Things I Wish I Knew

Me at work. My baby Lena took this picture. We all got a trophy and I used the opportunity to be goofy.

Last week, two friends came to me full of angst regarding being able to do all the things that we as mothers have to do, while still having time for ourselves. My advice was, “Get some help. It’s 2020.” There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money, and be an amazing mom at the same time. It is nearly impossible to cook nightly, fold all the clothes, keep a clean home, and look the way you want to, even if you don’t work. Definitely less realistic if you are trading eight hours a day for money. 

Here are some things I wish I knew before I became a mom:

It is okay to need/want help.

  • I remember folding about six loads of clothes one day and wanting to cry. I called my mom, and she urged me to “not kill myself.” She told me she had help when we were younger, and that there was nothing wrong with me hiring a person to do some of the household chores. I was stubborn, and also asking for help used to make me feel weak, so I did it alone. My self-concept, and self-esteem suffered greatly. I wore Harry Potter tee shirts for Levi’s first year of life. I wear wigs, and sometimes they would be so worn out and raggedy, that I would just try and remix them to make myself feel somewhat presentable. I felt bad about spending money on hair when I was wasn’t bringing any money in, even though my alopecia almost requires it. My ability to care for my child became my crown, and the pride I used to take in myself being a fun, bubbly person drifted away. Pretty much all I was was Levi’s mom. Which leads me to my next point…

You ARE the expert on your kid, but you are not the only one who can take care of him/her.

  • Now-as I type this, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite, because man, o man, did it take a lot for me to get to this point. This juncture I am at is a big deal, because it is rooted in some serious pain, and trust and revelation. I had to be forced into my current position, where I feel like while I am at work teaching my kids, or at home studying, or watching church, Levi is okay. He will eat without me, he will sleep without me, he will laugh without me. Despite the fact that I am his home. If you are a mom, and you are struggling with getting a job, or just getting out more, invest in yourself a little, and trust. There are people out there who do terrible things to children, but don’t allow that fear to trap you and cause you to become someone you aren’t. Fear kills. The kids are alright. I pray for my son several times a day. Trusting God has literally been my only hope for almost a year now. 

You are important too. So is your mate/partner/person.

  • One of my favorite people-mind you, I have never seen her in the flesh- is a woman named Kolbee. We started following each other on IG when I was a homemaker. She is a homemaker as well, and the mother of two beautiful girls. She cooks her man’s dinner, she cleans her home, she takes care of her kids, and she gets her nails DONE! Not just some wimpy manicure, so her cuticles don’t look like mine. Done. Long, sparkly, with beautiful polish. That’s her thing. She is naturally beautiful and effervescent, so it doesn’t take much for her to be on point, but sister gets those nails done. I am typing this and fighting the urge to go get mine done. Maybe Tuesday. I am going to make her hold me to it. From what I can tell, based on our DM conversations and her adorable stories, her and her man are in loveeeee! I haven’t asked her how they do this, maybe he is just the right person. Their two littles don’t stop them from kissing, watching football together, and being there for each other. For all the people going through the struggle that I once was, bear in mind that many marriages fail after a baby comes into the equation. Make time for each other. Seek to understand, not to be right. If you can make it past 18 months without talk of divorce, you are golden in my book. There are stats to support this. I kinda think it should be more like 36 months, especially if one parent stays at home.

Follow my girl Kolbee on IG. @thehomemakinghousewife

Get a job if you need one.

  • Levi was a preemie. Born at 25 weeks and one day. We had already decided I would be a stay at home mom for a year, before he jumped out of my uterus almost four months too soon, but that fact definitely changed things. One year turned into almost three, especially since the first time he went to school at 2 ½, he got the flu and ended up in the hospital. I cried about my situation at least once a week. Mostly when I was by myself. I felt like a failure, and that my life was at a stand still. Even though my heart was full each time the pediatrician said he was exceeding their expectations, there was a big question mark next to what I was doing for myself. I earned my Master’s degree online with a 4.0. I self-published my children’s book. That wasn’t enough. I couldn’t buy a candy bar without someone else’s money, and it made me incredibly sad. Sadness is an emotion I don’t allow myself to feel very easily. I knew I needed to get up every day, dress myself up, listen to music, and earn money for myself, and I didn’t do it. It cost me my relationship with myself. Did Levi need me? Absolutely? For almost three years? Maybe not. If I were to get pregnant in the near future, I would send the baby to a small, clean facility with loving people and cameras, and I would enjoy walking to food trucks. I would pump my breast milk in someone’s office. And I would love on my baby tremendously when I got home, like I do now. Nothing is better than his little face after a long day of teenagers.

