Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year of Progress

One day shy of his sixth birthday
In 2011, I finished grad school and got the two master degrees. In 2012, I had to buckle down, grind through, and work hard until I got the excellent job.

By the time 2013 rolled around, I had one main goal in mind -- progress.

I wanted to challenge myself and make a little bit of progress in love and life and working and writing and this whole single mom thing.

In fact, it was in this year that I upgraded my job and became one step closer to that dream position. And it made me realize that there's no reason for me (or any other young mother or single mother) not to go get our dreams.


But it wasn't without a little bit of struggle, ups and downs, bumps and bruises, and hard work.


It was in this year that I came into my own as a single mother and gained an immense amount of confidence that I didn't know I had. And it made me realize that I can trust my own instincts when planting seeds in Aiden's life. Or when instilling values in him. Or when teaching him right from wrong.


In Puerto Rico
I traveled.

To Philadelphia with Aiden during our spring break. To Atlanta with The Guy. To Puerto Rico with Aiden, where I sat poolside watching my sweet boy swim like a fish, and thanked God for progress. To Connecticut for my friend's wedding. And The Jersey Shore for Labor Day Weekend. I spent a weekend at Geneva on The Lake for The American Dairy Association Blogger Tour and Food & Wine Festival. I was with The Guy and we had a lovely time. Oh, and Aiden and I spent the holidays in the mid-west with The Guy and his family.

This was a big step for me and I'm continuing to learn how to be vulnerable, how to give a little more of myself, how not be so guarded all the time, and how to fully embrace love. Because I deserve it. So yeah... I can officially change my Facebook status to "in a relationship" now. Bam!

(I'm growing up, y'all.)


Christmas Day | 2013
I learned when to step up and I learned when to step back by making sure that Aiden has a male mentor to look up to. Something that I learned for sure is that single mothers can create a family for their children. And that children of single mothers can thrive.



I wrote my heart out and I left pieces of myself in The New York Times and REDBOOK Magazine. I shared my personal style and left a piece of my style in The New York Daily News. In print and online. Bam! I shared my favorite child-friendly hangout spots in NYC and left a piece of myself in Time Out New York Kids. In print and online. Kapow! Aiden started the school year with a new-found confidence, turned six, and rocked it all the way out during the Ugg Australia petitePARADE Kids Fashion Week Show. He's like a total rockstar in the making!


Rocking the runway
When I look back, all I can think is... thank goodness for progress. I went through hell with Aiden's other parent, and breaking up, and starting over again. But... progress.

If you're going through hell, keep going. Keep pushing. Keep moving forward. Because it gets better. If 2013 was a testament to anything at all, it was to this simple fact -- life goes on and, if you keep pushing, you'll get better at kicking it's ass.


2014, we're coming for you!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dancing From the Soul -- Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Magnificent. Elegant. Enthralling. Soulful. An extraordinary vision manifested. One masterpiece after another.

These are just a few of the words and phrases that describe the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. And, quite frankly, these words and phrases don't do the company enough justice.

Aiden and I had the opportunity to see the company perform last weekend and, when we left City Center, we were moved... changed... inspired. I mean, that's what good and effective theater does to you, right? It leaves you feeling and thinking and challenging the status quo.

The show began with Artistic Director, Robert Battle, greeting the audience members and wittily pointing out that he noticed we were all dolled up, with our "hair did, nails did, everything did." As he stated, we "show[ed] out" and showed up ready for a great performance.

And that's exactly what we got.

Each night, different pieces are performed, which makes it even more amazing. Aiden and I were in attendance for the Ailey-Ellington night, which celebrates Duke Ellington and his music, and is a mixture of classical ballet with modern techniques like Horton.

There were a few pieces that stuck with me:

Pas de Duke is Alvin Ailey's modern dance translation of the classical pas de deux. This piece brings Duke Ellington's music to life in a way that touches your soul. The piece stays with you long after the dancers leave the stage.

