Wounds and Scars

My pregnancy with my first son was a time that feels like ages ago and just yesterday at the same time. I remember waddling around, extremely pregnant, trying to brush off questions about the baby like ,“Do you know if it’s a boy or girl?” Most expectant moms love to answer these kinds of questions, but for me, they felt like sprinkling salt in an open wound. “No,” I would respond to the boy or girl question. Obviously, the follow-up statement is “We want it to be a surprise.” However, this was not true. The fact was we just didn’t know the sex of the baby because there wasn’t enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby for its sex to be visible in an ultrasound. Right after having these types of conversations, I would scream inside, “I can’t wait until this is over.”

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Photo credit: Create Her Stock

Thirteen months and 4 days since giving birth to Israel David, it’s still not over. It’s a popular saying that “Time heals all wounds.” I’m not sure that I believe that. Time makes a wound transform into a scar. Sure, I don’t have the same gaping wound that I had in the days and months after Israel’s death when I was pissed off at the sun for shining or when it seemed like boy babies and pregnant women were everywhere just to taunt me. Even still, there are the rough moments, when my wound is no longer crusted over, but feels like a gigantic hole.

I think in the case of infant loss, it’s a bit more accurate to say, “Time makes things different.” A mother never forgets the loss of her child. It was only in the last few months that I felt up to attending a pregnancy and infant loss support group meeting at the hospital where I both gave birth and said “good-bye” to Israel. The meeting facilitator was a nurse who’d also experienced the loss of her son shortly after his birth. She recounted the circumstances of losing her son over 20 years ago and told us that even now, there are times when the pain still feels fresh. What I appreciated even more than her openness was how she reflected on ways that she and her family incorporate her son into their celebrations and their lives. As mothers of angels we don’t move on, but we move forward, carrying the memories of our lost babies with us.

No, it’s never over, but it can be a good kind of “different.” If I’m completely serious with myself, I don’t really want to go back to the way things were before losing Israel. Yes, I wish I could take the pain away; I wish I could feel the void that was left from having a little boy that I can never see grow up or who I can’t hug, kiss, and read stories to. But, there are changes in my life and in myself that I love—like the boldness that comes from knowing that I’ve hit my lowest point and there’s nowhere to go but up. I’ve made it through the grief, the isolation, the depression, the shame; I can make it through anything. Despite the fact that time itself cannot make all of the pain go away, I’m grateful for my battle scars.

My family and I will be walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies on Sunday, April 30, 2017 in honor of our angel. We’d love for you to donate to our campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Staying High

 

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Labor Day 2016

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 marked one year since I both said ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to my newborn son, Izzy, and what a year it’s been. My family will be walking and fundraising for the March of Dimes March for Babies again this year in Izzy’s honor, therefore, here I am starting a blog series on the lessons I’ve learned and the encouragement I have to offer one year post infant loss. I’ve had highs and lows, but most importantly, I’ve grown and learned to keep pressing on through it all.

 

One of the key truths I’ve learned over the past year is that life is both the pain and the joy, the despair and the hope, the tears and the laughter—all of it is entwined and it’s impossible to have one without soon having the other. Somebody once said that if you never have the valleys, you won’t know what the mountaintop feels like. Every day that I find myself smiling or laughing, I’m in awe of the glory of God and the mysteries of life because I remember days when I thought I would never be able to smile or laugh again.

One of my favorite songs right now is “Stay High” by Jonathan McReynolds. Bruh has helped get me through the storms this year. After a friend invited me to see him live, I’ve been hooked on his music. Let me know what you think in the comments!

My family and I will be walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies on Sunday, April 30, 2017 in honor of our angel. We’d love for you to donate to our campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

 

Make Sure YOU Win

Hello all my popped loves! I hope that you haven’t forgotten about me! I know that I’ve been a bit M.I.A. but Lord, if you knew what I’ve been going through…I had some really bad news a couple weeks ago that really threw my world upside down. I’m sure that one day, I will share more details about it, but all that I have the will to say right now is that it was news that shook the very foundation of my vision for the next few years of my life. You see, I had a plan, but of course, it’s often said that God laughs at our plans and does what He wants to do anyway! Have you ever been there? Have you had something happen to you that shook the foundation for your future or maybe even made you question your identity?

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“Don’t let disappointment or tragedy be the end of your story. Use it to make you even more determined to win.”

If so, I want you to remember something, no matter how bleak things may look right now, your story doesn’t have to be over. You may not be able to control everything that happens to you or around you, which is frustrating to the control freak in us all. However, we have full control over our reactions to whatever does happen to us. We can let something defeat us and make us kiss the game goodbye. Or we can use the disappointment, frustration, or [insert expletive here] to propel us forward. Don’t let disappointment be the end of your story. Use it to make you even more determined to win.

