Monday, May 23, 2011

WHO AM I is a question that I was asked to answer today...

What kind of a question is that, I wonder, even sneer at? Aren’t we all the sum products of our frame of reference—from where we came, who are parents are, where our family name originated, what our ancestors fought for? Then much, if not all, of our lives-- and who I am-- has been predetermined. I certainly think not since I am a firm believer in free will and the power we have in the choices we make.
Still, there are so many obvious answers to what my identity is: On the surface, I am a woman, now wife and mother—categorized by the Census as a “Caucasian Female.”  To the onlooker, and to myself, I have a physical persona that continuously changes and ages on the outside. The tasks and social forums that I participate are, in part, dictated by my position in life and that of my husband, children and extended family.
 I also ponder the changes going on inside my brain, heart and soul? My emotional side of ups and downs and in-betweens must also define me, right? I certainly can’t exclude my spiritual growth or the struggles I have shared and turned-over to God, often questioning my belief system countless times—and still struggle with my faith?  How apparent are they to me and to others. This is hard to measure and quantify.
But it is my hope that like a vacuum, I am inhaling beautifully magical moments and finding all sorts of extraordinary in what we define as ordinary; I also harbor sadness from those painful life experiences, trying to bury them deep down under, until they rear their thorny heads and prick at my skin and I react, often taking my anger out on someone or something else. I, like you, pick myself up each day, scouring the earth, and exhale as much of the impurities that have accrued. I know for sure some dust and dirt have settled and will remain in the crevices of my interior, again, surfacing at the most inopportune times in life.
 If I do have only one life to live, then to define it seems to be almost inexplicable, almost painful because no one thing can ever define anyone who wants to live forever and do so much and so many things, as I do. Sometimes I wake and tear thinking that time may run out, and I wouldn’t have checked off all my dreams on the infamous “bucket list.” And will I die in utter sadness with the cloud of death raising me up to the heavens above? Dam, “NO,” I protest!
So, to answer this question, I must simply start by saying I am a good person who would genuinely like me as her friend. I need to be a best friend to myself more than I have been. I am a woman who never imagined the indescribable bond I felt the moment I first held my boys, my joys when they were born. It was the biggest shock to this career-driven lady to yearn to become a stay-at-home mom to raise her most valuable of all long-term investments—although my older son, now growing into his teens, is like a sharp fingernail scratching a blackboard in my ear, countering everything I say. My children helped me re-discover my passion to write about my most prized possession: them. The end result is the birth of my first book: MommyBest: 13 Inspirational Lessons Derek & Dylan’s Mom (and maybe yours) Never Learned in School. So along with the birth of a mother, came the birth of an Author.
So, in addition to being a good person, Mommy and author who else am I? I am a wife, but have never been comfortable with the subservient role that women have been placed in and have often found myself defending our rights of equality at all levels—except with regard to certain physical limitations. To that end, my husband would definitely say that I have been challenge and a pain in the ass at times. To which, I reply, “a good pain in the ass”—who has always been honest and held much integrity with the expectation of getting all back in return.
I am also an identical twin and would be remiss not to include my “better half” in defining myself. Today, for example, I had to get a shot of cortisone in my knee; my twin, states away from me, texted at least 15 times to find out if I was “okay” and offered support, as no one else had. We’ve gone from diapers to changing our own kids’ diapers together, so it doesn’t get much closer than that.
At the end of the day, we all have roles to play. We can assign titles to everything that we do. But, it’s the little quiet genuine gestures which make us “superhuman.” One of my proudest moments in life happened during a graduate writing class I took: A harried, black woman entered the class, obviously shaken as she shared she came from her brother’s funeral. The teacher repeatedly told her she couldn’t stay in class because she forgot her notebook. The woman pleaded, almost cried as over a hundred classmates watched in complete SILENCE. I stood-up, walked to the teacher and whispered in her ear that I would give her some of my paper and a pencil. The teacher still insisted this woman had to go to the office and get a notebook. I took the woman’s arm and escorted her to the office and tried to comfort her.
At the end of the class, she told me that no one has ever done something as kind as I did. I have heard this statement a few times in my lifeJ. On a side note, the teacher was so mean to me the remainder of the class. Even the other members of the class agreed. But they didn’t stick up for me eitherL

Monday, May 16, 2011

News12 MommyBest Interview

This is an Interview with Channel 12 News about some of the 13 lessons I learned as shared in MommyBest... Hope you all enjoy : ) I was very nervous, when the lights went on and the camera man started, 10, 9, 8--it was unscripted and no make-up person or anything!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Birth of a Mother: Each Woman's Journey into Motherhood is Unique! Dedicated to all the moms around the world: Happy Mother's Day!

