Maya Angelou ~ April 4, 1928, St. Louis, MO ~ May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, NC

Maya Angelou ~ April 4, 1928, St. Louis, MO ~ May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, NC

This week, one of my hero’s passed on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:

Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.

Guy B. Johnson

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Lunchtime success!

  I am really proud of my planning and research of recipes for my daughters kindergarten lunches. Although I had a lot of things to get done, I am glad i was able to get the Tupperware and groceries needed to make the ideas I found off pinterest and recipes.com. I can now say I followed through on my own plans, rather than spitting out ideas and never bothering there after. Its very easy to do that!

  I was able to get the silicone cups for her lunches as well as a thermos and containers she can open herself (thankgod I thought of that). I love how her lunches look all sectioned out. I have been trying to make smaller portions with bigger selection to help watch her diet and nutrition. Of course I have to pack fun snacks but I like to add a variety of fruits and veggies to her diet. Kids are so darn picky and she’s getting to the age where other kids influence her thought on her once favorite things. (We all know what that’s like).

  I have been sneaky and creative by getting her to eat foods with hidden veggies. It actually works. We are pretty plain eaters. I do not like to put syrup, dressings or heavy cream on or in anything. We eat plain waffles with fruit or plain pancakes because I put peanutbutter or chocolate chips inside. We also do not use ketchup or mustard ever. (Gasp). We don’t add much salt or pepper to things.

  I’m kind of boring in the condiment department. But I do love adding a few ingredients to everything. I love almonds, honey and vanilla extract. I also love cinnamon and nutmeg. I add those things to many common recipes to add variety. I am excited because I tried out a new mini muffin recipe that is really good so far. Introducing the newest flavor combo:

   Chocolate chip squash muffins!

1 Gerber baby food squash container.
1 mix of Betty crocker muffins
1/2 cup water (just add a tad less water)
1 teaspoon honey
1 sprinkle of cinnamon

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I thought about adding some other types of vegetable puree but squash seemed like a good experimental flavor. You can use a whole grain or oatmeal muffin mix as well. Also, honey is just a favorite of ours and it makes it sweet enough to hide the veggie flavor. I couldn’t get my daughter away from the batter.

  

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   I am excited to try more veggie muffins this week. I have decided to use paper cups and then freeze four or six at a time in Tupperware. I originally tried zip lock which was stupid because they stick together. By freezing it, I can defrost small amounts and stick one or two in her lunch box to add some variety.

  

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  So far I am creative and on a roll! She loved her lunch today and helped me pack tomorrows! Ideas are always welcome so please post to me if you have awesome recipe suggestions!

       

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Yum!

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Pushing yourself

  We have all been there. That point where we wonder what went wrong. We blame actions and events of others. And don’t want to take responsibility for our wrongs.. its easier to not account for your actions, right? Its easier to push people who oppose to your choices away, and ignore seeing what you have done wrong. The more we become used to not fixing small problems, the bigger trenches we dig into the major issues.

  How is it that we sometimes choose the wrong things, even knowing the consequences could be awful? Do we owe ignorance to curiosity or a lack of guilt of failure? Why do some people choose to be in relationships or positions where they will end up like others predicted? Sometimes we are so stubborn we want to learn for ourselves, right?

  Well go ahead. Make some mistakes. Make some bad choices. Stick with some bad people. And refuse to fix your bad habits. What will that lead to? They say if you do something twenty one times in a row, it becomes a habit. How many things do you do a day, for years even, that attribute to your failures?

  I am thankful that I had addict parents. I am thankful some of the people I knew growing up that struggled with addictions and deep seeded problems as well. I was lucky to not go down the same road. People remind me of that all the time. Especially after hearing how I was raised. It is true that education sets you free. Examples do as well. After seeing someone deteriorate from the inside out, someone I loved and looked up to, I wanted no connection to alcohol or drugs. I wanted to be informed and understand the way bad choices affected health and well being. The more I understood, the more I moved away from those things.

I see people make bad choices a lot even after being educated about the truth. After seeing how men are in past relationships, women still choose to pursue relations hoping to change them. I have seen adult children choose to pursue redemption for their parents and try to build relationships with broken people who are incapable of having a healthy relationship. It also happens in friendships. Trying to fix trust is like building a bridge out of shredded wood. The bond becomes weak and the foundation is forever changed.

