Kinemortophobia

For a while I believed I had a fear of failure. I’d push myself so hard to avoid “failing” and then I failed something. Can you believe I lived to tell the uneventful and inevitable tale? And not this new age, positive thinking, there-is-no-failure fail… I failed. I survived. Then I failed again at something else. So I wasn’t afraid of failure. I work to avoid it and accept the lessons it brings when it happens.

So what do I fear?

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Yup… Zombies.  More specifically, I fear becoming a zombie. They walk among us, you know? And I am more aware of them – not only the older I get, but the more “adult” my life seems to become. I am aware of how easy it can be to wake up each day and go through the motions – commute, punch the clock, put in the hours, sit through the meetings, chit chat with friends and family while avoiding any actual conversation – sleep and then do it again.  And I know how easy it is become I’m becoming one… and I’m terrified.

Wake up… play with Imena… mom arrives… shower… run to the bus stop… transfer to subway… switch to express… walk to office… #pettyparade (walk around office ensuring a critical number of people see me in the office before 10 a.m.)… pump… maybe meetings, calls,  whatever constitutes “work”… get annoyed that whatever work is, it doesn’t seem to be popping off until 3 p.m… frantically and hurriedly leave office minutes to 5 hoping to make the magical connection from MTA subway to BeeLine bus service within a 10-minute wait time but getting home by 6:30, which is still late since my mom arrived at 7 a.m. to watch Imena… sit on train wondering where I went wrong in life or if I’ll ever get it right… why doesn’t this feel right? … Get home… put off peeing for 2 hours because I am late and my mom is ready to go, and dinner’s not ready b/c I have to make it, but Imena wants to play… and it’s true – NOW at 7 p.m. emails are flying like bullets in a drive by… My husband comes home happy… always happy… which makes me upset because I should be happy too, but I’m not. I am deeply unsatisfied and dying inside. So I start pretending… Pretending I am fine, everything will be OK – as long as the baby is OK and we’re not dead… WHEN DID LIFE BECOME JUST NOT BEING DEAD? And… I am kinda dead… in a way. So this can’t be life. And so I’m exhausted, and know I have to do it all again tomorrow, so I go to bed. And at about 2 a.m. when I wake up to nurse Imena I am filled with guilt that I forgot to have sex with my happy husband, who won’t ever complain about it, but I’ve made a note and put a reminder in my phone to shave and wear nice lingerie to bed the next night. Because the marriage can’t die. Everything has to be OK – look OK. Am I a zombie-in-training?

BEWARE THE ZOMBIES! I am so serious, y’all.

And don’t get me started on how faith plays into this. I believe God promised me life and life more abundantly, so this imposing zombie threat has got to be the work of the devil. So I guess it’s right then, that I work to resist the devil and sincerely hope that he’ll just tire of me and hunt someone else down for his zombie army.

Maybe I’m just in a slump. And during this time I have to actively fight against becoming a zombie because if I can just hold out for my due season, I’ll have life. A no-longer-young preacher asked a seasoned pastor why he (no-longer-young preacher) didn’t feel happy more often. The pastor said he ought to be more grateful. So I try too… I count my blessings. I also number my days, and can’t help but feel as if I’m not doing enough with them.

Can I get some advice though? How do I not become a zombie? How do I survive this slump?

 

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DC Dreaming

Though I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, I do recall my husband saying that for us to be married I had to move to NY – that that was what he wanted. I’d been in D.C. while we dated, and by the time he proposed, he was based in NYC. And so I left my networks, endangered my job, packed up my stuff, and moved back to NY 3 weeks before our wedding date.

I didn’t love DC when I got there. But it grew on me, and I grew into it, and I made some amazing friends. DC represents a time in my life when I really grew into myself. I was in my best health. I had been entrusted with a ministry. I became aware of the then dire scenario called my financial (in)stability and I addressed that situation head on. I grew up a bit in DC, and my trips back to DC are frequent and always fun, be it for work or for personal reasons.

