Broken Records and Sista Friends: How to Fix a Broken Record Book Review

“You and I will discover that we never had the power to fix our broken records in the first place, but there is Someone who doesn’t just fix them; in fact, Jesus heals.” -Amena Brown, How to Fix a Broken Record

We all have them. Broken records, or experiences and thoughts that stop us from being our best and greatest selves. In her book, How to Fix a Broken Record, Amena uses her personal experiences to deliver hope to her readers.

Amena begins her introduction talking to the reader like she’s meeting them for the first time. She ends with “Let’s find some more of those little key lime pie snickers dessert things and talk about the new records you’re listening to. I can’t wait to hear all about it.”

And just like that, the tone has been set for the rest of the book. How to Fix a Broken Record reads less like a self-help or “magical fix” book and more like a conversation with a sista friend. Loaded with musical references, Amena talks natural hair, dating, marriage, church and adulting. It’s filled with anecdotal stories that both make you reflect on your current life’s soundtrack and encourage you to surrender to God to change it indefinitely.

I was first introduced to Amena Brown when I started doing spoken word for my church. My worship pastor suggested I check out some of her work. So I did. And she was phenomenal. Listening to her talk about her relationship with her younger sister gave me hope about my own relationships with my younger siblings. I was inspired to see a black woman using her gifts for the Gospel. So to say I was excited to start reading How to Fix a Broken Record* would be an understatement.

With each paragraph, every sentence, I felt a connection being made and strengthened. Through her words, Amena gave life to experiences, thoughts and internal struggles I could never find the words for. She offered me hope when I felt defeated, comfort when I was weary, reassurance when I was insecure and laughter when I just needed it. We danced to songs of our younger years and bonded over memories of cultural staples. In 36 chapters, Amena, who is a few years older than me, became the older sister I never had and the friend I always wanted.

So yes, Amena. We can most definitely grab dessert and talk about the new records I’m listening to the next time you’re in Chicago.

How to Fix a Broken Record is available now at AmenaBrown.com. Check out Amena’s podcast, How to Fix a Broken Record on iTunes and Google Play.

*Full disclosure: I am a member of Amena’s launch team for her book, but the opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Wiggle Wiggle

Backstory: Last year, the dentist said that one of TD1’s teeth was becoming loose and she’d probably lose it in the next year or so. He said it wasn’t noticeable, but just giving us a heads up. Six months later, he said the same tooth was getting even looser and he wouldn’t be surprised if it came out before her birthday.

Fast forward to yesterday.

*On the way home from her cousin’s birthday celebration*
TD1: Mommy, you know my wiggly tooth? It’s getting more wiggly. And when I get back to school, I’m going to show all my friends. They’re going to be so excited.I tho
T-Mommy: Oh really? When we get home, you’ll have to show me too. I want to see it wiggle.

Then she continued with several “what-if” scenarios about this tooth coming out – before she gets back to school, in her sleep, while she’s brushing her teeth, in her throat, etc.

We get home and she brings me some books to read while T-Daddy is making some dinner. I get a little teary-eyed at the fact that she’s actually reading most of the words, and trying to sound out the ones she doesn’t know. Who is this girl? Just yesterday, we were trying to teach her letters, now she’s reading WHOLE words?!!??! Later, as I’m putting up the food, she reminds me that I never looked at her wiggle tooth.

So she showed me.

​And. I. Was. NOT. Ready. Her tooth is noticeably, visibly, no-denying-it loose. She can wiggle it. I can wiggle it. It wiggles. It’s going to come out. And she’s going to get an adult tooth in it’s place. I thought she was being overly anxious. I thought it was all in her head and she was going to show me this wiggling tooth that’s in fact not wiggling much at all. I. WAS. WRONG.

