Tag Archives: Life Lessons

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?

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.

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.

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.

Bye Bye Fishie

When TD2 turned two, my loving aunt decided to get the girls a fish for TD2’s birthday. It was a Betta fish and she was kind enough to provide the tank and food. Still, I protested. “If the girls didn’t scream my name, I’d forget to feed them. There’s no way imma be able to take care of this fish.”

Fast forward 16 months and we were doing good. Until we went to Nebraska last month. We were only gone 2 days, but as soon as we got back, one of the first things I did was feed Fishie (TD2 named it).

“Baaaaaaabe!!!! Come here. Fishie doesn’t look too good.” 

For the first time since having Fishie thrust in our lives, I felt something. I immediately began googling to see what was wrong with him. At 11:53 p.m. on a Friday, I raced to a new Walmart (because our regular one didn’t have what I needed) to get some medicine and a different kind of food to help a fish I had never been emotionally invested in start to feel better. The tears were beginning to well up in my chest. Oh God! The girls are gonna be so sad. God please let this work.

Over the next three days, he began to look better. I woke up Tuesday and raced to the fish tank. It had become a part of my morning routine and I was eager to see how much Fishie had improved. He hadn’t. He had regressed to the point of no coming back. I told T-Daddy and then I just kind of kept staring at the tank, hoping I could will him back to life.

When the girls woke up, T-Daddy and I decided to tell them together and give him a proper flushing before T-Daddy left for work.
T-Mommy: Girls, Mommy and Daddy have something very important to tell you.

T-Daddy: It’s also very sad.
TD1: What is it?
T-Mommy: When Mommy woke up this morning, Fishie…
TD1: Died? I wanna see.
TD2: Me too!!

img_6701
NOT Fishie. May he R.I.P.

The TDs seemed entirely a little too enthusiastic about seeing a dead fish. TD1 asked if we could bury it in the backyard instead of flush it. When I told her that we didn’t have a backyard to do so, she wanted to bury it in the park. We attempted to go to the park later that day and the next, but we never made it. I flushed Fishie on our way out the next morning and we had a short moment of silence.

Every so often, TD1 will tell me, “Mommy, I sad our fish died. Can we get another one?” “Yes, sweetie we will. Mommy’s sad too!”

9+6=15+1=16: Our First Year of Marriage

Today marks our one-year anniversary, and I must say, it went by fast. In honor of our first year of marriage, here are 16 things I learned about Wifedom this past year:

