‘Tis the Season

The season has finally changed here, as evidenced by this crazy cold temp we welcomed in the other morning…

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Brrrrr!

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.

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My nutcrackers are back 🙂


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I ALMOST bought a new wreath this year, but I opted to dress up the old one for a fraction of the cost. This wreath originally was all green and silver.

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.

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Christmas card teaser! This isn’t what went to print this year, but it is one photo we took. Super easy to do with some holiday props and a selfie stick. 

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.

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23 Weeks. Fall/Winter bump > Spring/Summer bump.

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.

Friendship

I just got done catching up with an old friend on the phone, which is fueling my inspiration to write this blog post tonight. A few updates: my Facebookless life is going well so far – I am accomplishing more at home and at work (which are the same place HA!) I am happier in my marriage and other relationships, and my ability to focus has improved. I still have anxiety, but I had that well before Facebook so we won’t blame that social media monster for it. I’ve also got a better handle on how I want to run my coaching business moving forward.

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Truth be told, you could put these two on ANY meme, and I would laugh. #StepBrothers

On to the topic at hand: Friendship, and all the business surrounding it. I appropriately named this blog after the period of time I am progressing through on my personal timeline, and I’m really glad I had the foresight to do so. My thirties have been a contrast to my twenties; I’m sure most adults in their thirties and beyond would say the same. When you’re just starting out, you make mistakes because you don’t know any better. After you’re experienced, you have a better idea on how to side-step a lot. One area among many that I’ve seen a metamorphosis in is my concept of friendship.

I think that my current idea of friendship has been heavily influenced by two things: the fact that I am a female in western society, and the fact that I am a black, not-hood-whatsoever female in Western society. Whether I wanted to or not, I fell into a certain place socially because of these traits. Men may look women up and down, but ultimately, women go hard on judgment of other women. It’s just a fact. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is just oblivious. Though men can have social pressures and expectations placed on them, the more rigid sex is definitely female when it comes to appearance, attitude, endorsement, and affiliation. Women are socialized, bred, and trained to have expectations of each other, which are most often ridiculous:

*If you are my friend, then you cannot be friends with people who I view as “enemies” (usually established by catty circumstances such as a slam book or someone starting a rumor or someone dating someone else’s boyfriend freshman year of high school).

*If you don’t act the way society says you should, you cannot be my friend.

*If you refuse to devote time to me when I ask for it, i.e. phone conversations, attendance at a birthday party, staying in with me because I have nowhere to go even though you might, then you are a bad friend.

*If your life doesn’t accommodate mine across circumstantial lines, then you’re an unsupportive friend. For example: Why can’t you come on this booze cruise even though you’re married??? Or, not understanding why you’d feel awkward at my baby shower as the only single girl among married ones.

Because most girls grow up wanting to be desirable, lovable, and admired, we do things that we think will earn us these traits by trying hard to fit in, sticking with cliques, adopting certain fashions or trends just because they’re fashions or trends, and, at times, even being something we really are not because we think it will boost us somehow. My experiences in dance as a child, in high school as a teen, in a sorority in college, and as a young adult in my early twenties all brought me to this conclusion. Some women will step completely outside themselves socially for the sake of trying to appease a crowd. There were many “kickbacks” and other social events I went to throughout high school and college that I felt I needed to in order to remain “cool” with everyone else. A portion of this can probably be attributed to my belief in people-pleasing that I had as I matured from a teen to young adult to now thirtysomething, but the social pressure was there, and I believe that being a female was a large culprit. Boys don’t have as much to think about in that regard. Their social game has fewer rules.

