My son could be Trayvon Martin.

My son could be Trayvon Martin.

It’s 2:15 AM and I’m still up just thinking about all the implications of the Zimmerman verdict. I watched the trial waiting for some major points to be made: Trayvon Martin had the right to be in a public place without being stalked, he had the right to stand his ground and fight back, and he had the right to get home safely.

Of course, all I can think about is how scary it is to have brought my precious son into a world where the Voting Rights Act can be gutted in the 21st century with the logic that it’s no longer needed because it has worked (never mind that it has worked THIS very year). I’ve brought him into a world where when a man shoots an unarmed teen, the murdered teen has to stand trial, not the shooter. I’ve brought him into a world where the family dynamics of the murdered teen is a key part of the story (just imagine if he was raised by a single mother like me). I’ve brought him into a world where although I don’t immediately leave a movie theater when a weird looking white person comes in for fear that he will shoot the place up, it is considered acceptable testimony to listen to a woman talk about how she was robbed by a black boy, even though that particularly black boy had nothing to do with the case. I’ve brought him into a world where wearing a hoodie in the rain is suspicious. I’ve brought him into a world where even as the unemployment rate continues to decrease, the unemployment rate of blacks continues to increase. I’ve brought him into a world where you can go to jail for firing a warning shot when someone who admits to abusing you is approaching you and threatening you, but not for murdering an unarmed boy who wanted some Skittles and tea.

I pray that I can instill in my son a strong sense of self worth. And I pray that others will respect his worth. I pray that my child will not be seen as a stereotype, but as the bearer of light he is. I don’t even know how to approach preparing him for a life in this world. Do I make sure he wear galoshes and a plastic poncho any time it’s raining? Do I drive him around the corner no matter what? Do I stock my pantry with snacks for a lifetime? Do I tell him to defend himself or to run or to just take whatever is thrown at him JUST in case he’s murdered and he needs to be clearly the victim? Of course, there is NO way for me to adequately prepare him in a place where people are justified in jumping to irrational conclusions.

So, Friday, as I was thinking about the possibilities the verdict could bring, I tweeted this:

So what are we going to do after today? Regardless of the verdict? My issue with marching is that I don’t always see forward movement after the fact.

Can we commit to joining a mentor group and giving back to our kids?

Can we agree to start writing and calling our legislators and staying vigilant about new laws that adversely affect our communities?

And I added these tonight:

Can we agree to start/continue educating ourselves about local and state politics and voting accordingly?

Can we agree to start focusing on building up our communities and knowing our neighbors so we can look out for each other? We are obviously all we got.

Can we stop making excuses for grown people who choose to not contribute to our children and start holding each other to higher standards?

Can we begin to invest in our own businesses and communities and watch where we circulate our dollars?

We can’t afford to be two day/two week warriors. We have to protect our kids through civic involvement and community engagement.

Now is the time to rediscover our own worth and wield the economic power we all know we have but don’t use.

I guess I’ll try to sleep now. But I’m sure it won’t be as restful as I need it to be. Another sad day in America. It’s becoming a norm. What’s next, people?

Day 6 – Finding Who I Am Once Again

Day 6 – Finding Who I Am Once Again

Just wanted to stop in and share my new personal mission statement. After spending a couple of days writing down my values, evaluating how much I honor those, and writing down actions I am or should be employing to live up to them, I came up with my mission statement.

Part of my quest, I know, is to re-discover and/or re-accept who I am outside of motherhood.  I’ve spent most of my energy in the last year and a half, pouring myself into being a good mother and trying to build bridges that evidently weren’t supposed to be built. I ignored myself (my emotions, my needs, my healing) a lot over this time, thinking that if I put myself last, I would be encouraging others to want to be around me and help me. But all I was doing was dishonoring myself and not allowing myself to fully reach 100%, and that’s never okay. Especially since now I know that there’s no amount of niceness and humility that will get anyone else do anything they’re not going to do anyway. I should be focusing on me and my own personal dreams instead of being upset when someone won’t help me or when I feel like I don’t have any allies besides my mom. I need to be my own ally. So I used this exercise partially to charge myself to start back believing in the powerful supergirl I’ve pretty much always pictured in my brain up until my mini mid quarter-life crisis. I’m headed back to my yellow brick road.