  1. I’m selfish. Before I got married, I considered myself a very loving and giving person. Right before we got married, T-Daddy and I went through pre-marital mentoring (I highly recommend some sort of pre-marital counseling or mentoring for all engaged couples) with a lovely older couple at our church, and we continue to sign up for coed Bible study groups. I also did a 30-day prayer challenge on FB, which led to me joining a small-knit wives’ support group. What I’ve taken away from all of this is that I’m a lot more focused on “What’s in it for me?” than I realized. When T-Daddy doesn’t act the way I think he should or do what makes me happy/comfortable/etc., I get upset and conversations take place. My view on our marriage revolves around how he makes me feel. I’ve done a few marriage challenges that required I focus on T-Daddy – his happiness, his likes, dislikes, worries, dreams, goals, etc., and each time praying for him or affirming him when I was upset at him caused me to act outside of how I felt. The result was a change in my own heart and feelings, and sometimes it even shined an inward mirror causing me to re-evaluate my own self.
  2. I know nothing about marriage. See #1. Seriously. I’m the product of divorced parents and I made a vow to myself when I was a pre-pubescent child that I would never get divorced. I’ve grown some and learned a little about relationships, but that sentiment is still very strong. So I’m determined to make my marriage work. In my quest to learn as much as possible about successful marriages, I’ve realized I don’t know anything. Most of the ideals I had about marriage came from a variety of places, but I can’t say that many of them came from the right places. There are these ideas about marrying the person that makes you happy or is “the one” and they pretty much set you up for failure.
  3. It takes three. For five years, T-Daddy and I tried to do this by ourselves. And we failed miserably. There were a lot of mistakes, heartache, blame and immaturity floating around to end a thousand relationships. It wasn’t until we both started earnestly working on ourselves and our relationship that things changed. During our pre-marital mentoring, we were strongly encouraged to get serious about our relationship with God – consistently going to church, reading the Word, praying (with and for each other), asking for God’s direction and then heeding it. So we did. And I can honestly say that we are leaps and bounds further and better than we were just a year ago.
  4. My marriage is as good as what I focus on. Pretty self-explanatory. When I focus on all the ways T-Daddy annoys me, I can easily find myself wondering why I’m with him and if I made a mistake. Is there somebody else out there that’s better compatible with me….blah…blah…blah. When I focus on all things I like about him or the things that he does that makes me happy, I find myself wanting to shower him with love and praises. What I focus on dictates how I see him – World’s Greatest Husband or World’s Worst Man Ever. And how I see him determines how I treat him, which plays a part in how he treats me.
  5. My marriage is my business. Not everyone will agree with how T-Daddy and I choose to live our lives. Some people will just nod and keep their thoughts to themselves, but others will gladly voice their opinions. A few may even try to persuade us that we’re wrong and need to do it their way. It can be so easy to get caught up in others’ opinions of our lives that we lose focus on who we are as individuals and as a couple. Also, we’re human and sometimes we do some pretty messed up stuff. Unfortunately, when we’re ready to forgive each other, our friends and family may not be so ready to forgive. Things are just easier if we keep some stuff to ourselves.
  6. Time together is a must. We have two kids under the age of five. Free time is a magical unicorn with three horns. We work. Friends want to hang out with us (and not always the two of us together). We have individual interests. We want to sleep. So it can be pretty hard to squeeze in time together – even with a standing weekly date (hey, sometimes we fall asleep on each other. Not sexy, but real). But whenever too much time has gone by without us spending some real quality time together, it shows. We get out of sync on small things like our daily routine. We become at odds with each other. A little QT and most of that gets fixed.IMG_6592
  7. Sex still feels a little taboo. We’ve lived in sin for the majority of our relationship, and sometimes it can be hard to remember that we’re legit now. I don’t have to be ashamed about talking about birth control methods with my midwife. I don’t need to get sheepish or bow my head when sex comes up in therapy, a church sermon or a study group. Yet, I still find myself going “Oh yea, it’s okay now. We’re married.”
  8. Being married doesn’t mean that birth control is no longer a problem. It’s no secret that T-Daddy and I had kids before we were married, and most of the conversations we had with family and friends all centered around why we weren’t using some kind of birth control if we weren’t married (we were…they failed, but that’s a totally different topic). The assumption being that our unplanned pregnancies were only a problem because we were not married. However, we have two beautiful girls that we love so much, and we’re satisfied. We don’t want anymore kids, and now the same problems we had in choosing a birth control method that works for us pre-marriage are the same problems we’re having now post-marriage.
  9. We made things a lot harder than they had to be. T-Daddy and I have been through some things that really rocked our relationship. And the worst part is that we didn’t have to go through that stuff. We could have avoided a lot of drama and stress if we both had acted differently. But hey, you live and you learn.
  10. I’m actually grateful for a lot of the stuff we went through. Don’t get me wrong, it sucked. I have some serious emotional PTSD behind some of the stuff we both did. (Guilt and regret are horrible bedtime companions). But, now that T-Daddy and I are older and more mature, I’m able to look back and learn from a lot of that. I can see our mistakes and our resiliency. And I’m grateful we made it through the storm. I’m grateful that we went through some pretty bad stuff early on and made it because it gives me reassurance and hope that we can make it through whatever obstacles are yet to come.
  11. I want TD1 and TD2 to marry a man like their father. T-Daddy’s pretty awesome. He loves me and he’s committed to our family. The girls will choose whoever they choose, but if he’s at least half the man their father is, I’ll be proud.
  12. Respecting and submitting to T-Daddy is pretty important to me. I may not always get these two right, but I always strive to do them. It’s important to me that I’m a living example for my daughters of what it looks like when a wife respects and submits to her husband.
  13. I didn’t just marry him; I married his friends and family. They’re mine now and my love for him has to extend to them. The more I love them – flaws and all – the more I allow them to enrich my life and I’m able to fully appreciate what he sees in them.
  14. I’m a better wife to him when I’m a better me to me. All that to say that I have to do a better job of taking care of myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. When all parts of me are balanced, I don’t unload my baggage onto him and we can actually enjoy our marriage.
  15. T-Daddy’s laugh is the best medicine. I love his smile and his laugh and I love being able to share in it with him. Nothing feels better than when we’re just hanging out and one of us does something funny and we just erupt in that deep belly gut laughter. No matter what’s going on in life, at that moment, everything is just A-OK.
  16. T-Daddy is the one…I’m married to and that’s all that matters. I’m committed to continuously striving to be my best self for him and our marriage. We’re a team. Partners for life.

