Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Layers 2

Prelude - Impossible Layers 

Multifaceted, multi-colored, blended so well together that the pigments are invisible... a dot of disappointment, a spec of joy, a blotch of anger, a splash of mistakes... the layers come together over the course of time. The layers bleed across the surface and form one colorful mess of a situation. Each dot, spec, blotch that forms can almost always be prevented... but once the layers form, they can be difficult to break apart again.

The sadness, the despair ... the downright confusion that is caused by the layers can almost always be prevented. But we usually don't prevent them do we? Maybe we don't even realize that this tiny spec of anger, this insignificant piece of doubt will begin to run down the pages of our lives and bleed together with other tiny instances and form these impossible layers.

But I'm not only talking about the layers that come from the situations and circumstances in our lives...and how we handle them, sure...  I'm talking about the layers of ME.. the layers of YOU..  the things that have come together to make who I am - the layers that make me tread lightly, fall hard, love deeply, give sacrificially, act selfishly.. the layers that sometimes even contradict each other and pull me in different directions.

The layers that make me want to be different people at times..  each one having a different piece to the puzzle of my personality. The clumsy girl, the introvert, the performer, the writer, the jokester, the dork, the friend, the lover, the relentless fighter... the dreamer.

The layers, they are just me.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Restoring Friendships?

Last year, I discovered Dr. Irene S. Levine, author of The Friendship Blog. She is a clinical psychologist and renown friendship expert -she is actually called the "friendship doctor". Her blog is pretty much the only place I have been able to find sound advice on mastering the tricky etiquette of female friendships. You can find relationship advice about a significant other all over the internet, but not much about girlfriends and let's face it -- those are some of the most important, time consuming, and impacting relationships that women have.

I have been so incredibly hurt by female friends... and I'm talking, some serious back-stabbing, rumor spreading, jealousy and "mean girl" Lindsay Lohan stuff, except with grown women. These "friendships" have truly been the source of more heartache than I have EVER felt over a boyfriend or crush. And the more I have talked to other women about it, the more I have realized that I am not the only one. Why is it that women do these terrible things to each other? Why do we allow jealousy to grow roots deep enough to hurt someone only because we are so unhappy with ourselves? NO MORE.. NO... NOT ME...  This is ridic, this is bananas and I will not do it anymore.

A few days ago, I read the following in an article by Dr. Levine - "One of the requisites of a healthy friendship is being able to feel safe with a friend—knowing that you can be yourself without putting on airs. Knowing you can tell her something without it going further. Knowing your friend will be there for you, that she'll have your back if you need her. Knowing that you can believe the words she is saying to you. Once that trust is broken, the friendship has changed and it can be very hard going back to the relationship you once had." 

I find myself in a season of forgiveness.. in learning how to wholly forgive and I can honestly say that I have done that. But what about restoration? I have had to make decisions about who I will try to resurrect a friendship with and who I will just let go. Sometimes, it isn't necessary to "raise the dead".. especially after you have discovered the truth about the relationship. But sometimes, there are friendships you decide are worth fighting for... there has been a true apology and there is a closeness and a love that even after all the drama still remains the same. But how can I feel safe again? As they say - the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.. but can't people change? I can easily resurrect a more distant friendship, but is that really the best thing to do?  Now that the healing has been done, it is simply determining where to go from here... Honestly, I need to be careful about who I choose to spend my time with and who I choose to confide in and invest my heart in... I just wonder what happens next?

There is so much about myself that I have learned and there has been so much healing in my life. This has been thanks to my relationship with Jesus. I really can't attribute that healing to anything or anyone else...  I cannot recommend a greater lover, a more committed friend, than HIM. There is no relationship in my life that can surpass the long-lasting commitment and safety that knowing God has given me. It has helped me to see myself in a whole new light and it has helped me to learn that regardless of anyone else, I can remain grounded and unwavering. In all the decisions I make, I know that I need to hold on to that.

I want to allow LOVE to surpass all.. I want to be that and model that - "love never fails" .. but I also don't want to be hurt again. God help me.

