29tolife

Just another WordPress.com site

Archive for the category “Family”

A Mother’s Love Will Transcend Mental Illness

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and for all of us– whether you have a great relationship with your mom, or you don’t, or she’s passed away or still with us– people take the time to reflect on the power and love of moms.

I think that’s a good thing, because none of us would be here without our mothers (we literally couldn’t live without them for 9 months), and I’m told that becoming a mother is a unique experience that infuses you with a love you’ve never experienced before, but can’t imagine living without once you’ve crossed that threshold.

Mother’s Day is emotional for a lot of people, and for very different reasons, and it should be.

It gives us time to be thankful for not only the women who brought us into the world and cared for us, but all of the women standing in the gap when maybe our own biological mothers couldn’t be mentally or physically present.

It gives us an opportunity to show love to our friends who are mothers and to let them know, “You’re doing a great job, keep it up.”

I tend to feel strange about Mother’s Day because of the situation with my mother. I’ve spoken about this before on this blog, but I want to reach out to children of mothers struggling with mental illness specifically.

Mother’s Day can be difficult, but try to be present and show your love the best way you can. Even if it’s just saying to your mom, “I love you.” Or, “Thank you.” She still needs to hear it.

When I was younger, all I wanted was for my mother to be fixed, healed and back to herself. I wondered if there were ways I could give her a push. I wanted her problems solved, her pains eased, and I wanted to go back to having a normal life. I cared about her, but I cared about me. I cared about what I felt I was lacking because my mom just couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t leave the house, she couldn’t put on her nice clothes and be her old self. She was selfish, I was the child. Why was she putting me in this awful position? I still needed her. I was robbed.

Now that I’m older, I can’t imagine how difficult that must be. For your world to change, to know you have a teenage daughter and a husband and a grown daughter far away, but you are out of gas. You can’t keep up with the life you built for yourself, and maybe that life somehow became a prison. What is it like to not feel like you have a support system to start trying to let people know something’s not right before getting swallowed whole.

I think of arguments I’ve had with my mother and they were always about me and my loss and my anger and what I needed from her. I think of moments where I didn’t try hard enough when she was trying to be present, and how much that probably hurt, because on that day, it was probably the very best she could do, but I was still mad, and that effort wasn’t good enough, because only good enough was her going back to normal. But my vision of normal may have been the hell that broke her. Keeping that up for me and for my father and for everyone else, may have just been too much.

I was very jealous of friends who had close relationships with their mothers, and knew it would be a miracle to ever get my mother out of our house to go to a tea, or spa, or fancy brunch.

I’m madly in love right now (it’s about time, right) and I think of marriage often. I think about my wedding day and I also think about feeling a sense of emptiness on one of the most happiest days of my life, because as I’m getting ready, I will have a circle of women friends and family I hold near and dear, but my mother will be missing from another major life event because of her paranoia, depression and anxiety.

I get sad thinking about my father having to support his child in this moment, but not be able to share it with his wife together as happy, proud parents.

Because it’s Mother’s Day, I don’t want to make this post about me and the loss I feel. But over time, I do feel like I’ve come to accept things for what they are. Keep in mind this has taken nearly 20 years. I accept and understand the fragility of all of our emotional and spiritual well being and there are things we may never ever know about the people we love, the past traumas hidden deep, and burdens our loved ones shoulder to protect us.

I do believe that my mother gave all she could give to me prior to her illness and what she gave me was enough. She got me to 16 and in some ways, she still has me. It’s just different now. I had so many women throughout my life step in and nurture me, guide me and cheer me on, no matter what state I lived in.

They may have been older than me, they may have been peers, they may have been mothers or aunties of my friends who I connected with or who saw something in me to give me some special love.

We are a community. So if you are a child of a mother who has a mental illness, or even dealt with issues around substance abuse, or maybe your mother is incarcerated. These circumstances will make you feel self-conscious about who you are, it will make you afraid that you will become your mother and manage to hurt the people you love the same way her circumstance hurt you, it may even make you ashamed or even over protective of your mother and you stress yourself out over what the world may perceive your mother to be or not be.

Having that struggle is okay. Don’t avoid asking yourself all of those questions, don’t ignore being angry about what’s happening to your family. All of your feelings are real and valid. But it is on you to figure out how to heal and it is on you to actually take the necessary steps to heal.

Now as an adult woman and being a friend to other women and hearing the stories of their lives, there’s absolutely no shame in our moms who struggle. Yes, their struggle is more visible, but they still struggle. Part of my mom’s illness is probably directly connected to her wanting to appear strong and in control and I see that in her when I visit.

I know so many women who have dealt with great losses, who have endured mental and physical abuse (almost always by people who should be protecting and loving them– never creepy strangers as we are led to believe), and have suffered in silence for years and years. Then the expectation is that they forget and carry on as if nothing happened.

They carry this pain while fighting off their own insecurities and the ones tossed at them by society. All of this secret pain happening is happening in far too many women. So it makes me think of our mothers and our mothers’ mothers who lived in very different times. They didn’t go to or couldn’t afford therapy or even luxurious vacations or spa trips. They had to really live with their pain. Swallow it, and be expected to smile, take care of children, grown men and not nurture their own spirits.

The neglect of a woman’s spirit has serious consequences to families and to society.

Our mothers paid in pain so maybe we’d at least have a little less. In their deepest hopes lies our happiness and success, even if they never come close to having it themselves. The generational emotional sacrifices mother’s make can’t even be quantified. Mothers can look down the road and see what’s ahead and they sacrifice themselves to make our journey a bit easier. They know what it is to be a woman, they know the burden.

I know my mother loves me. I know she worries about me and I know she wants me to be happy. She always asks about my health, if I have enough money and if my love life is good. No matter her condition, she’s always asked about what I NEEDED.

