Archives For December 2013

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When I look at my children, my family and my friends, it’s so easy to see how amazing and beautiful they are. Even in their tender faults, they are beautiful. I believe in them and I encourage and support their every dream.

It’s so easy to cheerlead for and support others, to always see the good and sparkling parts of them. It’s easy to tell the truth to others too — not just about their greatness but also about their flaws.

Unfortunately, for many of us when it comes to ourselves, we do not express the same type of kindness that we do with our family and friends. In fact, we are often are worst critics and tell ourselves the most horrible things. The type of ugly stuff that we would never, ever dare to speak to our loved ones. Those ugly things we tell ourselves are often lies.

Some of the lies we tell ourselves way too frequently are:

1.     I’m Fat

In my younger days I had moments when I lied to myself about how I looked. “Oh my god, I’m so fat,” I would tell my reflection. I remember shopping with Pam at Bebe one summer and trying on the perfect pair of aqua shorts with white trim and looking in the mirror and saying, “I can’t buy these. I’m too fat.” I was 21 at most and a size six. But, I lied to myself and I truly felt fat even though part of me knew I wasn’t. Too often women lie to ourselves about our bodies. We lie to ourselves telling ourselves that we are fat. It’s the number one lie I hear my friends tell themselves. It’s destructive and it’s an unhealthy thought pattern and it’s one of the lies that we need to stop.

2.     I Can’t Do This

Recently, Stari told me that she could never do something. I asked her how she knew. She said she just knew, but she hadn’t tried. “Well, how do you know you can’t do something if you haven’t tried,” I asked her. She agreed that maybe she should try and not just assume that she couldn’t do it. This is another huge lie that we tell ourselves. For example, I told myself that I could not have an induced labor and give birth without pain medications, but that was a lie. People tell themselves they can’t start a business, go back to school, date the person of their dreams, or do quite a number of things. If you tell yourself you can’t do something and you haven’t even tried then you’re lying to yourself in a way. People can do extraordinary things when they believe they can.

3.    No One Understands How I Feel

The “no one understands how I feel” thing is something commonly associated with teenagers and a slammed door. But, as adults we often feel this as well, especially when we’re going through hard times or major life changes. The idea that no one understands how you feel is a lie. While our life experiences and perceptions are unique, feelings themselves aren’t unique. Even though someone may not have been in exactly the same situation that you are in, chances are that there is someone else who understands how you feel. Sometimes just reminding yourself that you’re not the only person to ever have felt whatever you’re feeling can help put it into perspective.

4.   I Need Something/Someone Else to Complete Me

You are complete. You are whole. You do not need anyone or anything to complete you. The idea that you need someone or something to complete you is an absolutely lie. Don’t believe it! That’s not to say that people or things can’t help enhance our lives or bring joy to us. That’s not to say that people and experiences can’t help us to grow, but finding the perfect spouse, job, car, etc. does not make us whole or complete because we were born whole and complete. You, my lovely, as you are now with all your beautiful light and dark sides, you are complete.

5.     I Need to Be Fixed

Ah, my lovelies, why are we so hard on ourselves? No matter what is going on in your life, you are not a broken toy that needs to be fixed. I believe in personal development and striving to be the best versions of ourselves, but not because we are broken or something is wrong with us. Our stumbling blocks and challenges in life are lessons. Our flaws are just areas where our spirits have the most work to do. You are love and light. You do not need to be fixed because you are not broken. Don’t believe the hype.

7.     They Have It So Much Easier Than I Do

Ah, cry me a river, eh? Doesn’t it always seem like someone has it easier than you do? I know I see moms who work full-time like me, with the same number of kids, who are at every PTA meeting with freshly baked cookies, cute outfits, and cars that never have cookie crumbs in the seats. They go to the gym everyday, do yoga and never feed their kids McDonald’s. And, golly, their life just must be so much easier than mine because I just can’t even keep up. This is a big fat lie. There is no way to know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Just because someone appears to have it all together doesn’t mean that their life is easier than yours. Their journey is their journey and perception is not reality. Get off the pity-party train and get with the idea that other folks have ups and downs too. (Yroko, I’m talking directly to you.)