I do not claim to be perfect nor do I know the formula for world peace. I will say that from wanting to be educated and make better choices, I have made better relationships and become a better person. I have put focus on the important things in my life and shed the things that held me down. I have chosen to erase certain people from my life that were not able to progress. It was a lost cause to expect anything different from people who did not want to change.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

I have lived with real crazy people. I choose to move forward and meet my own expectations, not become what everyone’s low expectations wanted me to be.

feministingmama

Diving into feminism and kindergarten!

  Today went as magically as could be imagined. My daughter loved school and cannot wait to get back tomorrow to her classroom. I was so proud that she ran onto the bus, until she gave me no hug and left like I was invisible. One point for independence. I so needed the tissues more than her. Independence is good though. It means I did everything right. Being a single mother for the past five and a half years has served me right. She needs me a little less. That’s what parents should be. Support and encouragement towards becoming self sufficient. Although I will never be able to imagine a time when we have to part, I am so proud at the reality of my daughter having to move forward with her life. Every tiny step she takes on her own, from her first steps to the steps onto the bus today, she is becoming herself. A person with dreams, inspirations and a desire to grow.

  I am so inspired by the feminists I am reading currently into in all of my courses. It is really amazing to be able to apply my studies to my life. To actually use what I am learning to shape my own life and experiences. No thanks to square dancing or calculus, I am not earning a relative career in those topics. I am not earning a degree in applied math or science. I will not be studying anything mind numbing like some of the courses I was forced to take in early public school. I am proud to have hand selected and earned my position in my field. I hope to luck out and find my career after becoming a graduate student. I truly believe that through praying and focusing, I have been led to the best directions for myself. So far, all my courses have further educated me to a direct interest. I have almost solved the age old question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

  I think that writers like Wollstonecraft and Beauvoir had great points about how women were treated as an “other” or “unbeing” in society. What’s worrisome to me are the many women around me who choose to be inferior and grounded in their lives. I feel like women are so afraid of taking on the responsibility to become more.

  Although I am proud to be a mother as well as a sole provider for my household, I know that it is a hard to juggle and keep up. Not many girls are willing to juggle a child along with their studies and a job. I also think a current problem that is digressing the progress of women is many uneducated people choose to hold their own success back. I do not think that becoming a mother is a setback by any means. My motherhood journey is what launched my success and my drive grew stronger with becoming responsible for another person. I grew into my multiple roles. It is never easy and I do have times where I feel the weight of my juggle act. But its liberating. I enjoy that I am able to have all the experiences and benefits that I do. I have them because I chose to pursue everything. I get scholarships and aid because I have learned how to form relationships with colleagues and professors enough to get recommendations. I have also learned to apply my skills and better my weaknesses. As I mature, I continue to grow and expand my knowledge of the world around me. I am not the same person I would have been had I not had my daughter.

What bothers me are the people who choose to do nothing. No mental stimulation or personal growth. People who choose to be stuck how they are. For years or sometimes forever. What the problem with doing nothing is, is that those who do nothing change nothing. You do not help out your peers in any struggle when attributing to the causes. When you ignore problems or live in cycles of oppression, you encourage it to exist. When you do nothing to support your peers as humankind, you cause gender divide. Society is structured with dichotomies of relationships, caused by resistance to change. It becomes a problem when we raise our children to be racist, sexist and ignorant out of a lack of desire to change our ways. Its selfish. And lazy.

  One thing I do to support changing the way I was raised is to reinforce equality and positive images in the lessons I teach my child. I make sure I explain family structures and love in a variety of ways. I teach her that love is love, regardless of sexual orientation. I teach her that gender differences is nothing but the difference of genitalia, not in her looks or ability to succeed. I highlight all of her characteristics. Without telling her she is boyish or girlish. Its a constant effort on my part to watch my language, verbal and non verbal, as well as what I choose to give her. I select what films we view and I think about the kind of stories I tell her. I care about how she feels. What she thinks. And I support her to progress in whatever she loves. (Unless its something like destroying my homework). I take pride in my choices. Seriously. Because those choices are making my child who she is.

I have taken my daughter on my campus many times as well as to my classes. We have also been attending different organizations since she was a year old. I have been involved I. Student government, the school paper and have worked hard to help change my colleges to be more family (kid) friendly. I have been stared at. I have pushed limits. I have asked questions others dared to. And pressed for changes others never bothered to ask for. Out of their comfort or ignorance. I have taken a few years to realize I am so made for my field that I was meant to be where I am.