So on Thursday, Imena and I made our way to DC on Amtrak – our first trip on the train without grandma, which came with its challenges. I was a bit nervous, but felt as if we handled it so very well. People ask a lot “What’s it like traveling with the baby?” Well, with my baby, my answer is, “She’s a baby. And I’m really blessed.” Imena is amazing! She’s fairly chill, extremely cute, and she is a baby – not a toddler. Do not confuse the two. She doesn’t really throw tantrums. She’s not kicking the back of your chair. She may reach and grab, but her arm span is like 12 inches. Though she is super fast and fairly strong, I do a good job of managing her outreach to strangers, and I keep her fairly occupied with toys and interaction with me. So a note… to all those travelers who think “good baby” = “quiet baby”… You’re wrong. Move to the quiet car. At 7 months, Imena babbles and is fairly chatty. I’m actually impressed that she handled being on my lap for 4 hours. She can crawl and is used to a lot of floor time and independent play at home with my mom all day.

Once we got to DC, we met up with friends at an old familiar eatery within Union Station. Within the group of friends was our host for 2 nights – Bridgette. Auntie Bridgette is the best! Now, just about each morning in my regular life, I just find a way to shower – usually while Imena either sleeps or cries… those are the only real options. Both mornings in DC, Bridgette came in and offered to hold and play with Imena while I showered. (On the first morning, Imena cried. On the second, she seemed to have adjusted to the new – though temporary – routine.)

On Friday morning, both Imena and I made our way to an event hosted by a friend. Now, here’s an important note about our timing in DC. We were in DC during CBC – Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference… I have long described this series of events as the Freaknic for policy wonks and Hill-types with high melanin count. It’s actually inaccurate and a little unfair of me since I have yet to attend any official CBC Foundation events ever in life, but not one person has ever disagreed with me either, so… there’s that. Anyway, as with any series of events in the arena of Blackness, there are OFFICIAL events and then events that leverage the mass convening of the Blacks in one place for an amount of time. My friend’s event was a much-needed, well-organized breathing and truth-telling space for Black women electeds, future electeds, and operatives. During the event, we were asked what we would do if we let our light shine its brightest, if we had no fear. It was a really affirming moment for me, and my response was simple: If I had no fear, I’d release the anxiety that I’m not doing enough – not seen enough, and I’d let my light shine its brightest where it’s supposed to – in support of and to amplify other bright lights.

After that, Imena and I enjoyed lunch with my friend and her godmother. Then we met a friend who is just the embodiment of radiant pregnancy in that she is actually expecting a little human, she was also starting her first day at a new job that day, and she’s going to release her first book next year. She’s a new friend, and I was very appreciative of her taking the time for some one-on-one personal conversation because we met in a very focused work space last year when I was pregnant.

Friday night was the main event! A friend and former colleague invited me and Imena to the preview night and party for staff of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Thanks to Bridgette, I was appropriately dressed. (Being dangerously underdressed was a theme of the trip. I just underestimated everything.) Look… EVERYBODY NEEDS TO VISIT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICA HISTORY AND CULTURE. Just go. It’s not just for Black people. It’s not just about slavery. It’s not just for Americans. We had an amazing time!

(Side note: I’m getting really lazy about this blog. Like… I’m already too far into my head presuming that you’re getting bored reading and I am fairly ambivalent about how entertaining I feel I need to be to keep your interest… so feel free to stop here and encourage me to stick to v-logging. I think I’m more engaging in conversation, no? Like… This is just a lot of words… lots and lots of words, and I’m not even uploading pictures for you. I’m sorry (not sorry) readers…)

Even while I worked at the Smithsonian, I was skeptical of NMAAHC as a project. Honestly, it was BEFORE I worked at the Smithsonian that I had my questions. In 2005, when most of y’all didn’t even know there was to be a NMAAHC, I was a senior at the University of Pittsburgh and read an article about the hire of Kinshasha Holman Conwill as Deputy Director of a Smithsonian museum -NMAAHC. And I guess this is when the #representationmatters folks get a point or 5. I’d seen Kinshasha at a community arts event in the Bronx and liked her vibe. She was informed, informative, insightful, and inspirational. I sent the article to my father who had no idea what arts administration was or why I was pursuing it or more importantly how I’d support myself on whatever salary it would provide. (We’d had similar discussions when I informed him I was going to stop taking courses at Pitt’s College of Business Administration and major in Africana Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences.) So Kinshasha became my poster child for Black cultural management possibilities FIVE YEARS BEFORE I started working at the Smithsonian. (Wow!) All that magical build up to say that in the real space of my mind, I had nothing but questions about the need and implications of a museum of African American history and culture on the National Mall.