8.     I’m Too Old To…

So, I may be too old to be a professional ballerina, but there are tons of other things that I’m not too old to do. If you’re telling yourself that you’re too old to do something then you’re lying to yourself. Absent things like  becoming a professional football player or ballet dancer, you can do all sorts of things no matter your age. For example, the Office Administrator at my last job got her MA at 65. My uncle graduated college when he was in his mid to late 40’s. I have friends in their 50’s who have started new careers, and know people who have fallen in love and gotten married in their 60’s. “I’m too old…” is just an excuse or a way of saying that you’re scared to step out of your comfort zone. If there’s something you really want to do, put your big girl (or boy) pants on and do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re the oldest person (or youngest person) there.

The next time your hear yourself telling yourself a lie, take a moment to stop and really listen to yourself. Pretend that you’re your own child or a friend and ask yourself if you would say that to them. If you wouldn’t, cut it out.

A lot of women (and some men too) own clothing that doesn’t fit. We hold onto it out of hopes that one day,some day, when we fit into it. For some of us, it’s our goal and we work towards it little by little until we fit into it.

For me, it was a pair of Cavalli jeans that I ordered on eBay. I had never owned Cavalli jeans and I wasn’t sure about the sizing but figured I would go for it. And when they arrived they were even cuter in person!

But, when I tried to put them on I couldn’t fit the damn things up over my thighs.

Yet I couldn’t seem to sell them or trade them or give them away. So in my closet they sat for two years and occasionally I would pull them out and try them on and they didn’t fit.

Eventually I lost weight and the next time I tried them on they fit and, man, I was so happy when I could wear them. I wore them all the time. I wore them for years until I couldn’t fit them again.

Sometimes we want to do the same with people. We want to hold onto them thinking that one day they’ll change and they’ll fit. But, we can’t change people and here are ten reasons why.

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1.    They Don’t Need to Change – You Do!

I think this one is huge which is why I’m hitting that first. Sometimes we want to change someone because we feel that they should be doing something different. We project our ideas about who they should be on them and we might be frustrated when they’re not. For example, to this day my dad still thinks I should have gone to law school. In fact, he said this year something about me being a lawyer. No lie. As much as I love and respect my dad, that’s just never going to happen. I don’t need to change.

2.     You Can’t Even Keep Your Own New Year’s Resolutions

Have you noticed that every January gyms are packed? People are clogging up the lines at Whole Foods with their new promises for a healthier life. People resolve to do a bunch of things that they almost never do. I know that’s been true for me and I’m sure it’s been true for you too. If you can’t even stick to a positive change in your own life, how astronomically hard do you think it will be to make a change someone else’s?

3.     Free Will

We all have free will. We can all do whatever we want. The thing with free will is that we can’t impose ours on someone else. Well, sometimes parents can impose their free will on kids. If they didn’t how would rooms ever get cleaned or teeth brushed? Aside from that, everyone can choose what they want to do. Free will = people can do what they want.

4.     People Don’t Change Unless They Want To

This is pretty obvious but it’s one of the harder concepts to grasp. In romantic relationships I’ve thought I could change people. That my love would be enough or that I was so special or so great that someone would change. The reality is that sometimes people will change because they love someone, but the reason that they change is because they want to. Unless someone has a burning desire to change, any change to appease someone else isn’t lasting change.

5.    They Have An Addiction 

I believe addiction is a disease. It  doesn’t matter if it’s drugs, booze, sex. I think it’s a disease that can be treated but I also think it’s not quite that easy. Of course, people only change when they want to (see no. 4) but sometimes it’s not as easy as simply wanting to. Addictions of any kind can be hard to overcome without help and support. Sometimes therapy is needed in order to get to the root of why the addiction started.

