Who’s Dreams Are You Funding?

I grew up in DC. I lived in an apartment with my mom, stepdad and younger brother. Never had my own bedroom, as the apartment was only a two bedroom unit. So, I spent my childhood and the first few years of adulthood sharing a room with my brother and climbing onto the top bunk to go to sleep every night. Funds were tight on a regular and my parents sacrificed luxuries so that my brother and I could receive a quality education by attending parochial and private schools. While I understood and appreciated their sacrifices, I spent many of my days imagining how popular and “with it” I would be if only I could afford to wear all of the in style name brand clothing. Sure, my parents stressed that its not what you put on your body, but what you put into it that truly counted. But I was tired of sewing Guess? triangles on top of Palmetto trees on the back pocket of my jeans. And I was tired of cutting off Le Tigre tigers and ironing crocodiles on my two button bootleg Izod shirts. I wanted the real thing.

When I became an adult and started my career with “real” money, I vowed to myself that when I shopped, I would own the real brand names. I made a promise to myself that I would never be in a position where I would have to find name brand cast offs to cut up and sew onto my Morton Crazy Day Sale specials. And so I shopped. It was nothing for me to purchase a bag for $400. And why should my jeans cost less than $80 on sale if I have $100 in my hand? And why should I wait for a sale on sneakers when the ones that I want are right here at full price and I have the money? In addition to my zeal for shopping in stores for my name brand wears, I also had a thrift store and consignment shop addiction. I could find classic, name brand dress suits and blouses in those shops and look like a million bucks. Before I knew it, I had acquired 238 pairs of shoes, 62 pairs of jeans, 30 suits and over 100 handbags. I didn’t bother to count blouses, t-shirts or athletic wear. My closet was bursting at the seams. I owned name brand everything…and I was proud of my collection. I felt like I had arrived. And I continued in that vein for years.

Then one day, I discovered that I was not content simply working a job/career/profession for the government. I wanted something more challenging–more fulfilling. I wanted something that I could call my own…something that I could put my stamp on. I wanted to own my own business. And so I looked into how to become an entrepreneur. And the more I read, the more I realized that I needed a nest egg–start up capital to begin building my business. By this time, I had married, had two children, bought and sold several vehicles but was currently the proud owner of a luxury sedan that cost a grip to fuel and maintain. My walk in closet was fuller than ever…and I had a second walk in closet in the spare bedroom that was on its way to being filled to capacity. I had two dressers, one lingerie chest and two three drawer rolling carts full of clothing as well. And my shoe collection was over 300. Sure, I could have started a business with nothing as  many have done, but for the type of business that I was getting into, I needed certifications and those cost money…money that I did not have. I walked through my house and looked at all that I had acquired over the years. I had over…well I won’t state how much those handbags cost me but lets go with they cost a grip. I had a LOT of money sitting on the shelves and hanging in my closets but did not have enough money to pay for the certifications that I needed to start my business. How sad is that? I had to take several steps back and evaluate my priorities and my spending habits.

So often, we have dreams that go unfulfilled because our mind is in the wrong place fiscally. We are so caught up in the name brands, keeping up with the Joneses and making up for what we may not have had as children that we are willing to go into debt, take on part time jobs or damned near go broke just to say that we are rocking the latest and the greatest. But what is the point in having a luxury car if you cannot afford the gas? What is the point in carrying a $1800 purse to a $50K a year government job that you have to ride metro to? And who can really wear 300 pairs of shoes regularly? I mean, at some point, it gets absolutely ridiculous. And when I really think on my spending, what if I had planned for my own business many years before and instead of purchasing shoes, clothing or whatever, I stashed that money away so that when it came time for me to launch my business, I had a decent nest egg. The one thing that I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt is that NONE of the designers who’s purses I carried, jeans I wore, sneakers I rocked…NONE of them had $5 on the launching of my business or the gaining of my certifications. As a matter of fact, purchasing their overpriced gear set me back in terms of having monies for my business. And here is the clencher: I sold a lot of my clothing to consignment shops and guess what! I didn’t get what I paid for the items. Why? Depreciation!

If you have a dream that you want to pursue, a business that you would like to launch, understand that it takes money along with your time, energy and efforts. Look at your spending habits and consider your mindset. Are you looking to impress the crowd or fulfill your dream? How much quicker will you get to where you want to be if you saved your money and invested it into your vision rather than wore it on your back or drove it. A $39.99 Betsy Johnson purse can hold your stuff just as well as a $3,500 Louis Vuitton bag. Last I checked, Old Navy jeans covers booties just as well as Joe’s Jeans. A Honda can get you to where you need to be just as easily as a 7 series (and the mileage is better and gas is cheaper). Do not be bamboozled and razzle dazzled by what you see on television. Do not be swayed into thinking that you must wear the latest and the greatest. Because while you are spending money funding someone else’s dream, who is funding yours? If we are to be a success, we must change our mindset about finances and what truly is important.

Who’s dream are you funding?

 

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What is the Lesson When Your Body Aches & Your Spirit is Shook?

What is the lesson when your body aches and your spirit is shook?

I had been training for a bodybuilding competition since January 2013. I just KNEW that I would be making my debut in the Physique Class at the Mt. Rogers competition in November 2013. So I trained for it. Dieted for it. Faithfully met with my trainer. Practically lived at the gym…only to injure my lower back three weeks before the competition. My doctor told me that I could still go to the competition…as an observer. I could barely touch my knees, let alone my toes. I was disappointed. I was hurt. Felt like I had let my trainer down. I had definitely let myself down. I am a trainer…and I know form can make or break you. And I let my form slip while dealing with heavy weight and I paid a major price. So November came and went and I heard about the show and watched the posts on FB. I rested my back as instructed…allowed it to heal…and made plans to hit the stage February 2014 in Hampton.

2014 came and my back was feeling great…my mind was in the right place…my focus was laser sharp! I was ready to go into the gym and kick ass!!! I was ready!!! Yesssss!!!!! And so I got dressed…shorts and knee highs–my fav training style…and I hit the gym. YESSSSS! I’ve got Jay Z pumpin in my ear…had my pre-workout energy drink. Got the protein and water on hand. Notepad and pen, check. Hand towel, check. I stride to the leg press machine…rack 180 lbs so that I can do some warm up sets…sit down, set my feet and…and…and…NOTHING. I cannot push…I cannot push the plates up to even unlock so that I can press the plates! WTH!?!?!?! This cannot be happening!!! I warm up to 180!!! My true workout doesn’t come until I am pressing 450 lbs. And here I am and I cannot push up 180? I drop the weight to 90…and NOTHING. Meanwhile, my back begins to sing like the fat lady at the opera…and its a song that I HATE!!!!!