My purpose in life is to improve communities worldwide, starting with my own. I am a devoted mother, an intelligent community advocate, a savvy connector of resources, an honest idealist, and strong, resilient warrior who protects and provides for my family. In my life, personal and career, I value economic empowerment, education, and exposure. My goal is to maximize my influence to create change in the black community. My dream is to leave a legacy that lasts for generations through my inspirational and transformational work. I would like to give a voice to the voiceless—which requires that I tap into my confidence, boldness, and self-love. I will be true to myself and honor my feelings, instincts, and dreams. In my journey to transform and improve lives, I will not allow my own life to be rerouted to neglect myself, my health, my happiness, my moral compass, my family, my spirituality, my truth, my love for travel and adventure, my affinity for style and beauty, or my finances. I will strive not to feel guilty for making choices that align with my goals but may not align with other people’s ideas of what is right for me. I will step carefully yet confidently into my destiny as a leader and stay open to life’s wonders and miracles, striving to maintain a healthy home life and reserve time and energy for my village.

values

“It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” – Mae Jemison

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Day 2 – Life Assessment

Day 2 – Life Assessment

Today’s task was to do a life assessment. I’ll admit that I was a little bit overwhelmed by the thought of it, but I sat down and made it happen. In this life assessment I had to answer two questions for each of 7 areas of my life: “What do I like?” and “What do I dislike?” Since part of the purpose of this reset is to shift my focus to what’s good in my life, I’ll only share the answers to the former question. Suffice it to say that it was pretty easy for me to answer the latter, BUT identifying what I do like wasn’t as hard as I expected. Progress! 🙂

Lifestyle: I like that I have a pretty impressive network. I like that I live in Atlanta and have access to many opportunities. I like that I am still connected to my hometown of Jackson since it holds a special place in my heart. I love that I get to travel and explore.

Work: I love the level of support I get from my management. They genuinely care about me as a whole person, not just as an employee. I also love that I’ve found a place where I can apply my math skills to being a do-gooder in communities across the country. I also like that I am diversifying my portfolio by not just doing research for projects but also helping with marketing and the operations side.

Education: I like that my educational background is relatively diverse. I’m also happy that I had the experience of finding out that I actually didn’t like a field I had dreamed of entering and was able to find my niche later. That was a hard time in my life because it was one of the first times I ever had to decide not to finish something I started, but I saw after the fact that it was just what I needed to steer me in a better direction. (Message!)

Finances: I appreciate the fact that even though I don’t receive help from the person I expected it from, I’ve never missed a meal and Frederick has everything he needs and more. I like that I truly have my mom’s support and that she’s been my security net.

Health: I like my weight. I like my newfound upper body strength. I like that I eat mostly fresh and organic foods now. Thanks x3, Frederick.

Family: I love being Frederick’s mother. I like seeing my son develop and flourish everyday. I love hearing him laugh and seeing him discover new things. I love his hugs and kisses. I love watching (and hearing) him sleep. I love the way he looks like he is going to tip over when he is walking full speed ahead. I love to hear him say new words. I love reading and singing to him. Also, I love my mom and my daddy and my brothers. I love my aunts and uncles and my cousins. I love that I still have a living grandmother. I love that all these people love me. I love that even though I live 6 hours away, I still have a church family that loves me and my son. I like that Frederick and I have a village.

Relationships: I like that I have friends who speak life into me when they notice I’m low on fuel. I like that I have friends who believe in me. I like that most people who have made even a brief connection with me like to keep in touch with me, which I think means they see value in knowing me.

So 2 days down, 29 to go!

FYI – if you read my pregnancy posts, I used the same password on yesterday’s post. I’ll make it public sooner or later, but until then, hope you remember the old password!

31 Day Reset

31 Day Reset

Today is the first day of the second half of 2013. I spent the first half of it pretending I was okay in public by grasping at whatever I could find to be a bright spot of my dim days. Most of the time, that bright spot has been something about my son. Although I don’t really know how I will turn my life into a happy place, I do know I don’t want to spend much more time in the life I’m currently living. Wearing the shame and regret as a badge on my chest every day and finding by accident but maybe on purpose a new way I’ve screwed up my trajectory and becoming someone I never pictured myself being. Being angry every time someone cosigns (whether they knew they were cosigning or not–I blame myself, and the world blames me too, ain’t that a bitch) the fact that I made poor decisions and makes excuses for the sorry, worthless asshole of a boy I chose as my son’s “father”. Feeling like I wear the scarlet letter even though I know he’s out living life like it’s golden all while lying on me, further reinforcing the tarnish I already smeared on the reputation and persona I spent 30 years cultivating.