In a recent text conversation with a friend I kind of shocked myself when I told her - "when opening our hearts to friends, the benefits outweigh the risks." -- Was that really ME talking?! I think so... because you see, I have certainly been hurt and hurt others but I have gained so much more than that. My friendships with other women have taught me so much about myself and have enriched my life in more ways than I can count.  Some friendships have fallen apart, new ones always fall together and maybe... some can even fall apart and fall back together again over time.

We'll see... In the mean time - how do you feel about restoring friendships? Do the benefits outweigh the risk? 


Saturday, August 3, 2013

I'm not Normal ...

Recent pic on my Instagram :)

Lately, I've been struggling with the three words in my title... "I'm Not Normal." Have you ever felt that way? Maybe in a particular circumstance or season of life? Well, I have always, always, felt that way... and I am starting to really question why.

I remember being in second grade and sitting at a lunch table with my classmates. I had a moment of feeling so displaced ... "I am not like these other kids" I had thought to myself... and it was bad, it was so bad. Second grade, can you imagine that?

The feeling of being different and not quite knowing why is pretty tough as a kid. I always thought that it was because of the bad things in my life... a Dad with alcoholism, parents with a tumultuous marriage, the constant moving from place to place and school to school. I was different and it wasn't good. How could being different be a good thing? I just want to be normal.

Eventually, as things in my life started to iron out - a move across country (permanently), my mom found the courage to move on, I found my faith and relationship with Christ, I was able to heal from so many of the negative things in my past... but ya know what? I still continued to feel "not normal."

And don't get me wrong, I had friends, I had great relationships... God really came through for me. He gave me a father figure and stability and I was happy... but normal? No, I was not normal.

I guess my question is -- who is normal? Are you? I have always wondered if there are people who feel completely part of the group and never singled out for any reason.

Since my Grandfather passed away, I have started to really focus in on my purpose in life. Why am I here? I think I know now... and I don't really know what to do with that information. I am scared you guys... and I am excited and I am overwhelmed ...

Oh, and I'm sorry! LOL I'm sorry if this is not clear or if I am rambling on but writing is my therapy so here I am. I told you I wasn't normal !!

That's all for now... I love you my readers... I count on your prayers as I figure this out.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

26 Months.

26 Months... that's right... Two years and 2 months... it is a beautiful period of time and 26 is a beautiful number... but let me start from the beginning.

There were so many things I was nervous about when I knew I was going to have my first child... being responsible for another human being in every possible way, well.. it is a pretty big deal.  I knew from the start that I wanted to nurse my baby and I had the amazing blessing of landing a blogging gig with an amazing company called Bravado Designs to chronicle my breastfeeding experience. It was the best thing that could have happened because the writing pulled me through many difficult moments.

Breastfeeding is something natural, so many women wrongly assume it will just be easy... I was one of them. I thought I would hold my tiny baby in my arms, he would gently latch on, drink until he was full and fall sleep peacefully. That is not quite how it works.

Aiden was born with an excellent rooting reflex. He was an eager nurser and for that I am thankful. The first several weeks of nursing were difficult to get the hang of and they were painful. I hate to break it to ya but it hurts ladies. Every lactation consultant will tell you that "a proper latch should never hurt" which is totally true but think about it... newborn baby, new mom... you are going to experience an improper latch or several in the beginning so yes, it hurts!

After about 4 weeks though, we found our rhythm and I started to really, really enjoy breastfeeding my baby. First of all, I felt so grateful that he was being fed with the most natural ingredients possible and I wasn't putting any processed food into his little body. That was such an amazing feeling... I'd done all the research and I was giving my baby the best shot at health. Second, that time we spent together was priceless. Breastfeeding really makes it so that you have to be physically near your baby for longer periods of time than bottle feeding and I am so glad for that.

When I learned that cow's milk should not be given until at least 12 months (1 year) of age, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed Aiden until his first birthday. I had no desire to give him infant formula so I'd wait until he was a year and slowly introduce cow's milk until he was weaned... Aiden had other plans!

