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Change be good!

4 Mar

It’s Friday! Can I just tell you how happy that makes me despite knowing that Monday I have to go and have a little oral surgery…blah. Oh and the good doc called this afternoon and told me despite a good mammogram, I am being referred to a boobie specialist. Ugh…don’t get me wrong obviously if there is an issue I want to find it but I was happy thinking I was done and maybe my girls just liked hurting for no good reason. Oh well, that is part of life, the good, the bad and the ugly.

This has been an interesting week for me, yesterday marked the 7th anniversary of my Mom’s untimely and unexpected passing. On the one hand it still seems like yesterday though I no longer grab the phone to call her but at the same time so much has happened since she passed. Generally around this anniversary I go into myself to just find that peaceful moment. However as I have been dealing with so much and so much angst around wanting to make changes in my life, I am taking it as a sign that for two nights in a row I dreamed about my mother.

Look, I am not a super woo woo person but there were some spiritual dimensions that were opened to me when she died. I will just say that when she appears in my dreams, I sit up and take notice. The fact that I need to make some changes to get to what I am calling that happy place is crystal clear. I think I have a plan but I also know that sometimes what we plan is not where we are being led. Right now I take it day by day.

All that to say that while I am not sure what will happen as far as the larger plans I have; there are some areas where I can make change and well that it is here. I admit I am not the greatest blog writer as I intentionally write in a free form fashion. However I do write in other places, in fact belatedly I found out this week that I received an award from the New England Press Association for my writing on racial/diversity issues. I write a monthly column on diversity for the Portland Phoenix and I have written for a few other publications.

As I was sitting back just enjoying a piece of good news this week, it hit me that I have a voice here and that perhaps its time to step up my game. So in coming days this blog will be revamped, I am moving from using free wordpress to hosting my own blog. (wish me luck, I am not a techie) I will be honest and say yes I am looking to see if I can earn a few extra shekels (trying to figure the best way to do that since I hate when blogs are loaded with ads so have no fear whatever I do won’t be too tacky). I have no illusions that I am about to become the next Dooce or anyone like that but in these interesting economic times, any thing extra is gravy. Also I want to do a better job of showcasing my work in general and get the word out that hey I am available to with groups on issues related to diversity.

So hopefully I won’t scare any of y’all off with these changes but I am pretty excited. Happy weekend!

Time is gone and I was a bad mommy

2 Mar

As a modern woman I have always liked the idea that I could have it all…a family complete with kids, loving partner, work that fulfilled me, you get the picture. Yet in the past several days I have been grappling with a low level malaise and sudden realization that at least for me (I refuse to speak for anyone else) that simply is not possible. Now I am grappling with the idea of how do I achieve balance if it is not possible to have it all? The truth is I don’t know. Yet I do know that time is not unlimited, while in today’s world 40 is the new 20 and we see 65 or so as young. The hard truth remains that none of us know how much time we will have on this planet in these bodies. We like to think that if we do XYZ that there will always be time later to do ABC, but as I learned firsthand 7 years ago, life turns on a dime and one day you are here and the next minute you are gone. Tomorrow will mark 7 years since my Mom’s untimely death, 4 days after turning 50. In many ways her death is directly responsible for my daughter being here now, I realized that one can not put off for tomorrow in order to accomplish today.

Yet I have a confession to make…in many ways I am not a good mother. Oh, I am here but often times I am not present. I should know better after all I effectively missed a great deal of my son’s childhood as I was striving for more. I was a mere 19 when he was born and instead of reveling in his childhood, I spent the first several years locked in a custody war. Later on, listening to bad advice, I allowed him to live with his father assuming that my ex would tire of being a full time Daddy and that he would send him back and that we would have more time together. That never happened and we never did get that time. Oh, I did eventually move to Maine to be involved but as always I thought I had more time. Within 6 months of the move to Maine, I started graduate school effectively juggling work, school, marriage and parenthood…looking back I don’t think it worked and it wasn’t worth it.

See, my son is all grown up now, half way through his first year of college and while despite the stresses and challenges we faced, we are close but part of my soul knows I missed out on a lot. Time that I will never get back. Oh, I do meaningful work, I have spent the past 15 years working with those most in need, originally women breaking free of addictions and prostitution and now for the past two and a half years as head of an agency that works with low income families. That’s great but the cost to my family has been too much. Through my meditation practice of late I am realizing that I spend a lot of time not being present and living in the moment. Instead one eye is always checking for the emails that never stop coming in, truth is the nature of my work there is always someone in need, a fire to put out. I do my job and do it well but it comes at the expense of my family and mostly my daughter. I realized this the other day as I did something I have not done in years; I went the entire day not turning on my cell phone. I was present for the entire day and it was a good thing.

