Dre!) 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Baby Bump Update - 5 Months

Hi all! Long time, no post. Charge it to working too hard and poor time management.

I don't have much time, but I wanted to drop by and do a quick baby bump update.

I'm about 5 and a half months pregnant, and I'm feeling good.  The first trimester was ok.  I've heard/read the horror stories, so I know it could have been far worse.  I had a few food aversions like chicken - weird, right? I could not stomach salads, which was also weird because I used to be a regular salad eater.  I also experienced some cravings.  My diet consisted of watermelon, carrots, pickles and carbs for the last few weeks of the first trimester, but all of that is behind me, well, except for the carrot craving.  I can't get enough of them.  I've also really developed a love for red meat, beef tacos in particular, but I try to minimize my intake. I've talked about my love/hate relationship with red meat on here before.

Around week 19 - before a date with my hubby
The days of all-day fatigue are behind me as well. I was so grateful that the tough part of my first trimester was during my winter break, because I needed a long nap EVERY day, literally, every single day.  Now I can make it through most days without a nap, but when it's time for bed, it's time to shut it DOWN! Bless my husband for my Snoogle pregnancy pillows.  He bought me one for downstairs and one for the bed. The Snoogle has been essential to a good night's rest these days.  The days of sleeping on my back and/or stomach are over, which is especially hard because those were my positions of choice, pre-pregnancy.  The Snoogle makes sleeping on my side more bearable.  God bless the Snoogle makers; they are doing His work.

I told some friends that I finally feel like myself again, well, minus the ability to comfortably bend over to tie my shoes or paint my nails or sleep on my stomach.  I'm trying to keep up a walking routine and some prenatal aerobics and yoga.  My bump is growing, y'all!

A hotel room selfie, well, "us-ie" during a quick trip to Florida last week (20 weeks, 6 days). 

I was trying to think of a word to describe pregnancy, and when another girlfriend announced hers and I saw her excitement, the word came to me - miraculous.   I think that the magnitude of what I'm doing just hit me the other day. I stare at amazement at my growing belly.  I could stare at it for hours. I catch myself rubbing my tummy all the time. I just started feeling some movement, and I'm in awe every time I feel it.  This baby was a long time coming, and it is a reminder that things happen when they are supposed to. Growing another person is no small feat - I have the occasional back pain, splotchy skin, and random bouts of fatigue to prove it.  However, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Really wrapping my mind around the blessing of being able to conceive and grow a child has made me less consumed with some of my earlier pregnancy issues, like the unnecessary and unwarranted comments from people about my body**, the unsolicited belly rubs, and the questions that are way too personal to be coming from virtual strangers.  I'm really not up for talking about my girl parts with folks I don't know. Here's the thing - I'm learning that people really mean no harm; most folks are just fascinated and curious.  Still, I'm learning how to sidestep the questions and get people together in a nice/nasty way. I'm learning that women experience pregnancy differently, and our bodies do as well, so there's no need to panic because I'm looking more pregnant than the other women in my mommy-to-be group. Their bodies, their business, and mine is mine.

I just wanted to share a quick update about what's happening in my world.  I have lots of topics in my cue to discuss about pregnancy and a bunch of other stuff, and I really want to make them happen.  Whenever I start to write, I'm reminded of how much I love it.

Until next time, I'll be over here rubbing my tummy and trying to stay away from online shopping now that we know the gender!

**Sidenote: No pregnant woman wants your appraisal of her body.  Please keep your ignorant a$$ comments like, "Oh my gosh you're getting so big!" or "You're HUGE!" to yourself, especially if you are a man who will NEVER understand the sacrifice of carrying/delivering babies. My pot belly is full of baby, what's your excuse, sir???   Whew, it felt good to get that out. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

On Black History Month and the Possibility of YOU

Happy Friday! We survived another week.

As I've mentioned on the blog before, I love Black History Month. This week, I had the opportunity to visit a local high school and be the keynote speaker for their Black History Month assembly. Last weekend, I didn't have a clue about what I wanted to say to them, but during a quick visit home to Houston last week, my father used the text Isaiah 43:18-19 for his sermon, and I was inspired. It reads:
18"Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. 19"Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.
After reflecting on the idea of "a new thing," I knew I'd talk to them about how Black History Month is an opportunity reflect on the past in order to shape the future.