Its pretty great to feel like you belong. Like something in you just feels at home with your choices. When I am in my classrooms, although anxiety of homework rattles my brain, I am excited to learn. I do not take for granted any of the privledges I have in my life. Its important to be thankful. Above all, I am tired of people blaming others for their short comings or failures.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you aren’t happy with your life, change it. You can shape your life based on your choices.

When you feel something is not right or you work so hard to make something wrong feel right, it may be time to move on. And when you choose to give up on your dreams, you are to blame.

If you wont even try, you lack ambition, not options.

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The anti-babymama

   If it is one thing I really hate about teen pregnancy Stigma’s its the obsessively used terms “babymama” and “baby daddy”. I just cannot come to terms with associating myself as one. I hate the slang of it as well as the common usage. When someone says that, it makes them sound uneducated and ignorant. When someone says that to me, it makes me feel like I am uneducated and disrespected. I am a woman. A mother. An unwed female with a child. And you sir/madam are a genius because it did in fact take two people to make my child. I did have to reproduce in order to become pregnant. I also have biological attachment to my child, as well as the sperm which made my child. But in no way. No way. Do I want to be referred to or asked about any “Baby mama drama”.

This culture and time period I am growing up in has a lack of understanding or appreciation of parenthood. At all ages, women are degraded and judged for their unwed mothering. The slang terms and stigmas associated with the younger ages are the worst because both imply age with ignorance. I am not a dumb person. I am not a slut. Or a poor case. I do not act “crazy” or make up stories to egg on custody battles. What other things can you all think of? What does a baby mama do?

Am I not considered one because I am earning my degree and independent? If I were living in my parents basement and harboring unhealthy feelings for my ex, would I make the par for that term? Would I need to talk like I am uneducated and dress like I am a stripper? Or does a baby mama have to dress great, have tattoos and spend all the child support money on things she can’t afford in order to spite the ex? I have heard so many different aspects of the term from the media, TV dramas and the mouths of my own peers.

Is being a baby daddy as simple as being the sperm of a child’s conception? Does the “daddy” part only imply an involved father or is it a deadbeat? Does this man have to be a jerk and horrible parent or just a parent who is not engaged, committed to or married to the mother of the child? With all of the contradicting definitions, it is quite hard to keep up. To make the bar. Do I even want to be in those categories?

I am sick of being looked at or thought of as a jerry springer case. As irresponsible or reckless. As someone who is not considered a good mother or a balanced mother because of my age. Why is it that women who are married aren’t called baby mamas? Are they referred to as more than just the biological mother because they have the capability to be what society thinks is a prepared parent? I got news for everyone. No parent is a fully prepared parent. Not at first. Maybe not even after the second or third. No one has every detail planned AND executed perfectly. A wedding ring does not mean a woman is qualified to be a mother. What the problem really is, to be blunt, is that its no ones right to classify a woman and her parenting capability. Its no ones business. But hers.

Now that I have ranted about that, I need to tackle some interesting comparisons between males and females in unwed parenthood. As it seems, from my experiences, the woman will always get the grief and judgement full force. While the males seem to skid by and get a social “pass” for not being ready or making a mistake. I do not make this stuff up. I’ve seen it and lived it. I have studied it. And now, I’m speaking out about it.

So what makes a man a father? What makes a male qualified to parent his child? What makes him unqualified? And really think about this…  do the laws and regulations of custody/Childsupport really abide by societies standards or what is actually best for a child? No matter what state you live in, it is good to research and understand the laws which your society follows.

In New York state, once paternity is established, the father has the obligation to pay 17% for their first child of support. After one child, the percentage is divided up amongst what is left after the first portion. If the father makes children with different women, each child gets money according to the birth order. In the year 2013, it is a fact that 40% of children are born out of wedlock. Think of how busy the child support bureau must be!

When a young man has children with more than one woman, whether by affair or new relationships, he is required to provide care doe each child. Quite often, teen parents become pregnant again within the first two years of their child’s life. That being said, many couples do not make it through the trials and tribulations of early parenthood. They find new partners and start family planning with them. In the community I live, when a man has more than one woman and children from each, he still does not get as much slack as the women. Even if he cheats. Society says that he will just have to pay the support, pay his dues, and no further action is required. It is not acceptable but also ignored if a man fathers many kids. From a biological perspective, he is just spreading his seed. Taking a deeper look from a sociological perspective, he is just trying to find the right partner. Or a better partner. If you examine different species, you will see it can even be quite common for animals to populate with multiple partners to ensure surviving kin. Healthy kin. So I want to know, are we really more evolved than animals in our reproductive traditions? Are some men hard wired to behave out of instinct? Are some women? What makes sex so irresistible that humans find having sex with multiple people is sometimes more satisfying than finding one mate for the rest of their lives? Is this biological? Is it a way of survival? Or is it that sexual drives hold value for some more than establishing a family? One family.

