My dad was born and raised in New Jersey. I was born there too, but I left when I was 4 because we moved to my mom's hometown in West Virginia. However, I still have family in New Jersey, so we through the years we made frequent trips there. My family lives 30 miles from NYC, so we have been to the city quite a bit.
Over the years, I have done almost every touristy thing in NYC. Awed at Times Square, rocked around Rockefeller Center, visited 30 Rock, strolled through Central Park, attended Broadway Plays, gone up The Empire State Building, shopped FAO Schwarz, gone to Mets and Yankees games, rode the ferris wheel in the Toys R US, browsed Saks Fifth Avenue, explored Madame Tussauds, people watched in Washington Square Park, ridden the subway, taken the train in, eaten street meat and pizza, and toured The Statue of Liberty.
I love the City So Nice, They Named it Twice so much. I never would want to live there, but I love the people. I love their tough, resilient attitude. It's a great city full of all kinds of people. I highly suggest going there. Here are my five favorite things I have done in the city.
5. Capture the Flag
Some friends and I drove into NYC and took a ferry to Governor's Island to play Capture the Flag with hundreds of people. We dressed up in camo and paint. Only in New York City.
4. Fountain Search
This is very similar to my #1, but my cousins, brother, and I walked around the city to find famous fountains. It is always fun to leisurely walk around the City.
3. Broadway Plays
I saw Hairspray and The Drowsy Chaperone. Both were fantastic. See a play on Broadway.
2. Mets Game
I'm a big baseball fan and love the Mets. Traveling to Flushing, Queens to catch a game is the best. I love to be among the diehard fans.
1. Christmas Tree Search
I love The Amazing Race, so when my dad and uncle dropped my cousins and me off in the middle of Times Square and told us to run around the city in a certain amount of time and get pictures in front of ten famous Christmas trees, I was in my glory. NYC had just received a ton of snow, so it was wet, snowy, and cold. We had a blast running around the city like wild women. We did it in the nick of time. We even had to sprint to catch the train back home. What a rush, and I honestly felt like I was on the show.
Original posted on Scary Mommy.
Simply put. I don't make dinner. But let me preface: I can make dinner. I have made dinner. I just don't.
Let me back up. I grew up with my mom making homemade meals, and, despite her protests, she is a good cook. We sat around the dinner table practically every night and had meals. My grandma was the same way. She was really good. For years the whole family would gather EVERY Sunday at her house to have a home cooked meal. I wanted that for my future family. I envisioned coming home from work and prepping a gourmet dinner filled with all the food groups. We would sit around the table, talk about the day, and throw our heads back in laughter. I pictured making my husband's favorite meals. Meals he could brag about to his friends. You know, the quintessential things white people dream about.
Then, I met my husband. His mom is a good cook. His dad is a good cook. Naturally, he became a good cook as well. In the beginning of our marriage, I tried fixing meals, but my husband was just better. And I had an epiphany - I DON'T LIKE COOKING. I don't. I dread thinking of meals to have for the week. I despise chopping, dicing, or slicing anything. I dislike frying, sautéing, whisking, or mixing. So my husband took over. In fact, he was glad to. He enjoys cooking and thinking of meals. I threw in a feeble attempt every now and then, but in all I don't do it. And for a while I felt bad about it. I felt like I should be doing it more. I felt like it should be my role. Not the husband's. Those feelings lingered on, so once in a while I would half-heartedly suggest I take over the cooking for the week. I even made a New Year's Resolution to cook a meal once a week. That didn't last long. Then, this year I finally learned to let go after a year of having to let go.
My first encounter this year of letting go came two days after the New Year, and it hit me like a slap on the face. I was about 36 weeks pregnant when I learned that I had to have a c-section because of a brain aneurysm. The whole pregnancy my neurologist had said I would have a normal birth until on second thought she decided it would be safer if I did not. I pleaded. I didn't want a c-section. I wanted a birth the natural way. Like somehow having a c-section made me less of a woman or a mother. So not true. Finally, I let go. It felt better that way, succumbing to what is. And guess what? The c-section was fine. Actually, it was more than fine. It was my son's birth story. It was his perfect way into this world, and it was because I let go.
