Guava Jelly

Today I started a side hustle. A factual profitable side hustle. I was not looking for said hustle, but I stumbled upon it just the same. And it’s working out quite nicely.

Do you remember my post about being a good neighbor? And not letting your fruit tree spawn only to leave the fruit untouched and let it fall to the ground in a stinky pile of leathery dried fruit and gnats?

My aunt’s neighbor didn’t read that post. They have a guava tree that hangs over the property line and drops full ripe yellow guava onto the driveway. Dozens of them. Are you familiar with guava? They are either yellow or green on the outside and they have either white or pink flesh. The seeds inside are small and hard. The skin is thin, malleable. Most people bite them the way you would an apricot or plum. And guavas stink. Like… stink.

The smell of guava could literally keep you away from them forever. But inside? The beauty in the brightness of opposing colors is phenomenal. And the taste is sweet but subtle. They’re a treat!

Anyway, I picked the guava. Once I got them home, I realized that I had somewhere around ten pounds worth. I decided to “do something” with them. Below is an image of my third haul.

To Pinterest I went. The most popular recipes call for “guava paste”, but there among the many captivating images of “guava cupcakes” and the most requested “pastelitos de guayaba”, I found guava jelly. I reviewed my cabinets for the necessities, had to make a trip to Walmart and then I set off to make jelly for the first time.

Wash fruit. Remove tops and bottoms. Quarter.

Cover fruit with water. Bring to a boil.

Drain the water. Purée the softened fruit. Pour through sieve to separate the seeds.

Return purée to pot. Add sugar, pectin, and lime juice. Bring to a boil.

Pour hot jelly into sterilized jars. Cover and seal by hand. Return full jars to pot filled with water. Bring water to a full boil with the full jars covered by the boiling water. Pop!

Once you hear the Pop! you can remove jars from the water and allow them to cool completely. Share.

I posted about my journey via my social media channels and it sparked quite a bit of interest. All of my tropical and islander friends inquired as to the exact day and time that the jelly would be complete and how quickly would it be available for pick up, drop off, or mailing. I was surprised. And quite honored.

Thus far, it’s met with rave reviews. I gave sizable jars to my benefactors, and a few small sample sizes to those closest to me. I’ve even received Zelle and PayPal payments. Rose was right (you were right, Rose), “all you need are some labels”. Well… here they are:

This could really turn into something awesome and sustainable. A few friends have extended their grasp and asked their friends and family for any surplus fruits. I would love to make more jellies and jams, and spreads and butters. I’ll keep you posted. 😉

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Exhausted End-of-the-Year Mom

MAWM

Under Control Mom

I have $8 cash. My bank accounts are empty. Like less than $2 each, empty. My refrigerator is also empty. There’s a few things in there, but it’s far from where it should be, or where I’d like it to be. My gas tank is also empty. And I spent most of today ruminating in that emptiness, feeling defeated. But right now, at the end of this day my heart is so full.

My youngest is a sweaty sleeper. He protests going to bed as if he was being sentenced to walk the plank. But truth be told, he’s asleep within minutes of lights out. And he’s sweaty right after that. He’s a frequent pillow flipper and he often switches blankets according to the temperature in the house, the type of pajamas he’s wearing, and his mood. He just stirred from his sleep and I gave him a sip of water, flipped his pillow, and kissed his sweaty little forehead. “Are you ok?” I asked. He nodded yes.

I’ve checked on and tucked in the other two. My daughter (and middle child) is always last on the list to close her eyes. She’s a wild one. Sleeping in strange contorted positions and her mama-allotted stuffed friends lining the bed. My oldest is as tall as boys two years older than him. His arms and legs are long and act as weapons in the night. It’s like sleeping next to a daddy long leg spider. You’d swear there were multiple knees and elbows. But no, just two of each.

Isn’t it always when they’re sleeping that we admire them so? Little angels. But it’s not about my sleeping spawn that I’m sharing. The truth behind the title is that I am struggling. I am literally up to my ears in the stress of life, and I feel fine. I feel better than I have in a long time. I have doubt and worry and concern, but right this minute I have a warm safe home and my kids are sleeping soundly without a care in the world. I do have it under control.