The inner pain I felt due to my situation made me want to crawl under my bed and stay there forever. But, I realized that if not anything else, I have a family—a daughter—that is relying on me to keep my ish together to be there for them. Instead of focusing on the things I couldn’t control, I decided to throw myself into starting Popped Handmade—a luxury, handmade, natural beauty product line for the everyday positive, optimistic, & powerful woman or man like yourself. Do I feel completely ready to take on this venture? No. Do I feel a bit overwhelmed at the mere thought of it? Yes. Will those fears stop me from giving it a shot and doing the very best that I can to perfect my products and grow my business knowledge? Hell no. The thing about feeling like you’ve hit a rock bottom of sorts is there’s nowhere to go but up. If this project fails, I will be right back where I started in the first place, yet I will have gained knowledge about business and myself that I would never have acquired otherwise.

If you, like me, are going through a valley in your life right now, use your experience as motivation to flip the script and make your story have a better ending. Don’t let the struggle win; make sure YOU win.

Check out the Popped Handmade Facebook and Instagram pages and let me know what you think!

Do I Have an Enemy Within? (Am I My Own Hater?)

”When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” – African Proverb (courtesy of happyblackwoman.com)

”When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” – African Proverb (courtesy of happyblackwoman.com)

A few days ago, I found the African proverb above on the Happy Black Woman website (the post “67 Inspiring Quotes by Black Women on Happiness, Perseverance, Fear and Success”) and it just immediately stuck out to me. It seemed like a lightbulb went off in my head. Do I have an enemy within?

Many of us have a little voice inside of us that we constantly have to silence. It tells us all the things we can’t do or all the reasons why we aren’t good enough. More often than not, we probably can call those nagging thoughts into question and continue about our business. But, sometimes those little, lying voices may win in casting a cloud over us.

I’ve been a bit down in the dumps off and on for some time now and the proverb above made it clear that I have to cast out my enemy within.

It’s true that sometimes we really do have haters, but we have to be careful that the hater in our heads is not making us believe that someone on the outside is a hater when they really aren’t. I’ve realized that it’s very possible that a lot of the rejection we feel from others could be the projection of our own internal enemy out into the world.

It can be tough being a stay-at-home mom. Yes, I don’t deny that it is a privilege, honor, blessing, and pretty much every good thing that you can think of. When I went back into the workforce when my daughter was about 7 or 8 months, I immediately dreamed about the day when I could get back home to see her go through all of her major milestones without missing a beat. That day came sooner than I could’ve imagined and I was thrilled. Yet, every stay-at-home mom knows the challenges—isolation from the adult world, the blow to your ego and maybe even your self-esteem when those checks stop coming in your name, and the misperception about what you do on a daily basis (and don’t forget the misperception about your financial situation) from the outside world. It definitely can throw your sense of value and confidence threw a loop. Living simply and valuing other things over fortune, fame, and independence (gasp!) is so contrary to what society tells us we should want that we tend to look at ourselves sideways when we don’t live according to society’s standard of success.

However, the proverb above made me realize that if I have an enemy within that thinks very little of myself and my place in the world, every glance and remark from others—no matter how unrelated to me personally—will be filtered through the beliefs of my enemy within. If I’m my own enemy, I have no chance in the world no matter what endeavors I pursue. We all have to be our own biggest fans. We have to cheer ourselves on when the going gets tough and know that we can make it even if we are the only fan that we have.

So to all my positively optimistic & powerful people (in process) cast out the enemy within and build yourself up daily. You may use affirmations, inspirational podcasts, scripture, or self-help books. Whatever you need to do to get that enemy within out of your mental space and spirit, do it as often as you need to. This is oh so necessary in order to keep it poppin’ 😉

Fearless Friday 5.8.15 (All Funked Up)

It's time to get FUNKY, FUNKY, FUNKY...FUNKY, FUNKY, FUNKY.

It’s time to get FUNKY, FUNKY, FUNKY…FUNKY, FUNKY, FUNKY.


This week…

I’ve been funk-y. Not the I-need-a-shower funky or the Cha-Cha Slide funky, but the I’ve been in a funk funky.

Over the past week, I avoided blogging like the plague. I was afraid of writing something that revealed the dejected frame of mind I’ve been in. I haven’t been nearly as positively optimistic and powerful as I would’ve liked to have been. Instead of dealing with my feelings, I’ve been using TV as a crutch—binge-watching Game of Thrones and wondering why I couldn’t find a bottle of wine in the house when I needed one.

