Friday, January 18, 2019

What Nightmares Are Made Of



Seven.

That's how many times, on average, it takes a victim of intimate partner violence to leave the abuser. Seven.

Seven incidents of humiliation. Seven incidents of confusion. Seven incidents of thinking, I can't believe this happened to me. Seven incidents of self-blaming and self-loathing. Seven incidents of thinking, But maybe it'll get better if only I could love harder/be more supportive/be less demanding.

Seven.

Some victims leave long before. Some leave long after.

All are scarred for many, many years following the experience.

I know this personally.

I know because not only have I studied the statistics, but also because was a victim of domestic violence. And at the hands of Aiden's otherparent. I've written about this beforeMore than once. I know because I stayed far longer than I would have ever imagined. I know because I left after way too many incidents.

The very last incident took place in my apartment. That's when he strangled me until I passed out... three times in one night. He was mad at me for getting mad at him for taking money from me without my permission. (In the real world, we call that stealing.)

The time before that took place in my bedroom. That's when he snatched my cellphone away from me while I was in the middle of a conversation and attempted to throw it. He was mad at me for not giving him the attention he wanted.

The time before that took place in my living room. That's when he strangled me until I passed out... twice in one night. He was mad at me for getting mad at him for arguing with two random guys during our date night at a bar. After I woke up, he took my keys and cellphone so that I wouldn't call anyone or try to leave my apartment. (In the real world, we call that holding someone hostage.)

The time before that took place by the foyer in my apartment. He dragged me across the floor. I still have the scar on my shoulder from the rug burn because of it.

The time before that took place in a hotel room while we were out of town celebrating my birthday. He threw me up against the wall and then body slammed me unto the bed. He was mad at me because I wouldn't give him my hard earned money to leave me alone in a hotel room and go to a strip club during my birthday weekend celebration.

The time before that took place in the bedroom. He handcuffed me to Aiden's crib because he was jealous after I received a phone call from a male friend. (He used to be a security guard so the handcuffs were from his job. And yes, Aiden was in the crib at the time.)


When I was in high school, I remember witnessing my foster brother drag his pregnant girlfriend down a flight of stairs and punch her so hard in the face that it almost immediately swelled up. I remember talking to some of my closest friends about the incident. I remember saying, "She should leave him!" I remember judging her and her situation. I remember thinking, why is she staying with him?

Ten years later, I found myself in a similar situation. Only difference is that this time I was the victim. And this time I was the one staying.

Thing is, "she could easily leave" is such a heavy, loaded statement. It's not that easy to leave. It's not that easy to walk away. It's not that easy to break those strongholds. It's not that easy to break the chains, to break free, to face the truth.

Denial and oblivion... sometimes it really is bliss.

Truth is, I don't know why I stayed with my ex for so long. Maybe I got caught up whenever we had our honeymoon phases. (They pretty much happened after every violent episode and they confused the hell out of me. But they also gave me hope that things will get better.) Maybe I was afraid to embrace the "single mom" status. (Y'all know all the statistics, thoughts, and assumptions attached to that label.) Maybe I was in denial. (Denial and avoidance are my defense mechanisms of choice.) Maybe I was afraid of being alone. Maybe I believed that this time would be different. Maybe I thought that my love, my unconditional love, would be enough to motivate change in him.

It wasn't.

There was no change.

After a while, I came to terms with the fact that some folks are just broken beyond repair and there's nothing you could do or say that would help to "fix" them or help them deal with their mess. And some folks just don't have the capacity to empathize or feel compassion towards others. Control and power, that's all abusers want. And those honeymoon phases or those "I'm a changed person" speeches are just more ways to manipulate the situation, and exercise control and power over victims.

Call me heartless and judge as you many, but it is what it is. *Kanye shrug*

Once I was honest with myself about what was happening -- reallyhappening -- I could no longer deny that I was living in a cycle of domestic violence. And I could no longer deny that my life -- and Aiden's life -- was in danger.

I realized that my abuser did need help, and some type of change did need to happen in his life. But I also realized that that's work he needed to do on his own. Without Aiden and me around or along for the ride.