Don’t Touch. And Always Ask

Since the Stanford rape case a couple of months ago, I’ve given even more thought than usual to rape, how we handle it and what we tell our children about it. The way that case was handled was absolutely ridiculous. A young lady was violated and the nation read how sad it was that her attacker could no longer enjoy a good steak. I’m sorry, but she can no longer enjoy her body. That beats a good steak any day.

But, this case also reminded me of all the cases I’ve read about where innocent men had their lives ruined because some woman lied about the consensual sex that took place. I’m not saying this to take away from the Stanford victim’s pain and abuse. I’m saying that rarely do I read a rape case and walk away feeling like justice was served. It’s usually not – either an innocent man was framed or a victim was shamed. Both are losses. And it’s disturbing, especially as a mother of two young girls who I have to school on navigating this mess. I’m not just concerned about teaching them not to feel ashamed of their clothes and sexual choices (rape victim respectability politics), but I’m also concerned about teaching them accountability for their own actions and words. As important as it is for me to teach TD1 and TD2 to love and own who they are, it’s also important to me that I teach them to look out for the young men who they will encounter and befriend and not throw them under the bus because of shame or regret.

kidnoI need them to understand the world we live in and the laws that could very innocently ruin all of their lives. I want them to understand that yes women get raped and it’s horrible, but it’s not always men or even strangers that do that raping (and rape won’t always be violent). And yes, less talked about women rape men. And then some women, for whatever reasons, lie about men raping them. And then there are people who find themselves in situations that unfortunately result in criminal charges (here’s looking at you underage sexers and sexters.)

As much as I want my children to wait until marriage to have sex, I know that’s not a decision I can make for them. And if they choose to have consensual sex with someone who is a year or two older than them, I don’t want that someone to go to jail for being a willing participant in something they both wanted. Likewise, I don’t want to see myself or T-Daddy go to jail because the girls were caught with a boy in their room and, for fear of getting in trouble, they lied and said he broke in and was trying to rape them. And because we love our daughters, we reacted in the moment and did something that can’t be undone. All of these situations are real situations that I have read about over the years.

I want them to know that consent is not the same thing as desire. And as much as they may want to have sex, if they have not given the green light, that desire does not matter. They don’t have to “lie there and take it,” just because someone tells them “you know you really want this.” I need them to know that if they’re having a bad day and don’t want to be touched, it’s okay to say that. Their body is their body and no one has the right to force themselves on them, even under the guise of “this will make you feel better.” I want them to know that they can say “No” at any time. It doesn’t matter how far they’ve already gone. They always have the right to change their mind. Even if that someone is their boyfriend or husband. What they shouldn’t do is after they’ve had consensual sex, say “You know what? I really didn’t want to do that and even though I said yes, I didn’t want to, so I’m going to say he assaulted me.” No, that’s not assault. That’s a bad decision, sweetheart. And Mommy and Daddy have made a lot of those.