My funk made me avoid reflection at all costs. I just wanted to stay distracted. But, I knew that I couldn’t keep running. I had to take the first step and at least acknowledge that the funk exists and it has to go. I can’t be funky and fearless at the same time.

The funk has not gone away, but now that I have acknowledged it, I have to reflect on it. The thing is, I can’t pinpoint what caused this funk of mine; it just feels like all of my past fears and frustrations have come back to visit me. I just feel stuck and I have no idea what to do to get out of it.

At least part of this funk has to do with mapping out my next steps; my 4-5 year plan. I felt like I was starting to get some clarity over my purpose and the direction over my life earlier this year. Now, I feel clueless again. (I swear I’ve been having a quarter-life crisis since I was born.)

Many of us have been trained to view life in terms of the stages of schooling. Once you graduate 8th grade, you move on to high school. Once you spend 4 years in high school, you spend the next 4 years in college. After that, unless you stay in school forever, life doesn’t follow a strict 4 year plan. It’s up to us to map out our journey from there, which can feel liberating but downright frightening as well.

I’ve been struggling with mapping out my own plan. Over the last few years, it seemed that once I started on one plan, reaching goals and milestones on the way, I started to second-guess the entire plan and create a new one. Part of the problem may be that I’ve been searching for THE plan as if there is only one that is the right one. Sometimes I start to think that there is no right one, but then I look around and some people seem to just know THE right plan for them.

Today…

I choose to take action steps to get out of this funk so that I can set some goals for the next few years. (Hey, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail or so they say.)

1. Get back on track with my blogging schedule. Blogging/writing is the one thing that makes sense when so many other things don’t.
2. Stop peeping over fences and comparing the neighbor’s grass to mine. It will always be a different shade, which doesn’t mean it’s better.
3. Pray and reflect. I have to be still and in a positive state of mind in order to draft a new plan. I have to understand that it will need to be edited from time to time, which is OK.
4. Enjoy the moment and the journey. This moment is all that is guaranteed.

Tell me about your week and any funkiness you’ve experienced. How’d you get out of it? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook. We gotta keep it popped no matter how funky we feel 😉

https://instagram.com/p/2Z42_xEUyc/

Women’s History Month Music Playlist

I came across an article on Madame Noire featuring songs that empower women in honor of March being Women’s History Month, as well as another list that they have of songs that specifically uplift black women. I cosign to many of the songs they included and even found a couple that I hadn’t heard before or at least not the original versions. For instance, I think every black elementary school sang “Young, Gifted, and Black” at one assembly or another back in the day. However, reading Madame Noire’s article was my first time encountering Nina Simone’s version of the song.

Attribution: Nemo. Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain

Attribution: Nemo. Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain.

Since I not only love many kinds of music–spanning many genres and decades, but I believe it has the power to encourage and heal better than any other art form, I figured I’d compose my own women’s empowerment playlist featuring 5 songs that were not mentioned on the Madame Noire playlists.

1. Mary J. Blige, “In the Meantime”

So I am a huge Mary J. Blige fan. Therefore, it was hard to pick just one of her songs for this list, but I forced myself to pick my absolute favorite one when I need a little pick-me-up. I’ve always loved her because she just comes across as so real and genuine. She has overcome so much and is the epitome of positively optimistic and powerful in my opinion. “In the Meantime” was my go-to song in college. In fact, it was on my iPhone playlist which was called “Shower Party” because I used to bring my mini speakers in the dorm shower room and play my tunes while I washed all the nooks and cranies. Check it out if you’ve never heard this song. It was on the 2001 “No More Drama” album.

2. Mariah Carey, “Make It Happen”

Now this was another artist that really made it hard for me to just pick one empowerment song! Lord knows Mariah got me through many o’ dark days in my teenage years and early twenties! Not to mention she improved my vocabulary by throwing in smart words, like “dissipate” and “ambiguous,” in her songs every now and then. I’m not as much of a fan of the new Mariah, but she will always have a special place in my musical heart. “Make it Happen” has always been encouraging to me because it’s about her start from the bottom to the top and how she made it by faith and perseverance.

3. No Doubt, “Just a Girl”

As I said before, I’ve always loved many kinds of music. I remember a time when I was ashamed of my appreciation for pop and rock (I had a huge punk rock phase in high school. Can someone say Blink-182?!) because it wasn’t cool for a black girl to listen to anything other than rap or R&B. But as an adult, I embrace my specialness and I attribute it to my father because he played Foreigner, Pink Floyd, and other not typical Black people music as well as the Isley Brothers and Rick James in the house when I was growing up. All that to say that I thought Gwen Stefani was the ish way before she started collaborating with Eve and dabbling into “urban music.” This song is the anthem for all girls that are tired of people telling them what they can’t do and trying to keep them in a box.

