Friday, April 11, 2014

They say truth hurts, but so do un-truths

Every time I am sitting around with friends and we start talking about "Pet Peeves," I can never think of one. I mean sure, I don't necessarily love when people pop their gum or click pens but it also doesn't drive me wild with anger or make me want to lash out irrationally. One thing that I realized yesterday is that I do have a Pet Peeve and it's strong. It makes me livid with anger and it makes me feel completely overwhelmed with weakness, pain, hurt, and disillusionment. It is when someone inadvertently or directly decides that they know exactly who I am without really ever interacting with me. I have a few statements to make because it is part of me taking care of myself:

You don't know me if...

-- You know my family.
-- You have married a man who is black.
-- You have had a miscarriage.
-- You have diabetes
-- You are overweight.
-- You are family.. (you might know me but not just because we are related)
-- You are a therapist.
-- You knew my grandparents.
-- You know my father (Heck he doesn't really know me)
-- You know my mother
-- You know my sisters
-- You know my family! (repeating is necessary apparently)
-- You know my husband
-- You read my Facebook status' every day
-- You see my son in pictures.
-- You read my blog (sorry...but not everything is blog material)
-- You have heard stories!

Now, how someone is known is by spending time with them, asking them questions about their beliefs, feelings, attitudes, and allowing yourself to take them in. Developing a "KNOWING" of another person is not just from a handful of interactions, a few Facebook posts, and opinions of others. We should have all learned by now in seeing the craze of celebrities and paparazzi (not at all claiming to be a celebrity) that we can not always trust what we see, hear, and read. To be honest, I think the only way you can trust your opinion of another is by actually engaging with me, developing a relationship, and then making that decision.

Yesterday this happened to me. Someone unloaded all of their "facts" they had gathered on me based on Facebook status', other's opinions, and of course....they have actually talked to me twice face to face and one of those times was literally about 1.5 minutes long. The other was at a dinner after a funeral. In my view, those are not enough to gather an entire personality profile and judgment on anyone. However, this person had no problem calling me names that were horrible (hypocrite) and deciding that they knew everything they needed to know to form a full opinion of me. How sad!

This is what I have decided since yesterday, shame on me if I ever do this again to another person. I am 100% positive that I have and shame on me for that. I won't be doing it anymore. I will base my opinions on another based on the content of their character which I will only know after trying to know them. I am tired of renewing my sense of worth after someone tears me down without knowing a single thing about me besides who my family is and what others have said. I am angry and I believe I am justified in that anger.

If you don't have the time to actually know, please don't take the time to give me your report card. I didn't even attend your class!! LEAVE ME ALONE!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Life is a mother!

I have been wanting to write this post for several weeks and just haven't found the time. Probably because as it will absolutely show, I am a new mother. When I say new, I have a 14 month old son. My days consist mostly of diaper changes, book reading, meal preparation, cleaning, snuggles, singing songs, dance parties, and playing with Maxwell. I get an idea for a blog post and I hope that it stays with me until I can belly up to the laptop for a few quiet moments and process.

I think that the idea for this post started a few weeks ago when I started to see a trend in my relationships with other mothers both in person and on Facebook. I am fearful in my parenting. I have noticed lately that I try not to express any opinions, ideas, values, or advice in parenting and I know why. I am fearful of other moms. I think that as moms, we are cruel to each other more than we are helpful. In the short time I have been a parent, I have been told how to do the following from people who are a little more experienced than me or perhaps are as new as I am at this: feed Max, bathe Max, educate Max, discipline Max, introduce Jesus to Max, and the list goes on. The thing I should note is that I never asked these people how to do that. I have asked a number of parents that I completely respect and share values with how to do certain things or even just ask them how they do something so that Anthony and I can come up with something that works for our family.

The people I am talking about in this post were NEVER asked these questions. The conversations looked like this (example of actual conversation with another mother)

Tamara (not actual name): So is Max sleeping through the night?

Erica: Yes, he takes two naps a day and then sleeps 10-12 hours at night as well

Tamara: You should not let him nap that much. He is stunting his growth. He should be playing and not sleeping

Erica: Well, we have consulted his doctor and it seems like he is 100% healthy and my opinion is that if he is tired to where he is falling asleep, it is not my job to keep him awake but to realize his body is telling him something.

Tamara: Maybe you need a new doctor

This conversation had me so angry because two things were insulted; my ability to make good decisions for my child and my ability to choose a good physician. Note: We LOVE our doctor for Max!

I have noticed that other mothers are my biggest enemy in this journey that is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It's not to say that there aren't mothers who support me, encourage me, and pray for me. It's just that I have seen more of them that want to force their parenting ideas, experiences, and values onto me and Anthony. There have even been people who have wanted to critique how we pray with him, teach him about Jesus, and educate him spiritually. How in the world can you choose that for another family?