I want them to know that it’s important to explicitly state their intentions and permission. This is something that I teach them now. As much as I love hugs and kisses from them. We tell them they have to ask Mommy and Daddy for a hug and kiss. They can’t just take it. They have to respect personal space. And if Mommy and Daddy say “Not right now,” they have to respect that as well. AND they have every right to tell Mommy and Daddy, “I don’t want a hug/kiss right now.” We ask them for hugs and kisses. We don’t tell them to hug and kiss us. We don’t take them. And we try really hard to make sure that our family and friends obey these rules. Many of our old school family don’t quite understand it. But you can’t raise a boy or girl in an environment where those they “love” are constantly taking hugs and kisses from them and you tell them it’s okay because this is family, someone they know, someone they love and not expect them to become men and women who think it is okay to touch someone without their permission. To think that if their boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse kisses them when they’re not in the mood, that they have to accept it because of who this person is to them. Also, it’s sick, but let’s not pretend like aunts, uncles, cousins, mothers and fathers aren’t out here molesting kids. They are. And all children need to know that if someone creeps them out, they don’t have to let them place their wet lips on them.

Too often we teach our girls to not be easy and say yes the first time, while teaching our boys that if she says no, they just need to try harder till she says yes. WRONG! We should teach our daughters to say, “I like you, but you need to show me you’re worth my time and you aren’t playing games that I have no time for and am not interested in playing.” We need to teach our boys that if she says no, she means no. Don’t try to wear her down. Respect her enough to respect her decision. If she’s missing out on a great guy, that’s her loss. If we teach our kids to play these cat and mouse games about first dates and kisses, how can we be surprised when they spill over into the realm of sex? (And I won’t even get started on this whole teach our girls to be pure virgins till death while teaching our guys to go out and sow their wild oats BS – that’s a topic for another day.)

I want my children to know that rape and assault are never their fault. Yes, they can do certain things to “help lower their risk,” but it’s no more fool-proof than always wearing your seatbelt, driving the speed limit and never driving intoxicated or distracted. Someone who’s not doing those things can still hit you. You wouldn’t be blamed in that accident and you shouldn’t be blamed if someone violates you. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, how much you’re drinking, how much sex you’ve had or who you’ve had it with. If you didn’t consent to this person, they are wrong. Point. Blank. The End.

But the issue of consent brings up a very touchy subject. Intoxication. Alcohol. Drugs. The law says an intoxicated person can’t give permission to have sex with them. I don’t know very many people that haven’t had consensual sex under the influence. That does not in any way discount the testimonies of the unconscious victims. It just makes it a very sticky situation that I don’t have the answer to. But, I want my daughters to fully understand the ramifications of getting drunk and engaging in sexual activity. This is where I feel torn. On one hand, I wholeheartedly believe every rapist should be punished. On the other hand, I can’t in good conscience say that every intoxicated woman doesn’t know what she’s doing so she can’t consent to sex, but an intoxicated man should know better than to have sex with someone without permission. As a woman, I find offense to that because that’s saying that I’m helpless when I’ve been drinking simply because I’m a woman. It also implies that men should still be in control even when they’re intoxicated. And for male victims of rape, that can be a dangerous implication. Because if I’m a victim (male or female), I wouldn’t want the fact that I’ve been drinking to be used to imply that I wanted sex or that I’m promiscuous.

Sober people get raped. Drunk people get raped. Sober people rape. Drunk people rape. Sober people get together and have consensual sex. Drunk people get together and have consensual sex. Alcohol complicates things because it affects everyone differently. Some people can appear just fine and not remember anything the next day. I’ve dated guys and had friends where I’ve had to explain to them in detail what happened the night before because they didn’t remember it. They didn’t seem pass out drunk at the time either. I also know people that have seemed sloppy drunk and remembered every single detail of everything they did. When you’ve been drinking or the other person has, it can be hard to judge which type of person they are. If you’re young and you think you’re just going to have “awesome, drunk sex” with a consenting person, it can be difficult to think of the ramifications of those actions.