I noticed that after his first birthday, he was not emotionally ready to stop nursing. He was attached, he found immense comfort in it and his eating habits were still not where I thought they would be. We naturally just kind of continued with breastfeeding.  I was nursing a toddler and trust me, no one was more surprised than me!

It was incredibly frustrating to hear comments from many individuals about my breastfeeding Aiden as a toddler. I never, ever, felt the need to hide it and was always ready to nurse my baby anywhere under his nursing cover. I know many people felt uncomfortable especially as Aiden began to walk and talk... I know that I was criticized ... I don't really care.

Deep down, I knew that Aiden still needed to nurse.. and quite frankly, the comments and silly statements I heard were from people who were simply uneducated on the matter.. so I took it with a grain of salt. I mean, I have education and research on my side and I know what I'm doing... so thank you for your opinion but it absolutely changes nothing.

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for the first 2 years and beyond... in many countries all over the world, it is completely the norm to nurse into toddler-hood. In the U.S. it seems that bottle-feeding is still the norm and thus, those of us "weirdos" who breastfeed are well.. weirdos. But the U.S. is also one of the most unhealthy countries in the world eating foods that have actually been outlawed in other countries but that is a whole other can of worms. Extended breastfeeding offers many benefits to baby including protection from sickness, allergies, and even higher IQ's. Extended breastfeeding offers many benefits to mom as well including the lowered risk of breast and ovarian cancers... I'll take it! If you want to learn more about breastfeeding past the first year you can read these great articles here and here.

I am grateful that I decided not to give in to pressure based on the discomforts of others and make the decision that I feel was best for my son. Breastfeeding successfully is one of my proudest accomplishments and I can proudly say I did it for 26 months.

That's right... my big boy is fully weaned and no longer nursing. He just turned 27 months in July and has not nursed in over a month... I got to a point where I was very ready to end that part of our relationship and I needed to encourage Aiden to wean. It took lots of time and distraction but he did it and I am so proud of him for making this transition.  A lot of Moms say they cry and feel depressed once their children wean but I couldn't be happier! I am happy that Aiden was able to nurse for as long as he did and I am equally happy that we are done.

I love my baby boy so much... he is growing up so fast!

Friday, July 5, 2013

I Heart Local Business: A Restaurant Review

I went to business school (Fordham University CBA) and while I can't say that joining corporate America is my "calling", I can say that my education and business experience (I've worked in advertising for 8 years) has given me certain roots in organizational leadership and the passion for making things better. While I am still trying to figure out how to blend career with calling and use my talents to "make things better" I am extremely grateful and supportive of organizations that start with one person's idea to simply -- make things better.

I love small businesses and as a consumer, I make an effort to support local restaurants and shops by choosing them over a big chain. I think it is important for so many reasons... especially because I live in the Bronx and it is the 1 borough in New York City that is so underrated. People always seem so surprised when I tell them I live in a safe, family oriented, awesome neighborhood. Morris Park in the Bronx is a great place to live! Playground, public library, lots of local shops and .. RESTAURANTS. Really, really good restaurants I might add.

A new burger shop opened up in the area called "The Stand" and my husband and I could not wait to try it! Our first visit did not really go so well and because I really do care about local business, I followed up with a review on their Facebook page. I hoped that this was an isolated incident and said as much in my review. To my delight, the owner of The Stand immediately contacted me via Facebook.  To help make the situation right and keep me as a customer, the owner offered me and a guest a complimentary meal.  I immediately decided to give it another chance and brought my camera along this time to post a new review:

I got the classic cheeseburger with cheese fries, chicken strips for Aiden and bacon cheeseburger for the hubster :)

Seriously guys, it was cooked to perfection!

It really meant a lot to me that the owner invited me for a free meal... it showed that my business meant something to them and I thought it was really cool of them to do that. I have to say, that I do not regret giving The Stand a second chance. The food was divine and the service was great! The staff is friendly and helpful and I love the overall "feel" of the place:

Really fun vibe in decor
Front of the restaurant

Front counter

Would I go back to The Stand? Absolutely! And I will... many, many times! I am so glad this place is in my neighborhood!  So.. if you are in Morris Park, Trust me when I say -- GO TO THE STAND! You won't be disappointed :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Confessions of a PK Part 3: Moving On...