AAADT's Antonio Douthit-Boyd in Alvin Ailey's Pas de Duke.  Photo by Paul Kolnik
The River combines classical ballet, modern dance, and jazz, and is clearly so seamlessly choreographed and so smooth, just like... you guessed it... water.

AAADT's Jamar Roberts and Alicia Graf Mack in Alvin Ailey's The River. Photo by Paul Kolnik
The "sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful" Revelations is one of my absolute favorite ballets. I live for this finale. Every. Single. Time. It's a great celebration and lovely tribute to African culture and spirituals. And it gets the crowd going. Every. Single. Time. 

AAADT's Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Yannick Lebrun and Kirven Douthit-Boyd in Relevations. Photo: Andrew Eccles
AAADT's Kirven Douthit-Boyd, Alicia Graf Mack and Demetia Hopkins in Revelations. Photo by Gert Krautbauer

It's truly a celebration of dance and culture. As Robert Battle stated in his charming greeting, "Dancing comes to the people and should always be delivered back to the people."

That's exactly what the company did. Again.

The show was so enjoyable, not only because of the talented dancers, but because it is evident that each one of them loves what they do. You can tell that dancing is in their blood stream, their bones, and all up in their DNA... it's as though they were made to do this. You can feel their energy because it jumps off the stage, bouncing from row to row, seat to seat. From their hearts to yours.

It's truly a remarkable experience. And I'm happy that Aiden and I have started this tradition in going to see them during this time of year. It's a memory that he'll keep with him for years to come.

And that, my friends, is what it's all about.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater runs through January 5, 2014 at City Center and tickets start as low as $25. Visit the website to grab your tickets now and be prepared to be mesmerized.

{Disclaimer: I was provided with tickets to the performance in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.}

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mother Africa at The New Victory Theater


That's all I could say whenever I think of Mother Africa, the holiday show at The New Victory Theater that Aiden and I saw a couple weekends ago. And, to say the least, it's all kinds of cool. It's performed by Tanzania's Circus Der Sinne, which means Circus of the Senses in English, and it's a true celebration of Africa and it's many countries and cultures. Everything is deeply rooted in African culture -- the diverse acts, the band performing, the vocals done in the native language of different African countries, the vibrant costumes -- everything!

Don't expect to see elements of a tradition circus in the show -- there aren't any clowns, trained animals, or rings of fire. But what you'll get is so much more. Stilt walkers from Tanzania, jugglers from Ethiopia, and a contortionist from Kenya, to name a few. And that's just the acts.

You'll also get a mini-history lesson. Like from the charasmatic and energetic GumBoot Dance, which has roots in South Africa's gold mines. Or from the masked stilt dancers of the Zulu folks. Or from the instrument called the mbira.

And while you're getting that history lesson and enjoying the different circus acts, you'll be sitting at the edge of your seat. I mean, the entire time you'll be wondering if the unicyler is going to push the limits and go higher, or if the human foot juggler will be able to continue throwing 12-year-old Tomas Teka Alemu into the air while he's [Tomas] doing back flips. I mean... how on Earth are they doing those things?

That will be the question of the hour.

During the slow and sustained "African Flute" act, when contortionist Ersi Teame Gebregziabher squeezed his entire exceeding flexible body into a tennis racket (what the what?!?!), this was the conversation that ensued between Aiden and me:
Aiden: [Looking puzzled] Why is he doing that?!
Me: Umm... I think the better question is HOW is he doing that?
Aiden: Yeah... HOW is he doing that?
Me: I have NO idea!
Autographs with the performers after the show
When we got home, Aiden drew pictures of his favorite parts of the show: the unicyle act, the six-chair balancing act, and the foot juggler/12-year-old back flipping act.

But in case you need a better visual than that of a six-year-old budding artist, feast your eyes on these:


Mother Africa is playing at The New Victory Theater from now until January 5, 2014, with tickets ranging from $17 to $70. The show is 100 minutes long with one intermission, just the right amount of time for little who may get antsy during a show. Visit the website to purchase your tickets and get you some African entertainment and culture!

Thank me later.

Oh, and leave a comment below if you'd like to check it out because I'm giving away Mother Africa tickets to ONE lucky Mommy Delicious reader.

