A commentary on life like only momma can give.

Monthly Archives: July 2012

Ever since my daughter was born, I have had this fire inside me to make sure that she was involved in an extracurricular activity that she not only loved but could turn into a career later in life. Most people would look at me and say, “That is why you would send her to college.” Well what happens if she decides that she doesn’t want to go to college? When a child decides to buck tradition and deviate from the path you’ve set of getting into a good college and then beginning their career, people are confused and tend to look at them in disbelief. Somehow you and they have failed.

I was that kid. My family did not understand my aversion to college and they weren’t prepared for a child who just wouldn’t follow the plan. Just recently, I made a comment about my daughter getting a job when she is in High School in front of my mother. She looked at me and said, “You didn’t have a job” and I looked at her and said, “Getting a job wasn’t an option for me.” She got a little defensive and I told her, “Nothing against you and how you raised us but you all stressed education at all costs. There wasn’t another option.” I was always told, “School is your job.”

Now let’s get something straight, I am not advocating work over school but I am saying that at some point in a child’s life, a serious assessment should be made. If you can see that a child has no real interest in school, instead of just hoping that a child will turn it around and go to college, begin to look at how they can utilize their talents. Begin the dialogue about how they can make a living with their specific skill set and do some research on areas where they can begin to focus and of course, make the most money.

For my daughter, the conversation began at a young age because I knew that if my gene pool kicked in, there would be a possibility that she may decide she wasn’t interested in pursuing a college career and I didn’t want her to have to settle for or luck up on a good job like I did. Although I managed to find a field that paid well and didn’t mind that I didn’t have a college degree, once they let me go, I was right back to square one and just beginning to work on my “back-up plan.” She is being taught to work on hers now.

Because we began talking about options for my daughter at a young age, she has begun to talk about where she sees herself and she has decided that college is in her future. She is researching different schools and we’ve taken her to the Black College Expo to get her familiar with and begin talking to schools about what to expect and what will be expected of her. She is also fully aware that there are two roads that she can take and I’ve been very open about the road that I chose.

I’ve made sure she understands how my choices have directly effected our finances and how I have struggled to find and implement my own back-up plan. Because of this very open dialogue, she is fully aware that should she make the decision to bypass college, there will be obstacles she will be up against but either way, she knows what she will have to do to find success and I can rest in knowing she has been given the tools and the know how to implement her back-up plan.


The 5th Commandment says: Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (Exodus 20:12)

But it doesn’t say anything about stepparents. I bring this up because of a recent conversation my significant other had with his father about his wife. They have been married for 5 years and the jury is still out on her where the family is concerned. She is a woman who means well, but is someone who does not think before she speaks or acts and when you are around people who have only known you for a short period of time, loose lips can sink possible relationships with new family members.

The discussion was about the concerns the adult children had with certain encounters they’ve had with her and what got me thinking was their fathers response. He wondered if everyone felt this way, to which the response was, “yes”, and then he said, “Man, so if I’m not here anymore, there won’t be a relationship.” Wait…what? Were we supposed to add her to our list of parents we may have to take care of in their golden years? Now maybe I interpreted his statement incorrectly. He could have simply meant a relationship as in remaining in contact with each other but it got me to thinking and I immediately began to feel a little guilt. You know, the kind of guilt only a parent can make you feel?

Not having even thought about the stepparent dynamic because I don’t come from a divorced family, I looked around on the internet to see what the etiquette for caring for a stepparent was and I came upon an article called, Uncertain Obligations by Jo Cavallo (http://www.curetoday.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/article.PrintArticle/article_id/1311) where “non-traditional” family relationships were looked at with regards to an ailing parent or stepparent. While there wasn’t any one way discussed, what I took from the article was that there was a direct correlation between how blended the family was in respect to the decision to care for the stepparent. So while the obligation was still uncertain, there may be an obligation.

I was raised to respect my elders and I’ve always known that I would assume responsibility for my parents should they need me and I would expect the same from my significant other, however, we lost his mother 6 years ago so his father is the surviving parent. I think the guilt bothered me because my daughter comes from a divorced family that now includes the stepparent dynamic and while the relationships are more established than the relationship between my significant other and his stepmother, taking care or looking after one of her stepparents may be in her future and I have an obligation to give her the tools to make an informed decision.

The relationship between my significant other and his stepmother is still fairly new and it is still uncertain how their relationship will progress, however, the dialogue has been established and one can only hope that it will lead to a more open and blended stepparent/stepchild dynamic.

 


We’ve all had that moment when we realize that our life has plateaued. That moment when you  start to notice that no matter what you do, nothing happens. Whether it is career, financial, love or a physical transformation, your life just seems to be at a complete standstill…I am having that moment. My standstill is career related which has lead to being financially stifled and feeling extremely discouraged.

After being unceremoniously fired from a company where I had worked for 10 years, I decided to take some time to figure out what I wanted to do next. The summer of 2011 was the best I’d had since I was a kid. The family was able to take a well deserved trip to Puerto Rico and we were able to really spend quality time with each other. As time wore on, I seriously began to look for a job but I noticed that despite my qualifications, nothing I tried was working and I felt more and more like an undesirable candidate…for EVERYTHING!

