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Single Mothers: You Are Enough

posted on: Tuesday, August 23, 2016

 


In May, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg penned a moving piece on leaning in and her new life as a single mother after the death of her husband, Dave Goldberg. In it she writes; "Single moms have been leaning in for a long time—out of necessity and a desire to provide the best possible opportunities for their children." And it is true. Though I've taken time to discuss my personal path of motherhood frequently in this space, there are other paths often not expressed here. These paths are walked millions of times by my friends, readers, and followers. Today, Anja Tyson, single mother to Matilda, is sharing some words on the subject.

....

I became a single mom five weeks before giving birth to Matilda. The night that it happened, extremely pregnant-shaped and uncomfortable in the New York late-summer heat, I laid in bed telling my unborn daughter not to worry at all because no matter what happens in the world I would be there for her. I talked to her a lot over those last few weeks before we met face-to-face, and when I think back now on the things I said, I realize I was really creating a mission statement for the journey I was about to begin. I recently came across a Mary Oliver quote that perfectly defines the way I went into parenting. It goes:
“No, I’d never been to this country before. No, I didn’t know where the roads would lead me. No, I didn’t intend to turn back.”

She will be three very soon. That stage when people ask me how old she is and I automatically answer “two”, and then pause and correctly myself tearfully, even to strangers: “almost three”. Every day brings on a new challenge, equally joyous and exhausting, a feeling I can only liken to what Olympic runners must feel just before they collapse after wining a race.  I fall asleep without washing my face many days of the week, I have aged drastically in these few short years, but what I hear most often from the people that really know me is “You have never looked so happy.”

I grew up with an authoritative provider for a dad and a nurturing caretaker as a mom. Still married, my parents have an inarguably more traditional arrangement than many of their generation, and it has affected the way I think of myself as a parent. So much of the first few years of this journey for me has been letting go of the insecurities and feelings of failure I carry for not providing my daughter with a two parent home, because that is the model I grew up with and how I always envisioned myself as a mom. And after I plow my way through a bit of that guilt (and maybe a little self-pity), two things always emerge in the clearing:

First, any shame I feel for not having provided my daughter with what I expected to be a “normal” family, no matter how much I try to hide it, will be unconsciously visible in my words and actions. If Matilda sees me ashamed of being a single parent, she will carry that association with her for life, and it will inform and inhibit her in ways I cannot predict. Every day I work on building the foundation of knowing that we are, together and individually, beautiful and perfect. If there is any inspiration for finding the confidence to charge forward, it is your kids.

And second, we as a society need to talk more about non-traditional family dynamics. The more we talk about it, the more walls we break down, the more we abolish these antiquated assumptions that any family should be a certain way, and the stronger we become as a village to support the development of our children. Allowing everyone to celebrate their own family structure means that all members of all families are strengthened, more empathic, and more supportive of each other. Parenting is inherently difficult, and we live in a country that makes it as difficult as possible for anyone that doesn’t conform to the traditional family that it calls the norm. But the revolution is coming, and it will come in on the backs of the people that are willing to speak their minds, connect with others, and pave the way for change.

One of the things I hear the most often when people find out I am a single parent is, “Wow, is that really hard?” Everyone asks this. Other Moms, Teenagers, The Elderly, Colleagues, Ex-Boyfriends, Everyone. Almost three years in I do not have a good answer for this question. Yes, it is hard. Is it harder than being part of a nuclear family and nurturing a marriage on top of raising children? I have no idea, maybe not. Is it harder than being a stay-at-home mom to multiple children? No clue there, either. And no one else knows any more than I do, honestly. It’s different, and we live in a place where “different” can often be harder. But we are all doing our best for our little ones, whatever way are able, and that does not invalidate the struggles of any other parent. The most important thing is that your child is safe and loved, and trust me when I say you can make that happen with any number of people of any gender or color or financial capabilities.

