Come Summer

I may be imagining it but somehow it seems like the stakes in raising children are so much higher than they used to be. My parents were no slackers (in terms of education at least) but my brother and I spent long, languid summers at home, had absolutely no enrichment outside of formal school and certainly never discussed our feelings with anyone. It is debatable whether we turned out “okay” in the long run but you could say that we more or less found our way in the world.

Why is it necessary for me to read that latest book about raising children—especially when theories of child-rearing seem to shift as quickly as the earth in Northern California? Why must I spend so much money on enrichment classes? Why do I feel so much angst about whether my child is at the “right” school or whether I should have tried harder to get her in to that one particular program?

I think sometimes that the urgency of it all takes some of the joy out of parenting. It feels oddly competitive, weirdly Type-A, as if you’re always trying to keep up with the Joneses, the Sakamakis, the Khans and the Adichies.

Since late December I’ve been asked about my plans for my four and five-year-olds’ summer just about every week. And every time I get another note or call, all I feel is … resistance. Of course once summer begins and the class, program or camp is about to start, I will question myself a dozen times: should I have enrolled them, shelled out the money, sucked it up and chauffeured them back and forth for yet another one?

I hear about “the research” every week from my husband. The latest research says this. The latest research says that. I nod and do my best to process what has his drawers in a bunch this time. But somewhere in the back of my head, I wonder.

I think my kids are going to be ok. Better than ok. I think they will flourish. Not because we spent thousands of dollars we didn’t really have to send them to this school or that program. But because we loved them. And we loved each other. We spoke about service and compassion at the dinner table. We told them what they needed to do in order to fulfill their dreams. And we did our best to be happy people, to do the right thing.

I think what will make the biggest difference in the long-run will be the day-to-day intangibles that had nothing to do with how well we networked, how hard we worked our contacts, how much money we spent, and how furiously we drove to and fro.

Or at least I hope.

She Works Hard For The Money

I am a working mom. I LOVE working. I LOVE being a mom. I have found a way to be successful at both in ways that allign with my own personal definitions of success.

There are many forums in which mothers from all over have the great Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) versus Work Out of Home Mom (WOHM) debate. SAHMs argue that WOHMs should not have had kids if they did not want to be around them and raise them full-time. WOHMs argue that they should not have to sacrifice having careers to be mothers or vice versa.  Some SAHMs can afford to stay home, as their partners earn enough income to cover all of their expense and luxuries. Some SAHMs are struggling to make ends meet, some even relying on government assistance. Some WOHMs work because they can’t afford not to, while others do it for the love of having a career and doing something stimulating and engaging. Then there are the minority WAHMs (Work at Home Moms), women who have managed to have both careers/jobs and be able to stay at home with their children full-time. They chime in, but those numbers are so much smaller than the other two groups.

I realized when my son was 5 months old that I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home mother, at least not in the capacity I was one.  His father and I discussed the idea of me staying home for the first year of his life and I said I’d try it. I don’t know if the Post Partum Depression had anything to do with it, our financial struggles going from two paychecks to one, or something else, but after about 3 months, I’d reached the “This shit is for the birds” point. By 5 months, I was so eager to get out of the house that when he came home, I’d be dressed and ready to rush out to do something, ANYTHING. I craved adult interaction, time away from my infant, and something else to do that made me feel like I was important and not just a waste of good air.

Because being a mom wasn’t important enough, right?

I loved my son, but I felt like my life was being wasted just sitting at home feeding, burping, and changing him. I didn’t go to school just to stay home and be someone’s mama, right? God, that sounds so horrible. What’s wrong with me?  My mother even, as she was sick and frail, said to me, “Are you going to waste all of that education sitting at home? If I had known you were going to end up like this, I would have saved my money”  (You see where I get it from lol)

It made me feel like I had more to do with my intelligence, skills, and capabilities. So I went back to work, finished my Master’s Degree, and have since been strongly building upon the career foundation I set pre-motherhood. I couldn’t be happier with that decision because: 1)I love what I do; 2) I love feeling useful; 3) I love feeling like I’m contributing to the overall improvement of society; 4) I love feeling influential and managerial; 5) I love the adult interaction; 6)I love having the time and space to be “Benee”, not simply “Mommy”.