This brought me to a conclusion in my parenting: Never give advice unless you are asked. My opinion is but ONE...and not the ONLY ONE or the RIGHT ONE. The way I parent is completely in response to who my son is...since other mothers do not know him...they probably should not try to parent him. Does that aggravate anyone else?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Are you still with the mom?

Today's post begins with a little vignette. The other day, Anthony said he was introduced to a new partner with Starbucks. The new partner was in his late 20s and just begun working there while also attending college. He and Anthony were having a discussion when the topic suddenly turned to our son, Maxwell. This new worker asked Anthony how old Maxwell was. Anthony answered that Maxwell had just turned one year old. The guy then asked as seriously as possible, are you still with the mom? I almost don't know where to begin writing this post.

Do I start with how sad it is that our culture can't believe that people can stay together beyond having a one-year-old child? Do I mention that the young man was Caucasian and that it seems to me that he is buying into a stereotype that black men do not stay with the mother of their children? Or maybe I address how crass and rude it is to ask a question like that when the man you're talking to is wearing a wedding ring. If he really married to someone else already after having a one-year-old child with me?

I guess I'll start by addressing the sadness of our culture. It really has come to a point where it is completely normal to have a one-year-old child and not be with the mother of that child. I know that circumstances are sometimes beyond our control like losing a spouse. I really don't believe that this young man was referring to Anthony being a widower. I think he honestly believed that there was a possibility that Anthony had a one-year-old child with a woman he no longer loved or was with. I asked a few questions of Anthony before I began to break down the scenario. Anthony said that yes, the man had noticed that Anthony was indeed married. He had mentioned that he was married therefore there is absolutely no excuse for him thinking that there was a possibility that Anthony might be widowed or that Anthony might be a single father. 

I am so sad that we live in a time where it is completely normal that we have children with people that we are no longer with after only a year. Then I start thinking about the racial ramifications of the things this young man said. Anthony and I begin to chew up the possibility that this man was so used to seeing black men not be with their families anymore they just assumed it was a possibility that Anthony wasn't. Maybe he wasn't even used to seeing black men not be with their families, but was more used to the way the media portrays Black men as fathers. This brought me back to a memory that happened in 2004.  I was sitting in the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood when I noticed a picture on the wall. The picture was of a black man, holding an infant and that text on the picture said "be a father, don't leave! "I wasn't sure what to think in my twenty-four-year-old mind as someone who is always dated Black men. I have dated outside of my race more than I dated inside of my race. I probably always knew that if I had a child, that child would be biracial. Why we are talking about this, the men that I dated had either not been fathers or have been excellent fathers. Yes, I have dated men who are no longer with the mother of their children but they were also full-time dads and a few even had full physical custody of their children. As I thought on this today, I decided to do some Internet research. I went ahead and Googled "statistics on black fathers." 

According to 2011 US Census Bureau data, 33% of American children live without their fathers present in the home. That percentage also counts one in every three homes that have a black father,  where the father is an absent father. Now, I realize that that is a very high amount of black men who are not taking physical care of their children. Although that's true, isnt 33% of fathers being absent in the home a pretty large amount regardless of race. To me, this is less about African-American men not being fathers and more about parents not staying together and people having children not thinking about what it looks like to hold on for the long-haul. To me, this is an epidemic of parenthood, not one of black father-hood. 

In the same data, it also said that one in four white fathers are leaving home and no longer a present parent. Why is it that one more father in a black community creates such a stereotype that there are photos of black fathers being asked not to leave in Planned Parenthood? On the highway by my house in a very predominantly Caucasian area, there is a billboard with a pair of larger black feet and on top of those feet there is a tiny pair of black feet. On that billboard it says "be a father today. " Anthony and I drive by this billboard every single day. Does it remind Anthony to pick Max up and love on him? Does it make Anthony change one more diaper or snuggle Max a little bit closer? No! It degrades the fact that he is a father every day. Why are those feet black? I know that a lot of people will think I'm being sensitive. I know that a lot of people will think "there's got to be a billboard with white dad feet too, right? "To be honest, I doubt it. I think that there is often a tendency to focus on black fathers when talking about not being a father. It hurts those of us who are married to black men who are not just staying but are actively participating in their children's lives. 

