I get it now, I think…

{Pointing a finger to my temple}

“Put as much up here as you possibly can because it’s the one place they can’t get to. It’s the one thing they can’t take away. They can take away your family, take away your money, take away your freedom but this is the one thing that can’t be taken away. So put as much up here as possible.” – Joseph Scott

My father and I had a complicated relationship, which I suppose is apropos because he was complicated.

His life journey was complicated and for the longest time, I grappled with the decisions that he made and why he made them. Now that I’m a father too, I get him more. I think I understand him more now because I understand the pressure of being a father in this society and being a Black man in this society. It’s complicated. 

I’ve been really judgmental of my father over the years. For those that know me through social media, you’d be hard-pressed to find posts about father. Why? I was taught if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. So I’ve been quiet. However, now that I have the advantage of perspective, I think I can speak objectively and maybe help someone along his or her journey. 

Being a man in this society is hard because it is very difficult to balance all of the messages society places on us. We have to show strength but also show vulnerability, depending on the situation. We have to be relaxed enough to play with our kids but have enough rage reserved to kill someone if need be to protect our family.  I think about how I struggle to maintain this balance and I’m a damn psychologist. So if as a trained professional, I’m struggling, then I can only imagine the difficulties my father was having. 

Let me start from the beginning:

“Broken Black homes is the modern slavery, You can’t raise a savage and deny the rabies.” – Pusha T – Cold Blooded

My father became the Man of the House at 12 years old. I only know one story of my paternal grandfather: how he died. From my understanding, my grandfather was hit by a train. He was a gambling man that liked to drink. Apparently, this one night he made a lot of money at the gambling spot and drank a lot at the gambling spot. To get back to his house, he had to cross some train tracks. Usually he makes it. This particular night, he did not. Either he was too drunk and stumbled or he won entirely too much money, people weren’t happy and he was pushed. 

It’s Sumter, South Carolina in the early 1960’s and a Black man is run over by a train. I doubt CSI was on the scene doing a lot of investigating.

So now my father is thrust into this role of being the Man of the House. At 12, with no guidance. I’m sure he felt the same responsibility I feel now, which is taking care of your family and providing for their needs, because that’s what men do. I can only imagine what emotions he may have been feeling that he had to shut off because he had to “be a man.” 

When we’d go to Sumter, he’d tell me stories about how he lied about his age so that he could work at Big Jim’s as a busboy and waiter, using those tips to provide for his family, because he was the Man of the House.

Being the Man of the House made my father an adult long before he should have been, so much so that he called my grandmother, his mother, by her first name. Not once in all my years while they both were alive, did I ever hear him call her Mom. I’m a married doctor in my late 30’s with a child of my own and I wouldn’t even think to form my lips to call Mom, Nancy. 

So we have this kid, with no father, essentially no mother and nowhere to truly vent or explore whatever emotions he may have been feeling, living in a Jim Crow South. Now we’re going to ship this same kid off to Vietnam. 

I recall sharing with one of my past supervisors that around my 18thbirthday, I got a scholarship from the NAACP to continue my studies at Morehouse. I had to give a speech at a gala, it was cool. What stood out to me was my father saying, “On your 18thbirthday, you just finished your first semester of college and gave a speech at a gala. On my 18thbirthday, I was in a foxhole in Vietnam with bullets whizzing past me.” As I told the story, her eyes welled up and she excused herself. At the time, I didn’t understand why it touched her so much.

When you get a chance, Google Black Vietnam Veterans. According to some of the articles I read, there was this dichotomy of being American and fighting for your country, the same country that treated young Black men as savages and second-class citizens. There also appeared to be the notion that Blacks would expect to be treated differently upon return from war, which isn’t unreasonable. If I’m a soldier and I just risked life and limb for my countrymen, then I think it’s a reasonable assumption that my country would not persecute me solely because of my race. Alas, this is America. 

If one is dealing with inequities on the literal battlefield and then dealing with inequities on the figurative battlefield called home, then where is one to find peace? A lot of young Black men returned from Vietnam to find that they could not get jobs, as there was a shift from blue collar to white collar. There was a generation of boys damaged mentally, physically and emotionally by the atrocities that they endured in Vietnam. These young men were unable to get work, which led to a large increase of the Black woman becoming the head of the household. 

Unfortunately for the Black Community, a lot of these damaged boys became fathers but never healed enough to be emotionally available for their spouses or their children. A lot of them self-medicated, my father included. 

True story: I remember being a kid and asking him “What’s this?”, holding a dime bag in my hand.

My father said “Oh, that’s just tea.”

Fast forward to junior high, I saw one of my friends with a dime bag and I asked, full of youth and innocence, “Oh, you’re about to go make some tea?”

My father, now in his twenties, two tours of Vietnam later, is expected to function normally, with everything he’s been through, everything he’s seen and everything going on in America at the time. 

The G.I. Bill was an act that guaranteed that veterans could get low interest mortgage loans for houses as well as paying tuition for college, to ease the transition back into society. Of course, Blacks had a much more difficult time accessing these resources, as banks would deny Black veterans mortgages despite having government backing. The shift from blue collar to white collar meant that a lot of these young men would need to pursue higher education. However colleges in the South would make the admissions process difficult for Black veterans. 

It’s enough to drive someone crazy. It’s gaslighting. You need education to get a better job but we won’t let you get the education. You have the money to buy a house but we won’t let you get it. 

My wife says that I am loyal to a fault sometimes. Maybe it’s something I got honest. My father persevered and was able to access his G.I. Bill. Instead of buying a house for he and his wife, my Mom, he instead used that mortgage to purchase his mother and two brothers a home. In fact, he even sent money every month from New York to South Carolina for them to use to pay the mortgage on that home.  If this arrangement was 2019, my father would have just hopped online and paid the bank directly. Instead he trusted that the people he literally sacrificed his life for would take care of the fruits of his labor. 

They lost that house. The money he was sending, money he really didn’t have, never made it to the bank but I’m fairly certain it made it to the Pusherman. 

It’s enough to drive someone crazy. 

My current supervisor has taught me about the importance of context, that actions seem random or unwise on the surface but it’s hard to understand those actions without first understanding the context.

So if I understand that my father came from poverty, had no male guidance, was forced to be a man before his time, had likely seen and done horrific things in two tours of Vietnam only to be rewarded with racism, underemployment and betrayal by his family, how could I expect him to be a father to me? How can I put these lofty expectations on him?

I didn’t have this context. All I had was the 17 years on this earth with him of wanting him to be more, expecting more, not knowing that he had nothing else to give. All I understood of him was the rage bubbling under the surface and the distance. 

Unfortunately the standard in my community was and still is low. 

“Well at least he was there.” That’s minimum. But what does it matter if someone is there physically but emotionally distant?

All I knew at the time was that my Mom was waking up first thing in the morning, going to work, taking the train from Queens to Brooklyn in the height of the Crack Epidemic, coming home, cooking and making sure that I was physically and emotionally taken care of. 

Without this context, it made the infidelity that much harder to accept. Six years after my father’s passing, I found out that instead of one sibling, I have three others. An older sister conceived before my parents were married and two younger siblings obviously conceived during their marriage. 

I was livid and as the years have gone on, I have become more and more disrespectful and indifferent towards my father. I see how my mother has yet to let another man close enough to her to even begin to have a relationship, which I have to attribute to my father’s infidelity. 

“The audacity of this work when he feels like it ass n*gga to not only cheat on MY Mom but have a whole ‘nother family? He had time to take his ass from Queens to Brooklyn but didn’t have time to work consistently?”

