Virtues from Motherhood: What happens to the people society fails?

I wonder this often when I ride the train, I see people that society is just not designed to benefit and I imagine how hard everyday life must be in their shoes. One of the first things that comes to mind when you hear about the NYC subway system are the people who call it home, the homeless population that seeks refuge on the iron horse. I’m sure I’m not the only person who wonders when their life went left and they ended up homeless? Where are their family members? Didn’t they have any friends? Was it drugs or just hardship? The questions are endless and I’m sure in some cases it’s a result of poor choices and bad judgment but what about the people who are just failed by society? What about the guy who’s on the spectrum but grew up in a time where it wasn’t recognized and can’t hold a job because he was never given the tools to do so. What about the child who was born to drug addicted parents and thrown into the system at 2 years old and aged out at 18 with no idea how to navigate society, higher education or make stable life choices?

Society, while it’s slowly becoming more inclusive, has a longer more harsh history of excluding those who need guidance the most. Instead of just tossing these people who need more time, more space, or more guidance, into rooms, jobs and settings where they’re competing with the mainstream we should develop ways to help these people, give them tools, not pink slips. In most NYC public schools classrooms are inclusion classes where kids of all levels are expected to learn the same material at the same rate. While the argument is pitched to say kids learn better off their peers, this sentiment ends when the school year does and they fall behind.

We need to recognize that not every person learns the same, comprehends and functions the same and we can’t skew the system to support kids until their 18th birthday and then expect them to figure it out on their own when the training wheels are abruptly yanked. A few months ago I read a post on a blog from a photographer who photographs the homeless across the country and tells their story. One of his posts though, from a 19 year old homeless kid, really struck a cord. This poor kid had been raised by his grandparents, didn’t know where his parents were, and when his grandmother passed away he found himself homeless when the bank took the house he grew up in. His job couldn’t support rent and life expenses and so he took refuge in city muni stations.

How do we call people adults when we’ve never provided them the proper tools to function as one? How many high school students learn about taxes, IRA’s or retirement? We teach students to pass, not to know and we then have adults who relied on being told what to do and how to do it and when that structure is gone they fall through the cracks. Society fails them.

We as a society need to make a change, we need to change the method and change the approach. You can’t expect kids to just figure it out of their peers or after having it done for them for years, you have to offer a safety net and not a hand out. Until then though I’ll hope for the best and teach my own daughter to do for herself and learn the steps and not just the outcome.

Virtues from Motherhood: What is luck anyway?

All my life I’ve heard people tell me I was lucky but every time I heard it as a kid I was confused. Growing up I thought we were like every other family, nothing special, and that all kids lived like I did. Now we weren’t the Kennedy’s or the Kardashian’s by any means but we did have it better than most. Forgive my childhood ignorance but I could never see what luck people always told me I had, to me luck was lots of money, good looks and material things. It wasn’t until I was much older, I’m talking after having Ava that I realized luck is not something you really throw a dollar sign on.

After I started doing taxes and helping people sort out their financial woes it hit me, I’m lucky that I grew up how I had. Now I’m not saying money makes you lucky, I’m saying I’ve seen people who have nothing, they worry if they’ll be able to keep food on the table and their family has left them behind. I’ve seen women who are raising kids truly alone, with no family and no moral support break down and cry. Other people are not as lucky as I am.

Other people don’t have a family who rallies around them and helps them up when they fall, other people don’t have the mind I was gifted with to work in multiple fields. Other people aren’t as lucky to have their health and be able to do something as simple as walk up and down steps, or breathe freely. Luck is immeasurable.

The next time you wish you had a cushy job or didn’t have to work at all think of those who have to work just to keep their lights on, just to make it. The next time you roll your eyes at your mom’s umpteenth request to do something, think of those who’ve lost their mother or worse, never knew her. The idea that luck is material is secondary to the luck that keeps us alive, that means we get to see another day. People who are lucky are people who are gifted with their health, with loving family and with natural ability to do something, like athletics, math or writing and they don’t measure the luck they by the amount of money that brings in.

Luck is the ground you walk on, the eyes you see with, the voice you use to talk to people. So use that voice to do good, to spread love and positivity, spread education and spread the idea that luck is in the people that love you and not in your wallet.

Virtues from Motherhood: Your struggles might save someone else

This past Friday I had the privilege of speaking on a panel with the First Year Programs office. The focus was around preparing high school students for college and why there is such a disconnect. City Tech faculty, as well as some high school educators were in attendance. Professor Jennifer Sears invited me to sit on the panel as the student voice after being her ENG 1101 classes peer mentor this past fall.

I was pretty nervous to join the panel not only because I was the only student but because at one time I was the student that this particular panel was discussing. My own transition to college was difficult to say the least and I wondered if things would have been different for me had there been so many people trying to fix the problem when it was me who was drowning. I was glad though, that I was able to speak up and represent those students who feel like the system fails them and that nobody really cares if they make it or not.