Lately I find myself daydreaming about quitting my job, oh I have a plan for the future and I am working on it but really it will take a few years before I make a full transition into life coaching. I find myself wondering do I have a few years to spend being only half present with my family. My girl is most likely my last child for a number of reasons, so this is it…do I want another child who only gets half a mommy? Oh, I have no intentions of becoming a stay at home mom that is not for me…I tried for the first year of the girl’s life. Also being married to a freelance writer/editor we need the second income but lately I find myself thinking I need work that requires less of me. I am passionate about the unfortunate but now I need to spend some passion on my own family.

Time is the one thing that when we use it we don’t always get a do-over and more importantly ultimately none of knows just how much time we really have. So all I can do is be present in these moments and enjoy the time now.

PS: Hey, if you know of any part time gigs for a writer/non-profit administrator/adjunct instructor holla at a sista! If you have serious leads I am open to hearing them, feel free to email me.

How class can impact rites of passage

12 Feb

I rarely cover similar subjects in back to back posts, yet I read this piece from a Tumblr blog (I must be honest, not sure I quite get the Tumblr thing) and it really resonated with me. In fact I am extremely happy that the author tackles just how deeply the class we were raised in impacts us even when we are no longer a member of that class. It always amazes me in America how we say folks can move up the class ladder and how so many people refer to themselves as being middle class. Yet in a nation where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is almost an ocean these days, I think most of us are living in a class cloud where fear of being at the bottom keeps us hanging on to the middle when the fact is we are much closer to the bottom than we would like to admit. However that is another discussion for another day.

No, it was reading this piece that hit home to me something I have really struggled with and the fact that while I have blamed the situation on other issues the roots of my dilemma are very much based in money and in class.

I don’t drive. Once again I have said it and it’s embarrassing after all I am an almost 40 year old woman, college educated, fairly professional gig, and all that jazz but driving? Basically it’s gotta be life or death for me to drive. People who know me ask why I don’t drive. Well part of it is driving makes me anxious, no not just a little nervous, a lot of nervous. The type of nervous where mistakes can be made, and frankly I have no wish to kill myself or others due to being nervous.

Often people ask, was I always this way? Well, that’s where my humble roots play a role. In many communities in the US kids start learning to drive at 15 and at 16 get licenses. (Granted with graduated licensing I know that is not exactly how it happens now but that’s what it was like eons ago) At 15 my high school offered the written knowledge of how to drive as part of my physical education classes but the actual behind the wheel piece was not taught at my school and basically parents had to pay for it. My folks didn’t have the few hundreds required for me to take the behind the wheel classes and if memory serves me correctly we had no car at that time so I never learned.

I worked after school but my money was used to pay for my clothing and for my lunch money and bus fare back and forth to school (I went to high school clear on the other side of Chicago, having won admittance in one of the top academic programs in Chicago at that time). So being 16 as you can imagine I wasn’t exactly earning enough to handle my expenses that I was responsible for and saving to take driving lessons. Then there was the realization that since I had no car to drive there was no rush to learn to drive.

Long story short I went from age 16-30 with the idea of driving never crossing my mind in any serious way. I mean yeah there were a few times when a car would have been nice, it was sometimes inconvenient raising a kid in Chicago always taking buses and trains but I most certainly wasn’t alone. A lot of the reasons were rooted in lack of resources, having become a mother at 19; I didn’t exactly have a lot of spare cash lying around to afford the cost of driving lessons. Then there was the issue of actually buying a car and upkeep, it simply was not in my budget. Hell, even taking time to get lessons would have been a resource juggling act since I would have needed someone to watch my son so that I could to take lessons. Even when I started earning decent money, I just chose to live in neighborhoods that were easily accessible to public transit and things I needed and wanted.

Nope, it was the Maine move that brought the matter to the forefront. Granted my plan had been to live in Portland, Maine’s largest city where I figured I would be able to get by until I mastered this driving thing. (Yeah, dumb me didn’t bother to learn before moving 1100 miles away…figured being a 30 yo newbie it would be easier to learn in a small state) As fate would have it I landed a job less than 3 weeks after moving to Maine therefore giving me no time to get a handle on the driving thing. That first year in Maine was a real juggling act as my job required travel at times and the Spousal Unit thank goodness to his flexible schedule was able to assist me but it was hard.