Gaining this deeper understanding makes me realize that a mother’s love can transcend mental illness just as it can physical illnesses or distance. We may never know the toughest decisions our mothers had to make to save us, to keep us alive and to keep our spirits alive so we could thrive and know something better, even if their lives are a reminder of the importance of our self care and our mental health.

Advertisements

10 Ways to Meet Your Mate More Socially Acceptable than Online

I became privy to an interesting conversation recently.
Guy and girl meet online. They chat, the chatting upgrades to phone calls, the phone calls upgrade to meeting in person, several dates and a few months later, these two are an item.
They are getting along famously. Guy asks girl to meet his folks, and girl says yes.
She meets the folks, it all goes great and they discuss the verdict coming in from guy’s family.
She passes with flying colors. Even with Guy’s mom.
But there’s a catch. The Aunties have given their blessing, and in the excitement of it all asked guy where he met girl. He casually responds online, and the aunties’ faces fall. They begin to worry, and exchange tales of woe, failed marriages and stolen organs sold on the black market.
And hence the online meeting versus meeting someone in person age-old debate began. Which led to the even deeper question of regardless of how you met, how well do you really know the people you choose to date, or anyone for that matter?
So, in honor of the aunties and all who side eye online dating, I would like to introduce to you all, 10 Ways to Meet Your Mate, More Socially Acceptable than Online. Now, some of these are old favorites, and others I’ve thrown in to be a complete smart ass.

1. If your parents hooked you up. It’s really a parent’s dream to actually vet and choose the right person for their child because they want their kids to be happy and not make mistakes. It goes back to you being a baby and them baby proofing your house and making sure you don’t hurt yourself. It still applies in your 30s. While some parents may have a more laid back or hands off approach, there are some parents who are actively involved in the process whether they culturally subscribe to arranged marriages for real, for real, or not. FYI, this would probably be the number one answer for parents, and not really anyone else. But they size up your partner with the most scrutiny.

1A. Your family or friends hooked you up. Now, this could be a blind date situation, this could be a set up via a backyard barbecue, wedding, baby christening, Nay Nay’s graduation party, but there’s nothing like actually clicking with who were co-signed by your loved ones. They’ll never let you live it down, they’ll take all the credit if it’s successful and they’ll fade into the bushes like the Homer Simpson meme, if yall crash and burn. It’s a super-socially acceptable way to meet people that is probably the REAL number one. But, parents, tho…

2. Your place of worship. If you are the religious type, this highly socially acceptable meeting place will resonate with you. It will reinforce that God totally brought you two together, and that you likely share the same values that will help you navigate life and a future family together. It’s a good deal if that’s your lifestyle.

3. The Gym. For some people, this is number 1. If you met the love of your life while working out, it means once again you share an appreciation for fitness, health, breathable clothing and meal prepping. It’s one of the more sexy places to meet people, because folks who may not even have a genuine love for working out will go there to meet someone they find attractive. Actually, it may be a bad place to start something real if everyone’s intentions aren’t honest. Nevertheless, people love those #couplegoals #fitness photos and hashtags with fit people doing impossible stuff that less fit people would just look silly doing, but God bless them for trying.

4. Club or Bar. Once again, you’d think with the loud music and the drinking and lewd dancing, how can you really tell a person’s true character upon first meeting? But, clubs and bars are totally socially acceptable places to meet a future mate, says society and movies and clubs and bars that want your money.

5. Volunteer event. Actually, in my opinion, this should be number one, if you were asking ME. But we’re not. We’re talking about the general public and the stereotypical places, society thinks we should be finding our true loves. But, I think a volunteer event is an awesome place to not only meet your mate, but find your tribe in a new city. When you find out what people are passionate about and willing to give up their personal time for, you can get a good insight into what they are about and their core values. You get to see it in action and you see how they balance those things with their lives.

6. Grocery Stores. Now, I’ve seen sexy guys at the grocery store, I have but I really haven’t ever had one approach me nor have I approached them. Maybe this is because I hate the grocery store, I hate how they are set up and I know despite having only a few items I’m still going to spend no less than 20-30 minutes there. I don’t think many people like grocery shopping either, but it’s a necessary evil. So, I’m really confused as to how people keep saying you’ll meet someone fabulous in the produce aisle. And it’s ALWAYS the produce aisle. Most of the time, after you’ve checked someone out, you’ve checked their cart to judge them or realize compared to them, you eat a lot of crap and you eliminate yourself and grab Talenti 2-for-1.

7. Bookstore or Library. I really don’t know how often this happens anymore because, Kindles. However, I love books and I love bookstores. So, if there is a fine man wandering the aisles and we exchange glances, there’s something romantic about bibliophiles finding love in this digital world. So go head, get you some. But, on the flip side, as a student, I think it is feasible for folks to find love in study groups hammering out projects in a library, so I won’t count it all the way out. The intensity of debate and striving for an A, can get folks all hot and bothered.

8. Work. I kind of put this low on the list, but PLENTY of people have met their significant others at work, or on their way to and from work. I have a strong belief in the don’t crap where you eat, but once again, there are a lot of successful relationships that brewed hotter than the kitchen keurig and they managed to keep folks out of their business. Gold star for them. I’m not a hater.

9. Dog Parks. This is probably an ideal place to meet for dog lovers. I know quite a few people who said if their dog don’t like you, you’re basically dunzo. So, I’m sure society will agree a match made in the dog park will probably bode well especially if the pooches get along.

