Monday, March 26, 2018

Showing Up

We are in the middle of our East Coast Spring Break trip right now. While most of this trip was about having fun and visiting friends and having a great time, yesterday we planned a day to visit with my husbands family in Philadelphia. For most people, that’s just what you do when you go home, but for us this was a much bigger deal. You see, other than one brother, two sisters, and two nieces I’d never met any of his extremely large family, including his parents. We had been debating what to do and how to do this for quite some time. We finally decided a few weeks back to rent an AirBnB house and invite people over to visit in one spot. The weeks leading up this have caused some major anxiety. How would it all go with his deeply religious family meeting their gay sons husband and daughter for the first time? I never ever get nervous. It’s just not part of who I am, however for days I’ve watched in anticipation as we got on the plane from Los Angeles and into Philadelphia. I’ve done my normal travel thing by asking tons of questions and soaking up the rich history of this beautiful city. For me this wasn’t just about seeing Philadelphia, but moreso really understanding where my husband is from and how he became the most incredible person I’ve ever met. As we checked into the house, the owner was leaving. We walked in to the strongest smell of marijuana I’ve ever encountered. The previous renters had a house party the night before! I was starting to panic and get so nervous! I just wanted this to go well. And then suddenly I look out the window and a woman I’d never met was tying balloons to the posts on the drive way (black and white to signify our ebony and ivory union!) and within a few moments dozens of people flooded in, bringing with them trays and trays of food and drinks- pans of Mac and cheese, hundreds of pieces of fried chicken, crock pots of collard greens, cakes, pies, and more food than I’d ever seen. Every single one hugged me, genuinely, and asked about my life. I watched as the anxiousness fell off of my husband and he laughed and sang and danced and joked and hugged with his giant family for hours. I had built in my mind this idea of my Mother in Law as a vindictive person who would use her religion against me. Instead she gave me one of the biggest hugs and smiles I’ve ever seen. She brought a bag full of toys and goodies for Harper and checked on us both all throughout the evening to ensure we were eating and having fun, which we were. I’ve never eaten as well as I did. We had soul food. Moreso my soul was fed. My husband always reminds me how important to “show up.” I guess I knew that in theory but he has forced me to look at that head on. His brother and girlfriend drove in from New York City even though they’ll still be seeing us again in a few days! His sister and niece came from Jersey and even though they are annoyed by their family like so many of they came, they stayed, and made me laugh. And his two best friends tagged teamed in the whole night to ensure Harper and I were fine and well and that we had a familiar face during this huge gathering. After spending a night with his lovely family I think I understand that importance Of showing up even more. Just like that, the weeks and months of trip preparation and the big family meet-up have come and gone. I’m not delusional in thinking that from here we all move on as one big happy family. Maybe we will, but I think it’s more likely that we won’t. However I’ll soak up the memory of last night for years to come. I get it now. After six years together, I finally can see how my husband IS who he is. He has his Mother’s belly laugh and his sisters charisma and his brothers swag and his cousins wit. And when we needed it the most his family “showed up.”

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Call to Action for Superbowl Sunday! "The Time Is Always Right To Do What Is Right" -MLK

I've got an idea... We are three weeks away from the Superbowl and for one day the eyes of our country will be off our Head of State's Twitter and onto our televisions. We will come together, people from all backgrounds and join in our living rooms to watch a game, celebrate, laugh, eat, and most definitely heckle eachother over our favorite team. We need a flag. We need a "pause button." I am urging all people-including the teams who make it to the Superbowl-to use this as a day to bring us together and show the dignity of America. Invite someone to your house party who doesn't look like you. Go say hello to that neighbor you've yet to meet and see if they have plans. Put your cell phones away and just enjoy the community you're in for that day. Don't wince at the players who take a knee during the National Anthem for being brave enough to remind everyone that "Black Lives Still Matter" on the country's biggest stage. Try a food from a country you've never been to (Haiti has some killer "Griyo" that would pair great with wings and a beer). Laugh at the commercials. Cry at the commercials. Stand up and dance your booty off to Justin Timberlake at the half time show. We need this more than you know. Tomorrow we remember an incredible man who said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. #SuperbowlfortheSoul2018 #SuperbowlSoulSunday2018 #TogetherforSuperbowl2018 #UnitedSuperbowl2018