In retrospect, the infidelity brought into question my father’s motives regarding my choice of college. I was deciding between Morehouse College and Temple University. My father really pushed hard for me to go to Morehouse with the rationale that it is a HBCU (Historically Black College and University) and that being in Atlanta, on that campus would give me a strong sense of racial pride. My rationale for Temple was that the world is not all Black and likely my world would not be all Black so I need to learn how to manage within a diverse population. 

I ended up going to Morehouse, a decision I don’t regret and a decision my father was happy with.

But did my father push me to go to school in Atlanta, knowing that his paramour and his other two children were moving to Atlanta and that he could always use the excuse of coming to Atlanta to see me so that he could really see her? I told you my father and I didn’t have the best relationship, so at the time I found it odd that he drove down to Atlanta twice in one semester to see me…

Maybe two things can be true at the same time. 

Maybe he knew that Morehouse would be a better long-term choice for his son’s future AND that his secret lover was relocating to Atlanta so it kills two birds with one stone. 

Maybe he did want to see me AND he wanted to see his other kids without raising suspicion. 

I don’t pretend to know. It just doesn’t feel like coincidence. 

Looking at it now, with context, I wonder if having kids was his only way to have agency in this world, to have power, even if he wasn’t necessarily financially supporting these kids. It still doesn’t even begin to make it right but at least I can somewhat understand. 

So we fast forward and now I’m a father. I realized that I try really, really hard at it because I want to be better for Mikki than what I had.

So I’m at every doctor’s appointment, we play, I teach her things. We have our morning affirmations. I don’t want to just provide financially but emotionally as well. I know that pressure comes from a place of wanting to do this better so that she doesn’t have to wonder or question if her daddy was all in. I want her to see a man loving a woman and being faithful to his wife, so that she knows what to expect. 

#thegreatestscott

I have a feeling that I’m not alone, that there are other men, my nephew included, trying to operate at a higher level and be a better father because of that absence or that lack of presence. But it is hard. Parenthood is hard. Fatherhood is hard. The expectations of men in this society, it is hard. 

I wrote this because now I understand how my parenting style is impacted by how my father was and that with context, my father did the best that he could, which all things being even, wasn’t that bad. 

In 2019, I want to give myself the permission to let go of the weight of this anger towards my father so that I can raise my daughter without comparison. 

For people reading this, hopefully you can give yourself permission to let some things go too.

#morelife

Humbled

I turned 38 a few days ago and because my birthday also tends to coincide with the end of the year, I become more reflective.

So many beautiful things happened in 2019, things that were important to me. I was hesitant to even write this blog because I don’t want to seem as though I’m bragging or boasting.

1999 me? Oh, I would have been definitely boasting.

2019 me? It’s not where my energy is.

I haven’t spoken to or texted my cousin Katrina in a long time but she reached out for my birthday. I texted her back saying “I feel like blogging but I don’t want to seem like I’m d*ck eating myself.”

She texted me back saying, “You’ve had a phenomenal year and there is nothing wrong with chronicling your accomplishments. To know your story from the beginning, it would only be right.”

So here we are.

This year, I was reminded that God sees the whole parade. And I believe God was waiting for me to get to a place of maturity and humility before I was able to receive the blessings that I have. If I would have gotten them any sooner than now, I would have squandered them and I wouldn’t fully appreciate them.

The New York Times?!?

So this happened. A kid from Queens with a dream getting interviewed and quoted in the New York Times. I was interviewed about media being used in a positive manner to assist with mental health. I got interviewed because of a program I developed back in grad school that uses movies in a group therapy setting with adolescent Black males. It was all God engineering because the writer of the article, Patrice Peck, really went out of her way to get a hold of me.

She went to Google Hangouts but I wasn’t hanging out there. She went to my LinkedIn page but I wasn’t really linking with anybody. She got a hold of me through the one person who can always get a hold of me, my wife.

Fancy: A reporter for The New York Times has been trying to reach you.

“Word? Why?”

For a story she’s writing.

“Ok cool.”

Call her back, now please!!

Ms. Peck and I finally do speak and the rest is history. So the end of the interview goes like this:

So do you have a landing page that I can put a link in for the article?

“Nah, I got an Instagram. Do you think I’ll need one?”

Yeah, this is The New York Times. People are going to want to know more information about the program.

“Are you sure? The newspaper is a dying medium.”

(sighs) Let me know when your website is up and running. You have about two weeks.

For years, the people in my life that knew about the program, like my wife, like my girl Shannon from Baltimore and my girl Natane, have been telling me for years to polish it, copyright it and monetize it. But it was never about the money for me as much as it was about the culture.

Again, God sees the whole parade and knew that something drastic was going to have to transpire for me to not waste this gift that I was blessed with. The New York Times was drastic. I’m grateful for Ms. Peck’s foresight and her patience because I have been getting contacted by organizations about Reel Talk since the article. I’m thankful for the people in my life that were genuinely happy for me and pushing me.

Again, the timing is perfect which lets me know it’s God’s timing. The stigma of Black people seeking therapy has dramatically decreased and people are more open to seeking that help. So, we’ll see where things go.

Peace

When I wrote my blog about my father, I believe I was measured, balanced and honest. Above all else, I found peace in knowing that he did the best that he could, based on the life he’d lived. Writing that blog set the tone for 2019 in that I wasn’t going to walk around with unnecessary baggage. I felt free, like all the anger and resentment turned into understanding. And I was finally able to let it go. I hope everyone gets to experience that level of peace.

Some family members from my father’s side felt a way about the blog but none of these people said a word or reached out to me, which is indicative of how they’ve handled things since my father’s funeral almost twenty years ago. To those that felt a way about what I wrote in the blog, I pose a simple and fair question:

If I’ve somehow mischaracterized my father, I would be open to having that dialogue. Otherwise…what are we talking about?

We Bought A House

Like the kids would say, we bought a house house, with a Tiffany Blue door. It’s the type of house my wife used to draw as a kid, with mad windows. My psychology friends are probably making a House Tree Person joke right now.

I did not think we were ready for such a large, permanent purchase but again God knew He had to do something drastic for me to move in the direction I was supposed to go. I’m grateful to Progress Residential for raising the rent $250 dollars. Year One to Year Two, rent increased $50 dollars. Wasn’t super-tripping on $50 dollars. I mean, no one wants to pay an extra $50 dollars for the exact same thing. Year Two to Year Three and you want $250 dollars on top of the extra $50 dollars you just squeezed out me?

It still felt like an inopportune time, with Mikki transitioning from Daycare to Preschool and us exploring rental options for the private practice but what would have been more inopportune is continuing to pay someone else’s mortgage. Once I saw what Progress bought the house for (thanks Zillow) versus what they were trying to charge us for rent, I guffawed.

After consulting with my friend and financial planning extraordinaire Malik on exactly how much house we can afford, we went to a mortgage lender and got approved. About two years ago when we were looking for a new place to live, I was connected with JP, which my Mom pointed out to me in retrospect are my first and middle initials.

He was so cool and so patient when were looking for somewhere to rent that I told him that when we were ready to buy, he would be the first call that I made. And he was. Literally everything happened within a two week span.

June 26th – Got Approved, July 3rd – Met with the realtor, July 7th – Saw this house, July 8th – Put in an offer, July 10th – Offer accepted.

So when we were signing the paperwork on closing day, I had a period when I just busted out laughing.

“2049?!? We ain’t paying this off until 2049?!? I’d be like 70 yo!!”

Also, no one explained to me that only like $40 dollars goes to the principal and the rest of your mortgage payment is just interest.

