Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Opposite of "Opposite World"

For the last day or so I kept seeing this post about having babies {In Opposite World} pop up on my newsfeed. Everyone was captioning it with things like "This is so encouraging," "Wow, you must read this!" etc. Recognizing that it was a blog about having babies, I knew I didn't have to read it like other women out there, BUT I do always try to read things that will prepare me for the day that I, Lord willing (please!), get to have kids of my own. Not to mention that I've recently started to really pray about how God might be leading me into some form of pre-natal counseling in my social work career (but I'll save that post for later).Basically, if it says babies, I read it.

I can see how this viral blog post could be ever-so-encouraging to women who have lots of kids, or women who have kids young, but personally, well, it sent me into kind of an emotional tailspin. For all of her arguing about how it's such a great thing to have kids young and have as many as possible, she leaves out the fact that not everyone who doesn't have kids early chose for it to be that way.

I have already written about how desperately I want to be a mom, so I will let you refer back to that post if you really want to see why this made me so crazy, but I have a little bit to add after reading this woman's thoughts on it.

First of all, the blog discusses how society sends that message that you should "live your life first" and THEN have kids, that kids are an inconvenience, and that you shouldn't have that many. The truth is, this isn't universal, at least not in my experience. Where I grew up, the NORM was to have kids young. I thought people who didn't start until after they were 30 were, well, flawed - and selfish. ESPECIALLY if they were Christians - that was something the non-Christians did. People in Christian circles have kids early, duh. I had every intention of having a kid young and then having three or four to follow. I had their names all picked out, the whole deal. I was obsessed with shows like "A Baby Story," and "Adoption Stories." I wanted one or two kids that I'd birth myself, and about two more I'd adopt. This was the plan.

Then I moved to NYC, and I realized that not all people who wait until they are older to have kids are selfish and flawed. I know a whole lot of amazing people who are well-past the age I grew up thinking was the "norm" for having kids, and they are doing amazing things with their lives that would be impossible with kids of their own.  Many are teachers at exceptionally demanding schools. Some volunteer their afternoons and evenings helping the marginalized, or kids, or whomever.

"We live in a selfish culture where having children is a huge inconvenience.  I mean – how am I supposed to fit in aerobics, spa days, girls shopping trips and “me time” when I have children that need me 24/7" (Quote from the article)

I won't even write my response to that, because I already did

"And we look at these women in movies, magazines and on television – they are unbelievably gorgeous at 43 and birthing their first.They look like they have it all.  They gave their “best years” — their young years, to their career…and we secretly wonder – maybe they do have it all." (also, a quote from the article)

You see a woman who gave her "best years" to her career, I see a woman like me who probably really wanted to start earlier, but since it wasn't happening, poured into her career instead, and am encouraged that it's still possible to bring back the original dream later than planned.

God puts us in different seasons of our lives for a purpose. These purposes are different for EVERYONE.  Obviously, I don't have kids because I'm single. That is the only reason. If I were married, I can pretty much guarantee I'd have a kid or two by now, BUT I have faith that God has me single for a reason. That my graduate school classes are for the purpose of expanding his kingdom, and I wouldn't be in them if I was a mom right now. That my time with Graffiti youth is crucial to their development in some way - and I wouldn't have time for them if I had my own kids.

Or it could be that he's building up my story to encourage some younger girl who is struggling through the same things I went through and am going through now. I definitely feel a burden to make the best of this time so I can be of encouragement to others.

In the comments section of this article, she refers to the fact that she couldn't have kids after twenty-nine as the "death of a dream" in response to someone who had asked her about it. It's interesting that she used that term, because I've used the exact same term to describe  the loss of my dream: that I would be a young mother with four(ish) kids.I can completely sympathize with her on that matter. I do agree with much of what her post said, but I think it could have been approached differently.