I struggle to hold back my tears…strive to keep my pride/ego in check. Disappointment washes over me. I feel like a failure. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME???? How am I supposed to compete in February if I am struggling to lift the lightest of weights? How am I supposed to get in shape if I am hurting when I lift even a dumbbell???

I snatched off my headphones cuz Jay Z was taunting me and getting on my damned nerves, grabbed my stuff and huffed into the locker room. I was set to go home and feel sorry for myself. But…then…another thought entered my head: IS THIS HOW YOU ARE BUILT? You are faced with a challenge and you take your toys and leave??? REALLY???? SOME trainer YOU are! BABY!!!

Well, those are fighting words!!! And I HAD to shut those voices up!
Yes, I am hurt. Yes, I am hurting. And Yes, this is one more show that I have to cancel. So what is the lesson in this place that I find myself in?

The lesson is this:
Often times, we find ourselves doing some things the same old way, day in and day out. And we get complacent. We get stuck in a rut. We develop a mindset that this way is the only way to achieve the results that we want. When the reality is that I can get the same result with different game plans. So while being injured sucks, it puts me in a position where I am forced to look at fitness from a different angle. Where I am forced to consider exercises and routines that are out of the ordinary…that are out of the norm…that are out of my comfort zone.
Once I recognized the opportunity to expand my training palate using myself as a guinea pig, I didn’t feel the need to cry or to feel sorry for myself. I felt an excitement brewing inside of me and a desire to get back out on that gym floor and develop a routine where I will still train the same muscle groups but in a way where my back is not uncomfortable or further injured.

The lesson is that sometimes, we are placed in a position where the norm, the usual, the same old same old is no longer acceptable. Instead of being resistant to change and trying to fight it…instead of trying to stick to the old way of doing things in spite of how much it kills you, consider thinking outside of the box. Accept the challenge of traveling down a different road to the same destination. Enjoy the growth and the sights along the way. You never know just how much you’ve been missing until you take a different path!

Much love and Happy Training!

 

Overwhelmed…

There have been days when I envisioned myself hopping into my car and not looking back.

Days when it seemed as if there was too much expected of me.

Days when it felt too hard to breathe–let alone think.

And it was in those days when I felt those emotions, that I listened to myself, gauged where I was and took positive steps to address them in a way that lead to my centering, regaining calm and achieving balance.

I grew up in two loving homes–I split my time between my mom’s house and my dad’s house. And while I can say that both homes were warm and loving–my parents loved me to pieces–because of the way that I was conceived, there was talk around town about me and my legitimacy. And believe it or not, those whispered conversations, when overheard by a child, can have a devastating impact on the life of that child. So, I grew up being loved by both parents, but feeling like I was not enough. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not efficient enough. And so to make up for my perceived inadequacies, I became Little Miss Pleaser. I would aim to please and wow all of my teachers and adult mentors. I was the child in class who all the classmates loathed because I had all of the answers to every question the teacher asked, I always did extra work and constantly volunteered to be Teacher’s Pet. This behavior continued into adulthood and I became Big Miss Overachiever.

Now mind you, I would receive accolades for my straight A’s in school and college. I was honored for making the National Dean’s List for receiving full scholarships to college. But for every task that I achieved, there was an ever expanding emptiness inside. What to do about that? FIND ANOTHER THING TO ACHIEVE! And that is how I lived my life. I began to put unnecessary and unrealistic expectations on myself. I am talking things that no one else asked me to do…I simply thought this stuff up myself and then forced myself into a box by doing it. For example: I was a police officer working rotating 10 hour shifts, working additional part time, completing a Master’s Degree, mother of a 6 year old and a 1 year old and I had this crazy notion that my children MUST have a home cooked meal–from scratch, no less–EVERY evening! Oh! And my kitchen MUST be entirely clean every night before I go to bed. Noble goals, but goals that damned near sent me to Psychotic City! Meanwhile, my friends looked at me like I was crazy and would make comments like “you are such a good mom” or “girl, you are better than me cuz I wouldn’t be doing all of that!”

Year after year, I put unrealistic expectations on myself…always involved in new projects…always volunteering with others. And I would become upset with myself if I felt tired or overwhelmed because to me, that meant that I was slacking and that I was not doing enough. After all, the world would stop spinning if I stopped doing…Right? But see, here is the thing: Year after year of always doing for others and forgetting to do for self, always seeking approval from others, always looking to please others, always looking to fill that void of not being enough–it all began to eat at me. It began to wear me down. And I began to resent the things that I was doing. I began to despise the projects. People began to annoy me. And then I recognized something even more frightening: Because I had been such an overachiever for so many years, people had become accustomed to my ways and felt entitled to my actions–they treated the things that I did as rights and not privileges–to they point where they EXPECTED me to over perform on their behalf without having to be reciprocal. And you know what? It was my fault because I had created this over achieving universe.

Now I wish that I could say that this huge, amazing life event occurred that caused me to wake up. But actually, my awakening was relatively boring–dull even. Here it is: One morning, I woke up and said “F*ck It…I’m tired.” I felt it in my bones…in my soul. I simply was tired of being tired. Something HAD to change. I had to change. And laying right there in bed, I decided to change starting in that moment. No more cooking from scratch every damned day. Matter of fact, no more cooking every day! If the kitchen is dirty but I need to get some rest, then dishes be damned, I am going to bed! Stepping over loads of laundry is not going to doom me to hell. So what my floors have not been mopped this week…I just won’t walk on them while wearing white socks.

I began to strip off all of the rules and regulations that I had willingly placed on my life. I began to operate outside of self imposed restrictions. I must admit that it was very hard at first. I would feel guilty for laying in bed ALL day on a Saturday AND Sunday. I would feel like horrible mom for giving my boys cereal for dinner. But see, here is the thing about implementing change: the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And guess what! I found that as I released myself from self-imposed bondage, I was free to enjoy more of my life. Free to laugh with my children. Free to eat breakfast for dinner. Free read a book on the sofa while the laundry sat untouched. Free to invest much needed time into myself. And guess what else! I felt free to say the word “No!” to those who wanted me to continue to overachieve for their benefit. I not only released myself from unnecessary projects and behavior that was breaking me down, I released myself from people who wanted me to stay in the posture of constantly doing, moving and shaking.  The other thing is that in finding my freedom and releasing myself from my chains, I placed myself in a position to be open to receive help from others so that I was not so drained, tired and burned out.