When I gave birth to Matilda, the doctor put her in my arms and I stared at her, waiting to feel this feeling I expected. The butterflies in your stomach that you associate with a crush. The heady feeling when you fall in love. I sat there like an idiot waiting for a feeling that I thought I would recognize, but actually the kind of love that I discovered that day is bigger and stronger and more pervasive than anything I had ever felt before. It crushes you and explodes you and fills you with energy and power and life. Whoever invented superheroes was for sure a mother. Anyone who thinks there’s anything we can’t do is crazy.

You will get stronger with every obstacle, you will be more patient with every test. You will cry into your coffee and never finish washing your hair. You will skip meals and run out of money and miss school events and screw things up sometimes. And to your children, the boundaries of your love will not even be visible past the night stars.

To every single mother: You are enough.
....



(Photography by Jason Eric Hardwick for Pamela Love. Thank you so much for sharing, Anja.) 


Style: What To Wear On A Summer Morning Date

posted on: Friday, August 19, 2016


If you've been keeping up, Peter and I committed ourselves to a date a week for the New Year. I'm happy to announce we've been sticking with it for the most part. It had nothing to do with booking a double sitter once a day, and more to do with spicing up our regular routines. Ice cream in bed, movies and popcorn on the couch, massages, waking up early to read beside each other on weekend mornings, mini photoshoots, bike rides, and recently, a quick hop over to a local café for lattes and breakfast.

When it came to what to wear, I was a little stumped. I knew it was just a coffee date, but I wanted it to feel like we both weren't running off to our respective jobs shortly after spending 30 minutes together. I believe that little things make a big difference. Like that time I actually put on a silky dress for movie cuddling instead of a comfortable pair of sweats.

When it comes to doing multiple things in one day, at this point, I'd like to consider myself an expert of sorts. It wears you down eventually, but I know how to do it without feeling worn down during the process of it all. Changing faces, remaining comfortable, and attempting to be my own version of chic and practical along the way. The New York hustle, if you will.

What to wear on a summer morning date.

1. A floral dress. It's no secret, that I love floral dresses for their patterns, but they are practical anytime you need to transform and feel good all the while. I wanted to feel a little bit romantic while also lending myself the opportunity to hop on over to a meeting without feeling too overdressed.
(A few favorites here, here, and right here.)

2. A top layer. Summer mornings are usually a toss up, they can be either super muggy or chilly, and both can lead into a hot day. Because I wasn't sure, and the likelihood of an afternoon rain shower was high, I wore a vintage button down over the dress. The woven tones the dress down a bit if necessary, while also giving an illusion of a skirt and a top (if you wanted to feel more casual). And of course, if your dress is more sheer like mine, a woven provides a dry layer in the case of rain.
 (Mine is floral, but here are a few favorites here, here, and right here.)

3. Flat shoes. I've spent many of my days here hawking clogs, which I still obsessively love. But there is true convenience in a flat shoe. Of course, if the flat has a bit of color to give it some pump, all the better. I love how a bright or muted, yet, classic flat is in style these days. I plan on pairing these flats with a pair of skinny jeans and a chunky sweater for the fall. I can't wait.
 (My flats were a gift from Zou Xou shoes. Another favorite right here.)

4. A straw market tote. If you would scroll through my camera roll, you'd find one too many photos of me and this tote. It has become a life saver, especially on days when the calendar is packed. It's sturdy and practical. It fits my books, my calendar, a water bottle, snacks, lipstick, and so much more. When I'm running to pick up the kids after the day is done, the bag holds all of their camp things and play things and just things.
(Another tote that I adore right here.)


P.S How to dress amazing when you're super busy and not a millionaire. 