Other house stuff:

  1. In my 37-38 years on this earth, you know what I’ve never had to buy until like two months ago? A rake. Why did I buy a rake? Because I have a yard yard. It’s funny because now I have my outdoor work outfit, which consists of some Carhartts, a long sleeve t-shirt and an old pair of Penny’s. I’m out here raking mad long, like Tre in Boyz N Tha Hood.
  2. I’m from Farmers Boulevard but I am not a farmer. But here I am in Home Depot with my wife, looking for winterized seeds and fertilizer, worried about how my lawn is going to look come spring.

“Well, Kentucky-31 grows in heavily shaded areas.”

How did this happen? I’m out here pricing lawnmowers and my wife wants the $80 hose holder, because women don’t like visible wires of any kind.

3. I’ve never spent so much time/money in Lowes/Home Depot. Add ladder to the list other things I’ve never had to purchase in my whole life until three months ago.

4. We moved in on a Saturday and I had to work on Sunday. I was under the impression that we could just unpack through the week. I finally took the necessary time off because renting a house is vastly different than owning a house. Renting a house will give you the false impression that you can manage owning a house. Owning is just different, you take more pride in it because it is yours. But because it’s yours, you have time to get things the way you want it.

5. I’m a doctor but I’m still a bum. So we have a wood burning fireplace. When we bought the house, I’m looking for the light switch to turn on the fireplace, thinking it’s gas. So I’m talking to my friend Dre, who just got married, who grew up in Queens just like I did:

“So the house has a real fireplace but I ain’t never have no fireplace before. The previous owners left us mad firewood though.”

Oh, all you have to do is light some paper so you can prime the flue on the chimney.

“I’m sorry, what?”

Yeah man, you just prime the flue.

He said it like he just be priming flues everyday and sh*t!! You live in Atlanta!! Like, this is common knowledge.

I was more concerned about burning the house down so I figured I should get the chimney inspected. The reason I’m a bum? I went on Groupon for the chimney inspection and cleaning. The Groupon included the inspection and cleaning for the first ten feet but twenty dollars for each additional foot.

So me being a genius, I look at the top of the house, figuring, push come to shove, we may have to pay an extra $100, thinking our chimney is 15 feet, not understanding that a chimney is essentially a big hole in your house from the bottom to the top.

So the inspector comes in and I’m asking if the Groupon will cover the cleaning. He laughed at me and told me out the gate that just the first floor of our chimney is ten feet. He went outside and measured, turns out our chimney is 30 feet.

So then he pulls out his calculator and I told him, “Ain’t no need for that. It would cost an additional $400 dollars to clean the chimney. Guess there won’t be no chestnuts roasting on an open fire in here this Christmas.” So he went on his way.

About a week later, I was telling this story at work and the IT guy was like, “Man!! (shakes his head) City boys. I’ve owned my house for over 20 years and I ain’t never clean my chimney. All you need is the Creosote Sweeping Log. It’ll keep your chimney clean.”

Then the shift supervisor comes asking, “Well, what kind of wood did they leave you?”

Me: (shrugs) I’m not a woodologist, how the hell would I know?

“Well, birch burns cleaner than pine and it’s less smoky.”

I will keep that in mind.

So I go pick up the CSL log and some fire starter. And then I go online to remember what Dre said about starting the fire. I start priming the flue and I get the fire going. My wife is impressed. We start to get sleepy so we need to put the fire out so I can close the damper and go to sleep.

Figured out how to start the fire, didn’t know how to put it out. My wife says use baking soda. Nothing happens. So I just go traditional and use mad water to douse it. Now the house is smoky.

Fancy: “How can you sleep with the whole house smelling like smoke? What if it’s carbon monoxide and we all die in our sleep?”

Me (half asleep, with a hint of sarcasm): We just got this house. It has a carbon monoxide alarm so if it goes off, we’ll leave. Plus, you can’t even smell carbon monoxide, we would just die (dozes back off).

Unbeknownst to me, my wife stayed up all night because she was worried about two embers she saw in the fireplace.

I abruptly get awakened at 5:30am on a Saturday.

“We need to get the smoke smell out of the house.” So I go downstairs and open up all the windows, in December, just to get the smell out. I talk to my Mom a few days later and she’s like, “Why don’t you just let the fire die out naturally?”

Never even occurred to us. So now, I set the fire early enough so that it’ll die out just as we’re ready to call it a night.

6. Chris Rock has this stand-up were he says, “You know you’re in a safe neighborhood if you see white women jogging outside.” If that’s the case, my neighborhood is mad safe. The neighbors to our left are Black, from Brooklyn ironically enough and the neighbors to our right are White. We by far are the youngest couple on this block so our street is quiet. It’s peaceful and we’re grateful.

My kid is tough but she’s still a kid

Mikki is amazing. In the span of three weeks, her entire world changed. She transitioned from the daycare she has been at since she was five months old to preschool. She went from being around two other kids to eight. She transitioned from her crib to a toddler bed. On top of all of that, she moved from the only house she can remember to the one she’ll likely be in until she graduates high school.

Granted she got her own playroom out of the deal:

And what was supposed to be my chair, she’s immediately jugged me

But it was hard on her. She cried hard every morning for about two weeks when I dropped her off at preschool.

Pink J’s on my feet, make my cypher complete.

She adjusted and started to maintain her composure but she still runs to our arms whenever we go to pick her up.

Then she started hitting peers, which we thought was weird because we don’t hit her.

“I’m a trash parent, my kid is a goon.”

What we realized is that she was at school from 7am to 6pm. That is a long day for anyone but especially a two year old. She was sleepy, hungry and violent.

So now we’ve shortened her day to now I pick her up between 3:45-4:15, which works out better for everybody because she gets more time to chill at home or the park and we get more time with her. And she’s stopped hitting.

Plus we’ve banned her from watching The Incredibles 2, which has also helped.

I bought my dream house, but I was having nightmares in it

So to be able to pick Mikki up earlier than 5:45, I had to change my schedule from 9 to 5 to 7 to 3.

Anyone that has known me an extended period of time knows that I am not about this early morning life but you do what you have to for your kids. But I was still trying to kick it the same way, sneaking in a game of NBA 2K, as though I didn’t have to wake up much earlier.

I had to get up earlier to work out. My time felt limited at work, because I needed to be back on the road by 3, 3:15 so I can pick up my kid in a decent timeframe. It felt like we always were taking about what the house needed. Plus Mikki is up by 7am no matter what so there are really no days off.

My wife and I argued more in three months than we had in the ten years we’d been together. There were times where we weren’t sure if we were going to make it, partly because it was so new to us for us to argue. What I realized is that I was tired. I was beat. So things that wouldn’t bother me before were bothering me. My filter was less. My frustration tolerance was so much lower because I was exhausted.

Partly I was exhausted due to my own expectations. It’s like owning a home made everything real and as a man, I felt so much pressure because I couldn’t allow my family to be homeless. Before I wouldn’t worry about losing my job because we can always find another apartment or house rental. But a house that we own felt different. I guess the stakes have always been the same as far as our living situation. If the rent doesn’t get paid, eventually you’ll be evicted so paying a mortgage isn’t any different in literal terms.

Still, for me it felt more monumental. Plus my default settings are to make my wife happy. So when she would point out that the house needed this or needed that, I would feel more pressure to make things perfect. The reality is that she was just making observations, not indirectly telling me that I had to fix everything. As a man, I believed it was my job to fix everything, on my own.

But what has made us work all this time is that we are partners. We have our individual strengths and weaknesses so we balance each other out. Now I sleep next to my best friend peacefully.

Health is Wealth

This time last year, I went to the doctor and she said I was 269 pounds. But really, I wasn’t worried about my weight until I was making love to my wife and I caught a cramp in my hip. I was like “Nah, I’m too young for this.”