I'm sharing the first memoir from my book, MommmyBest! The lesson/reader reflection pages are in the book for moms/dads/grandmas to record their own memoir to cherish always

  Ever since I was a little girl, I had big dreams. I would spend hours each day listening to my radio imagining how all my dreams would come true.  As the music played, my heart raced as I saw myself traveling to faraway places, becoming famous and rich, and most importantly—emerging as an independent woman. 
     Sometimes, before bedtime, I would share my dreams with my mother who always listened with eager and excited ears.  All my dreams were a stark contrast to my Mom’s childhood dream of getting married and raising children.  I couldn’t understand, given all the opportunities I had, how my mother could derive such pleasure and fulfillment from motherhood. And, since I knew all about life, so I thought, I often advised my Mom to do “more” with hers,’ besides “just being a mother.”
     As I grew and went to school, I often watched my mother throughout the day.  With her eyes half-opened and what we would describe today as a really “bad hair day,” she would scurry in the morning to prepare breakfast for her five children, pack our lunches, find lost items we were distraught about and mediate our arguments, not to mention the house cleaning and chauffeuring she constantly did.  Mom repeated her mother’s dance of caring for everyone else’s needs throughout the day—two steps here, two steps there.  I was determined not to follow her lead, especially after she had to be hospitalized several times due to a medical condition, related to exhaustion. As a youngster, unable to fully understand my mom’s bouts of exhaustion, I struggled blaming myself and even her for the times she was absent when I needed her.
     So, each evening while I listened to my music, I orchestrated the course of my life—and becoming a Mom was not part of my score. Instead, I imagined traveling to faraway places while becoming a famous movie star or a powerful businesswoman. 
     I studied and practiced my entrepreneurial skills early on by charging my siblings a few cents for cooking such delicious breakfast meals as Mayonnaise sandwiches.  I often babysat for the younger children in the neighborhood who I loved to boss around.  Sometimes, I’d even help my brother deliver newspapers, especially on Sundays when I could browse through all the fashion magazines before shopping.  Often, the persuasive headlines lured me into reading many of the amazing stories.  The words, like music, stirred my emotions long after they were read and lingered like flavors savored after a delicious meal. I was compelled to add becoming a famous writer to my collection of dreams, a collection I examined, revised, admired and cherished in my mind each time I listened to the lyrics and rhythm of my favorite melodies.
     My entrepreneurial skills strengthened as I finished high school and went on to college, continuing to work after school and waitress some nights and weekends.  During my junior year, it was difficult to select a Major; I vacillated as to which career to pursue, and with so many choices, like items on a menu, I wanted to try them all. 
     Then, during my junior year, I saw an ad in the campus newspaper seeking Staff Reporters.  With nervous excitement, I applied and was given the opportunity to cover the events affecting campus life. Each story that I covered, like parts of my life, had different pieces to fit together.  I agonized for hours piecing my words together like a quilt. The first time I saw my name flashing above my words, I felt dizzy with a sense of accomplishment.  So when I listened to my music, I felt as if shots of adrenalin were traveling throughout my veins at the thought of becoming a Writer. 
     As time went on, a few professors persuaded me, given my enthusiasm to become “independent,” to seek a more financially rewarding career. I followed their advice and decided to pursue a career in Advertising.
     Still, I loved the attention my stories received from other students and faculty alike.  I also felt important interviewing and reporting on the school’s major social events, and especially enjoyed receiving recognition from my boyfriend of three years and his teammates at their soccer games.  Unfortunately, by my senior year, I knew that my boyfriend wanted a “traditional” wife instead of someone who wanted to explore her options, as I did.
       So, as many of my friends graduated college and moved out on their own pursuing their careers and/or marriage, I returned to my parent’s home—unable to find my coveted advertising job and not really sure which direction to turn. All my other siblings moved out of “the nest” and my Dad was still working full time plus extra hours.
      I began to spend time with my Mom, the one person I had really drifted apart from during my rebellious teenage years. At first, it was awkward connecting with her. We talked many nights about how I felt when, during my growing years, she had been sick several times and away from the family. It was painfully obvious that she was devastated recalling the times when she was recovering in the hospital. Now mature, I was finally able to better understand how exhausted my Mom was having five children—one right after the other, including twins. She did the best she could under some very stressful conditions. From our discussion and some tears, we were able to move to a deeper relationship. We started having late night talks again as we had when I was younger; but now it felt as if we were girlfriends sharing our secrets.  She became my cheerleader, always excited about what was going on in my life.