I had always told myself that I wouldn’t go back into banking, which was the field I’d been working in for 13 years, but as I applied for positions outside of banking that made as much as $20,000.00 less than what I’d been making, I was getting nowhere. This went on for sometime. I finally buckled down and tried to get back into the field of banking, (I guess that is why they say never say never!) but it didn’t matter that I had given in and was trying to go back to something I said I’d never go back to…they didn’t want me! O.k…now what?

I should tell you that the entire time that I was trying to figure out what my new career should be, I was constantly hearing in my head that I needed to write. I had been saying for over 5 years that that is what I wanted to do but I always managed to have too much going on to concentrate on writing…at least that is what I told myself. Then, of course, I lost my job and had all the time in the world and again I told myself, “I didn’t have enough money to create my website the way I wanted.” So I kept looking for jobs that had nothing to do with the career where I claimed I wanted to work.

Finally, I found a job working in the insurance field. I had to jump through several hoops to show this employer that I was “worthy” of being “conditionally hired” by them and I did everything they wanted me to do. At first I was excited because I was FINALLY going to be working but as I started taking classes to learn how to sell their brand, the realization set in that I wouldn’t be able to give my all to yet another company. I had spent the last 10 years giving everything to a company that had no problem dropping me by the wayside and I no longer had the wherewithal to play the corporate slave game. “Now really…what the hell was I going to do?” This is the question I began to ask myself.

I made my daughter start writing a blog this summer so that she could improve her writing skills. I had told myself that that wouldn’t work for what I wanted to do (again with the procrastination) and I discouraged myself from what I said I wanted to be doing. My best friend, who was one of a few people who knew that I wanted to write, told me how to create my site the way I wanted for free…THANK GOD! No longer able to procrastinate, I set up my site and immediately started writing and something happened…the words just flowed…I was finally doing what I said I’d wanted to do!

It has taken me 5 years to overcome my issues with procrastination and self-doubt. The Lord knew I had to lose my job and be forced into the possibility of being unhappy working for another 10 years in order to make me realize my real calling. I am working to get past feeling stifled in my career and I now know that by following through with the plan I set up in my head 5 years ago, the financial rut I am in will also pass. It feels good to know that I am at a point in my life where I realize I can no longer just go with the flow…I sure wish I’d gotten to that point sooner but at least I finally did!


In this mornings daily round-up with my friend where we discuss everything under the sun, I told her that after my father had his heart attack this past January, I thought about his father who is now well into his 80’s. My paternal grandfather hasn’t been a factor in my father’s life since he was about 8 years old and although he has seen him sporadically, I’ve only met him twice in my life. He got married, went and had his “real family” and that was the end of that story.

I actually did some light stalking online and found his address. My intent at the time was to write and let him know that despite his neglect, my father and his children had gone on to have successful lives and careers. I started writing the letter and was very serious about letting him know how I felt about him and then it hit me…who cares? He has shown that he isn’t worthy of knowing who and how we are and honestly, I know that he does know…I just wanted him to hear it from me.

When I told my friend what I’d planned, she really put things in perspective for me. Her parents had divorced when she was about 6 years old and her relationship with her father was strained for sometime until she became an adult. She told me she had written her feelings down and put it out into the universe and then burned the letter because she wanted those feelings to be taken away.

However, what she said next really stuck with me. She said, “The neglect they bestowed on their children goes beyond a simple sorry. Its like slavery, you can’t apologize enough…I want a check! Give me my 40 acres and a mule…we deserve reparations not apologies!” After I finished laughing at the thought of reparations from dead beat daddy’s, I realized, jokes aside, she is right.

You can never say enough “I’m sorry’s” to your child for neglecting them. They’ve been robbed of one of the most important relationships in their life and even if a relationship is developed later in life, the most important years are gone…and there isn’t anything anyone can do to change that.

I’m glad I can say the cycle of neglect didn’t continue in my family. My father has and continues to be a father who has always taken care of his children and grandchildren. So while we won’t be seeking reparations from my grandfather for his neglect, we can rejoice in knowing that we are accomplished adults who have discontinued the cycle of neglect and are raising our children in the way our father taught us…and that is priceless.


Since Facebook made its debut and began to takeover the world, I have never understood why people were so eager to put everything about themselves on the internet and I’ve never understood the need to look up every person you’ve ever known. I think that it can be great to catch up with old friends that you have lost touch with but it has always made me nervous to have everyone you’ve ever known be able to look you up and get involved in your personal life.

I know there are privacy settings, but my rationale was more about not wanting to get involved in the personal drama that I saw playing out with other people and I wasn’t interested in having any of that in my life. Friends and co-workers would tell me, “You can choose not to accept their friend request” but my response was always, “Isn’t the fact that I haven’t spoken to you in (insert length of time) proof that I’m not interested in resuming a relationship? Why do we need to bring up old ish?”