But I’m ready to figure out how to spray some tarnish remover on there and rub it off, even if it’s just for me and my view of myself. I’m tired of caring what people think about me, ESPECIALLY a bunch of people who don’t contribute to the wellbeing of me or my son anyway. WHY do I let them take up any space in my already overbooked brain?

Saturday, I ended up having a good hard cry (which I almost never do, even now, in front of anyone) as a friend of mine poured into me some affirmations and positivity that I still don’t quite feel I deserve but clutch because I know I need it. She told me that I’m still who I’ve always been and that the same care I give to Frederick, it’s time to give to Ranada. She said that she wants me to stop beating myself up and to start back believing in myself and all my talents and my dreams. And as she was borderline lecturing me (which isn’t a bad thing–remember that I have 4 degrees so listening when class is in session is one of my fortes), I was thinking that there are no coincidences and that this was confirmation that I most certainly needed to participate in this 31 Day Reset that another friend invited me to do with her this month.

So I said all that to say: It’s Day 1. July 1. The first day of the second half of the year. I will not spend the next 6 months beating myself up. The task for today was to pick a personal mantra and to choose a theme song.

My personal mantra, which I have written in my new reset notebook (and I chose it because it has on the front: “It is up to you to illuminate the world.” -Phillippe Venier), is

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. – Joseph Campbell

I chose it because when I find myself really kicking myself in the ribs, it’s when I’m comparing myself to what I had planned in my head. I’m a planner by nature, and I had the next couple/few years lined up in my head, making the steps (I thought) daily to make my plans come to life. So now, any time something happens that is completely different from those plans, I start one more time, in case I forgot, pointing out to myself how I ruined my life. So I’m ready to keep reminding myself that the life I PLANNED may be ruined, but what God has for me is for me, including my beautiful son, who wasn’t in that short-term plan but is the best thing I’ve ever received. I have to let go of what I had in my mind, and open myself up to creating a new and prayerfully even better reality.

My theme song is a song I sing to myself whenever I’m searching and searching for a silver lining. It’s The Conversation by Greg O’Quin and Joyful Noyze. I’m almost certain I’ve blogged the lyrics before. Here are some of them again.

If I never had a rainy day, I’d never know You could brighten my day.

If I never felt some loneliness, I’d never know of Your friendliness.

If I never fell to the ground, I’d never know You could help me rebound.

If I never had a broken heart, I’d never know You could mend the parts.

If I never reached out for your hand, I’d never know You could help me stand.

If I never had to shed a tear, I’d never know You were always near.

I’d never, ever know You this way.

So there. What a first day. I’m so ready to feel happiness as a default instead of as a fleeting moment. It’s a process, but I can do it. One day at a time.

A letter to me from my past self

A letter to me from my past self

I started a ranting post about how depressed I have become, hoping it would help me like Kelly Rowland says her song Dirty Laundry helped her. And then my friend popped on my screen and reminded me without knowing that I never read the letter I wrote to myself in August 2012 set to deliver to me on my baby’s first birthday. (For anyone who wants to write a letter to your future self, visit futureme.org). I totally blessed myself. I take things one day at a time, but I’m glad I could reinforce what my mom tells me daily and remind myself of where I should force myself to focus my energy. Here it goes.

Dear Ranada,

One year ago, you joined the superwoman club and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy after hours of painful labor that you can no longer remember. You didn’t have support from his father despite the love you thought you shared with him–but guess what–you’ve made it an entire year. With the love and support from your mom, the rest of your family (even Clint!), your friends in Atlanta, and your friends all over the country, you and Frederick are doing well and that’s no surprise. You’re the bomb, and Frederick is going to be an amazing young man because he has you for his mom.

Keep up the good work. Enjoy life. Appreciate the blessings of motherhood. Don’t focus on what’s hard–keep your eyes on what’s great. Remember that mantra from 2010?PERSPECTIVE. Things are as they should be. You are loved. Your baby is loved.

