God Provides

As a working single mom, the ends don’t always meet. I have a full-time job, opened my own business as a virtual assistant, and volunteer with a local Christian single mom’s group. If I were dependent upon my income from my full-time job, I’d never make it. I think most parents are aware that child support cannot be depended on or used as a catch-all, because there are times when it can be delayed, or discontinued– without notice. As well, there are always unexpected situations that require money. They always require money. Thank the Lord, for His mercy and grace. Every month, my ends meet. Today, my cup overflows.

There is a Buddhist foundation that supplies a food pantry once a month. The announcement is made through our school district. I was intimidated at first, and felt a twinge of shame. I was convinced that others needed it more than me, but that’s not the point is it? Every month they service approximately 700 households with a healthy bounty of groceries. There is always something unexpected, like dragon fruit. Or fennel bulbs. But there is also a staple of pantry items that includes: white rice, pinto beans, dry pasta, and sauce. The most impressive part to me is that they always give fresh fruit and vegetables.

The first time we attended was about nearly two years ago. We went through the registration process and were seated in a high school auditorium. I was a little confused. But then we were welcomed with a song of love that was also translated into sign language. We were then advised that we could proceed to receive our donations. As we wound through the snake-like line, we began to see the bounty from which we would receive. All of the volunteers wore vests, and the majority of those handing out food items were teens or tweens. They were kind and spoke to everyone. I left there that day feeling so loved. They really gave from their heart and shared without expecting anything in return. They were courteous and helped elders and women take items to their cars. They all bowed and smiled and said thank you repeatedly.

Yesterday, we received goods from a separate and equally generous foundation. I believe they were also Buddhist. Let me explain how unprepared I was for what I would receive. I’ve been to food donations before, and I’ve always taken my own box-bags. There reusable bags, that fold up for storage and have a very sturdy bottom. Previously, all of our goods fit within two of those boxes. Yesterday, I used three and still had to ask for another box. I was completely overwhelmed by what was given to me. It filled in every gap within my cabinets and refrigerator. When I left, I sobbed a little. It’s just so amazing to be provided with $200+ dollars of food for my family.

Here is what we received yesterday: 12 fruity Cheerios and 8 rice Chex single serving boxes, 2kg of Masa, 6 organic Matcha Latte, 3 organic Roar electrolyte waters, 12 Kind bars, 2-10ct trail mix, 4 small bags Tostito rounds, 2 Kroger brand Wavy potato chips, 2 heads of romaine lettuce, 3 heads of iceberg lettuce, 2 large heads of cauliflower, 5 of the biggest carrots I’ve ever seen, no less than 18 gigantic apples, 2 fennel bulbs, approx 18 avocados, 24oz of pickles, 2 cans peeled tomatoes, 4-60 watt LED light bulbs, a 30-count jar of prenatal vitamins, a 5lb bag of frozen French fries, 3lb bag of white rice, 24 single serving whole grain frosted cereal, 8pk of Hansen’s sparkling lemon water, a dozen fresh roses. Oh, and two jars of “grains and fruit”. It seems like an overnight oats type thing. That’s nothin’ to shake a stick at.

At times, the single mom job is one that pulls from us every emotion, feeling, and strength. We make 4,278 decisions every day. Most of those decisions have to be weighed against the greater good and the long term health and wealth of the family. Our decisions affect us, our children, and their futures. At times, the sheer number of questions, answers, and decisions leads us to a place of hands-in-the-air ready to give up. It’s those days that we sob in the shower. Having to always make something from nothing is beyond nerve-racking. The decision to receive donations was hard, the first time. I have never thought it was hard since then. There’s nothing shameful about needing food, and there’s certainly nothing shameful about sharing and being generous. I am so grateful and we are beyond blessed.

Originally posted for Single Momz Rock

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Fair, Is A Concept

I have three children. They are 12, and twin 5-year olds. We have recently entered the season of life called “that’s not fair”. It’s a terrible stage. It’s taxing, exhausting and I can sincerely state that I have said the words “because I said so”, more than any other mom in the history of fairness. At times, I can approach the situation as that teachable moment we all strive to find. At other times, it is surely the 74-ton straw that broke this camel’s back. How does a mother create and enforce a sense of fairness between children, siblings, and twins… when the only fairness they’ll ever see is the fairness they create?

Life isn’t fair. This is a fact that we all know, have shared, stated plainly, felt, and fell victim to. Whether it stemmed from our childhood, our collegiate career, or our workplace, we know what it feels like to stare into the complicated abyss that is fairness. A good friend of mine once explained that his sons fought over everything. What direction they were looking in, or the air they were breathing— was systematically the property of one child or the other. Looking in the same direction or breathing the same air was punishable by excessive whining, crying, and pointing by the injured party. But! When instructed to share a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; they became the ultimate teammates– nearly measuring the width of the sandwich to ensure that both sides received equality.

What is your earliest memory of fairness? Or lack thereof? Mine was access. Financial access, specifically. My childhood best friend was “well off” as my grandmother explained. And as the eldest of a prominent family, divorced in the early 80s, she was the first person I knew to experience the twos. Two houses, two sets of holidays, two parents vying for her attention and affections. She had two bedrooms, two tape players, two personal libraries. It was insane. No sensible parent should exert effort or finances to win their child’s affections, but the early 80s was not privy to this information. Estranged parents granted their children’s desires if for no reason than to ensure that their court ordered visitation was problem-free (for the most part).

As a child, growing up with my grandmother, this access hurt me. I felt slighted by the fact that I did not have the same access my friend had. I did not have two wallets to jump into. I had one home, one room, one set of everything. I never had the newest of anything. When I felt brave enough to breech this subject with my beloved guardian, she told me “well, sweetheart, life is not fair”. She went on to explain that while my friend had access to so many material things, no one could know her true heart’s desires. They were too busy trying to impress her and keep her; they didn’t have the time or energy to expend getting to know her, engaging her, supporting her. “Things don’t make a person happy; and life will only be fair if you make it that way”; my grandmother reminded me.

My contribution to the concept of worldwide fairness is to raise conscious, empathetic, loving children. Children that will reach out their hand to help another because it’s the right thing to do, not because they want something in return. My hope is that the environment that we call home is fair enough that they can see a difference between how I treat them and how others treat them. My desire is that when they look back on their childhood, on me, and on our home that their only reflections will be that of love. I know it’s not 100 percent realistic, but it’s a hope nonetheless.

Sometimes I buy one item, and request that they share. Most days we decide together on what I’ll make for dinner. Other times, I make their favorite meal items, all on the same day. I do what I can to show that the fairness comes from within. It is not for purchase, for leasing, or handed down. Fairness comes from doing what is right backed up with empathy and understanding. It’s sharing the fruits of your labor with someone, because you want them to know that joy. You want your fruit… to be their fair.

I want to teach my children that fairness is not about things, but the broader concept of just. It is my hope that they’ll see and know that a life guided by truth and reason will create an environment where justice and fairness can lead the way. Realizing that life is not fair; but choosing to commit to what is right is the only way I can model this behavior. I pray I’m doing it right.

Originally posted for Single Momz Rock

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. 😉

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.