Plus I was thinking that I have a two year old and by the time she’s 13-14, I don’t want the young boys thinking they could get an easy victory on me.

Happy New Year

I’m proud to say I’m down to 237. Well, probably closer to 240 after the holidays.

I feel great. I just about eliminated carbs from my diet, but I let myself have fries on occasion. Also reduced my red meat and fried foods. Not eliminated but drastically cut out. I run about six miles a week on the treadmill and then lift weights. I drink post workout protein shakes and usually a protein shake for lunch or a late afternoon snack.

I have a lot more energy. On workout days, I get up about 3:15, get dressed and get to it. It’s like my adrenaline carries me through the day. I have a lot more energy too for other things..Let’s just say, the hips ain’t hurting…

Did a lot of traveling

Mikki Passport

It was a big travel year for us. We saw SWV and Toni Braxton in Durham. We saw The Dream in Charlotte.

We hit Fayetteville for my uncle’s surprise party. We went to Savannah for a Married Couples trip and then I flew to Queens to surprise my Mom. We headed to Miami after Mikki’s 2nd birthday party and would’ve hit Orlando for the family reunion if we didn’t have to buy a house.

Ended the year off in Turks and Caicos, where my phone got water damaged, which I was told sounds mad bougie.

Crystal Clear Water

So I had to go from an iPhone 8 back to my 5S. Hard not to be humble when you’re still on the 3G network. But it was a blessing in disguise because I have to be choosy with my 16 Gigs. So no work email on the phone, which is really freeing. I have no idea what happened at work until I get there, which works for me.

I have less apps so I’m a lot more present. I’m grateful. My two year old daughter has a stamped passport. I did nothing to deserve this.

Ironically, as much as I had fun traveling, the best part of this year was celebrating the holidays in our new home and having my daughter wake up Christmas morning from her bed, in her house.

I’m humbled by all of the blessings I have been given. I don’t know what 2020 holds but I’m going to walk into it with the comfort that God sees the entire parade and that the timing has always been impeccable.

Arrive at Five (years)

In one of my favorite books, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the 10,000 Hour Rule, which basically stipulates that to be successful in a field, a person has to engage in deliberate practice for 20 hours a week for a 10 year period.

43,800 aka the number of hours we’ve been married.

IMG_2967

It got me thinking:

“What are the things that we deliberately practice to make our marriage work?”

  • Prayer – I pray for the health and safety of my wife and child everyday. I pray for the ability to guide and lead my family. My wife leads us in prayer as a part of  Mikki’s bedtime routine.

IMG_2628

And although I’ve had my own spiritual struggles (i.e. How can oppressed people and the oppressors be praying to the same higher power?), I can’t deny God’s presence and influence in my life. I lay next to proof of His existence every night.

  • Laughter – We laugh with each other, hard. I‘d say at least two to three times a day, my wife is going to say something to me or vice versa that is going to cause us to bust out laughing. We have inside jokes and because we’re the same age, we have similar cultural reference points so our jokes make sense.

 

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  • Communication – I know, it may be cliché for me to say because we’re psychologists but we talk. We know each other’s professional struggles (i.e. Who’s cool at work? What’s _______ on now?” etc.) as well as each others hopes and dreams for the future. We’re on the same page about how we want to raise our daughter and how we want to utilize our financial resources. We know each other, so if something is off, we can detect that. I think most importantly is the desire to do the reparative work. We argue, certainly, but we always go back, talk it through and make it right. Ultimately, the foundation of our romance is our friendship, so generally, people fix things with their friends.
  • Quality Time – Turns out, my wife and I have the same love languages of quality time and physical touch. But if the quality time isn’t there to build that closeness and build that emotional connection, then it reduces the desire for some nah mean. It doesn’t have to be some elaborate date, but just being connected and engaging in an activity that builds that connection really helps. No connection, no erection.
  • Physical Touch – Everyone needs some nah mean. One of people’s biggest fears about marriage is having sex with the same person forever. But these same people have sex with numerous partners and don’t feel anymore fulfilled because people need more. While sex is important, without these other elements, the bliss is fleeting. But I get to have all these other things AND weak legs? Sign me up forever.

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Marriage is hard work but it should never feel like a job. But we work hard as professionals and as parents, so it was only right that we celebrate five years of marriage by playing hard.

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So five years ago before we flew to Cozumel for our wedding, we were in the airport in Atlanta and go to Starbucks for coffee and barista wrote Bride & Groom on our cups.

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Being that we were feeling nostalgic, we went to Starbucks despite their recent issues with people of our hue. This was our exchange with our barista, Infiniti.

“It’s our five year wedding anniversary and we were wondering if you could..”

Infiniti: “Say no more, I got you!!!”

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Our life is average. I should have known that a woman named after a car was going to mess up our request. But her heart was in the right place.

We celebrated at Secrets Maroma Beach in Cancun, Mexico, which we highly, highly recommend. It’s an adults-only resort so there were a lot of couples there. Vacation makes people friendly. The couple to the right of us had been married for 20 years, wearing matching NRA hats. They were with three other couples and they yelled out to us from the swim-out bar, “Hey North Cakalacky!!! Come do some shots with us.” These are people that would likely not speak to us if they saw us out in the States but on a resort in Mexico? Bottoms Up.

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These were some of our favorite things:

  • The Swim Out – It was crazy to walk out to your patio and then boom, private pool. My wife absolutely loved the convenience of ordering room service and jumping into her pool.

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Plus if the water was too cold, we could just fire up the Jacuzzi. “Can’t lose in the jacuzz!!” Words to live by.

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Plus the seclusion of the pool left open the possibility for some nah mean on the late night. Not saying that two educated professionals would do such a thing…

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  • The Cabana – When we wanted some variety away from the swim-out, Maroma is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

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While it is a “public beach,” it is so hard to get on to the resort that I don’t think a person can just decide he/she is just going to chill at Maroma.

While there are beach chairs, nothing was as cool as laying on a bed in the middle of the beach, drinks constantly being brought out. We felt extra pampered out there by our concierge.

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Also, this ocean water was the closest we’ve gotten to as far as Guam-level warmth and clarity. You can see the fish zip past you.

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  • The Food and Drinks – We don’t drink nearly as much as we did when we first started dating. I don’t know if it was parenting or if we just spent so much money on champagne but our alcohol intake has drastically tapered down over the years. Not on this trip.

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We drank so much tequila but it was high quality so we were never sick.

Drunk but not sick.
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The seafood was really good. I even had another Heathcliff moment with the fish.

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  • Pre-responsibility us – We do a lot of adulting. The majority of my decisions are generally filtered through the lenses of “How is this going to effect my wife and my kid?” I think it is easy to become sharers of information as opposed to friends and partners, so it was nice to not have to get up to work out, or get Mikki ready or deal with carrying around people’s problems and innermost heartache. While we don’t get a cookie for being grown, it was nice to get that Wake Up When You Feel Like It Sleep. We had absolutely no obligations as my wife swiftly shut down all timeshare sales disguised as welcome breakfasts.

“Don’t you want to stay for breakfast?”

We already ate. Thanks.

That’s why she’s the brains of this outfit.

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  • Re-development of our Love Map – One of the foundational exercises that Dr. John Gottman developed for married couples is the Love Map. Basically, a love map is all the space a person has reserved in their mind specifically for their partner. It’s where all the important and not so important information is stored. It may not be important to anyone else but if it’s important to her than it’s important to me. How can you love someone but you don’t know them?

It was nice to go out to get dressed up for my wife, take her to dimly-lit dinners every night and take the time to hear her innermost workings.

