Learned Behavior

Around 7ish every morning, my freshly awoken daughter usually makes her way to my office upstairs, wiping sleep from her eyes and carrying a plush toy. She always asks if we can spend some time together, and while I’m usually an hour or so into my work day, I try to pause and give her some time. Breaks are healthy. :)I noticed after about a week of this routine, she’s started showing up at my office more often. Truth be told, she’s always itching for reasons to go in there, and I can’t blame her for that. My office is chocked full of stuff a toddler would like to get into – markers, a glass angel figurine, paper, pens, a stapler, a turquoise file cabinet, a vase full of brightly colored artificial flowers, etc. (my office is my own personal paradise). But lately, when she shows up at my office, it’s with one of her wooden chairs, her play “computer” and a dolly that she’s lovingly referring to as her baby that day. 
She will plug away on her pretend laptop, scribble pretend notes on scratch paper, pick up her “baby” and sing to it, then gently tell it that she has a meeting to go to, and talk to her friends on her toy cell phone. 
She said to me, “I’m doing work just like you, mommy!” and I must say, my heart was touched. 

From last year. We like to sing along to the Frozen soundtrack when we do…just about everything.😏


First and foremost, our children learn how to act based on observing our behaviors, and it seems that I’ve been able to pass on some behaviors I was hoping my children would pick up, specifically, my daughter. I want her to see her mom as a working woman. 

I want her to see that it’s possible to be a career woman, and be a family woman, and be happy maintaining both. Now, don’t get me wrong – this is not my attempt to control her destiny in any way. She is free to choose what her adulthood will look like when the time comes. If she wants to be a stay at home mommy, she’s free to. She could marry a rich man and spend her days shopping and lounging (how nice, right?!). She could decide to work full time while attending night school to become a doctor or lawyer. She could also put herself through grad school while taking care of children of her own. I will support all of that as long as it’s what she wants because I love her. I also feel a sense of pride in getting to show her one version of womanhood that I’ve found to be respectable and commendable. 

While I was out grocery shopping with Adrian this week, another mom approached me as I was piling my selected goods onto the checkout conveyor belt with my 3-month old strapped onto my chest. “I’m impressed that you’re out shopping with your baby!” she told me. I thanked her for that compliment, and we chitchatted about diaper deals and managing outings with kiddos. Later that same day, as I was talking to my husband about future plans for our family, he reiterated his appreciation for the energy I bring to our home.

I think all moms can list at least 50 tasks that are just everyday responsibilities that have to be maintained in order for life to go on at home. What we don’t always do is step back to take in the scope of all these tasks. We chauffeur, we cook, we comfort and cuddle, we wake up in the middle of the night, we wipe noses, we wash and fold, and many of us do these things while also working jobs full time. Some of us even work those full time jobs out of the same homes we work so hard to keep clean and inviting (like me!).

Make no mistake, our children see us doing these things. They may not always express their gratitude (just two days ago, Kennedy told me to go away while I was dropping her off with her grandmother 🙄) but they do take notice of us tucking them in at night, waking them up in the morning, and always being there. My daughter sees me working and deems it cool and important, which I take as a positive step in building her identity. When she gets older, I can let her know about the time I spent in school to be able to work the job I have, and hopefully that will inspire her, too. 

I like this version of motherhood on me. It’s been a crazy ride to adjust to the growth of our family while also returning to work, but I feel like myself doing this. I also feel like I’m putting my best foot forward in setting an example for my children, who will hopefully come to conceptualize womanhood as including lots of things beyond just beauty or homemaking – it’s also intelligence, multitasking, and serving. 

Anxiety Update

I have devoted chunks of this blog to my anxiety, that it only seems appropriate to start detailing my battle, and triumph, at gaining the upper hand over it. 
Though I’ve worked at this for well over a year, I see the story really starting in September 2016. 

