Fight the Power

Since I’ve resumed my writing in this blog, I’ve been struggling with my blogging identity. You see, I didn’t want the blog to become a “mommy blog.” There’s nothing wrong with being a mommy blogger, some are my favorites (like Momastery, among others). But this blog started out as a healing place, and I didn’t want every entry to be about this newest chapter of my Mommy journey.

Well, wouldn’t you know that every time I even gave thought to this blog’s identity, I was reminded about the title of the blog: “Better Part of Me.” I explain on my “Why ‘Better Part of Me’” page that I am on a constant journey of self-discovery. You see, on that journey, there are sections. The road is not straight and clean, but it has twists and turns. And each section of the road represents a different period in my life.

There was the childhood period, college, then law school. The stories I could tell from that! Then there was the stretch where I was single, working and just enjoying and living life. I got married and moved to another part of my journey, the one of wife and 2nd mother. That’s when this blog started, and I’ve written about that. And now, I’ve started a new section: mommy. It is different than the role of 2nd mother, because it’s full time, not every other weekend and a few weeks in the summer. So it’s okay that the section of my journey I’m presently on is reflected in my writings: it’s the current story of my self-discovery.

Too often we fight against ourselves. We are who God created us to be. When we stop fighting that, we open the door to infinite possibilities. We aren’t colorless (side-eye to you, Raven-Symone), genderless, or without feelings and deep rooted beliefs. We must embrace ourselves, our entire selves, for when we do, we truly find the “Better Part of Me.” So here’s to the journey, mine and yours!

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Finding Your Passion

I’m a believer in spending time doing things that matter.  We should be seeking to make an impact in this world.  My Pastor, Calvin Duncan (@calduncan5) always says, “Successful people add value to themselves.  Significant people add value to others.”  I want to live a life of significance.  It’s the driver behind my constantly re-evaluating my priorities, and is the reason why I embarked on a leadership journey a couple years ago called Leadership Quest.  Through that journey, I discovered my passion for community involvement, which is children, and specifically, impacting children in Richmond’s public education sector (k-12).

I think everyone should find what they’re passionate about and pursue it.  And so, for today’s post, I’d like to introduce you to my older brother, who is passionate about combating Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.  He’s written a great article about why he got involved, and I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you (with his permission, of course).  So, please check out “A  Call to Men:  What will your story be?”

What are you passionate about?  Share it with us in the comments!

Trial and Error

Newsflash: kids don’t come with an instruction manual.

How many times have we heard this? And despite understanding this, nothing makes that statement more real than having a newborn. I’ve been second mommy to two wonderful girls for the past 6 years. They’re now 10 and almost 17 (gasp), and I’ve been “figuring it out” every step of the way. They have very different personalities, and I’ve been able to learn them and what does and doesn’t work for each over that time. So why does life with Itsy feel so different?

Well, Itsy can’t talk yet. She makes sounds (which are adorable), but there aren’t yet words for her to communicate what she is thinking or feeling. When I met the girls, they were already able to do that. So now, I really do just have to “figure it out.”

Today marks 8 weeks on this mommy journey with Itsy. (Side note, I can’t wait until she turns two months next week and I can stop expressing her age in weeks). Each day, I’ve learned something new about Itsy. For example, she’s a loud sleeper. She grunts and moves in her sleep, and I used to think she was waking up, but no, she’s just a busy, loud sleeper. I’m guessing that will make her a wild sleeper later, but we shall see. She also likes to see everything and can mimic some things I do. I was showing her the sign for milk yesterday, and it seemed like she was imitating me, only she was hitting herself in the chin in the process. It was funny.

But sometimes the figuring it out gets hard. Like when she’s crying and we can’t figure out why. Or how all the books/experts/parents tell you you will learn your child’s cry, and they still sounded the same to me. Are you hungry? Wet? In pain? I dunno, they all sound the same. But then, over the past week or so, they did start to sound different. And now I’m starting to get the needed responses right. It’s all just a matter of trial and error.

Isn’t our life like that? Try things out, and figure if it works for you, or not. That requires going out of your comfort zone, sometimes feeling helpless and lost. But in those moments of discomfort, you find what can become familiarity, and ultimately discover your real purpose, your true path. Hmmm, I hadn’t really thought about it that way before. Maybe there are some “trial and error” things I need to explore in other parts of my life. How about you?

Re-evaluating

I periodically take some time to step away from my day to day life and re-evaluate.  It’s an exercise in re-evaluating priorities, looking at what’s taking up my time and then figuring out what needs to be removed from my life in order to align to my priorities.  At least that’s how it normally goes.

