The season has finally changed here, as evidenced by this crazy cold temp we welcomed in the other morning…The seasonal pattern down here is very different from how it was in SoCal. In California, I’d spend most of the year longing for the sunny, warm weather of spring and summer because summers there are bearable. Fall and winter are bearable too, but beach-going in those off season months means ridiculously cold water, so you just kind of chill on the sand, and it’s usually windy, so not always the most ideal beach conditions. With the beach only about a 10-minute drive away, a dip in spring or summer is easy and comfortable; water temps are much warmer from March through August/September. But overall, the weather is easier to contend with because there’s not much severity (or at least there had not been in the first 20 years of my living there) with regard to heat or cold. Climate change (whether anyone wants to admit it or not) has brought severe heat and dryness to the area, and winters have gotten colder (it even snowed in certain parts of the Inland Valley in December 2014).
This post isn’t about weather patterns or global warming. Sorry if that’s what you came for.
Here in Florida, the opposite is true – I pine after cool weather months as they are a relief from the severe heat and humidity we face from May through September/October. I live much farther away from the beach now, so a dip in the Atlantic requires a day trip. I don’t mind that so much, but it limits us to only going on the weekends. We have plans and the room to add a pool to our backyard, so that will help us cope in the future. For the time being, we celebrate when the leaves change and the air becomes cooler and our AC unit stops kicking on regularly throughout the day.
Combine this change in temps with my current urge to nest, along with some killer specials at Michael’s, and Christmas has exploded early at our house.
I know, I know…”But Antoinette, you love fall!” Yes, that’s true, but I love Christmas even more. And, Kennedy is just that age where Christmas is becoming that perfect level of magical. She’s old enough to understand what the holiday is about, and young enough to still believe in Santa Claus (a nifty tactic for controlling tantrums and other bad behavior, by the way). She’s old enough to help out with Christmas baking and decorating, and young enough that she isn’t too cool for family traditions. I’ve been waiting for her to reach this point since she was born, so I’m in mother-daughter heaven with her a bit. I’m also in mother-son heaven with a growing bump to show off in fall/winter rather than spring/summer. When I was pregnant before, I thought it’d be better to be pregnant during spring/summer for ease of wardrobe. Perhaps that is true in San Diego where the temps are easier to deal with, but here, the North Central Florida heat killed my spirit and motivation during my first trimester. I wouldn’t wish such a fate on anyone, even those I can’t stand. Nausea + sticky hotness is just a fucking chore, so needless to say, I’ve been LONGING for it to get cooler out here. I’m not nauseous anymore, but I have other things to contend with by way of sciatic nerve pain, low back pain, hip joint pain, and Braxton Hicks contractions (which are more uncomfortable than they are painful). None of them are fun, but I’ll take those over the nausea. My back might hurt, but at least I can eat Chipotle again. 🙂
A growing bump also means a growing baby with bigger kicks and rolls, and though they sometimes send me rushing to the bathroom to pee, or keep me up at night, I’m so enamored with feeling my son’s movements. We’re also in the fun phase of planning for him where we’ll start (I say “we,” but really it’s just Fabian) painting and purchase matching sheets. I got curtains on sale at Kohl’s a few weeks back and plan to have the glider rocking chair reupholstered. Decorating has kind of been my jam lately, so it’ll be fun to create a new space for a baby boy – something I haven’t done before.
The incoming holidays also mean more time that we get to spend with family, something that has always been a priority for me regardless of the time of year. As I’ve grown and changed this year, I’ve found myself clinging tighter to my family as my inner circle, basing more of my activities around my opportunities to involve them. Especially as my parents get older, it’s important to me to keep setting aside the time for them, even through the differences I experience with them (particularly, my dad). We aren’t meant to move through this life alone; my belief in God and Jesus means that they serve as my Creator and Savior, but belief in them doesn’t cancel out the need for companionship and a sense of purpose. My purpose used to be vague to me, and in many ways it is still undefined to me, but through the growth and development of my own family I’ve come to appreciate the place I have in relation to them, and the value they all hold for me. That’s probably one of the things I am most grateful for this holiday season: realizing my importance through my family.
