7 thoughts in 7 days off social media

It has been 7 days since I logged off Facebook and Instagram for a while. I’ve had lots of thoughts in that time (like “how can I get someone to find the boy Leila likes on Instagram and see if he has ever posted any shirtless pics without sounding like a sociopath?”). But here are 7 less crazy thoughts about being off social media that are probably worth sharing.

1)  Ignorance may not be bliss, but it’s a ceasefire.

I may not know which celebrity did what or died, or what the latest outrage perpetrated by [insert entity here] is, or where you got to go/do that I didn’t, but in the quiet space left by the absence of media chatter and the resulting cognitive dissonance, there is some peace.  I like it. It gives me time to regroup and ration my ****s. I can’t be just giving them out all willy-nilly. Because, inflation.

2)  One-eyed morning-scrolling keeps you from waking up. #staywoke

For the last 7 days, I’ve gotten up within 10 minutes of waking up. I reach for the phone, check the weather, do a quick check of work email, and get up. There’s nothing else to “check” except myself, and I can do that in the bathroom. Not that I physically check myself.  I just check in to the day. Wake up to my life. There will be enough crazy populating it soon enough without me clicking and scrolling and bookmarking any extra. Bandwidth matters.

3)  It’s okay to be bored sometimes.

There was an article posted recently in Atlantic Monthly about the benefits of boredom. According to fancy scientific studies, it sparks creativity. I’d like to think that the few moments of boredom I’ve experienced in the last few days spurred some ingenuity, but I can’t be sure. There’s this (and another post I’m working on about a word I made up), so that’s something.

4)  If you take a picture of a tree falling in the forest, and you don’t post it, is your reality sound?

Yes.

It still happened. And if I’m honest, I took the picture so that I can look at it, which I can still do. I don’t need anybody to “like” it, because I do. We like “likes” though, don’t we? It’s validating. “Yes, you/your food/your kid/your dog/that thing you’re doing/your Pinterest projects are interesting.”  You exist. There. Done.

Just to clarify…I did not take a picture of a tree falling in a forest. But here’s one in case nobody has posted it recently. (picture courtesy of usda.gov)

Tree falling

 

5)  You’ll have more to say if you say less.

Need I say more?

6)  There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but that’s dumb.

Idiomatically speaking, to skin a cat = achieve your goals. I’d like to think my goals in using social media were to stay connected to people, stay abreast of what’s going on in the world, to be entertained and to entertain. But, if I’m being real with myself, a lot of it was about passing the time or procrastinating. But there are other ways to do those things. It’s possible to connect through good old-fashioned conversation, an activity I engaged in during a mandated team-building time mid-week. In spite of my social awkwardness, it was refreshing. Staying informed isn’t hard to do either, and it’s easier to manage if updates aren’t speeding past you like ticker tape. I still get news notifications, but I feel less compelled to click on all of them. (See thought #1). As for passing the time and procrastination, *shrugs*, I’m trying to quit.

Strictly speaking, skinning cats is not a good use of time. It’s also gross.

7)  You have more time than you think, and it’s better than it seems.

There never seems to be enough time. Just 24 hours. But when I add back the time spent posting pictures of falling trees, one-eyed morning scrolling and skinning cats, there’s more of it. I’m estimating about 1-3 hours a day. I can fill those hours with reading or writing or playing check-up with Maya. Or with nothing. It makes me appreciate the other hours, too. Gratitude is never a waste of time. It draws out the moments around it. It creates time. Try it. Take a few moments to list the problems you DON’T have, the people you do have, and the good in you.

See?  More time.

There is enough.

So the hiatus continues.

****************************************************************************

Since I’m not on social media right now, I’m relying on readers to post this on theirs. Otherwise, this is a metaphorical tree falling in a digital forest. Alternatively (or additionally), you could comment here. Mama needs a fix.

 

-FHB

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Making Space or Whatever

I decided, rather abruptly, to take a break from social media. No Facebook. No Instagram. Haven’t tweeted in years, and only snapped like once, so no change there. I wish there was a deep reason. Something about transcendentalism or enlightenment or minimalism or mindfulness. But I can’t make such bold claims.

Really, I think it’s about clearing some space in my life for…you know… living. Tamping down my addictive nature. I really haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about “desired outcomes”. I leave that for my day job. All I know is that, for me, there is more of an illusion of connectedness than I wanted to admit to.  Social media can make you feel like you know people, that they see you. It was getting to be too much of a crutch.  This thing, posting and scrolling, reading and tapping, started to feel rote. I don’t know.

