“The Talk”

I never really got “the talk.” I mean, not that I remember at least. I do recall hearing “Don’t let anyone touch you here or there.” But a sit down conversation about the birds and the bees? Not really. In hindsight, I may have been so traumatized that I just blocked it out completely. Either way, though, now it’s my turn to give it.

My son, my baby, my first born.

I could never have imagined Michael growing up and getting older. But we’re here now and he is the most gorgeous boy in all the land. He really is. Ugh! I am an obsessed mom, I know. But as cute as he is and as little I want it to happen, he is growing up. My baby is turning into a man and as his parent, it’s my duty to let him know what life has in store for him. Especially when it comes to sex.

By 14, I’m sure he’s heard a few things. Between movies, TV, and the internet there probably isn’t much he doesn’t already know. Or so you’d think. But the talk I want to have goes beyond S-E-X.

I want to talk to my son about consent, respect, and honesty.

I want to teach him that sex isn’t a bad word but a sacred one. I don’t want to scare my kids.

Lets be honest. In the right situation, time, and with the right person, sex can be amazing. I want him to know that all those things should factor into the decisions he makes, though. I want to explain that there are diseases, and that they all don’t have cures. How having sex with a girl can not only change his whole life but the life of someone else. A lot of people think that as a guy, its easy for him. No! That is the reason we have problems in society with regards to sex. Too often we force women to learn all these aspects and put the pressure is on them to keep safe, to say no, to find ways to not be seen or stand out, not to be “misinterpreted.”

But I have a son and a daughter. I want them to both go out into the world and know all the same things about sex and everything else life has to offer. I can not control everything they will do outside of this house. But as a mother of a growing man, I think it is my duty to teach him especially that no one is your property. You don’t have the right to grab a boob or ass cheek; even if it is hanging out.

I want him to know what that makes girls feel and how it can tear a woman down.

Because one day it could my daughter with a boob or a cheek hanging out. How would he feel feel if someone touched or spoke to his sister in a way he didn’t agree? He should (and does!) empathize with all people, and he doesn’t need to picture the person as his sister, but he’s 14. It’s easier for him to see the impact when you apply a big kind of concept (like consent) to someone he cares about.

I know it sounds harsh.

Making him consider the repercussions of actions can be a harsh look, I know. But I believe that being honest and open with him will make him a better man and father. That is all I could ever ask for.

 

 

 

Self-care for the next generation

A few weeks ago my friend’s daughter ran up to me in tears crying because she had fallen and her sister didn’t help her get up. I hugged her and told that it was OK and that people aren’t always going to help you get up. You have to pick yourself up sometimes. I wiped her tears and she ran back down to the playroom and it was all better. If only it were always that simple.

Here we are now and my own 5 yr old comes home upset because she tripped at camp and 3 of her friends ran right past her and didn’t help her up. I gave her the same speech I gave my friends daughter but my sassy queen wasn’t having it. She looked at me and said, “Well from now on, then when I see someone down I’m not helping them get up!”

I stopped and couldn’t even believe what I was hearing.

I got down to her level so she knew it was important (Pro-mom move) and I said “No we don’t do that. You will continue to help people who need help. Don’t ever give up helping others because you didn’t get helped.” She may have understood or  she may not have but she agreed and she skipped away.

I am still left bothered by both situations. Both girls thought someone needed to pick them up. But why? I didn’t raise my kid to think that she was entitled to people at her beckon call. Let me tell you, if you met my friend you would know she definitely didn’t raise her daughter that way either. Still, my question goes unanswered.

Why assume that someone has to help us up when we fall?

Now don’t get me wrong, if I see someone down I am the first one to offer a helping hand. I think anyone who sees someone down should help them back up, always. No matter the reason. But, if I fall I don’t ever expect for anyone to pick me up. Nor should you.

