Reflecting on Pride and Happiness

Did you miss me?

I missed you all quite a bit. But I needed a little vacation from Blog Land. I try to post almost every day and love doing it, but I've had a LOT on my mind lately. So, I thought it might be a good idea to step back a little bit and completely unplug from blogging. Initially I thought it might only be for two days, but it turned into an unprecedented five whole days.

And then I saw that Sundry at Any Given Sundry tagged me. She says, "I want to know what 10 things you did in 2008 that you're happy about or proud of."

Gee, I was sort of trying to forget 2008 (especially my 401k statements) And, thinking of these sorts of things is incredibly difficult for me. I am more inclined to focus on the things I did not accomplish instead of the things I did. I mean, in 2008, I still did not complete a good 1st draft of a novel. I did not buy a house. I didn't volunteer as much as I wanted to. I didn't learn to swim.

I didn't (x) + I didn't (y) * I didn't (z) = I wasn't a math major so don't ask me for the answer to my little equation, but I think that means I started feeling like I sort of suck.

But enough of my pity party. I mean, I'm sad because I don't own property in my trendy Los Angeles neighborhood? Oh really? And in the meantime, in a dozen places around the world, people are getting their homes blown up due to conflicts that revolve around religion, race, ethnic pride and the corrupting influences of unbridled capitalism.

Yeah, I need to get a grip and take a stab at this. But only because Sundry is so very nice both at her blog and in person, and she never tags me for anything!

10 things I did in 2008 that I'm happy about or proud of

1) I voted. My ancestor's were denied the right to vote so I will never ever take such a sacred responsibility for granted. I keep all my voting receipts, and this one has already joined my collection.

Whoever you voted for, I firmly believe we all have the responsibility to set our individual differences aside and focus on how we can come together, unified. Otherwise, this nation is gonna turn into a future History Channel series showing the parallels between us and the fall of the Roman Empire.

2) I signed up for Twitter. At first the whole idea of a micro blogging site like Twitter seemed like a mega time suck. And, no lie, it is. But if I didn't have Twitter, how would I have connected with the characters from Mad Men? How would I have commiserated with dozens of other folks who were all simultaneously saying, "I KNOW homie did not just call Barack Obama 'That One'!" And how could I deprive myself of reading Bygbaby's thoughts in real time?

Yes, I'm a Twitter fan and I'm glad I took the plunge because my fellow Twitterers make me laugh and think, all at the same time.

3) I became a runner. I used to have a bad habit of keeping commitments to everyone else but myself. If something had to be dropped or changed, usually it was something for me. So becoming a runner has been a huge step for me because I can't train for a marathon if I decide to put my training, my commitment to myself, on the back burner.

I'm still so psyched that a month ago I completed the City of Angels Half Marathon and I have the Pasadena Marathon coming up and possibly either Los Angeles or San Diego in my sights for later on this year.

4)I volunteered for four school committees at my son's school: You wanna know why my blogger profile age is 255? Because I'm an involved parent at a Los Angeles public school and I don't believe everything the administration tells me and I don't appreciate mediocrity for anyone's children.

Trust me, if you get on some of these committees or councils, you'll prematurely age too since getting either a straight answer or actual action out of some administrative LAUSD employees is akin to hell freezing over. But, I signed on for committee/council/PTA heaven for another year and I'm glad I did. Besides, I have a feeling we'll be back to protesting budget cuts yet again.

5) I took vacation: A couple of years ago, I used to have a hard time going on vacation. It never felt realistic to actually go somewhere, and so I'd be the person with 10 unused vacation days at the end of the year. Even though I didn't go to Paris or London in 2008 like I dreamed, I went to one of my favorite places on the planet, Santa Barbara. I stayed in Santa Barbara for a long weekend and then, three weeks later, (so greedy and shameless, I know) I went home to the Midwest with my boys for five whole weeks of seeing friends and family and hanging out, riding the El and engaging in insane amounts of eavesdropping and people watching.

6) I went to the beach in a swimsuit. And I did it more than once! I know, this may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but it is to me, so I'm putting it on my list. Sadly enough, it had probably been at least eight years since I'd gone out in public in a swimsuit and actually gotten off my towel and jumped into the water.