It's Thursday, 2:12am and I work in a few hours... I'm up... I'm wide awake... sleep has not come easy the last few days.

From the time I started this blog series, I knew it would be 3 parts and I knew the last part would be titled "moving on"... what I didn't know was how much significance that title would have in this very moment.. the  very moment I take my fingers to the keyboard and write it. In all of the craziness of the last six days, I just needed to write.. so here I am, at 2am, writing because I really need to.

My Grandfather... my awesome, kind, funny, loving, Welo left this earth on Friday. He went home to be with God and I am so, so, happy for him. I wonder what he must be doing right now? I have been wondering a lot and wishing I could just catch a glimpse of him walking.. whole... healthy and free down the golden streets of heaven. You see.. there are many, many things that I doubt in my life. I struggle with all sorts of doubt. I doubt who I am, I doubt where I am going, I doubt God even at times... but one thing I am absolutely certain of is that my grandfather is in heaven. Because, yes, I believe there is a heaven and if anyone can get in - he can. That man's faith was more real than anything and this certainty that I have is the only thing giving me peace.

Because losing someone you love is crazy hard. I know he was old, and I know he was sick.. and I thought I was prepared to lose him.. but I wasn't, I really wasn't and I still am not. Truthfully, I want him back. I want to rub his bald head and I want to tell him I love you... and I so desperately want to hear him say "I love you too" except he really would say it "I loo juuu tooo" and it was perfect.

But that's the thing.. I can't. I have to move on and it really, really sucks. I remember when I decided it was time for me to move on from my Grandfather's church. The man was a Pastor and I lived under his roof. On Sundays we all went to church together and I decided I needed to go my own way. Trust me, it was a big deal. I was terrified to talk with him about it... I didn't want to hurt him. There were things about my faith that I was questioning and there were convictions that became crystal clear.. and I wasn't going to grow if I didn't move on.

I'd learned how to love Jesus in my Grandfather's church. I'd accept Christ as my personal savior in Sunday School. He was my Pastor not just in that church but at home too. He was also my Dad... and I didn't know how to separate the two or even if I could. One day, I stood home from work and Welo was alone in the living room.. I decided to talk to him about things and to my surprise, he already knew what I was going to say.

That day, Welo told me that my destiny was a great one. He said that he always knew I would move on one day. He told me "April, you have a calling for nations inside of you"... I wasn't sure what that meant at the time but it is something that has become more clear through the years. He told me to move on and that it was okay. He made me promise him to not forget what I had learned and to never give up because this world has nothing to offer me... that was always his focus.. what are you investing in eternity? So many things in this world are fleeting, but eternity.. eternity is what matters.  That conversation was one of the last heart to hearts that we had and I will always treasure it.

It was that talk that helped me to move on...  and now, I wish I could have one last talk with him... so that I can move on .. but I can't. I have to find the strength, I have to pray for the strength and honestly I have no idea how I am going to do it. I wish I could end this more eloquently but I  guess that is all I have to say.

I miss my Welo so much...

Family Day at the park.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring will come...

Relationships are a lot like flowers. If you find the right seed, put it in good soil, give it water and sunlight, bam. Perfect bud. And then comes winter and the flower dies. But if you tend that garden, spring will come along and that flower will bloom again.
Finn to Rachel, I Do.

I love the show - Glee... I am total Gleek and do not miss an episode. Recently, Finn said the above words to Rachel and it really got me thinking about Spring. After months of a cold, grey winter it brings so much comfort to know that Spring will come. That even if you cannot see the flower, the seed you know is planted beneath the cold, icy soil will eventually bloom again. It isn't a question, it isn't a possibility... it is a certainty. 

There are so many seeds trapped beneath the icy soil in my life right now. Seeds that have once been in full bloom, seeds that are old, seeds that are new and have not yet had a chance to grow. I have been in the season of "winter" not just literally but in every other sense and I am comforted because very soon, MY SPRING WILL COME. 