I only had one other challenge: How was I to present my keynote address to a room of non-Black children (Seriously, in a room of about 150, I could count the number of Black students on my hands.) and make it meaningful and relevant to them. My husband helped me along the way, making suggestions and helping me to pull back a bit when I got a little "Fight the Power!" So what you are about to read (and see - I used a few slides) is my attempt to give a 21st century Black History Month speech to a diverse room of non-Black students. 

Enjoy! Happy Black History Month! 

Until next time . . . I'll be over here jamming to an oldie but goodie, Black Butterfly by Deniece Williams. 


Black History Month and the Possibility of YOU 

What comes to mind when you think of “Black History Month?”
(I posed the question and received responses like "Rosa Parks, "Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad," and "Martin Luther King")
  • Maybe the history of Africans coming to America via the system of slavery?

  • Perhaps the Civil Rights Movement?

And of course, if you think about the Civil Rights Movement, you think about leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.

Or Rosa Parks who by making the decision to not give up her bus seat sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and brought change to the segregated south. 

Maybe you think of famous inventors such as
  • Garrett Morgan, inventor of numerous inventions, including the stoplight 

  • Madame CJ Walker, the first Black woman millionaire who built her fortune in the hair care industry through the development of hair care products for Black women; or
  • George Washington Carver, a scientist whose study of the peanut led to numerous useful inventions. 

These contributions to our great nation are deserving of celebration, but today I'd like to challenge us all not just to use Black History Month as a time to honor those who have come before us. I want to challenge us to use this month as a time to reflect and celebrate the possibility of you and your future. 

Before I get into my talk, I’d like to start with a question that I've heard almost every time Black History Month is mentioned - “Why is it important to celebrate BHM? I’m sure it is floating through the minds of some of you in this room. 

While understanding history helps us to move forward and make a better future, there are other reasons to celebrate Black History Month that go beyond reciting facts, writing book reports, and remembering important dates. 

First, Black Americans have a unique history and relationship with the United States.
  • The way that Black people came to America is different from any other immigrant group (Sidenote: This is one of those places where my husband pulled me back.  This is a much simpler and "pleasant" version than what I had originally written)
  • Black history is an American story of resilience, a story about overcoming obstacles and succeeding. 

    • Out of an ugly history of slavery, Black people have exceled and made incredible contributions in the arts, medicine, government, and so many other arenas. 
African Americans provided a blueprint for other groups to fight for Civil Rights; the strategies of African-American peaceful resistance, such as marching, boycotting, and staging sitting-ins are still present in many modern day Civil Rights movements.

Further, the story of African Americans is not just about resiliency, but it is also a story of alliances and solidarity across racial and ethnic lines.

Black and Asian Americans have a very special relationship that was forged over Civil Rights. 
  • The term “Asian American” was coined during the time of black protest and the Black Power movement. In 1968, a group of Asian American students at U.C. Berkeley, who had joined a protest in support of Black Panther Huey Newton, created their own banner that read “Asian Americans for Justice.”
  • In February of 1942, internationally acclaimed African-American scholar and entertainer Paul Robeson appeared before the California Legislative Committee on Defense Migration as part of a panel of non-Asians, who testified to the loyalty of Japanese Americans in an attempt to avert their eventual imprisonment in internment camps during World War II.
  • Asian Americans in the black Civil Rights movement, including Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American feminist, scholar, and Civil Rights advocate
 Black and Latino Americans also share a special bond.
  • During the 19th Century, one of the driving reasons for the Mexican War was the refusal of Mexico to return Black people, well over 10,000 who had escaped slavery via the southern-route of the "underground railroad," crossing the border to a free Mexico (point out the map).
Map of the Underground Railroad that included paths to freedom in Mexico. 
  • During the 1960s & 70s Latino students use the strategies similar to those of the Black Civil Rights movements to build their own movement for educational equity and to push for universities in the South and Southwest to offer courses in Mexican and Mexican-American Studies. 

The History of Black and White Americans is one that has been fueled with tension, but there is also a long history of collaboration and solidarity.
  • White abolitionists worked alongside African Americans toward ending slavery and helping those who were enslaved escape to freedom. 
  • Post-slavery, African Americans began setting up informal schools to educate their young. Many White Americans worked with them to create schools and colleges that were dedicated to improving the conditions of African Americans, many of which still stand today, like Howard University in Washington, DC. 
  • During the Civil Rights Movement, many White Americans worked to support African Americans as they sought equal rights. There are numerous stories of White freedom riders who made trips from the North and lost their lives supporting the Civil Rights movement. 
(Sidenote: I treaded lightly here.  I wanted to be sure that I highlighted the agency of Black people and emphasized collaboration, not the false notion of Black people being saved.)