It is so very easy to get so caught up in what we feel needs to be done to the point where we blur the line between wants and needs. These days, when I have tasks that lie ahead, I ask myself if those things that are to be done are “needs to be done” or “wants to be done”. I have also learned to delegate tasks to my sons and ask my husband for help. No more superwoman…because that superhero stuff is bullshyt…and even superheroes get tired. I have also learned to receive help from friends and family. And when they are not aware that I need help, I step out of my pride and simply ask for help. I have rid myself of people who are draining and looking to put me back in a position of “what can you do for me since you like to do.” And I have taken on projects that truly speak to my heart–those things that nurture me as I work them. But most important, I have learned that I am enough and that there is no need to damn near kill myself trying to prove it.

Black & Blue

Growing up, I wanted to save the world. I truly believed that if each person showed a little love, a little kindness, a little understanding, a little patience and a lot of empathy, this world would be a better place. I grew up humming the Coke commercial “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…” and Bob Marley’s “One Love”, so I guess it wasn’t a huge surprise when I decided to take the oath of office to become a police officer.

My first week on the job was an eye opening experience, to say the least. I was involved in a foot chase where the perpetrator had several rocks of crack cocaine hidden between his penis and testicles. Another guy decided to fire off rounds from a gun as children were walking home from school. Another woman got a hold of some bad drugs, stripped naked and ran down the middle of the street, ranting, raving and sweating profusely. I began to recognize that the world and many of the people in it did not want to be saved. In that first week, I began to come down off of my save the world high and to the stark realization that my little carbon footprint probably would not be enough to make a dent in the mess of humanity. But then, I got a call for service–an opportunity to make a difference! An elderly citizen had fallen in his home. His life alert tag had gone off, and we were notified that we had to get there quickly due to his being connected to an oxygen tank. Another officer and I quickly responded to the scene. The apartment landlord granted us access to the apartment and we entered. The old man had not only fallen, but he had become detached from his oxygen tank and was turning blue. I ran over to him, tried to help him sit up, but the old man found strength from somewhere and snatched his arm away from me as if my touch burned. I was startled and confused. Nevertheless, I reached out to the old man once again…all the while explaining that I am trying to help him sit up so that we can get his mask on him so that he could breathe. This old man, turning blue in the face, barely breathing–damned near death’s door–gave me the most evil, penetrating look. I could feel the hatred burning through his blue eyes. My police partner stepped beside me, picked up the old man’s mask and placed it on the old man’s face. The old man sat and breathed for several minutes, all the while taking sharp glances in my direction. Once he felt well enough to speak, he stated “I don’t want niggers in my house!”

That last experience has stayed with me throughout my entire career. It was a hurtful experience and an eyeopening experience as well. It reminded me that no matter how successful I am in life, to some folks, my Blackness will always be a stigma–a reason for loathing. And that hurts. On that day, when that old man uttered those words, I was at a loss for words. What can you say to preconceived notions about your Blackness and your class/ranking in life due simply to the color of your skin?

But here is the clincher: I came to realize that this experience did not just prepare me for encounters with the public, but encounters with fellow officers as well.

In my career as a police officer, I have had to walk the line of being a Black, female police officer working in a profession that has been dominated by White males. There have been assumptions made about me along the way, questions about my intelligence, how I acquired my rank, how I worked in specialty units… There have been bets made against me, I have had my work plagiarized and stolen from me, I have had rumors started about me…and I know that I am not the only Black female that has gone through this. Nevertheless, I kept my focus and remembered WHY I joined the ranks of police officers across the nation in fighting crime. I never thought that I would ever question WHY some other officers joined the ranks…or WHY some officers are still allowed to be officers…or WHY so many Black men are being killed like its open season.

Through the years, I made many friends and extended my family both through marriage/childbirth and adopting fellow officers as my brothers and sisters–regardless of color. And we policed equally, regardless of color. I can truly say that when it came to the officers with whom I policed, it was not about Black & White…it was about right and wrong. We made equal opportunity arrests across the color spectrum. But, somewhere along the line, things began to change. I saw the change coming about even in my own agency before I retired. We began to hire a new breed of officer. Not only were these new officers selfish, privileged in their thinking, not willing to pay their dues and disrespectful, many were joining the police agency with preconceived notions about certain demographics of the communities with which they were tasked to police. There was an attitude that all Black boys would grow up to be drug dealers and deadbeat dads. That all Black teenage males would either be dead or in jail before their 21st birthday. That any Black male seen out in a predominantly White neighborhood does not belong there or is up to no good. And this mindset appeared to be reinforced by the media…and now by our current presidential election circus. I began to see the separation between us older officers who were trained and desired to police fairly and as one unit–and these newer officers who appear to enjoy policing according to race. Somewhere, there was a disconnection…and there appears to be no hope for re-connection.

The notion that the police are the good guys is a long lost dream for me. My own experiences have long expelled those dreams from my head. Yet, I never thought that we would get to a day when police officers would not just openly kill Blacks arbitrarily, but then justify why they did the killing and then be covered by their respective agencies!!! Its a very hard pill to swallow being the wife of a Black man and the mother of Black sons. In this day and age, to know that my family is judged negatively just by virtue of being Black men is too much to handle and it frightens me. Why? Because cowards have taken over policing…racists have taken over policing…bigots have taken over policing and they are using policing as a means to commit justified homicide. And then Black officers like me– we are stuck in the middle. We walk a very fine line of protesting the random killing of Blacks yet staying true to a Thin Blue Line that appears to have a goal of exterminating people that look like us.

I am tired of turning on the television to see yet another police shooting of an unarmed Black man. Tired of hearing police agencies try to justify the bullshyt. Tired of the media then trying to pull up every negative thing they can find about the dead Black men. Tired of  ‘Living While Black’ being a crime punishable by death. Tired of police officers using the phrase “I was afraid for my life”. Tired of police agencies hiring cowards. Tired of police agencies not taking a more strict stand against unlawful practices of their officers. Tired of police agencies giving disparity in corrective action/termination of their officers with a known record of brutality and shootings. But overall, I am tired of walking the line of being Black and Blue.