I know plenty of people that love having “drunk sex.” And their partners agree. The difference between them and these campus rapes are that they are in a committed relationship, said drunken sex is probably taking place in a private space with no witnesses, and there is consent. But let’s not pretend like significant others don’t get drunk and rape their partners. They do. Because what was consensual one time can very easily not be the next time. And because rape is having sex with someone without their consent, it’s applied to every instance of sex. So those early morning rollover, wake the other person up with sex sessions can very easily be defined as rape. Particularly if your partner isn’t receptive to it. The problem is that we tend to only look at rape as one way. We tend to only look at rapists and victims under one light. But it’s all very multifaceted and complicated.

I don’t have a solution to rape and the rape culture we live in. I’m sure some of my thoughts might even have been influenced by said culture. What I do have is a desire to talk openly and candidly about sex, consent, rape or any other topics they want and answer any questions they have. To teach my children to respect others and their personal space. Regardless of intoxication, gender, or relationship status. To let them know the other person can always say no, and they can too. Whenever, there’s a question about whether they have consent, just don’t touch. If they’re unsure about if this is what they really want, it’s okay to say “Don’t touch me.” And, if in the off chance they do cross a line, to own up to it, apologize and accept the consequences of their actions. Sometimes, we cross boundaries simply because we didn’t know it was a boundary. Sometimes, we cross boundaries to see if we can get away it. And to never, ever lie on someone else to save face. That’s a person’s life you’re ruining.

Whether you’re accusing someone of a rape they didn’t commit or you’re trying to shame your victim to make you seem less of a predator, it’s wrong. It has real emotional implications beyond the legal ones. And God forbid, if they’re ever the victims of rape, it’s not their fault. EVER! Mommy, Daddy and God still loves them just the same.

I want to teach them all this and more, but right now, we simply start with don’t touch. And always ask.

When Mental Illness and Friendship Collide

I don’t know about you but when I picture a person suffering from depression, I picture someone who has cut off all communication with the outside world and is now cuddled in a corner of their apartment with tear-stained cheeks. Their hair is disheveled and they probably reek of decomposing bodies. Even as someone who suffers from anxiety and desperately wants my friends and family to not judge, but have empathy and understanding. My views of mental illness is probably on par with the stereotypical images we are bombarded with – even though I have an elevated awareness of the need to ignore those images and offer compassion.

My first day of high school, I met a girl and we clicked instantly over our love of JT. It would be the cornerstone that years of friendship were built upon. As time went on, we remained really good friends and were accepted by each other’s families despite traveling in different social circles. When I first started dating T-Daddy, she was the first person I thought of because of something she said to me that first day we met. It would become an inside joke that never grew old no matter how old we grew. Ironically, our friendship also started to disintegrate around that time.

Friendship-mentalillnessThe exact timeline of events is fuzzy now, as I don’t remember what happened first. My friend told me she was shaving her head. Her mom called to tell me she was in a mental health ward for evaluation and asked me to go visit – I did and was told no one by that name had been admitted. My friend called me to tell me that I was a “horrible friend” that constantly talked down to her and always made her feel bad about herself and she could no longer have a person like me in her life. She reached out to me to tell me that she wasn’t herself when she said those things but was getting the help she needed and very much so wanted me to be a part of her life. She shared some pretty shocking and unbelievable things about her family life. She reached out to me after the birth of TD1 and said she couldn’t wait to meet her. I had to silently decide if I thought my once close friend was a threat to my child – I didn’t know. She called me on my birthday and sang me a very entertaining and heartwarming birthday song. We connected on social media, where more than a few of her posts were borderline disturbing.