I always felt like I was too fat to go to the beach. My legs, stomach, hips and thighs just were not good enough, not attractive enough, not thin enough to be out on a Los Angeles beach in a swimsuit.

But the summer of 2008 saw me out in my swimsuit every chance I got. I even managed to have fun and not worry about whether or not my azz looked like it had six gallons of Breyer's Triple Chocolate ice cream attached to it. I am not the sum of my parts and I feel like if someone thinks my thighs are too fat, guess what, you go on ahead and buy me some personal training sessions because I am doing the best I can! And yes, I have on my swimsuit in that picture but NO, I am not putting a picture of me in my swimsuit anywhere on the Internet!

7) I was a good mother to my sons. I know so many mothers who feel like they're not doing enough for their kids, who feel stretched thin, like they can't make everything they want to happen, happen.

I used to think that I wasn't a good mother, and in the past there have been people in my life who have said and done things with the intention of making me feel like I'm a bad mother. There are still a couple of those folks lingering around, but these days I just tune them out because I look at my sons, how smart they are, how confident they are, how free and creative they are, how they know how to behave in public, how they sit reverently during prayers, how they worry about homeless people and can identify Depeche Mode records when they're playing.

I think about how they are who they are not just because of me being able to spend more time with them in the past year, but also because of who I was when I was working what were, in my humble opinion, rather unsustainable hours for anybody, not just a mother. Now though, I feel really lucky that I get to take the time to be with them and I think I can say that, this past year, I was a good mother.

8) I added two sites to the places I write and I partnered with companies. I added both the Los Angeles Moms Blog and Divine Caroline to the list of sites I write for. And, I got to go to great events due to the generosity of companies like EA Games and Disney. It was also super great to partner with companies like Nintendo that want to give aways stuff to readers via my blog, throw a Wii Fit party for me and give me a Wii. Let's hope I can add more sites and giveaways in '09.

9) This blog. If this blog didn't make me happy and proud, more days than not, I would delete it. It's not just that it gives me an excuse to eavesdrop on other people, as much as I enjoy that. It's not even just that it's a fabulous outlet where I can write about the things I see and experience on a daily basis. No, it's that I also get to read your comments, connect with such interesting people, and not feel so isolated in a world that's increasingly solitary.

10) I cut all my straight hair off. Yep, I had that long, straight hair. The sort of hair that every black American woman is trained from birth to think we're nothing without. And, okay, it's pretty. It sure is. But let's set all the "it's just hair" discussions aside. What this hair says for me is, yes, white America, I will put chemicals in my hair, year after year in order to conform to your standard of beauty. Because I've been trained that my hair is too difficult. Too "big". Too nappy. Too unprofessional in it's natural state.

And other black people lavished positive praise on me and my hair. "Girl, I wish my hair looked/grew/was as long as/as pretty as your hair."

Because I was afraid to let go of the security blanket of long hair, I actually set it on straws for months so that my natural hair could grow out without having to be be blown dry or flat ironed. It took hours but I was not cutting that hair. Finally, in July 2008, I mustered up enough courage to cut my hair. I'm not sure I could have if I hadn't had the steady encouragement of so many other black bloggers who've taken the plunge into wearing the hair that comes out of our head. And now I want to take every black woman I see by the hand, sit her down and say, honey, just let the straight hair go. You won't regret not being a slave to chemicals that are probably giving you cancer. You won't miss flat irons and blow dryers. You won't miss running in terror from rain. And if, somehow, you do, by all means, go back to all the chemical drama. I am not going back. No way, no how. I feel more connected with who I actually am. Not a shadow version of myself, not a facade, and not someone I can only sometimes put out there to the world. I'm not someone else's socio-cultural idea of who I am. I'm just myself, doing the best I can in an imperfect world, and hoping you are too.

I am not going to tag anyone for this but if you'd like to take a trip to the distant past of 2008, let me know. I'd love to come read what you're proud of and what made you happy.


You had a great year.