No One Wants the Fat Girl in the Picture

You know, the fitness world can be so unforgiving.

To look at me in this moment in time, one would not know that I have competed in bodybuilding competitions. My arms have thickened along with my waistline. My thighs have gone from muscle to thunder and tend to create fire hazards when I walk. It is safe to say that at this point in my life, I cannot quietly walk while wearing corduroy pants. This moment in my life is the biggest that I have ever been. And sure, I can make excuses about being a busy wife, mom and business owner…but the reality is that my excess in weight is due to poor decisions in food choices, not taking the time to hit the gym, laziness and basically…excuses.

In my competition days, I had the opportunity to create friendships with wonderful sisters in iron who have stayed the course and made wonderful gains and continue to compete. So, I decided to meet up with two of my iron sisters to attend a summer Saturday show. One of my girls was competing and the other was the support crew with me. Anyhoo, we were back stage having a grand old time. Laughing, joking and basically keeping a lively atmosphere. Our energy was so contagious that those around us pulled closer and joined in our antics. And because my personality is so huge and I have zero problem being the funny girl and making myself the butt of my own jokes (I DO love a good laugh), I tend to create the laughter and lighthearted banter. The day was going well until a competitor that my girls and I had just met asked if she could take a picture. So my competitor girlfriend got up in her shiny rhinestone bodybuilding suit so that she could take a picture. I must say that the two of them cut a gorgeous image! But then the competitor asked my other girlfriend to be in the picture as well. My other girlfriend is 6 beautiful feet of muscle and stunning looks. I am talking an extra tall drink of water. I’m talking stop traffic kind of beauty and muscle. I’m talking Oh My Damn Who Is THAT type of gorgeousness. So…anyway, she got up and joined the other two in the picture. And then there was me…the funny girl. As I sat in the chair waiting for my invitation to be in the picture, the three women positioned themselves at their best angles for the camera. A goofy smile pasted across my face, I thought to myself, “surely, they are not going to leave the funny girl out of the picture!” Like, I am the life of the party! I tell the funny jokes…I laugh the loudest…nothing embarrasses me. And yet, there I sat smiling my goofy smile, completely embarrassed on the inside as the grim reality hit me.

It doesn’t matter how goofy, how funny, how friendly or how lovable I am…when it comes to fitness shows, NO ONE WANTS THE FAT GIRL IN THE PICTURE.

And so I sat there, a team player, grinning and egging them on as they took pictures and laughed amongst their muscle bound selves. I sat there, dying on the inside, because I felt left out. I sat there, fuming, because I was good enough to laugh and joke with but not good enough to become a part of another’s visual memento. I sat there, angry with myself, because I had allowed myself to get so out of shape that at times, I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror. I sat there, hurt, because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that had I looked like the Lisa of 2014, I would have been asked to be in that picture too. I must admit, it was a foreign feeling to me…one that I had never felt before…and it ached me to the core. It was a feeling of invisibility and not being good enough.

The picture taking finally ended and my girls came back and sat with me and we got back to our antics…laughing, joking and talking smack. But for me, it was no longer authentic because my heart was still smarting over being left out. And while I was gregarious and personable, I made a point of not including the competitor woman who had asked to take the pictures. I wanted to leave her out the same way that I had been left out. My feelings were hurt and I was salty. But in the living of that moment, I learned a valuable lesson: EMPATHY.

As a personal trainer, people come to me because they want to get in shape. They tell me that they feel ugly, feel fat, feel unworthy, feel less than. And I would hear them but not fully grasp what they were saying because I was so Peggy Positive and would tell them that they have to boost their own self esteem and ignore what others say/do and that they have to be their own cheerleaders. And I would say this with so much passion because I truly believed in it! But when I found myself, FitGirl360, standing in the shoes of my clients, feeling invisible and left out, THAT is when I had an epiphany. THAT is when I truly understood that my mantras are true…but they are easier said than done…and that it takes TIME and true inner strength to get there. That is when I realized that my clients, who make the decision to show up for trainings, who reach out to me when they are feeling low, who keep pushing even when the world is trying to keep them fat by promoting fast food yet keep them invisible by ignoring their presence…they are SO much stronger than I ever was! In that one experience, I was questioning my existence, yet there are folks who live this life–this experience EVERY single day. And that was an eye opener for me.

Living life is hard enough with all of the curve balls that are thrown our way. But to live life invisible is a bitter pill to swallow and no one deserves that–especially if that invisibility is rendered because of a person’s size. The reality is that there will always be fat people in the world. We were not created to all be the same size: compact and at the peak of physical fitness. We were not all created to be skinny. There will always be folks with more fat, more curves, more jiggle and more wiggle. And its those differences that help create such an interesting, dynamic, fun world that we live in. To not include someone in anything simply based on appearance is nothing short of narcissistic, insensitive and shallow as well as hurtful. But the flip side is: Do I want to be included in anything with someone who determines my worth based on how I photograph or how I look? Do I want to share my laughs with people like that? And do I want folks like that to affect my attitude and appreciation of a good joke and great laugh? I think not.

We should treat all people with love, dignity and respect regardless of their size. Why? Because they are people and they have feelings and, DAMMIT…THEY MATTER! But most important, it is imperative that people choose to surround themselves with true friends who genuinely like/love them, support and encourage them, love taking selfies & usies…and don’t mind the fat girl being in the picture.

Have You Seen This Woman???

There have been times when I have felt the urge to place MISSING signs on doors, trees and lampposts in an effort to find myself. Times when I have looked in the mirror and did not recognize the person staring back. When did those bags appear under my eyes? What’s with the dark circles around my eyes? Is that a furrow between my brow? Are those frown lines on the sides of my mouth? Why do I look and feel as if I have aged 100 years in 100 days?

“Where is Lisa and what the hell have you done with her???” I scream at the mirror.