How is it that some of us are perfectly content staying home with kids, taking care of the home, relying on our significant others for material resources, and some of us prefer to work hard at our educations, careers, networking, climbing ladders, etc?  What about the women who get the education, have great careers, and just walk away from it all to become SAHMs? How does a woman come to prefer one or the other? It is reliant upon how she was socialized and/or nurtured? Is it the influence of the examples set by the females in her life? Is it racial/ethnic/cultural? Socioeconomically-based? What is it?  I’d love for people to weigh in on this.

For me, every woman who has ever had any influence on my life and the decisions therein has been a working woman. Not necessarily a highly educated working woman, but a worker nonetheless. Also, I did not grow up with many positive examples of loving, enduring couples or have much exposure to families headed by a man.  Most families I knew were headed by women, with men in and out of the picture sparsely. The only long-married people I knew were in my grandparents’ generation and their happiness is always debatable. That’s another blog though…

So, here I am and I work. I’m not independently wealthy. I’m not interested in being dependent upon government assistance. I want to be a positive role model for my son and in my opinion, a strong work ethic is one of the most admirable qualities a person can have.  So, I go to work, earn my living, and strive to grow and climb higher in my field. I rely on myself financially, make my own financial decisions, and feel empowered by the ability to do so.

This is not to say that under the right circumstances, I would not redirect my focus towards caring for my home, my partner, and my children. I was willing to do it once, so I know I would be willing to do it again. I do feel, deep inside, the desire, need, and even obligation to take care of my family and home. What a paradox lol  But there is something in me that fears being 100% financially dependent upon a significant other. I’ve borne witness to TOO many horrible outcomes from these situations where the women are left destitute, alone, suffering/struggling with the children with barely the clothes on their backs because one day, their husbands decided they were done. I’d have too many stipulations and the man would probably be like “Nevermind. Go work!”

Some argue that means I do not trust my partner 100% and I would disagree; it is not so much about how I feel about my partner so much as how great my desire to always be able to care for and protect myself and my kids overshadows any emotions for or attachments to someone else. Then there is the need to have something just for me. I will not apologize for wanting something of my own.

So, I continue to work.


Check out: Mocha Moms

The Finest Things

Sacrifice. Life requires so much of it, especially when you are married, or otherwise partnered. Especially when you have children. Things don’t go smoothly unless you are willing to sacrifice something, be it something you wanted to do, or be, or have. And even if you are used to sacrifice, even if it’s been drilled in you from childhood and culturally because as women of color we are supposed to be long-suffering and give up everything for our men and our children, sometimes sacrificing sucks. Hard.

The second half of this year there are a lot of things that either my husband or I want to do. Combine that with things that we both want for the children, like swimming lessons and enrollment at an elite preschool, and you come up with an expensive docket. On a grad school budget. I’ve committed to one trip that’s a wedding for an old friend, and another that’s a wedding for a near and dear friend, but there are five others looming. One is a writing festival in Aspen that I’ve gotten a half scholarship to attend, but travel and lodging are not cheap. And it’s just for me – nothing in it for my husband or the kids. But the other five things are family things that aren’t especially important to me – weddings and reunions for friends of my husband, things that happen once in a lifetime. Things that you can’t just not go to when your husband, who never goes anywhere, who never spends money, really wants to go. And we can’t do it all.

But I want to go to Aspen.

I want to go like temper tantrum want to go. I want to shout and yell and lay on the floor and pound my fists and kick and scream until I’m hoarse. I want to wear everyone out so the universe finds a way to revolve itself around me to make what I want to do possible. I want the universe to just figure it out so money grows on trees, people get things based simply on how much they want them, most importantly I don’t have to sacrifice what I want. I want the universe to figure it out because sometimes I feel like I’ve gotten a raw deal and any bit of sunshine and happiness shouldn’t be denied to me when I can capture it just because I can’t afford it. It’s not fair.