I guess what I’m saying is that there wasn’t really a big plan for this disconnection, or even a definite time frame. I’m assuming that I’ll know when it’s time for this to be over just like I knew it was time to start.

In fact, I wasn’t going to blog the process. So many others already have, like Blogger who quit social media. Besides, what do I have to add to the conversation?

Randomness and honesty.

That’s what you’re here for, right?

We’ll see how that goes.

Today’s Highlights

I wore a bright blue pleated skirt that my grandmother made for me. Every time I felt surrounded by crazy, I remembered that I was literally wrapped in love.

Me,: “Maya, do you wanna do some school work?”

Maya: “Ummm… Not yet.”

 

 

 

Lamenting on Lemons

LemonTree2

Lamenting on Lemons

 

There is a lemon tree in our backyard.

Two, in fact.

Last year I had enough to make

A dozen jars of Lemon-Basil marmalade

And give them as gifts for Christmas.

Because when Life gives you lemons,

You make marmalade.

 

This year, there was supposed to be more money

So I could give more than jars,

And travel to new places.

Money to make even more of life.

But there isn’t.

And there are reasons and no reason for that.

 

I am looking to the lemon trees.

It’s November.

I only just noticed that there are hardly any.

Not nearly enough for marmalade

The one tree offers half a dozen acne-pocked lemons

Loosely held in leafy fingers

Threatening to toss them to the ground.

The other bore no fruit at all.

I see why Jesus cursed the fig tree.

What happens when Life won’t even give you lemons?

What do you make then?

 

-FHB

Because April is the cruelest month

Teachers know.

April is the cruellest month

Houston doesn’t really have much of a spring. Can you even call it spring when there wasn’t really a winter?

No.

April is early summer. Temperatures in the upper 70s, low 80s. Longer days. Sun. Thunderstorms.

The weather itself mocks both teacher and student. It feels like summer. But it’s not.

Summer is freedom.

April is testing. And prep for more testing come May.

But there are festivals and parks and patio bars calling, and you want to go do all the things. Or nothing. In a hammock.

April is that one friend throwing pebbles at your bedroom window, slyly begging you to come outside and play when she knows you’re grounded for 2 more months.  sad cat

Breeding lilacs out of the dead land

The lilacs are the children.

The dead land is you. Or so it seems, on Sunday night, when there are still papers left to grade. Calls still unmade. Lessons undifferentiated. Emails still flagged. And you haven’t washed your sheets/hair/car/Tupperware.

But you’re not dead. Dead tired, maybe. But not dead.

There is a layer of hope beneath the cracked topsoil. A water table. Not all of the bulbs will bloom this season. Some will. Some, next year. Some in 5. Some at a future date TBD… maybe.

You are doing fine.

If someone else’s grass looks greener, just know, it’s probably Astroturf.

Mixing memory with desire

There’s a good chance you’re looking back on Spring Break with longing, or back to last summer. Or even further back to the halcyon days of…whenever. Things were easier then. You were happier, right? (But were you? Hindsight is a Snapchat filter.) And you want that again. Now.

But it’s April.

At this point, every Friday is good.

Stirring dull roots with spring rain

Maybe your roots are dull (and, as if to add insult to injury, graying). Maybe your students, the lilacs, are dull-rooted, too. And in April, it’s hard to imagine them springing to life. Or to imagine it for yourself when the alarm clock goes off at 5:30 am. And it’s only Tuesday.

After all, you’ve tried. For months. Years, even.

But if you close your eyes and breathe deeply, there’s an earthy, metallic quality to the air. Thick and redolent. A welcome presage.

There’s word for this. Petrichor.

From the Greek word for stone, petra, and ichor, the blood of the gods. Petrichor is the smell of impending rain.

That’s the thing about April.

No matter how dull the roots, no matter how many dry days lie ahead… it will rain.

single-green-plant-desert-close-up-43526626

 

 

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The Waste Land. New York: Horace Liveright, 1922

 

*This essay is dedicated to LAR.

End-of-Summer Musings

Summer break 2016 has come to an end, and I feel…a lot.

I sit here in the bed, showered but unpacked, ready for tomorrow, and not, watching Maya in the baby monitor. My last baby. Such a little character! I wonder where she gets it.