All of those years of skepticism were dismissed in one night – being in the museum and seeing the work come to fruition. (It only took me about a dozen years to come on board!) It’s amazing! Just go!

On Saturday, my friend and Imena’s godmother invited us to a brunch – one of those events planned in conjunction with CBC. She had mentioned the brunch and I’d tried to get out of it. Our short time in DC was getting really full, and I have a tendency to over plan, especially with the baby, and then end up overwhelmed not having executed anything well. But La’Tasha insisted. “I’m putting you on the list anyway” her email read. So (again… GROSSLY UNDERDRESSED) baby and I made our way to brunch, which was hosted by Planned Parenthood and was freakin’ amazing! FANTASIA was there!!! Fantasia!! Did I mention Fantasia???? Because she was there! She was there nearly 5 feet from me sangin’ and making eye contact with me and my baby. Fantasia.

Now, La’Tasha is a force – a big flippin’ deal – in the reproductive justice space, especially when the conversation turns to women and girls of color and LGBTQ populations. It’s not the first time I’ve ridden into a swank event on La’Tasha’s coat tails. But this was over-the-top amazing! We were already VIP, but recall: I showed up to this brunch with my baby… in her stroller… oh! With our luggage because I planned on going to Union Station after this event. Thankfully, one of the event coordinators moved us to a head table because the accessibility with the baby would be easier. That’s how we ended up high-rollin’! I was completely overwhelmed, and it was one of the times in which having a rock star baby came in really handy.

Imena is amazing! As long as I keep her fed (and I did have to miss Rep. Elijah Cummings and Valerie Jarrett speak) so I could nurse her… which I did in the lobby of the event space in a plush chair protected by the sternly smiling faces of Planned Parenthood staff to anyone – from the public to the secret service – who even glanced inappropriately in my direction. Oh, did I not mention that I had forgotten my covering scarf at the head table and had to nurse like… without a cover… in public… at a swank event… at an event space open to the public? Yeah. That happened. Even though I completely understand the challenges that some moms face with covering while nursing (and yes… there are challenges!), I’m very pro feed your kid, cover your breast meat. I compare it to people who chew with their mouths open. Like… yeah… you’ve gotta eat, and I don’t have to look, but let’s all just try to get through this thing called life as humans without being ridiculous.

Finally the “work” part of my trip… I met with my new program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at Union Station before getting on our train. Work Work Work Work Work…

The time in DC was so amazing that I really thought, “Should I move back here? This is amazing!” But then I reminded myself that this was an extremely exceptional experience against the backdrop of CBC and NMAAHC’s opening. As a matter of fact, upon reunion with my husband I shared with him how amazing everything had been, and while there were times when I thought, “I wish Joel were here” I felt more strongly that it was appropriate for me to have the experience I was having and for Joel to do what he was doing, which was starting a new chapter in his life by attending the fall convocation for his first semester in seminary. (It is a whole other blog post, friends. I’m happy for him though.)

So back in NY with my husband (whose allergies were acting all the way up), our little family had a leisurely Sunday. I woke up early and went to the supermarket with Imena. We watched church online, and then Imena and I went shoe shopping with a cousin in town from Atlanta on business. It was free form weekend fun. Then we went to a friend’s community theater production. Imena did her best. She really did. I think she thought the dialogue was an invitation for her to communicate with the actors, but whenever there was singing or dancing, she was completely captivated and silent. That was actually pretty cool to observe. My baby likes singing and dance. Yay!

It’s 3:30 a.m. on Monday morning. I’m watching Beachfront Bargainhunt on HGTV and my husband and Imena have just joined me in the living room. This is life. It’s sweet. (I also have no clue what my child care solution in the next few hours is going to be… my mom is with her best friend (and my godmother… see the cycle here?) who is in the hospital. I didn’t call my aunt yesterday to work out a schedule for today and I hate the same-day “Can you watch my kid?” foolery. I think I’ll work from home or call out, but I do have a morning call and I was in DC on Thursday and Friday. Maybe I’ll take the morning call, call my aunt, make my way to my mom’s to get her car… augh! who knows. To bed!