My dad had just set off for San Diego in his truck to take care of some business with the home he and my mom still owned there – the house that I grew up in. The minute he told me he was leaving, I became terrified. I thought of all the turmoil being reported in the news with police officers seemingly shooting Black men for being simply that: Black. I thought of how far the trip was and how though he’s a youthful man still, my dad was indeed 60 years old. The surge of hormones happening within me as my first trimester came to a close wasn’t helpful. I tinkered on nauseous and paranoid, depressed and anxious – a real cocktail of instability. But life pressed forward despite my internal cries to just make everything stop. 

A few days after my dad took off, the first hurricane to come in off the Gulf coast in decades formed, and its projected path was set to hit our area. This would mark the first time my husband and I would experience a hurricane warning for where we lived. So, not only was my dad gone, leaving my mom alone at their home, but now a hurricane was headed for us and I had no idea how to cope. 

I called some friends and freaked out on the phone. I stayed up waiting for my husband to come home from work in the few nights before the storm hit. He shipped me off to my mom’s, likely for two reasons – 1) because he knew I would do better with her and 2) he was probably growing tired of witnessing my chaos but not being able to do anything whilst also working to secure our home and pets for the incoming storm. 

Once the storm hit, I remember my heart pounding, my stomach being in knots, having hot flashes, and feeling like I was failing my children – both my unborn and my toddler. It was at this moment, I remember clearly, that I heard a distinct voice. The message verbatim is a little foggy, but overall, it said to me, “Antoinette, how do you expect to progress as the mother you want to be if you crumble at the slightest onset of trouble? If you think you’ll be strong enough for childbirth at the end of this pregnancy by acting this way, you are wrong.”

Ouch.

The voice then went on to say, “I’ve commanded your father to leave for now. When have I ever let you down? Would it be like me to let something happen to him when I have called him to take on this challenge right now?” 

I sobbed in reply and stated, “no…”

It was at that moment that I realized that I needed to get a grip. I’ve always wanted to be seen as strong, powerful, fearless…but I wasn’t being any of those things. And it wasn’t just one day of weakness – it was a week long of weakness. Not my finest snapshot in time. I’m almost embarrassed to write these words. 

But it was this embarrassing psychological intervention that fortified my resolve. Not only was I going to stop letting myself be a victim to my thoughts and circumstances, but I was also going to start actively working to pass them. 

The first lesson I had to learn was that thoughts are simply that – thoughts. They are not reality. Like one might pick up and examine apples at the market to find the best ones for purchase, thoughts may come in, but that doesn’t mean they must then shape the narrative of my life at the time, or even ever. I can pick up a thought, and just as quickly, put it back down. So, thoughts of bad things happening to me or my family don’t have to take over. They’re just thoughts. If nothing tangible is playing out in front of me to support these thoughts, why go there? Stopping the late night/early morning rumination has been most helpful on my journey. 
The next lesson I had to learn was that I indeed am enough. We hear that phrase tossed around all the time, and I feel it means different things to different people, depending on who you ask. For me, it’s the notion that I don’t need to work any harder or be anything more to be worthy. Anyone who doesn’t see me as such when I am who I am isn’t worth it. 

And that contributed to the drastic drop in my overall social circle. I stopped paying attention to others and started focusing on myself and my family first and foremost. To them, I will always be more than enough, even on the days when I am barely at full capacity. I had to emotionally release myself from feeling responsible for certain relationships and prioritize the relationships I truly was responsible for, mainly, the ones with the people with whom I share a home, and the ones who raised me. That’s it. Everything and everyone else became peripheral with the understanding that the change was not personal, nor aimed at anyone in particular, but that this is the new normal for me. I can’t uphold the expectations of others when I’m too busy meeting the expectations I have of myself (which mostly center on making sure I’m the best mom and wife I can be). Anyone who couldn’t get down with that was phased out. 

I changed my number. Lots of folks didn’t get the new one. Oh well. It’s been a nice measure in breaking away. 

Lastly, I had to remember the true meaning of the semicolon I had tattooed onto my arm – a reminder to pause. 