I ask these questions not to be funny but to make everyone think. If we are more evolved than animals and have a deep, intellectual understanding of the world, then why do we sometimes act on pure animal instinct? I certainly do not think its completely natural for the human species to populate with multiple partners, or else that is how we would evolve. There is an importance to picking out the right partner. There is an actual science to it. On how we select our mates and how males/females select their life partners.

This has a lot to do with the terms baby mama and baby daddy. I want you to think about why it becomes a social phenomenon of having unwed and single parents. A lot of factors play into why relationships do not always work out. Economics, religion, education etc. What are the standards in american culture for choosing a mate and does it vary based on gender? Do females have different preferences in their mates, either choosing men for just sex or men to be fathers and partners? They sure do.

What makes me think about my own life is how harshly I have been judged in the past for having a child unwed and too young. For being considered foolish. When my ex left, when I was left with all of the responsibility, why was he not expected by society let alone his family, to be responsible? Why was I questioned and blamed for being abandoned and expected to pick up the slack? Why are most girls expected to when they are not married?  Is it punishment for us choosing the wrong person to father our children? Furthermore, if a woman knows a man had a child but did not stick around, then why would she choose him to father a child with? What makes females think that a man can be changed? Or want to father one child over another?

The answers to my own personal position are that I did not think long term how the man I chose to be sexually active with would be as a father. I did not fully weigh the fact that he did not think about being a father either. I was given the choice to abort or not. I was given the bills. The pregnancy. The responsibilities. As expected because I was perceived as the one who chose to make a mess. So I had to clean it up. And when it became clear that I would be a single mother, not one thing was done to ensure the man would not continue to have sex and make children elsewhere. I was harassed about being put on the pill. The shot. Anything to keep me from “doing it again”. No one asked if the father would be safe. What form of birth control he would use after. If he would make wiser choices. Or be a fulltime parent. In fact, when your a “baby daddy”, society mostly assumes you will be a check.

I have not chosen to label myself based on those terms. I have also decided to put thought and time into finding the right man. Through my maturity and experiences, I have began to understand what it means and takes to be a parent. I made my child and birthed her. But that is not what makes me a mother. What makes me a mother are my daily sacrifices and obstacles that I choose to overcome for my child. I did not anticipate having a child at 17 but I knew what sex led to. I do everything in my power to be there for everything. To raise her with morals, values and an understanding of the world around her. That’s what a mother does.

A father is not defined by the money they send through a check or the fake stories they tell people. If you receive a card once a year from the man who made you, guess what? He’s not a father. A sperm does not equal a parent. What makes a father is a man who is willing and able to put his time into his child. His sacrifices and his love are constant. His efforts are not begged for. His time is not precious but rather a gift for the child. He makes choices to benefit his child. Helps with the work and the obstacles that comes with parenthood. Whether a couple stays together or not, a father is someone who does not abandon the child. For anything.

What is hard to swallow is that people still judge me for being young and impulsive. It is wrong to judge anyone. It is also wrong to push high standards on women over men. To not put any standards on men who make children without putting in the work. That’s proof of patriarchy at its finest. For it to be acceptable for males to not sacrifice the same as the female they made a child with should be a crime. But in most states it isn’t. And in fact, family court values parenting as nothing more than a sperm and egg. Even if you are unmarried,  a single mother is not protected fully by law. Nor is she supported when the father is abusive or a “deadbeat” aka not involved. It is all black and white. No shades of gray to protect the child. That’s the sad truth.

What I do wish to impart on my peers is the importance of self worth. Of choosing a partner that is both trustworthy and intelligent. Compassionate and raised with morals. When you choose a partner to father children with, do it wisely. No matter what type of union you are in, either straight, gay, married or unmarried know the importance of mate selection. Know how to protect yourself when being sexually active. Most importantly, research and know all of your rights. Understand your responsibilities before bringing children into the world. Something so intimate and special should be one of the most important choices you will ever make. Parenthood should never be taken lightheartedly.

feministingmama

“All by myself”

 
  We finally have made it to September. My daughter seems so excited for kindergarten. I have been shopping for what I can to prepare for kindergarten. I was so excited to receive my silicone baking cups in the mail finally!!! I cannot wait to use them for organizing her school lunches.