6.    You Don’t Really Want Someone to Change Unless They Want To

While you may think you want someone to change, the reality is that we don’t want people to change just for us. We want them to change because they want to change. If someone makes changes because we want them to change but isn’t really invested or doesn’t want to change, it’ll just pop up in some other way. Sometimes forcing someone to change can build resentment, or cause the person who made the change to feel bad. We don’t want someone to change to please us if it makes them feel bad, do we?

7.    Change Happens On Its Own Time

We are all constantly changing. When I was in elementary school I liked certain things that I don’t like anymore. I love things that I never thought I would love, like avocado and mushrooms. At one point in my life I thought “da club” and the party life was where it was at, and now I don’t. I thought I needed to find a Prince Charming to save me and now I know that I just need an equal partner to navigate life with. We change our fashion, food tastes, hobbies. Change is natural and it happens when it’s supposed to and not a minute before.

8.    They’re Too Set In Their Ways to Change

Some times you just can’t change a person because they’re set in their ways. In high school I dyed my hair red. Not a punk rock red but a natural red color. My grandmother hated it. She said she couldn’t wait until I got over my “punk rock” phase. I wasn’t into punk rock and my hair wasn’t even a crazy color, but for her it was “punk rock.” She was set in her ways and although my grandmother was super hip and fashion savvy, the colored hair thing just didn’t jive with her because she was set in her ways.

9.    You’re Not Clear On What You Want Them To Change

I’ve seen this a lot with friends. Women will complain that they want their boyfriend or husband to change, but they have a hard time figuring out exactly what they want them to change. “Help around the house more,” or “be more romantic” is very vague. Maybe their partner would be happy to help around the house more if they were given a specific example, like “do the dishes Monday, Wednesday, Friday.” Or the person who wants more romance could ask their partner for a weekly date night and provide examples of dates that they feel are romantic. If you can’t tell someone what you want them to change they’re not going to be able to do it unless they’re a mind-reader in which case they probably knew before you did what you wanted them to change!

10.    The World Would Suck If We Could All Change Everyone Else

No, but really, how bad would the world suck if we could all just change everyone else? One of the things that makes us all so amazing and beautiful is that we’re all unique. There is only one me just like there is only one you. If we could just randomly change people at will (and vice versa) then no one would be who they are. We’d all be versions of who other people thought we should be. That would be no bueno.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Ghandi which is, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Rather than looking to change others, the best we can do is work on changing ourselves and the way we react to others. Ironically, when we change ourselves and the way we see and do things and the way we interact with others, they change as well.

The Other Side of Pain

December 16, 2013 — 3 Comments

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When I was pregnant with Lovebug towards the end of my pregnancy we discovered that it was a high-risk pregnancy. Lovebug had something called IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction) which meant that she essentially stopped growing inutero for a reason that was unknown at the time.

This meant, among other things, that I had to be induced so that my pregnancy did not go full-term.

When I was induced my labor was slow to start. It was unnatural because my body was not ready so my body fought against going into labor because it simply thought it was not time for this baby to be born.

Finally, with the constantly increasing doses of medication my body was forced to get on board with the idea of having a baby before it wanted to. Contracts started and became frequent.

They were painful. (Big shock, right? That labor contractions would be painful?)

It was so painful and I couldn’t move. I also couldn’t really walk to ease the pain because I was attached to a monitor and had to be monitored to make sure Lovebug was okay.

Before the process even started I decided that I didn’t want pain killers unless I absolutely had to have them. It was already traumatic enough that the labor had to be induced and I didn’t want to add anymore drugs to the mix when I was already so worried about Lovebug’s health and didn’t want to risk doing anything that may potentially harm her.

The pain kept going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny but not nearly as funny.

Sometimes it was so intense that I forgot to breathe and other times I managed to ride the pain like a wave. I tried to surf the pain as long as I could but eventually I threw in the towel and begged for drugs. I was only dilated to 4 cm and suspected it would be hours until I reached 10. I knew I could not be in that type of pain for that long.

“I just don’t want it to hurt anymore,” I cried.

