Friday, December 11, 2015

My Life Now

A few weeks ago at a dinner party I was asked if I planned to start a Mommy blog. Of course I said no, and then as if on cue, the Hub chimed in about the smell of baby poop. So I re-stated with emphasis that NO, I would not do any mommy-blogging. And I mean it! But before you start to think that I have reneged on that sworn blood oath taken on a stack of bibles, this is not a mommy blog post per se...

But a few weeks before that dinner party, I had a moment while sitting in traffic. I was heading across town to get my niece from after-care (which would totally be a mommy-blog topic) and I got very resigned to the idea that the story of my life for the next few years might involve sitting in traffic to retrieve a kid or sitting in traffic with a kid trying to reach a rehearsal/practice/game/event/appointment/parent-teacher conference/store before it closes. I got drafted to get my niece because I had her booster seat which was beginning to look like it belonged in my back seat next to the rear-facing car seat now occupied by the (finally) napping Babe.

Ugh. I was really late, my brother was getting anxious about late fees, and there was no parking in the school lot which was inaccessible because of police activity. So I had to park in a handicap space three blocks away, unhook the Babe, and trudge uphill to the school to retrieve the niece before Child Protective Services were called. Problem solved!

Yes, this is my life now.

In the car, I felt a little melancholy because I was listening to NPR and while I cannot remember the topic, I am sure that it was about something that would have been very important to me last year. Not to suggest that world events, the upcoming election and domestic terrorism are not important issues to me anymore, but at times it is far more important to make sure that I have snacks in my over-sized purse to keep the Babe happy (and apparently, it is a matter of life or death to arrive at after-care by six).

Years ago I aspired to be like the women in church who seemed to be in control of everything. Those women were often in charge of church activities, always on time, dressed impeccably, and could quiet a row of rowdy kids with a simple look. Later I wanted to be the high-powered career version with an important sounding title, a corner-office with a view, and a staff to do my bidding. Despite whatever challenges they faced in the real world, they looked like they had it all together. So at times, it feels a bit lame to be glad that we got out of the house for a few hours.

In the car that day, I was feeling unimportant and marginalized, but then at some point it struck me that I had just entered a new phase of Busy Black Womanhood. I may never be on time and I do not have a staff of minions, but hell, I have an eight-month old, I can wear all of my pre-pregnancy clothes, and sometimes I make it to dance class, so there! 

It is a big deal for me to post anything, so I will stay in my lane and leave the Mommy-blogging to everyone else. So I hereby declare that I have no parenting hacks, recipes, discount codes, or advice to share. I do have a few funny stories (like the time I hid the Babe under the table at a college fair), but I will try not to inundate you.

Stay Busy my friends...gotta go (running late :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Even Busy Black Women Get the Blues (Then and Now and Again)

By now it's no secret that black women can get the blues--even a Busy Black Woman who just happened to have had a baby 15 weeks ago...

Side note 1 - I wrote that sentence this summer when I first started writing this piece, but please keep reading:

Depression is not a new topic for me or this blog, and while I would prefer to write something a lot more light-hearted, it has been on my heart for more than three weeks to address my postpartum struggles. When I first began this piece over the summer, it was meant to be a commemoration of this past year since I began this unexpected journey towards motherhood in July 2014. My intended testimonial coincided perfectly with the baby's three month birthday and latest growth spurt; however, instead of celebrating I found myself overwhelmed by irrational sadness.

Side note 2 - We are now at the six month mark, another growth spurt is underway, and...

I have suffered with varying degrees of depression for most of my life, so I knew this was a possibility and was prepared to deal weeks earlier. I felt some of the typical new mother stress and reported that to the doctor at my postpartum visit. Then something shifted, like being hit by an enormous Pacific Ocean wave and I have been struggling to catch my breath ever since.

From my zigzagging emotional state; to enduring the various ailments that have manifested (and recurred) since giving birth; to this feisty little person who refuses to nap longer than 45 minutes at a time; to the omnipotent parenting expertise of Tigger (otherwise known as the ultra-exuberant over-protective first-time father); to my mother and the quicksand of dementia that engulfs her and my father; to every other aspect of my old Busy Black Life...I am really fucking depressed.