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August 22nd, 2017

Friday, August 22nd, 1997. I had just completed my very first week of High School. As with most Freshman my biggest worries were about trying the newest acne cream and attempting to understand all of the changes happening inside of me as I navigated puberty. Although my home life wasn't perfect and I still struggled to appease my recently divorced parents, at my soul I knew I had a very charmed and blessed life. The summer was coming to a close, and I had just spent it with my Dad in a Nevada before boarding a plane back to Tennessee. It was a magical summer that culminated with a trip to Los Angeles to visit Knotts Berry Farm, Magic Mountain, and Disneyland. We had so many great memories and more laughs than any kid could dream of. When we got back to Tennessee I was hopeful that my parents also turned a corner. I overheard them on the phone and my Dad told my Mom that he was going to come visit us in Tennessee for the holidays. I remember her giggling on the phone and for a split second they seemed back to that lovey dovey couple that would make out and dance in the kitchen in front of us kids as we rolled our eyes at them and told them how gross they were. I vividly remember thinking that when Dad came, all of the wrong-doings of the past would magically go away and they would somehow get back together and we would all live happily ever after. We lived right down the street from my Aunt and Uncle and it wasn't unusual for us to spend lots of time at their house. My Aunt called the house phone and asked me to come up to her house and bring my younger sister. I really didn't think anything of it and away we went up the street. Katie kicked the back of my shoe- a pair of Adidas sandals with the black and white thick straps over the top- on the way up to Aunt Mary's house and I told her to go fuck herself. She said she was going to tell Aunt Mary when we got to her house and I told her to "go ahead, no one believes her anyway." I really regret that. I signed into Aunt Mary's living room computer on AOL dial up when I looked outside and saw my Mom walking in. It was strange that she was there so early, but I just continued on with the computer. When she came in I said hey and could tell something was off but just kept on surfing the very slow web. She asked my sister to come inside and told us the news. "Guys, you know I love you right? This may be the hardest things I've ever had to tell you. Your Dad is dead." People cried. Our local minister and his wife came in to attempt comforting words. I was absolutely frozen. The next few days, weeks, frankly years are mostly a blur. We flew back to Nevada where I got to see my big sister. She and I were absolutely pissed off. Katie, my younger sister, was emotional but Crystal and I were simply angry. For the record, my Father took his own life. He had battled with drug and alcohol addictions for my entire life, and most of his. He, while high on several different drugs, went into the garage and started an old vehicle and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was scheduled to go fishing the next day and had his bag fully packed, fishing lines already laid out with his tackle box ready to go. He left no note. That was it. In a matter of seconds he changed the trajectory of my entire life by making a selfish decision and not thinking clearly. I say this because as I've gotten older, and become a parent I have a harder and harder time grasping how he could give up on his own life and children in this way. I know that my Dad loved and adored me, but I can see how the power of drugs and alcohol can steal away a persons true self. If you are battling with addiction, let my story be the catalyst to want to help yourself. You mean more to the people in your life than words can express and you are not alone! As we prepared for his funeral, my Mom had to switch the days so that his viewing didn't happen on my Birthday. So much of my childhood Was stolen on that day. I craved acceptance and acknowledgement from teachers, friends and family, but nothing can fill in the void of your Father. I am thankful for those that did step in and help; I'm not sure I would've made it here without them. When I think of all of the big things he has missed it blows my mind- weddings, grandchildren, graduations. But it's the small things that really hurt the most. Being able to call him up and ask for simple advice or just shoot the breeze. He was a kind and funny man. I see so much of myself in him- a super hard work ethic, a super silly side that loves to sing even if we aren't great at it, passionate love for those closest to us and passionate rage when someone wrongs us. I've had him out of my life far longer than I had him in it, but today I wanted to remind him how much I loved him. After all, without him, there would be no me. Raise (just one) a glass of Bacardi and Dr. Pepper to my Daddy today and try to remember there is a pot of gold at the end of rainbow.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