With self-love,
Ranada

Lessons for a New Mother

Lessons for a New Mother

I had a Mother’s Day Weekend, complete with getting dolled up and going out on the town with my friends Friday night. Saturday, I didn’t go to the movies like I intended to, but I did get to go to a luncheon for my chapter’s mentoring program and was so pleased with how it turned out and got to take some leftovers home so I didn’t have to cook. 🙂 And I always get giddy when petit fours are involved. Lol! Yesterday was a great, relaxing day, and I truly needed it. As busy as a beaver as I can get, it’s nice to just lie around all day (and only get up for a massage and facial and to eat!). While I was lying around, I thought a lot about my first year of motherhood, which will be complete in just a month. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about life. I appreciate my mom 1,000 times more than I ever have because now I understand first hand the magnanimity of her love for her children. And I’ve finally shed the majority of the shame I’ve felt for being a single mother. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve gained.

  1. As long as I am taking good care of Frederick, I will be taken care of. Help has come from unlikely places since I’ve become Frederick’s mom. I have not suffered. When various situations come up, I’ve had help from family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. I ended up having to go to the ER a couple of weeks ago, and a stranger saw me pulled over on the side of the road and called my neighbor for me. THEN she actually rode with my neighbor back to the house and brought her back so that she could drive my car. And my neighbor stayed with me until late because she cared. They say God takes care of babies and fools, but I’d like to add to that devoted mothers. My mom used to tell me often while I was preggo and uber depressed and worried that as long as I took “good care of that baby, God will take care of you.” And she was so right. Help may not come the way I expect it, but it will come.
  2. I can’t compare myself with others. Every once in awhile, I feel the urge to compare what someone is doing for me compared to what they’re doing for someone else. Or compare someone else’s parenting style with mine. Or compare Frederick’s milestones with someone else’s. And the list goes on and on. It seems there’s always an opportunity to find a reason to feel slighted or inferior or less fortunate or even superior and more blessed, but it’s unnecessary and inaccurate. What people do for us is voluntary so there’s no bar that I can use to be grateful–whatever they’ve done is more than what I had. Whatever someone else chooses in their parenting styles works for them and their households and I choose what works for mine. And Frederick is just a super baby, so no need to compare his little exceptional self to anyone else. 🙂
  3. Opinions are like assholes–everyone has one, and I don’t have to listen to them all. This has been a toughie. I never knew how much I actually cared about what others think until my pregnancy and after I had Frederick. Now this is different from your average experienced mother sharing some tips. I welcome those and file the ones that don’t apply away till later when they might. People love to tell me what they think about the various things I do for Frederick–from breastfeeding to how many layers of clothes he had on in the transitional months to my choice of making my own baby food for the first few months and now, only organic products when I don’t make it myself to whatever else is the topic. What I’ve realized is–with the exception of just a couple of people, not only do I not have to hold on to their opinion, I don’t have to defend my choices either. When we go home at night, no one is making sure we are secure. When Frederick cries, besides his daycare provider, I’m the one who makes it better. I am the parent, period. So I listen to what they’re saying and if I don’t agree, then so what? I don’t have to let them offend me or try to convince them to co-sign me. For what? After I finally realized that “grown woman status” covers this area of my life as well, things got a little easier. It actually reminds me of a time in the 6th grade that some kid tried to make fun of me for not wearing a certain kind of jeans or tennis shoes. I didn’t find it necessary to tell him that at the time the only tennis shoe that would fit me was Keds because they were available in narrow sizes and that I walked out of all the others I tried on because I wore a 4A back then. And I didn’t need to tell him that my mom didn’t see the point in purchasing jeans that cost more than $15 back then. What I did say, though, was that until he started buying my clothes and shoes, it really didn’t matter what he thought about them. If I was smart enough to get that in the 6th grade, why did it take me a minute to grasp the concept as a 31 year old grown woman with a child? I dunno, but I’ve come to my senses. 🙂
  4. I’m in control of my own happiness. I can choose where to focus my focus.  Sure, I could easily spend my time thinking about what the ideal situation looks like and how that’s not my reality. I did that for nearly 9 months. I beat myself up for spending my life trying to be stellar then becoming an unwed mother at 30. I punished myself for taking a chance on love despite a not-so-great track record. I battered myself for allowing myself, who has always been seen by others and by my own self as strong and above the fray, to be emotionally abused. And then with help from my mother, my pastor, and my therapist, my maternal instincts kicked in and made me snap out of it. I couldn’t be good for Frederick as long as I was waist-deep (maybe neck-deep!) in self-denigration. The world can beat you down, but I don’t think anyone can kick you while you’re down like you yourself can. When I stopped beating myself up and started choosing to focus on my blessings instead of my challenges, the sun came out again. When I started allowing myself to see the silver linings to the blackest clouds in my sky, I started becoming way more productive and hopeful and ready to accept more positivity in my life. When I stopped constantly wishing people understood my plight, my plight became a lighter load. And heck, when I started realizing that certain people are just too selfish to care about anyone but themselves, I stopped wasting my energy on them. I realized that I don’t have to answer every text message, email, or phone call. If you send me something negative, I don’t have to answer–it’s my choice to ignore it and keep it moving. For as many people have something negative to say, there are at least two who have something encouraging to say. And that’s who I choose to listen to now. It doesn’t matter who didn’t wish me a happy Mother’s Day–I was beyond ecstatic over the cards, Edible Arrangement, breakfast (and my coffee was sweet!), gifts, and super sweet text messages that I did receive. I’ve learned to fill as much space as possible focusing on the goodness in my life.