Side note 3 - I was really f***ing depressed, and then I was not, and now I am coping. This next paragraph reflects my current reality:

I decided to finish writing this piece about my postpartum depression even though I thought I had conquered it when I stopped taking the Zoloft one of my many doctors prescribed six weeks ago. This week, it started to creep back in again...but it has been manageable and the remaining pills are still in the drawer just in case (although I never could tell if they were working to be totally honest).

Side note 4 - All of this stuff is new:

I also wanted to finish this piece because I have needed to vent. Seriously.


For me postpartum depression has been a combination of all of the stressors I listed earlier multiplied by isolation, disconnectedness and a never-ending list of things that should must be done before this kid starts to walk. When I went to a doctor to address the matter, I was given a prescription and told to expect follow-up that never occurred (thankfully, I was not waiting by the phone or sitting on a ledge).

So how did I overcome? Well, first by admitting that I have yet to do so. Second, by accepting the fact that my life and relationships have changed dramatically and third, by deciding to go with the flow. Thus, when I have a week like this, when only a few things gets crossed off my list (none of the big ticket items, mind you), then I just breathe...

After I allow myself to lose it. Sometimes that could be crying; other times it could be shopping for more crap to add to my cluttered life. Or eating a lot of gelato. Then I pack the kid in the car and try not to hate myself for being imperfect.

A friend just asked me to give advice to another new mother which is ironic as I struggle to finish this piece (and as I am setting aside clothes and stuff for that very same new mother)...because who thinks of themselves as an expert on postpartum depression? My best advice is to seek out support.

Not advice, support. Plenty of people offer advice disguised as opinions and judgments on parenting. Which was definitely a contributing factor to my earlier feelings of inadequacy--folks making suggestions or off-handed comments such as, "that baby should be wearing more clothes" (even though it was 85 degrees and the kid was sweating), I fretted that I might have exposed her to the risk of developing June.

Finally, I also realized that there are times to let things this piece. I am a perfectionist, and I could keep writing and revising and it would NEVER be published. So here is my imperfect conclusion:


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

5, 4, 3, 2...

I am still writing; I just have not posted anything to this blog.

The title refers to the attempts I've made at each milestone of the baby's life to write. Although I initially said that this would not be a baby/mommy/parenting blog, there were/are moments when I need to share. Like now, I need to share that my kid is teething and that I have three weeks left of Zoloft.

Too much? Read on...

Thanks to motherhood, I am a mess. A steaming hot pile of sweaty gym socks left in the middle of the living room floor mess. And it really sucks to feel like my only purpose in life is to pump enough milk to keep my husband from giving the kid formula.

Back to my blogging, which I have attempted several times in the last four and a half months. And how this stream of conscious rant is the best I can do.

For instance, a piece that started out as a "yay, I made it to three months without doing anything really stupid" turned into a piece about post-partum depression. And then it got too depressing to finish. Another piece on Caitlyn Jenner (not at all about me) is still waiting for me to pull together. And if I had any other bright ideas I guess I might have half-written those by now as well.

So I am blaming my false starts on my new computer and the old one. I am composing this piece on the new computer that just received a Windows 10 upgrade last week, which so far is meh (because the mouse does not work and other random glitches). I wrote an article for someone yesterday on the old computer which has all of my files, Office and a screen that is less than a day away from detaching itself. Hence, I can either work on the computer that is literally falling apart or the one that randomly does unexplained stuff like resizing the fonts on websites.

I also blame my various post-partum ailments which have ranged from ankle swelling to shedding skin/hair like a reptile. I have also become very emotional, unusually hormonal, and totally stupid. On the plus side, I have lost the baby weight.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Opinions are A$$.....

Yeah, I almost said it...and you can keep your opinions on the matter to yourself!

Ever since I became a parent, I have received a lot of advice. On everything. And most a lot of it has been useless.

Yeah, I absolutely said that. Useless.

Sure, the advice was offered with the best intentions, especially from all the non-parents with friends who have children that live in different states, so it was much appreciated. The advice offered from seasoned parents with grown children and grandchildren was also received in gratitude, especially when said advice was followed by a snarkastic "thank goodness those days are behind me!"

