Jars of Clay

When I was a kid my Ma often told me how things were 'going to get better.'  She was never one to keep the hardships of life for me. I was the 4th, the unexpected later-in-life baby due to a bad hook-up after a tumultuous marriage to an alcoholic, years of single motherhood, crushing life disappointments, exhaustion from years on the Detroit police force, the beginnings of mental illness & of course the ever threatening presence of poverty.  Then me. At almost 40? Sista girl was tired.When I wanted a new toy or new clothes, she didn't mince words. We couldn't afford it. When our lights or heat wasn't running. Sorry, not enough money to go around. When we couldn't get to places because we didn't have gas, I knew money for the month ran out. She let me in on all of it. The weight of financial worries sat like an elephant on my chest for much of my childhood.She often promised things would get better. Next year, she'd say. Next month, she'd say. When this happens, things will b … [Read more...]

Found

I'm writing today over at Raising Mothers in honor of the 4th annual Black Breastfeeding Week. Breastfeeding is such an important everyday matter in the lives of my people & one that did not come easily for me & my beautiful babies. If you didn't catch my post on miscarriage & infant loss this is a bit of a follow up...Lost & Found.Found: To NurtureI’ve wanted to breastfeed just as long as I’ve dreamed of being a mama. In a box somewhere there is a photo of little girl me: I’m wearing my denim overalls, flap down, smiling big as I held my favorite doll up to a flat little girl chest. As the last born, I never got to see Ma breastfeed my older siblings; in fact I don’t know that she did. I’m not sure where my desire to breastfeed came from. I certainly didn’t see it modeled responsibly in the media— if it all. I didn’t know any breastfeeding families, let alone any Black families taking part in a larger conversation regarding breastfeeding.My firstborn son … [Read more...]

When your First Born Son is Half Way

You, my first born son are halfway to Becoming A Man.  At 9 yrs. old, I've had your for half.  Lord willing, I'll "have" you for 9 more years before you carry all your earthly possessions off to a an overly crowed dorm room.  In 9 yrs. you'll still be my baby -always- but in the eyes of the world, a man capable of making decisions that grown men make.  For good or for evil, your precious shoulders will take on all the tension and joys involved in adult decision-making.I started praying for you -intentionally and actively- praying for you in 2000.  You arrived in October 2005.  For 5 years, I begged God for the gift of a life I could call my own.  I prayed for your soul. I prayed some of the very same prayers you hear me pray at night. I pray God would keep your heart and mind rooted in Him.  I pray God would keep you safe from every sort of danger.  I prayed then, as I do now, that God would give you a soft and tender heart before Him, that He will keep you surrounded in the freedom … [Read more...]

Reach

For awhile my boys felt like they were out of my reach.  Last Fall, when I wrote this heartbreaking post, I'd been feeling this intolerable fear that I wasn't what my boys needed me to be.After the post, My friend Jodi texted me, "are you okay? What is going on??" I tried to explain why the heaviness wouldn't pass.  She urged me not to believe the lies.The lies.When I gave birth to my babies, it literally never occurred to me to be on guard against those who'd make me a feel like a bad Mama. I knew I wouldn't be a perfect Mama, but I knew I'd try & I'd never stop trying, never stop growing into it.And of course, the lies poured in from everywhere, magazine covers (ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH? ARE YOU THIN ENOUGH 6 WEEKS POST-PARTUM?) & judgy eyes of pimple-faced teens at the grocery store eye'ing you up for a child having an unwarranted temper-tantrum you MUSTN'T give in to.  All of that hit me, but for the first 4 yrs. of my venture into Motherhood I floated above al … [Read more...]

Woncha Take A Risk?

A few days ago, I took my boys to our favorite haven on Lake Michigan.  Last summer, the three of us made the 45 minute trek to Lake Michigan just about every Saturday. But this year, I've had an indoor/outdoor apartment pool which has significantly slowed our beach going ways.It hit me last week, that there's only 3ish weeks left of summer - WHAT THE FLIP?!So. Of course. I took them twice in two days.Usually the boys spend a lot of time building sand castles & doing that whole thing where they just sort of roll around in the sand while I read a good beach book.  This time though, they were in the water for the majority of the day, riding their little boogie boards on the incoming waves so I had to keep my eyes GLUED on them.I didn't get to read much which was fine.  I threw on my headphones, popped open a bag of Sunflower Seeds & watched.  The wind was kicking up so hard that -even though it was 81 that day- I felt cold.  I kept wondering to myself how t … [Read more...]