Life is a journey, and I still have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be spiritually and emotionally, but I thank God and all the heavens that I’m not where I was a year ago. Being a mother is the toughest job I’ve ever had, but it is by far the most rewarding. I never knew I could love someone as much as I love my son. I’ve always considered myself a loyal, protective, giving person, but nothing I’ve ever done for anyone compares to what I have done and will continue to do for my little one. And as much as I give to him, I receive back. I say at least once a week that Frederick has made me Wonder Woman. I get amazed every time I learn something new about my post-baby self–physical, emotional, etc. About a month ago, I went rock climbing for the first time and was able to climb 5 courses–I used to not be able to pick up my little TV/VCR combo without feeling super strained. Now I’m Spiderman Jr. And it wasn’t a fluke–last week, I went to hot yoga for the first time since I learned I was preggo.  Halfway through the second class, the instructor told us “we are about to practice handstands” and I looked at him like he had lost his mickeyfickey mind. Then he explained that it’s a process with steps and once you find which step makes you strain, you stop and that’s what you work on. So, okay cool–nowadays I’m willing to try. I got about halfway through the steps before I had to stop. Meaning I was able to prop my feet on the wall and extend my legs. I was very very surprised and proud of myself. The fact that I can put so much of my body weight onto my arms is fascinating to me. (But I guess that’s what happens when you constantly tote around a healthy, solid baby!) It also surprises me how easily I can let go of the small stuff now. I used to be a stickler for making things be how I think they should be, and now, it really has to be major to get a rise out of me. I like that about myself. Having Frederick has taught me the importance of reserving my energy for what is really important to me instead of wasting it on non-factors. Don’t get me wrong–I can still get crunk from time to time, but I’m definitely not fighting every little battle there ever was anymore.

So that’s that. I hope every mother had a wonderful, relaxing, loving Mother’s Day yesterday! We deserve it!

My Booski and He Mommy

Much Ado about Everything

Much Ado about Everything

You would think the busier my life is, the more I’d have to blog about. And that probably is technically true, but most of the time I don’t think anything is blogworthy. Until I click on another blog and see a full post with lots of comments on something I did last week. Sigh.

But here’s a mini update:

1. Frederick is a bonafide walker. I’ve been baby proofing my house because he is a Busy Body.

2. I am halfway done planting my garden. This would be a horrible thing to say if the weather were normal, but since I still have had some chilliness, I have a little time. I need to finish up before May hits.

3. I have started back tutoring. So far, I haven’t started back with the private one-on-one tutoring, but I have started on a pilot program at a local high school for Algebra students who need help with some pre-Algebra concepts. I’m hoping that program is extended in the fall.

4. My hair, my hair, my hair. It’s long and always tangled. More often than not, I have it up in a bun because it’s just too much. I’m definitely oiling it way more than I used to because having dry, brittle hair is not the business. I think I’m going to get it pressed next month for a special event. If so, that will give me a couple weeks of not having to fight with the tangles! But ohhhhhh how nervous I am that I’m still tenderheaded like I was when I got it straightened in November. That was ROUGH. I’d never been tenderheaded in my life, so I’m hoping my scalp is less sensitive next time!

5. I set a few goals at the start of the month, and I’ve been making some progress on them. One action item for one of my goals was to read I Declare by Joel Osteen daily, and so far I have stuck to that. I needed to infuse some positivity at the start of my days, and it’s been great.

Five is a good number, don’t you think? Just wanted to peek in and say hi really. One of my goals is to blog more often, but it’s not at the top of the list. 🙂 But maybe I’ll write a few longer posts about some of the stuff above. We’ll see. Stay tuned.