But of course things don’t work that way. As one of my fellow law student colleagues said to me callously one day, life isn’t fair. Deal. I’ll have to take a big girl pill and suck it up and spread what little we have around and get a little bit of what I want so they, the people I love and want to see happy, can get what what they want, what they need. In the end, in lieu of a miracle, four days in Aspen will pale in comparison to seeing the joy on my husband’s face at seeing his friends married or celebrating his ten-year reunion, or knowing my children are being stimulated in a school to reach their highest potential, or are learning an essential skill like swimming that I still don’t have.

Everyone sacrifices something, sometime, for someone. They’ve sacrificed a lot for me to be here, doing this. I have expensive taste, but they – my husband, my children, my friends – are my finer things in life.

A Lesson Best Learned Early

Unlike most California babies who start swim classes virtually at birth, my two New York City-born transplants didn’t begin classes until the relatively ancient ages of 4 and 5.

With summer approaching, I realized there was no ducking the classes any longer and so I signed up my kids at one of a handful of swim schools around where we live: a little school with a somewhat pretentious French name and three locations.

With some difficulty we pinned down the instruction time. I paid no mind to who the teacher would be; I figured they must all be somewhat decent.

On the first day I delivered my bathing suit-clad children to a somber-looking young woman by the pool. She did not smile at me or the kids. I noticed this but tucked it away and didn’t think twice about it.

I sat behind the glass partition and looked hither and thither, reading, chatting with other waiting caretakers, every once in a while watching the kids. There seemed to be some serious business at hand in the class. Once the class finished, I got the kids showered, dressed and off we went.

The following week: same drill. Delivered the kids to an unsmiling teacher. Watched them through the glass. Picked them up afterwards.

Except this time, my daughter, the five-year-old, said: “Mommy, is it possible, if it’s not too much trouble, could we maybe get a new teacher?” (She really said it that way.)

“Why?” I asked. “What happened?”

“Nothing. I just was wondering if we could get a new teacher.”

Unlike my boy, who often protests classes, school or anything organized, my daughter loves classes. She has always adored teachers, babysitters, caretakers. She never once cried when we left her for an evening out.

“But why?” I pressed.

“This teacher is too … grouchy. She doesn’t seem happy. She’s not that nice to us.” And then: “Life’s too short to be unhappy.”

I almost fell over. Obviously she’s heard it from an adult. Probably me. Maybe her father. But here’s what blows me away: It stuck! She gets it. She doesn’t want to be around someone who makes her feel bad. Who doesn’t treat her well.

Do you know how long it took me to learn this lesson? Decades! And I still struggle with it. Recognizing in the moment that something doesn’t feel right or is not okay.  Then taking steps to remove yourself from the situation. My daughter has learned to intuit this at five. What I was still trying to learn at thirty five.

It was a proud moment for me.

A Mother’s Love

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s passing. She left this earth 3 years ago today. I miss her, really and truly. I get sad as I reflect on the hows and whys of her death (pancreatic cancer at 51). I get sad when I think of the little boy who looks just like her but will never know her. I get sad when I think of all of the trials I have had to go through these past couple of years without the support of a maternal figure.

Thing is, I didnt always feel so warm and fuzzy about my mother. In fact, our relationship was rocky at best. Maybe it had something to do with me being her only child. Maybe my being a girl had something to do with it. I’ve noticed that there is a very unique, often rocky relationship between a mother and her first daughter, usually because the daughter ends up being just like her or the daughter steals the father’s attention. But that isnt what this blog is about. My mother’s issues had nothing to do with me at all, actually.

My mother grew up with two sisters and her parents. Well, my grandfather was sorta there. He had another family, complete with a wife and four other children. Oh, and I’m not supposed to know that. My mother and her sisters grew up with a working mother and a working father they rarely saw (but assumed it was because of work) who had a troubled relationship. He drank, he cheated, he smacked her around, they made up, loved hard, and my mother and her sisters were exposed to all of this dysfunction. They later found out about his other family, but it was under pretenses and untrue explanations.  Couldnt quite legitimize how my eldest aunt and his next oldest child are only about 10 months apart in age. Hmmm….

They were also exposed to a predator named “Sully” who did really horrible, nasty things to them. My mother especially, the youngest.  I would write more, as I intended to write a book about their story, but on her deathbed my mother made me promise not to. See my point later about her trying to please people.