Only you know what it takes to make you happy. And your happiness is just as important as everyone else’s.

My Harry Potter tee phase. Madly in love with my baby, hardly liked myself.

BLACK MAN LOVE LETTER


When I started working for New Earth, I noticed it. 

They were tall, and stunning. These men, deep, dark shades of brown. 

This is not to say I never noticed that my men were captivating. This is just to say these were different, and grabbed at my collar in a new way. I grew up with men who looked like this, but since my eyes had been somewhat closed to them for a while, everything from their nail beds to their earlobes railed against my vision. 

In my initial interview, I noticed the brother talking to me was attractive, but the way he was questioning me made me consider him a little pompous. The curve of his lips, and his basketball player walk escaped me until we actually started working together and he smiled with me as I got acquainted with other staff members. 

I don’t think I have ever seen faces like his, like all the others I met there. 

So majestic.

Low hair cuts, high top fades with militant locs of hair bunched together, reaching for the galaxies, dreadlocs, afros. Curly, and wavy, and ready to dance, and ready to fight. 

One by one, I started to notice them.

The way their voices sounded, and the way they made me feel.

The distinctness, the near harshness of what it means to be them, coming out of their throats. These voices don’t politely tap you on the shoulder and ask for you to listen. They grab your papers out of your hands, and put Acme anvils on your soles. Your soul. I don’t know what far-off land I had traveled out to where I stopped noticing their majesty, but I am so excited to be back. Now, I have the opportunity to be lost in them again. Getting lost is one of my favorite things to do. I’m blessed enough to be able to experience this daily. Talking to them and having the hardest time listening and not listening, because a beard is beating a bass drum as a mouth moves, and the things coming out of the mouth are so profound. The lips are thick and pouty, and maybe even a little dark because of ganja. These are the same lips that I have the ability to create. Eve gene. 

It has become a mission of mine to study them. Sometimes, I am not even trying. They walk by, or sit in a chair and I am transfixed. Sometimes I want to step into their skin to get an understanding of what it means to be that cool, and that untouchable. I don’t know if I would be able to handle the power that comes with being them. 

Or maybe the sadness, and awareness of a body constantly under attack, but this pen isn’t being used for disadvantages today. It is being used for the glory of being a black man. 

Even the youngest of them know they have a thing. 

My students speak to me with their beautiful selves, and when I jump over the hurdles of trauma and get them going, there are buckets of intelligence spilling over onto my shoes. I have a hard time not smiling at them even when I am upset at something they have done, because of their eyes. I see the little boys in there trying to climb out, clawing and crying and pouting. Along with the men they are getting ready to become. 

Their charm is a little scary. 

 Wow, Black men.

How do you do it?

You raise children. Yours and everyone else’s. 

You take them to school and you feed them. 

And you still make a way to adorn yourself in such a way that creates a forcefield between you and the others. When I see you now, you aren’t wearing your regular clothes. In my sight, you are dressed like a warrior, ready to do battle for us. Ready to hunt, ready to find the ripest, most juicy fruit for us to enjoy together while you tell stories to our children and pat them to bed so we can enjoy the stars together. It is hard to look without touching.

Perejil

The Parsley Massacre was a mass killing that took place in October of 1937 against Haitians living in the Dominican Republic.
Rafael Trujillo would have his soldiers hold up a sprig of parsley in front of Haitian migrants and ask what it was. If pronounced incorrectly, the person was executed right where they stood.

Goose pimples and delicate silver chains

Lipstick stained spliff

Shiny toenails and curls from Elmina Castle and perejil

I like him.

Our fingers touch. Creation of Adam and Storm.