Eventually, I determined that she had me on a yo-yo and for my own sanity, I needed to cut the cord. I couldn’t discern what was truth and what was a result of whatever she was dealing with. It wasn’t hard at first, she never made an effort to call and neither did I. Then one day she did. I didn’t know whether to accept it or decline. It went to voicemail before I decided. I listened to the voicemail and decided I wasn’t ready to let her back in my life. She never called again. And just like that, a decade-long friendship ended. Even as I write this, I’m fighting back tears. She was one of my closest friends and I’m saddened by the path our friendship eventually took.

When I was diagnosed with anxiety, she was one of the first people I thought of. I can’t remember what her exact diagnosis is (it wasn’t anxiety), but I wondered if she felt the way I felt at that moment. Would my friends now decide that, for their own sanity, they could no longer deal with me? Did I act too hastily or unempathetically in how I handled the situation? Should I reach out to her? Was it too late?

I didn’t reach out to her. I’m still struggling to understand what all my anxiety entails and the last thing I need to add to my life right now is more confusion. But I do think about her from time to time. Not all the time. Not even once a month. Just when something reminds me of her or the jokes we shared or the time I spent in her apartment. And when I do, I pray that she’s okay. That she’s getting the help she needs to deal with whatever she’s going through. And I wonder if I really did handle our friendship in the best way. Was there something I could have done differently? Not so much that we could still be friends, but so that she knew I really did love and care for her.

And it makes me wonder: in dealing with my own struggles with anxiety, what am I teaching my own daughters about interacting with those that have internal wars we don’t understand? I hope that I’m teaching them how to draw appropriate boundaries, but also to care about others. To lend a helping hand, but also know when someone needs more help than they can give. And to love them regardless, even if it’s from afar. It’s a delicate balance. And as someone that’s been on both sides, I know how sad it is to lose a friend that is going through something you don’t understand and how lonely it is to feel like no one truly understands so you have to go through it alone. I don’t want TD1 and TD2 to be on either side of that war.

But it’s a war that more people than we realize fight, so how do I prepare them?

*May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Let’s each do our part to spark a much needed conversation.

We Rocked the Vote

A couple years ago, T-Daddy and I made the decision to expose the TDs to the election process by allowing them to tag along the next time we voted. In my head, it would go something like this: Get the girls up and dressed, head to the polling place, vote, talk about what happened over a nice special breakfast and drop them off at school before going to work. As Election Day got closer, the plan became: watch some debates as a family, talk about why they were important, go to work/school on Election Day, pick the girls up, go vote as a family, discuss what just happened over a special dinner.
 It’s finally Election Day, so how did it actually go? Well, for starters, we didn’t watch any of the debates. T-Daddy and I were mad last minute scrambling to research the candidates. (In all fairness, that’s still more than I’ve done in previous elections, so it’s progress.) My appointment with my midwife had to be rescheduled for Tuesday night due to an emergency (after I cancelled therapy so we could have extended family time). This gave us a short window to vote and do dinner but, hey I’m the queen of cramming as much stuff in as I can, so universe bring it! I went to work; T-Daddy dropped the girls off at school. Found out he had a meeting scheduled for the time we were supposed to be voting, so T-Daddy went and voted solo. I picked the girls up and we went to the polling place. On the five-minute ride over, we talked about elections and what it means to vote. Apparently TD1’s teacher had already explained this to her. We signed in, waited about 10 minutes, then it was go time!

TD1 wanted to know who I voted for. I told her we’d talk about it when Daddy came home. Meanwhile, TD2 wanted to touch everything. I compromised and let them take turns pressing the next button. They wanted to “do it all by myself. Don’t help me.” So I didn’t. We finished voting, got our stickers and took a picture by the American flag. 

Then I decided to take them to the park. We’d just done our civic duty; why not have a little fun? T-Daddy met us up there. I went to my appointment, came home, and we ate dinner (late) as a family where TD1 asked,

Mommy, Daddy, who did you vote for?