I always vote as well and I really don't understand folks who don't. Too many people died for me to have the right. I don't take it for granted.

Regarding your number 10.. I so understand what you mean. My own mother wishes I would go back to the chemicals. Not going to happen. I'm nappy and happy.
Anonymous said…
1. I stayed sane-increasingly difficult in these times of duplicious establishment's lies and schisms.
2. I started drug awareness workshops for our community and I did not do hard drugs, - has there ever been a more easy time to get your hands on class A drugs? Nope, you can get crack, heroin, MDMA, ketamine, ectasy, etc real easy. In England where i live you cannot get hold of any proper sensimelia from Jamaica but you can get all of the above, somethings not quite right!
3. I started projects that helped kids stay out of gangs and empowered them thru various means. Kids in the UK are going crazy with guns and knives, alcohol and drugs, truancy and idleness, etc.
4. Started playing soccer again after three years out with a broken leg.
5. Got myself a proper paid job instead of always volunteering. Why do they always expect black people to volunteer their skills and not get paid? Thats how it is here in England.
6. Went to watch a live soccer match, how exhilerating is it to watch a live sports match? It brings out the competitive side of us humans.
7. I made friends with this lovely senior citizen who I am very fond of. Why do we sometimes take our senior citizens so foregranted?
8. I achieved my first aid and life saving certificate that may come in very useful one day!
Anonymous said…
9. I see my children regularly even though the mother and I have split up.Why is there always drama after adults split up? Why do we use children as weapons? I am really proud of them and want to be a part of their daily lives, not occassionally, monthly or weekly!
10. I am really proud of trying to develop myself spiritually through various means. Healing, herbal remedies, (no not weed)! Reading, yoga, meditation, excercise, prayer, etc, etc. My greatest challenge is myself and my lack of self control, if I can conquer myself, I can conquer all! Imagine if we could all have 100% self control and discipline?
1969 said…
The running alone is huge much less all of the other wonderful accomplishments you have completed this year.

Congrats to you and thanks so much for letting us all be a part of it.
Liz Dwyer said…
My 401(k) aside, yes it was a pretty good year. Two people I know have admitted to me that they didn't vote... but they're lying to everyone else. They said saying they didn't vote would be like admitting you have the Ebola virus. Ah, moms don't give up too easily, do they?

Wow. What a list of stuff you've done in '08. You must be VERY good at managing your time because I'm wondering, when do you sleep? Or do you have a clone? :)

Same thing here with drugs and guns. I could walk down two blocks down the hill and get pretty much any drug I want. And yeah, kids are all up in the mix. They scare me more than the OG's because they have no code of honor and they are power hungry.

It is hard to stay sane but I imagine that all of the things you do to better yourself and your community help you keep your head and your heart in the right place. It's so good that you make an effort to have a positive relationship with your kids mom. I'm sure it's not easy, but keep being a father to them no matter what. I know too many people who grew up with no father or with a peripheral father, and it weighs on them as adults. Besides, with all the crazy societal pressures your kids up against, they need you, no matter what.

Aww, I love you! Thanks to you for bothering to come over to read my blog and encourage me. :) I have a 24 mile run this Saturday so I'll be thinking of you while I'm trekking along!
Anonymous said…
One accomplishment you didn't mention:

you write with such potency that it makes every reader richer.

Happy new year!
ValeriesWorld said…
Congratulations to you and a Happy New Year and I am sure God Welling 2009 would be even better.
Liz Dwyer said…
You are too kind. Much too kind. But, thank you for saying so.

Thank you for the New Year wishes. It's appreciated. Very appreciated. Whatever comes my way in '09, I am sure there will be a mix of good and bad. The challenge is to be grateful for it all.
sippinwineman said…
Half way through your hair piece (pun intended) a song started playing in my head. "People, let me tell ya. I work haaaard every day. I get up outta bed, put on my clothes 'cause I've got bills to pay. And it ain't eeeeasy! I don't need no help. I've gotta strong will to survive. I've got a deeper love. A deeper love. A deeper love inside. I call it Pride! " Go 'head, you strong sister, you. Now if I/we could convince you to post a full swimsuit photo. :)
Sundry said…
Thanks for playing! I loved reading your list. You really made it a great year...and I know it was a transition year for you in many ways. That always takes courage!

