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 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.

Old Stories and New Endings

This past weekend my church started a new series, “Heroes of Christmas.” (Check it out and then check out the next sermon in the series this weekend, either in person or via the church’s site/app.) It was such a great reminder for me to have a little grace with myself, and to give a little grace to others.

My mind stays in a constant state of contemplation and awe. Reminiscing on the things of my past and wondering at where I am now. As an adult, I realize things that I never picked up on a kid – things my mom and granny shielded me from, how certain experiences shaped me in ways I never even felt coming. I look at my daughters and I see a world I never could have imagined as a child.

T-Daddy and I talk a lot about the life we want them to have, the things we want to give them. To be honest most of this is rooted in our childhood. Things we never had. Things we wished were different. We realize we can’t change the past, so we want to try to change the TDs future. How can we save them from the villains of our own stories?

Dangerous neighborhood. Broken home. Teased. Smart. Constant outcast. Misunderstood. Low self-esteem. Not the cool kid. Unreciprocated loyalty. Always searching for greener grass. Good person doing bad things. Shame. Regrets. No rhythm. Hurt person hurting people. Sometimes selfish. Sometimes giving. Book reader. Video game player. Music lover.

That’s just a part of our story. It’s not all good. I’m a girl from the southside with divorced parents and loose relationships with my siblings. I grew up in the church but blurred the lines between right and wrong to fit my agenda, to make people like me. T-Daddy is a guy from every side of the city with his own skeletons in the closet. When we got together, we were two broken people trying to not let the other person break us more. We had no real agenda or motive. There were lies and truths dressed in lies. Contradictions and everything that comes with not having a plan.

Out of that came two smart and beautiful daughters. We want them to be more confident in themselves than we ever were. We want them to love God and follow Him even when everyone around them is telling them “it’s not that bad.” We want them to move mountains and anyone who dares stand in their way. We want nothing but the best for them. I believe that’s what every parent wants for their child. And honestly, we already have some, if not most of that.

Our girls are growing up, in a two-parent, God-fearing home, surrounded by people that love and adore them. Family and friends of different backgrounds. They even have the older girls loving on them at school. (The goodbyes at pickup man….it’s a real thing). They have a genuine love for God and church…that they want to share with everyone they meet. T-Daddy and I regularly overhear them talking about Jesus’ love for everyone. TD1 and TD2 are so close, it’s beyond heart melting. They are being exposed to so many opportunities at such young ages. It’s all truly a blessing.

Who would imagine that from T-Daddy and my stories, God could create such a different ending? I definitely couldn’t. Not when so many of my friends and family have similar stories or experiences. No one could have told me that some of those themes could be foreign to my children. Yes, they will have their own stories, and they won’t be all good. But God can change that too. Just like He allowed them to have a different beginning than I had.

So often, it’s easy for me to look at my past and think there’s no coming back from that. But that’s not true. How awesome is it that God can take our stories, no matter how dark and ugly and still give us something beautiful from them?

Momfessions: Box Tops and Cookie Dough

Fact 1: I like eating raw cookie dough.
Fact 2: The TDs’ school collects box tops.

I was walking through Walmart when I found myself eye-to-eye with some sugar cookie dough. Somehow, the cookie dough ended up in my hand and I happened to notice a box top on it. It was at that moment that Fact 2 justified my indulgence in Fact 1. And as I ate the last square of raw cookie dough in the package, I was comforted knowing that my guilty pleasures are supporting a good cause.

Orbital Fears

Last Friday, TD1 had a Cosmic Skating Girl Scout outing. Originally, we planned to go as a foursome since one T-Parent is a GS Mom and the other T-Parent is a skater. Divide and conquer.

Life happened and it ended up being just me and TD1 going. I was a little disappointed – this would have been perfect bonding time for TD1 and T-Daddy, but I had this. TD1 would skate and I’d walk beside her with one of those parent helper things to make sure she didn’t fall. We got there, saw some of our friends and walked in. All good so far.