I’ve relished the last few weeks being home with her every day. Watching her play with play doh and dolls and plastic bags, try out new words (up to 2-3 new words every day now), sing along to her favorite shows (Bubble Guppies and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse), dance. I’ve soaked in the feeling of her tiny warm body sprawled across my chest for her daily nap. The faint scent of grape seed oil in her hair. Her warm breath on my neck.

I’ve watched her older sister, my firstborn, her once lanky form shape-shifting before my eyes. She moves from couch to couch, room to room, bristling with emotion, switching between energy and ennui without notice. We’ve summered together. We shopped and sang, basked and baked away the days. Concerts and museum visits and Netflix binges.

I want to hold this time in my hands. But as with all time, it slips through my fingers like tiny diamonds. I can’t hold them, but I can remember them, these moments, if not individually, then as a sort of mosaic. Or more like a pointillist painting, a scene best seen when you step back, composed of a million little moments. Points perfect.

I hover between tenses; past, present and future.

Longing for days still warm from my having just been there. Basking in the after-glow. Anxiously awaiting the school year ahead.  Innovative ideas springing into mind like pop-ups.

This time I will..

With this class..

I was made for this.

I’m obsessed with creating the conditions for finding meaning and purpose.

It’s a virus. This desire to evoke. Educate. Educare (latin): to draw out that which lies within.

I’m infected…and contagious. I hope.

It is my protest.

The longing I feel for moments with my own children, for the freedom of summer, for the solace of it is matched with the longing to make learning meaningful for someone else’s.

And so I set my course for another year. Another campus to make home.

And after the day is done, I’ll come back to them. My own babies.

I’m as ready as I can be.

Year 12, a year of magical teaching.

13474968_1251395404893370_4039746823709624214_o

You Are Here

So the year-long “optimism in the face of ignorance” experiment ended about 3 years ago. Then I got pregnant and the blog became about that. See The Vault. The verdict: People! Ugh! Eff ’em. (i.e. this whole Trump thing, the Stanford rapist, cable companies, bathroom fear-mongering, institutionalized racism, etc.)

NOW this blog is about honesty. Being real. Being an adult (which mostly sucks). Trying to figure this whole thing out (which is fun, actually). It’s about the real person behind the Instagram filters. The crazy one. You’re not alone. I’m positively ridiculous…and so are you.

So here we are. 5d9c2b19fdcc9d03d20649852e4a32d0

It’ll be mostly PG-13 here. For the ranty, spicily-worded stuff, there’s  Room 13. A key is required for that, though. I’d say, to be safe[r], leave that alone. You’ll be fine here.

Here are some of my previous blogs.

If you want to know me, this might help. Consider yourself warned.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I Am Not Black

 

If black is the absence of color,

If black is what happens when all light is absorbed,

None reaching the eye,

Lacking in hue and brightness,

Then I am not black.

 No.

I am not black.   no-advertising

 

I am color.

Feisty and flawed and fabulous.

I don’t just absorb light.

I refract it.

Taking negative energy and aiming it away,

Pulling the light of the universe into myself

And back out in rays.

Pouring on those who cannot see themselves,

For themselves,

Yet.

 

I am gold.

Atomic number 79

For the year I arrived.

Resistant to attack by individual acids

Intent on breaking me down.

Mined from a place of darkness

The prospector’s find.

Brilliant, solid and strong.

 

I am obsidian.

Fiery magma moving in smoothly to fill vacant spaces.

Cooled and molded by experience.

Amorphous. Changing. Unclassifiable.

 

I am a self-fulfilling prophecy.

An ancient prediction causing myself to be true.

And you?

 

Though your skin may be tinted with melanin,

Ranging in shade from latte to java,

Your flavor is rich;

Your history deep;

Your potential, infinite.

Draw on the strength of your ancestors.

Construct your own definition.

Speak boldly.

Tell them this

That you are more than the color black

Broader and deeper and more complex than that.

Whenever they ask you

What you are.

-FHB

I was asked to write something to perform at the Black History Month Kick-Off Assembly at my school. So…this.

 

How to have a baby in 3 hours or less – Maya’s Birth Story

Step 1

Be shocked even though you KNOW you’re 9 months pregnant and can go into labor at any time. Then rush to the hospital in a controlled panic.

10:27 pm

My water breaks. I lie there for a few seconds in disbelief. But it’s unmistakable.

