Saturday, April 19, 2014

Do we not bleed? Yes we what?

Dear Media,

Look...I don't know who the hell I'm voting for in 2016.  But if that person happens to have a uterus, ovaries, breasts, an occasional hot flash and is a grandmother, please know I will vote for her because she is going to do something for me and my family and I think she's the best person to lead the country. Period. My issues are employment, health care, education, senior care, women living in poverty, and veteran's affairs. If she (or he, or it) address those issues, please know that I didn't vote for her because our reproductive systems match or because she and I both have three names, or because I know she kicked her husband's cheating ass back in the late 90's. I'm smart, I happen to be female, and I know how to pull the lever for the person who is in tune with my life. Though I know you won't, I'll ask anyway. Please stop these dumb stories about Hillary Clinton moving through an estrogen induced grandma haze to run her campaign. You don't lose brain cells just because you bleed (or used to bleed) each month. But apparently y'all think so.



Erica Woods Tucker
(Thinker, writer, student, Black woman, wife, mommy, daughter, volunteer, friend, Bronxite, Carolinian, and avid voter)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Sitcom

(Sung to the theme of the Brady Bunch)

Here's a story of a girl named Erica.
Who was let go from her job 3 weeks ago today
She was/is angry, depressed, and lonely
and generally had/has a ‘tude

Till today when she went on her email.
And she knew that it was much more than a hunch
That indeed she had been invited to Vona/Voices writers’ retreat at Berkeley
To write with StaceyAnn Chin and maybe have some lunch

Now Erica is singing a new tune.
And the tune gets louder every day.
It’s about love, family, friendship and all that good stuff
That God gives you every day

So I’m going to Cali!
I’m going to Cali.
I don’t know what will happen next

but I’m goooooing to Cali!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Erica's Checklist for Getting Through Unemployment

So the second most question I get lately is: "How do you survive being unemployed?"

My first inclination is to get upset. "What the hell kind of question is that?" Then I chillax and realize that while folks are concerned about me, they're also concerned that they wouldn't be able to survive it if it happened to them. My husband tells me, "Erica, part of the healing is teaching." (I hate when he's right sometimes). 

So I calm down.

I'm definitely not perfect, and let's face it I've only been unemployed for two weeks. (Damn that went fast!) But I do have my own checklist. There's so much to do, but if I do these 8 things every day, my day is at least semi-hopeful and I can make it to the next day and start all over again!

So here's my list. It's not in any particular order and doesn't include stuff like applying for jobs, networking with folks, rewriting resumes and cover letters, coffee, bacon, Law & Order, CSI Miami, True Detective or Game of Thrones (I know I'm late, but that's okay) all that stuff is just a given.

1. I go outside everyday- Even with three little people in the house, it’s easy to get caught up in my cozy bedroom and forget that the world needs me out there spreading my truth and drinking my lattes.  So at the very least I get the mail and then walk for another 10-20 minutes, or I go to the library near my house and just look out the window.

This is our library, isn't it cool?

Sometimes I go to Barnes and Noble and get schoolwork done. Or like today, drive to Duke and get my mind clear and write my blog. Whatever it is, I've got to leave and breath fresh air.

2. Take a shower and or bath. Sounds easy. Not if you’re not going somewhere right away. My impetus to wash is usually that I want the kids to see me looking fresh and happy when they come in the door. It's probably also very pleasant for Milt, and the dogs in our neighborhood. So I wash. Afterwards I always feel better and my energy levels soar.

3. Write. Whether it’s in my blog, or in my journal, or my memoir class, or a paper I know I’m a cranky son of a biscuit if I don’t write. I don’t care if I’m on the NYtimes bestseller list, but I just have to get these stories out of me. Plus I’m not a big confrontation person so I usually write my scenarios for massacre and mayhem on the page or on the computer. It helps to sort it out and while I might still feel crazy, I don’t feel anxious or panicky.

This is me when I don’t write for the day

So for everyone's sake I go on and write a paragraph or twenty.

4. Eat good stuff and drink water. I said this yesterday, but it can’t be emphasized more. When I go for the junk I’m lethargic, cranky and just blah.  I love cupcakes and chocolate eggs with that peanut butter in them, that just seems to fall out of the egg and onto your tongue and then you have to ....hmmph. Excuse me I went off topic. But you get the idea. I obviously haven’t cured my sugar craze yet, but I will. In the meantime I’m going to check out some veggie recipes folks have been telling me about. I do have a summer experiment that involves sweet tea, and rum...oops again, off topic.
How can you go wrong when you 
put sweet tea in a mason jar?

5. Sleep. I’ve been looking at the two journals I wrote in since Fall of 2013. There’s at least 30 to 40 entries where I’m complaining about not sleeping. Either I’m upset from a phone call with someone, or I was fretting over work, or I was guilty about the kids, or whatever.  I never slept 8 hours and in some entries I actually thought it was a badge or honor to only get 2-3 hours sleep. While I'm trying to avoid the nap trap, if I need one, I just take one. If I don’t, I go to bed by 10 and get up at 5a (much to the chagrin of my husband) and sometimes I just lay there thinking and trying to be at peace with the day behind me and look forward to the day before me. Either way if I sleep less than 6 hours, I'll turn into this guy again: 

6. Telling my family I love them. This was the scary one. Until I was home I didn’t realize how little I was telling them I loved them. I thought I was saying it all the time, until my son came and hugged me and told me he liked that I told him I loved him so much now. Now? I thought. Haven’t I always been saying it? Maybe, I was saying it. But not  in a way he could hear it. I wasn't present when I said it. I was either going out of a door, or saying it to him before he went to bed. But now there is no reason not to say it all the time, so I do.  
They crack me up. 