It can be tough to face change, uncertainty and even the death of something in our lives. A job, a relationship, a door that closes before we can see any new one opening up... but I can say that I know for sure these times are necessary. Time to reflect, time to pray, time to regroup is just necessary. I am not a big fan of the winter but I know it is a necessary time. I've recently been through quite a winter and I knew from the moment it started that it is exactly what I needed. I am not saying it hasn't been difficult or that I've enjoyed it... the winter is gloomy, cold, empty even. But I am saying that I know I needed a winter of my very own. A time to snuggle underneath the covers and talk to God because after-all, it is only a season. 

And I sit here in anticipation of my Spring... because I know it will be here soon....Tend that garden, spring will come along and that flower will bloom again.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
Song of Solomon 2:11-13

Monday, March 4, 2013

Confessions of a PK, Part 2: Kid Under the Microscope

Let me start with this... I have a Pastor and he has two beautiful little daughters. I feel such a strong connection to those girls because of my upbringing and I also appreciate the work their parents do so much, that I seek to love on these kids, protect them, let them know how special they are... because YES, their parents work hard to bless my life and so YES they are special to me. I strive to treat my Pastor's kids in this way because if I am telling the truth, it is the way I would have liked to be treated in my Grandfather's church.

I remember the first time I felt like I was under the microscope. A deacon in the church made it her life's mission to "catch me" talking to a friend during the sermon. Let's face it, an 11 year old kid is going to get a little distracted during a 5 hour long service so all of us would talk, pass notes, the usual. But it's like this woman needed it to be me... she waited, she watched and boy would she complain. It was the first time I realized that I was different from my friends in church.. and to be honest, I didn't want to be. I just wanted to be a regular kid.

I felt people were harder on me than anyone else because of who my Grandfather was... I guess they thought that if he was this amazing, God pleasing person I should be too... so my attitude quickly became -- "I am going to be".

With my Grandfather on Christmas morning... (Jasmine is the closest thing to a Latina Princess we have okay)

I was an over-achiever and I aimed to please others right away... but somehow I always ended up feeling inadequate because my passion was never enough, my effort was never enough... heck, even my heart was never enough. I know now that this is the problem with a legalistic belief system... that no one ever really measures up (Romans 4:15) and there are certain biblical truths I would be on a journey to discover myself. Still, I had to face many road bumps along the way.

I had to smile, I had to be on my A-game all of the time and I to this day, wish adults would have known better than to put that kind of pressure on me. The weird thing is my Grandfather himself never put that pressure on me... he would get complaints about how "April wore the wrong thing to church today" or "April didn't come to such and such event" and he never even told me about them. I would later come to learn that someone called him at home or pulled him aside and he would always, always SHUT THEM DOWN. Afterall, I was his baby =) I have to credit my grandmother for this too. She would always stick up for me.

Holding me as a baby
Over time, I had to learn how to take it in stride and simply be true to myself. It  is still something I am learning to do. One thing I learned from my Grandfather is that nothing is more important than loving others. Even when I did feel judged by someone else, I worked hard to love them because it is really love that conquers all.

I hated feeling like a specimen under the microscope... there is an element of that, that I still struggle with to this day. My guard is always up... in many negative ways it formed me but now I can say that it formed me in positive ways too.

I am so grateful for everything in my life... I wish some things could have been different but overall, I am just grateful. I love you Welo!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Confessions of a PK: Part 1

From Wikipedia: Preacher's kid (abbreviated as PK) is a term to refer to a child of a preacher, pastor, deacon, vicar, lay leader, minister or other similar church leader. Although the phrase can be used in a purely descriptive way, it may also used be as a stereotype.