 

Business, branding, and baby

… posting while baby’s napping. wish me luck!…

For the past several months – maybe 2 or 3 years even – I have had a love/hate relationship with the process of developing my personal brand. It rings a bit inauthentic and disingenuous to me – the idea of crafting a specific image and projecting that out for the world to see. Additionally, it’s really scary to put myself out there (real or not) for the judgment of others. I don’t do phony. I don’t do judgment. However, I also could stand to do better with consistency, and in taking on the task of developing my brand, it will – at the very least – be an exercise in consistency. I have to keep at it, and I’m doing it. (How many blogs have I launched, built up, then abandoned? Millennial Negro… Black At Work… A Miser And Her Mister…)

So, this blog is a part of it… My new Facebook page is a part of my brand… and my old Twitter account will be resurrected and refocused. The “All The Lovely” brand is a thing – a real thing, and will be the platform from which my business grows.

I thank God for the answers to prayers, often unspoken – just sitting in the inner chambers of my heart – that He has answered. I have a book idea! And I’m committed to writing it before the end of this year. I know this book idea is from God because I would have never thought of this on my own, and until now – until this season in which I seem ready for it – I would have run from it at Usain Bolt speeds. But that’s the end of that. I’m just going to do it now. No more talking about it. I’m going to write this book!

Another thing I’m not that sure of is setting up an Instagram account for Imena. I mean… how Millennial Mom of me – an Instagram account for a baby? People just keep saying how beautiful she is, and all the baby clothes and accessories are so cute, and I agree! She’s adorable, but she’s not all the lovely. I AM ALL THE LOVELY! I don’t want her to take over MY Instagram account. My brand is not predominantly mommy-ing. So I made a choice. And in the words of my Business Big Sister (Tiffany The Budgetnista Aliche), I may not be sure, but… I’m going to do it anyway! It might end up being a complete mistake and backfiring big time, but I’ll just have to learn from this experience. I’m not the first mom to set up a social media channel for her child. It’s private. I’m monitoring it. I just set it up today, and you can follow Imena on Instagram here. I’m praying she’s safe and predators don’t get access to her. She’s my little baby. Dear God, please safeguard Imena’s Instagram account in Jesus’ name.

As we make our way to the new fall season, I’m optimistic about what’s in store for me and my family. (My husband will start a certificate program at the New York Theological Seminary this month.)  So hello September – new month, new season, new blessings!

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… and Imena’s awake. Posting done…

RECAP: Jamaica

So… Imena and I are back from sunny, wonderful Jamaica. It was our first plane ride together, and Imena’s first international travel. She handled it like a pro! I look forward to more travel with her in the near future. Here’s a recap:

And here are some beautiful pictures from our never-long-enough vacation.

First 24 hours away

Well, it’s been about 24 hours since I’ve last held, smelled, kissed, seen and FED my baby.

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Y’all… Imena is fine! According to reports from my husband and mom, Imena ate, slept and smiled through church and after church. She fell asleep after a long walk. She slept through the night for 5 hours, took a bottle, and went back to bed around 7 this morning.

I wanted Imena to be OK. I want my husband and mom to be OK. I mean… I knew they’d be OK. It’s just that this is the first time – a new experience. I worried myself with the amount of milk I’d left behind because we’ve been pretty inconsistent about introducing Imena to solid food and nursing (when I’m with her) is easier. So far she’s tried mango, banana, and oatmeal. She seems fine with all. She’s also had water. I left so much freshly pumped breast milk, and by “freshly pumped” I mean, I spent my Friday evening through Sunday morning pumping, pumping, pumping so that from Sunday through Tuesday, Imena would have what she loves – so that life during this time would be good for my loved ones. Everyone is OK.  I called yesterday around 6 p.m., and I could hear Imena chatting and shrieking away. She’s such a happy, vocal little baby, and she’s with people who love her that she loves. Everyone is OK.  (Also, shout out to my husband and mom for getting along so well with each other. What a blessing that relationship is!)