When it comes to my own way of thinking in the present, at just over 32 years of age, I see my favorite and most cherished friendships as the ones that ask absolutely nothing of me. They’re the ones where the other person gives me permission to be exactly who I am without judgment or need of explanation. I am not lazy in friendship, so when I mention that I appreciate relationships that ask nothing of me, that isn’t so that I can sit back and reap special benefits from anything. The friendships I’ve had, I have given a deep part of myself to. I think that’s why it hurts so much to reflect on the ones that have crashed and burned – I’ve had to come to a place of acceptance sans harsh criticism and guilt over what was, and learned to be grateful for what they’ve taught me. But as I move forward through my life, and develop new friendships with the people I bump into during each experience I have, I’ve learned to side-step the arrangements where expectations that I’m not comfortable with are placed on me. This is tough in some situations; people I used to bend over backwards to try to impress or stay in contact with might be wondering if I’m even alive anymore now. In every circumstance where there is a gain on one side, you can always count on there being a deficit on some opposite end. In my case, I’m gaining better control on my emotional, time, and personal investments, and those are more valuable to me than making everybody happy…which is an impossible feat anyway. My favorite friendships were and still are the ones where I can just be accepted for who I am –  a woman with flaws who is still trying to figure herself out while also balancing her changing roles as a woman. Sometimes, I might forget to call. I may not always want to talk about what’s bothering me. My “next move” may not make sense in your eyes, but it’s what I’ve decided on and so I’m going for it.

I should point out that my shift in how I regard friendship has definitely also exposed to me the relationships where I made unfair expectations of other people which consequently didn’t serve me or the other person involved in any way. I think that our world could benefit from more people loving each other as they are rather than drawing up lines and opposition over everything we aren’t to one another. My place in anyone’s life isn’t to criticize or give endorsement where it’s not needed. My place is to accept the people who are in my life for all their imperfections as well as strengths and be here to listen silently when they need me. That hasn’t been an easy lesson to grasp, but one that I am surely thankful for.

One mantra that I’ve come to adapt through this life reset journey I’m on is that if something no longer serves me, I have to let it go. People-pleasing (though I haven’t been a chronic people-pleaser in about five years now) definitely wasn’t serving me, and it’s one thing I’ve been able to shake off since stepping into 2016. But when it comes to friendship and any relationship really, if you feel like you’re asked to act in ways you normally wouldn’t, to endorse things you don’t believe in, or to participate in something you don’t really want any part of, I challenge you to speak the word, “No,” in defense of who you are. I believe all of our future selves will thank us for it. Also, if something isn’t serving you but still occupying space in your life, find a way to let it go. Our time here is limited and therefore precious and shouldn’t be wasted.

Retiring the Machine

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.

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One of the momentary pauses I got to have during this two-year period. Kennedy is only 8 months old here, and though the move was happening when this photo was taken, I wasn’t completely buried under my obligations yet. I was still able to freely be a wife mom here, and I’m so, so anxious to get back to this place again. (Photo credit: Primrose Plum Photography)

 

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…

 

 

 

Why I Can’t Go Back (at least not right now…)

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Yeah, I’m a pole dancer.

I suppose this confession has been a long time coming. Everybody kind of already knows, but I haven’t ever truly confirmed publicly that this is indeed what I do – one of the many, many things that I do. So here you go: Yes. I am a pole dancer.

I’m also still a wife, a mom, a professor, a God-prasier, and graduate student. (Yes, naysayers. It’s possible to do all of those at once.)

Let me start from the beginning.

It was October 2014, and I was sitting in my parents’ living room on a warm fall evening. At the time, we were all living with them after moving here from California. My primary job hadn’t officially started yet as I was still in the training phase. Fabian had only been working a couple of weeks. I could feel myself beginning to buckle under the weight of my father’s rules and habits at his home, just as I’d predicted I would after living with him again for a few months. I hadn’t started the MBA program yet, but was slated to begin in a matter of days.

I needed to find a way to get out of the house for a while, alone. I was going stir crazy. Wake up, feed the baby, attempt to spend time with my spouse while watching my parents’ television, in their living room, of their house. Listen to music, but not too loud, because it’s still mom and dad’s house. Go take a walk, but let someone know where you’re going, because you know, you still live at mom and dad’s house. Break. The damn. Cycle.