4. Jill Scott, “When I Wake Up”

What R&B/Neosoul fan doesn’t love Jilly from Philly? She’s the truth. Enough said. This song is from her 2011’s “Light of the Sun”, which was a great album. It’s one you can play all the way through which is hard to find these days. Play this when you’re in your feelings and know that when you wake up everything you went through will be beautiful.

5. Shawn Colvin, “Sunny Came Home”

This is another throwback to a time long past. I love 90s music with a passion. I really like songs that tell a story and this one seems to be about a woman who decides to get out of a bad relationship by burning her house down–in reality or metaphorically I don’t know, but either way it’s bada$$. My favorite lyric is “She’s out there on her own and she’s alright. Sunny came home.”

What songs would be on your empowering playlist in honor of Women’s History Month? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook. Until next time, stay down with the P.O.P. 😉

Disadvantages Are Really Advantages…Or Nah

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“Leaders don’t fit in.”- A quote from my hubby, not the book, but it works!

So I’d only read about thirty-something pages of David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell before I had to return it to the library because someone else had it on hold. However, the short amount that I read really made me pause and think. I felt the need to discuss the little tidbits I picked up with you anyway. Here are three points that really made me go “hmmmm.”

1. We have to rethink what an advantage and disadvantage really are.

I think this is probably one of the main points of the book (but who knows since I didn’t quite make it to page 40…smh). Here’s a quote that really struck me.

“We have, I think, a very rigid and limited definition of what an advantage is. We think things as helpful that actually aren’t and think of other things as unhelpful that in reality leave us stronger and wiser” (Gladwell 25).

The easiest example of how this is true can be drawn from that one time all of us copied a friend’s homework assignment in college. Yes, we may have got a decent grade on the assignment instead of an “F,” but if we never went back to learn the info covered in that assignment, we were S.O.L. when the final exam rolled around. It may have been an advantage to copy the assignment at first, but it was not helpful to copy instead of putting in the work to learn the material and do the assignment when the Final came calling.

Gladwell’s point has importance that goes beyond simple situations like cheating on an assignment, but it makes us realize that we have to change the way we view bad things that happen to us or situations that don’t go as planned. Instead of seeing the job that wasn’t offered to us as a disadvantage, we have to choose not to passively play the victim and figure out how one door closing in our face can help us open a different door. That different door may be the better one for us anyway. For me, this point means to see things from different angles instead of assuming that a setback means defeat.

2. Play to your strengths instead of giving up because of your weaknesses.

This idea was illustrated by Gladwell writing about the Redwood City girls’ basketball team. The team was full of underdogs and misfits, including the coach who was one of the girls’ father who had never played basketball before coaching the girls. The girls were not the typical basketball players. They were not tall and super athletic. They were not skilled at handling the ball or making long-range shots. They were horrible at offense. Instead of throwing in the towel because of everything the girls and their coach lacked, the coach called in more knowledgeable trainers than himself, listened to advice from more experienced players and coaches, and chose to focus on the girls’ strengths instead of their weaknesses. The coach knew that he couldn’t win the game playing it the conventional way. He chose to focus on defense and lay-ups. He had to push the girls to get in better shape than any of their opponents so that they could play much harder.

I love this point because I personally tend to focus way too much on what has not worked in my life or what I’m not good at instead of focusing on my strengths. All of us have things that we do better than other people. No one quite has the total package that we have to offer. Not being good at certain things should only makes us use the things that we are good at even more. I think all of us can take notes here and play up our strengths so that our weaknesses are barely noticeable anymore.

3. It’s not always about talent, but about how hard you press.

When I was in elementary school, I had kind of a rep for being one of the smartest kids in the class. You can imagine that my world collapsed when I went to one of the best high schools as well as “the Harvard of Christian colleges” and realized that I wasn’t nearly as smart or IT as I thought I was. I kind of fell into a funk and stopped trying as hard as I used to because silly me didn’t realize brains don’t mean much of anything if you don’t put it in the work.

Gladwell uses the story of the underdog girls’ basketball team to point out that it’s not about how much talent you have (at least not all the time). Rather, it’s about how hard you work. In the book, he talks about how the girls’ basketball team had to press their opposing teams on defense for the full-length of the court. They couldn’t just press their side of the court. They had to press the entire court without stopping for the whole game. It was grueling, but it worked. Sometimes when you don’t have the sheer talent that others seem to be born with, you just have to work your ass off (pardon the French) more than those who are smarter or more qualified than you.

What do you positively optimistic and powerful ladies think of Gladwell’s ideas? Will you give the book a read? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook. Also, I’ve just joined Bloglovin so be sure to follow me on there! And as always, keep it poppin’ 😉