     After countless interviews and several “in-between” jobs, a lucrative advertising company hired me as a Sales Representative; Ecstatic about my opportunity, Mom shopped for days with me for a new wardrobe.   As she scavenged through all the racks of clothes, I reminisced about all our shopping trips we went on while I was growing up.  Each year before school started, Mom would take my sisters and I to the department stores to buy five new outfits, one for each day of the school week.  And she would buy us “only the best of shoes” because she didn’t want us to become “flat-footed.” 
     Yet, Mom rarely bought any clothes for herself or for my father, a New York City Firefighter who often worked 24-hour shifts, always graciously handing most of his earnings to Mom each week. As I watched him place money into her hand, I made a conscious decision to strive to become fiscally self-reliant. 
     Although my parents financially struggled, neither of them ever complained about their lack of material things, or for the amount of money they spent on us.  Sometimes, during the holiday season, my mother’s favorite time of the year, my parents would secure a bank loan so we could have a lot of the things that “they never had as kids.” Even though we were far from rich, friends who saw our clothes and bicycles, for example, thought we were.
     Once I started my new job, I began to feel like a kid again.  Mom would have dinner and her listening ears waiting when I got home.  She wanted to know all about my day: the people I met; the sales I made; and the places I visited.  I knew Mom was vicariously living some of my experiences; I enjoyed all the attention. When I had enough money to buy a place of my own, it was difficult to leave. 
     So, in preparation of my independence-- and for a much needed break from working days and evenings, making sales quotas and meeting deadlines- I planned the European trip I dreamt of as a little girl watching movies of women traveling abroad, often discovering themselves and romance.
     Even though my Mom, like me, is petrified to fly, she offered to accompany me on my journey. I knew I had to go alone. I booked the trip as part of a tour group so I would have some direction and companionship. Days before my scheduled departure, I listened for hours to my favorite Italian songs, including “Three Coins in a Fountain” and “Volare.” Although I was advised to travel “light,’ I spent days before my trip shopping with my Mom.
     When the departure time came, I was petrified.  There was a lot of turbulence during the beginning of the flight, but the ride became calmer, as did I.
     It wasn’t long before I was standing in Saint Mark’s Square in Venice with pigeons adorning my head and shoulders.  When I sat down for a cup of cappuccino, I was part of a magnificent audience serenaded by string instruments.  As I listened to the music, my own heartstrings were strummed.  I remembered how I longed for this moment since I was a little girl listening to music and dreaming of traveling to faraway places – except now those places were near.
     As my soul soared, a waiter graciously placed a complimentary cup of cappuccino in front of me.  An admirer sitting nearby had ordered it.  I raised my head and looked for the wealthy European I dreamt of meeting.  A young man stood before me.  He was an American tourist who, ironically, thought I was European.  There were no romantic sparks, but I had met a friend. We shared some highlights from our trip with each other before I returned to my hotel to prepare for the scheduled gondolier ride with my tour group.
     Under the glow of the moon, the other tourists and I boarded the gondolier.  We were all relaxed sitting beside the glistening waters as we were serenaded. I felt vitalized and tranquil at the same time.  I also had the feeling someone was staring at me; it was the same feeling I had for much of the tour, but I was too busy to acknowledge it.  But this night, the watchful gaze—against the starlight and music—was recognized.  The azure eyes did belong to a European this time. Still, he wasn’t the rich man I dreamt about either.  The admirer was our tour bus driver. Even though he spoke only a few words of English, we spent the remainder of my stay together.  As the bus driver resided in Rome, he gave me a personal tour of all the sights, ending with the Trevi Fountain, which, ironically, was under construction, as I felt I had been. 
     I threw in many coins in and made many wishes—as well as expressions of gratitude for the experiences I shared with some wonderful people, especially the bus driver from Rome! Needless to say, weeks passed as if they were only days and my departure came. It was difficult boarding the plane, saying goodbye to my European adventure and my personal tour guide.
     Like a kid looking in a candy store window, Mom was waiting at the airport for me. Her eyes scoped the crowd at the arrival gate.  “Donna, Donna,” she screamed! “You’re glowing.”  I was aglow!  Weeks after my trip, coworkers continued to tell me that I looked different, and I felt different.
      Without realizing it, I was ready to journey within and see my life anew. Once I listened to my inner voice, the one that’s connected to my heart and guides me to joyful places, my life, like dominoes, began to fall into place. 
     Soon, I moved out of my childhood home and purchased a two-bedroom condominium.  My Mom and I were very emotional on moving day, but we both understood the closeness we established would always be near, even when we are apart.