As if there was not enough unsolicited opinionating on parenting, there are SO many more opinions on just about every other topic under the sun. I know this because I read the online comments section of articles and all of your rantings on Twitter and Facebook. So in my unsolicited opinion, social media has made us a nation of assholes.

(This coming from a woman who also writes a blog. Pot meet kettle. Nevertheless, I would like to think that unless someone is a close friend or relative, I keep my opinions to myself. Most of the time. But this is not about me...)

Of course, there is a lot going on in the world so naturally if there is a constructive outlet available for folks to opine on current events, that should be allowable. So I am not annoyed by the fact that people are offering up their two cents worth on everything; I am dismayed that people feel compelled to do so all the damn time.

Social media used to be an escape from real-life events. Remember when status updates were all about telling people what you just did five minutes ago? And for over-sharing pictures of your lunch or children? Whatever happened to all of those little games involving virtual gardens and farms? When did everything become so serious? Suddenly everyone is releasing their inner Bill O'Reilly.

The latest thing is to opine on people's decision not to opine. Really? Can we all just take a break and exhale for just a minute?

Not all white people are bad--not even those who have purposefully decided to avoid racial landmines by commenting on current events. Not all black people take the moral high ground. Mexicans and other Latinos are coming to America for the same reasons that your Italian, Irish, Greek, German, Jewish, etc. ancestors came. Now that gay people have the right to call their civil unions marriage, you can if you wish, continue to secretly hate their "sin" more than you hate poverty, terrorism and Donald Trump. You are forgiven if you voted for Mitt Romney in the last presidential election; however, no such absolution if you vote for Ted Cruz. And no, Bristol Palin, we do not care that you could not abstain and got yourself knocked up...again.

And for the record, you are welcome to offer your parenting opinions as long as I am free to ignore it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

And Baby Makes...

Eleven weeks ago and a few hours after I posted that last piece, I went into labor! And now the Busy Black Baby is here, and SHE is doing great!!!

So much I want to write, but now that I am officially a mother (weird to see that written in a sentence describing myself), I have to write on the run. Today I am entertaining my 5 year old niece, hanging solo with the baby for the second week after surviving the husband's two months of paternity leave, and slowly but surely trying to ease myself back into some version of my Busy Black Life.


Part of that readjustment is my return to this blog! That means new pieces, regular postings to the FB page, a possible return to Twitter, a redesigned tee shirt, a few events, and just getting back into the swing of things. I know it is a lot to promise and Lord knows I have a checkered track record when it comes to this blog...

But, I am excited and committed! Of course motherhood has brought a whole new meaning to the concept of being Busy, and while I could write almost exclusively about this new aspect of my life, I promise not to since baby poop and breastfeeding are only slightly entertaining topics.

Gotta run...until next time!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sitting Down

Still on baby watch. I have three days until my due date and the reality of what is about to happen to me is starting to set in. Finally.

I joke about not being ready, but it is not a joke. I AM NOT READY!!! Mentally, I have not wrapped my head around going into labor, giving birth, and then bringing a new little person into my chaotic life. Physically, I have no idea what I am going to experience because no one really tells you anything except to prepare for the pain. Emotionally, I have no words.

The other day I posted a question in a FB group of mothers and several realizations occurred. First, I sought advice in a public forum! Second, I appreciated receiving said advice! Third, by participating in this very public forum on a topic related to my impending motherhood am I embracing the inevitable???

Holy cannoli!

For the last month, I have been slowly transitioning to life in the slow lane, but it has been a struggle (slowing down). I took dance classes until the end of March. I pulled a couple of classic Busy Black weekends by going from activity to activity without breaking too much of a sweat. I went to the early church service on Palm Sunday and stayed for the second service. I've taken my mother on outings, including one to the mall last week. I shopped (twice) for my niece's Easter outfit. I cooked my traditional Good Friday dinner. I got all dolled up for Easter and by the grace of God, got my mother dressed and out of the house and off to church as well! I hung out with the Niece all day on Monday. And I literally just got off a conference call. I still have to file our taxes and take care of a few other loose ends...

And this baby is still coming. And that hospital bag still needs to be packed. And well, so many other things still need to be done.