10. Alumni Mixers. Ok, so this one kind of goes hand-in-hand with volunteering, but if you’re like me and you LOOOOOVE your alma mater, meeting your boo-to-be at one of these events can be pretty dope. Have you attended a sporting event against a rival school? Most schools put the playful drama to the side at a tailgate or after party, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself starring in a West Side Story…

Hmmm, I actually named 10 really legitimate places to meet people other than the internet. I was supposed to add in a few funny ones just to illustrate how ridiculous it is to judge people who meet on the internet, so let me pull a few out that are insane.

1. Competitive Hot Dog eating contest. This just seems gross. But these folks are committed. And men may be turned on by female competitors’ gag reflex…
2. Nudist beach. I’m just going to leave that right there. But at least you know what you’re getting. Rock on.
3. Lamaze class. If you know anyone who met and fell in love at a Lamaze class, please send me a message. That’s just amazing.
4. Prison. It totally happens.
5. Jury Duty. That would actually be a bomb ass story.
6. Target. Actually, meeting the love of your life at Target sounds pretty dope. They DO have everything!
7. Divorce Court. I recently heard about a person posting on facebook that her ex-husband got engaged to her divorce lawyer. Another person jumped on the post to correct her, and that it wasn’t her divorce lawyer, just the paralegal. LOL Burn.
8. Dentist office. That’s right up there with Jury Duty. If you can find love there, I salute you.
9. Department of Motor Vehicles. Since we’re going down the list of places we hate, wouldn’t it be great to at least find the love of your life, even if your Driver’s license photo looks awful?
10. Ikea. If you are a single person in Ikea and you aren’t shopping with your parents for a new bunkbed or dorm furniture, seeing all of the couples miserable or not, kind of reminds you of how alone your ass really is, and that you will be assembling that difficult ass furniture alone. But God is a good God, and would have truly shown up and shown out if he sends you a love to call your own, on your way to get that cheap soft serve ice cream. You won’t just get help putting together that complicated ass bed, you’ll get help breaking it in…

Phone Down

Erykah Badu has penned a culturally current and on-point song about dating in the age of smartphones and our collective obsession with them.
This is an excerpt of my favorite part of the song:
“I can make you put your phone down
Make you not wanna check that again
I could make you put your phone down
Ridin’ in a drop hair blowin’ in the wind
Baby I will put my phone down
‘Cause when you talk Imma listen
I can make you put your phone down
Leave it at the crib guarantee you wouldn’t miss it
I could make you put your phone down
And it wouldn’t leave your pocket
I can make you put your phone down
Probably wouldn’t even know how to unlock it
I could make you put your phone down
I see your friend callin but forget em’
I can make you put your phone down
Your mama probably think you out there missin'”

I’ve recently been having a string of dates (with the same person, hurrah!) where phone down has been in full effect.
We’ve naturally done this as there is a genuine desire to converse and just get to know each other, and it probably helps that we’re past the age of 30. So both of us can recall a time of being booted off the single landline shared by your entire household, when conversations with “your little friend” have gone on too long.

Alas, things have changed a lot even in the last decade. Our worlds are fast-paced. Our food is fast, our computers are fast, our smart phones are even sometimes faster than our computers. And yet the things that may be most important to us, like the relationships we develop, we try to blow past that too, with the expectation that we’ll gain the kind of trust, closeness and intimacy that can only come from honest-to-God-true put-in-the-work quality time. This should happen naturally of course, but quickly. Quickly is the key. Our collective attention span is crap, trash, ga-bage, basura. And this is probably indicative of the types of relationships we’re seeing come together and then quickly fall apart.

It’s been liberating to spend an entire day with someone, sharing thoughts about all kinds of things, learning about who they are only to glance at a phone for directions to the next location, or a yelp review for a restaurant we’re about to try or movie times at a nearby theater.

Sometimes we fear quietly co-existing with another person. But with the RIGHT person, sitting quietly, letting your thoughts or the last words expressed just linger in the air can be comforting. And it’s very honest. From every snort of laughter, to blush of embarrassment, or pause you take to complete a thought, you’re completely exposed. Distractions have been eliminated and you’ve shown each other how much you value the other person and their time. You’re saying, you are all that matters to me right now. It’s a powerful statement. It’s worth more than thousands of likes.

There was a time where people argued about the value of sitting down each night for a family meal because parents were working and kids involved in different activities. People were scattered. Now, we’re in an age where people are sitting down for the meal (more people work from home, kids spend a lot of time at home) but aren’t truly present because glued to their own individual phones and devices. The premise of connection has always been the same, but the practice has totally switched up.

So go ahead, and put the phone down. You probably wouldn’t miss it. I know I didn’t.

Sasha Obama: An Ode to the Little Sisters With Big Presence

sashaservesface

Sasha is serving face in attendance at her first state dinner. Image: Getty/Pool

Ok, it’s been a looong time since I’ve connected with the lifers. I’m sorry.

My life has been out of control in both positive and negative ways. I’ve been going hard at school, facing a lot of challenges and the stress from it all has messed with my health and caused me to shut it down for at least a day and a half this week.

But we’re going to push all of that aside to talk about someone who I connect with on so many levels it’s not even funny. I was so inspired, I had to come out of semi-blog hiatus to pay proper respect.

Natasha Obama is her government name, but she’s so real, her fam is so real, everyone knows her as Sasha. And you can’t get no more government than living at the White House, but folks ain’t gonna call her Natasha or Tasha. Nope. It’s Sasha, baby. So there’s already something kind of counter going on.

Miss Sasha has had swag since day one, and paved the way for the Riley Curries of the world to hijack the hearts of millions with one well-placed honest look or reaction to their famous dad, or even the public.

sasha early years gettyimages-51913478

Here’s Sasha looking at the camera as if to say, “I been on.” Circa 2005 Senate Swearing in ceremony. Riley Curry is new to this. Sasha Fierce is true to this.