p.s. I love your hair.
Mamita Umita said…
Yeah!! I love this list, and we are very proud of you and to have been a part of your '08. Here's to another year!!
Gayatri said…
Liz, So here is one thing that makes me proud and happy about my life's journey in 2008 (and thus far). When I see someone displaying virtues that I admire, I feel genuinely happy for them, enriched that they are in my circle of life, and let them know it. So here goes. There are FAR too many things I admire and appreciate about you. This blog entry makes it all come to me an flood of admiration-appreciation-kudos to you. I will try 10 (in no particular order) since that is the magic number here. 1. You always tell it like it is. Your honesty is infectious. 2. You can laugh at yourself and with others at that. This means, you're OK with you. 3. You have a unique perception about the world and people, and share it with absolute brilliance. 4. You are beautiful -- inside and out -- and you let your beauty shine so effortlessly. 5. You are an unpretentiously good mom to some awesome kids. 6. You flow. Remind me to let go, laugh, play, be spontaneous (with my kids especially). 7. You care. Deeply. So much it keeps you up nights. 8. You live by your principles in an understated unpreachy way. 9. You live a spiritual path with practical feet. Wow. and finally, 10. You are just plain FABULOUS!!!!!!! I love you & enrich my life deeply.
thailandchani said…
Truthfully, I like your hair much better now. :)

As for your question, I really don't have an answer. It's not my way really to look over the past much.

Kathy Rogers said…
As a certified (and certifiable) member of White America, I say: Your hair is beautiful in all of those pictures -- before, during & after.

I have about 23 thin fine hairs on my head. -sigh-

The hair is always better on the other head. Just like the grass is always greener, etc.

Sundry tagged me with this, too. So far, a combination of busy/lazy has kept me from doing it.
Anonymous said…
i absolutely love your hair now. Do you still set to straws or is that just how it is? Help im in transition using kinky twists to give myself time to finally make the real break.
Anonymous said…
You had an awesome year, it sounds like! And as a total coincidence, I, too, went out in a bathing suit in 2008! For the first time in years, too.
velvet said…
Liz, this is a great list. Sounds like you had a very good year.

And I'll have to agree with Chani. I think that your natural hair is beautiful.

Hope you have a great 2009, too!
I love natural black hair. It's soft, beautiful and womanly.

But most of all, no one should have to adapt to an unnatural standard of beauty. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman who is perfectly comfortable in her own skin (and hair.)
This was such a nice post. It's good to hear that you've learned to put your needs first. It's really what women - esp mothers - stop doing. A happy mom = happy kids. I am working on freeing my mind from regrets and negativity. I still have a lot of work to do but I think it's less taxing than I think. I started blogging - and am forcing myself to write something every day. You run and I'm using this to train myself to be more disciplined. Plus you were a great encouragement to me. I look forward to where we'll all be one year from now!
Anonymous said…
That all sounds very positive and constructive - and fun. Good that you took a proper vacation rather than slepping around the house. It's always educational to eavesdrop and people watch somewhere totally different!
Michele said… had a tremendous year! The running and hair thing piqued my interest since I became a "real runner" a couple years ago (though didn't REALLY believe it until a couple months ago) and just the other day decided to wear my hair naturally curly, wavy or whatever it decided to do, after becoming so tired of trying to flat iron it!
kegf said…
I wanted to share a short list of things that you inspired me to do in 2008 year.

1. Start running again. Sure, I only started by running 5 minutes every other day (which is pitiful for someone who once held her high school's mile record), but it's more than I've run in years, and not all that bad for an out of shape women who gave birth to her second child 6 months ago. Plus it may only be 5 minutes now, but by summer maybe I'll stay out for 30 minutes :)

2. Approve the Wii Fit purchase that my husband wanted to get me for Christmas. AND I've been using it every day since I opened it.

3. Conform to my own beauty standards. As a mother of 2 little ones I'd let myself slide a bit, but reading how happy you've been with your hair and other changes have encouraged me to spend a bit more time on me.