I started cruising the Internet for deals or events in my area that I could throw myself into. Starting over means everything – new group of friends, new residence, new driver’s license, and new hobbies. Groupon and LivingSocial were my best friends in those days (truthfully, they’re a couple of my mains forever and always, but ever so clearly then) and I was desperately searching for new restaurants, new play groups to take Kennedy to, new ways to connect with this new town I lived in.

I saw a Groupon for “pole fitness” classes offered at a premier studio in Gainesville. The photo had some bright and happy looking chick, doing Lord knows what on the pole, but she looked graceful, classy, and happy. It was $54 for three classes. I figured if I wasn’t feeling it or her I’d just bail after the three classes. I purchased the Groupon and let it sit for a few days before calling to schedule my classes. Even after they were on my calendar, I gave myself permission to back out.

The first night I showed up and met Jacqueline Valdez at her small home studio. No other students attended this night. I’d washed all my lotion off my legs per her rules and made sure to show up on time with a yoga mat in hand. I was wearing what I thought were short shorts at the time and I nervously did floor work with her to warm up my arms, hamstrings, ankles, wrists, and pelvis.

That first class, we started with basic walks around the pole, with stepping and dragging the feet. I looked ridiculous in the mirror, but I tried not to focus too much on how I looked, rather just on what I was doing. She taught me a few simple moves, like 360 turns, none of which I got, and then showed me a few more advanced tricks (advanced by my skill level then) before concluding class with me, bidding me farewell until that Thursday, three days later.

Class two was a lot like class one – me stumbling around the pole trying to keep up with the most basic of moves, her reassuring me that not everyone picks up things easily and quickly. We scheduled one more class meeting to satisfy my Groupon purchase, and I returned the next week. Once again it was just me, and we chatted a bit about the soreness I was feeling in my body from my previous lessons, but Jackie assured me that it was all normal. It was on this night that we stepped to the poles again to run through basic tricks, but something was different for me – I nailed my 360, and I even managed a pole sit. She let me take a selfie in the mirror on this night.

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Pole sit selfie. I only had the bruises for 5 days afterward.

“You’ve progressed,” she said to me with a straight face. Knowing her as I do now, I realize that she was recalculating her plan of action for what she’d teach me moving forward. I identify that as my “hooked like it’s cocaine” moment for pole…

We continued that way for six months with a slight break in between while my husband and I moved out of my parents’ home and into our own place. As we dug our feet into Gainesville as our home, I dug my heels (and ankles and thighs) deeper into pole.

When I first arrived in Gainesville, I was depressed, lost, and conflicted. I had a good life in San Diego, and I left it all behind so that I could bring my family together again. I gave up friendships, familiarity, and my home so that my daughter could grow up near her grandparents and my husband and I could have some backup as we continued to grow our family. In some ways, I view myself as arriving in Gainesville empty handed, and when I started pole, suddenly I had something to hold onto again.

Even more than this, though, is what pole does for my character. Yes, it sculpts my body and makes me stronger physically, but pole dancer Antoinette holds her own much better than non-pole Antoinette ever did. Because pole dancing carries such a negative connotation, the people who do it have to be really motivated to practice it constantly and want to progress in it. The ante is doubled for those who choose to share their craft with the world. Because I know what the majority of the world has to say about my practicing this as a hobby, it truly is something I have to do for myself. For the record: I do not do this for my husband. I do not do this out of rebellion. I do not do this out of desperation. I do not do this because I’m trying to be someone else. I do pole for me and me only. It is my selfish indulgence.

Pole allows me to unashamedly claim the right to be sexy. Men are allowed to be sexy without consequence – nobody throws shade on the male manager that all the females in the office swoon over. Women must always pay for being sexy – in labels, in whispers they think we can’t hear, in missed opportunities to be taken seriously. No thanks.

Pole frees me. ALL of me.

Plus, it was either this or join a fight club, and I like my face too much for that.