So I bowed out. Gracefully. 

*Dusts dirt off of shoulders* (That was a Jay-Z reference.) 
Looking back at that tumultuous time in my life, I know that God must've thought that I had a purpose in life because I can't even begin to fathom how I survived. But I'm so thankful for God's grace and faithfulness and protection. It's the only thing that helped me to survive and live to tell what nightmares are made of. 

I'm here. To share my story. 

I hope that it brings healing and comfort and strength to some. And understanding and compassion and clarity to others. 

So the next time you're thinking of asking the question, "Why is she staying?," remember the number seven, and then think again.

{This post was originally published on the Mommy Delicious website on 9.12.14.}

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Brick by Brick

How I greeted students after Winter Break
I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), otherwise known as seasonal depression. In fact, even though it's the start of a new year and new beginnings, January is my least favorite month of the year. I hate that it's cold and that it gets dark by 4:00pm and it really affects my mood.

Every year, I sit and complain and wallow in the fact that I really hate January and wish it were Spring already.

But not this year.

This year, I decided to do something -- anything -- to combat my SAD. I decided to move my body.

And so.

I began running. Again.

My first run was 30 minutes and I ran 2.51 miles outdoors during daytime hours, with the sun in my face. Two days after that, I ran 4 miles in 47 minutes. Two days after that, I ran 5.6 miles in 60 minutes. By the time I got to my tenth day of consistently running, I ran 8.1 miles in an hour and 30 minutes.

Not gonna lie: that 8-mile run was hard AF! Around mile 5 or so, I started to feel like I was done! But... I decided to buckle down, get in the zone, and grind through.

Brick by brick.

One step at a time.. one block at a time... one mile at a time.

That's how I got to the proverbial finish line.

NYE with kids be like...
That led me to think about my 2019 hopes and dreams. I have several goals for this year and if I take things slowly, stay the course, and remain consistent, I will be able to look back on the year and realize that I met all of my goals.

Brick by brick.

That's how I got to the proverbial finish line.

If I want my friendships to be healthy, then I need to commit to reaching out to my friends more regularly.

If I want my hair to be strong and healthy (that's real goals, ya'll!), then I need to commit to deep conditioning my hair at lest three times a month.

If I want my savings account to be healthy (for me, that means ten grand that's just for savings), then I need to commit to having automatic transfers to my savings account each month.

If I want my relationship with my children to be positive and healthy, then I need to commit to spending quality, non-interrupted time with them.

Brick by brick.

If I want my to feel mentally healthy, then I need to commit to listening to what my body needs more regularly, and commit to having "me time" a few times each month.

If I want to feel physically healthy, then I need to commit to moving my body a few times each week.

If I want to establish a healthy work-life balance, then I need to commit to leaving work on time at least three times each week.

If I want to minimize my evening stress, then I need to commit to doing one thing that takes my stress away. For me, that's meal prepping on Sundays, which means that dinner is ready to go each night and all we have to do is heat it up.


Brick by brick.

One step at a time; one block at a time; one mile at a time.

One day at a time; one week at a time; one month at a time.

I can do this...

Brick by brick.

Monday, October 29, 2018

This is Eleven


Aiden: Ugh! I don’t want to. Ugh! No!
Me: You don’t wanna follow directions? Fine. Bedtime.
Aiden: Okay, okay! I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’ll listen.
This is eleven.

Eleven is backtalk and mini tantrums and everything being a biggest deal ever. Eleven is me learning how to deal with these pre-teen hormones while raising a free black boy who owns his feelings while raising a kind and respectful and responsible human.



Eleven is Aiden wanting space, together. Eleven is him wanting to watch YouTube videos on his phone for hours, but in the same room as me. Eleven is going in the next room to facetime his friends, but reading books cuddled up on my bed. Eleven is wanting to be alone, but wanting August to play on his bed.

Aiden: What’s an erection?
Me: It’s when your penis becomes enlarged. Or like, really firm.
Aiden: Is that like a ‘boner’?
Me: I guess that’s what some people call it. Erection is the scientific term.
This is eleven.