We must be careful not to rank one lifestyle over the other, particularly when we don't know what the other's circumstances are.  God has a unique plan for all of us, and so long as our intentions are never selfish in our endeavors, I think we can end up in a variety of places as a result. I know that's what she meant, but the tone does not come across that way, and I would caution anyone that reads it to be careful how they relay it to their friends who don't have kids.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

We're Busy Too: The Case for People Without Kids

I'm going to preface this to state that I recognize people are probably going to read this in a way that may come across as offensive - that is not my intention.  I just like to voice things other people sometimes don't want to say, but need to be said. 

I promised a follow up to my broke-people blog, so here it is.

A few nights ago a friend and I were discussing our busy lives.  Something that came up was how her sister had essentially guilted her into doing something because the sister has a kid, and my friend doesn't.  The assumption was that, because my friend didn't have a kid, it was her obligation to be willing to bend her desires to her sister's needs. To be unavailable to help her would be selfish, right? After all, that's what family is for!

"The truth is, I CHOOSE not to have kids right now for a reason," says my friend, "and I feel like until I have one my needs are never going to be taken into account in making any family decisions - what time are we going to meet for dinner? Who's going to drive whom where? Maybe that IS selfish, but it's not fair.  I may not have a kid, but I have obligations. At this rate, I might as well go ahead and start having kids because I'm already losing my right to make decisions for myself anyway."

This same friend then felt guilty for even expressing this concern. As though she'd just confessed to being selfish. The truth is, it opened me up to say some things I'd been afraid to express out of my own fears of sounding insensitive or selfish.

Before I start saying what I'm about to say, I want to clarify that I want to be a mom pretty much more than anything else - except maybe being a wife, I think I want to be a wife most of all, but definitely a mom too, right behind wife (if you don't glean that from this post, check THIS one). It is JUST THAT desire that leads me to my thoughts on this.

So I'm going to say what a lot of people don't want to say: JUST BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE KIDS DOESN'T MEAN I HAVE ALL THE FREE TIME I WANT.

Sure, I have a LOT of freedom right now. I take that as a blessing. When I decided to go to grad school, I didn't have to factor in childcare, or consult my husband - I got to make that decision on my own. I DID however have to factor in how that decision would affect the family I plan to have one day (what kind of job am I going to be able to have with this degree? how much money can I afford to take out in loans?  HOW ON EARTH AM I SUPPOSED TO DECIDE THIS WHEN I DONT KNOW MY FUTURE?!) and THAT'S a really scary decision to make on your own (See HERE).  One of the infinite number of reasons I pray every day that God will send me a husband really soon is so that I can have someone else to help me make decisions - and so I'll at least have some idea of the trajectory I need to be on with these choices.

In the meantime I have to fight off the thoughts that tell me it's my choices that have led me away from being able to get married and have kids at this point in life. I didn't CHOOSE that, it's just fallen that way. I'm sure there are a LOT of single women out there who would tell you the same thing. We look like driven career women who don't want families right now, and many are, but many of us are simply as occupied with our jobs as we are because we need to do SOMETHING fulfilling in the meantime while we wait for our own chance to have a family - and eventually we'd like to find a way to balance the two :)

So, that leads me to my main point : TIME.

I get it, moms are busy. Stay at home mom's don't get the credit they should for all the work they do. Yes, I agree with both of the above statements, but you know what, I'm busy too, as are many many of my friends who don't have kids.

We're exhausted. So are you. LIFE is exhausting. Not all single people without kids are as busy as I am - I get that, but not all mom's are as busy as YOU are either. And some are, GASP, even busier!

I leave my house before 7:00am most days. I usually don't get home until after 9:00pm.  That's five days a week, not to mention on Fridays when I get home around 1am, then throw in Sundays where I'm occupied with church stuff for most of the day. Somewhere in the midst of that I too have to find time to grocery shop, run errands, eat, etc. and then stay on top of readings and paper writing. - not to mention the emotional exhaustion of spending my days taking care of, teaching, and counseling OTHER people's kids.

 I wouldn't trade ANY of those things. I LOVE my internship, I love my job, and I love school. But don't be confused when I get a snippet of time that I'm NOT obligated to be somewhere and I don't want to sacrifice that little bit of "disposable time" to cater to your needs because you have a kid and I don't. Not that this happens to me OFTEN, but it does happen to lots of people, and has happened to me from time to time.