I love the fall season. It’s the coziest season of all where temps are low, but not uncomfortable, trees are changing colors, fun smells come back out of hiding, and there’s a slew of fun things to do with family. Similarly, I love the nesting/maternal feel that kicks in during pregnancy. Truth be told, it’s always there, but pregnancy hormones put me on a whole other level of mommy. This second pregnancy has elevated me to a new level of mommy that I love.
For starters, I’m taking better care of our home. I’ve never been a poor housekeeper, but I’ve also never really had much of a knack for decorating, sprucing up, or building environments. In my first home, I was just so focused on having a place to drink and play video games that I owned that I didn’t put much thought into choosing accent furniture or wall art. The rugs and few wall pieces we had were out of necessity. They were cute, but nothing was deliberately put together to create a full ambiance. I was too much of a rookie to do that.
I also only had a child for the last year that I lived in that house, and regardless of what any home stylist might say, having a family that includes small children adds to your sense of urgency for making your home comfortable. Growing up, my mom always dressed the walls in family portraits. Yes, some were cringe-worthy photos of the Olan Mills variety, but regardless of whether they were from Sears, a cheap Polaroid, or done at a professional studio, they were our faces and faces of people close to us, related to us, whom we loved. I grew up with a strong sense of family identity because of that. As I got older, my mom took to adding family achievements to her walls, such as copies of my diplomas, her diplomas, my dad’s diplomas, and my grandfather’s flag, folded into a triangle as it was presented at his funeral. It’s important to me that Kennedy and her baby brother grow up with the same sense of feeling like they’re loved and part of a family that cares.
I used to always think that well decorated environments required lots of money – not true! In fact, you can improve the look of a room with a few simple changes, I’ve learned (thanks, Pinterest, and overall general Internet). I am not Mrs. Moneybucks. I’m in frugal, stash money in the savings account mode right now, so I’m definitely not picking furniture off the showroom floor for delivery. But for just a little over $100, I gave my couches a facelift, decorated my walls, and added pops of color to my living room with accent pillows. A living room that my family used to hate to sit in has been transformed into our favorite place to hang out on Sundays.
Similarly, Kennedy’s room has been an anomaly since we moved in. She’ll go to sleep there, but won’t always stay in there. She hardly went in there to play on her own. I wanted her room to become her sanctuary, but I knew I’d have to create a cozy environment for such. She’s a girly girl, so dialing up the pinks and frillies was a must, but with a toddler, that’s easy to do with inexpensive florals, fun wall decals, and more affirming wall art. My plan is to add a few family photos to her walls too, after I find frames. With the new facelift, Kennedy loves her room again. I’m over the moon to do the same for our son before he arrives.
Aside from decorating, I’ve also been taking to the kitchen more, cooking up family favorites and trying new recipes. Having a bun in the oven makes me happy to stand by the stove, I guess. I’ve also been playing with essential oils to create allergy-fighting blends for Kennedy and Fabian to stop all the sneezies and sniffles around my house. I’m not a medicine woman. I’m not even an essential oil expert (I just read). But keeping our home as close to chem free is a priority for me and has been since I entered motherhood. Together we’ve chosen cleaning solutions, shampoos, shower gels, detergents, and everyday health remedies that are paraben, hormone, and animal cruelty free. Note: This isn’t a smug nose upturn to folks who choose to clean or bathe with commercial products. Like everything else in life, it’s a choice. But in my own house, I like to stay as natural as possible because it makes me feel better, and my family agrees.
Decorating, cooking, keeping the family well, and of course, baking this baby bean are all making me feel like mommy to the max. I used to fear that being this into motherhood meant sacrificing who I am as a professional and as an individual. I’ve had over three years to learn that this isn’t true. I’ll clock in tomorrow and contribute to building new curriculum for the university I’m employed with, and then clock out and be Antoinette out of the office again. I must say, the more 2016 wears on, the more I love who I am.
It’s been a while since I’ve contributed anything here. My emotions have run the gamut these last few months as politicians have dominated the airwaves, cases of police-related violence have shown up in media, two hurricanes have blown through this region, people have been…well, people, I’ve learned the sex of my new baby, and had a momentum shift at work. I’m in a very good place, but that doesn’t automatically spell ability for me to articulate exactly what I want to say next on this blog.
