The F Word

I like to think of fall as a season for renewal and this year I am focused on making it fabulous.

The word I’m referring to is FIRST. That’s the position I’m putting myself in and I encourage you to do the same. CocoaMamas readers are some of the more self-actualized folks I know. I’m proud of the way we share, inspire and support each other. As a CocoaMama, it is easy to find something to do. Between work, school, being a wife/partner, daughter, sister, boss, employee, and 100 other things there is always opportunity for engagement. I’ve decided that I need to do more for me.

 The change of seasons is inspiring to me this year. The transformation of the leaves is beautiful and the chill in the air means a change in fashion too. I like to think of fall as a season for renewal and this year I am focused on making it fabulous. Since I skipped the summer shape up I’ve decided to get fit for fall. I don’t make time to go to the gym but I am able to squeeze in some plies when I go to the bathroom. Since I’m drinking more water, I make frequent trips. TMI? Perhaps. I’m learning (finally!) that little things add up to big improvements over time.

I’m also taking a closer look at my diet, working hard to eat less processed food and be mindful that 40 may be the new 20…but physically it’s still 40, and things have changed. That one little hair that popped up on my chin in my 30s? Now it is GRAY and has company! Glowing skin? No problem – as long as I follow the multi-product system my drier 42 year old skin requires. I had a blood pressure scare last month and I want to do my part to make sure there are no repeats. I make sure that my kids drink organic milk and always have fruit available, but I eat on the run, drink sodas and don’t sleep enough. I’m sure that the stress of knowing what to do and not doing it doesn’t help my blood pressure. As I’ve gotten older I also feel a certain anxiety about what I haven’t done, often failing to acknowledge my accomplishments. This of course produces more stress, which leads to ice cream and potato chips, high blood pressure and sleeplessness. Enough of that! I have a plan…

My Focused on First plan includes:

  • Going to the doctor (internal medicine and GYN) and dentist
  • Buying fabulous glasses, giving my eyes a rest from contacts
  • Listening to live music
  • Saving money, getting fiscally fit
  • Updating my fall wardrobe so I can look as fabulous as I feel
  • Sleeping more

What does your me first plan look like?

First focused links:

Woman First – great song by Kindred the Family Soul

Need beauty info? Check out AfroBella

DASH diet ebook

DASH diet overview

*I have to give a shout out to one of  my Twitter BFFs, the lovely & talented @aaw1976 for her feedback and encouragement (turn off the TV!).

What About Your Friends?

I’ve been feeling a little friend-less lately.

My sister-friend and I compared our cellphone’s recent history the other day and realized the only calls we get are from each other.

I have 556 “friends” on Facebook, but when I announced my baby girl’s birthday on my profile page a couple of weeks ago, only six “friends” liked my announcement (3 of them were family) and four different people left a little message.

I participate in twitter, follow 95 people and have 91 followers. But I just tweeted “crying over folks who ain’t crying over me. *deep breath and klonopin*” and got crickets back. I often feel ignored on my timeline. It’s the least satisfying social networking tool ever.

I have friends from friends from high school and college on the East Coast. I go out of my way to keep in touch, to attend special events, to let them know that I care. When they call, and ask, “Are you busy?” Even if I am, I drop it, and attend to what they need. Only one of those friends has come here to visit me in the last three years that I’ve been here in California.

Here, in Palo Alto, I know a lot of people. One group of friends are about 12-20 years older than me, with children slightly older than mine, well-off mothers. Good people, we get together for mass playdates, ladies game nights, movie nights, dinners out and the like. But I don’t know anything about their relationships with their husbands, or what’s going on in their lives that has nothing to do with their kids. They regularly give me advice about my marriage and my childrearing, but not the other way around. It’s like I’m not an equal to them.

I’m having a get together on Saturday, of graduate student women. I’ve invited 31 women that I like, new grad students in the law school, women that I know look up to me. I don’t know what the turn out will be. So far 4 yes, 2 maybe, 1 no.

What about your friends / Will they stand their ground / Will they  let you down again?

What about your friends / Are they gonna be low down / Will they ever be around?

Or will they turn their backs on you?

As a black woman, who suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, I’m currently suffering from a lack of connection. I feel like I’m looking at a bunch of backs. I’m currently having a panic attack because on the one hand, I don’t want people to start calling me off he hook. People don’t want to talk to me about my panic attacks and my anxiety because they don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to say about my physical issues for why I need to go to the urologist. They don’t know how to listen, not solve; how to hear my tears without trying to stop them.