But, I am sitting down. I am writing. I do not plan to sneak out of town. I will do a little nesting around the house (tomorrow). I will work on the next round of thank-you notes (tonight). I will not go to Target for anything else. Ditto the grocery store. I will go to bed early (maybe), but if I don't I will sleep in (if I can). I will not sweat the small stuff or the scary stuff.

We will be just fine.

Fix the Leak!!!

Still on baby watch and of course, the most popular question that we get is "Are you ready?" to which, I politely smile and respond no.

We are procrastinators of the highest order, as in the Tom Cruise level of Scientology highest order. I have been packing my bag for the hospital for weeks. Stuff is laid out but not a lot has been put into the actual bag. And it is still blocking the doorway to the room that is supposed to be the baby's room once I put away all of my shoes and clothes and other stuff. And then there is the leaking tub...

My husband, like many men out there, accuses me of nagging whenever I mention that something in the house needs fixing. Or if he does something slightly inconsiderate, like eating an entire bag of chips except for the crumbs. Or if I ask him to do anything during baseball season.

So when the tub in our bathroom began dripping a few weeks ago, I waited to see if he would notice. When I placed a cup under the spigot to catch the dripping water, I expected him to inquire about the cup. After I mentioned that the water was no longer dripping, but flowing he said "Oh yeah". And when I placed the stopper in the tub and it filled with water, he simply pulled out the stopper.

Yes my fellow Busy Black Sisters, unless you are married to Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, it is a crap shoot whether your man will fix anything around the house that requires immediate attention. He will do the grocery shopping when there is nothing in the fridge except for rotten fruit (but he will not discard any of it); he will mow the lawn in anticipation of rain (but he will not pick up any of the broken pots that are littering your front lawn); and he will keep using the same dirty dishtowel on the dishes even though there is a stack of clean ones available because you did not tell him it was well past time to change towels (but at least the dishes are done, he will argue).

Matters of mutual inconvenience tend not to require multiple requests for remedial action. Last fall I insisted on going to the laundromat one night because two loads of wash needed to be dried. Unbeknownst to me our 12-year old dryer had conked out, which I realized only after running the machine twice to dry a load of towels and had another load of clothes waiting. "Why not just hang them up," he asked as I loaded the car. "Because we do not have a clothes line," I responded. "What about hanging them outside on the fence?" Blank stare as I searched for a roll of quarters; agitated sigh as he accompanied me to the laundromat. We sat through about half an hour of America's Home Video, watched as children awake past their bedtimes played hide and seek, and a week later he ordered brand new machines.

But back to our leaking tub as a metaphor of our readiness for parenthood. Yeah we are totally ready...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Let It Go

For Lent I signed up for a purging challenge as a way of doing something affirmative that would have a life-enhancing impact (mainly cleaning my house finally). I was supposed to toss out or donate 40 bags of stuff in 40 days. But here we are, roughly at day 38 or so and I have only succeeded in emptying all the gift bags I received at my baby showers.

And that produced one (1) measly bag of trash.

I want to purge. I look at the piles of papers, clothes and other stuff in my house and I feel like a hoarder. I have convinced myself that I can do this in a week (or two) if I really dedicated the time, but who am I kidding? I need Niecy Nash.

But before I admit to that level of dysfunction, can I just say that my life is really complicated? In between barely getting enough sleep, wrapping up various Busy Black Woman projects, helping out with my mother, going to doctor visits, finishing up childbirth classes, shopping for Easter and however else I waste time, something has got to give. Given the choice between cleaning and purging or doing almost anything else, I will do almost anything else.

Ok, not really a valid excuse, so how about this one: I am not ready to start nesting yet.

Except that I am, kinda. I did all of my baby laundry two weeks ago. I got my brother to install my car seat base. I put together the stroller and one of the playpens. I am ready to unpack and unload and rearrange stuff. I am packing my baby bag for the hospital.

Yet the reality...nesting implies that I am ready for this baby to be born. Nesting means that I am ready to send this kid to preschool. Nesting suggests that I will survive middle school and adolescence with a really good dye job. Nesting requires me to accept the fact that one day, my nest will be empty.

Yeah, I watch way too many car commercials.