Tomorrow will bring another day and a whole other round of unanswerable questions, and infinite scenarios. But I’m going to take a breath to enjoy this moment in time. I am going to mindfully revel in the fact that it could all fall apart so easily, but my duct taped faith is keeping it still and holding it together. Thank the Lord! 🙏🏽

My life and my home are chaotic. But that’s the nature of parenting. I don’t ever claim to have it all figured out, but I do know that there are really special moments tucked in around the chaos. And this is just one of those moments.

Nurturing A Woman

I call my daughter LittleLady. Among an assortment of other nicknames including: LadyBug, Gidget, and GoGo. But she’s always been my LittleLady. I love to watch her navigate the world around her. She’s a fact-checker, list-keeper, and rule-enforcer. She is an actual factual Mini-Me (though she looks more like her father). I love her so completely. She’s beautiful, amazing, and absolutely terrifying. I can’t wait to see who she grows up to be.

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Margo was breech. She blocked the door, and ensured that between her and her twin brother, that she would be first. Even if it was only by two minutes. She ruled the womb, and she’s very much ruling the outside world. Her brother succumbs to her requests, demands, and brutality. He loves her and he always gives her what she wants. If he doesn’t hand it over, she’ll take it. At times I wonder if this is a good or bad quality? She knows what she wants, and she doesn’t wait for anyone to give her anything. On the same note, her love for her brother is incomparable. She’d take on a silver back gorilla for him. And she’d win.

Much like me, she is methodical. She keeps things in order. She has a naive compulsion about her that requires her to bring tidiness and neatness to her surrounding area.  She’s unable to close anything or put anything away without first verifying the correct order of the contents and returning the item to it’s rightful home. This is a great quality. She clearly got this from me.

She’s a no-nonsense gal. She has no time for your feelings, your small talk, or long answers full of adverbs or synonyms. She suffers “resting b*tch face”, in as sweet and innocently as a four year old girl can. For example: my mother was recently diagnosed with and began treatment for cancer. In the first hours after my being notified, I cried off and on. As we all sat upon the bed preparing to read, I cracked. My boys hugged me, and comforted me, and whispered “It’s ok mama”. But my daughter stared at me with that gorgeous STONE FACE and said “are you gonna read”? You can count on her to keep things on track.

She never forgets anything. She remembers when it happened, how it happened, where it happened, who was there, what they were wearing, what they said. She is the family journalist. I have email addresses established for all of  my kids and I write to them and send them pictures. I’ll give them the password when they are age appropriate and sufficiently responsible. I fear that she will respond to every email with her account of the events mentioned. I kinda look  forward to it. And I’m also scared.

I cannot explain why, but raising her seems infinitely more difficult and involved. Perhaps it’s because I’m a woman and I am raising a woman? Someone’s future wife and / or mother? I just know that outside of nearly passing out and vomiting when I was told “the first baby is a girl”, I felt shook. A sense of worry came over me that I know will never leave. All children are soft, sweet, and vulnerable. But my daughter seems infinitely so. I am realistic about the fact that this is somewhat unreasonable, but it’s how I feel.

Being a woman is hard work. I will not get into the mechanics and specifics of feminism in modern day America, or being a black woman in this here America, or having been a victim of a numerous amount of situations. Perhaps this is why having a daughter is so alarming. I feel like there won’t ever be enough time to tell her all of the things I want her to know and be cautious of.

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In 1998, Lenny Kravitz released the album “5”. The eleventh song is called “Little Girl’s Eyes”. It was always such a beautiful song to me. You could hear and feel the love and heartache he felt for his daughter. It would be fifteen years before I had my little girl and now that song has taken on a much more profound meaning. She’s petite and cute, with prefect curly hair and an affinity for pink and rainbows. She’s classic. Yet she’s unlike any girl you’ve ever known. And she knows all of that.

So beautiful and so wise
I can see the woman from within my child
When I look in my little girl’s eyes

 Margo watches me do just about everything. When I make breakfast, she approves (and protests) the menu. When I cook dinner, she’s my sous chef. When I bake, she’s my assistant. Whenever I spend more than three minutes looking in the mirror, she wants to know what’s going on. She surveys every thing with curiosity and seeks solid answers to her many questions. She demands prayer at meals and bedtime. I think she’s perfect.

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I pray I can be the kind of mother that she needs. And even more so, the one she wants. I hope that she’ll share with me and laugh with me — right through her teens (a mama can hope, can’t she?). I know there will be a day that she won’t need me to tell her not to put too much milk in her eggs, or too much flour on the counter when she rolls out her dough. But I hope that she’ll think about me and know how much I love her.