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People change, even grass grows. So it’s important that you don’t take for granted that you “know” somebody. You might have known who they were then, but do you know who they are now?

Here are some examples of Love Map questions:

  • Name my two closest friends.
  • Name one of my hobbies.
  • What stresses am I facing right now?
  • What is my fondest unrealized dream?
  • What is one of my greatest fears?
  • What are some of the important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them?
  • Name one of my major rivals or “enemies.”

He has more detailed questions in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, which is a great read.

Like I said, marriage is hard work but it should never feel like a job. Don’t put more effort and energy into your career then you do your relationship.

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As my wife always tells me, “If you die, your job will miss you and they will be sad but your job will be posted within 24 hours. So you can be loyal to a job or loyal to you.”

Choose wisely…

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#greatscottz

All I Need Is One Mic(haela)

My Nas fans will get the play on words:

nas

We’ve done what felt like an impossible task but it’s over. Our adoption journey is complete. April 9, 2018 marks the day that the adoption is finalized.

Some people are probably reading this like “It’s just now getting final? Ain’t Mikki like two years old?” But yes, on this day the judge and the courts made it legally official, even though it’s been official to us and our family since Day One.

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You read these stories about people having celebrations and taking pictures with the judge and it being a huge deal. Our experience was low-key anticlimactic. So Fancy drove Mikki near my job and we met in a Walmart parking lot. My wife was nervous but also hungry. Luckily, I have the Chick-Fil-A app.

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So after we get our Chick-Fil-A brought out to us, we drive to a quiet parking space and I call Starr, Mikki’s godmother via Facebook Messenger. Our court time was 11:30 am Pacific Time (we think the judge in Nevada was trying to make lunch or a tee-time).

Just before we’re about to eat, our lawyer calls from court and then puts us on hold.

Starr: How do you feel?

Fancy: I’m super-nervous.

Attorney: You’re on speakerphone in the court. Please be quiet until the judge is ready for you.

Almost exactly on cue, Mikki starts babbling “Aahh, Aahh, Blahh Blahh, Ma Ma, Da Da.” But her parents are defiant too so I can’t blame her.

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The judge comes on, sounding like Mufasa, asking us each individually, why we want to Michaela’s parents.

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It’s an easy but complicated answer: We love her. Loved her before we even knew her. When I would pray at night during this process, all I prayed for was that our child would be physically and mentally healthy. I didn’t care about gender or looks. Health, that’s it.

What’s cool is that we were blessed with an inquisitive, curious, persistent, funny little girl who also happens to be cute.

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So then the judge says “Are you sure that you want Michaela Ellis-Jolie Scott to be legally seen as your child in the eyes of the law, to be seen as your rightful heir, with all rights and privileges associated moving forward?”

Yes.

“Raise your right hand.” And like dummies, we in the car with our right hands up, like it’s a video call.

“Do you vow to take care of Michaela, love her and take care of her as though she were biologically your own?”

Yes.

“So ordered.” (Gavel bangs)

(Dial Tone)

No good luck. No congrats. No goodbye. Just hung up on.

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We made it to the finish line. The stereotype is that to adopt, you have to be rich and White.

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Well, we’re neither but we’re here. There were so many doors opened. So many grants and donations were given to this cause. We are truly here today because of our village.

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The last thing we have to pay is a $1.51 to our attorney. You read that right: ONE DOLLAR and FIFTY-ONE CENTS.

In our grant to cover our legal fees, we had $250 dollars left to cover paperwork. Our paperwork ended up costing $251.51. So we received an invoice for $1.51. I’m tempted to pay it in pennies but luckily I’m married to someone so graceful.

April 9, 2018 is our Family Day. Some people still call it Gotcha Day but we are sensitive to those that see Gotcha as a negative connotation on something so positive. And it’s a reasonable stance. When was the last time someone said “Gotcha!!” after something and it was good?

So we’ve opted for Family Day. As she gets older, we’ll spend that day, telling her adoption story, telling her about the day she was born, trying to find ways to honor her Native American roots and do a fun family activity.

But we kicked it. She put on a brand new dress. Her best friend came over and they kicked it. Had some cookies and chilled. These are her favorite cookies. Low-Key, our favorite cookies too lol. They taste mad good.

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Maybe Mikki will be like Steve Jobs, Dave Thomas and other well-known people that were adopted. Maybe she’ll change the world.

For what it’s worth, she’s already changed ours.

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#adoptionislove

Love Actually

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I started and deleted this post at least five times. There are really no words that can capture the way I feel about being married to my best friend.

She’s the reason I have a passport.

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She’s the reason I was able to direct a program with no grant experience. She’s the reason that I’m a father. She’s the reason that I am who I am.

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She brings an element of balance to my life that steadies me. Anyone who has been around me while I haven’t been around her for a long period of time can see the difference. The people that were around me during that month of Basic Training can attest to this.

Life happens and you get focused on building your career and being a good parent. One thing about being with someone about nine years is that you get used to that person and after a while, you may take that person for granted. I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to be the husband that has a little money now so instead of being thoughtful, I just buy diamonds. (First World Problems). I don’t want to be the guy that only sends flowers on Valentine’s Day.

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I vowed in front of God and fifty of our closest friends and family that the caking would not end.

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(51 if you count the random girl my cousin brought that made the comment to us at our reception “Y’all wedding was cool and all but when I get married, it’s gonna be different.”)

OK

For the couples that are still going through the adoption process, it can be hard and consuming, almost all encompassing. Try to be there for each other through the process. Try to talk about something besides the process. One thing that really helped us was limiting the amount of time we talked about it. Spend today remembering who you were as a couple before you started this journey and who you still are now, together. I can’t think of a better day to take a day off.

I haven’t done a lot of writing but lately I’ve been inspired. I wanted to start off the holiday of love right. This is for you. I hope you like it and that my pen isn’t too rusty.

Lucky
She became mine
Just when I was losing my mind,
Which is ironic,
Her being a psychologist and all,
But her therapy not only healed my mind,
It healed my soul,
Her kisses were like oxygen,
Her touch like the electric paddles,
Shocking me back to life,
And even though her potion is potent,
And has left me comatose from her overdose,
Her strongest muscle is not between her legs,
But rather between her ears,
And under her left breast,
Lucky muscle….

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Astrology

I study her moles like they’re constellations,

I close my eyes and run my fingers across them,

So I can read her body like braille,

I try to memorize every syllable,

There is no language I want to be more fluent in,

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How?

People often ask me,

“How did you know?”

The story has never changed,

I thought about her in my life and I smiled ear to ear,

And then I thought about her not in my life,

And I became very sad,

Then I thought, “What if this bus flips over and I never get to let her know how I feel?”

One month’s salary well spent.

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Shelter

We’ve spent hours with her head on my chest,

Sleeping peacefully,

As though my heartbeat is her sweet serenade,

Whether we lived in luxury or squalor,

She has always found home in my arms,

I promise she’ll never be displaced,

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Forever Free

I wasted good parts of my 20’s,

Thinking I was in love,

But really I was in chains,

Her love set me free,

Her love was my liberation.

My inside voice became outspoken.

And her belief in me fixed whatever was broken.

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Oh yeah, we’re in the process of finalizing the adoption.

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But that’s another blog for another day about the princess.

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Today is about celebrating my empress. I love you.

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Happy Black Love Day. Oh yeah, Happy Valentine’s Day too.

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The Many-Faced Mick

The Many-Faced Mick. My Game of Thrones fans will get the reference.

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One thing that we’ve learned after two months of parenting an infant is that our daughter has personality that is unique to her. She is constantly changing but we have noticed some things that have stayed constant.

aka Machine Gun Mikki

From Week One to now, Michaela has hit us with feces at least once a week. I’m not as grossed out anymore but I’m still deflated. I don’t appreciate the things the Princess does to the Queen.