I am on the struggle bus. While I pump everyday at work, pumping 24 hours without the opportunity to nurse Imena directly has been horrible, and for these reasons. (It didn’t have to be horrible… That’s what I’m saying. It didn’t have to be horrible!)

Why didn’t I bring my electric pump? The electric pump would have saved the day! I’m lazy though… I didn’t want to pack another heavy thing. I didn’t want to carry another bag. So I packed two manual pumps with storage bags as I had planned to pump and dump anyway. Manual pumps are light, easy to pack… And now I’m suffering. Leaning up against the bathroom wall in my hotel, sleepily pumping both breasts simultaneously into the storage bags has been messy and painful and prolonged. Had I just packed my electric pump, I’d be done pumping in about 15 minutes and could have gone back to sleep. Last night it took about an hour to pump at 9 p.m. I only had the energy for about 30 minutes at midnight and then paid the price with another hour-long (or so) pump at 3:30 a.m. I did not pump until empty each time, so now it’s 8 a.m., I pumped at 7, and got about 3 oz out of each breast and the breasts are still engorged. Lesson: I normally have a double electric pump when I’m away from my dream girl. Manual pumps are for emergencies OR for when I’m nursing Imena and feel the non-nursing breasts letting milk down.

I guess there are no more reasons. I should have brought that electric pump! I’ll probably spend the next two hours pumping with breaks (mostly for pain, and also because breakfast is the meal of champions). Augh! The pain of manual pumping! Maybe I’m just going too hard. I don’t know. Lord, help me.

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I had shared with my husband months ago how nothing feels better than running in the door after work or waking up at 4 a.m. and having Imena relieve me of engorged breasts. Imena’s the BEST at latching and nursing her is a joy. I did not think I’d miss that so much. I missed it before the pain came. Just the thought of getting up from my seat on Amtrak to pump in the bathroom brought to my memory how much I felt like a rock star when I first nursed her on a train to D.C.

So I’m glad that the next two trips on the books (Jamaica later this month and Baltimore early next month) include Imena, and I’ll really have to think about if a solo getaway is possible this summer. I mean… I should just pack the pump!

One more night to go…

America

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I want my daughter to love America and identify as an American mostly because she is an American and self-denial can get complicated. Similarly, loving who you are and where you’re from is a better start in life than any alternative. So… I hope she gets into it – America.  I hope she loves it.

So leading up to today – Imena’s first 4th of July/Independence Day – I kept asking myself “What will I teach my daughter about America?” I kinda let Juneteenth come and go without much fanfare. It is an observance I learned about in my adulthood, and for some reason, it continues to sneak up on me. I’ll be better prepared next year.

For today, I considered a dramatic reading of Frederick Douglass’s address to abolitionists in 1852 What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? I decided against it. Then I thought a more artistic approach would keep her attention, so I looked for Langston Hughes’ poem I, Too Sing America. But I’m not going to read it to her this year. Maybe the words should be more original… I’m working on it.

We ended up waking up in Bethlehem, PA (Independence State… go figure!), and walked out to City Hall to hear a bunch of empowered white men in power read the Declaration of Independence to a fairly paltry crowd. Imena didn’t seem to inspired and my husband called b-s on the idea that any of the founding fathers actually believed that all men were created equal. And what about women? Well… we know we have issues, America. All greatness comes through adversity, and even some controversy. Anyway…So I look at Imena, conceived and born under Barack Obama’s presidency, about 93% of her brain’s wiring will be set while either the first woman or first clown will be president, and I think “Wow! What a time to be born in America!”

I want Imena to know, appreciate, and understand America’s hopefulness and hatred, its promise of better and its problematic burdens. I want her to be concerned for the minority when she’s in the majority and collaborative with the majority when she’s in the minority because she’s a citizen of a democratic republic. I want her to exercise both her rights and responsibilities as an American.

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I want Imena to engage fully in her Americanness just as much as I want her to engage fully in all aspects of her life. I can’t guarantee America will love Imena, but I pray that Imena love the hell out of America!

Also, there will be fireworks tonight, so there’s that.

And… America has given the world Kelly Clarkson, which is very important. (I’m not joking. Kelly, if you somehow read this, I am a fan, perhaps not your biggest, but we should definitely set up a mommy play date. Bring the wine. We’ll play good music and eat Cheetos!)