So, let’s recap: in one hour, I realized that my firstborn had moved beyond the occasional word reading/memorization to reading a book mostly on her own AND she’s on the brink of losing her first tooth. Mommy meltdown in 5…4…3…2…1…

T-Talks: Crush

TD1 is in a Pre-K/K mixed class, so imagine my surprise when after school, the following convo took place:

TD1: Mommy, Ariel* and Belle* have a crush on Charming*.
T-Mommy: Oh really, and how do you know that?
TD1: I don’t know.
T-Mommy: Do you know what a crush is?
TD1: No.
T-Mommy: So how do you know that they have something if you don’t know what that something is?
*a minute of going back and forth*
TD1: Okay, I do know. I just didn’t want to tell you in case you would be mad.
T-Mommy: Okay, so what do you know?
TD1: I know they have a crush on Charming because Ariel and Belle always tell Charming “I love you” and Aurora* told me they have a crush on Charming.
T-Mommy: And what does that mean? Do you know what it means to have a crush on someone?
TD1: It means you love them.

😳😳😳😳😳😳😳😳😳😳😳😳😳😳

Are we there yet? I thought I had at least another 100 years before we were there. Why are we there already? Also, I googled crush and Google’s definition did NOT make this convo any easier…..we’ll go with when you like someone a lot as opposed to “a brief but intense infatuation for someone, especially someone unattainable or inappropriate.” That’s way too many big girl emotions I’m not ready for. Can we just go back to the days of cooing and baby gibberish?

*names have been changed to protect the innocent because who doesn’t love Disney characters.

T-Talks: Two Moms

TD1: Mom, why can’t I have two moms like you? I want two moms.
T-Mommy: Why do you want two moms?
TD1: So I can have two moms and two houses and two brothers and two sisters, like you have.
T-Mommy: Well, you know what it means if you have two moms? It means that Mommy and Daddy won’t be together anymore.
TD1: :-O
T-Mommy: Is that what you want?
TD1: NOOOOOO.
T-Mommy: I don’t want that either. Mommy has two moms because my Mommy and Daddy aren’t together anymore. And I don’t want that for you. But you know what? You have a Godmom, and she’s kind of like a half-mom. So you have one and a half moms.
TD1: **big smile** So I have two moms. And I have a Goddad, so I have two dads and a Godsister so two sisters and a Godbrother, but only one brother. [TD2] Wake up! You have two moms and two dads and two sisters, but just one brother.

T-Talks: Pizza Cheese Whine

*a few weeks ago*
TD1: whining
Me: You want some cheese to go with that whine?
TD1: *stops whining* what? Why you ask me that?
Me: *explains the whole cheese and wine/whine thing*

*tonight*
TD1: *singing* You want some cheese with that whine? You want some cheese with that whine? You want some cheese with that whine? *stops singing* Hey Mom, since I don’t like cheese I think you should say, “Do you want some pizza with that whine?” because pizza has cheese. Get it? *starts singing* You want some pizza cheese with that whine?

Coming Home

On Saturday, I went to a funeral for one of my mom’s older brothers who I don’t remember. As I sat through the service listening to cousins I barely remember sharing their stories and favorite memories, I tried to reconcile faces and names with my childhood memories. I listened to a cousin say how she was tired of coming home for sad occasions, and was sad that her kids don’t know her aunts and uncles. I’m “home” and my kids don’t know their aunts and uncles. Afterwards, I made my rounds giving hugs and watched as some of my cousins passed me by. One of my cousins demanded I stick around this time, so we obliged and went to the repast. A toddler I’d never seen clung to me and two girls I didn’t know kept talking to me and wanted to be around me. When it came time to eat, I sat with my mom, brother and sister. I spoke only when spoken to and had an awkward exchange with one of my older cousins who thought I didn’t remember her. The cousin that asked me to stay never even said another word to me.

On the car ride home, T-Daddy mentioned he felt out of place. Yup, that’s why I don’t come around. The next morning as we were getting ready for church, I told T-Daddy that we should make more of an effort to be around our families so that the girls can know their family (and not grow up and marry a cousin!). At the rate we’re going, they will only know our parents and siblings and their kids, but that’s it. And seeing that half my parents and siblings live 14 hours away, even that’s questionable.