We got TD1’s skates, laced her up and she was ready to go. Except she wasn’t.

She could barely stand without going down. I thought T-Daddy taught her how to skate. This is going to be interesting. And, she refused to use a walker.*

T-Mommy: Excuse me, can I go out there with my shoes on?
Skate Center Employee: No, only skates are allowed in the rink.

This is going to be a loooooong night. What happened to being able to walk on the floor? I thought parents could walk beside their kids?** Why didn’t I tell T-Daddy to go and I just stay home? What am I gonna do now? *fights back tears* Is it too late to leave and just sit this out?

I must have recited my answer a dozen times: No, I’m not skating. I haven’t skated in like 15-20 years, cringing each time the words came out. One of TD1’s fellow older Girl Scouts offered to go out on the floor with her. I hesitantly agreed. Three seconds later, I regretted it. TD1 was going to bring her down. I watched in horror for the next 10 minutes or so as adults and Girl Scouts – same age and older – offered to help TD1 skate around the rink. Each time, she took off like cannon, arms flailing and legs buckling. I finally decided that I couldn’t expect others to carry this burden. I slowly walked up to the counter.

T-Mommy: Do you have some rollerblades with brakes?

After a few misunderstandings, I finally got a pair of rollerblades in my size that had a brake. I slowly laced them up, bracing myself for the humiliation that awaited me. What if I fall…in front of everyone? They’re all going to be laughing and think I’m just the lamest, saddest person ever. Who agrees to take their daughter on a skating outing when THEY CAN’T SKATE!!!???

I asked for a walker and nervously made my way onto the floor. Not so bad. I went around a few times watching people still struggle to help TD1 without going down themselves. As I got more comfortable, I was able to convince TD1 to use a walker herself, and we spent the night skating around together. “I’m okay!!”, she shouted each time she went down. Then she got up and took off faster than the last time. At some point, she left me with her walker and one of her friends to skate by themselves.

Fearless. Fast. Relentless. Determined. Those were the words being used to describe this little six-year-old who didn’t let the fact that she apparently had never learned to skate stop her from having fun with her friends. She had one goal in sight: being able to keep up with her friends. And, she didn’t care how many times she had to fall or run into the sides to make it happen.

Here I was with my fears of falling and looking clumsy in front of other people orbiting around my mind to the point that I was ready to call it a night. Meanwhile, my daughter was living her life…unapologetically might I add. Talk about children leading the way. TD1 definitely led me all the way around the skating rink that night. And I’m grateful for it. I ended up having a blast and can’t wait to go back. Maybe even tonight.

*Apparently, it’s not a walker, it’s a skate trainer. I think walker sounds cooler.
**I later found out that I wasn’t crazy. The skating rink hosts a Super Tot Play n’ Skate session on Saturdays and parents are allowed to go on the floor with their gym shoes on. This does not apply to Cosmic Skating.

TD1’s Truly Outrageous 6th Birthday

Yesterday, TD1 turned six and we celebrated with  a Jem and the Holograms themed birthday party. Party guests received “VIP Passes” and were encouraged to wear their best rockstar gear. It was “Truly Outrageous!” That phrase might be stuck in my head for a while now.

TD1 was very adamant about inviting her entire class and all her friends, so we had a huge party with our family and her friends from church and school. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that meant LOTS of kids. As the days fast approached, I could feel my anxiety exploding inside of me. Would I be able to handle so many kids in one place at one time? Will everyone get along okay? Is it going to be awkward having a party at the church? Did I invite everyone I was supposed to? Are we going to be able to pull this off in two hours? What am I forgetting? What can I delegate? Who can I ask for help? What am I forgetting? Am I crazy for doing this? What am I forgetting? I made checklists and sticky notes and notes inside apps and I still couldn’t stop the spiral.