Needless to say, my mother’s life was greatly affected by this.  It was also affected by growing up in a religious household and discovering she was not a heterosexual woman. She had little desire to marry a man and have children. In fact, my dad used to date my eldest aunt, and he and my mom were just really good friends (who got high together and whoops, here I am!).  Well, since my families knew each other (my dad’s family operated the local burger joint/candy store), they kinda forced them into a marriage that lasted all of 1.5 years.  Dad kinda bounced (he later returned) so it was just me and mom, mom and me. She had no idea what to do with me, I could tell. I spend about a year living with my grandmother and rarely seeing my mother while she “tried to figure it all out”.  Funny how cyclical life is… eh?

What followed was  years of moving around, staying with this one or that one, struggling to make it, trials and tribulations that my family doesnt even know about. I won’t write them in case they are reading, but my mom and I went through a LOT. She did things, unmentionable things, to make sure I was fed, clothed, and went to school. Finally, things began to settle down for us and I began to feel safer, more secure. 

My mother wasnt a very emotionally expressive person, and until she was on her death bed, I could count on two hands the times I remembered her telling me she loved me.  She was often quiet and withdrawn.  She also tried to please others, especially her family. When they critiqued her parenting styles, she changed to try and please them. When they critiqued her personal life, she tried to accomodate them, denying herself at the same time.  Eventually, that changed when she met a woman that she would go on to spend the rest of her life with… and consequently lose me.

I had no issue with my mother being in a same-sex relationship. I initially had a problem with her hiding it from me. Then, the problem became the woman herself. I won’t give that woman anymore than one sentence to say that she was my “Sully”.

My mother often left me alone with her and my life became a miserable, horrible existence. My mother seemed to finally be happy, so I said nothing. I cried myself to sleep most nights (sleeping on a couch because, well, she had been convinced that I didnt need a bed of my own). My mother had become an activist in the LGBT community, was smiling more, had parties, had friends, she went out dancing and seemed to be alive. Who was I to steal that joy from her when I spent most of my life thinking my existence alone had stolen her chances for happiness. If it werent for me, she could have persued her dream of being a writer, yanno?

So I said nothing.

Then, I heard about going to boarding school and I jumped at the opportunity. I left at 14 and never looked back. I avoided going home for breaks by occasionally staying with friends or staying with my dad. My mom would come to visit me, which was fine when she came alone, which was rare. I was just happy to be on my own, away from that house. I guess she could tell I was pulling away from her, but she chalked it up to me becoming more independent. I began smoking, drinking, using drugs, and at 16, became sexually active.

I told her the week before she died that I got pregnant at 16 by a man who was 24. She’d had no idea.

I was still brilliant so I did well in school. I involved myelf in all types of activities. Held various leadership roles. Even won an award for all of my contributions to the community. I went on to attend an Ivy League university where I did just as well. School became my escape. I enjoyed drama clubs and writing because I could escape from my life. I was as happy as one could be, I guess.

July 2001, my mother was in an accident so severe, she was no longer able to work. She sued and won a nice chunk of money. I received just enough to pay off my tuition. Why? Someone convinced her I didnt deserve or need any of it. That same someone spent most of it.

October 2005, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given 6 months to live. February 2006, I find out I’m pregnant. October 2006, she bears witness to her first grandchild being born. April 2007, she was tired of fighting and decided it was time.

From October 2005 until April 2007, I connected with my mother in a way that I’d never been able to do before. I stopped caring about hurting her feelings. I let go of a lot of the anger and resentment, the same feelings that propelled me to greatness and fueled my desire to succeed. I focused on caring for her and beinging a new life into the world. We talked… a lot. She revealed, I revealed. It was healing in many ways. She apologized a LOT. She cried a LOT. I forgave a LOT.

And then she was gone.

And for the last three years, all I’ve been able to think of is why did I wait until she was dying to do this? Why did I hold so much in? Why couldnt I have been honest? I didn’t want to hurt someone I felt had been hurt enough in her life. I didnt want to be any more of a burden than I always felt I was.

But, like any child, I loved my mother and I just wanted to please her. I wanted her to be proud of me.  In her own ways, I know she was, even if it was hard to express it. She did, at the end. Every word I’d wanted to hear growing up, I heard those last months. So, I know she loved me. And as I’ve struggled with a failed marriage, depression, and being a first time mother, all I’ve wanted was my mommy. Here I am, again, crying myself to sleep at night.