At church, the pastor preached about how Conflict was handled in the early church. He talked about the misconception that church folk always get along, but in reality the church is full of sin-sick people who disagree and argue all the time. The difference is supposed to be that the church is a family, so even though we argue and get offended, we love each other, work it out, forgive and move on. We’re not supposed to run from conflict or sweep it under the rug just because we don’t want to deal with it.

A lightbulb went off.

Growing up, I was constantly teased for a myriad of reasons. I never really fit in with my family or at school. I’d get along great with my cousins one-on-one but I always seemed to be the odd girl out whenever we all came together. I also found myself on the wrong side of family drama and politics. It became too much to handle and I felt like my time was best spent around people that didn’t make me feel unwanted or uncomfortable. So I started distancing myself from my family about 13-17 years ago. It was a gradual process – some of it deliberate and some not-so-much. But every step of the way, I noticed every time someone didn’t reach out or failed to respond to my attempts to reach out. For me, it was just confirmation that I never really fit in and blood wasn’t thicker than water (no matter how much my mama said it).

After church, I reflected back on the sermon and my uncle’s homegoing services. I’ve never really considered myself as someone that runs from conflict. T-Daddy would even argue that I can be confrontational when someone offends me. Like most people, I don’t like conflict. And I don’t like being uncomfortable. So when someone continuously offends or hurts me, I don’t see the point in continuing to subject myself to that. I just cut that person from my life. That’s been the case with most of my family and ex-friends. But that’s not exactly dealing with conflict. It’s running from it. My cousins may have teased me, but I made no efforts to move on from that. Instead, I just moved away from it.

I realized that in my running, I’m just as much to blame for the awkwardness that transpired on Saturday as my family is. And in running from my conflict, I’ve made it so that, even on sad occasions, I don’t have a home to come back to. I’ve also left a trail of aunts, uncles and cousins that TD1 and TD2 don’t know.

Two Means You Choose

I love my girls….A LOT! Some days, I wish I could spend every waking moment breathing in their essence and watching them do those silly little things that make them them. I don’t want to miss a second of their big moments, whether that’s their first steps or the first time they discover caterpillars.

I admit I sometimes even get jealous of the time T-Daddy spends with them. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate when he takes them off my hands because they have said “Mom” 5 million times in 15 seconds. Even this mom needs a break. But I feel like I’m missing out on something when he gets to experience something with them that I didn’t. I even feel a little guilty and left out when he does those things with them that I don’t like or suck at (like video games…).

So imagine my excitement when I found out that TD1 was going to the Museum of Science and Industry and wanted me to chaperone. In fact, I was at her school doing Girl Scouts stuff when she ran in the office to make sure I saw and signed the permission slip. Now imagine my anxiety when the very following day, I picked up the TDs and there was a permission slip in TD2’s mailbox for a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry on the same day. I asked both of their teachers if I could chaperone for both of them. One didn’t care. The other didn’t say no, but I could tell she didn’t want to say yes. They both directed me to the office. I was told I’d have to choose. My heart sank to my toes.

I didn’t want to have to choose. I wanted to share this experience with them both. MSI is my favorite museum. There’s always new and cool stuff and I wanted to be there to see the look of bewilderment and amazement as they discovered something new. I was going to have to choose whose experience I would miss. I knew whose. It wouldn’t be easy to tell the girls. There would be sadness, probably tears, lots of rationalizing and explaining and maybe even some bribery. There would definitely be bribery and buttering up.

I wish someone had warned me that having two kids meant one day I was going to have to choose between the two. And while it wouldn’t be a representation of my love for them, it would most certainly feel like it. And if this field trip is just the beginning, I am not looking forward to the future plays, recitals, games, competitions, etc. Two means you choose. And if I have to choose, does that mean one of them loses? Or do I?

*Of course, I know that none of us really loses out, but it’s hard to reconcile that with my desire to want to be there for everything.

Grannies, Memories and Video Calls to Heaven

TD1 has been asking to see pictures and videos of her great-grandmas. One died two months before she was born. One died seven years before she was born.