When a Snake Eats A Boy

One of the best parts of parenting is doing ALL THE THINGS I'm interested in but would never make time for without my curious boys.  I love monkeys, apes, chimps.  The whole primate family & I are family.  I've taken to subtle yet manipulative manuevers such as checking out every library book that has anything to do with monkeys which, ironically enough I don't think they've noticed.Some say I may have taken things too far by putting a Kelly green, life-size chimp wall decal in my living room.  I say they are INCORRECT.Friends, meet Virgil.  Is he named after the chimp in the 1987 movie, Project X that ruined my childhood?Yes. Yes he is. At the library the other day, the boys & I scored a new book: Natural History Museum Book of Animal Records.  Because the section on chimps was massively thick  I was able to convince them we should in fact, get this book in particular because of page after glossy page of predatorial animal shots.  They ate that junk up like it w … [Read more...]

9 Things I Want to Say (But Don’t) To Your Curious yet Racially Charged Microaggressions against Me & My Children

I am racially Italian-American & African-American.  I am a biracial, self-identifying, culturally & ethnically black American woman living in the segregated Midwest.  I grew up in Detroit, one of the most segregated cities in America.I am often mistaken for being Latina-American & one time, white.  Outside of the U.S. in countries as varied as Kenya to Switzerland people seem to think I'm Egyptian.  My hair style also makes a big difference in racial perception.My husband is a white American with German Heritage.---->He is often mistaken, never.  When he is with our children, he does not field questions or snide remarks about his or their identity, not ever.My children are also biracial.----> The oldest child has big curly hair like mine but with a texture more similar to whites curly hair (but very thick).  He is often mistaken as Jewish or Latino-American almost never correctly identified as having Italian, German or African-American herit … [Read more...]

Here, I am Being Ruined by Parenting

I was editing a few beach pictures the other day.  We'd taken a mini staycation for Labor Day weekend to South Haven, MI.  We live about 45 minutes away from one of the most beautiful shorelines in the States: Lake Michigan on the Michigan side.  The beauty of this particular giant body of water is that the sand is always soft, the water is always blue and absolutely NO SHARKS or precarious creatures that live in salt water.  The biggest fresh water lakes in the world don't lie.  They really are fabulous.  I digress.As I was editing these pictures my heart numbed over a little bit.  I'd taken several hundred and I'd whittled it down to just a few to edit when I noticed there was only one mostly acceptable picture of my sons & I.  Neither were looking, my husband hadn't done much to procure a look over at him and definitely not big smiles.  The picture was forced, stuffed in the middle of "c'mon Mama, another picture?!" and "we should get going now," and various huffing and puffi … [Read more...]

An Open Letter To the Over Sharing Mama

Dear Over Sharing Mama,I feel you.  Sometimes, I confess, I over share because I feel woefully inadequate as a Mama.  At least I think that’s why underneath it all. I upload copious amounts of instagrams appropriately hashtagged #momlife. Yet, as to motive, I’m in deliberations about all this.  Hear me out.One time I tweeted, “I love my sons!”  I felt so embarrassed afterwards.  Oh crap, I thought.  People are going to see right through this. I realized I wanted people to think that I think I’m a good Mama, and just maybe if I think that you thought I was, I would be. Maybe you’d be gullible enough to believe copious kid pics make me a good enough Mama.  Don’t drink the #InstaMagic.Again, underneath it all.  Because underneath it all is where all fear that we’re not good enough Mama’s lives isn’t it?  Underneath it all, is where it gets it wings.  Underneath it all, is where there’s no truth swirling around to remind me of my normalcy.Do you ever take things your mother … [Read more...]

The Present Moment

"WHAT IS IT?"  I hear my 7.5 yr. old screaming from the other room.A bit of explanation from my husband."BUT, WHAT. IS. IT? DADDY TELL ME NOW!"A bit more explanation from my husband.  A bit of laughing.  A bit more frustrated tones from the son."IS IT AN OCEAN?  IS IT EATING YOUR PEAS? IS IT LEARNING TO READ?!?"///I'm not even kidding, this banter goes on similarly for another 20 helpless minutes while I'm in the kitchen loading up the dishwasher.  Finally I go in to find out what the ruckus is going on between these two.  Their both sort of laughing but Ran's face is red, hot, he's bordering on frustration and enjoyment.As it turns out, my husband has been reading him a few pages of The Present by Spencer Johnson each night.  He's been trying to explain to Ran what living in the present moment is.  The concept is clearly over his head.///The next morning, I got incredibly motivated to take the training wheels off our sons bikes.  Ran, who's never much been i … [Read more...]