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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Have you ever had the experience of minding your business, scrolling through your social media, and then witnessing something so absolutely shocking that it consumes you for like two to three hours? That happened to me recently. Friday night, after a very long day at work (7:20am-8:15pm), I needed to get home to some mind numbing activity. When I got home, I immediately undressed and paraded around my bedroom naked for a few minutes because nakedness is soothing to me. I didn’t bother to eat dinner although I was hungry. I eventually took a shower, got in the bed, with my phone in hand, and proceeded to scroll through my facebook feed hoping to temporarily erase my mind of the day’s events. My logic was flawed at the start because in the hopes of forgetting my day, I was scrolling through the feeds of other people’s baggage. Light lesson #1: Dont replace your baggage with someone else’s baggage. It’s still baggage.

I came across a post that had only been posted for a few minutes, but in it, the poster accused a fiance of not responding to her in a month….really… like A MONTH? My “drama” senses suggested I read the comments and explore further. What soon unfolded was a barrage of posts with inflammatory accusations and insults from each party, with other people chiming in. This went on for a while. It was vile, but I felt compelled to continue to read. It was certainly more interesting than my day. Hours later, the posts subsided, but only after both parties totally demeaned each other on a public, social media platform…for all to see.

I’m sensitive to the fact that this is the life of two people despite myself and other people tuning in as if we were watching a television drama. Someone even posted a meme of Michael Jackson eating popcorn from the music video “Thriller” to illustrate the sentiment. The social worker in me kept asking what breakdown caused this type of communication. I don’t want to be on a high horse, but I have thought about unfriending this “friend” on my feed before because I don’t agree with her tactics of telling all her relationship business on social media and sharing negative information. She’s done this to another boyfriend. I don’t want that energy on my feed. Whatever the case, she was still on my feed, I never deleted her, and here was another case.

I felt empathy for her because it sounds like she was being mistreated, but she seems to have contributed a great deal to her own situation. Sharing on social media only compounds the problem. She probably thought she was seeking help and sympathy on this very public platform, but in my opinion, she got slaughtered. Light lesson #2: don’t share intimate details of your relationship on social media. One day, I may devote a post to the phenomenon of social media and its affect on people and relationships.

The debacle made me think about my “soon to be” twenty one year marriage to my husband, Bryan, and why is it that in our many arguements and disagreements over the years, we’ve never resorted to name calling and sharing our business with everyone else. Last week, I made note of some ingedients that have been essential to my marriage (read it here). I also wrote a post last year on marriage intimacy, which you can read about here.

The bottom line is RESPECT. Light lesson #3: Have some self-respect and Light lesson #4: Respect your partner. No one asked me, but my assessment is both parties have self-esteem issues and could benefit from doing the work to unpack their own baggage, getting clear on what they expect in a relationship, and setting some foundational ground rules for their relationship and sticking to them.

The “friend” seems to have removed herself from facebook, which I think is a promising step.

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What makes my marriage work

Next month, my husband, Bryan, and I will have been married for 21 years. We often marvel at how much time has passed and discuss how it doesn’t feel as long as it has been. I usually don’t talk about my marriage to others because I learned a long time ago that marriage is a sacred relationship between two people and you don’t want others in your business…family or otherwise, with the exception of a marriage counselor or pastor, if you so choose. I’m sharing some gems now because I believe that 21 years is no small feat, especially considering the high divorce rate.

One thing that makes my marriage to my husband work is that I fiercely protect it and I protect my husband. I remember years ago when I was dating someone, who was not Bryan, and he did a hurtful thing to me. I told my friends. Big MISTAKE! One friend, in particular, wouldn’t let me, or him, live it down, even after I had gotten over it and forgave him. You can’t do this in marriage. I respect Bryan immensely and that respect causes me to want to manage things with him only. I also want him to be seen in a positive light. For one thing, your friends and family may want to fiercely protect you too, so you have to monitor what you tell them. You learn that in marriage there is a constant extension of grace, mercy, and forgiveness because you will hurt each other, unintentionally and otherwise. Some people in your circle may not be as forgiving in their own lives. Some people in your circle want to be right more than anything. Some people in your circle make things about themselves. Some people in your circle don’t understand marriage.