Life is full of so many messed up things and people. There will always be times when you will fall down; literally and figuratively. And when you are down, it’s OK to be down. Take your time getting up when you can. As long as you remember, that you don’t need anyone to get you up. It’s nice, of course, but you shouldn’t always depend on others to help you up – no matter the reason for the fall.

It’s almost as if people are keeping score of who did something nice and who didn’t.

Now don’t get me wrong, if somebody wrongs you, you have every right to stay away from that person. But we shouldn’t bring that into our other relationships, and human interactions. Being kind shouldn’t reflect on how many people have been kind to us. I don’t want my daughter, at 15 years old seeing some on the ground and walking right past them because she thinks, “Well that one time at summer camp my friends ran right past me.”

So many people give up on kindness to total strangers because of one (or several) bad experiences, fear of rejection or just plain laziness. And it’s not to say that everyone is deserving your kindness but we shouldn’t be so quick to give up on all of mankind. Your kindness is a reflection on you; not of how many times you’ve been neglected.

I want to raise my kids to be strong and independent and not need picked up by anyone.

I think most parents want that of their children. But I also want them to be kind and thoughtful. You can be a strong individual and still help other people. Maybe in their kindness, they can help others grown their own kindness.

Insecurities

There are never quick fixes, at least never in the way you think. Leading up to the surgery I thought once I get this surgery done I would lose all this weight and then I will be healthy again and I’ll look amazing. Right?

Wrong!

I imagined my body looking the same as it did prior to kids all fresh and smooth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out that way. The thing is, when I look in the mirror I don’t see all my progress. I am so clouded by the flaws I still see that I just can’t see it. The stretch marks are still there, the loose skin is just getting looser and my hair has started to fall out. I know that there are things I can never change. But it doesn’t stop me from reading another new article on stretch mark removal or reading all the ingredients listed on the Rogaine bottle for the millionth time.

I’m human. I have flaws and I know that. But every so often, I get this uncontrollable urge to Google quick fixes. (But that’s human, too, right?) I know there aren’t any and they wont work but what harm can it do? This is why I need to write. To force myself out of my old habits of quick fixes and get myself into real life changes.  If I’m publishing things, then I’m more likely to hold myself accountable.

I know I’m not alone; there are people out there with way worse insecurities than me. 62% of women all over the world feel insecure about something. That is roughly 2 billion women in the world. So I’m not alone. And neither are you.

For so long I have lived mortified about what has happened to my body. I’ve always blamed myself not enough lotion, not enough cocoa butter and probably could have eaten better as to not gain the weight. So many could have, should have, would haves.

But in the end, this is now me. In all my wonderful squishy glory.

But with all my insecurities, still all in my own head. I want to be skinny, strong, and have great skin. I don’t think those desires will ever go away, nor do I think it’s realistic to expect to achieve those goals to a point where I’m 100% satisfied. I can own them for what they are. I can be skinnier and stronger if I got my ass up and to the gym. But that’s not the point and it won’t change the root of the problem.

When I look in the mirror, I just want to be proud of what I’ve accomplished.

If there is more I can do like going to the gym. I will do those things. But 16-year-old Jen with a perky set and flat tummy is a far reach. It will take me years to get over the body I feel I’ve lost. But the fact is, it’s a mental problem, not a physical one. And it’s a habit that I may never stop. But if me writing about it can help me own it and feel less of the shame (or help someone else) then I guess half the battle is won.

5 Things Dementia Didn’t Take

Deciding to bring grandma into my home was an easy decision to make. I didn’t stop to think what it would do to, or how it would affect, my family. Thankfully, my other half Carlos, was always on-board with the idea but honestly, neither of us knew what we were getting into or what dementia had done to her.