This reminds me of another story. Anthony and I were newly dating in June 2006. I will never forget this situation. I was sitting in a classroom talking to a few fellow students in my graduate program. I mentioned that my boyfriend was coming to visit at school that day to have lunch with me. He showed up about an hour later and was sitting in the lounge waiting on me to have lunch. I went in and had lunch with him and he left afterwards so I could return to class. Those same students that I had been talking to earlier were sitting with me again. One of them without even thinking, said "so does Anthony have kids? "I sat there in stunned silence because to be honest, I couldn't figure out what to say. The answer was really easy. No, Anthony didn't have any children. So after a pause, I answered no, should he? The student, again without even thinking said "well most black men already have several at his age." Anthony, at the time was 25 years old. Really? Is that a statistic? Is it true that 25-year-old black men already have several children? Again, I had no idea what to say. I then answered, "well, Anthony doesn't have any children. " The more I talk about the story the more I think this specific student was ignorant. The next thing that came out of his mouth was ridiculous. He said, "oh, well at least none that he knows about, right?" I was disgusted and appalled that any person who at least have a bachelors degree and is pursuing a Masters degree in clinical psychology could be that much of a dope! How sad is it that he had no qualms about insinuating that Anthony went around impregnating people and not even knowing it.

I realize that day sitting in the beautiful state of Southern California, that things haven't changed that much. I was in one of the biggest melting pots in the nation of diversity. I was sitting in a classroom with educated people in a field that is known for being open-minded and empathic. Yet, it's still okay to imply that a black man is nothing more than a sperm bank  that goes around not taking responsibility for his children or the women who give birth to them. I was so sad and so disillusioned. When will it stop? When will these people accept that there are just as many black men out there fathering children and raising children. When will we stop and find that white men are not the only men to stick around and be there for their children. I'm here to tell you, from experience, White men don't always stay and father their children. The percentages may be higher in the black culture for fatherless children, but the epidemic of fatherhood is not just a black man's experience. It is a problem in every angle, in every color, and in every culture. Let's stop insinuating that black men don't know how to father and stop glorifying fathers that are just sticking around. How about we address the real problem here? The real problem here is men who say they are babysitting their children rather than parenting their children. The problem is men who believe it is a woman's job to raise children. The problem isn't about women in the workplace or women staying at home. The problem is about men who do not take responsibility for fatherhood.

It would be difficult for me to write this post and not say the following things: my husband is a father. He is a loving, nurturing, affectionate, involved, dedicated father. Guess what? He's also black. These things have nothing to do with each other. He was taught that it was the job of a mother and a father to raise a child. He was taught that you don't make babies unless you want babies. He was taught that sex was not just for procreation and pleasure but for love. He was taught to not just stick around but to be a daddy. Today, I want to say thank you to the father that I most respect in my life, my beautiful strong black husband.

Oh the monotony!!!!

Yesterday, I woke up in the morning and started my day as I usually do. The first thing I do in the morning is very simple. I change a diaper! Maxwell wakes up every morning and knows what to expect from his mama. I always change his diaper, and then follow it up with a dose of Zantac. Maxwell has recently been diagnosed with acid reflux. We found this out after having bronchitis, and an ear infection, and then the cough would not leave. We followed up this illness with several doctor's appointments to rule out various things. We had a chest exam to rule out pneumonia. We considered asthma, allergies, and even that he just couldn't get better. We are so happy to finally know what is going on with our little guy. This post is not about acid reflux but I thought I should probably address it since I'm giving him doses of Zantac. This post is about the monotony of parenthood. Well, maybe the monotony of motherhood.

I don't think Anthony is challenged as much as I am in the area of monotony. Anthony goes away from the house every day for over eight hours. He deals with customers from various walks of life and he has different conversations every single day. Not me! Yesterday I actually thought "I'm pretty sure I picked up that cheerio yesterday!!" My days consist of the same routine. Changing diapers, administering medication, feeding meals to my baby, reading children's books, playing with toys, changing another diaper, and laying down my guy for naps! Now, before this starts to seem like a ranting and complaining post, I want to say it's not. Today, I decided to write a post to all the moms out there who deal with the day in and day out of monotony. Not every mom out there deals with monotony. Some moms leave the house everyday and go to work. Some moms put their children in daycare and run errands away from the children. Some moms leave the house to work while dad stays home with the kids. I am aware that there are various walks in the journey of motherhood. My walk right now is that I am a stay-at-home mom. I recently stopped working outside of the house at all and spend almost every day centered on Maxwell. 

This is entirely new for me since I am someone who has always focused on my career. Anthony and I decided a few weeks ago that it would be best for me to stay home the rest of 2014. While staying home, I am choosing to get ready to work in the field in 2015. By the way, if you don't know my field it is psychotherapy. I am spending this year getting ready to enter the field by working on my licensing application and exam to practice in the state of Indiana. This normally would not take an entire calendar year but I am taking it because Maxwell needs me home for this year. As we enter into the next year I have no idea what it will look like. I have no idea if I will work full-time, part-time, or find some other avenue in order to make money and contribute to my household. What I do know, is that this year, I will be at home with Maxwell. I know that each of you probably have an opinion about the decision I've made. Although I respect your opinion, I do not need to hear it. I've made the decision that I believe is best for my family.