This is an unfamiliar dish

Barramundi,chlodnik, biltong

I don’t know how to do this. 

Like eating with chopsticks. 

Don’t judge. 

Easy things are hard for me.

I like him.

But I don’t feel the need to prove it like that.

This is uncharted territory

If you can control what you put in your mouth, 

You can control anything.

Been blood-filled free for about a year.

Perhaps that is where i harness the power to not kiss him 

Everytime he laughs, or when I watch him reach for things in

the dusty bookstore, and 

I realize I was robbed by not being a black man.

His voice unfolds me in the most gentle way.

I like him.

The power in his thighs makes me wonder. 

Saltwater crocodiles slam their jaws at 3,700 pounds 

Per square inch-lions at a thousand.

What about a man?

What about you? 

Let’s continue not to find out. 

This way, I can see you. 

OMG!

I lived in Santa Monica for close to one month. 

This is where I ran back to God. 

The first time we met, I was in college. 

We were briefly acquainted many years ago when I first started getting fever blisters and my brothers would pick on me mercilessly. Standing at my window looking outside at all the kids riding their bikes, able to laugh because their lips weren’t swollen, I would ask God to remove the blisters, and sometimes-most of the time-he would. 

I don’t remember the name of the Daytona Beach church where I first gave myself to Christ, but I do remember crying to my parents on the phone, and them audibly rolling their eyes at me. My father laughed. It was a short conversation. I was almost foaming at the mouth with gladness. The Holy Spirit overtook me. I am sure my makeup was a mess. I probably went to Picadilly after. I don’t remember for sure, but that was definitely me and Trinnette’s favorite after-praise spot. 

A new Zondervan Women’s Study Bible and a couple months later, my Jezebel spirit got back in the driver’s seat, and my life in Christ was undone. Just like that. Sin separates woman from God. That’s a scripture in my Bible. 

***************************************************************************

There I was, in a neat studio apartment, a ten minute walk from the beach mired in darkness. I had about ten or so items of clothing that I could actually fit into, and more than enough cash folded into my passport holder. My family made sure I didn’t come back to LA broke. Two weeks prior, my son had been forcibly taken from me by the State of Florida, by way of the State of California. You know how in the slave movies the slavemaster and his cronies would just bust into the cabins and grab a baby suckling off its mother’s breast? That’s kind of how it was, except the master was a kindly judge, and there was carpet on the floor instead of dirt. Also, I maintained my dignity, even looking back to silence and comfort my weeping family members and friends sitting behind me. I knew Levi was going back to California without me before we went to court. I couldn’t say it to anyone else. He did too. I couldn’t sleep that night, and each time I attempted to get out of bed, he followed me. He wouldn’t eat his muffin that morning, and tried to follow me out of the house. I am not sure if the private investigators saw that part. 

The first night in my new, temporary place, my friend Petra stayed the night with me, or at least part of it. We put my bag down, talked about the laundry facility, and watched Russian Doll. I woke up slightly afraid because I had no idea where I was. I didn’t remember that I had moved somewhere new. Life without Levi was terrible. I cried most mornings, usually as I prayed, but supernatural help was all around me. The right people called. The right people came. For days on end, the Lyft drivers I requested had Bible names. One day Malachi, the next day Judah. Judah and I had a long talk about Levi (This is starting to sound like the book of Exodus). I told him I wanted my next son’s name to be Simeon, because I liked that one the best of all Levi’s brothers. He said, “Judah means Praise.” He also said the lesser the amount of syllables, the more powerful the name. I was sold. I pray about him now, and I am even hoping that maybe I will have more than one son with a man of God’s own heart. A man like David, or Barack, or the ever popular Boaz. 