But I am running out of excuses and time. Everything that I put off until tomorrow becomes more stuff that has to be done or else the baby will have no where to sleep (not exactly). Or else I will be forced to admit that I am a messy Mommy (or I will just blame it on RC). So I am giving myself permission to just forget about the 40 days challenge...for now. I will simply get to it eventually, right around the time when the baby goes reaching for something that I should have tossed. Either way, it will get done.

Baby, Baby, Baby

No, the kid is not here yet.

No, I haven't exactly slowed down, but I have started to check out. I forget things that are unrelated to the baby. That conference call that I scheduled to settle some long-standing issue? Totally forgot about it and have yet to reschedule. Emails that I have been meaning to send? Still unwritten. And don't even get me started on thank you notes.

Yes, I've got baby on the brain and while I patiently await the arrival of my bundle of joy, I am more focused on doing baby laundry and building playpens; yet I am also plotting my post-birth life as if I can simply strap the kid into a car seat and keep doing what I do.

I am excited and terrified. I am tired and restless. I am all over the place. And this kid is due in less than 10 days!

For example, when I started this piece last week, I was feeling a little melancholy because I felt that no one cared about the bambino except for me. On other days, I do not feel that way, but not because I suddenly received an avalanche of attention--the moon is probably in a different position.

But one thing is for certain--my entire orientation is about to change. I am going to become a Busy Black Mama!

At some point in writing this piece I had intended to say something profound about what that change would mean, but honestly, I think the real point is that the closer I get to giving birth, I feel more distracted and unhinged. Distracted by things that should occupy my focus (like getting 'ready' for this kid) and unhinged by the reality that this kid is really coming. I had an ultrasound the other day and I looked up on the screen still in a state of disbelief because there was this huge head and these moving limbs, and not to mention this BELLY, and my mind is just blown.

At times I feel a foot glide under my ribcage or I watch my belly suddenly tilt lopsided and I wonder--who will this little person be? The other day when I was sifting through baby clothes, I wondered what will this kid think about that big fluffy snowsuit that an Auntie bought (and that s/he will have to wear, in April regardless of the temperature just because). Will the kid enjoy being toted around the city to everything that I want him/her to experience like jazz at the Sculpture Garden, the fireworks on the Mall, softball games to cheer on Daddy/Papi (what will we actually call RC), church on Sundays, to the zoo, to the park, to the beach, or on outings with various cousins without me? What about going to New York? Will Baby C be bilingual?

Are you sure God?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Home Stretch

Because I have not been in the habit of writing, it has taken me a while to rebuild my courage when it comes to choosing a topic. I have reverted to a few of my old habits--half-writing a piece and then abandoning it when the inspiration dies or the distractions of real life become too overwhelming. Another one is just being too busy with other nonsense to focus on the things that matter to me. But because I am facing a real life deadline, I am forging ahead.

This kid is due in a few short weeks. I have had a so many varying emotions, but have kept so many things to myself it seems almost counter-productive to write about them now. But my hope is that if I write first about the anxiety and the fear, then the humor will much easier.

Tonight we attended our third childbirth class and once again I am wondering what exactly was I thinking back in July when I started this journey (another time, another piece). It seems like in the midst of folks telling me that I ought to be happy and joyous, they were assuming that I would ignore the reality of the main event which despite all the talk to the contrary, looks quite the opposite.

So revelation number one: childbirth is going to be painful. No point dwelling on it, I just need to face it and live to tell the story, right?

Knowing that I only have a few weeks left, you would think that I would have cleared my schedule of Busy Black Woman activities to make space for the baby. Yeah...And for whatever reason, I have convinced myself that I will only need a brief hiatus of a few weeks before I can resume life as normal. Yeah...

Revelation number two: I am so not ready. I am not sure that I want to be ready. I am not sure that I want to slow down or change. Why can't the baby just adjust? Yeah...

I have very few friends with children. Like I can count the number on my hand and have fingers left. And I am surrounded by men who can't relate, including my doctor. My in-laws all live in New York and their kids are all grown. And you know that my mother cannot help at all, my aunts are doing their own thing, I am too private to reach out to others so here I am feeling like I am the only pregnant woman I know (which at the moment, I am).

Revelation number three: I am absolutely clueless. Lord help this kid.