I am invincible

I feel like the world right now is so chaotic and "out of tune." I'm sitting in an independent coffee shop in one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in one of the worlds largest cities, and I've literally watched thirty or forty people come and go without one smiling or laughing at one another. How did we get here? I've been contemplating invincibility lately. Having a six year old who is learning and growing and asking lots of questions is causing me to really dig in and think about the big things. For instance, last weekend Harper says to Sabe and I, "If God created everything in the universe than who created God?" Hmmmm...I thought to myself. I had to ask for time to think about it and get back to her but still haven't. August marks twenty years since my Dad's passing. I was a few days shy of my 14th birthday. The memories are blurred and I have so few concrete memories left, but I do know I was loved immensely and somehow that carries me through. That little six year old mentioned earlier is also kind of obsessed with death. There's been lots of questions about when things or people die what happens to them? I really wish parenting did come with a manual to assist. I wanna be open and honest, but don't want to totally screw her up either! Lord help me when we get to where babies come from! I'm attempting to slow down a little. For the first time ever I've seen the color purple everywhere! All of the trees are the most gorgeous shade of purple I've ever seen! I asked Sabin if it's this way every year and he said "no, I went around and planted them all for you." But I know they're always here, how have I never slowed down enough to notice? I miss my family. In a weird way, the fact that we disagree on pretty much every political or social issue and can come together to laugh and celebrate together gives me hope that we will survive this strange time where everyone is throwing stones but no one is catching them. I am tired of the tennis game, just grab the ball and own it. I love to say black lives matter, but still clench my steering wheel as the black homeless man approaches my car window to ask for money, but am some how internally OK when it's a scraggly looking white dude. I need to listen to my own advice, catch the ball, and understand that we are a product of experiences, social and religious backgrounds, and family upbringing, but we have to talk about it and own our issues. Then work on correcting them. Summer is coming! Only six more school days for my Kindergarten girlie. Where has the time gone? Please slow down. Please speed up. Please pause. ---Side Note: a man with a HUGE Great Dane just came in and had a laugh with the barista, I missed the joke but noticed that four others and myself put down our devices and smiled as they laughed; maybe all we really do need is love and laughter----a dear friend lost her Mom yesterday. When I read the news tears instantly streamed down my face. I don't know the details, but this friend is so full of love and light. She was adopted by a mother that was a different race than she is. She shared stories on her site about how her Mom would often say her traits "ran in the family." To me that is love and connectedness. What a beautiful tribute.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

One Month In...

Grrrr! I, like most people, am sick and tired of politics. Here we are less than a month into Trump's presidency and I am a mix of emotions. On one hand I want to scream "told you so!" I mean there is no denying that Betsy DeVos is an imperial idiot. Maybe even more unqualified for her post than Trump himself. I don't know anyone on either side of the aisle arguing for her to be at the helm of my sweet innocent girls education. But it's literally Every. Single. Post. And I want to stay engaged. I'm an advocate. I don't support any bans on anyone, I'm proud of my immigrant roots. Aren't we all? I mean we are ALL immigrants waving our flags on Cinqo De Mayo or St. Patrick's, or whatever holiday we recognize our ancestors! I happened into a blood line that recognizes Jesus Christ as the Lord, but it could have easily gone a dozen other ways based on how/when/to whom I was born. I'm part of so many marginalized communities that are aching right now. I want to be strong for all of them. But it's hard. I'm also a proud American and while I vehemently was opposed to our current administration, I also believe in the political process, the electoral college (Yes, even when the popular vote doesn't win out), and therefore feel obligated to respect the office of the president, even when I don't support the man (or hopefully woman sometime soon) myself. It's excruciating. I realize we live in a microcosm of those that usually think like we do. I'm thankful (most days) that my social media floats somewhere in between. I want to stay informed on how the news is reported to both sides of the aisle so I have perspective. But it's also kinda like living in the twilight zone. Everyone cares about something different and their passion around that issue and difference in opinions infuriates them. If your Pro Life, you see red at how some people want to see innocent babies murdered (literally that's how many see it). If you're pro choice you don't understand how those pro-lifers, including the women who identify that way, don't want their own right to choose what's right for their own body or support Planned Parenthood for all of the reproductive issues they help with. If you are pro Affordable Healthcare Act your a socialist and want everyone to be covered despite pre-existing conditions. If your anti-you can't fathom how all of these Obama minions think we will continue to fund poor people's lives while you go to work every day and pay your "fair share." We can't continue to pay every deadbeats way while we are barely surviving. Isn't it exhausting? One thing I've noticed is no one, and I mean no one that I know (and I have a lot of super conservative family members and friends who I've intentionally not blocked or deleted) actually like or are enamoured with Donald Trump. Honestly, if they were invited to a State Dinner, I can't think of a single person I'm connected to who is so stoked to meet the man, the myth, the legend. They voted for him in spite of his opponent, or because who they believed he would nominate for the Supreme Court, or because they felt marginalized and looked over for many years. Or they are dissatisfied with the accumulated national debt and just wanted something different. Like I said above, everyone votes differently because of how they feel about certain issues. But in a nation where the president is definitely a celebrity, the irony is that since he already WAS a celebrity, Trump gets a strange hall pass. The smoothness and energy that followed the likes of Reagan and Obama (please pick your poison and just move on) has seemed to fizzle with our current Commandar in Chief. There have been days in the past month where I've intentionally NOT looked at social media. How much can one person really take? One important lesson I've learned is that most of it is just a scare tactic. If we actually internalized every post or believed everything said we would just want to curl up in a ball and disappear. Or worse give up. And that's the absolute worst thing any of us could possibly do. If you've even read this far, thanks for sorting through some of this stuff with me. I think it's important to close with the fact that while I love everyone and embrace an open dialogue, my heart is a die-hard Obama and Hillary loving, Black Lives Matter supporting, flamboyantly gay, feminist, pro choice, anti-wall, anti-entry ban, liberal man married to a beautiful black man. I don't want anyone reading my blog to ever mistake my openness to share love and ideas with me turning my back on my own personal beliefs. But I do believe, above all else, that there is plenty of room for all of us to express our thoughts while still loving and respecting one another. And sometimes I need that reminder most of all. Xo, AJ