The letting go continued on that year when after spending nearly 6 1/2 months at home with my son, I had to let go of the routine and schedule I had carefully crafted for him and hand it over to my in-laws and mom. I had to let go that they wouldn't do everything the way I did it, and it would be ok. I had to let go of that guilty feeling that having a career made me less of a mom. I could balance both and be good at both.
When Henry spat up all over my outfit the moment we were about to leave, I let go.
When the mother-son photo shoot I had planned turned into Henry crying and then falling asleep, I told myself to grin and bear it and then let go.
When Henry woke up at the crack of dawn, and I had to drag myself out of bed, I let go. Sometimes.
When Henry had explosive diarrhea on his Breakfast with Santa outfit, so he had to wear his Christmas Morning outfit instead, I reluctantly let go.
When Henry would fling his food all around while I watched helplessly, I didn't want to, but through gritted teeth and clenched fists, I took a deep sigh and then let go.
And finally, later on in the year, I had to let go that my breastfeeding journey would have to end sooner than I had in mind. I found out that I had to have surgery on my brain aneurysm, and the medicine I would have to be on required me to stop breastfeeding. I cried. I didn't want it to have to end, but when I let go and let God, it became ok. I had no control over the matter, and finally letting go was like freedom from the bondages of worrying. The world didn't end when I stopped breastfeeding. We had some setbacks, but my son is still happy and healthy. Again, it's our story.
After a year of letting go, I can say that I don't make dinner. And I, Lauren, am now okay with that.
Recently, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to sit down with my husband and have a honest, in-depth conversation about some of the things going on in his life, rare for us to do nowadays. Most of our conversations involve nap schedules, feedings, and whose turn it is to get Henry when he wakes up early. A lot has changed in our lives as a couple and for us individually this past year, and I was curious to pick James' brain about it. For all those who know James, you know that he is an interesting man full of much wisdom. He is the brain behind the finances and cooking in our household, and, as of the past few months he has changed his lifestyle to better himself. I'm really proud of him, so I thought I would share. Note** Tears and laughter went into the making of this blog.
Question: First of all, how has our marriage changed since having a baby?
Answer: Even though we may not mean to, we don't think about each other first. We think about Henry. But it's so important to talk as a couple. You have to communicate even more when you have a kid. You have to plan many steps ahead, Plan B and Plan C. It now takes more of an effort to make time for the two of us, but if our marriage is suffering we can't be good parents to Henry. We have to remember that every conversation we have can't always be about Henry. We need to prioritize our marriage and remember what life was like before him. We also have to consult each other before making big decisions.
Question: Now what about you? How has being a dad changed your life?
Answer: I was ready to be a dad for awhile. It has more changed my thought process. Most of my thoughts are about our son. One of the biggest challenges is being patient with a baby and figuring out what he wants when he cries, and one of the biggest joys is his smiling and laughing at me. I have been fortunate to have so much help from both sets of grandparents. Also, you have been a huge help. [I may or may not have glared at him until he said this line.]
Question: Now more on your personally. Recently, you have started intermittent fasting. Tell me a little bit more about that. How has it benefitted you?
Answer: Intermittent fasting is really just choosing your eating window. I chose a 16/8. 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours where I can eat. I started IF because I plateaued in my weight loss journey. I chose the noon until 8 window. For me, there isn't much lifestyle sacrifice since I'm typically not hungry during traditional breakfast time. Also, I like the idea of controlling what I eat from a quantification standpoint without going on a crazy type of diet that was I can't maintain (See Keto).. For me, intermittent fasting can be sustainable for long periods of time because it is not a crazy lifestyle shift. I'm not sure how long I'll continue IF.. It is enjoyable but also challenging. There has been a physical benefit. I have lost additional weight. I feel better because I am consuming less. I like the discipline. I also like not over-worrying about every single calorie I put into my body. To me it is more of a lifestyle, not a diet. It is much simpler to follow. You can choose any window of time you. I chose 8 hours. I don't have to go crazy. Moderation in all things. I don't feel deprived. If you don't feel deprived, you have a much greater chance of sticking with something.