Being asked to speak in a room full of educators is an honor, but it is also nerve-wracking to say the least. It’s an odd space to be in because although I am a student I am also a professional, having worked in my current job for 6 years as a manager. I can identify with the student struggle with the issues I deal with as a CUNY student but I can also identify the red tape and loopholes large organizations present you with that make it hard to reach every single student.

I used to wonder why I ended up walking the path that I did, albeit some of it was my own doing, I still wondered what fate had in store for me. I think I was meant to struggle a little bit longer because I would eventually be able to advocate for others. For those who can’t or are too afraid I was able to sit on that panel and say this is what’s wrong this is what we can do better for them. Every person is not born with an enormous voice or will power, some have to be nurtured and worked with to get to that point, and if my struggles can help someone else get there, I am okay with it.

Virtues from Motherhood: Time is a slippery creature

I talk about time often, how quickly it passes or how it doesn’t stop for any of us, but I come back to this idea because time and time again it’s proven to be so very true. When I was younger I saw my late 20s as this big gaping whole in the vortex of time that marked the end of life as I knew it. I didn’t think life happened after 30 or that you could still chase your goals that long. Well now a few years off of 30 I realize I may have missed the mark. Time is what you make of it, time is what you put into the cause and time is evasive and it hides from us even though we know its there and we feel it moving.

I think we’re all worried about running out of time and we’re not totally incorrect because time is not infinite but we need to stop watching the clock and start living the hours on it. The past decade of my life has been eventful to say the least and there are instances now where I wish I’d made better use of my time in the past, but I’m making up for that now.

Every single one of us gets the same amount of hours, the same hands on the clock, yet some of us seem to struggle with getting a handle on the days, months and years. Though we can’t touch time we can make it work for us, make it count, make it valuable. 2016 to me feels like a year of elusive and wasted hours, hours I spent preoccupied and distraught over things I knew how to overcome. So I challenge my readers this, what thing did you waste the most time on in 2016 and what will you do to fix it in 2017?

Virtues from Motherhood: Look back sometimes

Often we’re told that we should never look back, that the windshield is larger than the rear view mirror because the best is ahead of us and not behind. While I agree to an extent that you can’t revisit the past, sometimes in order to keep moving forward we need to peek into the past. It’s easy to feel lost or restless when the present is clouded with smoke and mirrors and trying to decipher the path ahead of you seems impossible. Sometimes it feels like our world is caving in and the road beneath us is falling away, so what’s a girl to do?

Last week I was looking through some old pictures from the 90’s and laughing about how funny my hair looked or how outrageous my clothes were, but then it hit me. Those photos were a trail of a live lived, of memories, of things that weave directly into the fabric of who I am. Granted I’m sure outside of those gleeful snapshots there were some bad times or some unhappy memories, but I didn’t save those. While I’m sure anyone can recall the first time they fell off a bike or lost a friend the trail didn’t end there. The stream of pictures and keepsakes didn’t stop when we hit a snag in the road, though it may have felt like it at the time.

2016 was a rough year for me; I’m considered naming my end of year video montage “The Year of Perpetual Ls” (LOL), but all jokes aside the last 10 or so months have really tried me as a person. In a sense I just put myself into auto pilot mode and just went through the motions, work, school, home and repeat. I felt like I lost a grip on who I was and what made me tick and it was infuriating when I put so much energy into rebuilding myself three years ago. I felt like a turtle because not only did I feel like I was moving in slow motion but all I wanted to do was hide inside my shell. Going anywhere seemed like a huge ordeal that I had next to no interest in and being around large groups of people started giving me anxiety. For someone who’d spent summers and weekends before out gallivanting and being social it was a 180 but a rare few noticed. So I figured maybe it was in my head until I did a digital walk down memory lane, I scrolled through my library and my Instagram and realized how empty it was compared to a year ago when pictures from just a few weeks ago got buried very quickly.

Don’t get me wrong alone time and being frugal with your money and your time isn’t a bad thing at all, it was just a change of character for me. I realize it’s a lot easier said than done in a lot of cases because I’ve read my blog posts and thought, take your own advice dummy. So I’m going to do just that, or try to, as the New Year approaches I’m going to make a priority list and try to stick to it. I want to try new things and go places while I balance the things I’m responsible before. Most importantly though, I’m going to try and stop allowing grief and loss to eat me alive. I know that grief is a process and there are stages and I know that it takes time, but sometimes it attempts to linger too long and I need to stop allowing it. I know it is a tad bit earlier for resolutions but I want to start breaking bad habit now and this will be the first. What will you try?