So thank you. I only discovered your blog a couple of months ago and I look following your blog and continue to be challenged to be the person that I want to be. :)
Shiona said…
I hope to get more in shape this year and be a good mother. I have gotten away from the chemical dependency and not having to worry about a flat iron takes such a load off. What a great way to actually step back and take a look at all you have accomplished.
Liz Dwyer said…
Can I just say how much I hate when I reply to comments and then the go into a BLACK HOLE! AAGH!

Haha! But, nope, no full-length swimsuit photo will ever be forthcoming on this blog.

Thanks for tagging me. I'm still amazed by how many books you read last year. That's almost one per week. Go, Sundry! And thanks for the hair love! :)

I'm very proud of you! You had a VERY big year, that's for sure. '09 is only a week old but it's already proving to be interesting!

I am speechless that you wrote such a sweet, sweet list about me! Wow! All I can say is I love you to, G! :)

I like my hair much better now too. I find I either speculate on the future too much or else moon over the past too much. Either is nothing but idle fancies and vain imaginings.

All certified/certifiable members of White America are welcome here! LOL! You're right in that hair always seems better on someone else's head. I like my sister's hair better than mine but she's jealous of my fingernails. Oh, wait... that wasn't a hair comparison! Oh well, you get my meaning!

No, no straws now. It's just like this... or at least it's like this after a good leave-in conditioner and some hair gel. Feel free to email me if you've got other questions. I'm more than happy to be of any assistance I can.

Go 'head, Sarah! Three cheers for us going out in bathing suits in '08 -- and here's to more of that in '09.

Hey there! How you've been? It was a good year. I'm just glad Sundry didn't ask me to list the 10 most awful things that happened to me in '08. That would've been a pretty miserable list!

Natural black hair is all those things and I think the perceptions of it are really starting to change, thank goodness. But there is still such a long, long way to go.

When I read your blog, I think, "Wow, she should be writing for The Root!" You have a great blog and I love your perspective. I can't wait to see where we're at in a year too.

Well, the past couple weeks have been vacation and I've been only hanging out here in LA, but the good thing is that there's so much to do here in the city.

Yes, there's a definite switch from thinking of yourself as a casual runner and actually thinking of yourself as a real runner. I think once I ran more than five miles, I started to think of myself as a runner. No one who does it casually goes past five! And you know what, my sister switched her hair to natural too because she couldn't take how much effort it took to get it straight after working out. Natural is really a lot easier if you're athletic.

Wow, I inspired you! That's amazing and it makes me so happy that that's the case. Are you loving the Wii Fit? One of the best things about it is even if you only have 10 minutes, you can still do some step aerobics or hula hooping and really feel so much better. Here's to a great '09 for you.

I'm really glad she tagged me for this. It's so good to step back and do a good assessment of where things really are/aren't. You know? I can't believe how long I used to spend flat ironing my hair because I can't wrap hair worth anything. AAGH! I don't miss those days. Nowadays my biggest issue is how dry LA air is. It does a number on me!
Anonymous said…
And you coulldn't have voted as a woman either, so double victory.

(Ironically enough, I'd kill for your hair! I have never liked my own straight hair.)
April said…
I love this idea! And you most definitely accomplished a lot of great things in 08.
j'taimee said…
Los Angelista - I love your list of 'things proudly accomplished'. I think it's been almost a year that I've been reading your blog... anyhow, I'm wondering if I might ask a favor. Can you please tell Miss Akia that I say hello? I was happy to see a picture of her on your list.
Liz Dwyer said…
You're right, it IS a double victory! That's fabulous! Trust me, you wouldn't kill for my hair today. It's a hot mess today thanks to the hot Santa Ana winds! :)

Thanks! Sadly enough, not everybody feels that way. There are still companies that forbid "ethnic" hair styles, although what that is is left up to interpretation. I don't know if my hair would be too ethnic for some companies or not!

It is a great idea and I'm very very glad that Sundry tagged me.

I will tell her hello, definitely. She lives only a few blocks away from me so I see her pretty frequently! :)

Popular Posts