Now, back to monotony. I know going into this year that I am going to experience my fair share of monotony. I know that since I won't be working in the field of psychotherapy, I will be working in the field of mommy. Mommy looks a lot like laundry, dishes, and childcare daily. Although we have some exciting adventures like trips to the zoo, museum, running errands, and new experiences for Maxwell, on the whole it really is the same day… Every day! I decided to write a post giving you moms out there that deal with monotony some tips for surviving it. I would like to say that you could thrive in monotony but I'm not sure anyone really can. I think it is in our human nature to get bored. It is in our nature to want something exciting to happen. It is our nature to crave something new and fresh and different.

Here are a few ideas that I had to help me deal with the monotony of motherhood. Although motherhood can be very repetitive it is also really really exciting. It is hard to imagine a life without Maxwell now that he's in it. Although I love my field of study and I crave work again, I do not want to wish away the years that I have with Maxwell alone. I want to relish in the fact that I get to stay home with him and enjoy him while he's little. All of the years that I prayed, fasted, and cried over having a baby are the years I try to remember as I clean up the same cheerio day after day. Here are my tips for surviving and maybe even enjoying the monotony of being a mommy:

1. Keep it new and fresh.

One of the things that I invested in very early on in being a mom was a binder. I started to collect different activities, ideas, and adventurous things to do with my little boy. Granted, in his first year of life it was very hard to find things that he could be a part of. Mostly, he just napped, ate, and pooped. Now that he's bigger and starting to want to find out everything he can about the world, my binder has come in handy. My binder has things like ways to teach him new things, recipes that he can help make and enjoy, and even activities to help them stay active physically. I am one of those nerdy moms who tries to engage my child as much as possible. I am very strict about how much time Max spends in front of the TV screen, phone screen, or tablet. All of his toys are developmentally appropriate and help him to find ways to be where he is developmentally. They teach things like the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and colors. My binder has a lot to do with those goals. Every activity that I clipped out of magazines or wrote down from blogs or advice from other mothers has been to help Max develop socially, physically, mentally, and nutritionally.

2. Get outside when you get a chance.

I know that those of us who live in the Midwest have really been put to the test on this one. For the last several months, Maxwell and I have had to stay inside due to inches and inches of snow and colder than safe temperatures. Along with sickness and the need to bundle up excessively, going outside Has not been an option. I am so excited for the spring months to come so Maxwell and I can start enjoying walks, time on the playground, and nature adventures. The above-mentioned binder has several activities that involve finding things in nature, going on adventure walks, and of course just good old-fashioned getting dirty and playing. Since Max is now very mobile, he is going to have so much fun this summer.

3. Create a cleaning and chores schedule.

No I know this doesn't sound like a way to beat monotony. I promise it actually is a good tip. One of the things that I recently did was build a cleaning and chores schedule for my house. Everyone's house looks a lot different in terms of their actual cleaning responsibilities and chores. For example, in my house we have a cat. That means that one of the cleaning responsibilities is to scoop the cat pan and clean up around our food dish. Maybe you have a dog to walk, a birdcage to clean, or any various chores that involve pets, children, and husbands. What I did was build a schedule with the days ofthe week. On each day I find myself a room in the house to focus on to deeply clean. Also, every day there is a specific load of laundry that is to be washed. For example, in my house on Monday I deep clean my living room and deep clean my laundry room and do one load of dark clothing and wash the linens on our beds. This is obviously in addition to all of the normal tasks of being a mom and feeding my family. The way that I feel that this aids monotony is to make sure that I am not cleaning every day, all day. I find with my daily schedule, that once I am finished I am able to stop worrying about cleaning and focus on doing things with my free time that are more fun like reading, blogging, Facebook, and even once in a while watching a Netflix TV series. If I do my chores pretty quickly in the day, I can use Maxwell's naps to enjoy my own free time and possibly even start new craft projects.

3. Make sure that you are grateful.

I know that we are all always thinking about how to be more grateful and to be mindful of the things that we are blessed with. I think that as a mom is very hard to focus on being thankful when we are changing diapers and doing menial tasks like doing the dishes for the third time of the day. This is a bit easier for me because of the struggle it took to get Maxwell. As most of you know, Anthony and I suffered the loss of our first child and had a very difficult time conceiving Maxwell. We are also friends with several couples who strive daily to conceive their own child and others who are in a long journey to adoption. When you know these families, it is easier to enjoy the every day tasks of being a parent. I'm not saying that I do a happy dance every time Max poops and I have to change a diaper. What I mean by this, is that when he smiles I take a moment to thank God for his smile. When he says a new word, I praise him because he is so smart. When Max and I have a dance party in the living room while I'm teaching him the importance of Michael Jackson, I take a moment afterword to thank God for that little boy that I'm holding. It is so hard to imagine life without our children, but remember there are many people who have only lives without children. They can't imagine a life with a child and all they can do is wish for one.