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bring on the Rain 2017!

Wow, another year down. Sometimes life moves so quickly. Other times it just drags on. To say 2016 was interesting is an understatement. I've decided to highlight the year below with my New Years Resolution of constant and abundant gratitude. 2016 started for me in the Emergency Room on New Years Day. I had been sick since the day after Christmas, and finally after not being able to keep anything down and a high fever for 3 full days, Sabin and I headed to Urgent Care. The doctor quickly saw us and thought my appendix might have burst so he sent us to the ER. Being in the ER on New Years Day in a curtained room between a homeless person who was completely un-responsive and then suddenly screaming in pain in five minute intervals and a woman on the other side who was about six hours into Heroin withdrawal and fighting non-stop with her pimp boyfriend might not seem like the best chance for me to begin my gratitude journal, but it truly was. When the doctors finally confirmed that my appendix had not burst and that I had a really terrible flu, I was sitting alone while Sabin ran to the car to get something and was already thinking how much worse so many others have it. I felt like total and complete shit, but got to walk out of the hospital and return to my comfortable and loving home. January also ended quite tragically. As we were leaving our house, a giant tree fell and smashed Sabin's BMW, his second love right in front of our eyes. The car was totaled. Again, not the beginning of the year we were hoping for, but beyond grateful for GAP auto insurance and for the fact that about forty five seconds later we would have all been in the car as the tree fell onto it. February brought one of the most beautiful gifts from our dear friend, Ann. A homemade high top wood planked dining room table. Its one of my favorite pieces of furniture I've ever seen and been the centerpiece for countless laughs, card games, and family bonding time. In March, Sabin and I spent a long weekend celebrating his birthday in New York City. I got to meet his younger brother and we sat in the fourth row of Broadway's The Color Purple. Anyone who knows me well already knows that "I'm Here" is my soundtrack. But to watch Cynthia Erivo and Jennifer Hudson so close and personally sing their hearts out was by far my most favorite memory with Sabin in the history of us. April brought the first official wedding at Last Stop Props, my new business venture with Ann that has really grown from a great idea into reality. On May 10th, my beautiful baby girl turned 5! She also completed her first soccer season where she did quite well, and we celebrated her and her sister at a VIP experience at Disneyland, where both girls got to meet all of the characters and we celebrated with the whole family. In June, we did a photo shoot at Last Stop Props to help build our online presence. Sabin played the groom and Tiffany the bride. We had catering and a bar and most of our friends were able to come and be models. It was a super fun day. July-Cabo San Lucas BABY! Sabin and I, along with our great friends Serafina and Andy got to spend a long weekend at an all-inclusive, adult only resort on the beach. It was SO. MUCH. FUN! When we got back, I began my health kick, which ultimately led to me losing 24 pounds and falling in love again with yoga and cardio, which I am hoping to keep on with into 2017. August- There were too many great parts to my birthday month! We started the month with a trip to Idaho to visit with my nieces and family. It had been awhile since we were all together and Katie and Sienna also came. We saw one of our favorite childhood Country Stars on the plane ride into town, and had a great time watching all of the girls play together (even with puke-ageddon striking all of us during the trip). Harper also started Kindergarten and was accepted off the wait list right in time for the most perfect little school for her. We have loved watching her grow and develop at Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts. Finally, my birthday. All of the friends came down and had a little party-complete with a video from my favorite SnapChatter SprinkleFreak! A few days later, Pierre, Christina, Whitney, Frank, and I all went to the Summer 90's R&B concert in Long Beach and had one of the best days of the whole year singing all of our favorite teenage songs together and dancing by the water! In September we lost my Grandpa Jack. I am beyond grateful that I was blessed with a grandfather like him. I miss him all of the time. We also visited Las Vegas for a really fun weekend celebrating Pierre's birthday. I acted like a 21 year old and consumed more alcohol that weekend than I normally do in an entire year (minus wine of course). Sabin and I also celebrated our FIRST wedding anniversary. There is never a dull day with this incredible man and I am the most thankful to have someone like him in my life. By October I realized our life is going to be jam packed every fall. We had a Halloween party at the studio, another at Harper's school, birthday parties for her school friends, and of course actual Halloween. It seemed like there was something every night the entire month, but all of it was extremely fun. Harper went as an astronaut, decked out in the coolest costume ever supplied by Auntie Arlene. She did a change into Barbie for actual Trick or Treating, and I went as a Skeleton while Sabin went as Scar from the Lion King. In November we found the perfect kitchen island that we've been searching for since last Thanksgiving. Not only does it complete our kitchen, its really become the centerpiece of our entire home. We also had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. I did the turkey again and it turned out pretty darn good. December brought the most magical Christmas of all. We all were together for a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner. I am thankful to be able to showcase the power of choosing love and family to Harper. I am wishing all of my friends and family, and those I don't know the most amazing 2017 ever. Here's to remaining grateful and showing gratitude!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Follow the theme