So the anesthesiologist came and they gave me an epidural, which basically means they poked a hole in my spine so the pain meds would go straight there.

And then they laid me down.

Instead of feeling relief the pain got worse. At that point, Daddy had left the room for a bit and I laid on the table while the nurse with Australian accent assured me that the pain would be gone soon.

But it didn’t go away. With every breath I took it got worse. The contractions were coming closer and harder and the pain covered my entire body like thick sweat.

I sobbed hysterically, “please make it stop.”

The nurse tried to reassure me that “soon” the pain would stop, but I didn’t see how that could be true. The ceiling looked blurry and all I saw was pain. I could no longer ride the waves and now the ocean of pain was trying to drown me.

And then I felt the urge to push.

“I need to push,” I screamed out to the nurse.

“That can’t be,” she replied. “Do you want me to check you,” she said with an unenthusiastic tone. She was clearly just trying to distract the overly dramatic impatient me.

I nodded yes as best I could. The pain making it hard to move or think.

She snapped a rubber glove on her hand, inserted it into you know where and then looked my weeping face with an expression of surprise.

“Well, if you want the pain to stop you’re going to have to have a baby,” she said rather flippant. “I’m turning off the medication and calling the doctor. You’re at 10,” she continued.

The medication had not had time to work and now I couldn’t have it at all. I was in pain and now a small stage of panic.

The pain consumed me as the urge to push became stronger and stronger. Finally the doctor and Daddy returned to the room and then I pushed.

With every bit of my strength I pushed. I knew that if I just got to the other side (and had the baby) that the pain would stop. I remind myself of that as I panted and cried while the weight of the pain beat on me physically and emotionally.

I started to use the pain as a cue and to work with it. With every painful contraction I bared down and pushed. Pain was transforming from something that was physically uncomfortable into a tool that I could use to making getting past the pain easier. With each painful contraction I pushed and suddenly my tiny angel in my arms looking up at me.

And just like that the pain stopped.

Lovebug, 4 days old

There are a lot of moments in life that will be painful. You will have a huge fight with someone you love. Your heart will be broken. You will do something that goes against who you believe yourself to be. You may loose a job or suffer financial or legal troubles, or maybe you’ll get sick.

There are times when a situation may hurt so much and it seems like it would be easier to ignore the pain. Or to quiet it with food, sex, drugs, shopping, or whatever your personal numbing mediation is.

To do anything, but look pain in the eyes.

Sometimes we feel like if we bury the pain deep inside our hearts it will go away. If it only it were so. Buried pain is just a seed that will eventually blossom into a flower with thick and thorny vines that have the potential to wrap around a heart suffocating it.

Pain deferred is worse than a dream deferred. It doesn’t just sag like a heavy load; it always explodes in one way or another.

(And if you didn’t go to public school and didn’t celebrate Black History month and can’t catch the reference it’s to Langston Hughes’ A Dream Deferred poem.)

And yet only way to truly get past the pain is to go through it. To hold on to it until your knuckles get white and you just want to scream out for your mommy to come and chase it away, like the monster under your bed.

Sometimes you gotta let pain jump you in like you’re taking an ass-whopping trying to be down with the gang of life. Feeling every blow because life isn’t always sweet, and none of us are ever promised a rose garden.

Sometimes we have to feel the pain with every single fiber of our being. We have to breath in its thick scent. We have to hold it on our lap while it threatens to crush our knees, or walk over it like hot burning coals.

We have to clinch our eyes closed as tears well up because, man, sometimes life is so fucking painful.

But as intense as the pain may be in that moment as soon as it’s over it’s over. The faster you move through it, the sooner you make it to the other side.

And often times what we find on the other side is a gift.

In the case of my story with Lovebug, I didn’t just get the gift of a beautiful baby after the pain but I was also left with a new realization about myself: that I was stronger and more powerful than I believed.

I thought I could not have a baby via an induced labor without pain medication. For a split second, I thought the pain could literally kill me. But it didn’t and I survived and when I look back I’m not sure it was even really that bad. Okay, I lie, it was that bad but I survived and once it was over it was just that – over.