Virtues from Motherhood: What you want for you is not always what’s best for you

For a long while in my life I believed you could wish and hope things into existence, that if you hoped and prayed hard enough it would materialize. Unfortunately, several heartbreaks later, I realize that just isn’t how it works because sometimes the universe wrecks your plans before those plans wreck you. You can only follow something, an idea, a person, a habit, so far before the universe tugs you back to where you belong. Despite how badly we want something or someone to be ours, for plans to work out or to be good at something, there are instances in life where the world just says no.

When I said heartbreak, I didn’t just mean at the hands of another human being because heartbreak comes in many forms. Heartbreak can be with the loss of someone we’ve loved, the realization that someone is just not who we hoped they would be, it can be the reality of acknowledging you have to let go of a dream to survive. All of those things can break your heart because each of those things occupy a place in your heart, each of those things consume a piece of the fibers of the cloth we are woven in.

Sometimes though, the threads become frayed and worn and no longer hold the fabric of our lives together, they get snagged as we turn corners, they require constant mending and take our energy, and our minds, away from the path we deserve to be on. The hardest thing I’ve had to acknowledge in my adult life was the reality that the universe had to intervene because I myself didn’t have the strength to. Maybe the habit of holding on too long is buried deep within me, in a place I haven’t yet reached, but in my life, I’ve done it too often until the world sends me glaring and painful signs I need to put myself first and I can’t grow and succeed if my life choices are centered around someone else.

Maybe it’s the fear that I’ll never find such a meaningful person again that triggers me to hold on long after I need to, or maybe it’s the fact that I miss who the person was and can’t accept who they are. Whatever the reason, I have yet to realize it, but I have realized the fact that eventually the world says “no more” and you are forced to face down some of your worst fears or demons that you’ve spent time running from. In retrospect, I have survived every one of these instances in my life despite believing I’d never be able to at the time. I survived, and the idea of “never being the same” is partly true, I wasn’t. I had to change each and every time life had to shake something out of my stubborn hands. The changes aren’t all bad though, it gave me valuable insight I was able to use in my own life and in those of the people who I love. Maybe life gives us wisdom not only for our own well-being, but to help those around us.

I’m not quite sure what possess my stubborn self to repeatedly go back to things that have stung me, maybe it’s a desire to conquer things that hurt me, maybe it’s the hope that whatever it is will realize it was wrong for causing me pain and make amends. I’ve never gotten the answer though, and I’m not sure I ever will. At the end of the day though these things have helped define me, inspire me and catapult me into the next phase of my life, whether I’m ready or not.

Virtues from Motherhood: Positivity

In the course of my 26 years I’ve learned quite a bit about the energy you surround yourself with. It’s very easy to get caught up in a pessimistic web of thoughts, so why not creative a positive stepping path instead? Easier said than done, I know, but it has truly made all the difference in the last three years of my life.

When you think positively and set realistic goals, even if they’re small, you begin to feel lighter, more in control and just overall happier. I used to set monstrous goals for myself, ones that would take years to complete and seemed so far out of reach I’d get frustrated and give up. Instead though I started setting smaller goals, do 30 minutes of exercise twice a week, eat one less bad meal a week or swap out a sugary drink for water twice a day. Smaller goals just seem more obtainable and when you meet them you feel like you’re making progress.

The same goes for bigger life goals, like graduating from college or advancing in your career. To simply say you want to graduate in 2 years is so vague and so easily disturbed that you almost set yourself up for failure. Instead set goals like, you want to have x amount of credits by next fall or you want to raise your GPA by so many points.

The moral of the story here is small steps eventually add up to leaps and bounds and while you  may not see change overnight you will see it over time. For example, I was academically dismissed from John Jay College and now I have a 3.9 GPA and have been on the Dean’s List two semesters in a row. It is little things like that, that let me know I’m on the right track.

So tell me readers, what are your milestones for 2017?


Virtues from Motherhood: New Years Reflections

As the weather turns colder and the days get shorter we may find ourselves curled up with our thoughts more frequently. We might look back on the year thus far or reminisce about where we were a year ago. It’s easy though, to get lost in these thoughts and feel a sense of loss and longing and mourn the memories instead of celebrate them.
I too have fallen into the trap of missing what was and letting a heavy heart get the best of me but recently I’ve tried to think about the positives and celebrate the fact that at that point in time happiness had illuminated my life. In a perfect world every day and every season would be filled with nothing but happiness and precious memories, but the world is not perfect.

We all lose at some point, relationships end and friends move away and we find ourselves with a void where happiness once lived and it’s easy to let loneliness move in. I challenge you however to evict loneliness and invite celebration and rejoice in and be optimistic that something or someone equally as meaningful will grace your life in due time.

Every moment can’t be happy as much as we’d like it to but instead of mourning memories of moments passed celebrate them and bask in the warmth from that time in your life. The beauty about a memory is that it’s yours, nobody can alter or take it away from you and nobody can change how it made you feel. Memories are our own personal photo album for us to resort back to on chilly fall days when we miss a loved one or a place, they’re the moon in our darkness and the sunlight peaking through on a cloudy day. It’s easy to let sadness get the best of you but it’s even easier to look back into your memories and feel your heart be warm again. People may come and go from our lives but the footprint that they left behind remains forever.