There is so much written out there about "Things you never say to a stay at home mom," or "things you never say to someone with multiple kids," but I'm here to speak for the "Things you never say to the single women who want to be moms someday." There aren't many of those posts out there.

The general theme is that moms are really busy, so don't comment on how much "free time they must have by staying at home," or how "oh I see you're wearing yoga pants again."

But the truth is, I won't mistakenly believe you have a lot of free time if you won't believe the same about me. AND the looking like hell because you have no time to think about getting dressed up? I get that too.  I stopped being a fashionista career woman before I even started because frankly, 'aint nobody got time for that.  And each time I TRY to put together the look that's supposed to go with "confident career woman," I end up having to work extra hours to pay for the clothes I bought that I end up not wearing because I'd rather be wearing the same pair of extra-comfy "I can slip these on after my ridiculously too short trip to the gym and no one will see how sweaty I am" dress pants.

I work a LOT. I'm paying my way through grad school for the sole purpose of having a job that helps others while still allowing me time to have a family later on in life , and I'm working an extra job too so can avoid having the maximum allowable debt so that SOMEDAY I too can take off some time from work to raise the family I pray I have.

What I'm trying to say is WE'RE ALL BUSY, so stop trying to make it look like one person's busy deserves more catering too than another person's busy. I won't even let myself get started on how offensive I find the posts about how tough it is to be a stay at home mom must be to the women who are working moms, or better yet, single working moms. It IS tough, but keep in mind when you're writing that stuff that there are a lot of women who'd love to be staying at home and for whatever reason, can't, but they still have to fulfill all of the same mommy obligations as anyone else - but that's a whole 'nother post for another day by another author (one who has experienced that first hand I would hope).

So yes, I LOVE your kids. I love helping you with your kids. I absolutely get great joy out of using my maternal instincts to take care of your babies - and I'm so thankful for that opportunity. But keep in mind, that your busy is no better than anyone else's busy - and be careful what you say to everyone else too! We're all in different situations for different reasons, some within our control, some outside of it, but we don't always know what's going on with someone else, so please, don't use your kid as a trump card for all your needs - or at least not all the time ;)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

We're Broke Too: The Case for Single People Showers

In discussing wedding gifts with my boss today, who is being added to the fifty bazillion people I know who've gotten married in the last few years, she mentioned how, at 34, she's already got everything she needs, so she simply asked for money for her wedding. It reminded me of a long-standing proposal I've had, that hasn't caught on quite yet, but makes total sense:

Broke Single People Showers

The whole idea behind a wedding shower is that you're starting a new household and you need things.  In years past, when a woman got married, it was the first time she had ever lived on her own. She would not have had pots, spatulas, kitchen appliances, etc. Upon getting married, suddenly she'd have a slew of things that she'd always borrowed from her parents, or used in a dorm room/college apartment, that she would now need to have on her own.

This is not so much the case anymore. The Census Bureau estimates that the average age of marriage for a woman is 26.6 years, and 28.6 for men, up from 22.5 and 25.2 (respectively) just thirty years ago. Women are graduating from college and starting a life of their own approximately four years before starting life with a husband.

We need stuff too.

As my friends have been getting married, one right after the other, for the last six years or so, I've watched as they rake in their new towels, and 550 count bed sheets, and the crown jewel of wedding gifts: The Kitchen Aid mixer.

I sleep on a futon. I cook on pots that have been passed down from roommate to roommate. I have particle board furniture in at least four different colors in my bedroom.

Why is it that not only do these girls get the affection and love of a husband we're all seeking, but they also get the goods?

It's as if they're being rewarded for finding the love of their lives. "Congrats, you've found him! On top of being able to be cuddled to sleep at night, here's a nice down comforter under which you can rest together.  Oh, and you get to split the rent too"

How is this fair?