I figured after a year or so I would learn and while I did the truth is learning to drive as an adult is hard and while I can do it, my own anxiety gets in the way now. I often think had I learned as a teenager it would have been better. One of the instructors I worked with explained that in many ways it’s harder for adults to get it because by a certain age you realize that shit…driving is serious business and if you fuck up it can have grave consequences. Whereas teenagers are fearless, this frankly can also be a bad thing.

Anyway in thinking about my driving issues and pondering how lack of resources can get in the way of folks learning how to drive actually made me think of many of my current clients and clients I have had over the years. Most of them don’t drive which for most low income folks especially in a rural state greatly limits ones opportunities. In my area we are fortunate to have public transit but it’s costly. A one way ride to Portland from my area (by car a 20 minute ride tops) is $5 that means a round trip is $10. As a result I have a lot of kids in my after school program who have never been to Portland or who rarely get to the beach despite the fact they live mere miles away from the beach. In Chicago it was poor minorities who rarely traveled around the city because they too had a lack of resources granted public transit back in my hometown is far more affordable.

It means that when lower income folks have cars they are almost always jalopies that are on their last leg, which pretty much describes every car my dad, had when I was growing up. Though in our case having access to good public transit did not limit me but at times it was a minor inconvenience.

Yet like the tumblr poster, even so called rites of passage are not always accessible to those who hail from the working and lower classes. Those of us who are able to emerge from that background and move up due to education are often still struggling with the residual effects of our childhood.

PS: People often ask me how I get around, well I bought a house in a very walk able area and even my office is less than a mile from my house. I utilize public transit and the Spousal Unit due to working from home is often able to help me out when I need to go further. One thing I do not do is ask others for rides since this is my shit with that said with the girl in grammar school now I am realizing I have to work on this issue. I need to get comfortable enough where driving is not this emotional and anxiety roller coaster and I am setting some goals and plans in place to get there.

Straddling the class ladder and family

8 Feb

Just a quick post as I head off to bed. Tonight after a tasty dinner cooked by the Spousal Unit I ended up spending some time talking with my Dad trying to make light conversation about life and the state of the world. Yet it was one of those conversations that veered a little off course which frankly is quite common with my Pops but by the end I had one of those light bulb moments. My dad has now been with us a few weeks and it’s still an adjustment and part of it is due to his rather acerbic personality, coupled with the fact that ours has never quite been a warm and fuzzy relationship. However the light bulb went off tonight that some of my general discomfort is really based on the fact that I am a class straddler.

I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a child of the working class, as I often joke during my childhood we alternated between two states, poor and working class. Working class was what happened in a good year and  poor was the rest of the time. However due to just making different choices than my folks made, I am no longer officially a member of the working class though in many ways it’s what I still identify with. Though as I discovered it’s a lot easier for me to identify as working class when dealing with friends who come from family money than with my own father.

During his time here there has been that sense at times that he does not quite understand how we live, why we make the choices we make. One night he actually commented to us “So this is how you live” on the night in question it was a Saturday night and the hubby and I were getting ready to settle down to watch a movie and share a glass of wine. Ours is a quiet existence, far more stable and frankly quieter than what I grew up with.

Like most working class kids I did not grow up in a household where simple discussions were held for no reason. Instead my parents chiefly my Dad ruled the house as if it were his kingdom and the rest of us were serfs. Rules were laid down and you followed them lest you wanted to get your ass kicked. Alfred Lubrano is his book Limbo talks at length about this, part of the reasoning behind this is that for many working class folks, their home is the only place where they have a say and can actually control things. My father seems amused that our five year old is allowed a voice in things, once again tonight reminding me of the good ole days when you could slap a kid upside the head. Having been the kid being slapped upside the head I have no desire to create those memories for my own kid.

As a straddler I realized even seemingly small things like buying in bulk seem to perplex my Dad, as he asked me today why I had bought multiple packs of batteries. It was one of those moments where I clearly felt the divide between how I was raised and who I have become as an almost 40 year old woman. One of the legacies for me growing up with little is that for years I had behavior bordering on hoarding but now I simply like to keep a well stocked house. After all it would make no sense to buy toilet paper one pack at a time in house with two bathrooms.