If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been faced with several challenges in the last few years and they’ve all put my marriage to the test. One significant issue is my husband’s health, which has caused him to have problems with long and short-term memory. We’ve gotten even closer because he’s in a vulnerable place and we realize how important our relationship is to each other. Don’t get me wrong, prior to this health condition, I’ve complained about feeling like I’ve been taken for granted at times and other things couples face, after having been married for so long. However, I communicate that to him and we work on it. I also pray constantly for our marriage and for him.

Last week, we were watching, with our 17-year old son, a television show about revamping failing family restaurants. The wife said that when she reached out to touch her husband, he moved his hand away to reject her touch. My assessment was that he was too consumed with feeling like a failure. He felt alone and like he wasn’t worthy of love because he couldn’t figure out how to fix their problem. He tried to handle things alone instead of reaching for his partner. You could feel the hurt she expressed and see the hurt in his eyes. Bryan and I instinctively made eye contact and grabbed each other’s hand tightly. We each have our own wounds, but we don’t ever want to be in that place. I’m glad our son witnessed our exchange.

A few ingredients that make our marriage work for us are:

  1. Love demonstrated by our actions
  2. Mutual respect
  3. Constant, intentional communication
  4. Being best friends
  5. Constant extension of grace, mercy, and forgiveness
  6. Patience and empathy
  7. Unselfishness, compromise, constant self-evaluation, and editing
  8. Treating our relationship as sacred
  9. Discussing our problems with each other
  10. Enjoying each other’s company
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Can you learn to love the pain?

I love the many things going on in my life right now. Obvious ones are I love my family, friends, pets, career, and how far I’ve come in my relationships with my siblings, husband, extended family, and friends. I love the city I live in…Austin, and I also love the city I was born in… Chicago. I love my age because I feel like I’m finally at a place where I can be myself without the burden of worrying about what other people think. I genuinely love myself…my mind and my body. I love that I’m not a people pleaser. I love that I make myself a priority. I love that I set boundaries. I love that I can see through the bullshit…people’s bullshit, and step back and decide how to handle the bullshit. With my children, I’ll call them out. With other situations and people, it depends. I love that I’m discerning and am usually able to assess the source of the bullshit: fear, anger, lack of experience/knowledge, miscommunication, systemic problems, etc. I tend to file the information away in my mental library as additional tidbits until it’s time to address and take action.

I could go on about the things I love, but, what about the “not so lovely” things that inevitably happen to all of us. Why can’t we have the good stuff all the time? It feels so good! I don’t think our lives were meant to experience euphoria in isolation. The human experience is perplexing and all encompassing. There are books that can explain it better than I. I’m simply here sharing my perspective. In the last two years alone, I’ve experienced extreme challenges and pain: my husband’s brain surgery and the ongoing subsequent health issues, my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, my mom’s death, and me being the sole financial support in my household. Those are the big pains, but then there are the other ones that add up too: the disapointments (my trip to Haiti was just canceled last week), miscommunications, misunderstandings, financial shortcomings, feelings of inadequacy, helplessness and/or hopelessness, parenting, children that struggle in school and relationships, failed dreams and aspirations, miscarriages and inability to have children, broken relationships, work sacrifices and demands, etc.

I don’t have the answer to all of life’s problems, but what I do know is I experience great joy despite the pains of life. Better yet, I experience great joy because of the pains. I’m content. Firstly, it comes from a place of deep gratitude for being alive and gratitude from knowing I’ve encountered and survived many obstacles. I have supportive people in my life and people that pray for me. I accept that I can’t control most things. I’m also flexible in my thinking and have learned to go with the flow, not to force outcomes, and trust God.

Can you learn to “love” the pain? In short, I don’t know. I think it may go against human nature. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully get to the place where I love pain, but I’ll strive to love it. I do appreciate it. I can see that pain makes me appreciate all the great things in my life even better.

What are your thoughts?