“Babe, my water just broke.”

“Are you sure?”

“Umm..yes. We better get going.”

He hops up and gets dressed. Then heads off to wake up Leila. I waddle to the bathroom because, OMG, my water just broke! I remain outwardly calm although my brain is screaming “oh shit! This is it!”

I manage to call my in-laws to meet us at the hospital so that they can pick up Leila.

I change clothes. Grab my bag. Charles get the car seat (which we’d installed in my car…which was no longer drivable. Something about a broken subframe). 😦

10:35 pm

By the time we get in his car, the REAL contractions start. What does that feel like?

It feels like the alien from Alien is in you squeezing and twisting your insides in a rusty vise. Eye-crossing pain.

I don’t want to freak out Leila, who is sitting silently in the back seat.

I tell her that I’m fine, but she’s seen episodes of Call the Midwife, so I KNOW she’s nervous.

Throughout the drive, the contractions get closer together, every 3-4 minutes.

I tell Charles to drop me at patient drop-off, and I’ll get somebody to wheel me to labor and delivery.

Step 2

Do paperwork and answer questions. Lots of questions. It makes the baby come faster.

10:55 pm

I hurry into over to the customer service desk and tell the lady at the desk that I’m in labor and I need help. She just points across the expansive lobby, at the elevators and says “6th floor”.

So, apparently this whole thing is myth. You have to hobble your own ass up to L & D.

Lies! Nobody does this.
Lies! Nobody does this.

I make it to L&D where a little African lady is moving papers around at the nurse’s station. She does not immediately address me. The papers were obviously in a more active stage of labor than me.

After a few seconds, I just interrupt. “Um…my water broke about 30 minutes ago. I’m in labor. Already registered.”

Instead of leaping into action, Mama Esther* hands me a pile of forms to sign. Did I bring valuables? No.

Do I agree to be treated by the hospital? Duh. That’s why I’m here. Xa&#jgt2(&#Hne? (<–contraction). I just initial the rest and push the papers back over to Mama Esther, hoping I haven’t signed away parental rights to my unborn child. She then saunters away from the desk to “see what room is available”. Meanwhile, I continue dying.

11:10 am

I’ve gotten a room, changed into a hospital gown and managed to drag myself up onto the bed. My nurse, Olga**, says she’s going to check to make sure that my water broke. I assure her that it did. But she has to check anyway.

“Yep, your water broke.”

What, really? -_-

She goes over to the computer station and starts typing away, pausing only to ask my questions that I had already answered when I pre-registered. All during this time, contractions are getting more intense and coming about every 2 minutes.

I tell her that I’m in a lot of pain, and she just looks at me like this… 6a00d83451675669e2017d3c6fe37b970c

After passing Leila off to my in-laws, Charles comes in the room.

The original plan was that he would stay with me during labor, but when things were about to go down, he could go to the waiting room a la Mad Men era until baby was cleaned up and I’d had time to fluff my hair and put on my pearls. (eye-roll)

Olga pulls herself away from the computer to give me more papers to sign. I push them away. Charles ends up having to sign them.

Olga tries to hook up my IV, but can’t get the needle in the vein. After a few tries, she has another nurse come in and do it. I don’t even care, because contractions. I’ll have to finish the bag of IV fluid before getting an epidural. Boo. I hate Olga. She has gone back to pounding away at the keyboard. Wtf is she writing? A book?

At least Charles is there, holding my hand.

Step 3

Ask for an epidural. Wait for the anesthesiologist. Then your impatient baby will jump out of you.

12:35 am                                                    

Fifty years later, the anesthesiologist arrives. He sets up a cart with all of his equipment as I drift in and out of sanity. I can barely manage to sit up so that he can prep my back for the needle. There’s this crazy pressure accompanying the contractions now.

The anesthesiologist is rubbing that iodine stuff on my back. Suddenly, I can’t take it anymore. The pushing has begun, against my will.

I have to lie down. Now!

Charles helps me lie down, and the nurse starts yelling down the hall for help, but it’s too late.

Maya decided that everybody was taking too long, and she was just gonna do this herself. I push maybe 3 times, and she’s out.

12:47 am. 6 pounds 3 ounces. 19.5 inches.

Birth. Nailed It.
Birth. Nailed It.

And that, my friends, is how you have a baby in 3 hours or less.

 

*Mama Esther is not her real name. I was going for something Nigerian.