There is something about the smell of the ocean or the sound of the waves crashing into the beach that settles my soul and requires me to dig deep and reflect. Every half a year or so I enter a dark place of insecurity and uncertainty. Why am I here? What am I passionate about? What is my purpose. Usually I can kick myself out of this place quickly but this time I've been stuck. I want to leave a mark, contribute to something BIG, or figure out how to leave the world at least a little better than how I found it. Before I continue, let me state that I am not complaining. I lead a charmed, spectacular life. For God's sake, I am typing this from poolside on vacation in Mexico! However, even those that appear to have it all together truly don't have it together at all. Back to reflection, I often wonder what it is that is going to finally fill that void that seems to always rear its ugly head. I have to go back to childhood and really dig in for understanding. I played one season of soccer when I was about eight. It was the only organized sport or season I ever played. I've all but lost any concrete memories of anything before my Dad died when I was a few days from turning 14, however that one season of soccer sticks out (probably because my mother permed my hair before the team photo and I cringe every time I see it). For many kids they discovered what they were good at or passionate about through sports and team work. I learned that it got me a lot of attention. I spent the practices and games looking at my grandparents and parents on the sidelines watching me instead of watching the ball or game. I didn't learn about my passion and I was a really lousy soccer player but I did learn that I craved attention and approval from adults in my life. In my teenage years, I pursued any activity that put me in the spotlight, taking the lead in every theater production and serving as Editor-in-Chief of my high school yearbook. I loved the attention and pressure to perform. My closest and few remaining friends from high school was my teacher! I love and adore her, but are you starting to see a theme? I've always been responsible, probably overly responsible. My mother always jokes that I'm the parent and she's the child. My younger sister starts most difficult conversations with "I don't want a lecture on this, but..." I'm working on being more spontaneous. i have no idea what any of this means and I'm not going to guess, however I am starting to weave together a theme and one thing I've learned is to follow the theme. For now I'm going to settle into this mimosa and keep reflecting.