   Today we picked up some more finger foods and snacks for her lunches. I also found some pretty cute Tupperware. This is what my life comes to. I am excited about lunch containers. Its a new chapter in her life so I want
everything to be perfect.
   

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I am trying out new recipes for my daughter to add in new food groups she isn’t used to. I also need to amp up my diet which now consists of anything I can get at campus or junk. No breakfast. And cookies. I am horrible during the semester. I snack way too much and end up not feeling 100%. I need to focus on eating the right types of food. Also, I need to live off water. I am a maniac when searching for beverages because nothing seems to be natural anymore. I hear so much about GMOs and added dietary chemicals. I search for 100% juice or it goes back on the shelf.
  
   So far this past week I have labeled books, prepared her backpack, and tried to encourage her as much as possible. I am dealing with my own stresses but trying not to let it show. I have trouble hiding my feelings from my daughter. She is the only one who can see right through me. She knows all my weaknesses and fears. She knows my happy face. My angry face. She will even walk into time out because she knows my “I have had it up to here” face. You all must know what I mean!

  What is bothering me is that her going to kindergarten is a big marker of independence for us both. I am starting to decide what career I want. The clock is ticking. I have to come up with answers. I need to get a plan that is fail proof. I have no where to live after I graduate. I have to find an apartment, find a steady job and get a car. I have to make sure its in the area so my daughter can stay in her district. I need to do it all by myself. The lesson of the week has been that phrase exactly. What I am most afraid and eager of is having to and needing to do this all alone.

  I have been in a serious and committed relationship for three years with a man who is not the father of my child but the only person she knows most besides me. He met her when she was only two. She is nearly six now. We are both college aged and busy with our own paths. We have made it through so many things that I feel like we are almost invincible. We thought long and hard about some major decisions and decided to follow our own hearts but in different directions. No, not a breakup. Physically. As in latitude, longitude. He is going to go to Africa to serve and help people. I am going to finish my college degree and find the career of my dreams. With all of our friends all rushing to be married or pregnant, we have been very different. We have stayed committed and happy without rushing to be more than just our ages. It has made us happy and closer than ever to follow through on our own life plans. Something I learned a long time ago was that giving up your dreams for any guy is not love. Its settling. And abandoning your own passions. I’ve done it before. And I got a daughter out of it. I am so thankful for that. But now is my time to get it right.

   I had to say good luck and see you later to my best friend, my only real love last night. He will leave tomorrow evening on a days journey to Africa. I am so blessed to have him in my life and to have his family. We are so in love and in sync with each other. I never really felt loved by anyone like I do with him. Though we both cried and had a hard time parting, we feel joy at the great experience we are giving each other. To be able to grow and follow our own paths. When both of us are done in a few semesters, we can then be reunited and see where our five year relationship. We have plans for the future together but first we need more than ever to complete our own goals. He is my hero and I admire him so much. For all that he does for others. He constantly puts others well being before his own. He is active in church and also a well adjusted guy. He has been the best thing to ever happen to my daughter. She is so excite for him to go to Africa and see zebras. She tells everyone about him nonstop. I never thought I would find someone to whole heartedly accept myself and my daughter, for all that we are.

   I can honestly say I have loved him fro. The start. (Really, I said I love you the first week). I dated a lot after my ex, even though Bella was a baby. She never met any of the guys really. Unless I was friends with guys I did not want her to be raised meeting all different guys. Still, I was only seventeen with a baby. I did want to date. I went through a whole lot of frogs and didn’t feel right with any. I felt like I could just skip being emotional to avoid being hurt or abandoned again. Love was not for me. Until I met him. Now some friends ask me If I’m open to dating while he is away. Its not on the table. When you know, you just know.

 

I have had a lot of obstacles but I finally know what I want in my life. I know who I want to be. Who I am. And who I want to spend my life with. I am thankful and happy for the friends i have. For the memories I am making with my daughter. I can actually say I am at peace with my life. All because I am not afraid to do things by myself. To accomplish my goals and make my own dreams come true. Like I deserve.

Love is having your heart walk whole outside of your body. For me, half beats strong in Africa and the other half is cuddled up on my lap. I finally found my home.

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