I used to fancy myself as an okay looking young lady. And I say “okay” because of my head situation. See, when I was born, I came out as a normal, proportionate 9 lb baby. But as I grew into my child body, my head seemed to grow faster than the rest of my body causing me to look like a chocolate Blow Pop. There I was, a little brown pig tailed girl with small shoulders, skinny legs with ashy knees and this big bobble head. True story, my uncle nicknamed me Waterhead! (Ain’t that some shyt!) Fortunately for me, as I grew up, my body caught up with my head. (Okay…let me stop lying…I STILL have a big head but I am working on getting bigger shoulders to balance it out. And so what I am in my 40’s!) The blessing in all of this is that despite my head being so bobble, I had a decent face and felt pretty good about myself for the most part. I was a trained dancer…I danced in a dance company (which was really cool and fun). I loved to draw…I could draw just about any cartoon. Writing was my passion…I kept a writing pad and pen with me at all times. It didn’t matter how good/bad or complex/simple or deep/shallow the content was…all that mattered was that I wrote. I loved to run. Saturday mornings would find me running down MLK Ave at the Big Chair. When I ran, I could think…and when I thought, I could resolve…and when I resolved, I could release…and when I released, I could smile even bigger. I rollerskated. Now THAT was my thing! I would hear The Whispers or Barry White come on and I would get my roll on!!! I could forget about the cares of the world…and in that moment when I am rolling on that cloud of music, in that melodic space, all is right with me. And I loved those carefree years. Those years when I felt free to be myself. When I lived life and fully enjoyed life. When my laughter reached my eyes. When my laughter wasn’t that fake throaty crap, but a loud, hearty belly laugh.

And then I grew up.

What in the hell happened?

Now I know that right here is where I am supposed to cue the dramatic music and insert some huge, life changing event that scarred me for life. Ummm…I hate to disappoint you, but my life was pretty boring. I graduated high school, went to college, got a job and got married. Later on had children.

But somewhere along the way, I lost Lisa…

I look at my reflection…the puffy eyes that used to twinkle when I smiled, now dull and lifeless. I look at the hair that used to be fly. I don’t give half a damn about the hair anymore. The hunched shoulders, sagging ass, lack of motivation and chronic fatigue. And I wonder what the hell happened? Who IS this woman?

When I got married, I felt that my duty as a wife was to make my husband happy. So I was the happy little wife. I learned his favorite foods and cooked them. I kept a clean home while working full time as a police officer. I made sure to keep him happy in the bedroom. I learned his hobbies, listened to his music, met his friends…basically immersed myself in his world…while withdrawing from my world little by little. Did he require this of me? Of course not! But growing up watching Leave it to Beaver, the wife’s life revolved around the husband and family, right? And making her husband happy is the wife’s number one priority, right? It has to be because it’s on freakin Leave it to Beaver and TV doesn’t lie!!! And the mother is ALWAYS smiling and happy as she serves her family. And then in church, there is always the preaching about the Proverbs 31 woman who is up before dawn’s butt crack and then going to bed just before dawn. Of course, the Bible doesn’t mention time, but I am thinking that that Proverbs 31 woman was only operating on like 2 hours sleep, tops. So with those in mind, I made it my business to make sure that my focus was on my husband and his happiness.

As I focused on keeping my happy household, I stopped dancing…cold turkey. My skating dwindled from four to two to one to zero days a week. My writing was stunted because who has time to write when there is vacuuming to be done and dinner to be cooked? My thinking was cloudy because I couldn’t run…which meant no resolve…which meant no release. And little by little, it got harder for my smile to reach my eyes. But in public, I faked the funk. I smiled and laughed…yeah, the fake throaty laugh…but in the middle of the night when my husband was asleep, I lay there staring at the ceiling, feeling a huge hole opening in my core. Trying to convince myself that I am happy and that I really don’t need my own outlet or hobbies anymore. Why do I need those when I am happy and married? And so day in and day out, I smiled my fake smiles and lived my fake life and little by little, bobbleheaded, fun-loving Lisa faded into obscurity.

A couple of years later, children came into the picture. I was excited. No…I was ecstatic!!! I am actually becoming a mother!!! I watched all of the baby shows…read all of the baby books. I wanted to make sure that I had this mothering thing down right. I mean, after all, Claire Huxtable made it look easy! She had like five children and I only have two. So if she can handle her brood, then why can’t I handle my duo…and be happy with it?

And so there I was…wife, mom and full time police officer, living a charmed life. On the outside, I looked like I had it all together. Looked like my life was perfect. I smiled the correct way, said the correct things…did it just like the books said. But on the inside…I was dying.

Do you know what it’s like not to know your favorite food, but you know your husband’s and children’s?

Do you know what it’s like to try to write but cant because you don’t have anything to say?

Do you know what it’s like to know your family’s hobbies but to have forgotten your loves?

I do…and over the years, I became angry and bitter. In my heart, I blamed my husband for taking my individuality from me. I silently accused him of stealing my dreams. I made excuses for my lack of accomplishments independent of the family unit. I used my children as reasons why I could not do anything or go anywhere. I got angry as hell when I would go to church and the minister would preach on this Proverbs 31 woman. I wanted to find that woman and whoop her ass cuz she was making life hella hard for me with all of that overachieving! And I spent several years harboring anger within my heart while smiling (yeah, that fake one) on the outside.

So there I stood looking in the mirror…tired…mentally broken. Daydreams of riding off into the sunset with only the clothes on my back. Wondering how I am going to get through another day. Another bottle of Moscato on the bathroom sink so that I can unwind. Shoulders slumped, feeling beat down…wishing that I could do something…but not quite knowing what to do because I kind of forgot what it was that I liked to do.

And the tears came. One, three, ten…then the floodgates opened.

Who is this broken woman??? And WHERE IS LISA???

And as I stood there crying, I looked at my pitiful reflection. And as I looked back at myself, I saw a glimmer in my eye.

Could it be?

My eyes began to sharpen and focus…my back unhunched itself…my shoulders rolled back…the right eyebrow raised…and I realized that bobblehead Lisa had entered the building. And she was PISSED!!! Enough is Enough! And standing in that mirror, bobblehead Lisa had a talk/showdown with broken Lisa.