My identity has changed quite a bit over the last few months as well, and that’s called into question my presence on most social media platforms. Most people who follow me on Instagram see me as a coach and fitness guru. I wouldn’t consider myself those things anymore. I change outfits so often, for some it’s hard to keep up. But underneath whatever my new focus may be, I am still ultimately me. Most folks don’t have the patience or power to see that, and that’s okay.
Lately, I’ve been exchanging valuable lessons with my counselor – she was appointed to me through the program my OB’s office offers for expecting mothers to help with parent education, mental health and stress management, and other psychological services. What I love about getting to meet with her each week is that she affirms a lot of the realizations I’ve had about myself and my relationships with others recently, and not just because she’s my friend and loves me and wants me to feel supported, but rather because her professional opinion reflects a stance in support of the changes I’m making. These two items (my choices and changes and her professional approval) exist separate of each other. I don’t kneel before her each week asking what the next step to take is…rather I’m just taking steps, following the path that feels right, and when I open up to her about it, she meets me with praise.
The person I used to be was someone who was in survival mode. Especially when I look at that girl who lived in California from 2008-2014, I definitely see someone who just wanted to find a good place to be so that she didn’t have to be alone or on the outs. My family had left, and though I had my boyfriend/husband, he also had a life, a career, and an identity of his own. I needed (or felt like I needed) certain people around to not feel so alone or abandoned.
Now that I live here, closer to family and raising my own small family, that need for others has waned significantly. I still value friendships and people for what they bring to my existence and what they allow me to offer to them, but I don’t seek to make new friends or know new people now. I know everyone I want to. I’m close to who I want to be close to. That circle is drastically smaller than it’s ever been, but it’s also the most appropriate it’s ever been. There are people who aren’t included there who don’t like it. Fine. There are folks I kicked out because I didn’t deem them worthy anymore. Fine. (and no, that ain’t some Mean Girls shit; I don’t have time for one-way relationships anymore) There are folks who don’t like me but choose passive-aggression over stating their feelings plainly. Enjoy. This life reset has been about refocusing on what’s important, letting go of what’s not, and emotionally detaching from things (and people) that just aren’t worth the investment. And from where I’m sitting, it’s working.
I always feared isolation because I thought it’d make me sad. The truth is, the smaller I keep my world in terms of association and affiliation, the happier I am. I would rather be alone and content than surrounded by a sea of people who claim to be on my team but constantly hurt me through being obliviously self-absorbed, or strapping me with unfair expectations. I’ve found the courage and power to say no, to keep the door locked after others walk out of it, and to set fire to the bridge myself if I know I won’t need to cross it again. None of this emerges from an angry or bitter place, but rather one of protecting my true happiness. And yes, it leaves me feeling liberated.
I don’t do well at creating analogies most of the time, but I’m going to take a stab at one right now.
Imagine, if you will, the assortment of soft drinks that sit neatly stacked inside a vending machine. If one is lucky enough to have the two dollars and some change these cold beverages cost (seriously – the cost of soda is one of the many reasons I don’t drink it!), as well as the patience it takes to slide their dollar bills into the narrow mouth of the machine, they get the option to select their drink of choice by pressing the corresponding button which usually has a picture of their desired soda on it. Soft drinks have come a long way and run the gamut from sugary juices and teas, to energy drinks, to bubbly favorites like Sprite, Pepsi, Fanta, and Mountain Dew. Now, more than ever, there is a wide variety of soft drinks to choose from.
Anywho, in this scenario we have a young, thirsty soda buyer on a quest for cola. It can be Pepsi, it can be Coke, hell, it can even be that dreaded RC knock-off crap, but cola is the end game. The vending patron purchases her soda from an overpriced machine and hurries off to her next destination, be it a class, a shift at work, or home. The brilliant red hue of the can and the curvy letters on the label appear all too familiar, and condensation even begins to form as the icy can makes contact with the much warmer air outside of the vending machine apartment where this soda had once lived.