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Mom, Neglected

When I was in my twenties, I had a bonafide self-care routine. Self-care wasn’t a buzz word then. It wasn’t a movement or even a frequented topic. I took care of myself, because duh. No one had to tell me to moisturize, or hydrate, or rest. No one reminded me to decompress or relax. I did whatever I needed to do, on all levels. I ate when I was hungry, I drank when I was thirsty, I slept when I was tired. Motherhood ended my self-care journey. Now I have to check-in with an app to remind me to do anything for myself because I’ve given up the majority of my cerebellum to thinking (constantly) about my kids and their needs. I am a mom, neglected.

My heels are cracked. For me, this is an all time low. Before motherhood, I never so much as had a hangnail. My skin wasn’t dry. My cuticles weren’t the epithelial comparison of tree bark. My eyebrows were simply magnificent and received a plethora of compliments. My hair was silky smooth. My teeth were pearly white. My eyes were bright, without bags, dark circles, or eye goop. What the hell happened to me?!?!

I used to shower, and then apply oil before drying off. After that, I would literally sit on a towel and moisturize my entire body with more oil, or body butter, or pretty smelly lotion. There was never any dry skin. And now, there’s nothing but dry skin. It’s pitiful. The other day, I had a mom-brain duh-piphany: “maybe if i put some lotion on”. Are you kidding me? It’s like lotion was invented… LAST WEEK!! Where have I been? What’s wrong with me? Oh yeah, lost in a mom fog.

Before the twins, I started to grow my hair out naturally. It was certainly a fad at the time, but I was just exhausted of the hair care routine that was a staple in my life for 15 years. I would pay to have my hair relaxed, blow dried and flat ironed. I would wash it weekly and repeat the heat drying and intense heat flat ironing. I would get it professionally updated every couple of months, and trimmed to keep it flawless. But the process just became too much. Perhaps I was just bored. Either way, I stopped with the chemical and heat treatments and went full on deep conditioning. I co-washed my hair daily and didn’t do anything else. This worked for several years.

Now, nearly six years after the natural hair journey began, my hair is a certifiable tornado of UH UH! It’s dry, tangled, and generally unruly. It won’t go straight, it won’t lay down, it has a mind of it’s own. The curl pattern seems to be making a choice to rebel. So I decided to adopt a new routine. I applied some argan oil and braided it in the hopes of long term management. Oiling it will lock in the moisture that I’ve been denying it for so long and braiding it will eventually train the hair to calm the hell down.

I’ve braided my hair for three nights in a row and I swear I have arthritis.

Do you want to talk about my eyebrows? They. Are. Caterpillars. Two giant caterpillars perched above my eyes to help me express myself without words. I used to pluck them and trim them and groom them several times a week. They were perfect and everyone told me so. You’re lucky if I pluck them semi-annually these days. Ask Tiffany. She was my biggest brow-fan. Now she just shakes her head and rolls her eyes. It’s funny. AND. SAD. Mostly sad.

I haven’t put makeup on since before my twins were born. They turned four years old — a month ago. I still have every bit of it. My guess is that it’s near one thousand whole American dollars worth of MAC. I’m sure some of it expired, but I can’t even mentally locate where it might be in order to throw it out. There’s some kind of makeup in my purse. I don’t know how long it’s been there, how many purses it’s been transferred to and from or why it’s even in there. Some eye shadow and a colored lip gloss.

I used to make jokes about the yoga pant clad messy bun gang of moms loitering to the front of any school. Usually with a cup of coffee and a small person loitering about her legs. From a distance I would mock her for smelling like bacon, broccoli, ranch dressing and BO. But now I’m her. There’s plenty of fun to be made, but now I’m on the other side of the fun, laughing at myself in the company of other moms.

Today, my son’s school had a holiday performance. I wore a more casual work shirt, and the same pair of jeans I’ve donned for this week. I wear them every time I have something to do outside of work hours… for basically the whole week. I also wore my son’s flip flops with my (not as badly) cracked heel skin and un-pedi’d toenails. I’d braided my hair last night, so while it was wavy, the ends were just as unruly as ever. It was kinda in a bun, but mostly not. My glasses have greasy fingerprints on them and they’re a tad crooked because my daughter snatched them off my face and threw them a few times. I’m always in a state of recovery from acne and I never sleep enough so dark circles and under-eye luggage is a definite. And in line with the mom crowd, I had a cup of coffee in my hand and two little people running about.