Dementia took my grandmother in ways I never knew possible. Being forgetful is something we all go through in spurts. But she forgets that I’m her granddaughter. When she asks me about my ‘sister’ I know she actually means my mother (or maybe aunt). She will sit in her room alone in the dark asking herself why she is doing it. She burns and ruins pots and lets the sink overflow. She made herself a sandwich and put the ingredients away in the pantry. We find mysterious cups throughout the house but if you ask, none of them are hers. She wakes up crying at night because she doesn’t remember where she is, so I run out of bed and lay with her till she falls back asleep. She has peeled the paint off the walls. She has left the house while I’ve been in the shower and she hates when I tell her no. Her independence was everything to her and for her own safety, she no longer has it. And she can’t understand why.

To be candid, I cry when I think about the future; Her future in particular. She never spoke of death or what to do if she gets sick. I don’t know what she really wants because it’s too late to know for sure that’s what the real her wants. And though it hurts to say, that’s how it feels.

Because even though I know she’s in there, I never fully know when she’s the one talking or when it’s the dementia.

So we have no plans if she gets bedridden or suddenly comes down with an illness. I don’t know what she wants if the worst happens. I didn’t plan to be making these decisions, but they will be mine to make one day. And sooner rather than later. We’ll take it day at a time and cross each bridge as we get there. So she’s just … with me. She will always just be with me. I don’t think I could ever let her go. And that’s a kind of plan in itself.

So while I lament what I’ve had taken, and more tragically, what she has been robbed of, I have to bring a sense of optimism into my fears. Because dementia will overpower me if I let it. And if she doesn’t let it overpower her, I can’t either. I’ll focus on something that will allow me to push ahead. I know it’s only going to get worse, so for now, I need to remember how blessed I am to have her.

And here’s what Dementia did not take:

1. Her Love of Life. I know she only gleams how serious her condition is from time to time; but she still sees it. All the while, though, she lives so carelessly and remains so in love with life. When we go to new places she gets excited and she loves our walks in the evening. We sit out on the front porch and chat with the neighbors as they walk by and they love seeing her. She has made so many new friends and the kids next door adore her so much so they call her grandma.

2. Her as My Rock. She still lets me lay my head on her lap as she strokes my hair. And when I cry, she cries no matter my reason for crying. And even if I lose that as time goes (and I know I will), I will have that foundation built into who I am as a person. I am stronger because of how she built me. I will withstand any storm because I’ve had her to show me how. She will always be my rock – Even when her dementia is the force I’m standing against.

3. Her ability to love. She tells me she loves me she every morning and every night. And anytime I walk out the door without her, I hear her prayers for me under her breath. She loves my children. She loves our neighbor’s children. She loves everyone. She isn’t bitter. She isn’t jaded. She’s a kind person with a loving heart. And, again, dementia may one day take that from her, but it will never rob the world of the kindness she’s spread during her life.

4. My Memory of Her. This may sound petty, but when dementia riddles the mind of a loved one, you’ll take every victory you can. Dementia can take her memories of me from her but it will never take away my memories of her.

5. Her. I guess what dementia didn’t take is the essence of her. Who she is is as a person is still inside her, deep down (sometimes it’s deeper than others). She is still her under that cloud of smoke and I still see her there. I know she’s there, even when she doesn’t. When she’s lost, I will help her find herself. As much as I can. For as long as I can.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s break the hearts of the loved ones suffering as completely as they break the minds of those who suffer. Research on Dementia and Alzheimer’s is so important to any advances in medicine and maybe one day, a cure. We can’t put a price tag on the significance of finding a medication that could keep my grandmother’s mind her own for even just a little longer. If you are able, please consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.

A Week Using Deva Curl

OK, I want to start off by saying this is not a paid sponsorship I will always be trying new things because that is what I do. I want to start doing new things for my self and getting this mane under control was one of them.

So after seeing tons of ads on Instagram for Deva Curl I posted asking my friends what was the big deal. I got amazing feedback from a few girls and they were all amazing. So I decided what the heck let me go check it out. After looking through the Deva Curl website I came upon the curl quiz. So the curl quiz is a few basic questions about what kinda of curl do you have? what kind of curl do you want? hair type and scalp type? pretty basic. At the end of the quiz, it shows you a list of your recommended products.