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Haiti

It was confirmed last night that my trip to Haiti with my son, in less than 2 weeks, has been canceled due to the recent protests and riots regarding gas price increases. I’m very disappointed, to say the least, and mostly feel bad my 17-year son won’t have this experience for now. Of course, our safety is of most concern. Although I was going to commemorate my mom, if she knew of these developments, she too, would discourage us from going. It would also likely bring up sad memories of what it was like for her to grow up in Haiti. I can hear, in her voice, recounts of her experiences with poverty and the corrupt Haitian government. I remember stories about the terrible reign of President Jean Claude Duvalier (aka Papa Doc) and his son, Baby Doc back in the 70’s and 80’s.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week of what it must be like to live in Haiti as I’ve read several articles and watched a few videos about the protests. In my opinion, there has not been enough media coverage on the events. I suspect the riots have slow downed because I saw through my social media feed, the government was cleaning up some of the damage in Port Au Prince. I suppose what I’m getting at is there was no problem covering the chaos, but will there be as much coverage about the recovery? I can’t deny the Secretary of State Travel Advisory has Haiti on a Level 4 travel ban, the highest, which indicates “no travel” to Haiti. I’ve gleaned from people I know and others how Haiti is viewed. I wonder do people or governments (ours, theirs, others) want Haiti to succeed or do they want to continue to just refer to Haiti as the “poorest country in the Western hemisphere”…who can’t get themselves together. Google Haiti and see what you get. I get the country needs to get themselves out of their situation too. Haiti also happens to be comprised of the only people whose ancestors successfully fought themselves out of slavery and were forced to pay a large sum of money to France for that “freedom”. There’s so much complexity to why it’s poor, how to help, and how to help them help themselves.

I know how I view Haiti- a place that has a resilient, prideful people, the place where my family was born, a place with a rich culture, a place that holds the key to who I am, and a place I must visit. For all the positive reasons I want to visit, it’s the negative reasons about Haiti that prevent us from going to serve them. I also believe that pride is a sickness for the people there. Haitians are a prideful people. I see it in my family (and extended family).

Prior to the most recent riots and protests. I asked my oldest sister if we should plan a trip together to Haiti- the siblings. She indicated I was doing it the best way…through my church. My church, LifeAustin, coordinated the trip through Mission of Hope Haiti (MOH). MOH coordinates trips to Haiti with churches all over. I think there are more protections working through agencies such as this one. MOH informed our church contact they were canceling the next few trips. We don’t know for how long yet. I hope to get more answers on Sunday.

It’s definitely a bummer my son and I aren’t going at this time, but things happened as they should have. In this process, I was reminded that my family and friends will support me no matter what as we received a significant amount in financial donations from them to get us to Haiti. I was reminded, if you ask, you will receive, but again, you have to ask. There was no shame or pride in my game. Over the years, I’ve worked hard to release pride and it’s not easy.

What I ask of you is to pray for Haiti. Educate yourself on the country if you haven’t already. I come from a long line of beautiful, resilient, and strong people. One day, I will see Haiti with my own eyes.

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Do what works for you but do it

For the past few months, I’ve made several adjustments to my exercise routine to determine what works best for this 45 year old body. You probably can’t tell from this particular picture, but exercise for me is like breathing… there is no question I’m going to do some form of exercise. I’m addicted to how strong and alive I feel post a good workout. Today, I will have exercised 7 days this week, which I haven’t done in a while.

Zumba fitness has worked for me for many years, but as much as I love it, it has also taken a toll on my body to the point I only do it once or twice a week. My ankles ache most of the time. Plus, I’ve been getting bored with Zumba fitness. I accomplished my goal of becoming a licensed Zumba fitness instructor when I turned 40…5 years ago. Although I have not taught a class for two years now, I’ve been wrestling with canceling my Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) membership. Canceling would essentially cancel my ability to teach if I ever decided to do it again. If I change my mind, I don’t want to have to go through the process of getting licensed again. I think other reasons why it’s difficult for me to cancel has to do with working so hard to accomplish my goal. I also have many fond memories of events I’ve danced in and of teaching students.

Whatever the case, what I’ve done lately is utilize my old DVDs from my vast exercise video library collection. These are DVDs I collected in the early 2000s when I exercised mostly at home instead of a gym, for convenience, post giving birth to my two babies. I’ve also been walking more. My work hours have increased substantially due to my responsibilities, so exercising at home is convenient. I’ve found I’m tired when I get home. I’ve been assessing if my tiredness is a result of getting older. I haven’t totally embraced that possibility, yet I can’t deny I get tired. As I’ve noted in several posts, I’ve been working on getting more sleep too, which has been helping.