Being a mom ain’t for the weak. It’s a hard job that requires unlimited unconditional love, determination, patience, and creativity. Most of us spend so much time thinking about our kids and our love, determination, patience and creativity that we forget about ourselves. The priorities do not lie in our appearance, smell, or general friendliness. We need our coffee, our comfort in the form of week old jeans or yoga pants that double as pajama pants, and we need the chaos of our kids. This is the place where we thrive. We spend years of our life talking to people who can only understand ten percent of what we’re saying. Forgive us if our skin is dry, or our eyebrows aren’t groomed. You’re lucky we’re conscious.

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Me and My natural hair. Circa 1979.

This is me. 17 years ago. Before heartache, breakups, and kids.

This is me in 2001. Processed hair. Hydrated skin. Groomed brows.

This is me. Two weeks ago. My whole household was captive by the contagion: streph throat. I was dead on my feet.

This is me two weeks ago. Me and my kids were recovering from the contagion: streph throat.       I was dead on my feet. See my hair? See my brows? See my look of “I don’t care”?                   That’s a mom r’there.

Good Mom, Bad Mom

Single moms are SuperHuman. I don’t say that because I am one. I say it because it’s indisputable FACT. Being a single mom means that we get to have all of the jobs. We get the good jobs, and the bad jobs related to parenting. In the days, weeks, and months preceding our becoming a mother, we make silent promises to our children and pledge our hearts and our protection to them for always.

We vow to provide unconditional love and support for all eternity. We promise to be there during their health, and the innumerable sicknesses. We take an oath to stay when our children are giving us all of the attitude. We commit to try not to lose it when the tear-producing overwhelming “I maked you a Vamentimes” (with seven pounds of pasta and four pounds of glue) gratitude arrives. We even remain steadfast and gracious, when the gratitude is forgotten. We do our best not to roll our eyes or swear when our children take us from richer to poorer. And then poorer. We hold their tiny hands through all of the joy and even the unavoidable, oh the unavoidable pain… We are on-call and available for all of the hours in all of the days from forever ago until never. We love our children from before time and until the end of infinitude.

Included in all of that is also those times we have to say “no”, or “not this time”, or “we’ll see”, and occasionally “not in this lifetime”. We are both the bearer of good and bad news. We get to plan, execute and surprise our Darlings with excitement and joy. But we also have the privilege of  crushing the dreams of a teenager hoping to go to a party where no parents are home, or to a sleepover at their boy/girlfriend’s house.

Being both the good mom and the bad mom can drive a woman crazy. We are often seen planning while talking to ourselves. We have to come up with a battle plan, and a back up plan. We are strong enough to give the bad news, deal with the mouthy backlash, and the clean up afterward. Sometimes we don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, or have to say “no” again. Sometimes we want to be the Hero that comes in and saves the day.

That need, to not always been seen as the hateful law enforcement of the home has led to moms everywhere changing the way they parent. We do our best to say “yes, yes, of course, always, and yes” as often as possible. When we have to say no, we try to make it as soft as possible. Now, that’s not to say that we let our kids slide on manners, or responsibilities — we just really creative and take an extra step or two to ensure that we the joy outweighs the pain.

My personal saving grace (at this financial juncture) is Dollar Tree. I can spend a few dollars, and my kids are through the roof happy for a brief moment in time. And, honestly, that’s all any of us need. Just a few moments to catch our breath, sneak a cookie, read an email, order something online, or just enjoy the non-argumentative silence. Our favorite thing to do these days is “have a party”. It consists of two things: blown up balloons, and music. Seriously. That’s all. I blow up the balloons (all 10 of them) and turn on 1970’s disco. And for the next sixteen minutes, my household is free of yelling, screaming, fighting, arguing and crying. We dance, we laugh, we love. The HappyHousehold trifecta!

At other times, I make a ton of tiny pancakes. Or cut the sandwiches/ into shapes. Top the brownies with marshmallows. Pinterest is a great place for HappyHousehold resources, but don’t dig too deep. You can easily lose your MamaMind comparing your current snapshot to another person’s highlight reel. Bath time fun is amplified by thousands by simply adding a one dollar ($1) 8-pack of glow-in-the-dark bracelets. Us Mamas have to find a way to sneak the good times in because it won’t be long before we are enforcing the rules again.