Question: On that note, you have changed your lifestyle dramatically. Working out at 5am. Drastically reducing portion sizes. Cutting out beer. Getting more sleep. What inspired you to do this and what has kept you so disciplined and focused to carry this out longterm?
Answer: It was simple. I didn't like the way I looked when I saw myself in the mirror, so the results have kept me going. I wanted to look good again and the end justifies the means. That's it.
Question: Lastly, you are really good with finances and budgeting. I don't understand a lot of it myself, but we have had some requests for you to explain a little more, and hopefully I'll learn something too.
Answer: We do our budgeting with a variation of the 50-30-20 method. 50% of the income goes to essentials, 30% goes to future goals (debt, retirement, investing), and 20% goes to discretionary (shopping, random purchases that are not necessities, entertainment). I started this budget because It is really easy to get lost in the numerous traditional budget categories. Having something that is inclusive allows you to simplify things. Instead of focusing on 90 different budget categories you only have three. To keep track of everything, I use apps from our respective banks including Mint to track budgets & Prism to pay bills. Our Our paychecks go into USAA because we get paid a day earlier. However, those funds are transferred into SoFI since the interest rate is 10x traditional checking accounts.. We also use PNC for cash transactions. How do I tackle debt? I started our payoff journey using the Snowball debt method popularized by Dave Ramsey. That organizes debts from least to greatest. Pay off the least first, and as you pay it off take the payment from the previous debt and add it to the next debt. Now, I use the debt avalanche method. In this approach, you focus on the highest interest rate first. For example, If you have a loan of a $1000 with a 5% interest rate and a loan of $500 with 10% interest rate, you pay off the 10% interest rate first. That's our finances in a nutshell.
I would like to thank my husband, James, for sitting down and answering these questions while being open and honest (and not going on in difficult to understand language like he sometimes can do). He's happy to answer any questions you may have.
I have always been a firm believer that where you are in life is exactly where you are meant to be, and it's up to you to choose your own happiness. I see single people envying those in a committed relationship and married people wishing to relive their single days. I want to grab hold of their shoulders, look them dead in the eye, and shake these people. "Be happy with your life. It's right where you need to be." I have friends who are single, crushing their jobs, and traveling the world. Their lives look pretty good. Likewise, I have friends who are married with children, dealing with the sweet chaos of parenthood. Their lives look pretty good too. I, also, have friends who are at a crossroads in their lives, struggling with adulthood and personal problems. Their lives look pretty good, for they are the verge of new beginnings and discoveries. Yet, I don't want any of their lives because I have mine.
Nonetheless, I forgot this for a few moments a few weeks ago. A group of girls and I traveled down to Charleston, SC to celebrate a good friend's bachelorette party. We did typical girly things: drank fruity concoctions, exercised in matching tank tops, brunched, played love games, got our hair done, ate cupcakes, browsed boutiques, took multiple pictures in front of pink balloons, got dressed up, dined out, and finally made our way to a bar to top off our evening.
Side note: The past six years of my life the late night scene has usually consisted of my husband and I going out with other couples and having a few beers while conversing or enjoying the music and the atmosphere. Somewhere in there we have danced a time or two, but shortly after college the desire to head bang to 1000 decibels of unce, unce, unce faded pretty quickly.
Anyway, we walked into the bar, looking cute I may add (especially the bride-to-be), and immediately a group of guys in a bachelor party come up to us. Here, we were, not a single one of us single, with a group of attractive guys. A tad bit of green started to creep up on me. Eventually, they politely moved on when it was revealed that all of us were taken. They easily found the next group of girls. The night carried on, and we were having fun being girls. But a weird thing started happening. With each drink more were more guys flirting with us? My tipsy brain, I think the bartender is flirting with me. Or maybe he just asked me for my order. But I think he smiled at me. Sooo..hmmm? Wait now this guy is looking at me. Do I have something on my face? I have to have something on my face. The bachelor guys are staring at us. They want to talk with us again. Never mind, they are talking to other girls, but are they casually stealing glances at us. They definitely are. Nope, one of them looks as if he might make out with this girl soon. Now, this guy just tripped and nearly fell on me. He's shaking my hand and telling me that I am pretty. Score! I'm telling James. This continued on, and I was enjoying it. I haven't been flirted with (was I even being flirted with? I couldn't even tell) since....who knows when?