I want a registry. When I graduated high school, people gave me tons of money to spend, and like any good eighteen year old, I bought a bathing suit, a gym membership, and several nice purses.

When I graduated college I got a card and a new blow dryer (which yes, is an awesome gift, but that's beside the point). A few months later I moved to a new city with no job and a suitcase. THIS is when I needed money to start out on my own. THIS is when it would have been really nice to get all these things one gets upon finding a husband.

Instead I end up broke, paying my way through grad school, working two and three jobs, and as single as I was at twelve - only then, I at least had someone cooking my meals every day.

So when I finish my masters program and yet again settle in a new city (or at least a new apartment), if you receive a card from me stating that I'm registered at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Williams Sonoma, it's simply because I'm starting a new life, and a new home, and I need some new stuff too.  If I can't find the love I've been searching for, at least let me have the stuff that goes with it.

But really, all I want is a Hurom juicer.

Stay tuned for a planned follow up entitled: "We're busy too."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities

In December 2004 I was wrapping up my first semester of college, and I had not been living my life in line with the Lord. Yes, I still went to church sometimes, thought I excused the Sunday's I didn't go with the "I haven't found a place I where I feel at home in my new city" cop-out. I "got involved" in a campus ministry, but that just meant showing up to a Bible study from time-to-time and popping into their Thursday night services when my whims allowed. This campus ministry had been promoting this mission trip to New York City, and I decided I had to go. I claimed I felt called to go help the people of the city, but even my grandma read right through that. I wanted a cheap way to visit a new adventurous place - and an excuse to be able to fundraise to do it. Sure I still loved service, but for my own selfish reasons.

So, on the night after my finals wrapped up, I attended an end-of-semester party with my friends from home in which I did a whole bunch of stuff I shouldn't do while in no way living up to the example of Christ I knew deep down I should be. I lived for me, and my desires, just as I had been doing for a copule of years - then drove to New Orleans at three am with another friend who'd been partying through the night too, and had my parents take me to the airport for my 7:30 am flight to LaGuardia.

Several hours and a slight hangover later I arrived at a church in Bay Ridge, where I and my friend were asked by the campus minister "how we got hooked up on this trip"? Because obviously, no one there knew us. We hopped the train into the city to see Times Square, met a few new people who also didn't seem to know anyone else there (and who I haven't seen since and couldn't tell you the names of), came back to the church, and I called my friend back home and cried over the phone about how I'd much rather be there hanging out with them than on this trip where I felt like an outsider. I'd see the New York skyline, I'd seen the bright lights on 42nd and Broadway, I was pretty set.

Little did I know...

Over the next week, God wrecked my world. Permanently.

I met people whose weddings I've stood in, people who became roommates, people who radically shaped who I am today by challenging me to grow and learn and fellowship like I never had before. I learned to love serving people for the sake of sharing the love of Christ, and all the while, I became enamored with the magic of this great city.
Charlee and I on my first NY trip ever, December 2004

I returned to Louisiana with a new outlook on life. That trip to New York was probably the single-most important turning point in my relationship with God. He brought me back after a few years astray, and I am forever grateful that I stumbled upon that opportunity.

Over the next few years, I grew to love this city like I never could have imagined. I took my first vacation with a friend the next summer to come back just for fun. I came on a few more mission trips, and most importantly, I dedicated the summer of 2007 as a summer missionary at the Metro New York Baptist Association - at which time I became involved with the church that has been my family for the last six years, and I started this blog.  In the two years that followed, I visited my friends here on every occasion I could, until finally, in Summer 2009, I moved here "for good" (which means until I feel God is ready to move me on to a new place).
Laura and Andrew on my first vacation with friends, July 2005 :) 

There's so much more to this story I could detail, but I've been talking about just ONE city, and as you can see this post is titled a tale of TWO cities...

because I'm also mildly obsessed with my home city - New Orleans.

In the same way I used to visit New York every chance I got, I visit New Orleans at least four times a year. I can't get enough.