Eleven is hearing things from friends and feeling comfortable enough to come to me to get straight answers, clarifying answers. Eleven is asking the trickier questions and me trying my best to normalize and not stigmatize. Eleven is wanting privacy in the shower, but still calling me to condition his hair. Eleven is bath time battles. Still. Eleven is not wanting to take a shower, and then, not wanting to leave the shower.



Eleven is wanting independence and being nervous about said independence. Eleven is being excited to take the subway to school alone and being scared when the day finally arrives to actually take the subway to school alone. Eleven is doing homework alone and needing me to double check. Every. Single. Night. (#sendhelpnow) Eleven is no longer being afraid of the dark, but still sleeping with teddy bears and still wanting hugs and kisses before bedtime.

Aiden: I don’t like it when you and [HEB] tell me to stop dancing. Like, I’m not even bothering anybody.
Me: You’re right. You should dance anytime you feel like it. Just not in front the TV when I’m watching it.
Aiden: Deal!
This is eleven.

Eleven is speaking up and speaking out. All. The. Time. Eleven is me unlearning maladaptive responses and learning responsive discipline. Eleven is different from the way I was raised. Eleven is new for me, but normal for Aiden. I want it that way.


August: More yogurt?
Me: Aiden! Can you get him more yogurt please?
This is eleven. Eleven is having a built-in babysitter. Eleven is being my go-to person for all things August. Twenty times a day. Whether I need a diaper, baby wipes, his cup filled with water, a juice box, more yogurt, more pirate booty’s, more cereal, to turn on Mickey, to turn off Mickey… I call Aiden. Always.

Look at your career, they said.
[Alicia], baby use your head.
But instead I chose to use my heart.
Now the joy of my world lives in [Aiden].
This is eleven. 

Eleven is a perfectly imperfect and beautiful storm and I wouldn't have it any other way.

We made it. We're making it.

Onward. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Fixer Upper, Apartment Style: Dining Room


Black and white was the name of the game when I started thinking of ways to decorate the dining room area. I already had a white Ikea rectangular table that fit perfectly in the space and all I had to do was add the black and white Ikea chairs and table decor.


I painted the walls gray (Gig's Gray, to be exact) which is the same color as the Living Room wall, but... I added an accent wall to the dining room. I found this textured wallpaper in the home decor section of Target and fell all the way in love. So, I had to have it, of course.

Real talk: it was really annoying putting the wallpaper up because I haven't figured out an effective way to smooth out the bubbles without peeling the whole thing off an re-starting. So after doing that like 50-11 times (annoying, right?), I finally nailed it.

And loved it.

Success!




Then I had two different spaces of the dining room that needed to be filled with furniture. I filled one space with bookcases, books, pictures, and other decor. Originally, I filled the white bookcase with children's books galore, but because August pulled them all out every... single... day... I had to figure out another way to store them. So I got these adorable book bins from Amazon (love!) and they fit perfectly!

Bonus points because they are black and white. Score!





I filled the second space with a mini upgraded mudroom-ish area: above the white bench and below the white bench. Below is where we store backpacks and some shoes, above is where we display degrees and one of my favorite quotes.

The pillow is for posh-ness. Because: Mommy Delicious. And the black and white striped area rug tied the whole space together.

All in all, I love the way the space turned out. It's sleek and clean and gives off cool vibes.










This whole renovation is allowing me to flex my creativity muscles in ways that I didn't know was possible. And I'm totally feeling it.

Now... unto the hallway/entry way and kitchen!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Kids Pizza Making Class at Rossopomodoro

Photo via the Rossopomodoro Instagram page
"Okay... so let's talk about what we liked and what we would change about the class."

This was Aiden, as we walked down 14th Street after our hour-long pizza-making -- and pizza eating! -- class at Rossopomodoro this past weekend.

The boys and I were invited to a Kids Pizza Making Class at Rossopomodoro, a rustic-chic Italian restaurant in the West Village. Upon our arrival, the kids were greeting with an apron, a chef hat, and a rolling pin to gear up for their chef-experience.