When she pops the top and takes a swig, the taste is both familiar as well as surprising. It’s definitely cola, and the bubbles spring against her tongue in a familiar way, but something else is there. She drinks a little more, and can’t quite place the difference, but this isn’t cola as she’s used to it. There’s an unexpected finish to it. It isn’t a bad one; in fact, it actually tastes pretty nice. It’s a different flavor, though, and while she finishes the can, she’s left wondering why those 12 ounces of cola hit her so differently from other servings of cola she’s had in the past. This soda drinker hasn’t caught on that the contents of her plain cola can actually contained cherry cola. The sweet finish was pleasant, but not sought after, and the uniqueness of the cherry cola loses its value by being represented by the wrong can.
A similar tale could be told about my temperament.
As a child, I was always friendly, outgoing, and spritely (since I brought up soda). I had my own bouts with nervousness at giving presentations or being put on the spot to speak in school or extracurriculars, but these didn’t keep me from taking to the stage for dance recitals, performing in choir, pursuing a short-lived career in radio, appearing in two music videos for BET Network, performing at my high school’s first ever poetry slam, pledging a sorority, and even wanting to become an educator in the classroom as an adult. I’ve always been typed as “loud,” and indeed, my voice carries. Meet my mom; I get it from her.
But these traits have always garnered me the label of “extrovert,” and before age 16, I just went along because I didn’t know any wiser. It wasn’t until I was in the throes of puberty that I started to question whether or not I was really as open and outgoing as everyone had come to think I was, or if I was just someone who coped with the pressure of being put on the spot better than others around me. I can remember sitting in my 10th grade English class, hating life, watching the clock incessantly, when we (the class) stumbled upon some names within our assigned novel that our teacher had trouble pronouncing. Because my mom had many Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean coworkers and friends, I learned tricks of pronunciation and was able to spit the names out easily. Suddenly, all eyes turned to me as she asked me to continue reading this section of text. I read it as best I could, and the students around me pressed me with questions about how it was that I spoke so clearly even with words derived from other languages. I shrugged and waited out the final moments of 6th period and booked it.
The next day, this boy I’d had a crush on, who was also my classmate in this class, sat next to me and asked if I wanted to hang out with him and his speech and debate buddies one day after school. They were part of the elitist cool at my high school – not jocks or popular – I wasn’t into those guys. I refer to them as the elitist cool because they were so smart and stuck up they built their own upper echelon. I’d later learn that those types of fake societies matter about as much as two-dollar bills, but when you’re 16 and have just learned that when you throw on a skirt you have hips, that kind of invitation can make you feel good. But I couldn’t go. Not because mom or dad would object – I could think of a good enough lie to wiggle around them – I just didn’t want to be put on the spot. I didn’t want these people knowing who I was. I couldn’t let him see who I really was. No abuse at home, no bed wetting problems, no Rosemary Kennedy sibling hidden away in my family’s attic. I was just a nerdy girl who liked to play Zelda and listen to music for hours in her own room without fear of someone barging in because there were no siblings to share space with. I liked to research things in my spare time and write poems. I’d spend hours in my room just zoning out after school because my mind was on overload sometimes. So many people and cliques and rumors and trends to keep up on and MTV and people to call and…I didn’t want them knowing any of that about me because it was private.
That was the day my introversion and I shook hands, and we’ve been locked ever since.
Fast forward to now, where I sit in a place where I have nothing left to do but find myself as I live in a still fairly new location, reunited with family I’d been far away from, and still adjusting to my ever-changing role as a wife, mom, career woman, and entrepreneur, and I’m learning to embrace my introversion more tightly. I was always typed as an extrovert because I engage in “outgoing” activities such as socializing with strangers at gatherings and public speaking, but what nobody ever really knew (even I haven’t understood this until recently) was that those activities drained me. I needed my alone time to recover from them, and my home environment was of such where I didn’t have to put forth much effort to get this. Mom and dad were involved, but they gave me my space. I always had my own room and pretty much ruled the upstairs of our house as the guest bedroom had my computer in it. I just thought I was being an only child, and to some degree that may have been true, but as I’m learning, I was also recharging in solitude as introverts often do.