I hope that today as you go about your monotonous routine of obviously reading my blog, that you try to make it better for yourself. There is no point in wishing away the days that we have with our children because they're filled with what we consider unimportant tasks. These tasks, although monotonous, are the essentials to helping our children develop and draw love from their experiences. Today, embrace the monotony!!

Friday, February 07, 2014

A little change, it'll do you good

I been thinking a lot about change lately. We had a lot of change in the Lewis household over the last 12 months. One of these giant changes was having Maxwell. Having Maxwell is one of the best changes I've ever had in my life. I've never been great at change. Change has always made me very nervous and it also really pushes me to challenge a lot of my own thinking. Change has always made me feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and incredibly out of control. Another change that has happened recently in our house is Anthony started college. Although I knew he wanted to go to school, I really didn't expect it to be when our child was turning one-year-old. I often times thought he would do it when we were newly married or when Max was ready to go to school himself so that I would have just as much help everyday as I always have. Although that's true, I fully support Anthony going to college and getting a degree. The challenge came when he came home from school and told me that he had signed up.  It was a Thursday evening and turned out he wouldn't have access to his school materials until Friday. On Saturday some of his assignments were due, and the other half were due on Sunday. We spent the whole weekend burning the midnight oil to help Anthony get caught up when he had just started. That is completely out of my normal routine.

It is a complete understatement to say that "Erica is a planner."'I'm so much of a planner that I would have my books purchased a month before school, having read all of my chapters for the first day of class. I've also been known to have my binders divided and organized so well that others have borrowed my things to make sure their's is in order. I have never in my life had to do an assignment three days before it's due. I've always been the kind of person to be ultimately prepared and to really find it important to be on time and organized. Anthony is another sort of person. He is used to running late and never loses his cool under pressure. I'll tell you, that weekend really did me in. We got very little sleep, did tons of homework, and ended up spending so much time trying to organize Anthony that we got very little time as a family. I have a lot of help from Anthony in the father department. He's an excellent father! As a matter of fact, he is always my 50% partner in everything. Anthony always does bathtime with Max, bedtime reading with Max, and puts Max to bed. Now, I have a lot more on my plate. Anthony is often doing homework well into the night, which means mommy does the bedtime routine. Anthony still handles bath and bedtime story but it's always hard to see Max be sad when he walks out of the room. I know that Anthony needs our support now more than ever. 

Being able to be a mother was one of my biggest dreams. I know that Anthony feels the same about being a father. I also know that Anthony is having a very hard time spending less time with us as a family and mostly less time with Maxwell. I feel very sad for my husband because he's never had to adjust to a school schedule. I decided that I would not write about Anthony being in school until a month had passed. Anthony has now finished his first month of college and  I have to say he's doing wonderful. He finishes his assignments on time, studies well into the night, and overall is doing really great! Although that's true, I am having a hard time adjusting to the new schedule. I know that this is mostly selfish, and I just need to roll with it.

I think this mostly has to do with my difficulty with change. Change has always been difficult for me. Even when I was little, if we moved it took me a year or more to adjust to the new house. I'm one of those people that really likes my routine, my schedules, and my traditions. I'm not sure if I'll ever be different, but what I do know is I'm trying! I started to embrace the differences in our house including; doing more of Max's care, doing all the housework, and going to bed alone sometimes which might be the hardest for me. I know that this time is just a season. Anthony will eventually be done with his degree. Things will go back to normal or radically change again. Change, it really is horrible for me!

I realize you're probably thinking, "Erica, really? My husband never helps with anything and I always do all the childcare!" Well, I'm really sorry to hear that and I certainly understand that most of you probably do everything yourself. That just isn't how our family has worked for the last five years. One of the greatest things about my life is that I have a helper. I have a husband who continually helps me and gives 150% of his time and effort. That is not to say that Anthony has changed his effort at all. As a matter of fact, Anthony has stepped up his game more than ever. He stays up even later to help me, spend time with me, and definitely makes time for Max every single day. This is even if it holds him back from getting the sleep he needs to work. I really do have a fantastic husband!

So, the reason I'm writing this post is not because everything is falling apart and  to cryand whine about my life. As a matter fact, it's completely the opposite. I'm writing this post because I'm actually enjoying the challenge it takes for me to embrace change. I started to step up my game as well! I started to keep the house in more order and under a better schedule so that my time can be spent with my husband when he has free time. I started to make Max's schedule very tight also so that when he is with Anthony is more about free time and less about getting things done. This new phase of our life might be the next growth spurt in my life. This blog has always centered on my personal growth. It is always been about me becoming a better person. I think part of being a better person is learning to cope with your difficulties. I think being a better person means adjusting to things that you fear and learning to be there for the people you love.