There is one moment in particular that really shines for me as the moment I knew I needed to careen head first into Jesus and not look back, not relent, not bow. It was about one in the morning. I woke up and I thought about Levi, my smart, strong, loving boy. My heart felt like it was going to crawl out of my chest and fly away. I was as stiff as a board on the bed, crying, wanting time to stop. I cried out to God. I screamed, “God! How could you do this to me? You took my babies, my little girls. You let them die. And you gave me Levi. You let him live, though he struggled. And now this. You let him be taken from me! God! What is this? Why don’t you just kill me? I can’t handle this! I can’t take it anymore. Just take me right now!” I rolled over on my side and I cried some more. More like howled. Spit was flying from my mouth. I flailed all over the bed. And then my rational voice kicked in. I was like, “Repent. Take it back this second. Auntie Jackie would be so ashamed of you. And what would happen if God listened to your foolishness? What would happen to Levi?” So I listened to that firm, still voice and I said, “God-I don’t mean it. Please don’t listen to me. I need to see my son again.” 

I am still here. 

I am still here because I have been preserved for such a time as this. The end of the end. 

My destiny is great, and it is still intact, because I listened to the right voice. And I gave God my yes. Am I still tried? Yes. Do I still cry? Yes. But each day with Jesus makes things much easier because we all know how the story ends. 

Dulcimina Grip

Mari stood in the kitchen wiping her hands on a soiled dish towel. It was littered with crumbs and debris from many days of cooking and mothering. Taking a moment to decompress and lean against the counter, she closed her eyes and took in the sounds of her children skipping around in the backyard. Their bare feet slapped the ground with joy. Four of them. All on her own. Wayne hadn’t been home in nine months. He left for work one day, briefcase in hand, and the last thing he said to her was, “Please no spaghetti tonight.” The women in the neighborhood waited a couple weeks before they came and started fishing around and asking questions. Mari was grateful. The shame was an elephant’s foot on her chest. She didn’t know what to say to them. She didn’t know what to say to herself. Seven years of marriage and partnership went up in smoke, and he didn’t even have the decency to explain what happened, or even send money for the children. Mari wasn’t sure what was more important, Wayne being there for the children, or making sure they had enough food to eat. Either way, he wasn’t interested, and she was growing wearier by the day. Sometimes, she cursed at the walls, or locked herself away in the bedroom while the babies peeked under the door, panting  while begging for her to come out and be with them. No one had a clue where he had gone. There were a couple guys he used to play cards with who came and asked about him after the first month, but they seemed to know no more than Mari. Whether or not they were being truthful was a mystery. 

She called her kids in to eat supper and after they had filled themselves with beans and ketchup, she sent them to their beds. The house was lit with candles, creating a warm, yet eerie sensation all around the house. She didn’t know how much longer they would be able to live there, but she felt good knowing even though the children were no longer able to have meat as a part of their meals, they were still blindingly happy in only the way children can be. As she crept into each room to make sure the children were okay before going downstairs, she saw the briefcase. It frightened her, but not more than it intrigued her. Should she touch it? Should she pretend she had never seen it? How could it be there in the house when he had left with it that day? She let her fingers, dry with the wear and tear of the wash bin, roll over the top of case, then her lips. Mari couldn’t remember the buckles being this shiny, or the leather feeling so supple, but maybe she never touched it very much. Yes, that’s how she would rationalize things. Without realizing what she was doing, she knelt down and released the buckles of the case. There he was, lying on a tufted pillow. His face, once creased with worry and exhaustion was now smooth and supple. Wayne, the father of her children had been turned into a miniature version of himself. Carefully, Mari took him up and walked him to the bedroom, placing him in the bed next to her before falling into a deep and restful sleep.

Look Who’s Talking

George scuttled along the floor with Yoli, tickling his ribs as he went. The gurgles of laughter seemed to pour right out of the little boy, coming from his tummy and making their way out through his big loopy curls.  It had been a long day at work, and all George wanted to do was see a genuine smile. Yoli always made him feel like the sacrifices he was making-the endless nights and days where he walked into morning meetings in a haze of exhaustion- were all worth it.

He nor Liza ever talk about what happened three years ago, when they lost their little girl. Jonas was six when they decided to have another baby. Eliza was worried about all the time he spent alone since they had just recently moved from Orlando to Port St. Lucie, and all his neighborhood buddies were left behind. George wasn’t sure he wanted another baby, but not going along with Eliza’s wishes seemed cruel to him. She was an excellent wife and mother. He wanted to make her happy, even if it meant adding more financial strain to their lives. When Eliza got pregnant with their daughter, she was overjoyed. All she ever talked about was combing her hair and making little dresses for her. The baby was a dream come true, someone else for her gentle heart to love.