Given these special bonds among racial and ethnic communities, it is evident that Black History Month is not just to be celebrated by Black people. Black history is American history. It is a legacy that belongs to EVERY American. We are a culture that is multiethnic, multilingual, & multiracial. We differ by gender and sexual orientation. While, at the core, we know that we are all human and that we all want and need the same things, to ignore the beauty of our differences would be inexcusable. To ignore the unique flair and flavor that different cultures have contributed to our diverse nation would be detrimental to what makes us American.

So maybe the way that we celebrate Black History Month needs a bit of a shift. It seems like we’re always reflecting on things that happened “back then.” But what about RIGHT NOW?

You all are our RIGHT NOW.

There are young African Americans making incredible contributions to society. Often, young Black people are characterized by negative stereotypes, labeled with words in the mainstream like “ghetto” or “ratchet.” These terms are overused, and the actions of few are often used to stereotype many. There are numerous young Black people making strides for a better future. Many of them are from or serve communities that we often characterize with these thoughtless “ghetto” and “ratchet” labels. I’d like to share a few young people, all under the age of 30, who are defying stereotypes and making our world a better place.
Mayor Aja Brown is the youngest person ever to be elected Mayor of Compton, CA. While 31 years old may not sound young to you now, just keep on living. She is breathing new life into a city that has a troubled past, but a bright future.

This is Phillip Agnew and the Dream Defenders. Agnew, an alum of my alma mater, Florida A&M University, and his multiethnic, multilingual group of young activists, most of whom are in college or younger, have recently been seen in the news taking their stand against modern-day Civil Rights issues.

Tony Hansberry II is a high schooler from Jacksonville, FL who has developed a way of sewing up patients after major surgery that stands to reduce the risk of complications and simplify the tricky procedure for less-seasoned surgeons. Oh, and he's 14 years old. (Sidenote: I said: "He is a real-life Dougie Howser, M.D." The room: **Crickets** I told them I was telling my age, and they laughed. I bet most of them don't know who Dougie Howser is.)

Keep in mind, young people have always been a part of great change in our country. The high school students of the Little Rock Nine in Arkansas moved the country to rethink segregated schooling. College students, not much older than you, made the brave choice to stage sit-ins at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC to push for equal treatment in public establishments. Though attacked, spit on, and antagonized by customers who wanted them to sit at the back of the restaurant, these students stood their ground and brought national attention to their cause.

Little Rock Nine
Lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro

So what’s the difference between these young people and you? Nothing. They are and were everyday people who do extraordinary things. This makes me excited and hopeful because it means that we all have the capacity to be great. We all have the ability to leave our footprint on the world.

You and your greatness will create our history. Everyday that you wake up, you have the possibility to create change. Small, local change can have ripple effects.

For instance, Ameenah Matthews is a member of the Interrupters, a group of community activists, who use their former involvement in gang activity to reach out to young people in Chicago communities that are plagued by violence. We often hear of the despair of these communities, but rarely hear of the everyday heroes who put their greatness to work to improve the lives of others. Ameena Matthews’s small, local change has had a ripple effect that has gained national attention and notoriety. 

I've told y'all how I feel about Ameenah Matthews. 
So if you only take one big idea with you today, remember this: Black History Month is not all about old-time black and white pictures and what happened “back then.” While we honor our American forefathers and foremothers for their indelible marks on American History, I believe this month should be a celebration of you and your possibility to create a better, diverse, equitable, and inclusive world.  I emphasize the word possibility because it is up to you to tap into your gifts and use them.

I almost brought a mirror today to hold it up to you all because I am looking at a room full of history makers. I've been showing slides of other people, but you are just as much a part of this presentation as they are. I'm excited about the power and potential that you all have to make great change.

So as I close, I ask you to search your hearts and minds and think about the following:

How will you change the course of the future?

How will you work to fight against inequality?

How will you help to build bridges across racial and cultural divides?

How will you add to the legacy of outstanding African Americans who have paved the way for your success?

Thank you for your time. I am humbled, and it has been an absolute pleasure to speak to you today, and I look forward to learning how you channeled your possibility to shape our world.