You're welcome.

(Disclaimer: I was provided with tickets to Mother Africa in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed herein are my own. The giveaway is sponsored by Mother Africa.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Trip to The Prinicipal's Office. And Some Other Things Too.

"Okay. Okay. This is why I had to go to the Principal's office..."

That was the beginning of the conversation that I had with Aiden the other day. The end of the conversation? Very enlightening.

Because Zion was angry at Hudson, he [Zion] told Aiden to tell Hudson that he's [Aiden] not his friend anymore. And Aiden listens to Zion. Sigh.

In comes Foundue. Foundue tells a very sad and mad Hudson to tell Aiden that he's [Hudson] gonna tell his mother on Aiden. And Hudson listens to Foundue. Double sigh.

So then there was Aiden telling Hudson that he doesn't want to be friends with him anymore and Hudson telling Aiden that he's gonna tell his mama on Aiden. And all because they were listening to what other people told them to do.

So they all ended up in the Prinicpal's office.

When I spoke to Aiden about it, he said that he has to listen to Zion or else Zion won't be his friend anymore. And that Zion is funny and always making jokes so he wants to be friends with Zion.

So y'all know I gave it to him straight, right?

I went all the way in about how he doesn't have to listen to anyone who's telling him to do something that's not right -- especially not one of his classmates. I told Aiden that he has his own brain and his own thoughts and God didn't give him a brain and a mind and thoughts and feelings for him to follow someone else -- especially when they're doing the wrong thing. I said that friends don't make friends do mean things, but instead, they help each other out. I pointed out that, at that very moment, Zion was not being the bestest friend that he can be to Aiden. And I also stressed that, at that very moment, Aiden definitely wasn't being the bestest friend that he can be to Zion. Or Hudson. Because he's supposed to help his friend by setting an example and telling him not to say mean things to someone else. And he's supposed to stand up for what's right and not say mean things to another person just because someone told him to.

I asked him how he thinks Hudson felt when he said that to him. "Alone and lonely," was his response. "And you made that happen. You're the person responsible for making someone else feel badly about themselves. Is that the kind of person you want to be?" was my response.


"I know that. Because you're a kind and sweet person. And you've made better choices than that in the past so I know you can make better choices now. Don't allow anyone to tell you to do something that you know is wrong. Not ever. Because you're a leader. And you're better than that."

It's not easy instilling values in our children, and I may or may not have been too harsh. I don't know. I keep replaying the conversation in my mind and thinking about things that I want to add in the follow-up conversations that I'm going to have with Aiden about the situation.

That's the thing about parenting -- we push our kids and rethink things and second guess ourselves at times. We trust our gut and feign competence and fake it till we make it, all at the same time. It's impression management at it's finest. But we keep going until we're the best that we can be.

And until our children are the best that they can be.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Perfectly Good Reasons to Enjoy A "Do Nothing" Day

It's not like I didn't have any plans for Sunday. I did. The plan was to go to church, get brunch, go ice skating, and take a picture with Santa before heading back to Brooklyn to make dinner and get all geared up for the week ahead.

But then I woke up too late to go to church. So I turned back around and went to sleep. And before I knew it, it was noon and I hadn't gotten out of bed for the day, save for the seven minutes it took me to make Aiden a quick breakfast.

Then, I decided that I'd do some work. After all, I have several deadlines approaching and my review of Mother Africa, which was all kinds of cool by the way, was still fresh in my head. So I told myself that in a half hour, I'd get up and knock out a few assignments.

No cigar.

By 1pm, I was lying in bed watching Law and Order: SVU on Netflix. By 2:30pm, I was whining to The Guy about how I'd been lazy all day, and even though I had so much to do, and there was so much that I could have done, I did nothing all morning. He reminded me that it is, in fact, okay to take one day out of my exceedingly busy life to do absolutely nothing. And that I shouldn't, for a second, feel badly about it.

Thanks babe.