I often struggle with my working class roots in professional settings yet tonight I realized that even with family that movement up the class ladder can create a disconnect and frankly it saddens me.

Being an adult and speaking up

7 Feb

It’s barely 10 am and frankly I am ready to rewind and start this day anew. Too bad life doesn’t come with a rewind button. This is one of those posts where I wonder if it would be better suited for my journal since in many ways I am just dumping all my shit out there…yet I know I am not the only one who struggles with these issues and often when I feel this way, I find comfort in sharing. I come from a culture where too many times the personal is hidden yet I don’t think its ever truly hidden instead it manifests in other areas of our lives generally affecting our health through anxiety, tension, stress and other habits that have a negative impact.

I come from a family where speaking one’s truth and expressing themselves was met with disapproval and when I was a child it was met with physical punishment. As a result I learned early on to shut up and never speak my truth because the punishment was not worth the cost of my truth. As I have shared here before at age 19, I was introduced to the not so wonderful world of anxiety attacks. I believe there is only so much our minds and souls can handle before we become overloaded, in 19 years of dealing with anxiety it’s only been in the past year I have realized that when I am silent I become anxious.

It may sound as if I learned a lesson yet it was my own son who is now 19 that illustrated to me the dangers of keeping it all in. See, my beautiful boy is prone to anxiety just like me, it started a while ago and if he is not cautious like me he keeps himself bottled up and then deals with the vague anxious feelings. I sometimes think that the fact he was forced to live between two parents in many ways has played a role in his own anxiety, in the past year I have encouraged him to be true to himself no matter if it hurts or upsets either me or his father. It’s a process and I believe he will get there as far as his own truth and voice and speaking up.

Yet I was reminded today of the price that can be paid for speaking up, as readers know my father is currently living with us while he decides his next steps in life which now may or may not involve settling down in Maine. I may gripe and complain but overall having my father here has been tolerable and seeing the bonds develop between him and my daughter has been great. But the reality is anytime you have someone else in your space it creates a different energy that all parties need to be aware of.

For me that energy is centered on the issue of sleep, I suffer from insomnia and I have a spouse who snores. Throw in a dad who suffers from old guy syndrome of waking up early (3-4am) and you get someone whose sleep has been sorely lacking lately. To be honest I feel like the walking dead, and with major deadlines this is not a good thing. Without getting into many details, let’s just say I brought the issue up with my dad and the result was not good. He took my speaking up as a sign I did not want him here and it was messy and knowing my dad a grudge will be held.

I am hurt, I am very hurt yet as I went into my space to focus on breathing through it, I was reminded that I can’t control the actions of others but only my response to those actions. Playing back the exchange while I may not have been as calm as I could have been (not too much asleep on my end) I realized that ultimately if he chooses to leave despite my actions, there is nothing I can do. Yet at the end of the day, I spoke my truth and tried to be gentle.

I have written before on the value of speaking our own truths and once again was reminded that no matter what the cost it’s a necessity. It cost too much to walk around with anxious feelings bottled up and as a mother I must be aware of what I model for my kids.

Black Beauty

2 Feb

Thanks to yet another snow storm, I find myself at home with time to kill since with another foot of snow expected on top of the however many feet of snow already piled up in my yard, leaving the house is simply not an option. So it seems like a great day to break my blog hiatus and share some thoughts, after all it is Black History Month which is perfect for what I want to talk about today…black beauty.

Living in the United States which despite all the talk of being a post racial society is a hard place to be as a Black woman. Frankly it’s hard for all women, but today I speak as a Black woman because it’s my experience and I know it. From an early age little brown girls learn quickly they are not valued nearly as much as their pale counterparts. The images that little girls see are primarily that of pale girls with silky hair, girls whose natural body shapes often don’t look like theirs.

Unless caregivers are aware of the damage of what happens when you consume a steady diet of images that in no way resemble you, can do to a little girl’s psyche it’s the rare brown girl who will make it to adulthood not conflicted in some ways about her appearance. Generally for my sistern this manifests itself in how we approach our hair.

Hair is often seen as a woman’s crown and glory yet many Black women have a hard time truly grasping that concept when deep down we wonder why our hair won’t do this or that. I have been a natural haired Black woman for a decade now yet it’s only been in recent years that I had true acceptance of what my hair can and cannot do and I am at peace with it. Yet despite the growth in Black woman shunning chemical relaxers and choosing natural hair the fact remains it takes more than simply not putting the creamy crack in your hair to have real acceptance.