The cool thing about Sasha is she knows yall are watching, and she doesn’t care. Sasha has to be the founding member and president of the Sidwell Friends chapter of the “No Fucks Club.” And I’m here for it.

Obama departs Washington

U.S. President Barack Obama and daughter Sasha (R), along with two of Sasha’s friends, board Air Force One as they depart Joint Base Andrews in Washington July 17, 2015. President Obama and Sasha are traveling to New York City to meet up with Obama’s other daughter Malia for some father-daughter time. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Here’s the thing though. There’s something magical about being the younger sister to a female sibling.

Me and my sister are 10 years apart. The gap between Sasha and her older and equally fabulous sister Malia isn’t as large, but how Sasha goes about this thing called life felt so familiar.

When you’re a younger sister, you spend time really admiring your older sister, but you aren’t blind to her flaws either. You know the personality traits that might be holding her back, and you’re frustrated about them because you think she’s amazing and while you’re working out who YOU are based on what you see in your mom and your older sister and other women figures in your life, you also become very clear on adapting the things you admire and avoiding the things that you may be critical of her about.

As a younger sister, you are, on some level in a mental competition with your sister and this competition is for you.

If your sister met certain benchmarks in high school, your teachers remind you of this, so you aspire to reach higher and basically break family records, you have a family name to uphold, but you also have to set yourself apart.

My sister was the first in our house hold to go to college. I was the first to go on a scholarship. My sister was an honor roll student, but I was an honor roll student taking advanced placement classes. My sister played basketball and was the captain of the cheerleading team.

I played basketball and volleyball. Cheerleading? Nah, son.

Younger sisters are known for being more outspoken, throwing more shade and generally being the hell-raisers who question parental authority, test and push boundaries and get off on going left when everyone else goes right. And while they may give their older sisters grief, little sisters are fiercely protective of their big sisters and will go to war if anyone messes with them. Little sisters will get ugly, down and dirty when big sisters try to keep the drama to a minimum. And to some extent it’s true.

Speaking of younger sisters getting down and throwing the hands if need be…Another famous younger sister sibling Solange Knowles is a fantastic example of a strong younger sister who can follow the beat of her own drum, have the room to speak her mind, try new things and be spared some of the level of scrutiny her superstar sis Beyonce would face if she took some of the same risks or even actually truly spoke her mind.

Beyonce gives a nod to this point in one of her songs “Flawless.” “My sister taught me I should speak my mind.”

Sometimes bad ass little sisters give older sisters the permission and the safe space to let loose a little, even if it’s between the both of them. And that’s a super power in itself, when older sisters who have characteristics of their own, might feel as if they have to be the more responsible and restrained one, especially in public (knowing their younger sister probably gives no damns at all).

As I see the Obama girls grow into gorgeous, confident, poised young women, as we saw last night in a few photos from their first state dinner, I couldn’t help but seriously see myself in Sasha, even though I don’t have the powerful parents or the bank account.

I saw a young woman who continues to carve out who she is in the shadow of parents and a sibling that basically define black American excellence, who is comfortable.

She’s human. Her face is expressive. You can tell when she’s bored, you can tell when she’s amused and you can see straight joy and animation when she’s got her head cocked back holding court with her friends and cousins. You see glimpses of the strength she gives her older sister from a shared photographed glance.

Sasha-and-Malia-Obama-through-the-years_1_1

UPI.com

Shine on Sasha!! Let’s go little sisters!

 

 

 

 

Love Literacy

I’ve spoken in great detail on this blog about my journey to love myself, love other people, deal with the ugly and very real things in my life that have shaped me.

It’s really easy to talk about the past. It’s easy to dissect the past, but when you are confronted with a person trying to find out what you want and offer it up to you, it becomes overwhelming, scary, and your reaction to this is one of fight, flight, conflict and confrontation.

I met someone via Match.com, and he had the nerve to not even have a photograph on his profile. But for some reason, I continued to talk to this person online, and we eventually went out. Before we went out, he did send me a photo.

He wasn’t bad at all.

So let’s fast-forward.

I don’t know if the last couple of years of dating has made me a nutcase…

Ok, it has.

Spending time with this person who is actively trying to get to know me, has made me catch myself being secretive, scared, and sensitive. I feel him approaching my space, but in a way other men half-assed at, but didn’t really push.

His questions about what I do, my family and friends and how I feel about things made me feel as if he was being nosey and intrusive.

Which made me question myself while questioning him and his intentions?

Why did I have this reaction?

Well, he’s trying to get close to me. In fact, he’s said plainly. “I’m trying to get to know you. I have to ask you questions.”

Well, duh.

And while I pride myself on the relationships I’ve had in the past and my relationships with family and friends, as of late, the relationships I have with people are based on some very clear boundaries.

Right now, there’s one friend I’m avoiding because we exchanged words around Christmas and I just blew up.

My family dynamics are strange, I love everyone from a distance. I’m hundreds of miles from my nuclear family and when I go home to visit my parents, I spend a lot of time with my friends or my favorite cousin. My father chooses church, my mother stays trapped in the house because of her mental illness. My home hasn’t felt like home in decades, and I find solace in the spaces of my friends homes and whatever degree of normalcy they bring.

So the idea of someone being in my space, when I’m so used to moving, being on my own, and in most cases, thriving is very scary. More scary than I thought, when I was making up my dream man, courtship and happily ever after. The cold, hard truth is: Thinking of sharing my life with someone on a daily regular basis, may scare me more than being alone.

This is the lesson of my new friend. This is what I’m fighting against.

He wants to know what I’m thinking. And he knows I think too much.

I’m scared to tell him. I’m scared that it won’t make any sense.

I’m scared he’ll call my bluff and prove me wrong. I’m scared he’ll be patient enough to stick around and see just how vulnerable I am and what a disaster that will be.