Pretty soon the band quit playing, and one of my friends and I were left alone chatting with each other. The night seemed to be ending, and I was ready to get back to the place to go to sleep or gossip with the girls about our evening. Then, one of the female bartenders approached us and asked if we would like to go to the VIP area because they were in need of ladies. We shrugged and said yes. The bride-to-be would like being there. We were led to a roped off area with loud music where guys were ordering $500 bottle service! Typically, so not my scene, but I settled into one of the leather couches to take it all in. One of my friends winked and said, "There is no harm in flirting," as she went off to score us free drinks. I laughed. I began looking around and bopping my head to the music dismayed but how much people were spending when a guy came up to me and asked me to watch his coat. I didn't think anything of it until he came back again, but this time to tell me that he and I would dance later. I didn't say anything. He was cute. But I knew what he meant by the word "dance" and it certainly wouldn't just be us jamming out next to each other. Throughout the night, he came back multiple times, and each time I said no. He whispered in my ear, put his arm around me, nudged me closer to him, and that's when it happened.
The green envy came back in full force. I wish I was single, I thought. Ahhh here I was going against my own adage. The one phrase I so sadly sighed when other people said it was pushing its way into my brain. I kept scanning the crowd for him, hoping he would come back. And when the night ended and the lights turned on, I was reluctant to leave the atmosphere of flirtatious guys, free drinks, and wooing.
Too often we get caught up in what we don't have, and we make justifications in order to get what we think we want. It's just flirting. Oh, we are just dancing together. It's one kiss. It doesn't mean anything. Yeah we slept together, but it's not like I love him. And then we throw our lives away and sooner or later we are wishing we had what we had. If I were single, the night would have most likely played out like this: We would have danced. He would have tried to get me to come home with me. I would say no. He would maybe get my number. If he even texted, we might have gone out on a date where I would realize how little we had in common, and it would be back to being single.
Soon the weekend of festivities ended, and another funny thing happened. I returned home the next day. James was there. My bedroom was there. My work and students were there on Monday. The runners I coach were there after school at practice. And just like that, the music from that night became too loud. The men too sweaty and seedy. The drinks too expensive. The bar too crowded. This is my life, and it is exactly where I want to be.
Hebrews 13:5...be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
I recently read an article that features 30 tweets that basically nail marriage. They are so accurate and relatable that I decided to create my own about my marriage.
With the two year anniversary quickly approaching, I am back to give you more advice after I first rattle off all of the AMAZING adventures we have experienced together this past year while I simultaneously and purposefully omit any fight and setback we have had. ;-) To sum up the highlights of last year, we road-tripped across the country visiting National Parks and baseball stadiums, grilled out, made couple friends, flew to Tampa to see friends and watch baseball, drove long distances to weddings, drove long distances to weddings only to leave said wedding early to drive long distances to watch and celebrate my high school students graduation, celebrated James' turning 30, warded off people asking us when we will have children, and did a lot of "white people stuff (Barrett, J., 2016-2017).*Note: For a complete list of "white people stuff" click here. In all, I still stand by the advice with which I imparted to you last year, but I want to add one more nugget to the list.
ADVICE: Find something you both love (that is legally and morally acceptable) and set out to do it.
For James and me, we both love baseball. Therefore, we have entered into a friendly competition with my cousin and her husband to visit and attend a game with both spouses present at all 30 baseball stadiums. Luckily for us, she is pregnant and due with her first child soon, so we are about to run away with this thing. Muwhahaha. It has been a nice bonding experience for both of us to plot and map out our path to visiting the stadiums. "So my friend's sister lives in Chicago. We can stay with her over Labor Day Weekend. The Cubs have an afternoon home game and the White Sox have an evening home game that Saturday, and the Brewers play on Sunday. We can get three stadiums in one trip. You down?" That's how our conversations usually go. In addition, over the course of our galavanting to different stadiums we have developed some traditions of our own. First, we must take the iconic picture of both of us standing in the front of the stadium with the name of the ballpark clearly visible. Second, we have a game we play in which we pick players at the start of the game, and we assign different point values depending on what type of hit they get. Winner is the one with the most points. Thirdly, James usually buys an obnoxious amount of food while I complain at first and then finally beg him to share with me. Lastly, we then decide where the stadium ranks among all the other ones we have visited. Overall, this experience is something we enjoy sharing together, and I wouldn't want to share with anyone else because mainly I don't want to have to start from square one and be behind in the competition. Kidding!