Momfession: I wanted to cancel the party. Our life right now has been disrupted in quite a few ways (good, bad and just is-what-it-is), and we’re trying to adjust to a new normal. But TD1 asked for this party. It’s all she wanted for her birthday. She’s been so excited, helping me create the invitations, pick out pictures and costumes and giving her input along the way. This was her party. So as much as I wanted to throw in the towel, my mom heart wouldn’t let me. I’m glad too. Seeing the smile on her face throughout the day made it all worth it. A very special thank you to everyone that helped with the planning, implementation and cleanup and to everyone that came out to celebrate with us. YOU GUYS ROCK!!!

The night before her big day, we were getting ready for bed and I was giving my usual hugs and kisses when it hit me. Tomorrow, I will no longer have a five-year-old. She will be six.

T-Mommy: This is your last hug as a five-year-old. Tomorrow, you’ll be six. How does it feel?
TD1: Good and confusing.
T-Mommy: Why confusing?
TD1: Because it came too fast.
T-Mommy: I feel the same way. *super big hug*

Yes, six came waaaayyy too fast. In a matter of weeks, TD1 lost her first two teeth and celebrated another birthday. She’s planning sleepovers with her classmates, talking to me about babies being born, natural disasters and people dying, trying to read everything, and having an opinion about everything. I’m watching her use her reasoning and deduction skills, practice running and exercise moves so she can be better and faster, and become more self-aware. She’s really practicing listening to her body and knowing what she needs emotionally, physically and mentally. She’s stepping up to look out for her sister. She’s being an all-around awesome human. I wish I could say it was all me and T-Daddy, but it’s not. TD1 has an awesome community of adults and children that love her and are helping to encourage awesome character traits and beliefs. The same goes for TD2. And it’s never been more evident than these last few weeks leading up to her big day.

Six isn’t a milestone birthday (unless it’s a golden birthday), but somehow this birthday seemed to be a huge milestone birthday for us. It was like a unique rite of passage for TD1. One that is a tinge bittersweet, yet abundantly joyous.

From Baby Tooth to Dream Dust

A month and a half ago, I wrote about the wiggly tooth that really was wiggly. Since then, TD1 has been wiggling and wiggling till she had a permanent “my tooth is about to come out” gap. I didn’t think she would make it to the first day of school.

She did.

The tooth even managed to survive her not-so-fun fall out of her chair earlier this week. Friday, she was able to make a 90-degree angle with her tooth, but it was still holding on.

Then it wasn’t.

I came back from running errands Saturday afternoon.

TD2: Mommy, [TD1’s] tooth came out!!! You have to see this!
T-Mommy: No way! [TD1] is this true?
TD1: Yup!
T-Mommy: It just fell out?
TD1: No, I wiggled it out.
T-Mommy: How did that happen?
TD1: Well, I was wiggling it to help it fall out and it got stuck so I had to *motions with hands* and it just came out.

TD1 lost her first baby tooth!

She showed me her tooth that she put in her special Tooth Fairy can so it wouldn’t get lost. I was not ready for how cute it looked. Actually, I’m a little creeped out by all the feels I felt towards this now dead body part.

I had a few more errands to run before church, so I promised her we’d work on her Tooth Fairy letter after church. Of course, she went straight to sleep after church. Does this mean the Tooth Fairy should wait or still come tonight? While I was pondering what the Tooth Fairy would do, she woke up and I reminded her we had work to do. This letter wouldn’t write itself!

True to her nature, TD2 was super excited and couldn’t stop herself from looking at TD1’s tooth, causing her to temporarily lose it while TD1 was writing her letter. Thank God that TD2 has awesome memory and eyesight better than both her parents. Level 1000 tantrum averted!

We wrote our letter and went to bed. While we were sleeping, the Tooth Fairy visited TD1 and left her a dream dust-covered letter.

TD1: I think next time we should write her a letter that says “Thank you for writing me and leaving me a special $2. I LOVE IT!”

And just like that, my baby is growing up.

T4 Goes Camping

A few months ago, a couple parents from our church’s playgroup decided to plan a weekend camping trip. Dates were picked. A location was picked. Reservations were made. Life went on.