TD1: Mommy, why don’t you have a grandma?
T-Mommy: I used to have one. She’s in Heaven now.
TD1: With God? Does Daddy have a grandma?
T-Mommy: He did. She’s in Heaven, too.
TD1: But not me and [TD2’s]?
T-Mommy: No, all of your grandmas are still alive.
TD1: Why do we have grandmas, but not you and Daddy?
T-Mommy: Because God decided He was ready for our grandmas in Heaven.
TD1: Do you miss them?
T-Mommy: All the time, Sweetie.
TD1: Why why don’t you just call them like we do Granny or video them like GMa?
T-Mommy: Because you can’t video call Heaven?
TD1: Well, do you have a video of them? What did they look like?

When T-Daddy and I first started dating, his grandmother was sick. I remember taking him to visit her in the hospital and at her home (which coincidentally, was down the street from the house my family stayed in when ours caught fire). I remember talking to her during my pregnancy about the TD1. I remember thinking how awesome it would be for her to see her great-grandchild. Sadly, I also remember how sad I felt that this was something I could (from a distance – I won’t pretend like I had this sudden deep relationship with T-Daddy’s grandma because I didn’t. We were still getting to know each other) share T-Daddy’s grandma, but not my own. She passed away in July and TD1 was born in September. They never got to meet, although MIL would tell me all the time that she believed their souls met briefly in Heaven. (Ironically, my mom would say the same about both TDs and my own granny.)

My granny died when I was 17. At the time, that seemed like a lot of years to spend with someone that meant so much to me. As I approach 30 this year, I realize that in four years, I will have spent just as many years without my granny as I have with her. When you factor in that I was a baby and have no finite recollection of the early years and that the last four years of her life she was in and out of a cancer treatment center, the scales get tipped in the direction of more without her than with her.

TD1 wants me to share with her things that I never did with my granny and she doesn’t understand why I never did them. It’s hard trying to explain terminal illness and the cycle of life to a five-year-old. It’s even harder to dig up memories and deal with grief that you mistakenly thought was dealt with. It also makes me wonder, “If she could see me now…”

I miss my granny dearly, maybe even more so as the years go by. I always looked at the 17 years I had with her as a blessing. Growing up, I knew so many people whose grandparents had already passed. I was always thankful to have mine around. But as I branch out and meet more people, there seems to be even more people who still have their grandparents around. Some celebrating 80- and 90-something birthdays. I’m happy for them. Grandparents are an awesome gift from God. But, I just can’t seem to feel a little twinge of jealousy. Mine never got to see 60. And that makes me sad.

IMG_7305
A friend posted this on FB around Thanksgiving last year. I’m thinking of creating something similar for the TDs two great-grannies, but maybe just not for Christmas.

I wish she could have lived longer to see TD1 and TD2. I think she would have thoroughly enjoyed their personalities. I wish she could see me. I want to know how she thinks about how I turned out. And I don’t really care for speculation from other family members. I ***need*** to hear it from her, ya know. I wish I had more memories and traditions and passed on rituals to “keep her memory alive.”

I wish I had paid more attention, gotten more wisdom and insight from her. But at 13, I wasn’t really concerned with knowing recipes and interior decorating. I thought I had time. And even as I spent the next four years watching her fight for her life, it never really dawned on me that she wouldn’t be around. I mean I knew she could die. I knew that someday she would. Death was something I always thought I was a pro at. People die, you cry. You bury them. Then you move on, reminiscing and joking about the good times. My senior year of high school, my family had something like 10+ deaths, slightly less than the year I graduated 8th grade. But up until September 2004, I’d never lost someone I lived with, someone that played a big part in raising me. So I never factored that into my death equation.

It never dawned on me that this would be a little harder to move on from. Or that I would see her smile whenever I look at my little sister. Or that I would one day have a child that is so curious about two women she’s never met.

And perhaps, that’s the hardest part. Trying to relive a moment in time that has long since passed for someone that never got to experience it.

Just searching for my not-so-secret treasure