I get choked up just looking at this picture. They're my life, and they deserve those three words as much as they can stand it. (Of course Lauryn now gets a lot of her I love you's via text on her phone. The girl's schedule is too much. But its heartfelt and not rushed).

7. Reading. I’ve done it my entire life. But to get caught up in other words and beautiful sentences has been remarkable. Not because I want to create them, but because those beautiful sentences defy the ugliness in the world, and the criticism that faces us all. Even in the ugliest of books, there has to be some type of hope, and there is. This week I read the best sentence "Reality requires all the senses."-Gloria Naylor. Wow. I took it to mean, a lot of us are sleepwalking through life. Only using our eyes and ears. Or our hands and smell. But if you use it all, you miss nothing and you receive everything! Whoa. That's deep. There are about 10 books on my nightstand not including the ones on my kindle. If I only had these books I'd be blessed a million times over. I’m even re-reading Harriet the Spy.  It’s just as awesome as it was when I was 8.

8. Being Gentle with myself. I'm the hardest person I know on myself. I'm judgmental about everything I do, the way I look and if I say anything wrong I think I'm the worst person ever. The day I was fired, I kept repeating in my head "You're a loser, You're a loser." Well it's been two weeks and I'm still here. A little shell shock, but still here. And this week I started to say nice things to myself:  You're beautiful; You're a good person; You're a great mom and dynamic wife (of course Milt co-signs this everyday); You're imperfect, but you do imperfection perfectly (my absolute favorite); You're here; Be grateful. In 44 years I've never been gentle with myself. I've compared myself with others and always come out the loser. In the past those comparisons made me judge my kids harshly, incur debt, overeat, drink heavily, and caused problems in my marriage. So for the last week the first words to the universe have just been 

Thank you. 

Even when I wasn't feeling it. And this morning I wasn't. But I said it anyway.

I'm not sure what the recipe will be for anyone else if they find themselves without a job or a marriage, or a spiritual home, or if someone they love dies.  But I wish I had made these things the priority in my life earlier instead of  my job. I might still have my job and I might be a healthier person for it.

So if you don't have a list. Maybe start one.

It couldn't hurt.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Who Ordered this Spinach Salad?

Before I moved to North Carolina I had been a Weight Watchers devotee. I joined right after a college friend had died from cancer, in April 2010.  It motivated me to get my act together. I lost 30 pounds in 8 months.  I saw my collarbone for the first time in a long time and I went from a size 26 to a size 22. 

Then 2011 hit. My grandmother died in February, Milt lost his job in July, and my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in August.  Our finances were stretched to the limit and knowing there was no way we could survive on my non-profit salary in New York, and we moved to Raleigh in September of 2011 with high hopes and real excitement for a new life. We felt great for the first time in 3 years.

Then I gained the 30 pounds back, mostly from living a very, very sedentary NC life. I went from walking to the bus every morning and then walking to work, to walking 20 feet to my car and then walking 20 feet to my office in NC.  No matter what the season in New York I’d walk around the block or find my way to Grand Central Station or do something that got me off of Madison Avenue and into some serenity. Even walking the elevators at Macys was a stress reliever.  In NC, I was in a corporate park with no view and no landmarks to keep my attention starved persona happy.  I hated walking around the building and only seeing cars and more corporate parks as my scenery. And because we only had one car, I was stuck at my desk for almost 7 hours a day.

In our house the transition of responsibilities became problematic. I assumed Milt would know that I needed him to do what I used to do the exact way I did it. He in turn assumed that I knew he wouldn’t do it that way and I should get over it. Cooking became a major problem.  Milt is an assembler, and I’m the cook. The problem was I had worked 8 hours and was exhausted. So dinners were quickly afterthoughts. Nutrition was not a priority, though I thought about it EVERY day, and sleep became the only thing I was really interested in. No wonder those 30 pounds came back easily.

Now there’s been a shift. Not a huge earth plate shift, but a little one.

I have time now.

I can now think about good tasting good for me food. It’s a window that’s been shuttered for the last three years. But having a moment to think about what I’ll be putting in my body is wonderful, overwhelming at times, but wonderful. Two days ago I minced garlic and put it in some olive oil and then sautéed spinach in it. I ate it like it was candy. I picked peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, and carrots for an amazing salad. I’ve made sure that there’s at least a tomato on my sandwich and some carrots in my smoothie. For a girl who doesn’t like vegetables, this is a huge deal.

Also I’ve decided to ask for help.  This is HUGE. If you have any dealings with the women in my family (ON BOTH SIDES) we don’t ask for help. We do what we have to do and that’s it. But I’ve been asking, and taking people’s offers of help.  When Lauryn’s bestie’s mom said Lauryn could stay over for two days I said “Bye!” When Milt offered to take the kids for ice cream so I could think I said, “Bye”.  When I needed time to study, I asked if I could get lost for a few hours and it happened. Normally I’d reject all of it and be a martyr and give up my space to be me. But now I just said, “Bye!”  It was a weird experience, but I liked it. ( God knows I love my diva, but two days of quiet is a blessing!)

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m still into the not so great stuff.  I’ll eat a cupcake in a minute and feel no guilt. But I think eating spinach like candy and walking around my neighborhood, and asking for help, and creating a vision wall for myself is progress. So I’m tooting my own horn on this one, and seeing the benefits of putting 100 % of my energy into myself.  It’s scary, and ominous to ignore my friends and family in order to get a glimpse of who I can be, but its also so very, very necessary.