The last few years, I’ve been very prepared for the men I’ve encountered to do something wrong, to break a deal or two, to offend me, hurt me, not understand me, or have erection problems. Anything to write them off, but say to family and friends who can’t believe I’m not in a relationship, that, “No, I’m trying. It’s just hard out here in these streets.”

I’ve experienced men who thought they could deal with the emotional ups and downs of me. But they confused giving me space with indifference. And that’s when I realized no matter how handsome, or how much money or successful they were, the indifference was something I knew I couldn’t get past.

In the dating world, I think that’s what things have become. Indifferent. And I have gotten used to it. But the rise of indifference has come along with people accusing others of being “thirsty.” The concept of thirst has ruined us.

It’s made us not believe when a man looks you in the eye and says “you’re beautiful.” It replaces the feeling of receiving a compliment, with contempt, because you want to believe he means it, but you don’t want assume the risk of letting the compliment take root and growing.

We’ve become like those bullies in after school specials who are hiding a secret that they can’t read.

We’re romantic bullies hiding that we have a difficulty loving. We have to be privately coaxed out to at least try, and once convinced that we are safe we stumble and stutter. We lash out because of the shame of our deficiency. We are told to keep trying. We stumble and stutter more, until eventually, we triumphantly get through a complete sentence.

And that’s what makes letting someone new into your life so hard.

I’m stuttering and stumbling, trying to recognize and connect symbols to words I know how to speak and hear. I feel ashamed that I had to get this far by pretending or creatively distracting others from my deficiency.

I’m realizing that I don’t like being exposed. I absolutely hate it. But I’m going to walk through it. I’m going to see what happens.

2016 is the year of the unexpected. If I’m going to breakthrough this year, I’ma have to break through.

 

Family Financial First Aid: When You Know Better, Do Better and Pass it on!

Nothing can make you feel more empowered and in control as understanding your finances, making solid decisions and watching your money grow.

Nothing can make you feel as out of control, inferior and in panic and chaos as NOT understanding your finances, making poor decisions and feeling like you’ll never get out of the hole.

I’m not wealthy, I’m not rich. I really don’t have a whole lot in my retirement, but I’m proud of the time I made up in my 20s in the last couple of years.

I realized that upping the contributions to my 401k at my last job was a smart thing to do. I’ve changed two jobs in about two years, and when I left each job, I rolled my 401k investments into an IRA.

When things got funky with my financial aid this past semester (don’t even get me started my blood pressure has finally returned to a normal state), even though it was part of my “last resort,” borrowing money from my IRA was an option that saw me through a tough time.

I grew up in a middle class family, but my parents– neither of them college grads, but who did better than their parents, did not have a financial education. They winged it.

While my dad is a very intelligent person, he fears credit cards and hates debt of any kind.

My mother, also a very intelligent person, had addictions to store credit cards, as evidenced by our bi-weekly trips to the local department store to pay her bill, and the harassing calls after she lost her job.

So once I got a job and was given an application in high school, I got a credit card and quickly built my credit line to the point where as a college junior I had a $5,000 limit. Being young, dumb and at Howard, where the most fashion-forward folks go to get educated, I surprisingly didn’t squander my good credit on clothes. It was actually footing the bill for spring break to book planes and hotels for me and my friends and paying for my boyfriend’s car repairs (because how else will he get to work?).

In my early 20s, the joy of getting a full-time job after college and seeing larger checks in a low cost-of-living state had me living beyond my means and depending on overdraft protection, acting like it really was my money.  I assumed the overdraft fees as just the cost of doing business and kept it moving without a care .

It took a very, very long time and a five-year financial education program to help me improve my credit and pay down my debt. It was a proud moment to be eligible for a good credit card again, and in comparison to the last time I purchased a car, to go from having an 18% interest rate for a used car about 5 years old to an 8% interest rate the next time I purchased a same year model, brand new.

That’s where the feeling of being in control and accomplishment kicks in. But that feeling had to come from making some big mistakes, and then doing what it took to correct them.

I didn’t necessarily fear credit, but I needed to learn that it was a tool. Unfortunately, my father’s mindset that all debt is bad didn’t help, and neither did my mother’s habit of paying a card off, so you can just get more stuff, in a constant never-ending cycle didn’t shape the best habits in me either.

I am, however thankful for having friends who discuss stocks and watch stock tickers on the news and discuss them with their parents casually as if they were discussing sports scores. And I’m slightly jealous of the edge those financially-conscious parental gave my friends, that I just didn’t have.

Like my parents, who surpassed their parent’s earning potential, here I was with a college degree, but financially, I was winging it too. Having to figure it out on my own.

One of my best friends has been buying and selling stocks for years and her parents taught her to do so. At 33, I finally asked her for help today, mentioning how I admired that in her household discussing finances is as normal and healthy as saying good morning. And she’s excited to do it and already looking up some educational classes around the next time I visit home.

It never hurts to ask for help. We are often shrouded in silence when it comes to matters of money, because we don’t want others to know how much we have, or don’t have. I was particularly interested in investing more aggressively, because I want to replenish the funds I had to take from my IRA, and while I put aside money from my paycheck to pay it back, as a single, childless person, who isn’t in her 20s anymore, my window is closing to be as aggressive as I could have been if I started thinking about money more seriously in my 20s.

While some of my friends still live at home with their parents because it is so expensive, I realized I was pouring my money into high rents in the DC area for the last decade (and paying off my college-incurred debts for half a decade), and they were learning how to be aggressive with their investments, taking advantage of the financial power staying at home with the ‘rents can provide, so they can eventually leave the nest and afford to maintain.

Having a household that talks about money openly is healthy. We have to remove stigmas around modest living or what the reality of your financial situation is. It takes hard work and discipline, but building good financial habits is something that’s crucial to your future and that of your family.