**Olga was her real name.

How to have a baby in 3 hours or less – the prologue

I had a baby in less than 3 hours.

Here’s how it happened.

Thursday, September 25, 2014 was my grandmother’s 89th birthday, the grandmother after whom Maya Seneva is named. The day before, I’d actually whispered a little prayer humbly asking that the baby be born on the 25th. I also prayed for a volunteer housekeeper to mysteriously show up at my door ready to do all the things for free. Because I hear that God works in mysterious ways.

Anyway, Thursday, September 25th also happened to be the date of high school open house at my job. I stayed after school to tell parents “Hi. I teach your kid…until tomorrow. But I’ll be back in January.”

When parents came in, my classroom-mate, Sydney, and I launched into our simultaneous spiels about our respective curriculum.

Me: Intro to Rhetoric and Composition is a non-fiction writing class. The goal is to learn how rhetoric is used to influence others so as to #1, not get taken advantage of and #2, persuade others to change their thoughts and actions.

Parents: wah-wah- wa-wa-wah

Me: Well, ma’am, your son participates in class, but doesn’t do his homework.

Parent: wah-wah wa wa wa wah

Me: He should be writing it down in his agenda. It’s on always on the board.

Parent: wah wah wa wa

Me: The best way to do better in this class is to do the work.

This went on for about an hour. (sprinkle in a couple of Braxton Hicks contractions)

My coworker had agreed to drive me home after Open House since I didn’t have a functioning car that day. But she’d been hit with a raging migraine, so ended up driving her car (with her in the passenger seat) home.

I walked in the door, went to give Leila a hug and kiss, and proceeded to make dinner. Tilapia, I think. Or maybe it was chicken tenders. I don’t remember exactly.

Since it was already 5 minutes til 8, I decided to record Scandal so that I could watch TV with Leila before she went to bed. Also, then Charles and I could watch the season premiere of “How To Get Away With Murder”.

He came home just in time. We watched it.

Intriguing show. I want to be a college professor like that (minus the whole manipulation and murder plotting thing)

After the show went off, I started getting ready for bed. I hadn’t really been having any serious pains…just a few minor contractions. So I wasn’t expecting anything at all when I crawled into bed at 10:25 pm.

But then… untitled… It’s time!

How to Appreciate New Mom-ness or “Dear Damn Baby”

I’ve had precious little time to write about my experiences as a new mom. That’s because time to myself, moments to write, are few and far between. Maya is almost 6 weeks old. Her schedule is not regular yet. I don’t really know how long she’ll be awake, or how long she will sleep. I don’t know when a screaming fit will start, or when she will be hungry. It makes it impossible for me to plan times to write. For a person who is accustomed to being on a schedule, this is a very difficult adjustment. As a teacher, I follow a bell schedule. Each hour of my day is scripted out and planned in advance. Not so now.

When I wake up in the morning, I have all of these aspirations about what I’m going to get done that day. Fold clothes. Mop the floors. Wash my hair. Read a book. I don’t get it all done. I’m lucky if I get even one or two things on my list done in a 24-hour period. But I don’t blame Maya for it. Well, I do, but..In fact yesterday I was reading a Facebook post by a friend of mine. More accurate to say an acquaintance from my youth. He mentioned how, as a stay-at-home dad, he realizes that he doesn’t like babies very much. That they are,in fact, terrible. I thought about it for moment. Do I like my baby? I think so. I mean, I love her. I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the whole world. But newborns are a lot of work. I don’t know if parents are really honest about that.

Newborns are very selfish and time-consuming. You have to give up your whole self to take care of them. They don’t care if you need a nap, a shower, or a glass of wine. Their new world, though small, is confusing, and at times uncomfortable. But if I really think about it, it’s my job, my privilege really, to help Maya navigate this new world. To help her adjust. Not only that, but also to capture these moments in words. To describe the way she throws her head back, her hands up, and scrunches her little face for a good stretch.To note the way her big sister, Leila , holds her and is so gentle with her.

 

This is what matters. Not that I get a chance to wash my hair today. It won’t be all woolly and wild forever, and Maya won’t be a baby forever either. I choose to treasure these moments. I choose to be grateful for every single unscripted second of it. Even those middle of the night crying fits. Well, maybe not so much of those. But most everything else.

So I am determined to write honestly about her, about me, about this.

And so it begins. 

Dear damn baby…

mommy & maya