A few years ago, I ran into a former friend from high school who, as she hugged me said, “Kirsten, I have been looking for you all over Facebook” to which I said, “that’s why I’m not there…I’m not trying to be found!” She cracked up and knew what I meant but after that run-in, I realized that there is a reason we lose contact with people who at one point played a significant role in our lives. We should appreciate what they brought to the table to help us get to the next level but if they had been life long friends or family who still helped you be a better you, you never would have lost touch in the first place, whether the “break-up” was intentional or organic.

It may sound like I am advocating running away from conflict but nothing could be further from the truth. What I am advocating is working to have a drama free life. By introducing people back into your life who have either been toxic or you’ve just grown apart from may not give you the result you are after. There is a reason we graduate from high school, you are not supposed to be 18 for the rest of your life!

As my daughter enters teendom, the likeliness of her asking if she can have a Facebook account is inevitable, (she already snuck and created one when she was 11) and for that reason alone, I know that I am going to have to buckle down and join the social network revolution. I will try to go into it with a positive attitude and when those “old friends” start coming around, I guess I will take them on one at a time but I’m sure I will ask…”why are you trying to bring up old ish?”


Guava Pastries

Cuban Pastelitos de Guayaba

Rice with Pigeon Peas
Arroz con Gandules

Sofrito

This year’s summer vacation is a little different for my family than in years past. I haven’t worked since May of last year, so as you can imagine, funds are a little tight. Last year, we took a family trip to Puerto Rico and absolutely fell in love with the Island, the people and the food! Since a vacation was not an option this summer, my kids and I started looking at videos on Youtube about Puerto Rico. It was our way of traveling and remembering the places we’d visited the year before.

As we traveled around Puerto Rico via Youtube, we found some tutorials on how to make several Puerto Rican dishes and the idea came to me to continue our trip around the island by cooking authentic Puerto Rican dishes. It became fun for us to watch the videos, pick which ones we thought looked most authentic and even learn a little spanish all at the same time! We ended up with three go to tutorials on Youtube. Chef Julio Rodriques (who we call Uncle Philip because he looks like my mother’s oldest brother), Nilda’s Kitchen (who can also be found at www.nildaskitchen.net) and Nydia’s Miami Kitchen. These three really teach you how to bring your dishes to life.

We found our favorite’s and started writing down the ingredients we’d need and then embarked on a scavenger hunt to find the items that weren’t necessarily found at our local grocery store, which made the experience a lot of fun. Certain vegetables could only be found at Asian Markets and since there are two near us, we went to both and not only found some of the items that we needed for our Puerto Rican dishes, we began to learn more about the Asian community as well, just by shopping for food.

Next we hit the Mexican market, Mi Pueblo, and as happened in the Asian Markets, we learned more about the Hispanic community just through shopping and we also found some new items to add to our everyday dishes.

After we gathered all the items we needed, the real fun began and we embarked on cooking our way through Puerto Rico. So far we’ve cooked a chicken dish inspired by Puerto Rican ingredients, we’ve made our own Sofrito, which is the basic ingredient used in most Puerto Rican dishes and we’ve made the following dishes: Arroz Amarillo (Yellow Rice), Garbanzo Frito (Fried Chickpeas), Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas), Empanadas (Patty’s) and from watching one of our favorite tutorials on Youtube, Nydia’s Miami Kitchen, we even learned how to make a Cuban pastry called Pastelito de Guayaba (Guava Pastries)…so good! We’ve even gotten comfortable and have started to substitute brown rice for the white rice to make the dish even healthier.

Taking this “cooking vacation” has done a lot to help maintain the sanity in our house. Since we gotta eat, learning how to cook Puerto Rican style has given us focus, taught us to appreciate other cultures and most of all…we are eating good!


 

Recently the question was posed to me on whether or not I was a grudge holder? It was something that I have had to deal with for some time because my way of dealing with someone who has “wronged” me is to literally just leave them alone. I am not holding a grudge per say, but I am also not putting myself in a position where you will be allowed to treat me in an abusive or disrespectful manner again.

I have taken this stance with everyone from acquaintances, co-workers, friends and family and what I have noticed is that I end up being the one labeled “mean”. I didn’t cause or encourage the drama, I didn’t disrespect or turn on the other person, but because I effectively ended the back and forth by not engaging and leaving the situation alone, I became the “militant one”. This name was even given to me by my brother to which I laugh because to me it means he recognized that I wasn’t one to play.

The funny thing about letting others know that you aren’t about the bullish, somehow makes them think that you are holding grudges when in fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth. When someone wants to be able to just move on like nothing ever happened and then tells you that you should get over it, 1.) they have no respect for how you are feeling and 2.) they are in denial about their role in the conflict and we all know neither are healthy mindsets to have. I call this discounting feelings.

Being able to move on without drama confuses people who think that it in order to forgive, means you have to continue that relationship especially when you were really close to them and for me…that’s not the case. I don’t wish you any harm but I also, don’t necessarily wish you back in my life. When the trust is gone, no matter who it is, it is hard to get back to where the relationship was and depending on how it ended, there just may not be any “going back” and that is what is hard for people to grasp.

So when I think about the question, “Do you hold grudges?” I go back to my original answer, “No, I don’t hold grudges but I will leave you alone” and if that comes off as me holding a grudge then we will have to agree to disagree.



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