My grandfather officiating a wedding
Technically speaking, my MOM is actually the Pastor's kid... her dad (my grandfather) has been in ministry as a pentecostal preacher/pastor (say THAT 5 times fast!)  since he was only 17 years old. Although my mom was raised in the church, when the time came for her to move out on her own she also went her own way for a while in terms of faith. My mom moved 3000 miles away to California to raise her family and while she taught us about the importance of God in our lives, I can't say that I ever felt or understood the magnitude this faith had in our family. My grandparents would come visit every summer and we'd have family worship services every Sunday while they were in town. I loved it! We would sing songs and my Grandpa would preach a sermon and I just loved my grandparents and everything about them. I thought my Grandfather was like.. one of God's favorite people or some kind of VIP or something. I remember thinking that if I just asked him to pray for something, it would come true. He was like magic! When the summer was over, they would get on a plane back to New York and life would continue... we'd go to church on special occasions, I'd say my prayers every night.. but nothing outside of that. Until the divorce...

When my parents called it quits on their marriage, my mom needed a way to support my brother and me on her own. I've written about my father before so needless to say, he was not very involved. I was 10 years old at the time and we moved to New York to live with my Grandparents. Immediately, we started going to church with them every Sunday (anyone under that roof, goes to church) and Mondays, and Tuesdays, and Fridays.... it was a full time gig. As a child, I loved being a part of the church. I began to really grow and realize certain talents that I had by being able to express them at church. I found a new sense of belonging and made so many lifelong friends. But my "church life" did not remain in that building... I was the Pastor's kid... it was in my everyday life, in my home, and eventually ingrained in me as a person.

My hubby and I at a Pastor appreciation service for my Grandpa

My Grandfather was the real deal. He was so passionate about his work for God and he really, truly, lived out everything that he preached. I'm not saying he didn't make mistakes but he was genuine and full of love for God and the people that he led. He kept a yellow notepad by the phone in the kitchen with the name and number of every single member of his congregation. He Pastored over 300 people (for a church in the south Bronx, that is a lot!) and every Sunday evening would grab that notepad and make phone calls to everyone who had missed service that day. He made all his calls from the kitchen and I'd hear him saying - "I missed you, can I pray for you, I hope to see you next week". He would pray every single morning in the living room of our house at 5am. I would sometimes sit down in the hallway when I couldn't sleep and listen to him pray... it was inspiring and heart warming the way he mentioned every single man, woman, and child by name.

I can't say that the Pentecostal religion was the path for my life, but I can say that a path of faith in Christ was and I know that it was my Grandfather who started me on this path. My experience being in a Pastoral family with a fundamentalist belief system was not always great. Many times I was made to feel judged, inadequate,  constantly watched and observed by others. Those pressures and negative experiences are something I know I need to work through, but today I will just tell you that my Grandfather represented NONE of those things. He was loving, he was inclusive, he was the first one to admit that he was flawed and imperfect and he truly LOVED people. He truly loved me and it is a love I feel even now that he has dementia and can no longer verbally express.

Hanging out Poolside at a family reunion. THIS is the side of him I will always hold close... the jokester, the storyteller, the Father I was missing and he so boldly stepped in to be for me :)

 I'm interested in hearing from any other PK's out there. As I work through this and write about it, I'd love to know what you think. That's all for now.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

One Month and they are not forgotten ...

20 Beautiful Babies and 6 Heroic Educators who lost their lives on December 14th 2012
I have been procrastinating, fighting myself, or whatever else you want to call it on writing this blog post. There is just so much out there already... so many opinions, so many emotions that this tragedy has caused and I honestly have not been able to find words that are any different or any more meaningful to share. I cannot believe it has already been one month... one month ago this senseless, horrible act took the lives of so many innocent children. Babies... it shakes me to the core and I don't think I will ever understand it.

There are so many debates going on politically and otherwise in the aftermath of this tragedy. Gun control, mental health, school safety... and trust me, I have opinions but for this purpose I don't think sharing them makes much difference. I pray to God that he would have a hand in our country's government and that he would impart wisdom to those officials involved in making decisions in these areas. I pray that God himself would intervene here and I pray that we never, ever, ever, have to experience a tragedy like this again.

I pray for all our babies... that God would keep them safe from harm and that we would never take a single precious moment we have with them for granted.

May God give strength to the families who lost so much on that day just one month ago.


PS - The parents of the victims have started an organization called "Sandy Hook Promise". If you haven't already, please sign up to take the pledge and donate to help this organization move forward and support the families in need.