This is something that will stay with me and then next time I don’t believe in myself or think something is too hard, I’m reminded of all the things I’ve thought I couldn’t do or wouldn’t survive and did.

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Have you learned a lesson from pain?

The holidays have crept up on us once again and I always love this time of the year.

Lovebug, 2 weeks old (2011)

The smell of fires burning in warm homes, the twinkling lights hanging on trees and in windows. Strangers stopping to smile at each other, holiday parties and all sorts of merriness.

Cousin M., Macaroni & Cousin L., Christmas Eve Party (2010)

I also happen to be a fan of egg nog so I appreciate that about the season as well as our annual Christmas Eve party with family and friends.

Macaroni, Brother & Stari (2011)

During this season I usually feel an immense gratitude for my life and everything that’s in it.

Because on my way into my office I walked past someone hungry and cold. Because there are people who have died and will die this month because they have nowhere warm to go, so they will breath their last breaths in the cold embrace of an unfriendly season.

In this season there is a lot of focus on celebrating but also a lot of focus on more material things. You see, this is also the season to buy, buy, buy.

It’s the season of children writing letters to Santa requesting “an iPad.” It is a season of giving gifts. Presents wrapped in shiny papers and stocking stuffed to the rims. I, myself, am just as guilty as the rest. I love giving my children presents during Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa time.

But what if instead of focusing on parties and presents we focused on other ways to truly give in a way that benefits more than our friends and family?

What if we chose to give from our hearts to something that would make the world or the life of someone else better?

Here are some gift ideas in lieu of another sweater, another bottle of wine, or a cheap toy that your niece of nephew will forget about in a day or two. Not that you shouldn’t give those things if that’s what your heart tells you to do, but if there were other alternatives would you pick them? If so, keep on reading!

Gifts That Keep On Giving

Consider making a donation to charity in the name of a friend or family member. Some examples are:

Global Giving“A charity fundraising website that gives social entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world a chance to raise the money they need to improve their communities.” You can purchase a gift card for a friend or family member and they can go to the Global Giving website and select the project(s) that they want to support. They will receive email updates from the project(s) so that they can see how their contribution is making a difference.

Kiva. A micro-lending non-profit that provides borrowers from all over the world with capital to improve their lives. For as little as $25, you can help a person improve their own life and their community. Kiva also has gift cards that you can give to allow your family and friends to pick the individual(s) they would like to support and to get updates on their progress.

Or donate to a small local non-profit that needs funds. For example, At the Crossroads is one of the local non-profits that I like to support, as they help homeless youth to build fulfilling lives. Their work directly serves my local community because every teen they get off the streets is one more productive member of my community.

Do your friends or family members have something they’re passionate about? If you have a vegan family member, they may appreciate a donation in their name to a local animal sanctuary.

Give Once, Give Twice

If you can’t fathom the idea of not giving your loved ones a tangible object there are still ways to give gifts that impact the world for the better. You can purchase gifts from companies that do things such as donate items to those in need, provide employment and self-sufficiency for impoverished communities, or that help the environment. (Note: Some of these are for profit companies that also give back.)

Some such companies are:

Toms

I admit that Toms are like the total hipster shoe. I also admit that I find them pretty darn cute on kids and would probably own a pair if my feet weren’t so narrow. For whatever reason they don’t fit me quite right. Anyway… sorry for the tangent… Toms gives away a pair of shoes or glasses for every pair that is purchased. They also have vegan options!

BOBS from Skechers.

Like Toms, for every purchase BOBS gives away shoes to children in need. They look pretty much like Toms and are around the same price point but are slightly less and may have some color or style variations that are not available with Toms.

Panda Sunglasses.

These stunner shades are not only environmentally friendly but they also provide glasses and medical vision care for someone in need. Environmentally friendly and helping others. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

WeWOOD.

Not only do these watches look sick but for every one you give a tree is planted. Trees are good. They make oxygen and we kind of need that to live.