When most Black women first go natural they are excited and in many cases trade the addiction to relaxer for the addition to the perfect products that will cause their hair to have curl definition or waves or some other feature that will make their hair appear socially acceptable. I know when I first went natural and did the big chop I was addicted to using Care Free Curl activator gel because it made my hair look curly opposed to tight kinky curls that looked nappier. Then there was the point when my hair started growing out and then it looked like a frizzy mass and I remember being disappointed.

Perhaps it was because of my own frustrations and eventual realization that my hair is never going to lay down (unless it’s being manipulated in some fashion) which is what made this video interesting to me. Please check it out, now I admit the sista is hilarious in her presentation but what she says actually made me think. In the course of my decade long journey I have had folks make all kinds of suggestions about what to use in my hair and for the most part none of it works. I am at the point that pretty much what works best for my hair and my lifestyle as far as energy I am going to put out is, short fro, dreads or braids oh and the occasional afro puff. I am not a play in the hair person, after 30 mins my hands get tired and I have as my braider says at least 2-3 different textures of hair on my head of hair. For years I had a hard time accepting what looked good on me and really coveted the looser curls that I would see on some sisters but guess what it’s not for me.

Yet the sista in the video while it’s clear she is distressed, at the root of her rant is someone who still needs to do the mental work that is part of truly accepting her beauty. But too many of us are not surrounded by folks who give us that validation we need instead we suffer internally. Ultimately too many do not see the beauty of a Black woman’s natural crown and glory…plain and simple. It’s why we spend hundreds of dollars on products to smooth our hair because we still equate beauty with a standard that is not our standard of beauty.

This brings me to this piece. It was in my local news and what stood out was that the woman arrested was a Black woman, a rather cute one too. Now I am not passing judgment on what she does or the charges against her but in reading the comments online following the article it was clear that not too many others saw her as attractive, instead stealing her person-hood by referring to her in terms that strip her of person-hood. So I asked the Spousal Unit was she cute and he said yes. Interestingly enough I think the fact that she appears to have dreads is what really stood out to me, but overall I was reminded of how very little black beauty is valued.

Never mind the fact that she is working in a profession where her looks are required so that she can earn money. I doubt she would be dancing at a club if the tips/earnings weren’t there so clearly someone finds her attractive yet in a public venue like the paper, people feel they must judge her looks. This is life for the Black woman in America. A place where we will always struggle for acceptance yet to truly be accepted most of us must start the work internally. We also need to start with our kids especially our girls; we must present images that affirm what they see in the mirror. It helps if you are in a racially diverse area but even my house, we hang Black art, we buy books and dolls that mirror back what my girl sees in my, in pictures of family members and more importantly what she sees in the mirror.

A new year and a new direction

22 Jan

For the past several years despite the fact that the official New Year starts on January 1, for me the new year seems to start on my birthday which is this weekend. I have spent the past several days doing a lot of reflecting on the past year and really the past decade…as I have said before they were the best of times and the worst of times. As I type this post my father is literally en route to Maine where he will land in the next several hours to start a new chapter of his life. In some ways his moving here will be the start of a new chapter in my own life and not just the fact that my Dad is temporarily shacking at my house.

For months now I have been acutely aware that something was amiss in my life, I am short tempered, grumpy, achy and generally speaking not very happy. I have come to realize that a great deal of my unhappiness or general frustration in life is rooted in my job but actually it goes deeper than that. Like many folks I have spent a great deal of my life assuming that if only I reached the XYZ goal I would be happy. After all so many of us still think that happiness is a good job, good partner, kids, etc and while these can be good things the truth is they won’t necessarily bring us happiness.

Lately my happiness has come in those quiet moments often when I can be alone with my thoughts and can actually just be present in the moment. I find when I can fully engage in the moment and be present with those near me; it’s when I feel the most peace and happiness. To aid on my quest to live in the moment I have started to rely more and more on yoga and specifically yoga nidra. I am a very anxious person having been diagnosed with my first full on panic attack at 19, living with anxiety is no fun and yet this past year as I have dabbled with yoga for the first time I have found relief from the anxious thoughts that often plague me.