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I’m not going to lie at first the prices turned me off. So I started to look for alternatives but they were all priced the same and some had alcohol as one of the main ingredients. I don’t know a lot about anything but my hair is already dry I can’t put alcohol in it. So I dragged my 14 yr old son to a land no teenage boy wants to go with his momma ULTA. I was pretty surprised by the size of the display but I was excited to get this hair under control. I didn’t spend as much money as I thought because they have gift sets that are roughly the same size as the regular bottles so I ended up saving about $20.

The next day I took pictures of my dry damaged hair with no product in it and I wanted to cry. I really never noticed how bad my hair was because I never gave it a second to breathe I was just slathering on product on top of product until I had these hard curls. The pictures below will make you ill and I apologize to all my curly headed girls I know I was wrong I will never let my hair get this bad again.

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eeekkkk.

Well, I washed my hair on day one and I have to say I was surprised that the shampoo had no lather. I know it says no later on the bottle but I thought a little something but nope nada. The reason for no lather because it doesn’t have any Sulfate, Paraben or Silicone. The smell was light not strong like most shampoo’s and the same goes for the conditioner. I purchased 2 styling products because they were apart of the recommendation. On the first day, I tried the styling cream and it was the only thing on my hair. I was so nervous all day at work I kept touching my hair and the humidity was insane so by the end of the day my curls were intact but my volume was at 100. On day 2 I tried the Ultra Defining gel and I have to say so far it is my favorite.

By day 3, 4 and 5 I had it down pact I kept to the same routine alternating between styling creme and defining gel. By day 6 I decided to get a little crazy I used a little of both my styling products. I was headed to a theme park with my kids so I wanted to make sure through all the rides my hair was intact. Let us just say it held up by 10 pm my hair still looked great. So today is day 7!  I washed my hair and just let it air dry naturally and did not use any product and this is the picture below.

 

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Insane ?? You can see such a difference just a few days did to my hair. I honestly can not believe it even the way my hair feels. I am actually getting some real curl back.

What’s changed for me besides my amazing hair? I have not used a comb or a brush in 7 days. During washing and conditioning, I’ve stuck to using just finger combing my hair and its been enough. Also, my hair isn’t falling out as much when I finger comb it I think I was literally ripping my own hair out with the brush I know so bad. The acne on my forehead and the sides of my cheek are also clearing up. I don’t have those gross and greasy products running down my face when I sweat,  or rubbing off on my pillow and getting on my face at night. Which is something I never even thought was even a possibility?

Still more to do though. I think a lot of us have heard of the Deva Cut, it’s like this precise cut for curly headed girls curl by curl. Well, I really think I want to try it and see how the cut helps with my curl journey.  I wish when I did my curl quiz it would have offered me some of the deep and leave in conditioners they have. I will be trying those as well, I kept to my suggested list which I regretted after I saw all the amazing reviews on all their other products.

All in all, it may be pricer then what I have paid in the past for shampoo and conditioner. But I did the math for myself and it is really not much of a difference. An extra maybe $10.00 a month added to a routine the significantly change how my hair looks in mere days. I still have a long way to get my curl completely back so keep following my Curl Journey to see what I try next.

 

Why I’m a bad friend

Over the weekend two of my very close friends texted me, one of which I haven’t spoken to in more then a year. I cried a little both times when the messages came through.

I missed them, and I didn’t even know it until that moment.

How focused on my life had I been that a mere hello text would leave me in tears over these two women? Talking to them both was so refreshing and made my heart so full. Clearly, I’m a bad friend and I don’t deserve them.

I have about four decently solid friendships that I have had for more than a few years. I don’t live near any of them anymore, and I think we are starting to, or have already, drifted apart. As is expected, when we grow up, we change. These friends were those I had when I was a still just a kid. They knew kid-Jen and don’t really know me as I am today. Because even as adults, we continue to grow and evolve. I don’t have the same interests I had even just four years ago. Nor do expect them to have their same interests.