[It’s not the introvert bible – I’ve found a few questionable spots in this book and I’m almost through it – but it gives a nice perspective on what it’s like to date, parent, and be married to introverts if you are or are not one. I’m learning that I can actually relate to the world…if I want to.]
Failure to do this can have grave consequences like panic attacks, sudden mood shifts, and unkind words. I hosted a bridal shower at my home in California and had two anxiety attacks trying to keep myself together as droves of strangers marched through my home, passed my 9-month old daughter around, and peered curiously at pictures of my family on the walls. I shoved my postpartum body into a sundress and tried to play hostess, but all I wanted to do was curl into a ball on the floor and try to process the upcoming move. I like for people to come over, but I don’t like for them to stay long. I can be open, but I prefer to keep myself hidden. Even the glimpses you see of me on this blog, which are more than any I share on other social media, are limited glimpses. The complex and beautiful web that I’m weaving isn’t for others to behold beyond my spouse and someday my daughter, and they even need a road map to navigate it all.
All of this, in summation, is to say that I identify very clearly with that unique cherry cola that was mistaken for classic and undervalued behind an improper label. I sit on the more extroverted side of introversion, but make no mistake that introversion is where I sit. I’ve been on the wrong shelf for quite some time, and have finally been moved, and I like it here better (there’s more room).
I’ll have more to say on this later.
Every walk of life includes peaks and valleys, and for much of the journey we can imagine ourselves participating in an ongoing climb. We strive to do more, be better, achieve things we’ve never had, etc. Look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs if you need further clarification on this part of the life cycle.
I’ve been climbing my own mountain for quite some time now, longer than I had initially imagined. I can remember standing in the den of our house in Vista, holding a then only 4 1/2 month old Kennedy, discussing with Fabian the plan of action for how we would relocate ourselves, our baby, our careers, our cares, and our belongings to the other side of the country for the greater good of our entire family. The clock started then, and so did the climb. After that decision was finalized and we started the process, everything just got faster and faster…
Ever since, I’ve had momentary pauses, but I’ve been in motion the entire time. If not to put together the puzzles of a cross country move, then to learn the new lay of the land here in Florida, to find a job, to get back into school, to find something fun to do as a release, to adjust to online teaching as a career, to run in five directions consecutively in order to keep relationships intact, and to somehow keep my head above water through it all. In the midst of this, I also decided to start a business of my own. Where I found the time to do that I will never ever know, but that’s what I did and I’m just about a year in with it. Oh, and add an escrow to the tail end of that. Those are never ever fun or easy. If you can recall the Myth of Sisyphus, the former king had been condemned by the Greek gods to roll a boulder up a mountain with the aim to maybe leave it at the top or let it roll down the other side only to find that each time he would near the peak, the weight of the boulder would result in its rolling back down the path it had traveled. Sisyphus’ plight demonstrates the concept of insanity to us, because for as long as Sisyphus rolled that boulder, the outcome always remained the same. To do the same thing over and over and expect different results is exactly what insanity is, and week after week, month after month, and (I can actually say) year after year I felt the weight of the insanity that has been my life for two years.
But unlike Sisyphus, I actually get to realize a different, much more triumphant outcome.
I hold two masters degrees now. I run two businesses from home and make my own work schedule. I live in a house that has everything I need in it and is located near people I care about living close to. All of these achievements were goals and milestones I set for myself, so I’m elated to have been blessed to realize each one of them.
But what it took…
Time and energy are just the surface sacrifices. Those moments of watching cartoons with my little one, going on dates with my husband, helping my mom and dad around the house, and sitting still long enough to talk on the phone or have lunch with a friend have also been sacrificed. My personal care has been sacrificed. Don’t worry, I kept showering through all of this 😉 but I could’ve used more sleep. I could’ve used more time to myself to think. My soul could’ve benefitted from more time spent playing my guitar. My body could’ve done better with more exposure to the sun.
I symbolically crossed the finish line on Friday when I defended my way to a perfect score for my MBA capstone, with boxes and blue painter’s tape still strewn about my newly moved into house. On Friday, the journey ended, and so did a chapter of my life that I didn’t even know I was capable of living through. It will go down as the most painful, difficult to budge, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ shouted through tears chapter in the Antoinette book, but it was so, 100 percent, absolutely necessary for me to write. I’m a better woman for it.