But on the other hand, for my sanity, I need more than pills. I need friends. I need to know that my friends love me, care for me, would care if I wasn’t here anymore, enjoy my company, want to hear what I have to say, think I’m interesting. As black women and mothers, we need each other to be for each other. But right now, my lack of connection with any of those I used to call friends has me questioning whether I even know what a friend is anymore. What about you, dear reader? What about your friends?

*I edited this on Sunday, September 19 because I did not want to potentially hurt someone that could be called a friend.

i know i’m not supposed to talk about this but . . .

it used to be a really hot topic. even without picking up glamour magazines with “sex secrets” and “statistics” women, and in particular i mean my girl’s and I, used to talk about “it.” i’m afraid that because i’m married now (and have been for the last three years) and because i am 30 and because i’m a scholar (and because that means i’m only supposed to write about “Serious” topics), and because i have three kids and the majority of my friends are still single (even though that use to mean that we could talk about it), i may never get this out again . . .

i miss sex. it’s not that i don’t have it anymore but i really do think it’s true what they say about marriage and kids, once you do both, you just don’t do “it” that much anymore. i hate to sound like one of my kids but boooo whoooooo. this is so unlike me.

this won’t be a long one ladies, because somewhere in the rational part of my mind I am well aware that Internet publishing about my personal sex life is probably academic career suicide. However, I really wish I had some answers for how married CocoaMamas get “it” done?

Why Is “Not Settling” So Difficult?

I have been asking myself this question a lot lately.

I find myself wondering if I ask too much of people, if I set my standards too high. I always come back to the “No, your standards are right where they should be” response.

But then, I recognize how easy it is to settle. How it can be stress-free if you don’t put any real thought or emotion into it. Anyone can settle for less and in truth, most people do.  I did that once, though, and it did not work. I simply could not endure it any longer. My self-esteem and self-worth are too high to settle the next time around.

Yet, by not settling, I find myself more often than not by myself. That is not so much a bad thing at this particular point in my life. I’m going through a transition, on the tail end of full recovery from an emotionally brutal marriage. So, I don’t exactly need someone right now, this very instant.

But… I always think about the future. I am a planner. I am organized. I have a son to think about so my future is his future. I have to be sure that if I do end up with someone, the person is someone I trust completely around my son and with his childrearing and upbringing.  I’m not 100% calculated in my actions, but I do like to have a handle or understanding of what is to come. So maybe I’d like to begin laying the groundwork for something. It’s been a year since “we” ended. I have done a lot of introspective processing and I’ve come to know what I want, what I need, and what I expect from a partner.

Honesty, loyalty, respect, honor, love, dedication, companionship, these are standard things I think anyone seeks when they want a partner. That’s not asking too much, is it? Or maybe it is…

Particulars like age, race, height, socioeconomic status, education are somewhat negotiable, but not really lol But I think we’re entitled to preferences because those are what we want and so long as they are not too extreme, we should be able to have what we want.

I don’t think I’m too particular. I just think I’m anti-settling and what I view as settling, others might not agree.

Having “been there, done that”, I know it is impossible for me to ever be truly happy by settling for less. I just wish it were not so difficult, because I would love to have someone take me to the movies and buy me ice cream every now and then.

And truth be told… I don’t think I can do this mommy thing alone.

Reflect, Readjust, and Resolve

For people beholden to the academic calendar, the end of the year is not Dec. 31st, but May 31st.  And, just like the end of the calendar year, the end of the academic year is an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of the previous year, readjust priorities, and resolve to do better going forward.

In terms of teaching, I had two goals for this past year: teach students some law, and establish meaningful connections with then in the process.  Although some of the exams I’ve graded are making me doubt whether I achieved the former (Hel-lo, people! We discussed question #1 in the review session!), the insistence of several students on hugging me as I hooded them at graduation, despite the commands of graduation facilitators (“NO HUGGING ON STAGE!”), assured me of the latter.

My goal for my daughter was simple: raise a happy and healthy child.  Well, by all accounts, she’s a bubbly, healthy, little girl.  Turns out there were some teeth up in her gums after all, she has learned to sleep through the night, and her tantrums in protest to being placed on the changing table illustrate a strong will (and a healthy does of spunk!).  She took her first steps earlier this week, and continues to delight her father and me with her ongoing mastery of the world around her.