Virtues from Motherhood: Shaking guilt

For all of Ava’s life it’s just been her and me. Ava’s dad has never really been involved in her life consistently and it’s never seemed to bother him that he’s missed every single milestone in her life and has little to no bond with her. That alone baffled me, how could you not be apart of a life you created?!

Confusion aside I was hurt and felt guilty, mostly guilty, for bringing Ava into the world with only half her parents to raise her. I never wanted her to be that kid from a broken home and I had hope that he would wake up and realize despite our inability to be together that he should step up and be a father. Sadly, not surprisingly, he chose not to and was completely absent from her life for five years, seeing her once a year and calling her maybe half a dozen times at best. On father’s day or parent’s day at school I always felt such guilt under my proud mom smile. I couldn’t help but notice her looking around at other kids who had both parents there all the time and though she didn’t look too bothered I knew it had crossed her mind. I knew eventually she’d ask why he wasn’t there or why he never answered the phone and I secretly hoped it’d be when she was much older.

Unfortunately my luck ran out when she was 5 and she asked me why her daddy never celebrated her birthday with her (for the record he was present at her first birthday but she doesn’t remember that). I was overwhelmed with panic and sadness and told her that her daddy was busy working but she was too quick for me and asked why her friend Riley’s daddy could work and be at her party. I held back tears when I told her I really didn’t know and that I would always make sure she had the best birthdays in the world.

Now I wasn’t lying I really didn’t know why he couldn’t call or send a card, I was just as confused as she was and at every holiday, school event or special occasion tears would well up in my eyes as the guilt hit me once again. I felt so bad and I didn’t ever want to show her that so I made sure I was at every event, every holiday show, every class party cheering her on twice as hard.

For a while I didn’t share that guilt with anyone I just kept it tucked away and let it gnaw at me silently. I found however that when I did share it with my friends, my family that they were angry or shocked that I felt that way. I was told that what I was doing for Ava was extraordinary that getting my degree and working was all going to give her the best life possible and that I was setting a good example for her, she was being raised by a strong woman. As nice as those things were to hear I still wasn’t convinced until my own mother told me a man being there physically means nothing if he can’t be there emotionally or mentally. I realized she was right, he couldn’t pick up the phone or mail a card, what difference would him standing in front of her blankly do?

I still struggle with this, sometimes I’m sad that she’s got maybe a dozen pictures with her dad in her 7 years of life, other times I’m angry that he’s just going on with his life and doesn’t seem to wonder what she’ll think of him but lately more and more I’m proud, proud of my daughter for being so smart and bright, proud of her for always seeing the bright side and proud of myself for showing her that there is a bright side, you just have to keep looking up.

Virtues from Motherhood: The Gift of Age

Every year no matter who you are or on what continent, you get another year older and celebrate another year of life. As a kid I couldn’t wait for my birthday because it was like my own personal holiday but once I passed 21 and more specifically once Ava turned 5 I started to dread that cake on the calendar. It wasn’t until I turned 25 that I started noticing the little gifts age had given me, and how sometimes we really can’t see things until we’ve ripened a little. Time hop is a magical little app that allows us to look back on, and cringe at, our younger selves and our declarations on social media and looking at mine I’ve become somewhat thankful for the gift of age.

Age gives us many things, wisdom, memories, bills, maybe a few wrinkles but most of all age gives us knowledge, power and self-worth. The other day I was driving home and I realized that all of my bills were paid, way ahead of time and chuckled to myself that a short three years ago I was frantic to be able to pay these same bills. With age I stopped being so materialistic and started to think long-term, saving money. Little things like that are just a few things I realized in myself that came solely with age. When I was 24 a coworker told me the world changes at 25 and she was right.

Besides being financially responsible age mentally changes you too. As you get older the things you worry about, the people you surround yourself with and the places you want to be change. As I got older the types of places and people I frequented changed I no longer wanted to be in bars every other weekend or be out late, suddenly brunch and weekends in central park seemed way more enjoyable. I couldn’t fathom spending 60$ on a night out anymore when I could use it for something else. Now don’t get me wrong a night out in celebration here or there is great but it certainly isn’t a life style.

Lifestyle becomes more about experience and peace of mind with age and that includes not having people in my life that required work to keep happy or keep up with. Relationships both friend and romantic shouldn’t be toxic or complicated so in the best interest of myself I no longer dealt with it. The memories of people who once filled my life with memories before are nice but they don’t have a place in the present anymore.


All in all while the idea of approaching my 30s terrifies me I’m excited to see where the breeze of age will lead me. SO tell me, what has age given you?