(Yes, I just called The Guy "Babe" on this here website. Yes, I have some updates for you all. Yes, it's coming soon. Patience, my friends. Patience.)

By the end of the night, after watching about five more episodes of SVU, taking a break only to eat, read with Aiden, and chat with The Guy, I was feeling all kinds of refreshed and ready to kick this week's ass. That's when I thought of all the great reasons to take the day off and do absolutely nothing. All. Day. Long.

1. It re-energizes you in a way you never thought possible. 
No matter how much I work out or how many times I take time to  remind myself of my calling and purpose, nothing refreshes me more than taking time out to do absolutely nothing.

2. It allows you to re-group and re-think priorities in your life.
No doubt about it, I'm always taking care of career-related business -- even when it leaves me stressed out and stretched thin. But taking time to chill with loved ones is absolutely priceless. And, not to mention, it is business too.

3. It's enjoyable. 
Don't get me wrong, I'm more of an always-on-the-go type of person. Aiden and I always have something planned over the weekend or on our days off. In fact, on those days, he'll wake up in the morning, and say, "Let's discuss our plans for today. What are we gonna do?" I love exploring NYC with him and experiences new things and new cultures, but hello... sometimes you just gotta enjoy a pajama day in the comfort of your own home. And that's quite alright.

4. It helps you to reflect and re-focus your vision and goals in life. 
In the midst of doing absolutely nothing, I was able to be still. And think about all that I've accomplished this year as well as all that I still want to accomplish in the future. Doing nothing is a great time to allow you to meditate and map out your next move.

Truth is, I won't have another "do nothing"day for a while, but at least I was able to experience a much-needed chill day this past weekend.

What do you guys like about "do nothing" days?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Your Mission is Greater Than You Are

Not gonna lie, these past few weeks at work have been particularly stressful and have totally kicked my ass.

I’m straight up tired. So much so that I’ve been quite literally counting down the days until our winter break – ten school days.

But right now, I’m beat. And tired. And stretched thin. And thisclose to give up. Needless to say, these past few weeks have been rough.

That’s when I take a step back and remember why I do what I do, why I have early mornings and late nights, why I drop Aiden off to school extra early in order to get to work, why I have Aiden stay in after school classes and programs so that I can work some more, why I over-caffeine at times, why I care so much…

And I realize that this is bigger than just me. It’s bigger than just Aiden. Yes, I’ll be the best mother that I can be to him and you best believe that I put my all into that little boy, but I’ve been called to be the best that I can be in my career too. To be a part of something so meaningful and so profound… to help close an achievement gap… to help students who have the least amount of resources and the most needs.

I’ve been called to be a part of a mission.

I’ve been called to have an impact.

It certainly isn’t easy. But it’s totally worth it.

If you're feeling like you're tired and stretched thin and just... can't... go... on, push forward anyway. Think about all the good you can do and think about the fact that it's not just about you. Your calling is greater than you are. Your mission is greater than you are. The impact that you can leave is greater than you are. Leave your mark and make your impact. 

Don't settle. Be great. 

There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. – Nelson Mandela

Thursday, December 5, 2013

On Owning Your Own Happiness

The other day, I saw a status update on a friends Facebook page that really struck a chord with me. It read something like, "When you learn that happiness is a choice, you begin to make different choices..." Choose happiness.

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with an old [single] girlfriend. She was going on and on about how sad (and lonely) she was/is because she lacks that special someone in her life. She went so far as to say that she felt almost cried the previous night because she wanted to go out, but didn't have a guy to go out with.


I get it. Sometimes being single can feel lonely. But I'm a firm believer in being proactive to create the life that you want and surrounding yourself with things that make you... happy. I'm a firm believer in choosing happiness. So naturally my response was that she should have called a few of her girlfriends up and make plans to hit up one of their favorite spots in the city. Easy enough. Her response? She wanted to go out with a man. Okay. I'm single. I can totally dig wanting to be all boo'ed up for a Saturday-night date night. My response? "Well, how are you going to find 'him' if you're at home moping around on a Saturday night. You're young (she's, like 25 or something), go out, have fun, enjoy your 20's."