The reality is that everything that had happened to me, I did to myself. My husband did not ask me to change. I had some warped, preconceived notion based on television and fairy tales of what a happy wife looks like and what her responsibilities are. And I gave of myself at the expense of myself with no regard for the fact that in order to truly serve and create a happy home, there must be balance and that I had to be…myself. My husband did not fall in love with and marry me for me to be his servant or concubine. He fell in love with my quirky personality, my sense of humor, my love for crazy clothes, my zest for life…all of those things that made me, me. And I did him a disservice by taking that carefree, loving woman away from him because I thought that being a wife meant forsaking self. I never considered that while I was secretly angry and blaming him for me not having any hobbies or likes anymore, maybe he was secretly disappointed that I wasn’t the woman he married. Maybe I wasn’t the only one unhappy…

I was tired, burned out, broken and washed out because I CHOSE to be. I willingly put myself in that situation time and time again. Ms. Martyr of Nothing.

And as I talked with myself, I realized that in life, we all have choices. And we have to choose wisely. In my case, I chose to give up those things that made me me…and I have no one to blame but myself. I had to come to grips with the fact that my husband loves me whether the floors are vacuumed or not. He loves me enough to be cool if I want to go out skating or go for a run…because that gives him time to pursue his own interests.

I have learned that I have the power to control what I pursue in life. And if I succeed or fail, I have no one to blame but myself. I had to get out of my own way, stop making excuses and push forward. Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies. Its time to take life by the horns and live with purpose and passion…find that old self who used to dream and set goals. Dust off those dreams and goals and start pursuing. NO EXCUSES!!! And definitely no more depressed, dream killing, excuse making “strangers” allowed!!! Let’s be our new and improved selves!!!

To My Mothers in the Struggle…I Understand!

There are some days when I log into Facebook and I immediately want to gag. If I see one more post from an overachieving mom that talks about how she just shaved the sheep to knit wool sweaters for her children, or she milks her cows daily so that her children can have fresh, organic milk or that she just baked 99 damned cupcakes from scratch as if she is Betty Freakin Crocker…I am gonna SCREAM!!!! But if I am honest with myself, I read these posts and then I turn the mirror on myself and self-doubt creeps in. Am I doing enough for MY children? Am I a good mom? Am I nurturing my boys enough? Should I be home schooling? Should I have never ending play dates? Are they in enough activities? And on and on and on. And then I sigh because on top of trying to juggle all that my family has going on, NOW I have to find a place that sells chickens so that my sons can have fresh eggs, see if Costco or Sams sells cows wholesale so that my boys can have fresh milk, take up knitting classes (knit 1, pearl 2), start a farm in my back yard… Its tiring to think about!!! But then I had a revelation. My son needed to drop weight for his football team and guess who he came to? ME!!! Why? Because he knew that his mom could help him meet his goals. My youngest son was practicing his back flip and needed a spotter. Guess who he came to? ME!!!! Why? Because he knew that no matter how many times he kicked me in the head while trying to perfect that flip, I was gonna be right there spotting and cheering him on (lumps, black eyes and all). I recognized that I will NEVER be the mom who makes Martha Stewart style Halloween costumes from recycled milk cartons and cardboard boxes, my home will NEVER be featured in America’s Cleanest Home or in HGTV’s Dream Homes, I will NEVER be a farmer or a gardener…and that’s okay. Because to my children, I am the perfect mom for them. Moms…lets be real…we have a tendency to measure ourselves against one another and we have a tendency to be overly hard on ourselves in an effort to be the “perfect” mom. When in reality, the measurement is not us against other moms…the measurement is how content/how happy are our children? How happy are our homes? We may not be society’s definition of perfect moms, but to our children, we are unique, one of a kind and perfect in their eyes!!!! Moms, I challenge you today to pat yourselves on the back for being one helluva mom to your children…YOU DESERVE IT!!!! Much Love and Happy Journeys

The Bastard

“She’s gone”

The words barely made their way out into the atmosphere…hesitant, choked by staggered breaths drawn amidst a river of tears. I hid out of sight as I watched my father, bent over and racked with emotions as he accepted the death of his mother…my grandmother. My heart went out to him. I had NEVER seen my father like this. A strong, confident man with island blood flowing through his veins, he was a man’s man…a “never let them see you cry” man. He was the spine in the body of his family…the voice of reason…the glue that held us all together. And yet, here he was, broken—sobbing over the loss of his mother. I wanted to run to him, tell him that everything would be okay. That he would be able to move on. But how could I, the bastard child of this emotionally wrought man, encourage and uplift my father when I was battling the smile that had formed on the inside at the news of my grandmother’s death? I was happy that she was gone…

“She may be your child but I will never accept her”

My parents always told me that I should stay in a child’s place. As a little girl, I had a knack for having a LOT of mouth and being very opinionated. And I had a tendency to voice those opinions. Most times, folks would hear me before they saw me, but this day, for some reason, I was in quiet mode.

It was my father’s weekend to have me for visitation and he took me to his mother’s house for a visit. As usual, when we walked in, I spoke to my grandmother, hoping that for once, she would not look upon me with disdain in her eyes. Hoping that for once, she would ask me how I was doing. Hoping that just one time, she would ask me how is school…or how is dance class. But, this time was no different than any other time that I had seen her: I spoke, she gave a snotty “Hello” and then proceeded to ignore me. She began stilted conversation with my father and I sat on her plastic covered uncomfortable French Provencial furniture…sweating…the backs of my legs melting into the plastic. I announced that I had to use the bathroom and made my exit. Of course, I didn’t have to use the bathroom…I just needed to get out of that oppressive living room filled with adult conversation and awkward silences. I played in the water a bit. Wet up my grandmother’s decorative soap…yes…the very soap that was for decoration ONLY. I spritzed on her White Shoulders cologne. Opened up every container that I could find in the medicine cabinet. Pretty much went into every cabinet and drawer that I could find in the bathroom until I got bored.

I opened the bathroom door and began to make my way back to the living room but stopped when I heard the whispered rush of heated conversation. I froze in my tracks. I could feel the tension in the air. What were they talking about? And why were they speaking so low? And why was my father’s voice in distress? I crept down the hallway, closer to the living room so that I could hear. Snippets of the conversation floated down the hallway to my ears. Oh My God!!! They are talking about me!!! ME!!!

“No matter how she got her, she is still my daughter!”

“Just because YOU claim her doesn’t mean that I have to!”

“She is my child and I love her.”

“She is not a true (insert family name).”

“Please don’t treat her that way. She doesn’t deserve this. She is just a child. She is my child.”

“Just because she is your child doesn’t mean that I have to accept her.”