Getting some relief from the anxiety has allowed me to go deeper inside and try to figure out what the hell is that I really want in life? Drum roll please….after what feels like a lifetime working in the non-profit sector I want to leave to become a life coach. See, I worked with a life coach several years ago and recently realized that every goal I set with my coach I have accomplished. I have also since learned that most of those goals when reached weren’t nearly the game changer I thought they would be.

I admit I was initially skeptical of working with a life coach but in the end it was a valuable experience and one that frankly I think can be valuable for many women of color. So many of my sistas of color are stressed and frankly on the hamster wheel chasing what we think we want and need yet most of us are anxious balls waiting to explode. It’s no coincident that many sistas in my life including my own mother started on the high blood pressure meds at the age I am now…

Anyway that’s what up with me as I head into a new year of life and I will be writing more about my future plans as they unfold. Yet after talking with a dear friend over dinner last night I decided to make my plans public.

Get raggedy…tell the truth

18 Jan

Despite the fact that we can now communicate with one another 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and build communities with people we may never sit down with, I find myself thinking out loud are we being truthful? As a blogger who likes to read other blogs I split my time reading the mommy blogs, race based blogs and political blogs. Yet despite the fact so many of us are talking, at times I can’t help thinking some of are not being truthful. I think this tendency is greatest in Mommy land where Mommy blogs have exploded in recent years.

Hot button Mama Issues seem to be breastfeeding, healthy food, screen time and the list goes on. Yet with the exception of a handful of Mamas who freely admit that their kids spend way too much time playing on the computer or watching TV and eating foods that might make some of us cringe. Most Mamas only show us their handicrafts, their gorgeous healthy meals and basically without meaning to flame the fires of the Mama wars that’s exactly what happens. Mamas who are at home working hard feel they have to explain themselves to Mamas who works outside the home and vice versa…shit we are all working hard. Why do we need to explain ourselves to anyone? Why can we not accept that no matter how we parent, that it’s hard work and time consuming.

How many times have you sat down to catch a break with your cup of tea to check out a favorite Mama blogger only to get up feeling like a slacker? Here you were thinking you had done good by feeding your kids, taking them out to play for two hours in the snow (when you really didn’t feel like it) and then you see “that” Mama…she did all those things plus baked a pie from scratch, home-schooled her two oldest kids and made a sweater for her hubby. And she’s got the pictures to prove it!

Please understand I am not knocking any Mama but imagine how much richer things would be if that same Mama that you find yourself idolizing because she is everything you are not, admitted she suffers from insomnia. That explains why her 24 hours can pack in so much more than yours. Or better yet, that same hubby she made the sweater for snores like a pack of wild animals to the point there are days she wants to suffocate the bastard for depriving her of much needed sleep. Or that just yesterday she was so wiped out, she took her brood to McDonald’s where the kids chowed down on some McNasties because frankly she didn’t feel like cooking and that pie she showed in her blog was a guilt offering.

I think you get the point. As women we rarely let it all out and show our raggedy selves except to our nearest and dearest and frankly it needs to stop. It perpetuates myths and creates wedges because we are always trying to live up to some bar of perfection that frankly none of us have. Yes, I know that many of us choose to show only that public self and while that’s totally cool and certainly one’s choice I think when we only allow that side of us to show that suggests perfection, it can be dangerous.

By the way this is not just about fellow bloggers, I think many of us even in our relationships with others have a tendency to only share that which sounds good. Oh, we don’t want to be Debbie Downer or it feels uncomfortable. Yet older generations of women understood the value of sharing and exchanging information. For all our connections many of us are living a lonely existence despite the fact we are connected at all times. Our moms, grandmas and aunts used to have a sister circle of women they could get real with…women they could talk to without fear of judgment when they shared that the kids are driving them batty, they wanted to punch their partner for continuously leaving the toilet up or on a serious note that maybe they were going through a phase where maybe they didn’t even like their partner. Nowadays though when we have a raggedy moment we feel like we have to explain it or justify it and believe me I am quite guilty of this.

Just this past weekend, I had 4 days off and for the first time in oh…say 5 years I really cleaned my house. Don’t get me wrong, my house wasn’t a complete pit but as a woman who juggles a family and leading non-profit agency that is growing in leaps and bounds the truth is I don’t generally have an hour a week per room to clean the 10 rooms in my house. In fact I admitted on Facebook to friends that I am actually thinking of hiring a cleaning person. Let me say, that as someone who was raised working class the idea of paying someone to clean my house feels strange, hell even a little wrong. Yet despite my best efforts, deep cleaning and dusting which would make my allergies better, simply is not something I can fit on my calendar on a regular basis. Thankfully I know some great folks as most encouraged me to get the cleaning help, one buddy, a local Mama I know through my work even had someone to recommend.