Then I made the mistake of putting myself into the equation. I said, "I'm single and I have fun. You can always come out with my friends and me should you feel the need." Her response? "Maybe marriage is not for you; I [pointing to herself] am a relationship girl."


I was in no mood to fight that battle on that lovely Sunday afternoon.

I'm sure there's a reason why I'm here... at this particular place in my life. (And you. And you.) There's some lesson to be learned, some experience to become engrossed in, some goal to achieve. It's not entirely easy learning how to be alone and enjoy your own company, but I do think that it is necessary. Not to mention, once you're there, it is pretty awesome.

Sure I'd like to have someone to share my life with -- the dope things and the dreadful things -- when the time is right. But, until then, I'm choosing happiness. If I want to go out, best believe that I call my girls up and say something along the lines of, "Let's do something fun. Get dressed, we're going [insert name of favorite spot here]." One doesn't find happiness by simply being in a relationship. That's a huge myth, if there ever was one, and those who think that's the case are in for a rude awakening.

I feel like I'm finally at the point where I'm making conscious decisions to just... be happy. It's not always easy because sometimes it requires making difficult decisions, but the peace of mind and serenity is totally worth it.

I once read, "This is your life. Do what you love and do it often... If you are looking for the love of your life, stop. They will be waiting for you when you start doing things that you love" and things that make you happy.

I found my "happy" and I'm holding on to it come heck or high water.

Have you found yours? What are you doing to hold on to it? 

{This post was originally published on January 19, 2012 -- Have Your Found Your "Happy"?.}

Monday, December 2, 2013

Planting Seeds

Aiden: Mommy, when I grow up, can I still live with you?
Me: You can live with me until you finish college. Then, you have to find your own place to live.
Aiden: Until I finish Columbia?  
He's already speaking it into existence. That's my boy! 

You see, I've been talking to Aiden about going to college since he was an infant. He's been talking back to me about it since he was a toddler. We've visited Columbia's campus several times and he is very much aware that that's where I went to college. Obviously he doesn't know the specifics about getting into college, but he does know that you need to work really, really hard in school in order to get to college. And that's any college, not just Columbia. 

Planting seeds. 

"Mommy, I wish we had a million dollars so we could give it to old, old men. Because they don’t have any homes or food or clothes." 
This is a random thought that Aiden shared with me one morning during our commute to his school. To him, “old, old men” refers to the homeless men that we see on the subway and streets of NYC. 

I've been talking to Aiden about our charge to help others in need since he was an infant.  He's been talking back to me about it since he was a toddler. We talk about the fact that life is not just about him, that he's a part of a larger community, with a larger mission, and a larger purpose -- to be a blessing to others. Sometimes I'm not sure if our talks are actually meaningful to him. 

Sometimes I even get discouraged. 

But then. Then he shows an interest in helping homeless men. Then he asks to donate a few of his toys to the day care center that is down the block from my job. Then he trades his favorite ninja turtle toy with a friend from school in order to get a toy that he thought my niece (his cousin) would like. That's when I know that he is indeed learning about the needs of others and he is flourishing into a very sweet and compassionate little boy. 

Planting seeds.

When we enter our apartment building, I expect him to greet the doorman. When there are people in the elevator with us, I expect him to greet them too. Before bedtime, I expect him to say his prayers. When he speaks to people, I expect him to look them in the eye. When he meets someone new, I expect him to shake their hands and greet them by saying, "Hello, my name is Aiden." 

Planting seeds. 

You see, with every conversation that I Aiden and I have, with every expectation that I reinforce for him, I am planting seeds. Seeds that'll help him grow into the person that he is capable of becoming. Seeds that'll allow him to reach his full potential. Seeds that'll help steer him towards greatness. 

And when you speak with your children, that's exactly what you're doing -- planting seeds. With every conversation, with every expectation that you set, and with every lesson you teach... you are planting seeds. So they can be great. 
So be encouraged today. 

Keep planting. Keep harvesting. Keep helping them flourish. And most of all, keep loving them.


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