HOPE. VOTE.

posted on: Thursday, August 18, 2016

Eight years ago we huddled in my brother's room in my mother's brownstone in Bedford Stuyvesant. With backs pressed against the bed, and butts firmly planted on the hard wood floor, my mother, in the middle of us all, wrapped her long arms around four out of her five grown children. We bit our nails while we waited to see if Barack Obama would be president. We'd worked up to this point. Volunteering, distributing fliers—these were everyday activities for all the black folk I knew. I’d spent my adolescence tragically, watching the rise of anti-muslim rhetoric and fear. It became fodder for the mass media. Wars began. None of them ended. But now, with this possibility, this work, our worlds seemed brighter, and HOPE enveloped us all. It was my first time voting--what an experience.

Even when President Obama's two terms were sprinkled with ridicule and "never enoughs”; and when his hands were tied by congress; still even the littlest steps felt closer to something worthwhile: HOPE. If for nothing less than that a black man was President. The world couldn't be full of so much hate; look at our President! Opportunities were possible; look at our President! Hope mattered; look at our President! 

....
"I also told you about our daughters, how they are the heart of our hearts, the center of our world. And during our time in the White House, we’ve had the joy of watching them grow from bubbly little girls into poised young women, a journey that started soon after we arrived in Washington.

When they set off for their first day at their new school, I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns.

And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, what have we done?

See, because at that moment I realized that our time in the White House would form the foundation for who they would become and how well we managed this experience could truly make or break them. That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight, how we urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith.

When they set off for their first day at their new school, I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns.

And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, what have we done?

See, because at that moment I realized that our time in the White House would form the foundation for who they would become and how well we managed this experience could truly make or break them. That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight, how we urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith.How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.

With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are their most important role models. And let me tell you, Barack and I take that same approach to our jobs as president and first lady because we know that our words and actions matter, not just to our girls, but the children across this country, kids who tell us I saw you on TV, I wrote a report on you for school.

Kids like the little black boy who looked up at my husband, his eyes wide with hope and he wondered, is my hair like yours?

And make no mistake about it, this November when we go to the polls that is what we’re deciding, not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, in this election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives."
....

And so, when a practically unknown man, who had been fighting for hope and equality all of his years arrived on the scene, I stood beside him. As he, before I was even born, stood behind everything I was and am. His name was Bernie Sanders. I marched with my two children, one upon my husband's shoulders and one in the stroller, amongst thousands of others shouting his name and our shared ideals. I rallied and raised money for him. I stood in my friend's shop getting teary-eyed about HOPE. About how tangible it was in that moment. This black woman and mother of two was one of the many referenced "Bernie bros”. I believed--and still believe--in the revolution, because we cannot give up HOPE for a better future for our children. 

Bernie's chapter is now closed; but it is time (long overdue actually) that those of us who stood beside him, stand beside her. I'm with her. I'm with her because not standing for anything or anyone feels spineless. I'm with her because when I watched her speak at the Democratic National Convetion, with my five-year-old, I thought about opportunity again. I thought about HOPE again. I thought about a country with an overwhelming sense of walls already built, separating races, classes, and cultures, and how it made me sick. I thought about how I had no time to continue sideline smacking, I'd better get to working on that revolution--with her. I thought about holding her accountable for things in the past and moving forward with changes in the future. I thought about how I have to have a say in who my children look to as a role model for the next four to eight years. I thought about how that model will be her. So I’m with her.



Here's how to vote

Experience New York: Swim In A Lake

posted on: Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I'd spent the entire week dreaming of a cold one cooling my hand, swollen and moist from the summer heat. I dreamt of my children dancing confidently amongst strangers, their skirts snapping as they twisted and twirled. Suspenders pressed tightly against drenched white v-neck shirts, with a few crumbles of chest hair peeking through.  Michael Arenella and the orchestra trumpeting loudly on the stage, donned in white, while all gathered to dance across the mahogany floor. 

As it turns out, no such thing happened this year. A heat advisory in affect and a knee that had been diagnosed far worse than I originally thought. The doctor said walk--don't dance. And the news said stay inside--don't walk. I've never been one to follow the rules, you know; but in an effort to adhere and change my stubborn ways, we drove. We strapped the kids in the car, stuffing ourselves with cream cheese bagels, lemon water, and iced coffees that rattled with every bounce of the car. We held hands like two goofs, and had a decent and hilarious conversation. The kids fell asleep in the back-- mouths wide, heads crooked, blissfully unaware of our destination.