Two of the things about myself that I absolutely loathe are that 1. I'm selfish. The other thing I really hate about myself is that my fears overcome me. The "what ifs" of life have always bogged me down. Immediately when Anthony started school the anxiety started. I started to think "what if he doesn't have time for me?" What if he doesn't have time for Max? What if this completely changes our life and our beautiful marriage is torn to bits? I know, that is a really silly process to go through. I guess that's why I hate it! I have always had more than an average amount of anxiety and it has always held me back from enjoying the parts of my life that are supposed to challenge me. Not this time! I'm embracing Anthony's school life. I am also helping him as much as I see that I can do. I'm adjusting to the changes and I am learning to love the process of change. I started to think about how useful I could be to Anthony. I mean, I do have a Masters degree so school is something I'm good at. I help him with time management, scheduling, and helping him perfect things. I also edit papers, make notecards, and basically support him the way he did me through graduate school. 

I decided that instead of worrying about how my marriage will be challenged during this time, I will work harder to create a beautiful marriage through time constraints. Instead of worrying about Max getting enough time with his daddy, I will help Anthony manage time so nothing gets sacrificed. I realize that change is inevitable and more importantly it's good for us. God puts us through seasons of life that are to change us, challenge us, and help us to grow. I know He has something wonderful planned for this change for the Lewis family. I pray that as you go through changes today that you also learn that change ... It'll do you good! 

Monday, February 03, 2014

No wonder it is 50%

Something has become very evident to me lately and a bit annoying and I started to think about it a little deeper last night in bed. In light of the recent issues with Gay Marriage/Equality debates, Coca Cola having the (insert sarcasm) audacity to act like any American speaks a different language, and bearded people who decide what God says about has become evident to me that people that I know hate differences. They hate anyone who doesn't speak their language, have their color of skin, believe in their religion, attend their church, or have sex and experience relationships like they do. This blog post is not a place to argue right or wrong, good or bad, sin or not...just a place for me to get some things off my chest. The people I have known for years and continue knowing are really big complainers. You can't please them! It is 100% okay to have an opinion about things. It really is! I have an opinion on almost everything. It is quite another to say harsh and ugly things in the name of an opinion. Even more so, to say things that you are uneducated about entirely and then state it as "gospel truth."

Last night it was the Coca Cola commercial that showcased an American classic song in different languages. Just a tidbit of information, there are people who are 100% American and who also are fluent in another language as their first language. Yes, it is currently the dominant language in America to speak English. However, that isn't always going to be the case because we are a land of opportunity and many people move here to experience a better life. What makes someone who is a Native to this country any better than a person who has immigrated here or even whose family immigrated here many years ago. Many people choose to continue speaking in their first language even though English is practiced more here. I do not understand what is wrong with that. In my opinion, (and it is one in a sea of many) as long as they can do their jobs effectively, I don't care what language they speak at their homes, in their churches, with their friends, etc.. That is an individual's choice and right.  It would not hurt all of us to become more aware of other culture's and stop being so stinking snobby about being an American. You just happened to be born doesn't mean you are better or your language is superior. I am saddened to see people I viewed as educated or at least mostly intelligent people say things like "They need to speak American" (not a language) and "That is not our country's origins" What History book have you been reading? We were not founded by a bunch of flannel wearing, banjo playing Hoosiers. I'm sure plenty of people would be happy to tell you the origins of America and that their tribe did not speak English. GEEZ!!!

Now, back to my point! I have noticed this inclination to complain about everything. People are always just belly-aching. I started to think in terms of my career and think "No wonder everyone is divorced!" In my house, there are already fundamental differences if you just look at the outside of Anthony and I. He is 100% Black. (No, he is not African American..he is black. His words) and I am a mix of White/Hebrew/American Indian. We start out pretty different. We also have differences all across the board. We were raised in different churches (same God, different churches). We were raised in different states (Indiana and California). We are completely different in height (over a foot of difference). We were raised in different socioeconomic backgrounds. We have all different hobbies and interests and some that are similar. Here is the point.We are different. You know what we connect on. We are human beings, flawed stupid human beings. We accept each other because we know we are essentially the same. The differences pale in comparison to this big similarity.