Then we headed to the semi-private seating area in the back of the restaurant, where participants were led through a step-by-step process in making their own pizza: rolling the dough, flipping the dough, rolling it some more, adding sauce, adding toppings, and placing it in super glamorous golden oven. (Seriously... can I get one of those in my house?!)

Photo via the Rossopomodoro Instagram page
And, of course, eating!

Can I get a "Yum!"?



After the entire experience, Aiden had some thoughts and ideas.

  1. The pizza was the best pizza he ever had!
  2. He doesn't want basil on his pizza because "who eats veggies on their pizza?" Ha!
  3. The only thing he would change is to have even more toppings, like pepperoni. (He lives for pepperoni.)
  4. It's great that they give you the choice to cut the pizza in four slices or six slices. (He picked six slices because he wanted the pizza to last as long as possible. Ha!)
  5. It was the best pizza and best day ever!



August didn't say anything about his pizza-making experience, except, "More!" when he wanted more pizza, orange juice, or my mimosa, but judging by how much of the pizza he ate, I'm pretty sure he was living-it-up!


Kids. So easy to please.

Beginning Saturday, April 21st, Rossopomodoro will be kicking off their new Kids Pizza Making Class. Classes will be offered every Saturday at a rate of $27 per child.

At the class, kids will be given homemade dough, Italian tomato sauce and cheese, and a variety of toppings. Afterwards, they will be able to arrange their pizza in any shape they like, and wait for the yumminess that is to come!

It's truly a fun-filled family activity that the kids will eat up! Literally! 

You can call 212.242.2310 to reserve your spot!



Thanks so much to the entire team at Rossopomodoro for the fun experience! The pizza was yummy and the mimosas were the truth!

{Disclaimer: The kids and I were provided with a complimentary class in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.}

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Air Play at The New Victory Theater

photo courtesy of The New Victory Theater
If balloons and bubbles are your kids' things, then Air Play might be too. Last weekend, Aiden and I spent 60-minutes giggling and laughing as we checked out the show at The New Victory Theater.

We haven't been to the super cool children's theater in a few months and we were totally surprised when we saw that the theater got a little nip/tuck. Not only are the renovations on the upper level sleek, but the lower level has a modern and updated space where theater goers can purchase snacks and souvenirs, take pictures with the performers, and participate in fun show-related activities. All in all, we love the new space.

But I digress.
photo courtesy of The New Victory Theater

photo courtesy of The New Victory Theater
The show Air Play is all fun and games and perfect for the entire family. The performers Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone are a dynamic duo, and the show uses a carefully positioned circle of fans to wow the audience When they aren't making their umbrellas fly (yes, you read that right), they're making their silks ripple. And when they aren't doing that, they're using balloons in ways that you'd never think was possible. (Yes, people can fit inside balloons.)

Aiden and I had a great time and definitely recommend for your entire family!

getting his Drake on in the updated space on the lower level
Air Play will run at The New Victory Theater through April 15, 2017. The show is 60 minutes with no intermission and is great for ages 5 and up. Tickets start at just $16 and there is also an autism-friendly show (major props for setting this up!). Visit the website for more information or to purchase your tickets.

{Disclaimer: I received tickets to Air Play in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.}

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

{Kids Style File} Corals on Easter

pants: Children's Place | shoes: The Gap | bow ties and shirts: H&M 
Aiden: Mommy, we don't have to wear the same exact outfit! Can't we just wear kinda the same colors? 
Me: Aiden, don't you want August to have happy memories of you two wearing matching outfits on special days like Easter? 
Aiden: Yeah, but I'm not doing this next year.  
Well, then. I guess he told me.

I mean, it's not like the outfits aren't cute and whatnot. But I guess homeboy is aging-out of matching outfits. Fair enough.

Guess this couldn't last forever.

Anyway.

We had a pretty low-key Easter. We went to church, ate lunch at a nearby restaurant, and headed home to relax for the remainder of the evening.

Here are some outtakes from our little photoshoot on the stoop because they look nothing like the highlight reel that I shared on the Mommy Delicious Facebook page. Haha!





So.

Who thinks I can try to fenagle my way into coordinating outfits for the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and the Christmas holidays?

August's thought bubble: WTH?!

Too much?

A gal can try, right?

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