While most people drink coffee, I don’t, but exercise wakes my body right up. I prefer to do it every day before work. I also incorporate more walking into my work day by purposely taking the stairs several times a day and going on short walking spurts in between meetings. This routine has been working so I’ll continue for while.

My light lesson for you is find what works for you and then do it. If you need to change it up, by all means do so. As we get older, shoulder more responsibility, experience life changing events, etc., we may need to adjust. So adjust, but keep going.

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Father’s Day message

There’s no denying the impact a present father has on his child’s life. I’m not going to get into if we call him “father” or “daddy”. In my culture, we call him “poppy”. Whether a positive, negative, or mixed impact, it’s an impact that can be tied back to the father. I think when a father hasn’t been in his child’s life, especially from an early age, the impact becomes more tricky to assess. My perspective is personal because my father was not in my life. In fact, I barely speak of him. He was dangerous. He was irrational. He was bitter. He was defeated. He was misunderstood. He was broken.

My father was around, but he didn’t raise me because he was incapable of raising his family at the time. People whispered about him in my presence. When visiting my uncle, his brother, he couldn’t sit in the living room…he could only go to the basement. My uncle would arrange for me to see him on occasion, but those visits were brief and lacked substance. That’s my uncle in the picture as I was getting baptized. My father wasn’t present at this most special occassion. I’ve seen positive examples of father figures through my extended family and friends. I knew what a good father was and I knew I didn’t have one. Some might argue it was in my best interest. Some might say that I would have only been disappointed and would have gotten hurt. The impact of him being in my life might have been tragic. I don’t know. What I can say is by him not being in my life, the impact is this underlying feeling of disconnection I’ve carried with me for years. I’ve not placed the source of this feeling until now. Not to mention, I don’t know anything about my father personally. I don’t know what traits I picked up from him. I don’t know his likes/dislikes or what his passion was. As I reread this, I want to be clear my tone is not of bitterness. My tone is of acceptance.

To know your father, is to know where you came from…to know who you are. My beautiful mom did her God-given best, but there was a void she could never fill or replace. Now, both of my parents are deceased, and their parents are deceased. How do I contend with this void?

I have solace in knowing great examples of fathers who selflessly love their children. Men in my family: my uncle, my brother, my brother-in-laws, my cousins, and my friends’ fathers. I also sleep with one of these selfless fathers. He’s my partner in crime…my husband, Arnold (goes by his middle name Bryan), named after his father, Arnold, who passed away when my husband was 10. Even though my husband feels inadequate and gets frustrated at times…likely because his father passed at an early age and he lacked examples of positive father figures, he’s here every day…involved in his children’s lives. If it has to do with his children, my husband is the most selfless person I know.

If you’re feeling alone and disconnected because your father wasn’t in your life, pray about it and adopt a family or two ot three. Don’t be bitter. There’s no going back to the fact you grew up without a father, but you can seek positive examples of father figures and allow them to have a positive impact on your life. For men, continuously make a positive impact on your children’s lives. Get to know your children and allow them to know you. For women, if you haven’t already, marry a man who has the traits of a good father and support him always. For all, ensure your children see other positive examples of father figures.

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Summer love

I’m a little late to addressing this fact, but summer time is here. Summer nights are my favorite! My husband and I enjoy walks in the park in the 45 minutes before it gets dark here in Austin (approximately 8:50 p.m.). I like to also sit on the porch sipping my tea or warm almond milk and listening to all the noisy bugs. You can glean from this picture my daughter’s agenda for the next 2 months. The only other thing she wants to do is go horse back riding on her birthday in August. She does do other things such as play on her trampoline, dance, and search for real estate in countries where she’s thinking of relocating. Yes, you read that correctly. She’s interested in free college education. Smart girl.

I don’t know about other parents, but I also appreciate the summer break from school. I think kids should lounge around and be bored because it sparks creativity. I was bored a whole lot during the summer when I was growing up. My son occasionally rides his bike to see his friends. I notice he’s slowed down likely because riding a bike in this Austin heat is no joke. He’s also been applying for jobs. However, overall, there is no pressure in the household or major demands on our family’s time in the summer months. How about for you?

I plan to catch up on sleep where I can. Sleeping has been more of a challenge lately because I’m still recovering from May. It feels like my body doesn’t want to cooperate with me on getting enough sleep. I have my nightly rituals, but something feels off. I will continue to work on it.