I think that we each need to start realizing that you are the same as everyone around you even though you are different. If you and the Spanish speaking person next to on the same day have your heart stop beating, guess are both dead. If you and your gay neighbor who is married to the same gender get hit by a car, you bleed the same color. It is okay to differ on opinions, beliefs, politics, hobbies, interests, tv shows preferences, educational preferences, etc... It is not okay to think that someone is beneath you because you are different. This is probably why the divorce rate is over 50% at any given time. It is also probably the reason there are so many broken relationships in families. It is not that hard to accept that people are different. Before you get all flustered, I did not say accept something that you believe to be sin. I did not say accept someone hurting someone you love. I did not say you have to learn someone else's language or even be in their world. I said...ACCEPT IT. That means, it does not need a Facebook post if someone sings a song in (gasp) some "UNAMERICAN" language. It means, we don't need to hear about it if you think God hates homosexuals. How would you feel to hear that someone believes God hates you??! I'm sure someone does. Not everything you think and feel is right. It is valid..but it doesn't mean it is right. Perhaps, you need to look a little past your own very American white nose and see that people around you aren't all the same and that is the reason why you can't get along with anyone.

Until we all accept that noone else is exactly like us....we are gonna just sit around being a bunch of bullies who just find pleasure in pointing out differences so others feel small. Congratulations that you speak English, are married to the opposite sex of your Anglo Saxon white brotherhood and never ever sin. For the rest of us, LAY OFF!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Perfectionism is back, ugly as ever!

Hi, My name is Erica and I'm a perfectionist. (hears in a whisper, Hi Erica!) This fact has been a thorn in my side for more years than I could even explain. This little tidbit of my personality has led me to struggle with depression for years. I have always told my clients that the space between perfection and reality is right where depression lives. I have no doubt that I am right because I live it, day in and day out. My struggle with depression has led me to at times be suicidal and more often just really really lost. As a therapist, it's hard to imagine being suicidal and not being able to get a handle on it but I think more people need to recognize that often we go into a field because we are passionate about it. That is exactly why I did. I did not know how to heal myself and I  have always believed the old saying "Knowledge is Power." After years on the proverbial couch, I learned that my perfectionism was causing and facilitating the staying power of my depression. It has also aided in being unhealthy, stagnant in my faith, stagnant in my career, and caused me to hate myself at times. It has always been with me so I'm not sure who I am without it.

Lately, it has come to my awareness that perfectionism is back, heavily. Luckily, this time I'm catching it before it gets to suicidal but I am noticing that I am losing sleep, worrying about things that do not matter, and overly trying to control situations that are beyond my control. This morning, I was reading an article that someone posted on Facebook about procrastination. I read it because I might be the reigning queen of procrastination and I know that it goes hand in hand with my perfectionism. Picture this, there is a 15 page paper due in a class and I have been told months before it is due what the assignment is and what is required of me in order to get the coveted "A." I wait until the weekend before the paper is due and then sit down and crank out all 15 pages in one/two nights and do the least work possible given my time. I get the paper back and there it is, my "A." Why doesn't it feel good? It doesn't feel good because I know that I threw it together last minute and it isn't my best work. What if I had spent the time on it I wanted and got the most out of the assignment I could get? Well, then I may have gotten a "B" instead. What would it have felt like to know that my best wasn't good enough? That is the question I never want to answer...therefore I never give it my best because then, I can always chalk it up to being last minute if I fail. How does that really go with perfection, you may be asking. I'll tell you....

Being perfect has never been something I've achieved. I am a perfectionist which is totally different than being perfect. My health has pretty much always been bad. I have always procrastinated on VERY important things, and even when I have succeeded at life (as with my degrees in Psychology) it was always with the knowledge in me that I could have done better or learned more if I only tried. One area of perfectionism that has seemed to go away over the years was my need for everyone around me to be perfect as well. I used to have a difficult time with people because the minute a friend made an error in judgment or mistreated me in some way, they were thrown away like yesterday's newspaper. Now, I find that I can work through conflicts with people and really still value them as friends. I like that this has been sorted out. I haven't, however, learned to do this with myself.

Something happened a few years ago that tore my belief in myself into bits. It was in an area of my life that is really precious to me and it caused me to be benched. I walked away from something I love very much because in my mind, I wasn't perfect enough for it. I wasn't worthy to do the calling that I believed fit me best because someone disagreed with my methods. Deep down inside of me, I know I'm good at this thing. I know that God gave me abilities and heart for this like nothing else. I know that it is one of the few things that stirs my heart so much that I cry after doing it because it brings me so much joy. It kills me that someone's words of critique and selfish actions were enough to break my spirit. I know that my problem with perfectionism aided in this death of a dream. Now, what do I do about it?!

Like I said, lately I have been inclined to look at this. Mainly because I have a little guy who is watching my every move and learning things from me. I don't want him to rip up every drawing he makes because it isn't perfect. I don't want him to quit things that he could be really great at because he isn't perfect. I don't want him to not recognize his worth to Jesus because he isn't perfect like Jesus. Every day I wonder how I can be better for him and this is the area I feel God is speaking to most today. How do you get to where it is okay to be flawed and take risks? How do I let go of my sense of failure to again do what makes my heart ache with happiness? How do I go forward in my calling knowing that failures are bound to happen? How do I continue to be me and still act like the failures don't matter? How do I stop procrastinating on taking steps forward just to prevent the pain of not being everything to everyone? I am not sure the answer to these questions...but at least I'm finally asking them.

