“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One day over the summer, I went to my regularly scheduled therapy session and we had a very good session. One of those sessions that reaffirms why I continue to give up an hour, plus travel time, every other week. Then, I was hit with the bombshell: “I’m letting all of my patients know that I’ll be leaving the practice in a few weeks.” I tried my best not to fall apart right there in the office, but inside I felt like Damon was on another one of his mean streaks and had his hand on my heart ready to rip it out just to show me he could if he wanted to. (That’s a Vampire Diaries reference if you don’t get it.)
This is my second therapist at this practice – my first one left shortly after I finished testing and was diagnosed with anxiety. She was leaving to finish her dissertation overseas. I cried. She recommended this therapist because he specialized in some of the areas that were triggering my anxiety. We got along great and I had been seeing him pretty much from diagnosis up until now – for more than a year. Together, he and I have made a lot of headway in managing my anxiety. And now, because of family reasons, he had to move back home and I had to start all over with someone else. I did not take this news well. I wasn’t sure I wanted to start over with a new person. What if we didn’t get along as well? What if having to rehash my history and certain situations/events caused me to regress and relapse?
I used the metaphor of burn wounds versus regular wounds to express how I was feeling to my therapist. I’m nowhere near a medical expert, but on Grey’s Anatomy, sometimes the burn patients have to endure these long treatments of pulling off the burnt skin so that the new skin can grow and they can heal properly. Judging from their screams, tears and cries, it’s soul-wrenching. On the other end, if you keep picking at a wound and don’t allow it to properly heal, infection can set in. So which one was I in this new instance – burn wound or infected scab picker? Only time would tell.
Just as I was starting to come around to the idea of having a new therapist (I decided not to quit therapy after a meet and greet with the new therapist – I liked her vibe), I received a phone call from the TDs’ pediatric clinic. Their doctor was leaving the practice and we would be seeing a new person for their upcoming doctor’s appointment. I tried to tell them I didn’t want to schedule an appointment with someone new without first talking to their doctor, but they weren’t trying to hear me. They told me a letter would be coming in the mail next week that explained everything and if I had more questions, I could call back. (It took more like a month and a half for that letter to arrive. It was a generic letter and didn’t explain much of anything.) I got off the phone and swallowed my tears.
I love the girls’ doctor. T-Daddy and I picked her out when we were pregnant with TD1, which means she has been in our life for five years, as a partner raising our daughters. We haven’t always been able to see her for impromptu visits, but every scheduled appointment has been with her. And when the girls were seeing someone else, she always made it a point to stop in and check on them. She answered every question we had as first- and second-time parents. She never forced a vaccine or procedure on us that we were uncomfortable with. She never judged our parenting methods (co-sleeping anyone??). She judged TD1 and TD2 by their own development curve and not some standard one-size-fits-no-one model. She trusted us and we trusted her. Our girls adore her. They look forward to seeing her every 6-12 months. That type of relationship isn’t built overnight.
One week – two relationships ended. Just like that. It became so clear to me very quickly how the relationships we form with our doctors can be just as real and impactful as those we form with friends and coworkers. We see them regularly. We entrust them with vulnerable parts of our lives and before we know it, a connection, a bond has been formed. And it hurts when that bond is broken.
My new therapist and I are getting along great. I trusted my old therapist when he recommended her and I think she’s in a position to offer me a unique and valuable perspective as I continue to manage my anxiety. The verdict is still out on the TDs’ new pediatrician. They have an appointment with her scheduled for this Friday, which we plan to use as our meet and greet since she was too booked to do it beforehand. But, T-Daddy and I are already exploring the option of finding a new clinic/office/hospital. We don’t particularly care for the hospital that their pediatrician worked out of, but we loved her so we stayed. Now that she’s no longer seeing them, we’re free agents, ready and willing to explore our options. It feels like we’re dating again – looking for the perfect doctor to be our partner in parentdom.
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!!
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!”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One day not too long ago, the girls and I came home after running some errands. Before we could get settled, I noticed a HUGE flying black thing with a stinger. I quickly evacuated my apartment and texted T-Daddy. There’s a wasp hornet thing in the apt. The girls, my sister and I sat in the car while I waited for him to text back. After about 30 minutes and no reply text. I called him and it was decided that we’d just have to wait until he could come home and kill it. So, we all went to our favorite neighborhood bar and grill.
I ate pork tacos, the girls enjoyed kids’ meals complete with ice cream to-go and we were headed to the library when I heard those dreaded words: I have to goooooooooooo. Me toooooooooo.
T-Mommy: Can you hold it till we get home? We’re like 3 minutes away.
TD1: But what about the flying thing? Did Daddy kill it already?
Crap! I forgot about that. The whole reason we’re here in the first place.
And, it was at that very moment that I reached a new low in Mommydom – I contemplated letting the girls pee/poop in a pull-up. Then I realized I didn’t have any on me. Public restroom it is.