It’s time for me to retire the machine. A piece of her will always be present because of who I am by nature, but in much smaller doses. It’s time for me to recoup some of what I lost personally while I also process all of the ways in which I’ve been made different.
I would write more, but I hear my daughter calling me…
I can’t believe it’s June already!
It’s been just a little over nine months since we made the move and while the adjustment has been rough in some spots, we’ve still managed to move forward, even if only by making baby steps sometimes. Though I’m sinking into my new home, I still have a fondness and nostalgia for the old one. I don’t think it’s possible to live somewhere for 25 years and not miss it when you leave. I was scrambling to come up with a plan for visiting San Diego this summer, but it just didn’t come up as feasible. Normally, when I talk about trips being impossible it’s because of the monetary cost. However, in trying to formulate a California vacation, I found that making such a trip would be of an emotional cost to me – a price that I didn’t want to pay. Here’s why:
- I’m trying to be strong and accept the aftermath of the changes I’ve set in motion.
That sounds negative on the surface, but it really just summarizes my acknowledgment of the fact that this move was largely my choice – my husband had a say in the matter, but all the while he decided to go along with this because he knew how much it meant to me – and my choice has directly affected five people. I don’t take that lightly. I’ve mentioned on here before that I tossed all of the playing cards in the deck up in the air a million times, and every time they’ve fallen, they’ve always pointed to the fact that moving here was the right decision for our family’s future. I have to be accountable for the choices I make, and in doing so, I can’t just allow myself to go running back to San Diego just because I miss some of the people there.
- I’ve had to sort out just exactly what I was missing.
It’s easy to make the blanket statement that, “I miss home,” or “I miss San Diego,” but truthfully, those are misguided statements of what my heart is really longing for. My heart longs for familiarity, routine, my old comfort zone, and to see certain faces on a regular basis again. Making a trip back doesn’t necessarily bring these things back, though. As much as I miss my old coworkers and would love to visit the campus to say hi, the fact remains that I do not work there anymore. I’d love to go hang out at my favorite spots and bask in the beauty of that place with nothing more to do, but not if I have to pay for a rental car, a hotel, and airfare to do it. The people who mean the most to me exist separately from that place, and friends like Allison have shown me that even if San Diego were to fall, our friendship would still be intact. I’m remembering things the way they were when I lived there, but I don’t live there anymore. Things are different now.
- I have to get over some things before I can truly set foot on SD soil again.
Even though many of my relationships have maintained their continuity, there are quite a few that ended poorly before I left. The outcomes weren’t always my choice, but they’re the reality I have to accept. I need to get over those relationships first before I try to be a visitor in the town where I used to spend time where certain people who aren’t a part of my life anymore.
- It doesn’t make sense for me to look back, because I’m not going that way.
Andy Bernard on The Office said the most profound line ever of that show, which was, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve left them.” My husband tells me all the time to cherish this time we have with our daughter, cherish the time we have right now because life will change, realize that things aren’t that bad. He’s right. What’s even more profound about this whole concept is that many of us are begging for God’s mercy and blessings, but we’re too consumed with what we don’t have to be grateful for what we do. Would you shower your child with Christmas presents if all they did was complain all December about how they don’t have anything cool to play with? Would you serve a second helping to someone who complained about the meal? Why do we expect God to continue to bless us when we can’t even be grateful for the work he’s already done to keep us safe, fed, and happy? This is changing my attitude immensely.
The bottom line is this: My life is here now, not there. I have to make the most of it. Though it’s easy to get lost in reflection and think back on days we miss, the direction of time is still moving forward. My daughter is still growing up quickly – I won’t have a cuddly toddler anymore pretty soon. One day, our family will grow, and I will think back on how easy things were when I had just one. I should probably appreciate having just one right now while I do. Some people have none…
Our lives in Gainesville can’t officially start until we’ve let go of our lives in San Diego. They’re over. My life there is over, and I’ve finally mustered the courage to really shut the door on that chapter. It’s taken me 9 months, but better late than never.
Going back now would only undo all this work I’ve done.