     Filled with so much vitality and excitement, I pursued my career, working well into the evenings.  One night while working late, a new sales representative called the office for his messages.  I answered and we talked for over two hours. He asked if he could see the photos I had taken in Europe. I obliged.
     For our date, he arrived with a single white rose.  We went to a restaurant similar to the ones I had visited in Europe—filled with the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans. The cozy, round tables were covered with paper clothes; each table had a container filled with crayons.  After several hours of conversation, accompanied by scrumptious food, we sipped our cappuccinos while viewing the photos.  My date asked me to use one of the crayons to make a list of the important qualities I want in a husband and he would do the same for a wife.  Amazingly, when we compared our lists, they were almost identical.
     With paper in hand, we went for a drive to a nearby park for a brisk walk.  I was given a piggyback ride through a beautifully wooded forest where a white-tailed deer leaped out in front of us just as my date kissed me.  Without speaking, we looked at each other knowing this deer was somehow symbolic, even magical.
     That evening when I listened to my music, I thought about the romance I sought on my European vacation, around the world.  Then, practically in my own backyard, I met the man of “my dreams.”  In contrast with my lavish trip, my date and I were in a park filled with greenery and the beauty of nature and its amazing creatures.  The clusters of trees, all leading to different paths seemed to hold many surprises and many hopes.
     One surprise was finding myself back at school pursuing a Masters Degree in Education.  Teaching, a profession women stereotypically work at, was not the occupation I dreamt about as a young businesswoman.  Yet, it was a profession that I now felt would allow me to contribute more to the world on behalf of children.  I soon learned my students often taught me lessons about life.  I was amazed by how intelligent and genuine they are.  They became my family with whom I shared much of my life with.
     When I accepted a marriage proposal from the man who kissed me in the park, my students were so happy, as was my mother.  My Mom understood I wasn’t like several of my friends who began planning for their weddings when they were teenagers. I never dreamt of getting married. And the men who I had thought I might possible wed one day, soon wanted me to change myself, in some way—whether it was to sacrifice my career aspirations or distance myself from my girlfriends. Now I met someone who loved me exactly as I am and supported my goals—whatever they were. Some call it kismet, others destiny?
     I soon learned why some women start early in life planning their weddings.  I discovered it was exciting yet exhausting planning for “the Big Day.” The entire event was surreal until I found myself walking down the aisle. As I moved forward I walked along a path, viewing as I would a movie, many of the important people in my life, including some of my students, to the altar where my husband-to-be waited for us to embark on our journey. 
     The following year, we decided to start a family and instantly everything just “fell into place:” My husband and I were having a baby! Unlike many of my previous business decisions I often contemplated, analyzing lots of information, I simply followed my instincts; it felt “right “.  The news prompted my students to plan a surprise shower for me.  I couldn’t believe (nor could my mother) I was going to be a Mom.  Since I was absolutely positive I would be having a girl, it was the biggest surprise of my life when I gave birth to a son.
     The instant I held him, I felt a bond like no other—a bond that reached into the depths of my soul, beyond expression, beyond comprehension.  I realized along with a baby, a mother had been born-- a parent was in the making.
     As I looked into my son’s innocent eyes, I knew I had always been destined to become a mother, even though I hadn’t been ready to acknowledge this while I was achieving all the goals I was determined to accomplish.  I was too scared of losing my own identity and too busy proving I was someone “more” and something “else.”
      Although I had taken a different road than the one my mother followed toward motherhood, I realized we both arrived at our destinations on time-- the time that was right for each of us.  We are two women, similar in some ways and different in others, somewhat products of the eras that we grew-up in, somewhat products of our unique personas. 
     Now, as I listen to my music, my heart soars as I dream dreams for my son:
 Who will he become?  What will he enjoy doing?  Which paths will he follow? How shall I guide him?  How will he guide me?
     As his mother, I am embarking upon an amazing journey-like no other journey I’ve been on-- one toward true self-discovery!  I begin this journey with a deep love, gratitude and respect for one who has traveled through the precarious terrain and rough waters of motherhood before me, my own mother.  I understand her sacrifice and love –and now perceive her as a woman of greatness for all she has given to her children.
     I also recognize I am becoming more of an independent person by pursuing my dreams-as my son has helped me to find a new voice in my writing. I must bring to him the best person I can be first, and then I’ll be the best “Mommy” to him-- when my choices reflect who I am at any given moment in my life.  No matter which direction my path turns, I am a mother.  I am Derek’s Mom—now and forever!