Believe it or not, I’m pregnant here, too! Only about 7 weeks. No nausea yet. Hence the smile.😉


I can press pause as many times in a row as I want or need to. And though pressing pause sounds like a cop-out on the surface, it’s truthfully one of the best forms of self-care I’ve implemented. Self-care doesn’t have to mean spending tons of money on spa treatments or gifts for yourself. Self-care can simply mean carving out 30 minutes of silence to be still, meditating in the morning/afternoon/evening to re-center yourself, taking a walk alone, listening to some good music for 15 minutes, or taking a tub bath. I used to feel guilty for doing those things because my daughter might need me, or what about my husband, or look at all the chores that need to be done. But what about me? What about the internal housekeeping that we all must do to keep ourselves from becoming work-obsessed, stressed out monsters? I am worth nothing to my family if I am burnt out, and in these last few months, my husband has gotten to see what burnout can look like for me. He doesn’t like it. Neither do I. He told me thanks for always doing for he and our daughter even when I am past my limit. It wasn’t until he said that (about a month ago) that I realized I have changed. I have grown. I am stronger…

I used to think strength was something that had to be bestowed upon you; someone would have to show up and hand me “strength” in order for me to be strong. No, you’re strong the moment you decide to not succumb to your circumstances. You’re strong the minute you decide that though things may not be ideal, you will deal. Strength doesn’t always show up as being stoic or hardened – many people cry through strength. They feel themselves falling apart. But they don’t give up. I’ve faced a lot through this pregnancy alone and had to learn to toughen up for myself and for my son. It’s come with hard moments, but those hard moments have made me so much better. I’m even a better manager at work now. It’s almost over, and though I will be glad to not be pregnant anymore (seriously, it’s been a blessing and all but just gimme dat baby already!) I wouldn’t trade a single trial or challenge that’s come with it. I am propelling past my anxiety by remembering all that I am and forgetting all I do not have to be. I am enough. And I am ready. 

What I Once Was…

Ran across some old photos and videos. I sure am anxious to get back to being active. I’ve had to learn to take it down a few notches in the last 9 months, which has been humbling, challenging, frustrating, and also refreshing. All in all it’s made me a stronger woman, and I’m grateful for how much I’ve had to transform through learning my own limits. Yet, I can’t help but anticipate the possibilities when I see these:

Love this photo. Definitely my inspiration.

This is Not a Time to Be Weak.

President-elect Trump will take office tomorrow. I’ve already written on this blog about my feelings regarding his election…which are really more like non-feelings because I can’t seem to muster up any enthusiasm either way…but I do want to address a trend I see still going strong among voters, particularly women and minorities. Many are claiming that they feel fear, angst, frustration, or restlessness over this changing of the guard. I will not fault anyone for having those feelings even if I don’t share them myself. However, you cannot simply decide to live in those feelings. This is not a time to be weak. Choosing to get angry and just stay angry, to cry and continue crying, or to be scared and just stay scared is NOT the way any of us needs to go right now. Doing so makes you into the awful things Donald claimed you were on his campaign trail, and I, for one, will not allow he or any other misinformed man or woman to define me like that.

I can’t afford to.

I have worked FAR too hard to become the woman that I am. I’m not perfect, but I damn sure am better than I used to be. I had no choice but to grow up and toughen up because life happened. I didn’t get everything I wanted. I had my ass handed to me. I was disrespected and taken advantage of. I had to learn to fight for myself. And not so I could claim some title of “badass” or “bad bitch” or bad “whatever is trending out there that women are glomming onto currently.” I had to do this so that I could become the wife and mom I was destined to be. I can’t expect to keep my household running if I fuel it on fear and anger. I can’t move myself forward as a leader in my personal and professional life by allowing other people’s inaccurate labels to stick. I can’t raise my babies in this broken world by being weak.

I KNOW that I am smart. I KNOW that I am capable. I KNOW my worth.

Donald being president doesn’t change any of that.

Of course, I never viewed Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as my saviors either, so you might say I just don’t have much faith in the presidency in general.

160224-trump-melania

They really do look more like casino patrons than a First Couple.

I think I’m sadder that the uneducated Melania Trump will now be my First Lady. That…is a downgrade.