We’ve had to switch formulas from Similac Pro Advance to Enfamil Premium (champagne tastes already).

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Quick aside: We tried to feed her Gerber and her face wrinkled up as though we fed her dirt!!

We switched because she was so gassy and miserable. Just yelling!!! I think it’s what ran her grandparents off a week early lol!!

Yelling

When the movement comes, it’s rough.

Apart of the adoption process is the finalization period, which in our case is six months. This period happens after the child is placed with their adoptive parents. Within that period, post placement visits are done by a social worker, to ensure the child’s safety and get a sense of the parents’ adjustment and interactions with the child. Most states require one to three post placement visits. However, good old Nevada requires six. Wouldn’t be Nevada if it wasn’t something random.

Think of the post placement visits as mini-home studies. The morning of our second home visit, first one in our new place, everything is together and in order.

Our only concern was that Mikki hadn’t pooped in like three days. Her cry signified that she needed a changing. We go in, thinking it’s going to be a routine diaper change.

No such luck.

This new Enfamil has her poop the color of a Shamrock Shake. No lie. And it was coming out as though the machine was broken.

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She shot out on the changing table and the plush cover and her outfit. Once we thought she was done, she literally peed in my hand. All twenty minutes before the social worker was set to come.

We rushed, bathed her, changed her and sat through our interview acted as though this carnage had just not occurred. Things we do for love.

The other day Fancy was giving Mikki an infant massage after dinner. (Yes, babies need massages too!). Mick’s diaper was wet so I was standing by to assist with a diaper change. Fancy takes the diaper off and is relieved it’s just wet.

Suddenly Michaela made a loud grunt and out oozes the contents of her lower intestines! It went everywhere yo and I mean everywhere! Shot Fancy right in the chest and it ricocheted and hit her right on her Tiffany lenses. That’s the amount of force and velocity Mikki was letting loose with that it could ricochet!!

On Fancy’s shirt and legs, glasses, my arm and not to mention the couch. Fancy let out a scream and was so disgusted she froze in place. I took over and began the clean up process when yup, you guessed it – she wasn’t done.

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Another hard push and once again we were projectile pooped on. At that point all we could do was laugh, which is exactly was Mikki was doing.

Just like you don’t want to be on the business end of a gun, you don’t want to be on the business end of a diaper change.

Machine Gun Mikki strikes again.

Aka Mikki Cockblock

As two working professionals with a newborn, the caking has been greatly reduced. A large part of it is just pure fatigue. You may sleep six hours but it ain’t gonna be six hours straight!! It may be two, two and two. It may be three and three. It may be four and two. The point is that type of sleep is not terribly restorative.

Dr. John Gottman, the premier marriage psychologist in the nation, wrote a book with his wife called And Baby Makes Three. One of the aspects they discuss has to do with sleep deprivation. Essentially, when a person is sleepy, they are easier to provoke and less patient, which leads to a bunch of fighting. We’ve tried to keep this in mind with our interactions with each other and with others.

While I have no formal research to back this up, speaking purely from personal experience, I believe that people tend to make rash, emotional decisions if their physical needs are not met. I imagine it is similar to sleep deprivation (i.e. less patient, more easily provoked, etc.). Think about a co-worker or classmate that’s always mean, all the time. Odds are, they aren’t getting that…release.

Now imagine the combination of no sleep AND no loving!!! Right!!!

So on nights we’ve put her down early and we’re not zombies, we try to keep that spark lit and have some grapefruits. 🙂

Mikki could be dead asleep and then the second I try to go from third base to home…

Yelling

Now you’re hungry? Like now, like right this second? Now you need changing? Right this second? For the people saying “Ignore the crying and get you some,” we’re just not built that way. A wailing baby is the ultimate mood killer. But it’s like she has an innate sense of when it’s about to go down.

Still, we will not be defeated. We just have to hit our window. She goes down around 7:25pm and pops up about 10:30pm. (Side note: It’s better now that she is sleeping through the night consistently!) So if it’s important enough, a person will make time. This is important enough.

#stillcaking

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Adjusting to being two working professionals with an infant

I’ve really been on my Maxine Waters lately at work.

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After I drop The Mick off in the morning, I drive into work, pray to God and my ancestors for their guidance that I’m able to say things in a way that the people I work with can receive it and I’m hitting the door no later than 5:30. I have to get home to my family. I’ll say having a daughter has made me value my time. I’m not for the foolishness at work. I’m super-focused, I’m seeing more clients and I find myself to be more efficient because I have to be. My family needs me to be.

 

Mishaps

In our role as psychologists, my wife and I are expected to be experts. As new parents, it has been nice to step back and not be in the expert role. I clearly don’t know everything. For instance, take this recent exchange:

Fancy: “Mikki feels warm, could you get me her thermometer?”

Me: (gets thermometer) (shakes and taps it) (puts it in my mouth) “Bae, I can’t get the thermometer to turn on.”

Fancy: (Bursting in laughter) “It’s a rectal thermometer.”

Me: (runs and gargles)

Y’all know I’m always going to share the victories as well as the struggles smh.

Tools Of The Trade

There are certain products that make it easier for us to function as parents, some we bought, some we’ve had to invent.

The Shover – My wife is not about that dirty diaper life. She’s had no interest in learning how to change the bag in the Diaper Genie and she definitely ain’t taking the bag to the trash. But she does change diapers and has to put them in the Genie, but not with her hand.

The Shover 1    The Shover 2

I give you The Shover. A jagged piece of cardboard to make sure the remains of the diaper don’t ooze out on your hand. Fancy approved!

Halo Sleep Sack

We couldn’t live without our Halo Sleep Sack. Since Michaela was born she has loved being swaddled. She can nap and sleep throughout the day without it but for long lasting, sleep through the night sleep, it’s the Sleep Sack for the Win!

SleepSack

Unfortunately, we only bought one and it is in less than stellar condition. It used to be loose on her; now she looks like a bag of laundry. We keep trying to find this exact one in a larger size but the store is always sold out. We’ve tried other brands but our discerning baby can tell the difference.

I guess it’s time to start using the fleece Halo her aunt bought for her.

Wearers

Both Fancy and I baby wear Mikki as much as possible. Not only is it good for attachment, it keeps our hands free to do other things like cook, type, and play NBA 2K17 – you know, the important stuff. Our favorites are the MoMe cloth wrap (Fancy loves) and the Infantino baby carrier (my choice).

Monitor

We love our Motorola monitor. We can take it anywhere in the house and we never lose a signal. We know what’s going on all of the time. We are starting to be able to tell a legit cry (hunger, diaper) versus her whining. It’s still strange when she wakes up and stares directly back, almost as though she can see your soul.

Monitor

#thegreatestscott

We can hardly believe two months have gone by. Mikki is starting to show her personality. She coos, giggles, and smiles and I have to be honest, it has completely stolen my heart.

Big Laugh

Fancy is a wonderful mother. She and Mikki are super attached. Whenever Fancy enters a room Mikki tracks her with her eyes and gives the biggest grin. They have special songs and rituals that they do and it’s amazing seeing her in her element. Some women were meant to be mothers and she is one of them.

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A Baby Shower

When you have a natural pregnancy, it’s a given that people will not hesitate to put a baby shower together. When you’re adopting, people hesitate, which is understandable. Like “What if the birth parents change their mind?” “What if things fall through?” Totally understandable. That’s why I was totally shocked when my job threw us a baby shower. It means a lot because I really wanted Fancy to have that experience. We even got a diaper cake!!