As you know by now, I am out on maternity leave.  I’ve been blessed to be able to take 4 months off from work, and am really enjoying the time, for a myriad of reasons.  I love spending my days with my Itsy, getting to know this little bundle of joy the Lord has blessed us with.  I enjoy not having the normal hustle and bustle of life thrown at me constantly.  And frankly, I enjoy not really having to figure out what to wear each day.  Well, not dressing up.  I actually take some time to figure out what to wear daily, and am typically changed at the end of the day because Itsy has spit up on my shirt one too many times.  Ahh, the joys of motherhood!

During this time of leave, I’ve started re-examining and re-evaluating my life in a different way.  I’ve entered a new chapter, a new journey, and with that comes shifting priorities.  The constant go-go-go pace that I previously kept has got to, for the sake of my sanity, if nothing else, slow way down.  Thoughts that consumed me daily (How’s this project going?  When will this thing happen?  Am I being productive enough at work/home/community?) no longer take up space in my brain.  I actually feel like I’m thinking more clearly than ever before (except in the middle of the night, when I can barely stay awake long enough to nurse Itsy).  It’s like there’s nothing but time and space in this head of mine (not that it’s empty, or my brain cells left, just to be clear).  There’s just an inexplicable calm and peacefulness that is allowing me to really think clearly for the first time in a very long time.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m always down for the ride and the journey.  I do encourage people to take time to really clear their heads, though.  We move at such a hustle and bustle pace all the time, we forget to “Stop, Collaborate and Listen.”  (A prize to the first person to put in the comments where that came from). Well, not Collaborate.  Unless it’s just in your quiet/prayer time.  But I digress.  We have to stop going through life, and start being purposeful about everything we do.  So take a step back, take a break from it all, and ask, “What am I supposed to be doing?” and sit still long enough to hear not just the answer, but the “how.”

Happy resting!

Six Week Reflections

I gave birth to our youngest daughter, who I will refer to on this blog as Itsy, exactly 6 weeks ago, on July 30, 2014. She came two weeks before my due date, induced because of her size (5 lbs, 0.2 oz). There’s a whole story to her birth, but I will save that for another time.

As I was thinking about this week’s blog post (during one of our middle of the night feedings), I had this overwhelming desire to do some sort of list. I’ve never been one to ignore my writing desires, so here are my 10 things I’ve learned in Itsy’s first 6 weeks of life:

10. While you should, in fact, say no to drugs, I said yes to the epidural and, from the moment that nice anesthesiologist administered it, I knew it was the right decision. Suddenly, I felt a cool sensation and all the pain just went away, it was like I was relaxing on the beach on a breezy summer day, only I was in the hospital in the Labor & Delivery rooms experiencing regular contractions. So, kind of like the beach, but not so much.

9. I learned why drugs are bad the next day when I started itching all over like a druggie going through rehab. We had visitors and all i wanted to do was tear off my clothes and roll around on sandpaper or anything that would make that itching stop.

8. The Game Show Network plays the same shows (and repeats episodes) between 2 and 6 am, in case you cared.

7. Lactation consultants manhandle your baby when they show you how to latch on, but they should come with a warning that says “don’t try this at home, or anywhere else for that matter.” You ever try to football hold a 5lb baby while nursing? I thought I was either squeezing her soft spot or she would slip through the opening in the hospital bed and end up on the floor. I will stick to cradle hold, thank you.

6. They send you home with the tiniest creature you’ve ever known, and they figure you know what you’re doing. Either that or they’re laughing as you walk away saying, “Poor kid.” Some days I’m still amazed they let me keep her.

5. Itsy may be little, but she has tons of personality. From the beginning, she made it known she knows what she does and does not want. You ever see a baby a couple days old purse her lips together when she was full? Amazing.

4. Google is simultaneously your friend and your enemy. You find yourself looking up everything about caring for your child, and with every search, you discover you’re doing it wrong, oh but wait, Dr. Sears says you’re doing it right, but, ummm, who is this famous Dr. Sears?

3. The best advice comes from other mothers who have been there, done that. Especially the ones that have done it recently or are currently in the same boat as you.

2. In spite of my pre-baby 8 solid hours of sleep requirement, I can, in fact, function off of anywhere from 3 to 7 hours of sleep. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Do they allow naps at work?

1. Being a mother is one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Even when Itsy has her “party all night” days/nights, she gives me this smile while looking into my eyes and it all becomes worth it. Until she poops in the tub during bath time. 😉

Any lessons from the trenches you want to share? Share them in the comments below!

Always There

When I found out I was pregnant again, I was ecstatic.  Well, actually, I didn’t believe it at first.  I used one of those pregnancy tests with the two lines, and drove around the corner to the  Rite-Aid to purchase on with words, just to be sure.  It came up with the exact same result, so then I got uber-excited!  We’re having a baby!!!