I pray that today you find that you are enough. I pray that I do too!

Thanks for listening,


Friday, January 24, 2014

Quit acting like a baby!

Today has been a long day. Max is only 1 year old so it can sometimes be challenging to know exactly what he needs at any given point. Through the last 12 months of my life, I have become an expert at interpreting cries and whines and even body language. Max has learned a few words but they aren't the more useful words like Tired, Pain, Needy, or Hungry. (although he does have a version of hungry I can translate) Today I was having an especially hard time figuring out what was making my little guy so upset and I started to think about why marriages, friendships, and even family relationships go badly. By the way, in case you were curious...Max just wanted mommy to cuddle him and give kisses and snuggles (I know, precious)

You always hear it said in magazines like Cosmo and self-help books that communication is key and I think we all roll our eyes a little bit but here is what I'm here to tell you, it is! I usually think that they are harping on talking period and maybe even expressing some feelings but I think my point hits a little closer to the nursery. Max is a baby and babies communicate using everything but language. It is incredibly frustrating at first and you learn to just go down the list of possibilities; diaper dirty? hungry? tired? hot? cold? or the many other number of things it could be. As the months go on, you learn which cries mean what and you also realize what time it might be or even the possibility that the baby is sick. My argument is that if we would all stop acting like babies...we might have successful relationships.

There is no possible way for someone to give you an apology(for example) if all you do is give them the cold shoulder or silent treatment. The only way to get a much needed apology is to say "You hurt me" Yes it is primitive but extremely powerful. Have you ever hurt someone's feelings and it took them more than a few months to say so and usually they said it while yelling at you or having a disagreement about something else? I have! It's painful because you just wish they would have said something so that you could have done your best to make it up to them. We all communicate isn't important to start communication. Even Max, with his very limited language skills...communicates with me. He communicates through crying, whining, laughing, smiling, and rubbing his sweet little eyes when he is tired.

If you are in a relationship right now with someone and it's damaged, you are communicating. Maybe you are ignoring them, deleted them from your facebook (gasp!), clearing their calls, answering in one word sentences, avoiding them entirely, snipping back at them every time they talk to you, etc... You are communicating. Unfortunately, you are just communicating like a baby!

Adult communication is so important in relationships. It is important to "Say what you need to say" (John Mayer) To communicate as an adult, you must speak words and they need to include feeling words. Here is an example and I realize it is not always easy to do this but totally necessary:

Martha is hurt because her friend Tina decided to go to a movie instead of attend her birthday party. It is a very important birthday party for Martha because she is in remission after going through a life threatening bout of breast cancer. This birthday is more valuable than any birthday Martha has ever had. Tina RSVP'd that she would be there and then an hour before the party called to say she has been asked on a date to a movie and would not be able to make it.

This is a good situation where someone may just stop talking to another person and therefore get no resolution. If, indeed, Martha wants to continue a relationship with Tina, she has to communicate. Here are a few guidelines of things to remember when communicating like an adult:

  • Sometimes three words are a great start( "I am hurt." ): This can be the jumping off point to just get the feelings out into the air. They are the hardest ones to come up with. After this, there is no doubt that a conversation will be started. If you can begin with "I am (enter feeling) " you are at least beginning the communication cycle. 
  • Allow your needs to be met: If you need an apology, make sure you are ready to accept one. If you need something to be corrected, allow the person to correct it. If you need to be heard, be appreciative to them for listening and help them hear you better by having them repeat what they think you said.
  • Take the time that you need: If you feel that you will be acting like a baby (ex: throwing a tantrum) let the other person know that you need time to process before trying to communicate. This saves a lot of heartache in the long run.
  • Resolve: Make sure that you hold on to adult behaviors until the situation is resolved. None of the other tactics (throwing tantrums, throwing items, ignoring, slamming doors, breaking things, etc...) are at all affective. The only thing you can do that will either heal or resolve a situation is to communicate like an adult.
In Martha's situation she may have started with the simple " I am hurt" or maybe a few of the following:

"I feel unimportant"
"I feel dismissed."
"I feel that you chose a date over me"
"I feel like my life doesn't matter to you."
"I feel like our friendship is not reciprocal"

Maybe Tina was incredibly selfish and dismissive but maybe she didn't see it that way and did not feel that the birthday party was a big deal given that she sat in on every chemotherapy appointment and did not go on a date for the almost year that Martha was fighting the cancer. Maybe there is a misunderstanding...but one thing is for sure; there is no resolution with adult communication!
Stop being a baby!!!