The Mick had on a much cuter outfit but, nature called.

 

The adoption process has been a faith walk. Like I said in the previous post, there were times when we strongly considered pulling out, not because we didn’t want to be parents. Financially, we just didn’t have it.

Still, at every turn, God has come through in the clutch. Since we’ve been back in North Carolina, we’ve gotten blessed with three additional grants. Every little bit helps and we’ve needed every little bit. We’ve had to trust the process.

If you have room in your house and in your heart, please consider adopting. It is a long process but it’s worth it. #adoptionsaveslives

Thank you for taking this wild ride with us and feel free to share and comment.

Peace

WorthTheWait

 

The First 48 (and change)

So I’m not going to bury the lead:

We’ve adopted and she’s perfect. Meet Michaela.

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She’s Mine. 

First of all, we would like to thank God. As I’ve written in previous posts, I can’t tell you what to believe but as for me and my family, prayer works. There were a few times along this journey where we weren’t sure how things would end. There were times where the pressure to see this through and get everything in order really put a strain on our marriage, which was surprising, because it’s us and honestly, I don’t know a more in-tune couple. Some new parents have a tendency to get wrapped up in their new roles, forgetting that their first responsibility is to each other. But we prayed, we regrouped and tried to have as much fun as the process would allow.

I’m thankful to God because every single time we were ready to accept that perhaps it was not our time, a grant came through or a donation came through or approval for a credit card came through. We’ll get into how/why adoption is so expensive in another post. I don’t want deny the beauty of this moment. I’m humbled by how loved this little girl is. I’m also humbled that people want to know how this played out.

One Week Old

We matched with our birthmother “Joanne” (name has been changed for privacy purposes) back in March and have been in weekly contact since. In open adoption, the birthmother has to choose you. Joanne could have pulled out at anytime but she liked our profile, spoke to us and was certain she wanted us to raise Michaela.  Joanne was supposed to be due on Sunday, June 25th. We flew into Reno, Nevada from North Carolina on that Saturday night. The general lack of melanin on our flight was prominent!

We met Joanne and some members of her family for lunch on that Sunday and to tour the hospital in Carson City where Joanne would deliver. Fun Fact: Carson City is the capital of Nevada. I would have lost all of my money on that bet.

The meeting went well. One family member revealed that there was another adoptive family that she wanted Joanne to go with but Joanne said she chose us because we “ain’t rich, just regular” and that she didn’t want Michaela to be stuck-up. We laughed about it to to ourselves, but ultimately it’s a lesson to potential adoptive parents to just be you and you’ll match with the right family.

We wanted to know what Joanne’s hopes were regarding what she wanted for Michaela. Ultimately, she just wanted her to be loved and taken care of. You hear adoption horror stories about how the birth mothers try to squeeze potential adoptive families for money for bills and if they don’t, then they pull out of the adoption or go with another family who is willing to pay up.

But Joanne never once tried to shake us down. She genuinely wanted what was going to be best for Michaela and knew that she was not going to be able to take care of Michaela. She wanted her to grow up in a loving household with two parents that loved each other. That’s it.

We went back to our hotel that night and early Monday morning, Fancy got the text at 5:00am that Joanne was in labor. While excited, I shrugged and rolled back over. I grew up hearing the stories of labor lasting forever. We got up and made it out to the hospital around 9:00am, thinking this would be an all-day occurrence but also cognizant that this day is probably the last day that it’ll ever be just us.

When we got to the hospital, Joanne was only about four centimeters at that point. She made the statement to Fancy that “it feels like she’s right here,” pointing to her pelvis. The doctor asks us to step out so he can check the progress. In the midst of all of this, I had to step out and take a phone call from North Carolina because we are also moving into a different house. By the time we’re wrapped up with the phone call, the nurse comes out crying and exclaims “She is soooo beautiful!!!”

Michaela was here, after five and a half hours of labor and three pushes. Mothers who I’ve told that to have rolled their eyes in jealousy and disgust at how brief her labor was. Everything just shifts in that first moment you hold your child. I always used to tease people with babies, asking questions like “Why do babies all sound like velociraptors from Jurassic Park when they cry?” But now that I have my little velociraptor, her cry is cute.

Raptor_-_Fruendship

She weighed six pounds, 15 ounces and was 18 inches long. We were there from the first hour.

DayOne

Fancy and I were able to do skin-to-skin with her fairly immediately. Michaela slept, well, like a baby.

Fancyskin    GummiSkin

 

I have to give love to the nurses on the Labor & Delivery wing at Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center. We were given a complimentary room and allowed  to a trial by fire of caring for a newborn. We even had one nurse in particular pray over us and our situation, reminding me that God is everywhere.

There was one exchange that was particularly funny where it was 1am and we had just put her back to sleep maybe 12:45am. A nurse comes in:

Okay, time to do the Hearing Test.

“Hearing test?”

Yes the hearing test has to be done within 24 hours of birth.

“Yeah, that’s cool, I’m just trying to figure out why you are doing a hearing test at one in the morning?” (I’m extra NYC by this point because I’m sleep-deprived).

Well, because you’re up.

“No, I’m up because you’re in my room at one in the morning.”

You don’t have to be awake! You can go back to sleep!

Before I could say anything else, my wife calmly said, “I got this. Go back to sleep baby.”

Apparently, I’m not me when I’m sleepy. So I may never be me again.

So why are you still in Nevada?

Reno

So there is a waiting period where the birthmother has the right to change her mind regarding placement. The waiting period varies from state to state, usually 48 to 72 hours. However, there are places like New York, where you could have up to a 30 day waiting period. After that waiting period, there is then the processing of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) paperwork, that happens after court. Basically, if you’re adopting, you can’t leave the state where you adopted, without communication between the adoptive state and the state where you live.

So it puts the adoptive parents in a very vulnerable position because they could be bonding with a child and then if the birthmother changes her mind, legally the adoptive parents have to give that child back. That’s painful.

In Nevada, the waiting period is three days/72 hours. But it wouldn’t be us without a story.

What is Michaela’s nationality?

So part of what has kept us here in Nevada for two weeks is the Indian Child Welfare Act aka ICWA.  It’s a federal law that had to be passed because a lot of Native American children were being removed from their tribes of origin because people didn’t understand or respect Native American culture or values and believed that kids were not being properly cared for. So before you can adopt a baby with Native American ancestry, there is a ten day waiting period where tribal officials must be notified and parental rights must be terminated in court in front of a judge.

Michaela’s heritage is black, white, and Native American. Like, legit Native American, not like Black people that be like “I got Indian in my family,” but don’t know nan tribe besides Cherokee. I haven’t bothered to do the math on what that “makes her,” because ultimately, what we pour into her as a family is what is going to make her, her.

Why Michaela Ellis-Jolie?

Michaela (pronounced Me-Kay-La) is the feminine version of Michael which means Gift from God, or Who Is Like God. I feel like that’s pretty self-explanatory, being that she is our blessing and we want her to be like how God wants her to be.

Ellis is from the Duke E. Ellis Institute for Human Development at Wright State University, where Fancy and I met, fell in love and became doctors. We did a lot of caking in Ellis.

Jolie is a homage to her birthparents names because Michaela wouldn’t be here without them.

We’re not going to go too much into the birthparents story of origin because ultimately, that’s their story if they want to tell it. Ultimately, they couldn’t take care of Michaela and loved her enough to make this sacrifice to allow her to be adopted.

She also has a ton of nicknames: Mikki (our favorite), The Mick, Micks, Young Queen and she has her own hashtag on Instagram #thegreatestscott 

Is it an open or closed adoption?

Seriously, you’re reading a blog about our entire lives and you think we’d have a closed adoption?