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.

mom and kennedy

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…

 

 

 

Heartbeats

Whenever I encounter something that makes me scared or nervous, my heart pounds out of my chest. I’m sure it’s not as easily detectable as I think – in my mind I picture my heart actually pulsing to break free from my chest, a lot like those cartoons we used to watch as kids. Despite this, it’s a huge phenomenon for me when it happens. I can hear my heartbeat in my ears, I’m short of breath, and my adrenaline level starts to spike. In the past 30 days, I’ve experienced this feeling five times…

The first came when one of my closest friends asked me if I would compose some music he could use for a project. Who, me? You want to use MY music? That music I don’t dare ever play for anyone else because I’m convinced it sucks?

The next came on December 20, 2015 when I performed in my first pole showcase ever. I knew my dance, I knew my music, I knew my venue…but I didn’t know if I could do it.

The third instance was when it came time to actually give the music I had composed to my aforementioned friend who asked for it. I cringed sending him those samples…

Next, was my first ever Cize class at AvMed on January 6, 2016.

Finally, was my second ever Cize class at Super Saturday on January 9, 2016.

The outcomes?

 

I composed two samples for my friend to choose from and he loved both and will be using them for his project (you’ll hear more about that later).

The showcase was performed twice, back to back on December 20th, and feedback I received was that I looked smooth, strong, and happy. I wrote it down as a win after I nailed my Gemini twice, didn’t knock the chair over, didn’t fall off the pole during inverts, and remembered the moves.

The women at AvMed loved my Cize class enough to want to take a sweaty selfie afterwards.

My upline and spirit animal approached me after Super Saturday and told me to stop worrying about whether or not I could teach Cize because what she saw in me looked professional, energetic, and coordinated.

IMG_1526.PNG

Some of the Super Saturday attendees after our Cize workout together. They all said they had a blast. 🙂

The worrying and visualizing of worst-case scenarios was futile. I don’t write these things to brag, but instead to point out what happens when you dare to step outside of your comfort zone and keep on daring to take steps after that. We don’t change by staying the same, ever. We don’t reach our goals by standing still. We also never know what we can and will become unless we make move towards what could be.

After I observed that these heart-pounding moments seemed to be happening more often for me, I told my husband. To my pleasant surprise, his response was this:

“If you’re experiencing those moments that make you nervous more often, that’s a sign that you’re changing for the better. You’re challenging yourself, which is exactly what you said you wanted to do.”

When did my husband turn into a sage? Better yet, when did I decide to make the area outside of my comfort zone my norm?

I can’t pinpoint the exact defining moment, but I do know that in order to have things I’ve never had before, I have to keep doing things I’ve never done before.

 

2016, I hope you’re ready…

Gracias a mi cuerpo…

As women, we constantly have messages communicated to us about why we aren’t beautiful. We either aren’t skinny enough, aren’t curvy enough, don’t have the right hair or eye color, have too many tattoos, have too much acne, etc. I have struggled…oh have I struggled…to feel secure in myself.

If you can manage to find love and appreciation for your body despite these messages, you’ve achieved the ultimate victory. I’m striving for this myself.

As I work toward this, I want to offer a message of gratitude to my own body for all it’s done for me. I didn’t always fuel my body properly, I (still) utter negative comments in my mind while looking in the mirror, and I have allowed others to make me feel ashamed of my shape, my skin’s color, and the texture of my hair. Despite these things, my body still stretches and rises out of bed each morning, my body powers through workouts, my body heals itself when it gets sick, and it hasn’t shut down on me no matter how many sleepless nights and early mornings I’ve put it through. Let’s not forget it’s also housed one healthy baby, and allowed me to breastfeed for 12 consecutive months afterward. My body is amazing!

image1

Thanks to my body, I have achieved things I thought weren’t possibilities for me. Thanks to my body I am stronger, faster, more flexible, and more confident.

As I’ve learned to appreciate my body more – through coaching, through working out regularly, through cleaner eating, through pole dancing – I have come to see how imperative it is that I feed my body with what it needs, and none of what it doesn’t. On the surface, this seems like a dietary vow, but it’s much more than that. I’m making a pact with myself to stop taking in such negative messages about what I am or what I’m not. I already know what I am. I refuse to poison myself with what others may project onto me. My body isn’t shameful; it’s a useful and remarkable tool.