And then, how do you keep a friendship when you are so far away? I can no longer run over to your house for a glass of wine and complain about life. I can vent on a chat or through texts, sure. I could even call and get at least their tones and inflections. But it isn’t the same kind of escape we used to have with each other.

Plus, I don’t want to push the blame elsewhere; I know that I’m lazy and I just don’t try hard enough. I fully understand that is the biggest reason we’re drifting (or have drifted) apart. Adult friendships take more work and I just haven’t put the work in for these relationships. And it’s genuinely sad to think about.

Because I miss them, everyday.

And I didn’t realize it until this weekend. It’s not an overt and obvious feeling. I don’t consciously think “I miss her!” But it’s still there ever day. It’s in the feeling of loneliness when I see besties on the street or the way I relate to the girlfriends on my TV. I hear something that will remind me of an old friend and not consciously remember why it brings a smile to my face, but I know that it does. I’ll hear a song that reminds me of her and it will lift my spirits. But I don’t call. And I don’t text. I don’t even always know who’s memory it was that made me smile.

I don’t mean to be a bad friend but I can recognize that I probably am. I never know if I’m doing too much or not enough. I have always been the friend who’s broke. So when everyone is planning trips I had to either borrow money or op out of going. I’m inconsistent; I will talk to you every day for a month and then forget to reply to your text messages for the next month. I make plans and last minute I decide I just don’t want to go.

Of course it doesn’t help that I have a partner who is an introvert and he doesn’t understand my need or want for solid friendships. So I feel bad when I ditch him to hang out, anyways. (Not that it’s his fault that I’m a bad friend.)

Then something happens and it hits me like a ton of bricks falling on my heart. I haven’t called, texted or responded to messages from someone I care about. I say to myself, “Make sure to call after this shower!” But I don’t remember and another day passes and I forget once again. Then a day turns into a week and then a month and then I’m just too embarrassed to face how long I’ve forgotten. Then that awkward feeling that maybe I shouldn’t even try at all anymore takes over because I’ve ruined a good thing by losing touch.

I want my friends back!

I want to have solid relationships with people who love me. I want those moments that I had in the past again. I know that I have to make and effort to mend the time we’ve had apart. Yes, we’ve changed and I know that we live apart, now. But all those excuses I’ve made for being a bad friend have to turn into reasons why I should try even harder to be a good one.

So here is to me trying harder to call and text; trying harder to listen and pay more attention. I love you girls and I always will.

Bringing Grandma Home

Just after Thanksgiving 2016, my mother called me in tears. She was worried about her mother, my grandmother. She calmed down long enough to tell me she just had a conversation with my grandma but something was off . They had their normal conversation and about half way through, my grandmother was rushing to get off the phone, but in an awkward way. When my mother called back again it was like the first conversation never happened. I was over due for a drive into the city and my mother had a trip planned to visit my grandmother anyway. So the following weekend I drove down from Pennsylvania, while my mom flew in from Miami.

When we arrived, all of our fears came to light.

She knew who we were and where she was but you could see in her eyes that every so often that knowledge would disappear. After much deliberation, we finally decided that grandma would come stay with me. I was closer to NYC so we could still come see relatives. I couldn’t drive up with her that same weekend, so my mom stayed behind packing up her studio apartment, and getting her ready for the move. I decided I would take the Amtrak up on Dec 10th and rent a u haul truck to bring her and her belongings back.
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But my train ride there was met with more worry. While on the train, my mom called me to tell me grandma was in the hospital. The guilt hit us both hard me not being able to come up sooner and her just leaving a few days prior to take care of my younger siblings. Once I arrived to NYC, I headed straight to her apartment. I had a key so I just let myself in. I noticed most of the boxes my mother had packed were all open in a disarray. My heart sunk and I headed to the hospital.