Single moms are strong, resilient, and resourceful. We take on the world, with our kids in tow. All the while we are finding teachable moments, creating new ways to spruce up leftovers, make Halloween costumes, preserve the Advent, give back to our community, support our Sisters in Christ and in Motherhood, while nursing a baby, going back to school, starting our own business(es) and working a full-time job. Everyone wants to be the Good Mom. But we aren’t just Good or Bad Moms — We. Are. Great.

http://www.everydaypeoplecartoons.com/cartoon/122

 

 

Cast Your Cares

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:6-7‬ NLT

(Note: I started this post on my phone, and mistakenly hit “publish” before anything had been written).

Has life ever weighed you down? Have you ever been hit by so many things at once that you have to just sit down? Do you have times when the struggle is so real that it seems unreal? Me too.

I am in the crux of all of those things. There are so many different things swirling around me that I can barely differentiate one from another. It’s just a blur of life passing me by. It feels like I am sitting in the eye of the storm… “criss-cross applesauce” parked in the calm center of a tornado that contains every precious part of my life.

I have SuperSonic thoughts. My mind travels at the speed of light — when I’m asleep. And as you may have guessed, at times it can be exhausting. So I’ve set myself into a mode of mindfulness. Taking time out each day to breathe, to quiet my mind, and to take intentional steps to being present. I’ve set the “Do Not Disturb” on my phone hours before I go to bed. I also returned to the phenomenal practice of yoga. And I’ve let the dishes and laundry and homemaker concerns fall (a little further) by the wayside so that I can better love and enjoy my children… with all of my heart, all of my soul, and all of my mind. ❤️

More quintessential than mindfulness is the power of prayer. The. Power. Of. Prayer. Do you pray? I do. And as much as I do, I don’t pray hardly enough. I realized this when I received some bad news. Much to my dismay, I don’t often pray in praise and gratitude, but in despair. The truth is that God wants our praise, our requests, our questions, and our sorrows. He wants to have a genuine heart-to-heart relationship with us. He wants us to come to Him first. And always.

I have found tremendous solace in the bronze statue grouping that adorns the front entrance of the hospital I work for. It is a scene named “Come Unto Me” and is a beautiful depiction of a small crowd gathered around Jesus. I have made a regular practice of taking a route out of the hospital that sends me directly to it — I always stop and pray.

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The shiny spot on the bench to the left of Jesus is worn and buffed due to traffic. People are often sitting there — sometimes eating lunch, praying, or updating family members on their loved ones and the related hospital situations. There is a small garden surrounding the scene with soft meditative music playing in the background. It is picturesque and beckons to anyone passing by to: please pause, please stop, please“Come Unto Me”.

The magnetism of the statue also solicits touch. It is evident that many people are drawn to the hands and feet of Jesus. The most common areas are discolored, shiny, and smooth. I know that this statue is not the resurrected body of Jesus Christ, but it demands the same level of respect and adoration as would the living, breathing, Son of God. It is amazing.

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As of late, I have needed the solace of this bronze representation of my Lord and Savior. I have made special trips just to be able to pray at it’s feet. I have felt the figurative relief that comes from laying my cares at His feet. And I can honestly say that some of my prayers have been answered. I took these pictures on November 3rd. It was the first time I sat down, and I was unable to resist the urge to place my hand on this likeness of His.

Though this representation of Jesus’ hand is made of bronze, and is unaccommodating to the touch; it is the sentiment, the mere idea of sitting alongside Jesus that is so endearing. I can only imagine what it was like to be in His presence.

Three of the Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew 9:21, Mark 5:27 and Luke 8:44) share the story of a woman that knew that she would be healed if only she were afforded the opportunity to touch His robe. She had only heard about Him, but she seized her one opportunity and as surely as she touched His robe, He knew. He healed her, because of her faith. He healed her because she believed.

All of our troubles, trials, and tribulations are God’s way of calling us to Him. He wants us to lean on Him and trust in His timing and His will. When we suffer through without leaning on Him, we are merely suffering. SUFF. ER. ING. Without Him, our suffering is truly immense and immeasurable. But with Him? WITH HIM, with His grace, mercy, guidance, and love, we can power through our suffering and reflect with reverence and gratitude. Without Him, we are mere mortals — attempting the impossible (and all of it will seem impossible). With Him, we can do anything for we are his beloved children and He made the greatest sacrifice just to show us that there is nothing, nothing that He wouldn’t do for us.

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