I just needed one more year… just one.

Power and Persuasion in the Classroom

A student, after sitting through one of my lectures, and then talking with me over an orientation dinner during which faculty were encouraged to engage students, asked me at the end of the evening if I was going to hit the bar scene later that night.


Exchanges like that are what lead to exchanges like this: “I am Professor J; let’s get started.”  No “hello;” no “how are you?;” no “this is administrative law, in room F109; make sure you’re in the right class.”  Rather, I jump right into substance on the first day, calling on students randomly, fully expecting them to have completed, and critically assessed, the first assigned reading.  When going over my syllabus and classroom policies at the end of that first class, I emphasize that I don’t excuse absences; that I don’t tolerate lateness; that the word “pass” has no meaning in my classroom.  I always wear a suit to teach.  I call on students by their last names, using “Mr.” and “Mrs.”  I am known to write challenging exams, and to be an unforgiving grader.  I threaten to ban laptops if students violate my rules regarding internet use during class.

The current teaching semester, however, is almost over, and on Thursday, I started class by expressing my love for the TV show Glee.  Always tickled to get a glimpse into the personal lives of their professors, my students immediately broke out into a round of giggling and twittering.  When one student asked me what all the excitement was about Glee, I gave her a response that ended with me dancing while I sang one bar of a song covered by the show last season.  More giggling ensued.

The contrast between the way I begin the semester, and the way in which I end it, is a reflection of the balancing act that teaching requires of me.  As I was preparing to teach my very first class two years ago, a colleague warned me that I had a profile “trifecta” that I would have to manage in the classroom: young, black, and female.  Graduate students are used to seeing authority in the classroom embodied as an older white male.  They associate power with that profile, and defer to it accordingly. When my profile shows up instead, deference is thrown out the window.  An isolated mistake is interpreted as a sign of incompetence.  Students feel emboldened to challenge my knowledge.  A bad hair day will be mentioned in my teaching evaluations.  To manage all of this, my classroom practices and policies are meant to convey power; they are meant to convey the seriousness of our classroom endeavor; they are meant to convey that I am to be taken seriously.

But I am not always a serious person.  And I don’t believe the classroom should be a site of dominance.  Learning, rather, is a collaborative experience, and part of that collaboration means that I must bring a little bit of myself into the classroom.  As in other parts of my life, in the classroom I am quick to smile, and laugh often.  I’m a bit of a ham, but teaching is, after all, a performance art.  My lectures are peppered with personal anecdotes and jokes.  My students know that I am married; that I have a young child.  Most importantly, my students know that I see the world from the perspective of a young black female, which means I am sensitive to the ways in which the law affects marginalized groups in society.  Explicitly acknowledging my racial and gender identity in the classroom sometimes makes me uneasy.  When my teaching evaluations are released to me at the end of every semester, I have my husband take a look at them first, so he can screen out any craziness.

Despite positive evaluations so far, I still fear that students will punish me for explicitly acknowledging that I am different from most of their other professors.  Black females are often punished on teaching evaluations for being—well, black and female.  Explicitly acknowledging that I have a perspective that differs from that of their other law professors on account of who I am in the world only invites them to penalize me for that difference.  And because they often have no framework for black women in positions of power, my willingness to be human with them will sometimes encourage them to perceive me as a peer.  I still remember the surprise of having that student ask me if he would see me out drinking later that night.  My immediate response was to laugh at his boldness, but my intuition told me that if I were white and male, no amount of conversation over a formal dinner would have permitted him to ask me such a question.

At the end of the day, however, I have to be me; and I have to remain faithful that in showing my students who I am, I am teaching them an important lesson.  When I’m feeling uneasy about being myself in front of my students, I am encouraged by a former colleague who wore her hijab to teach.  I once ran into her over the weekend but barely recognized her because she wasn’t wearing her scarf.  When I expressed surprise, she explained to me that although she did not always wear her scarf outside of the classroom, she always wore it inside the classroom.  “They need to persuaded,” she said, “that their law professor can be both an accomplished instructor and an observant Muslim woman; they need to see that I’m not oppressed; that I’m educated; that my religious beliefs don’t conflict with my participation in a democratic society.”  I like to think that I am persuading my students that their law professor can be both an accomplished instructor and a black female; that power does not have to look white and male; and that my willingness to engage them on a personal level is not mutually exclusive with my ability to engage them on an academic one.

stranger than fiction

I’ve been bit.