When I arrived at the hospital the staff was relived to see me. They knew so little information because she wasn’t communicating well even with an interpreter. Which confused me because she was fluent in both English and Spanish. As I walked into the room she perked right up smiling and was so excited to see me. The doctor and nurses looked stunned. This wasn’t the same patient they had earlier. She began to explain to the hospital staff who I was and about my children. I looked over at the doctor and asked why was she there, they explained she came in with a fever and were keeping her under observation to ensure she didn’t come down with Pneumonia. I explained to the doctor that I had just come down to bring her home with me.

Though she wasn’t formally diagnosed at that point, we still realized she couldn’t live alone.

The doctor agreed if she was better by Sunday, I could pick her up and take her with me. Since it was already late and visiting hours were over, I headed to her house to start packing. While going through her things I realized that she was becoming a bit of a hoarder. I started feeling guilty as soon as the realization set. How did I not see the signs sooner? I packed well into the night and at 7 am, her friends stopped by to see if she was back home. They were the ones who noticed she was sick and took her to the hospital. I told them I was here to take her with me to PA. I made a group of old women cry like children. They had lived in this building together for well over 10 years. They scheduled all the doctors appointments together and did all the food shopping together as one. And that’s when I realized something kind of beautiful.

I never noticed there was anything wrong because she had the best friends taking care of her.

It was beautiful and sad at the same time. Obviously, I’m glad she had people she could count on when I wasn’t there for her. But because they were, I didn’t realize how much I was needed. I’m just grateful it was only a fever that sent her to the hospital. Her friends helped me pack and throw out garbage till it was time for me to head back to the hospital.
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At the hospital, grandma was getting better but she was surprised to see me each time.

She didn’t remember I had been there the night before or about the plans we’s discussed. We went over it together and spent the day taking snap chat selfie til it was night again. The next morning my cousin and Ex-Husband (of all people!) showed up and helped me rent a U-haul truck and together we loaded the truck to the brim. Once we were done I thanked them both a hundred times and headed to the hospital in the U-haul truck. It was Sunday and  I had picked out a nice outfit for her so she could be nice and clean for our 3 1/2 hour trek back to her new home. As soon as I got to her room her eyes brightened up. She still didn’t remember we were leaving but not even that could bring me down. I spoke to the nurse about a time of release for my lady and she told me the doctor still hadn’t decided if she would be released that day. She still had a low level fever and he didn’t feel comfortable sending her home.

Once the doctor arrived we received the unfortunate news she wouldn’t be going home with me that day. Although her fever was all gone they wanted to make sure she it wouldn’t rise again. I had a 21 foot U-haul truck parallel parked in a busy Bronx street on Grand Concourse and now we weren’t going home. I was beyond frustrated at that point. I had kids at home and work with the next day I wouldn’t make it back for either. We spent the day together talking, hanging out and calling everyone we knew. When it was time for me to go, I promised I would be back in the morning. I’d already turned in the keys for her apartment, so I slept on my cousin’s couch for the night.

I couldn’t sleep a wink worrying about her.

I woke up at 7 am the next day and spent the day trying to convince every doctor and nurse I could find to let us go. By 3 pm the doctor said if we wanted to go home we had to sign a refusal of care waiver. So after talking to my mom, aunt and uncle we decided it was time we headed to PA. So I signed her out and grandma was free. Once dressed, and out the hospital she was a different person. She was surprised and excited when she saw the truck. She couldn’t believe all that I had done in the short time she was in the hospital. But we laughed about the weekend we’d had and we literally drove off into the sun set.

Things since then have not been easy but everyday we learn something new. She’d rather snack then eat a meal. She is the cleanest person in the house, 2 showers a day on a regular day, 3 or more if its hot out. Music fills her spirits, she still loves to dance and wont ever skip a beat. Bringing her into my home has been a joy and I have never once regretted it.

 

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my grandma (and it wont be the last). A beautiful soul by the name of Dawn allowed me to contribute a piece on her blog so if you want to read that head over to The Divine Life Blog.

Thank you to My amazing friend Jenny for always making sure my grammar is better then it really is.