Krochet Kids.

These cute hats and other handmade items are made by women in Uganda and Peru. They directly impact specific women and their families as the women have a way to provide an income for their families while they receive an education. Each item is signed by the person who made it, and you can read about some of the artisans on their website.

Same Sky.

Same Sky is a fair-trade company that provides “jobs globally for women struggling to lift themselves out of poverty.” They train women to be artisans and 100% of their net profits go back into training more women. This company not only trains and employs women abroad but also here in the States.

Not to mention that their jewelry is gorgeous. Like seriously pretty and the kind of stuff you’ll find in a high-end store but with good karma points built right in.

Baby Teresa.

Their motto is “buy once, give twice.” When you purchase one of these adorable baby outfits or blankies they donate an outfit to a child in need.

Give Your Time

You are a gift to the world. True story. Your time is precious and priceless consider donating your time to a local soup bank, or go to a hospital and volunteer. Instead of a toy, give your goddaughter the gift of a trip to the movies with you, or your own tea party at a fancy restaurant.

As you get comfort in the warm of your home or watch the lights tinkle and dance on your tree, I hope you will eat, drink, and be merry. I also hope that you will count your blessing and be a blessing to others.

The Surrender of Self

December 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

When someone we love dies we try to make sense of something that doesn’t seem to make sense. We grieve and may even feel lost, as if we are unsure how we will be able to navigate life without them.

To never hear that voice, or see that smile, smell that scent, or be held in those arms. To never again laugh together, to get angry at one another and make up.To be left with only memories that sometimes fade like photographs over time.

This is where the pain comes from. It is from the belief that our relationship with them is completely over.

The ultimate break-up.

It is from the belief that when our loved ones pass on they leave us here in the now and that our connection to them breaks. Even if you believe in Heaven or reincarnation or an afterlife, most of us feel a great loss when someone who has our hearts passes on. The amount of time that we have on this planet feels finite, even if we live to be over a hundred.

We are all born with the knowledge that eventually we will die. The ironic thing is that in Western culture death is something to fear. It is something that is taboo, in a way.

Death is not funny.

It’s seen as a sad time with all black attire, somber music, and crying until you can no longer cry. Other places in the world and at other times in history it was not seen as so.

But I was born here and now and in my life death has always been something that makes me uncomfortable. It makes a lot of us uncomfortable. Even now, I have not completely reconciled my feelings about death with my belief that we are all Spirits having a human experience.

Because death is seen as an ending. Not only because we will never hear/see/feel the person (or ourselves) in the same way but because we’re so disconnected with the world and with our own divinity that it feels like it is the end.

The final final.

No mas, no more.

That’s all she wrote folks.

But what if it is not an end but just another experience leading our Spirits on to the next experience or back home to the place where we are all one?

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11 years before my Grandmother died, on my birthday in fact, she wrote these words:

To surrender to the reality of one human being — this human being on one of many planets in the Universe is to dream of a day, in a time, in a space where we can surrender our ego and that intangible thing that we conceive of as self to the idea that perhaps we each are swinging on a universal trapeze. As the scent of lavender becomes one with our scent, it will amaze the infinite life force that surrounds us all and purge us of our fragility, torpedo our rationalizations and justifications of self, and finally we shall find peace as one of the millions of ones that make up the Universe. – Helen Major, May 3, 2002

What if we are all just swinging on a universal trapeze?

What if when we fully understand and surrender the idea of “self” and that we are separate and apart from the more, from God/Source/The One (or whatever name you call it by) and each other, we can find peace in the knowledge that we make up the Universe?

And if we are one of the millions that make up the Universe then that means we are the Universe, in the here and now.

It means that we always have been and always will be of and from the Divine.

A ray of sunshine is not separate and apart from the sun nor are we, in this physical space, separate and apart from the Universe and each other. This means that we do not truly die. We do not end and our connections to one another does not end.

It merely shifts like the sun across the sky. IMG_2744