One of these Cocoamamas has gotten me bit by the writing bug, and it’s sucking me like a mosquito. It’s kind of annoying because I can’t think of anything else and I cannot get rid of it. It’s turning into a life of its own, with my right brain drifting to book ideas (short stories or novel?), creating sentences, experimenting with first and third person, wondering what’s going to happen next.

And I love it.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to be a lot of things. I’ve always wanted to be a singer. And a dancer. A piano player. A professor. At one point a poet, and a scientist. A fashionista. A mom and a wife. But the only thing I’ve done consistently well is write. I suppose 20 years (wow) of formal education tends to make that an inevitable destiny.

But never fiction. Good fiction is hard to write. Bad fiction is painful to read. The project started as a memoir, but that idea was scrapped early. Too many things to include, too many people to hurt. And a life that is a bit unbelievable.

Because seriously, and bear with me for just a moment as I make this point, how many other black women do you know who have two children, pursuing a joint degree at one of the top universities in the country, who also suffers from bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia? And I say this NOT to point out anything extraordinary about myself, b/c these things are not, and that’s really not my point, but to say that my actual life is too strange to make a good story.

Recently I read a draft of something where a character flashes back to a scene as a child where she was the only 6-yr-old to stuff cake in her mouth while all the other children ate “properly”. And it immediately struck me as false because I don’t know any 6-yr-olds that are so proper to drape a napkin across their lap and use their fork, nor did it strike me as believable that she would be the ONLY kid out of place. Yet, it was a true story. And while I know that truth is often strange, it sometimes just doesn’t work in a story, because it’s too strange. It just doesn’t SOUND true.

I don’t want to write a story about me, because I am strange. When I told people I was going to California, 9 months pregnant with an 18 month old to start a joint JD/PhD, people looked at me like I was crazy. And I was. “Normal,” real, sane people don’t do that. When I spent a week on the psych unit and then started the next quarter, finished my qualifying paper before my deadline, everyone told me how strong I was. I didn’t feel strong. I was scared to be home by myself. And I guess that can be a story but it’s too much, too much drama for one person to be real. And I don’t want to write a story about perseverance, or strength, or any of that stuff. I don’t even know how my story, the story of my life, ends. It might not be about any of those things.

I want to write a story about mental illness and family and friends and being scared and not knowing how things are going to turn out. But to make it believable, I need to change the truth. Ramp it down some. It can’t be about me.

Does being a good mom make me a bad friend?

I have always wanted to be a mother. I knew that I would spend time with my family and be intentional about our interactions and development. And that is exactly what I did. I make sure to have dinner made so that we can sit down as a family, eat and communicate. It’s through these times that I find out about the 9 hours of the day I am unable to be with them. My 3 year old even gets his moment to shine. So, does my commitment to my family make me a bad friend?

We all know how the grind goes. Pick up the kids, cook/prepare dinner, some play time, bath, story/book, prayer, bed. And all of this is done between 6pm and 8pm. Then there is the extra hour of “Moooommyyyyyyyyyy, I have to go potty.” “Can I have a hug?” “I have to ask you something.” So, now it’s 9pm and I finally have the opportunity to engage in adult conversation and reconnect with my husband. So, when do I have time for my friends?

One of my bff’s and I try to have mommy night at least once a month. But, I’m talking about the old school yacking it up on the phone with your girlfriend. I don’t get to do that anymore. Especially since most of my girlfriends are also cocoamamas. So, if it’s not my kids, it’s her kids that need something and may distract us from the phone call. So, how does one balance being a good mom and a good friend?

I believe that a good friend understands. When I am able to sneak a good phone conversation in, I try to get the most out of it. And, I’ve had to stop apologizing. I also had to tell myself that the phone works both ways. I can receive calls just as I can make them. So, I have to stop feeling guilty if I don’t reach out.