Tears welled up in my eyes as I heard these words. My heart was crushed. What had I ever done to this woman to deserve this treatment? Yes, I was a tomboy in the worst way. Yes, I tended to be a bit on the loud side. Yes, I was born to my parents as the result of an extra marital affair…but how is that MY fault?

From the time that I could talk, my grandmother insisted that I call her Mrs. (family name) while all of my cousins, nieces and nephews got to call her Mommy (her first name). My dad would load all of his grandchildren and me (we were the same ages) up in the car and visit my grandmother over the Christmas holidays and she would have pretty little Christmas gifts and candy for them…but nothing for me. So my dad would purchase gifts to give to me at her house so that I would not feel left out. But I knew that the gifts were from him. Afterall, she didn’t know me well enough or want to know me to know that I preferred Stretch Armstrong to Malibu Barbie.

Report Cards would come out and my father would proudly show her the straight A’s that I faithfully earned each school year and she would glance at the cards and roll her eyes as if bored. He invited her to my dance recitals but she was always busy. As a matter of fact, I do not remember ever receiving a hug from her…no smiles sent my way. Yet each time I visited, I dutifully greeted her with a kiss on her smug, slack cheek and hoped that this would be the day that she finally accepted me.

Alas, it was for naught. In my thirteen years of life, she never once fully accepted me or showed me the love that I saw my nieces, nephews and cousins receive. And it hurt me, but hardened me. It also confirmed to me that in her eyes, no matter what I achieved, I would always be The Bastard. So when my father received news of her death from a stroke, my heart broke for him. He lost the first love of his life: his mother. When I received news of my grandmother’s death, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. No more mandatory visits. No more groveling for acceptance. No more feeling less than. No more seeing other children receive while I got nothing. No more questioning my worth. No more longing for love from a selfish woman who would blame a child for her father’s actions. I was elated. And there were no tears. But, there was the stain of being labeled a bastard.

For years after her death, I struggled with rejection…struggled with feeling like I don’t fit in…struggled with finding my place in my father’s family. I always felt like I didn’t quite belong. I had half brothers and sisters on my father’s side…a half brother on my mother’s side…and there I was in the middle. My father and his family had one name…my mother, her husband and my little half brother had one name…and there I was with a name of my own…and the stain of being a bastard child.

So I studied extra hard and extra long. I did every talent show, entered every art contest, ran every race, did spelling bees, fashion shows…anything to prove my talent and to prove that I was worthy to completely belong to a family. Yet my years were spent rotating weekly visitations, shared holidays and split summers. I was jealous of every child that I met who had a mommy and daddy that were married and living in the same house. I was jealous of my nieces and nephews who shared my father’s last name when I couldn’t even have his name and I was his daughter. I was tired of getting side eyes and stares from church folk who whispered that I was the illegitimate child of my father. I was tired of my friends asking me why my last name didn’t match my mom’s or my dad’s. I was just plain damned tired. Nevertheless, I didn’t stop my one girl show for acceptance. And I never let anyone see me cry.

So many nights I ached. So many times I asked God why I was not enough…why I was not worthy…why I kept reaching out for love from a grandmother who was not prepared or equipped to love a love child. Why even in death, she tormented me. Why, years after her death, her words still bothered me. But most importantly, I asked MYSELF how long will I allow the words of a bitter old woman define who I am and dictate my destiny?

When I asked myself that last question, I allowed myself to move beyond the emotion of being hurt. I allowed myself to look beyond the word “Bastard” that I had engraved on my heart. When I asked myself that question, I allowed myself to consider the fact that while my getting here on earth may not have been done in a correct manner, God saw fit to allow me life…and God doesn’t make mistakes…and He doesn’t make bastards either. As I considered my existence, I was forced to acknowledge that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image and that while I may not be accepted by many, HE WILL ALWAYS ACCEPT ME. He tells me to come as I am.

When I began to consider these things, I realized that while the world may call me a bastard child…while my grandmother chose not to accept me, not only does God accept me, but my father’s family and my mother’s family had accepted me 100%. Sure, my name may not match theirs. Sure, I may be a reminder of a forbidden relationship…but at the end of the day, when I took off my bastard colored glasses, I saw total love and acceptance from those who mattered most.

These days, I look back on my grandmother—not in fondness or adoration—but in sadnesss. Because in her lack of acceptance of her granddaughter, she missed out on an awesome little girl with a helluva personality. She missed out on bragging rights about her granddaughter’s straight A’s. She missed photo opportunities after all of the dance recitals. She missed out on conversations about race cars, daddy long legs and Rock’Em Sock ‘Em robots. When I think about it, I wasn’t the one who lost—SHE WAS!!! And I feel bad for her because she could have had some great memories.

Oftentimes, life deals us a crazy hand that is beyond our control. Life isn’t always fair and sometimes, we are placed in less than stellar situations. But I have learned that it’s not the hand that we were dealt that makes us, its how we play the cards. We can accept a losing hand and accept the labels that life gives us. OR we can play the hell out of the hand that we were given and come out stronger, wiser, new and improved. We are not who people say we are. We have the power to label ourselves and to define who we want to be. We cannot give our power of strong self away to people who are less than deserving of even our weakest selves. We must always remember that God doesn’t make junk. Know our self worth. Speak and breathe positivity into our own selves even when the deck is stacked against us. Its how we play our cards that will make or break us.

I refuse to live a bastard life.

Hotel Snob

My husband says I’m a hotel snob.

I say that I simply like to stay in decent places.

So we decided to take a quick family vacay for a change of scenery. You know, a weekend jaunt about two hours away from home. A place with mountain views, trails to walk and nature to see. I’m all for quick getaways. Its how I rejuvenate and where my creativity is sparked. Excited about all of the possibilities that the weekend held, I logged onto the internet to check out hotels and pricing. And then my husband entered the room and looked over my shoulder. *sigh*

Now let me say this: There are two VERY popular chains with excellent customer service that I patronize on a regular basis. I’m talking I am a proud loyalty card carrying person who has racked up UBER points due to stays at those two chains. So naturally, those are the two brands in which I was searching for weekend deals. However, the two brands are not so inexpensive as your local Motel 6, but in my defense, they are not on the expensive end like the Waldorf Astoria, either! My choices fall comfortably in the middle with higher price points in popular locales such as Orlando, Miami, LA…you know, major cities. So, there I was, shopping the rates of my two favorite brands when my wonderful, darling husband told me that those brands were not in our budget for this weekend getaway.