I appreciate everything my family has done for me, so I’m not knocking them at all, but I can’t help but wonder what other kinds of goals and dreams my parents could have accomplished if they had the tools.

From time-to-time, my father asks me about how much I make. I now artfully avoid it after the one year I told him, and his eyes widened and said, “You’re almost catching me.” Yes, I do think my dad is trying to be in my business, but I also think it’s a matter of him feeling like some financial progress is being made and his baby girl is secure and successful and that hopefully, by some chance I’m making better decisions than he did. Sometimes he says it outright, relieved that I’m an adult to be able to really understand his point.

While my parents have never asked me for money, I do care about their lives as they enter their golden years. A part of me wonders that because I am still single and without a family of my own, and geographically closer than my sister, who does have a family, will I have to really step up for them and how will I be prepared to do so in a way that is respectful and commensurate with how wonderfully they provided for me, knowing some of their financial sacrifices and missteps will contribute to how comfortable their retirement years will be?

I don’t know the answer to all of those questions. And as a family, we’ll have to work together to figure them out.

What I do know is unlike my parents, I have way more access to information than they ever did.

The Internet is a great equalizer. Just this morning, I’ve read several Forbes articles on how to get started with the stock market and I’m energized and excited. There’s so much to learn and I’m mature enough to get help and figure out how to make my financial future and that of my family’s a whole lot brighter.

 

 

 

What’s In a (Last) Name?

You may or may not have seen the story circulating the internet about actress Zoe Saldana’s husband Marco, making the decision to take on HER last name.
Of course, this sparks the debate about why women always have to change their names in the first place.
My initial reaction is that I think couples should do what’s right for them and for their family.

On one hand, the romantic and family oriented side of me loves the concept of signifying familial unity by sharing names. You have become a tribe. And the Saldanas have done just that, just in a more non-traditional way. Does Marco’s decision represent a shift in male/female power even within a relationship? Or does Marco’s decision reflect that his wife has established her name and made it famous off of her own hard work and merit and that he’s proud of her? Well, only Marco can answer that, but it is a bold move on his part. Even Zoe herself was hesitant and reminded him of the cultural implications and outside views on his manhood, to which he replied that he didn’t “give a sheet.”

On that same romantic and family oriented hand is the black consciousness side, that wants to preserve black families. I know the stats. 60% of black households are headed by black women, yet if a successful black woman marries a black man, especially one that is not the main breadwinner, in most cases, he would be staunchly against taking her name. I’ve even heard of black men being offended by the notion of hyphenation. But there’s all sorts of murky historical stuff that I could go into as to why black men may feel this way, but I can save that for another time and another post.

I had always said that I never wanted to be in a position where my children didn’t share the same last name with everyone else in the household. (I’m not knocking blended families or single parents who have different names this is my personal preference.) I just remember the confusion and embarrassment of a lot of kids at church and school who had a bunch of brothers and sisters but different last names. My dad was the superintendent of Sunday School and after being corrected several times for our annual Christmas program, he learned never EVER to assume siblings had the same last name, when he would introduce them prior to a speech or a song they’d present.

****TANGENT WARNING: While this is part of the reality in the black community that can’t be ignored, I hate the assumptions placed on black mothers that they are automatically single mothers. Black women– black people, for that matter never get the courtesy of being judged individually or on a case-by-case basis. Generalizations prevail unless we go out of our way in further discussion dropping tidbits like “when I got my masters degree” “or my HUSBAND said the other day,” and then there’s a shift in how we are received and how our narrative is processed. This disarming of employees in stores, or even at the doctor’s office or the bank, or with the realtor is necessary to possibly ensure better treatment. As soon as I say words like, “I’m from Long Island” or “I go to George Washington” something changes, people loosen up, they want to learn more about me, and become impressed with my accomplishments. Not sure what they assumed about me, but it was probably nothing like what I told them. And it’s frustrating, there are times I hate even having to stoop to that level as if my education or where I’m from should give me a pass from subpar treatment or service. I should have that right simply because of my humanity. But that’s not the case.

Sometimes when BOTH of my parents showed up to my parent teacher conferences, you could tell by the look on the teachers faces that this was indeed rare, and my parents were given rather condescending comments praising them for taking an active role in their child’s education after collecting themselves from the shock. That bothers me and I’m sure it pissed them off being talked to that way, as grown, responsible, tax-paying folks just like everyone else. I’ve heard stories from married black women who face those assumptions if they go to an obstetrican appointment or when they go to have their babies, people assume FIRST that they aren’t married and no man is in the picture. And all of that is very disheartening.

People automatically police and dissect the morality of single mothers, but sometimes automatically put those same labels on married black mothers too!

***TANGENT DONE

The feminist in me loves my name. I wouldn’t want to change it to something wack, and sometimes, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around arriving to this planet as one name and then leaving as another. The professional writer says whatever published work I produce should always have my name, regardless of my marital status. I’ve built my career off of that name and it will stay with me, professionally.

In some cases, people have chosen to hyphenate, in an effort to retain everyone’s name and give the children both names, and seemed to be a natural, logical choice for same-sex couples.
But change is the nature of life. We either evolve or we die.
As we evolve into a very new world, where does tradition still play a role? Is there room for tradition or can or should traditions evolve with the times? If they do, can they even be considered traditions?

There are all kinds of valid arguments for taking on your partner’s name, hyphenating or not making a name change at all… which goes back to my original view. Couple’s should make that decision for themselves… but most importantly they have to agree on what the world should call them.

What do you think?

TIME…tick, tick, tick

I was having a conversation with a guy and somehow we got on the topic of rapper Nelly, then we started talking about his relationship with singer/actress Ashanti.