Within an hour we'd arrived. A lake in a town just outside of the city. The lifeguards had deep New York accents, and the water warm, perfect for swimming. "You can sit it in and not drown, Mommy!" River exclaimed. And so we did.  



8 Lessons In Downsizing

posted on: Wednesday, August 10, 2016


One night in March, after a relentless apartment search, with the market plateaued and the only real solution left was leaving our beloved neighborhood, we met with our realtor, Steve, and signed a lease to a garden level-brownstone apartment. Our landlords were warm and welcoming, and the apartment had this old-school charm and all these weird quirks that appealed to the Brooklynite in me.

Truthfully, I had become disenchanted with all the new builds in our area, promising us an easier way of life in half the square footage. Granted, the pickings were slim considering that we were two freelancers under 30, with two kids too. Despite a few upsets and places that slipped through our fingers, this one worked in all the ways we needed it to work. It took some reframing, but such is the life of a New Yorker. We realized a few things were of great importance and some things just weren't that important at all.

Here are 8 lessons in downsizing (or upsizing as we like to say).

1. Our children did not need separate bedrooms or even a large bedroom. They needed a space for sleeping, reading, and a bit of play.

2. We did need a good-sized living room. I was taken aback by the lack of living space in all the new builds. Emphasis was on swanky appliances and massive kitchens, and none on the living room. Which, obviously, is for living. (This also plays into number one: I realized that my children spend 90 percent of their time in the living room.)

3. I need an open style kitchen. After spending years in a little closet kitchen tucked away in our hallway, away from my children, I noticed how cooking often felt like it took me away from the kids. instead of involving them. When viewing apartments, I would first check the living room, then the kitchen. I didn't need a dishwasher or a stainless steel fridge; I needed to see my children while I cooked. It was like I had some revelation. Cooking has been a dream these past few months!

4. Speaking of rooms, you can actually make rooms. That's where we are in New York right now. There are actual, reputable, and amazing companies that come in and create rooms with fancy walls and windows and sliding doors. When faced with a one bedroom as large as both of our previous two bedrooms combined, we enlisted a company to make us two beautiful, functional rooms out of the one.

5. Less is more. That’s what people say, but we are truly feeling it. It felt like we'd been paring down for years; yet when it was time to pack, we still had plenty of purging to do. When moving, I highly suggest evaluating and taking stock of what you have in your space. We realized that after four years collecting stuff in one place, there was plenty we just didn't love anymore. And if you don't love it, leave it.

6. Layout. Layout. Layout. We don't know the exact square footage of our current apartment in comparison to our old apartment, but it feels bigger (though we often doubt that it is). This is because of layout. An apartment doesn't need to be large; downsizing can be upsizing with the right arrangement.

7. A backyard (or any outdoor space) is invaluable. Finding an apartment in New York City with a yard is like finding a needle in a haystack. And maybe that combination alone made our search more difficult. But I was hell bent on find outdoor space. I knew that no mater the size, if the kids and I have a space to just walk out and enjoy every morning and evening outdoors, it changes our entire city experience. I need fresh air in the morning, and having an oasis that is just mine and theirs, uninterrupted and away from the noise has become our safe haven.

8. The grass isn't always greener. Quite literally. New York is all about appreciation and perspective, and often we can get caught up in what we think we need, and what he or she has. We don't know how long we will be in this space, but we are learning as our kids grow, what works and what doesn't and how important it is to step back and appreciate what is ours while we have it.

We are so happy here, cooking, creating, and dreaming in Clinton Hill. Coincidently, as the ink dried on our lease, my mother-in-law sent my this article by The New York Times, neighbors and strangers, living it up and living small.