How do you balance both?

Annie is a former CocoaMama who is married to her best friend of 15 years. They have two sons, a 6  year old and a 3 year old. She currently works at the Pennsylvania State University full time where she  is also completing her doctoral degree in higher education. She has worked and been a student for as  long as she has been a mother. So, she has had to learn how to simultaneously juggle all of her  identities. While she has not perfected this skill, she continues to assure that her family remains her  number one priority.

All About Me!

In exactly one week, I will be another year older.

That makes me an Aries. In fact, I’m an Alpha Aries. I’m the epitome of an Aries woman. I have this belief that people born in the first week of the dominant month are those who embody the most traits of that sign. I’m really into astrology, forgive me. If you cannot relate, my apologies. To read more about Arians, click here

My favorite holiday is my birthday. Seriously. I’m so amazed and grateful to have lived to see another year on this earth, so I take time to really celebrate myself.

But this year is special. This is the first birthday I’m celebrating post-marriage. It’s the first birthday, in a few, that I have not been deeply depressed. It’s the first birthday in a long time that I’m having a big party to celebrate. It’s the first birthday in my New Life.

And I’m SO excited!

Lately, I’ve really been focusing on uplifting myself by recognizing my accomplishments and the great things about myself, and understanding that I will only get better with age and time. I have the tendency to be overly critical of myself and I’d like to say that’s because I’m somewhat of a perfectionist. I want to be the best! But in true Aries form, I start everything with gusto and passion and then grow extremely bored shortly after beginning. This leaves me feeling like a failure for having little follow-through. But, I’m moving away from being critical and focusing on being celebratory.

I’ve been through a lot these last two years, this last year especially. I feel it’s my time to shine! When better to fully embrace that than on my birthday?

So, here’s to me! I’ve come back from what felt like the depths of hell, a few scars, a few bruises, a few set-backs, a few wrong decisions… but I’m here. I’m here and I’m growing stronger every day. I’m here and I’m believing more and more in myself and what I can really do now that I’ve been relieved of so many burdens. I’m rediscovering myself and loving all of the new and wonderful things I’m capable of.

It’s all about me!!!

Rat Race, Continued

So my daughter didn’t get in to the one private school we had our hearts set on—the only one we applied to. Or rather, she failed to procure one of the two “girl” spots that were available to the pool of 41 applicants for first grade—one spot went to the sibling of a student and the other went to, who knows, some miracle-child whose parents have undoubtedly been doing their happy dance all weekend.  Or maybe not, maybe they were some high-flying billionaires or society folk who knew they had it like that all along.

My girl made it through the first several hoops—the IQ test, the interview, the playdate—only to stall at the very last stage, the actual selection part. I got the letter telling us we were in the “wait pool” on Friday, spent the Persian new year over the weekend just slightly bummed out, and called the school first thing on Monday to see what “wait pool” means exactly. We had been told in the past that everyone is put on the wait list, that they don’t reject folks for political reasons.

By the time 48 hours had passed and I hadn’t gotten a call back, I started to read all kinds of things into it. I was also talking to a couple of other moms whose kids were in the wait pool too—albeit for different grades. I started observing an interesting trend: we were all talking about our rejection letters in language that I’ve used in the past only to describe relationships. As in: “I thought things were going so well.” Or “The things that were said made me think it was meant to be.” Or “I felt so much at home that I thought maybe the feeling was mutual.”

And once I recognized that, I just had to step back and laugh. What the heck were we all talking about exactly? Was this still about our children? Or something else entirely?

I decided to consciously separate my wish for my daughter to have the best education, the best possible early start and the most conducive learning environment separate from my own EGO!

This is not about me. Or at the very least, it shouldn’t be.

I also decided to accept that things happen for a reason and we almost never know why a path takes an unexpected or undesired turn.

I decided to accept and submit.

And just when I began to feel detached, the phone rang.

It was the school.

There were only two wait pool letters sent out to girls and my daughter is one of them. She is a strong match and will likely be the next person to be offered a spot if one becomes available.

Having said that, there’s not a huge likelihood that a spot will become available before the end of the summer.

Either way, we’re fine. Healthy. Thriving. Grateful.