But not all aspects of my life have fared so well.  I love exercise, and have always found a way to move my body, be it organized sports or African-dance.  I have not exercised regularly, however, since my daughter’s birth.  I love my career, and although I have excelled at the teaching part, I have not written a new piece of scholarship in almost one year.  I love my husband, but with the demands of our newly expanded family, and my insistence on staying home with my daughter during the day (and, thus, working at night), he and I have not had the quality time that is important for a thriving marriage.

And so, in the 3-month grace period that the academic year affords before the start of the New Year in the fall, I will be making some changes.  This summer, I’ll be joining the campus Wellness Center, where I will start an exercise program that includes tennis, kickboxing, Tai Chi, and maybe even belly dancing (killing two birds with one stone with that last one!).  We are currently on an interview blitz to find a babysitter who can give my husband and me an opportunity for a semi-regular date night!  And, finally, my husband will stay home this summer with the baby, so that I can go into the office regularly and begin work on a scholarly piece that, to date, has existed only in my head.

I’m excited about the summer and the changes it will bring, although even positive changes sometimes require hard decisions.  To make time for scholarly writing, exercising and dating, other things that I love will have to be put on hold for a while.  Accordingly, I will be taking a break from Cocoamamas for the summer.

I hope to return in the fall refreshed, ready to start a new year, and with a newly acquired ability to move my midsection!  In the meantime, enjoy your summer; I pray that it will give you an opportunity to reflect, readjust, and resolve to do better going forward.

Losing the Baby Weight

Ok, the title is deceiving, but maybe readers can relate to my current journey: weightloss.

I’m not losing baby weight. In fact, I lost about 45 lbs from the time I conceived until about a week after I delivered.

I’m just losing weight in general and have been for the last 7 years.  I thought about this post today while speaking with one of my subordinates at work. She is young, 23, no children, lives alone, and doesn’t have much of a social life. She is also a plus-sized Latina who, though beautiful in looks and personality, is on a dangerous path, in my opinion.

Back in college, I wish I knew what I know now. Believe it or not, I knew NOTHING about how one gains or loses weight. I just loved to eat and wasn’t interested in anything sports- or exercise- related because no one ever pushed me towards it and because I never had to do it. I was about her age when I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and had to learn an entire new way of living. So, I see her, and I have reached out to her to give her some encouragement and motivation to lose the weight NOW. I see myself in her and maybe I feel like I’m going back in time. I told her it will melt off and her skin elasticity is priceless. She’s never thought about losing weight because, like me, no one talked about healthy eating/living in her life. There are a lot of cultural issues involved with this, with Black and Latina women more likely to be overweight. But that’s not the point of this post.

Since my diagnosis, I have been up and down on this journey. I started off losing about 100 lbs in about a year, only to gain 75 back over 2 years, then I lost 45 with the baby, and in the last 3 years, I’ve gained 20 back. That 20 is net because I dropped low low and went high high.  I’m an emotional eater, so going through the dissolution of my marriage, I found comfort in my love of food.

However, today is a new day.

I’m no longer carrying the emotional baggage. I no longer have the “I have no money for a gym” or “I have no time to go workout” excuse. I’m no longer seeking comfort foods to fill the voids in my life. I have the time, I have the energy, I have the focus, and I’m putting my plan into action. For real this time.

I’m feeling better already. I’m sleeping better, I have more energy, and I feel like I’m finally buckling down and doing something for myself after years of sacrificing and giving up my time and energy to serve and please others.

So maybe it isn’t the baby weight that I needed to lose. Maybe it was the weight of a bad marriage, the weight of low-esteem, the weight of financial burdens, the weight of being a new mom, and the weight of being unfocused and out-of-sorts that I have had to shed to finally be able to achieve a long-term goal of mine.

I’m finally, as the young folks say, “Doing me”


A Hot CocoaMama

I said I was going to do better. Since the new year I’ve been waking up my eyes with my favorite Lash Extract mascara and some black eyeliner. I found a new “formula” for my hair that includes Miss Jessie’s curly pudding, and Carol’s Daughter’s Hair Milk and Twi Leave-In Conditioner. It is, admittedly, the first time my natural hair hasn’t looked (as) dry since my Momma was doing my twists, lovingly and meticulously, with B&B.