Growing up I never thought I'd leave South Louisiana. I always talked about moving to Los Angeles to be an actress/singer/hairstylist/pilot/whatever else I thought I wanted to be, but deep down I kind of always knew I'd stay in South Louisiana  Thankfully, my parents moved out of the house where I spent most of my formative years and over to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and then Katrina hit, and then I figured out that there's a life outside of the glorious swamplands and riverbanks I had always called home before, and the rest is history.

When it came time to actually move though, the reality of just how much I loved home hit hard. I had graduated college and moved back in with my parents, who had moved back to the greater New Orleans area, and I'd grown to appreciate my hometown in ways I never knew possible. I was fascinated with the music like never before, and the food, and the unique traditions (this from a girl who tried to write a Louisiana history book in fifth grade).  When I booked that one-way flight to JFK for May 30, 2009 - with only six weeks notice, I felt at peace about it in a way I'd never felt at peace before. Despite not having a paying job lined up, or a permanent place to live, I knew I was headed where he had called, but I sure wasn't emotionally prepared for leaving my lovely home.

I still, four years into being a New Yorker, don't feel like I've fully left New Orleans - and honestly  having spent three months there last year plus having logged a bazillion miles back and forth - I kind of haven't. I love everything about home, and I constantly feel as though I'm missing so much family stuff - including being able to watch my sweet Godchild and other cousins grow up.  Over the next year I have big decisions to make - as I'll be finishing graduate school and applying for jobs - and the biggest task I face is deciding where I want that to happen.

After my most recent magical trip home, I was 100% certain that one year from June I'd be living in a apartment somewhere near Louisiana Avenue and Magazine Street, but as always, I arrived back in NY and remembered that I love my life here on so many levels and am going to have a hard time leaving it when I do. I say WHEN I do because I WILL. I most definitely will end up back in New Orleans one day - and who knows, maybe DC, Chicago, LA, Boston, or somewhere else inbetween - but I know that my heart lives in two places, and I wish we could just develop some sort of teleportation device so I can be in both.

The beautiful thing about being in tune with God is that he makes those decisions for you, or at least tells you how to make them. When I made the decision to move here it was totally against my own logic - but I never doubted it was what he planned for me.

I'm anxious to see what kind of wrench he throws in my plans over the next year and how he is going to direct me on my next steps.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sweet Southern Sunshine

Mom and I before the race - she walked it. 
By way of skipping a class (tisk tisk), I managed to get somewhat of a Spring Break, and made my way down to New Orleans for four days to visit my family and run my favorite race, the Crescent City Classic.  It'd been four years since the last time I did it, seeing as how I always manage to have something to do Easter weekend, but I was thrilled to get to run down some of my favorite streets and take in the city - despite having a pretty cruddy finishing time.

And of course, they give you Jambalaya

Springtime in Louisiana is my favorite, well, that and fall, which I guess are my favorites anywhere, but whatever.... it was a good time to visit.  For four days I got to enjoy catch-up time with good friends, crawfish, strolls through the city, crawfish, live music, crawfish. You get the point.
My College Friends, And CRAWFISH!! 

Being that it's Tuesday, I'm going to join in to a little Too Cute Tuesday action and show you just how adorable my baby cousins are in their Easter garb. These little cuties are pretty much the scale-tipper in my decision as to whether to stay in NYC after I finish grad school, or to go home (but that decision is a whole 'nother story for another day).

My sweet Godchild, Sofia

Clayton, who was apparently really sad I left :( 

These brothers - really 

My cousin Nicole, her husband, and all FOUR of her babies

That's my Paw Paw Charlie

Their NaNa, my Aunt Tina - this makes me laugh

Sweet baby Sy! The newest addition - but we've got another on the way  :) 

(link up HERE!)

Also, side note, on my trip home, I was yet-again blessed enough to share the stage at the Blue Nile with some of the most talented artists in the country - Friday night with Kermit Ruffins, and Sunday night with my dear friend Mykia Jovan.  Kermit has never been able to call me by the right name in the two years I've known, him, but Friday he got it right, so I will always refer to this as the night Kermit finally remembered my name.