My excitement lasted for quite a while, but there were moments when it turned into something else:  a combination of nervousness, doubt and worry.  When it was time for our ultrascreen, I was nervous for the results.  After all, it was 5 years ago, during that test, that we found out we were at high risk for Trisomy 13 or 18.  It wasn’t lost on me that this baby was due the day after Caleb’s due date, so I was going through everything at the same time I went through it with Caleb.  Great (not really).

When we got the results back that everything looked great, I was relieved.  And I really enjoyed my pregnancy, for about 2 more months.  As I approached the 20 week appointment, I began to get nervous again.  It wasn’t your normal “butterflies in your stomach” nervousness.  It was more of a nervous fear, a what if, gut-wrenching nervousness where all I could say was, “Lord, please don’t let this have the same outcome as the last time.”  After all, it was at the 20 week appointment that we learned our baby boy had passed.  I knew I couldn’t handle it again.

Then, out of the blue, I got a text message from a friend from my church.  She was just encouraging me and praying for me, and she had no idea the turmoil I was enduring from my inner monologue.  Her text was right on time, reminding me that God is in control, always looking out for His children.  In that moment of reading that text, I felt a tremendous peace come over me, and I was no longer worried about the appointment (which turned out to be fantastic, and we learned we were having a baby girl).

Here’s what I know:  I know that I serve a loving, living God, who looks out for His children.  I know that He cares for the things that concern us, even when it feels like we are alone, He is always there.  And I know that He ordained this baby girl for such a time as this.  Sometimes it feels like we are on our own, and we wonder where God is in the midst of our pain and struggles.  The reality is that God is always there, and has the most awesome ways of reminding you of that.  For me, it was that text message.  For you, it could be a phone call, an email, an unexpected visitor.  Whatever it is, remember that God is always speaking, you just have to be open to hearing.

I Am Not My Hair

In 2006, India.Arie released a song titled, “I Am Not My Hair.”  The purpose of the song is to remind people that the person is defined by what is inside, not by the external.  Contrary to how many use the song, it isn’t an anthem to run away from pressing, relaxing, or otherwise chemically altering your hair.  It is, however, a song to say, “Be you, be free to be you, in whatever form you choose.”

Oh no, not another natural hair blogger.  NOPE.  Not I.  Remember, Better Part of Me is about my ongoing journey to find the best of who God created me to be.  And today, that topic is hair :-).

I love my hair long.  I’ve cut my hair three times in life. The first time, I was in high school when my hair stylist thought I pointed to a different photo and cut my hair into a short bob (let’s not discuss that in detail, okay?).  The second time, I was in college, and had spent my freshman year looking for a hair stylist.  You’d think that would be easy in Atlanta, but alas, it wasn’t, and hair suffered the consequences. While it appeared that I had a lot of length, the crown of my head was no longer than 2 inches.  Shoulder plus length in the back, and 2 inches in the center.  Really though?  The last time I cut my hair was about 4 years ago.  I wanted to do something different, so I cut it short.  And it was cute, but I really hate having to work to do my hair, so it quickly became annoying.

Earlier this year, I decided to go quasi-natural.  For those that don’t know, “going natural” means you stop using chemical products (like relaxers that make my hair go from tight coily curls to bone straight) and just let your hair grow in its natural state.  I said quasi-natural because I’ve seen my hair texture and I’m not fully ready to embrace it, so I wanted a little something in it to help the curls out some.  I put a weave in my hair briefly (*gasp*, I know a bunch of you who know me are like, whaaaaat???), then, when it was time to take it out, I decided, I want to cut my hair.  All of it.  Off.

My hair stylist didn’t believe me.  I never want to cut my hair. And yet, I was ready to cut it all off. So I did.  And I learned something about myself in the process.

I’ve lived most of my 34+ years of life with long hair.  There’s an attitude, sometimes diva-like, that comes along with that long flowy hair.  There’s a confidence.  At least, I thought it came from the long flowy hair. Then I did a photo shoot this weekend and realized the attitude, the confidence, it came from within.  I forget I don’t have long hair, but I toss my head around and back as if I do.  I feel more empowered, more confident, and more sure of myself than I ever have.  Nope, it’s not the haircut.  The haircut became an outward expression of who I am on the inside.  Defined by who God says I am, and that’s all.  And that makes me happy, confident, and empowered.

Whoever you are, embrace it.  Embrace it wholeheartedly; living your BEST life, being your BEST self, and letting the world see you, in all of your beautiful glory!

Photo taken by Pete Taylor of PTaylor Images (www.ptaylorimages.com) (c) 2012