That exchange though made me think about the other areas in our lives where we fear getting real and another is the area of marriage and commitment. A fellow sista blogger recently wrote a great piece on marriage and wondering what a happy marriage looks like. That too is another area where I think we hesitate to get real, many of us we go into lifetime commitment with a unreal view of what is going to happen. I wonder again how different things would be if we all had access to a circle of women to share with and to get the answers to those questions.

People who know me in real life know that my circle is small due to many reasons yet this year I have been actively working to create that circle in my life. As women I am starting to believe that if women’s circles and our energy and wisdom were valued more in society and by one another it would decrease our stressors in general and create power where many feel we have none.

PS:  I want to share a book that I recently read on the issue of women’s circles, it’s a quick read but really mind blowing.

Finding your voice…honoring yourself in matters of work

6 Jan

While I no longer do official New Year’s resolutions, one of my goals this year is to put myself first. Truth is over the years I have become a bit of a workaholic, it most certainly has not been intentional but the pit falls of working at small non-profits is there is simply less hands to get the work done. In my case I run an agency that provides direct services to clients, in our case youth and their families. If someone calls out sick and I am short staffed I have two options, close for the day or step in and work directly with the kids myself. Knowing that we are a safe place for kids at risk of getting in trouble after school I often make the choice to step in, despite the fact it means more work for me or letting down my family.

Last month, I really ran myself ragged to make sure our annual programs went off without a hitch and it is paying off. Donations are on the rise, we received some good press, all good things except that I have spent almost all of the past 6 weeks sick. I suffer from year round allergies but this winter is off to a record number of days where I feet like shit. To say I am run down is an understatement, my body is exhausted, worn out; my mind is not as sharp as it could be. You get the picture.

To say I am not in a good place about work right now wouldn’t be too far from the truth, don’t get me wrong I actually like what I do but its starting to dawn on me that sometimes when we give too much of ourselves, people come to expect it. If a worker who is only paid for 20 hours gives 30, 35 a week and it cost the employer nothing rather than honoring that commitment and drive employers take it for granted. Yeah, they toss you a thanks but do they really mean it?

I think one of the reasons the rate of unemployment remains high is because so many Americans who still have jobs are working themselves to the bone. We hear how hard it is to get a new job so rather than say “Time to move on” we say “I am happy to have a job” and put up with the abuse. I don’t even think all employers are intentionally abusing their employers but if they cab get greater productivity and it costs them nothing extra, why not?

I also think as women we are at greater risk for not receiving the respect and rewards we deserve in the workplace. Many times women even professional women are taken for granted in the work world. It’s no secret we are still paid less than men for the same jobs, yet as women we often don’t want to rock the boat. In some ways I guess that is the point of this post. I need to find my voice when it comes to my work; I have tried the round about way of stating my needs and don’t feel I am being heard.

The very fact that I am writing this might be considered dicey after all, it really isn’t too hard to figure out who I am and where I work in the real world and that’s okay with me. Whatever risks I may be taking are outweighed by the relief I feel in speaking my truth. Part of taking care of me this year is about honesty, honesty with myself and with others.

So if you are women in the workplace I would love to hear how you go about setting limits and boundaries and getting your needs met in the workplace.

Good-bye 2010…Hello 2011

31 Dec

Time again to say good-bye to another year. I swear the older I get these years just zoom by…I mean shit, it seems like only yesterday 2010 started, now its a new year?

Anyway I wish you a happy and wonderful 2011! I don’t do new year’s resolutions since in reality change is a constant in life and we should be willing to accept change as it comes at us. In many ways I feel making a huge list of changes at one time is a recipe for disaster. That said, I do have one thing I plan on doing in 2011, like a small child I have decided to use the word no often.

As a type A perfectionist when it comes to my work, I have struggled with saying no but a month spent battling a cold, sinus infection and Lawd knows what else has brought me to my knees. I have got to say no, I cannot do it all, I refuse to even try anymore. I have no idea what 2011 will bring but I plan on saying no when needed to preserve my sanity and health.

Happy New Year and if you go out tonight remember don’t drink and drive kids.