Homeboy says, “Ashanti wasted good years of her life on him. I mean, what if she wants to have kids? Women have to think about those things. You can’t be with somebody for like five years and if the guy isn’t making moves, it’s not even on him anymore. It’s on the woman. She doesn’t have time for that.”

I needed a moment.

First of all, I made him look up Ashanti’s age because I was pretty sure she and I are the same age or pretty close. So, she isn’t old by any means. I pointed out that Ashanti’s eggs are far from drying up, and because she has money, even if she decided to have a child at 40, she would be in a great position to still have a happy, thriving life.

And straight up, if you are busy and career driven, you may want kids, but you may just want the relationship more. You might be happy with the way things are. You may feel like you have time. I’ve already said that if and when I get into a relationship again, I don’t think I want to be engaged at two years even if I’m madly in love. I’m skiddish. I’m nervous. I could probably just be in the relationship for three or four years before getting married this time.

But according to this guy, time isn’t on my side. Especially if I want kids. But that’s the thing. Because I’m so scared of having kids, I need to know I have a solid relationship before I have them. I do not want to do it alone. It is my greatest fear and I’ve had two horrible dreams about being a really awful single mother and in those dreams I was so depressed and unhappy and felt like a failure.

I have some friends who work on the flip side as we get older. They want the kid and if they lose the man or if it doesn’t work out, they want a guy who will be a good father and capable of co-parenting. They say no, it isn’t ideal but they could handle it.

For me, I say nah son. They go hand in hand. I don’t want to co parent. I want a family, a unit if I’m going to bring a child into the world.

“Regular women like me, who won’t be able to afford nannies and have regular jobs, the wear and tear on us having a child at 40 would be really tough.”  Personally, unless God has some other plan, I kind of want to close the window at 37 and even that is a stretch. But maybe not really. I’m finishing grad school at 34. Oh boy. Hmm.

It just dawned on me, that I’m going to start a somewhat totally new career at 34 and I made the decision to go back to school because I didn’t have a family to worry about. But I spent my 20s building a career as a journalist and I dated and had boyfriends and in my late 20s a fiancée, but I always felt like I HAD TIME. Hmm.

I know going back to school and switching gears is important to me and it is the right thing to do. But I never thought of it from that angle. I think whatever is going to happen relationship wise is going to happen. And the kid thing, well that’s up in the air. But I did mention to some friends that I’m certainly not anti adoption.

But his thoughts made me wonder about men. And as they get older what they think about fertility. I mean this guy summed it up. “We can still go around and just have kids, but it’s different for yall. And if having children is important to you, you really have to think about it and not have someone waste your time.”

But a few moments later, this same guy says that folks don’t really need to have the “Where is this going?” talk until a year.

So that’s when I balked. He said asking where is this going at three months and even six months is too soon.

I told him right then and there, how you gonna get on Ashanti for being with Nelly for so long in defense of her aging eggs, but then say folks should wait a year before they decide they are really together or exclusive? Nah son.

I was like three months is a volatile time. I said a lot of stuff craps out by then. But if you are consistently on the phone hanging out a couple of times a week and you know you are going to see that person at least once every weekend, you already know you are on your way to something. I think it is important to ask men specific questions because they are counting on loopholes.

I said I like to be clear, because if I’m feeling someone, I’ll say, hey I really like you and I want to be exclusive. I’ve stopped talking to the other guys I talk to because I really like our situation and want to focus on building what we’ve got going on. Do you feel the same way?

So then he started to back pedal. He was saying well it depends on the vibe, every situation isn’t the same.

Surrrre homie. Sure.

So should women in their 30s have a time table for their relationships especially if they want children?

32 to life??? Coming Soon… Real Soon

This blog is called 29tolife. I started it when I was 29, because I was on some kind of journey to 30. I was full of hope and promise thinking 30 would magically unlock doors into who I REALLY am.

So in just a few weeks, I’ll already be 32.

So has being 30 been magical? 31? Yes and no.

This blog has allowed me to examine myself and my situations that come up in such a raw way, I feel alive. I feel. My voice has sound. I’ve never been this self-aware in my entire life. And for those of you who have been rocking with me since the beginning, I really thank you. I’ve shared things with you, that I haven’t shared with others.

Or by telling you first, it gave me just enough courage to speak my mind when necessary, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball.

Maybe being in my 30s was the most insightful, raw, real, emotional, life-affirming time, because I shared it. Writing this blog exposes me.

The good, the bad and the ugly.

But it strengthens me too. It allows me to be bolder in my real life everyday experiences, and reminds me my voice has a sound. Which means, it’s meant to be heard. My thoughts and my ideas have value. My words can help folks and my words can cut down. How can I be responsible with my words, and still express myself in the ways that are necessary to me?

I’m finding in my 30s minimalism has been growing in importance. What do you want? What do you need? It seems like those questions are the first two I’ve been asking myself across situations and they apply. They fit and once I’ve answered those questions, I’m well on my way to solving my problems or figuring out the resources I have or need to get, to get the job done.

In my 30s focusing on what’s important to ME has seemed to be on the forefront too. I’ve learned in my 30s that focusing on me isn’t necessarily selfish, which is what folks would have you believe. Especially as women. Be a team player, sacrifice yourself for others that is the noble thing to do. And being a team player, standing up for people, nurturing people is an excellent thing, but when you are weak and tired and lacking strength because you didn’t say no one too many times or didn’t take the time to acknowledge what you wanted, you help no one. And you feel used and abused and mad because no one is bending over backwards to take care of you.

I don’t want to be a tired, haggard, bitter woman. I want to bring light to people I encounter, and if they need me, I want to have my strength to do a good job, but not to my own detriment.