We wanted to have an open adoption because adoption is not something that is shameful. It shows a lot of love on the part of the birthparents and adoptive parents. Also Michaela deserves to know who her birthparents are. Plus, we just gave you a racial demographic breakdown: How are we going to act like we biologically created Michaela? How can we say we love her and keep this type of information from her?

Even if she looked exactly like us, we’ve always wanted to have an open adoption. Open doesn’t mean that the birthparents can come back at anytime and make decisions. No, we’re her parents. But it does mean that they get to know how she’s doing (pictures, letters etc). So that door will always be open if/when the birthparents want to walk through it.

So what’s changed for y’all?

  1. Sleep- My wife read somewhere that sleep is like oxygen, you take it for granted until you can’t get any. Facts. We have a good baby. We can get between a solid two to four hour window of sleep. The issue is the intermittent nature of the slumber. When I said that statement to my sister, she laughed at me and said, “Speak English. Always saying stuff like indubitably.” Basically, the sleep we get isn’t restful. She cries and it’s like a scary alarm clock.

Fancy is good at two-three in the morning. I’m stumbling around like a drunk man, bumping into stuff. And it feels like just as I’m in REM sleep, that deep restorative sleep, my little velociraptor is wailing. And Mikki cries from the soul, like from the gut!! She be crying bloody murder, like she’s never been fed before, like ever in her life!!

2. Diaper changes and feedings- How can someone so little and cute create such terrible things in a diaper? There was a recent incident where we got projectile pooped on and I sounded a like an interlude from a Wu-Tang album:

“Oh nah son, she shot the god!! She shot the god!!” It wasn’t my finest hour.

Anyone that knows me knows that a large part of the reason I never wanted to be a medical doctor is I’m no good when it comes to bodily fluids.

There was another recent instance, where we went in, thinking it was going to be a routine diaper change. Just as we had her legs up, it just kept oozing out, like soft serve or frozen yogurt. I legit gagged and Fancy took over.

And they eat so much. I feel like I’m constantly lining Similac’s pockets. In the hospital they started her on Similac Pro-Advance (Non-GMO) for Newborns. Man, I tried to slide in some just some regular Similac Advance; it was nothing nice. She sounded like Roman Candles on Chinese New Year all night.

DrinkingMilk

Then I started complaining about more buying diapers and wipes when finally my wife had enough:

“You wanna eat, poop and wipe your butt everyday, so why can’t she? You’re so spoiled now, you don’t even like going to the bathroom without wipes.”

She had me there. I’ve been spoiled by her. And it can’t be no regular store brand flushable wipes neither, gotta be that Cottonelle FreshCare. Anything less would be uncivilized.

FreshCare

3. We’re in the gang now – We’ve noticed that people that would have never talked to us before, now talk to us and acknowledge our presence. Fancy and this woman had a full-blown conversation in the diaper aisle at Target, swearing by the Target Brand Diapers and the Buttpaste for diaper rashes. Any other time, this woman would have breezed passed us but now we’re in the PG (Parent Gang).

Partyof3

We went to the outlet mall and men from all races that I likely wouldn’t have even noticed, now we give each other the same head nod that Black men give each other. It was like we had on the same uniform: pushing a stroller/holding a carseat, with our diaper bag/backpacks on.

backpacklife

It’s almost as though there is this unspoken understanding between us, regardless of race because we’re all going through the same sleep-deprivation struggle.

Or as though being a father in public is similar to Madden Day; it’s like the great equalizer. Regardless of your age, finances or race, we’re all in the same gang. And we love our kids.

Shouts to all the single parents, be it by choice or circumstances. I could not do this without my wife. The level of patience, balance and organization is crucial. Single parents do it and props to them because I don’t believe I could.

4. We’re spoiled (First World Problems) – So a few months ago, I convinced my wife to let us get a Casper mattress. Believe the hype; it will be the best sleep you ever get. Anyone that’s come to the house, I almost demand they lay on the bed. It’s so real.

Now we’ve been in these hotels with spring mattresses and now we’re sore. I don’t even know how I’m going to hear Mikki once my body hits that Casper but I’m sure she’ll make a way.

5. My wife is good at everything but is great at being a mother – Fancy has done an amazing job with The Mick. Her maternal instincts are second to none. There have been times I’ll hear Michaela make a noise and before I can hop out of bed and cape up, she’ll clothesline me in her sleep, saying “She’s fine. Go back to sleep.”

There are also times I don’t hear her at all but I roll over and Fancy has her in her arms, changing her or feeding her.

us

She sings to her. She made up a song called Mommy Loves You that she put to the rhythm of Frere Jacques (she was president of the French Club in high school) when she rocks her to sleep.

“Mommy loves you, Mommy loves you, Yes she does, yes she does. Mommy loves Michaela, Mommy loves Michaela, Yes she does, yes she does.”

A couple of verses of Mommy Loves You and she’s in a slump sleeper.

Meanwhile, I’m the king of burping. I burp her to the beat of Top Billin’ or the baseline to Mary J. Blige’s Real Love. Y’all laugh but she gives up the burps every time.

6. They change a lot, quickly – We’ve noticed so many changes in her features and her personality.

i'm Growing       TwoWeeksOld

She hates being cold. Cold wipes, cold water, cold formula. She hates being unswaddled for diaper changes because her legs get cold. She’s a true summer baby.

She loves snuggling, being swaddled and being held. Don’t come with no weak swaddle game neither, she breaks out like The Hulk ripping a t-shirt. She likes the warmth of skin to skin. She falls right asleep during any car ride. She gets so exasperated when she has to wake up; she makes the cutest noises. Once she gets to smacking and eating her arm, it’s feeding time.

She only rocks with the Philips Avent Soothies. We tried some pacifiers we got from Family Dollar and she spit them out immediately!!

soothies

Her legs are strong and so are her lungs. May have a swimmer on our hands. But I’m excited for her to be a scholar too.

Final Thoughts/Midnight Musings

Noodle

-Nevada is hot, which makes sense because it’s a desert. But it’s been like over 100 degrees hot. The heat laughs at the air conditioning. This heat is different than Guam heat but ultimately, hot is hot.

-Marijuana became legal for recreational use here in Nevada on July 1st. The lines are literally wrapped around the dispensary buildings, to the point that they invested in chairs and a canopy to keep customers from burning in the sun. The desire for weed out here is epic.

-Our neighbors at the hotel stay burning whatever they cook. The smoke alarm stays going off smh.

-We’re praying and believing that the ICPC paperwork will be processed swiftly and we’ll able to go back to North Carolina in the next two days.

-We have other blogs on the way but nothing seemed more important than talking about Michaela’s birth.

– We just started watching Season 1 of Black-ish (I know, I know – we slept on it). It is hilarious.

– After we put Mikki down, we watch Power. Dre ain’t gonna make it through Season 4.  Tariq is too smart to be this stupid. Sandavol gots to go.

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-My favorite song on 4:44 is Kill Jay-Z because of the realization of killing your ego for the sake of your marriage. Plus the t-shirts are hilarious.

NeverGoEricBenet

In the next few blogs, we’ll talk about the cost of adoption, traveling with a newborn and other new adventures into parenting.

Meanwhile, I’m going to post this and get some sleep before my young queen hits me with the hungry eyes.

Eyes

Please feel free to comment or suggest topics you’d like us to cover. Thank you to everyone who has supported us on this journey.

Also, people have been asking for the registry information and we registered at BabiesRUs. For some reason, if the link doesn’t work, our registry number is #59690495.

That’s it for now, we’re going to enjoy the blessing God has placed in our lives.

#thegreatestscott