Maybe these are not the most irrational fears and anxieties. But they are real. I worry because I have had an almost uneventful pregnancy, yet I am waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. I want to enjoy the moment, but sometimes my mood swings make that impossible. I want to have a clean house, a fully decorated nursery and a spa weekend, but who am I kidding? I want to go into the Target knowing what size nursing bra I need without feeling the urge to cry because the selection sucks and not because I had no idea how a nursing bra was any different than a regular bra. I know that as soon as I join one of those Mommy networking groups, I will be back to my Busy Black Woman ways, so why fight city hall?

I want some sushi. I want to see my feet. I want to wear yoga pants everywhere. I want to sleep on my back without having my arms fall asleep. I want to know why I have to go to the doctor every week and wait thirty minutes for a five minute exam.

I want to meet my baby.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Beginning Again

It has been so long that I've written (finished) anything, let alone a blog post, that this will probably be just okay, but one of the good things about my absence these past two years is realizing that just being okay is sometimes the best way to BE. So here goes...

The Busy Black Woman returneth!

But where to begin? Where have I been, and quite honestly, after such a long absence, does anybody care? Well, since I do not have all of the answers (never said that I was the Omnipotent Black Woman), I want to break down my absence by sharing it in three major phases: the good, the bad and the ugly. Let's start with the ugly:

If you recall, my Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's related dementia in 2011, shortly after I launched this blog. It threw me for a loop, turned me inside out and has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. She is still with us, but the progression of her disease has been rapid, painful and so exquisitely draining that the simplest explanation is that I hit a wall and just stopped writing. Kinda.

Actually, I have several unpublished drafts of pieces where the main topic was my frustration in becoming a full-time caregiver to my Mom. Those were not necessarily meant for posting here (for you also might recall that I have a personal blog called the Cafe where I tended to post those types of pieces), but after half-writing for weeks and feeling that I was only becoming more deeply depressed, I stopped writing altogether, with the intention of taking "some time off to spend more with my family". And well, yeah that really is what happened.

I call it the ugly because it meant that I sacrificed something that I truly loved and two years later, it feels like I've been in mourning. Not just lamenting my mother's decline, but also grieving the loss of a major part of my life. If it seems like I'm being overly dramatic, well I am because shutting down to focus on her has not exactly been a fair trade.

I will not spend too much time here on the ugly, because then there is the bad:

I was very proud of the Busy Black Woman persona that I had created, but it became unsustainable as the realities of my mother's illness became more obvious to everyone else but me. In my mind, I could do it all and continue to care for her since I did not have too many other distractions like a full-time job or children. However, other people began to notice well before I admitted the truth to myself-- that it was all too much and the results were many hard feelings on my part. In one rather hurtful situation that I alluded to here on this blog, questions were raised about my ability to do a particular job. And while the inquiry might have been valid, it was the manner by which it was brought to my attention that totally hurt and pissed me off (and yes, I am still hurt, but no need to reopen old wounds).

Bottom line, I could not claim the mantle of Busy Black Woman if I was not the Busy Black Woman I wanted to be. It might be the most obvious symptom of Type A personality disorder, but no one wants to be labeled a fraud--especially if the person affixing that label is the woman staring back from the mirror.

But then there is the good, which is the rather impulsive reason why I made a sudden return: I'm pregnant.

The Busy Black Woman will become a Busy Black Mother in about a month.

So in the midst of personal turmoil and chaos, the husband and I took a chance at investigating parenthood. Again. The long story of how we got there will have to wait for now, because that too had been a major source of disappointment and despair for me. Ironically, I was not all that enthusiastic about motherhood when I was a career woman, but when I fell off that hamster wheel, I figured it was the most natural alternative. But nothing happened and suddenly I was 38 years old with a Baby Niece close by. Then I was 40 with better health coverage.

And although I still have plenty of anxieties and concerns about becoming a parent in the midst of chaos and personal turmoil, I realized that I could be 45 with many of the same issues. And if I never pursued every available option, I might be a Bitter Black Woman at 45 wondering why I was still putting my life on hold while no one else did. So I took a leap of faith.

This pregnancy has been nothing like I expected and since I am saving some topics for future writing, I will only say that if by taking a leap of faith in getting pregnant, then that same faith has inspired me to try my hand at writing.