Then it was time.

Five families. 10 adults. 10 kids. Three tents. Two cabins. One weekend.

Getting to the campsite was an adventure. Not knowing what to expect and forever the worrier, I packed for every situation my overactive brain could create. It still felt like I was forgetting something. We could barely fit the four of us in the car. It took longer than it should have to walk out the house and actually get on the road, but we made it to O’Connell’s Yogi Bear Park in Amboy, IL. It was Pirate’s Weekend and packed. There were tents everywhere. Annnnd, we had no service.

The girls TD1 played at the group campsite while T-Daddy and I unloaded the car. TD2 managed to give 10 adults several heart attacks within a 30-minute time span running back and forth between the campsite and our cabin. She had apparently memorized the route in the five seconds before her runaway streak began. This was gonna be a fun weekend.

We hung out around the fire for a couple hours before heading back to our cabin to call it a night. It seemed like forever before the TDs’ excitement came down to a level conducive to sleeping. I incorrectly assumed there would be two twin beds – TDs in one; T-Parents in the other. I packed two sets of twin sheets and two pillows. T-Daddy and I could share a pillow and the girls could share the other. We had two bunk beds with a full on the bottom and a twin on top. Each girl wanted their own twin bed and agreed to take turns with the blanket and pillow. T-Daddy and I used two twin-sized sheets to cover a full mattress and hoped for the best.

Every 30 seconds, my eyes jumped open and scanned the floor for one of the girls. Turns out, they were just wrestling with the wall and ceiling, not actually falling out the bed. At some point, they both got down and ended up in bed with T-Daddy and I. That was some great sleep. T-Daddy took TD2 to the community outhouse and they both moved to the top bunk when they got back. Somehow, I managed to get up before the rest of T4 and behave as a functioning adult.

T-Daddy tried to start a fire in our fire pit to cook bacon, but apparently we needed a bodybag’s worth of firewood to be able to do anything but inhale smoke. We ended up using the group’s fire before heading fishing.

The girls had a blast fishing. TD1 caught three fish and TD2 caught one. I have to say: 1. I never thought I’d touch a live fish. 2. Tryna yank a hook out a fish’s mouth seems like a new level of fish torture. I almost wanted to just learn how to gut and cook it rather than throw it back in the water. 3. I’m not sure how worried I should be that my daughters thoroughly enjoyed cutting worms in half and sinking a hook in them.

After fishing, we had lunch then went on the Heyride of Water Torture. We drove around the campgrounds while people pointed hoses and threw water balloons at us. Parents tried to shield and/or comfort their screaming kids. As I used my body to block TD2 from getting wet, I felt like Luke Cage…except for he’s bulletproof and I’m hardly waterproof.

The rest of the day pretty much consisted of the pool, watching the cardboard boat regatta, dinner and hanging out around the campfire. It was a fun and relaxing day, minus one unfortunate bathroom incident which may or may not involved me trying to get TD2 to rinse off in the shower. We walked in the shower and upon seeing a clump of hair over the drain, she immediately started screaming “No yucky! I don’t want to step in the yucky. Don’t put me in the yucky.” I held her up so that the water could run over her, but I’m not entirely convinced she didn’t walk away from that incident unscathed.

When it was time to retreat back to our cabin, the girls passed directly out. T-Daddy and I took the opportunity to have some quiet (after the camp-wide pool party ended), child-free time under the stars. Staring up at the sky, watching stars shoot across the vastness then disappear was mesmerizing.

The next morning, we packed up our cabin and met our group for breakfast. The kids played while the parents talked. Then everyone went their separate ways.

All in all, the camping trip was fun and I had a great time getting to know the other families better. Once I got over the initial shock of not having a signal, it was actually quite relaxing being disconnected. I don’t think I’ll ever be a public/shared bathroom person, but I enjoyed being outdoors. T4 will definitely go camping again.

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?
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.

Just searching for my not-so-secret treasure