I’ve been hot recently 🙂 I presented a paper at MLA in some cute black leggings, my favorite purple dress and the mandatory tweed blazer; my version of the academic staple was fitted, and had the cutest coordinated hues of purple, pink and white. I even rocked my purple snakeskin pumps just to shake the boys up a bit.

Truth is I’ve been back and forth lately about how to “dress the part.” I spent the last three years on my feet/game in D.C. public schools, where jeans and sneaks often get you in the mood. Comfortable and relaxed I approached my day, energized, organized and with my sleeves rolled up, getting dirty with the best of ‘em. I was never as fly as my artsy, fashionista students, male and female, or as “professional” as my suited up veteran colleagues, but my look got the job done.

Over the winter break, in anticipation of my first class as “Dr. Me,” I cashed in on a merchandise credit at Tiffany’s and bought “everyday jewelry,” because I’ve found that looking plain has its perks. I am often the younger teacher that gets “mistaken,” for the student at work. Furthermore, the Plain Jane mommy routine does numbers when you are trying to get medical professionals to class you as warm, caring, educated and motivated, and you really need them to stop stigmatizing you and give the expertise your children need. I know . . . crazy!

All that being said I wish I was still turning heads, particularly mine, and then my husband’s, in that order 🙂 I have this homegirl who has been putting me to shame for years!!!!! The other day I needed her bad, and she always comes through. My daughter was admitted to the hospital for “failure to thrive,” my two-year-old son was tearing up the place with “failure to stop cutting the f*%K up,” and my husband and I needed him gone! She came and rescued both of us on green stiletto pumps, in cute tight jeans, and with a full face of perfectly applied/neutral makeup. Her hair was in an upsweep, cause she knew she didn’t have that kind of time, but even the upsweep was still as eye-catching as the A-line on her trendy, grey coat.

She and I have talked about this!!! A few months ago, while driving cross-country, I confessed how boring and tired I think I look, and told her truthfully how I admired how absolutely flawless she always is, even though I have known for forever that it takes her waayyyy tooooooooo long in the bathroom. She told me, like a true friend, that I needed to take more time to care for myself, and that I was probably putting too much time into caring for my kids and my book project. She also told me what the hell she does for that long in the bathroom, and though the details are now fuzzy, it had something to do with exfoliating and pumice stones.

Often when I go to the barbershop to take years off my face with a razor blade eyebrow arch I tell my barber, Omar, and longtime friend, that I remember when I was cute. It’s normally couched in some conversation about how adorable his new wash girl is, or a tender quip at his receding hairline. He tells me that I’m still cute, which I know is to make me feel better, but thank God it works. I would love to feel that good all that time, and know that I really brought it on.

I Forgot To Pray For Good Health For All Babies

Recently my family has been challenged by health issues. My oldest son has an “undiagnosed” learning disability that is once again being “discovered” by a new school. This is a hard thing for me to handle. Education has always come easy for me. However, with all my degrees and experience, not being able to figure out how best to help my son learn is very much a crisis for me and has been for some time.

My daughter is nine-months and she weighs 11 pounds. I have taken her to CHOP, supposedly the best in the area, and her liver and kidney are fine. However three months later, she has lost an ounce. She will start at a Grow Clinic at St. Christopher’s Hospital this month.

I have been praying a lot these past months and I am so grateful that my children are here with me each new day. I trust that with God’s help, we will figure out how to overcome our health issues soon.

This weekend however I learned that a dear couple friend lost their child to SIDS. I have since sent them my love and prayers but I can’t help feeling like I should have stopped to pray for all the babies in my life recently, to pray for the health of all children.

I became an educator years before the birth of my oldest child. Teaching children has inspired me to think broadly about family and my door is pretty wide open. My mom is another important model for this. I joke that there was always someone else at my house for Thanksgiving. I have a whole “Play” family. Play cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. that adopted my family when my parents moved as a young couple with kids into my hometown.

I thank God for all my extended family. I pray that this new year brings good health to everyone. I encourage others to think broadly about family and to protect children in service somehow as well as with prayer.

Tanji is a wife and mother of three. She has two boys and one girl. She lives in Philadelphia, her favorite chocolate city. She is an educator and her first “baby” is now a Howard University graduate and a Cocoa Mama.