Therefore, whatever it is you and your spouse enjoy doing, go do it! Visiting every continent, traveling to all the National Parks, volunteering, running in marathons, collecting items, etc. You will be thankful for having this shared experience with your spouse and only your spouse.
My Ranking of the Stadiums Thus Far
1.) Citi Field (New York Mets) - I am pretty biased on this one since they are my favorite team.
2.) PNC Field (Pittsburgh Pirates)
3.) Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)
4.) Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City Royals)
5.) Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)
6.) Petco Park (San Diego Padres)
7.) Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians)
8.) Busch Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals)
9.) Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees)
10.) Coors Field (Denver Rockies)
11.) Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati Reds)
12.) Nationals Park (Washington Nationals)
13.) Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies)
14.) Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)
15.) Turner Field (Old Atlanta Braves)
16.) Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)
* SunTrust Park (New Atlanta Braves), Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros), and Globe Life Park (Texas Rangers)
People often ask me, "Lauren, what is it like being married to a black man?" Actually, no one has asked me that, but I am going to tell you anyway. To be honest, I often forget that James and I have two different skin colors when we are living in our own little bubble, but to the deny that simple fact would be doing a disservice to my husband. Claiming that we don't "see color" keeps us stagnant and motionless while embracing and accepting the differences in color enables us to move forward with compassion and empathy.
Most of the time, we can joke about our black and white skin. One day, as James and I were driving around admiring the Christmas lights on houses, I turned to him and declared that I prefer the white lights to the colored lights. Of course, his response was that I was a racist. Other times, when asking him to fetch me my water, I have inadvertently added the word "slave" or "servant" at the end. A joke that we didn't think twice of making in an all-white family growing up just got real as I stared open-mouthed at my black husband. Thank goodness he has a sense of humor, but I quickly squelched that little antic as I came to terms that our "all in good fun" jest might have been a tad bit insensitive to people who have had a history of being slaves and servants.
Then, there are other times when we are forced to think about the harsh realities of this world. A world that might not be as accepting and accommodating as everyone in our own little safety net. Every Christmas, we make the journey from diverse America to white America along the West Virginia turnpike and I-77. In the past, I had absentmindedly stopped at whatever rest stop I so pleased and any restaurant I so desired. Now, our stops are calculated. Where will James least likely be the only black person? At first, I thought this was absurd. "You have to give people the benefit of the doubt," I would persist. But, I was being blind to color and that, as we know, only leaves us stuck in place. I have become more compassionate to situations where James feels uncomfortable because of the color of his skin, and he has soften on the fact that all people are not out to get him because of the color of his skin.
This past Christmas in my hometown, we walked with my friends into a bar. The first thing James and I noticed was that everyone was white and the second thing we noticed was that everyone collectively stared at us as we entered. James tensed. I tensed. Gradually the stares dissipated, but James still remained on guard. I whispered reassurances that in a small town everyone stares because they want to know a.) Do I recognize the people who just entered? and b.) If I don't recognize these people that just entered, who are these new outsiders? James still seemed rattled. What I have learned from being married to a black man who has a black family is that they tend to excuse a lot of comments and actions that white people make and do because they do not want the white people feeling bad because they know that these white people mean no harm at all. Therefore, I knew that James would never suggest to our group that we should leave in order to avoid justifying why he felt the way he felt. As I was assessing the situation and wondering whether I should make an excuse to leave, the older waitress came over, smiled a genuine smile, lightly touched James' arm, and asked to take our orders. James relaxed and finally took a seat on the bar stool. I don't know if her actions were intentional or unintentional, but that single, simple act of kindness by that waitress, which would have normally gone unnoticed, was now a God-sent miracle.
So what is it like being married to a black man? Yes, the hatred and injustices of this world are more apparent, but the kindness and compassion are even more so.