Wait…WHAT? But…this is how we always travel! These are the places where we always stay. What does he mean “they are not in our budget”? Surely he considered these price points when he told me that he wanted to do a quick getaway–especially since he knows how I am about hotels!

To give you some back story, when I was a child and traveled with my parents, I used to LOVE staying in hotels. I loved the fluffy white towels, the huge hotel bed with the ugly floral comforters, the tiny bottles of shampoo and generic lotion. Hotel living was the high life for this little girl. And then I grew up and became a police officer. Not just a police officer, but a crime scene evidence technician. And let me tell you this: Once you have seen a hotel room in black light, you get an ENTIRELY new perspective of hotels and cleanliness! And its due to my years processing crime scenes that I always travel to hotels with my own sponges, bleach, Clorox wipes and Lysol…ALWAYS!

Okay…back to present day…once I got over the shock of hubby telling me that my two fav brand hotel chains are not on the table for consideration for the weekend, I began the dubious task of sorting through hotel chains with a lower price point. But I promised myself that I would NOT stoop so low as to book a hotel that rents rooms by the hour, has roaches working as bell hops or is in walking distance to the local strip joint. We found a hotel that is nationally branded, very popular, was economically priced and had decent reviews. Even though the pictures on the internet showed the rooms in the very best light of day…and even though my husband was encouraging and stating that the rooms didn’t look bad…and even though my inner hotel snob was screeching “WHAT ARE YOU DOING???”, I entered my credit card number and clicked BOOK NOW.

The weekend came, we packed our bags, loaded the car and hit the road for a weekend of fun and relaxation. A quick getaway for family fun and recharge. The car ride was awesome. Great music, corny jokes and gorgeous mountain views. I was excited–so far, so good. We came to the exit for our hotel…and the smile on my face dropped.

ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME. RIGHT.  NOW.  An ENTIRE weekend HERE.

We pulled up to the hotel which should have been listed as a motel. All of the doors to the rooms were on the outside…which is one of my pet peeves. I prefer to stay in hotels where access to the rooms is on the inside of the building. I checked in and received the room keys. The keys had pictures of pizza on them. *Blink Blink* As I slowly approached the room, I tried to get my mind right for whatever was behind the door. *sigh* I got to the room, slid the key into the door and stepped inside. *double sigh* Just what I thought. Typical motel style room with small double beds, air conditioner under the window, bathroom with the toilet and tub in one room and the sink outside. I knew right then what the first task at hand was: CLEANING. I grabbed my cleaning supplies and commenced to bleaching the hell out of everything that could handle it. The room smelled like a swimming pool with a side of Febreze. I could feel my nose hairs disintegrating as I scrubbed, wiped and rubbed. The more I sprayed and scrubbed, the angrier I got. WHY did I let my husband talk me into THIS? Why didn’t I stick to my hotel standards. Why did I settle. I looked at my surroundings and wondered how I was going to make it through the weekend. The more I looked, the angrier I got. Quite frankly, I was pissed off…DAMMIT. And as the day went on, my countenance reflected my attitude. Oh yeah, I was hella salty.

Evening came and it was time to go out to eat. As we were preparing to leave for the restaurant, one of my sons asked me what was wrong. When I asked why, he told me that I looked unhappy and angry. Now, because I was in my feelings and feeling some kind of way about this whole hotel/motel situation, I had expected my son to feel the same way. I turned and asked him how he was doing and if he was enjoying himself. A smile immediately spread across his face when he stated that he was having an AWESOME time! He said that he loved being able to spend time with his family and that the hotel was cool. He was especially eager to eat dinner and return to the hotel so that he could go to the outdoor pool. He had also noticed that there was an inexpensive snack bar that he wanted to take advantage of. As I listened to him talk, I realized something: While I had been focused on everything that was wrong with the hotel, he had keyed in on all of the perks. At that moment, I decided to take a cue from my son and change my perspective. I decided to focus on all of the things that were right with the place. And real talk, I needed to do this if I planned to get through the weekend.

I thought about the room. No, it wasn’t cleaned the way I like it, but once I finished cleaning, it was okay. It was livable. The flat screen television was brand new and we had PLENTY of channels from which to choose. The air conditioner worked very well…in fact, it worked so well that we had to turn the cool air to slightly warm! The size of the room was spacious enough so that my family had plenty of room to move about comfortably. Sure, the beds were small but it gave me one more reason to cuddle up to my husband at night. The rooms opened up to the outside…but we could park our car directly in front of our door. The hotel was located right off of the interstate and was a straight shot from great shopping and good eats. And the icing on the cake? CRACKER BARREL was literally next door! I could walk there for my favorite pancakes!

When I began to focus on everything that was right with the hotel, I realized that the good outweighed the bad. I also realized that had I stayed in a place of anger and disappointment, I would have missed the hidden gems that were waiting for me to find and appreciate them. Oftentimes, when we find ourselves in situations of our own making or someone else’s influence, when things are not going quite the way we expected, we get bent out of shape. We see only the things that are glaringly wrong and to further cement our anger, we begin to look for more wrong things to add to the list of things about which to complain. All the while, overlooking and missing the blessings and the good that can be found in unconventional and unlikely places. If we would take the time to accept the fact that we may not be in our ideal position BUT we are going to be content in the position in which we find ourselves, we will unlock unforeseen blessings and happiness that we would not have had otherwise. We may not be able to control every circumstance but we can control our attitude towards it. Does this revelation make everything okay? Will I continue to stay at budget style hotels/motels in the future? Oh HELL NO!!! BUT, I have learned the valuable lesson that I dictate my level of happiness and contentment. I can either make myself and my family miserable by complaining the entire time about everything that is wrong OR I can share laughs about the tacky décor, sleep close to my hubby and children, stay up late watching movies on the flat screen and share breakfast in the morning at Cracker Barrel. The choice is mine. And I chose happiness and contentment.

Am I hotel snob? Absolutely. I am and forever will be. But I thank this experience at the hotel/motel for giving me the opportunity to view challenging circumstances and situations from a positive perspective. I have learned that when it rains, I can sulk and get soaked or I can pull up my boots and dance a two step. And I have also learned that after every rain, there is a rainbow to be seen if I am willing to look past the clouds.