George got the call one night while he was out at happy hour. By the time he got there, the doctors had formed an imposing circle around Eliza, and were already explaining what little chance of survival Grace (that was the name they gave her) had. Eliza went through the pains of labor to deliver a baby she ultimately knew wouldn’t make it. While she was going through the physical agony, George was fighting his own fight. Seeing her writhe and cry in pain was enough for him to want to disappear. His mouth was dry, and his belly was brimming with sadness. He watched the light disappear from his wife’s eyes as the tiny baby took her last labored breaths. The room became a dark hole. It was as if the baby left and took everyone with her. Eliza’s long hair covered her like a dark cloak as she turned around in the fragile hospital bed, shielding her eyes from the sight of the tiny husk.. She refused to let the nurses clean her up until the next day. In those moments, George felt terrible for not being overly excited about his baby, and even blamed himself for what happened.

That’s what made Yoli so special.

“I have to leave tonight. Jim left, and Katie is falling apart. You and the boys will have to do without me for a few days. She needs me. I can’t be worried about who hasn’t taken their vitamins while my sister is trying to figure out how to be a single mother.” George rubbed Eliza’s back, trying to calm her down. “Go ahead, honey. Just leave me the sitter’s number because I have a meeting tomorrow night.” Eliza gave George a perfunctory kiss on the lips and went to pack her things. He wasn’t terrified about taking care of his sons, but it was something he had never done alone. Jonas was easy. He enjoyed spending time alone, coloring or playing with his blocks.

Yoli was the one who commanded all the attention.   He wore flame at the crown of his head, drawing people in from all over. He was magnetic, spellbinding even.

George dropped Eliza off at the airport later that evening. The sitter stayed with the kids while he was away. Before hunkering down on the couch and contemplating his plans for the next few days, he went into each room and looked at his boys.

George didn’t remember falling asleep, but when he woke up, the sun’s rays were beaming into the den. He jumped up and took a shower, thinking it best he get ready for the day before waking Jonas and Yoli for school. He made a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs and raisin toast for them while his hair dripped all over the kitchen. He couldn’t bother with a styling routine today. He was in unfamiliar territory and wanted to do things right, so he wouldn’t face any criticism from Eliza once she returned. Sad or not, she knew how to find his shortcomings and shine floodlights on them.

After watching the children eat, he decided to just take the day off and stay home with Yoli. He hadn’t been off in months. George and Yoli walked Jonas to school. Once the dishes were clean, George thought they might head to the park for a little playground fun. He sat the boy down with a puzzle so he could pack the dishwasher. Thinking some tunes might speed things along, he put on a little music. Ella Fitzgerald’s voice came booming from the speakers. He swayed his body to the music as he swished the plates in the sudsy water. What happened next made filaments of heat flow through his fingers. Yoli came up next to him and put his hand on his father’s leg. He said, “I love when you play this song.” Not only was it a pretty hefty sentence for little Yoli who barely ever put more than two words together, but it wasn’t in his voice. It was the voice of a little girl.

A New Love.

I found a new love. 

Or maybe a new way of loving. Either way, it just occurred to me there is a little lane on the highway of whatever this thing is that we are doing, and in a little space past friendship, there is a place called almost, where you don’t necessarily need to explore the person sexually, although sometimes when you speak to them, your pits sweat, and you imagine them next to you, or underneath, or just very close. It is right before a romantic relationship, or all the other classifications that mean the same thing. 

I was walking past, kicking pebbles and gum wrappers, and looking through the mirror when I realized that my admiration for two new people in my life doesn’t allow them to fit neatly into the compartments I created long ago. There are friends, and there are lovers, right? 

Long ago, maybe. Not now. 

I love them.

I am even in love with them.

But they are flowers I admire too much to pick.

Y’ALL DON’T REMEMBER HER? I’M LOOKING FOR A NEW LOVE BABY? IT CRANKS.

I watch from the sidelines and cheer like a proud mom, and smile. And brush hands, and-nothing.