I talk a lot about love and relationships in this blog, especially romantic ones, but in my 30s, I don’t think I’ve appreciated my friendships and relationships with family as deeply as I have in recent years. I’m very thankful for that.

When I started this blog, I was in a deep pain from the ending of a relationship.

You’ve seen me battle with my feelings toward my ex and the roller coaster ride I’ve voluntarily gone up and down with him on. I do believe I’m healed. Even on the days where I’m not so sure, three years later, I’m where I’m supposed to be, and that’s without him.

You’ve seen me struggle with all sorts of characters and realize what kind of man I want and don’t want. The mistakes have been many.

I’ve traveled a little, and I’ve learned about new passions and interests. And at the age of 32, after being out of college for a decade, I’m going to take the jump and go to grad school. I’m not sure if I would have been as inspired to do it, if it wasn’t for sharing my thoughts and fears and frustrations with you on this blog. It may have become yet another dream deferred.

There were lots of things I used to fear. Talking about faith. Talking about sex. Talking about my mom, and her struggle with mental illness, talking about my flaws.

And by golly, on this blog, I’ve done all of that. And you listened. And you shared your thoughts too and affirmed me and the random thoughts that sometimes haunt me at night and greet me in the morning.

Being in my 30s, I want to live. I want to be hopeful. I don’t want to be jaded. I want to learn from my mistakes. I want to be proud of where I’ve been and who I am right now in this moment. I have high hopes for 32, because I’m taking chances this year. I’m stepping out of the comfort zone and I’m allowed to be proud of myself for that.

Will my love life come around? We’ll have to wait and see.

As you’ve seen with the blog, every time I open up my arms, (and sometimes legs) filled with hope, someone lets the air out of my balloon and I have to start all over again.

But maybe that’s part of the lesson of 30. The lesson of life. That if you opened your eyes today, and took that conscious breath, you are starting all over again. There is something still in you, your spirit is not broken enough not to try again, not to run full speed towards the football like Charlie Brown. Life is precious. Don’t stop running.

In your 30s you think about all sorts of things, your health, your mortality. The mortality of your beloved parents. You see them aging and you get a little ok, a lot scared. You see your children or nieces or nephews growing up, a very clear sign that you are indeed getting older, moving along in this world to make room for those yet to come. So what are you doing while you are here in the now? In the precious beautiful now?

I think having the opportunity to be old is a blessing. And I want to be a happy, healthy, spunky old lady that looks back with no regrets and has the best stories to tell her descendants.

I’ll be 32 soon. That’s not old. But it ain’t 16 or 21. And Thank God.

It’s 32. And it will be whatever it is, just like 30 and 31. I’ll just be glad to see it and take what it will bring.

I don’t think the content of the blog will get dull in this next year. As long as I keep living and as long as I’m me. And yall know me… It’s never dull.

Holiday Spirit? Already???

It seems like people are already getting into the holiday spirit.

It’s October 29, by the way.

With all of the Halloween parties going on this past week and celebrities getting in trouble for being offensive, I guess it would make sense for folks to already be thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas, because I’m already tired of hearing about Halloween.

And. It’s. October 29.

But last night, after driving home from a lovely dinner with friends, I saw two houses in the same neighborhood with Christmas lights already a twinkling. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” hasn’t even aired yet, and CHRISTMAS LIGHTS?

The funny thing is for the last week, Christmas gift ideas have already crossed my mind for people. When I was in the stores, I saw a few things and said, let me take a pic of this to remind me to go back and get this later. Yesterday, I saw another perfect gift for someone and just snatched it up right away. (For somethings, I have a fear I won’t see it again so I just get it)

I’m a huge fan of the movie “The Best Man” and I’m chomping at the bit for the sequel hitting theaters next month, and a friend has already been sending me music from the soundtrack which contains mostly holiday music.

So it seems like even though it’s October 29, I can’t seem to escape the holidays. They are already here and smacking me in the face.

I was talking on the phone with Renaissance last night, and shared my story about seeing the Christmas lights on houses as soon as last night and we were discussing the holidays. I shared with him my weird obsession with wrapping gifts and how I really, really enjoy it. And then we some how got on the topic of Kwanzaa. I was making jokes about it and I asked him if he celebrated it.

And he seriously said yes.

I was taken aback.

It’s sad to say, but as I told him, I don’t know of any real, life black people who seriously participate in and voluntarily celebrate Kwanzaa, like for real.

I said, a lot of time, people go to church or their local community center to do a half-assed observance, and still not really know what it means or feel a real connection to it, but I don’t know anyone for real who celebrates it and takes it seriously.

I told him, my father would actually threaten us with Kwanzaa. “If yall don’t act right, Christmas is cancelled. We will be celebrating Kwanzaa and yall don’t want me to make you a gift.”

Renaissance had a good laugh off of that. But he said that he really believed in the principles of Kwanzaa and thinks it’s a beautiful thing to celebrate and would probably be even better with a family. So, he has encouraged me to celebrate Kwanzaa with him this year and we will each make one gift for each other. So it really has me thinking, what would I make for this guy? It’s kind of fun, and I don’t think he’s trying to play me and get out of Christmas. (Don’t even do that, sir)

So even in participating this year (even though I feel black Americans should really observe Juneteenth) I thought about Christmas. As we get older, it’s not so much about the stuff. I really try not to be wasteful or get people crap. I try to think of their personalities what they like or things they’ve mentioned they needed or wanted earlier in the year or something reflective of a moment we’ve shared. Or if I just know this item would be perfect. But I do think having fun with your friends and family and challenging one another to do something different, like actually making a gift can make the holidays really special and unexpected and memorable.

One of my favorite holiday songs ever. Soul Holidays by Sounds of Blackness (they give a nod to Kwanzaa in this video too.)

Post Navigation