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Pottery Fun

Let’s see. How shall I describe December? A few words that come to mind are crazy busy, borderline ridiculous, and exhausting. I’m happy to report my Christmas break started with a pleasant surprise from my boss. She arranged for her direct reports to partake in an intimate, creative activity: pottery painting at Cafe Monet. The evening included wine, hors d’oeuvres, pleasant conversation, and painting. What a fabulous idea!

This was my first time doing pottery painting and it was just what I needed. I enjoyed spending time with our small group of five. A few hours later, I was relaxed and the stress edge had subsided.

I’m very pleased with my product. Once we were done, we left our creations with the Cafe Monet staff so they could finish the masterpieces with what I call a “glaze”. It took them about a week. I must have had spring on my mind due to the colors I selected, but the “glaze” (picture to the left) made the colors a little darker. I love it!

I will definitely be doing more of this activity in 2019.

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Age is nothing but a number

I’ve heard the expression “age is nothing but a number” at least a thousand times. I have so much going in my life that I don’t usually have time to think about my age; however lately, I’ve been thinking about my age. It could be because I feel more aches and pains in my joints, which can lasts for hours, especially after a good workout. I’ve been more tired due to long work hours and managing my family. I can visibly see the changes in my face: the forehead wrinkles, drooping eyes, under eye dark circles, and smile lines. I also have one gray hair on my right side burn (I’ve had it for years). This is what my 45 looks like sans makeup.

Here’s the thing…I’m not going to lie, I wouldn’t mind having the smooth skin of my twenties. Does this mean I don’t like the way I look now or that I wish I could go back in time or that I don’t want to get older??? No, it doesn’t. In fact, I actually appreciate the way I look now more than I ever did when I had the glorious skin and body to match. I also love my confidence in my forties. In my twenties, I was very insecure and had a lot personal growth to do. In my forties, I know who I am and have learned to care less about what other people think about me.

I’m simply processing how I feel about the fact that there is no mistaking I’m a woman of a “certain age”. What does that mean anyway? For years, I’ve been told I looked younger than my age, which was an ego booster, for sure. I think when people tell you that often enough, you can trick yourself into thinking, “aging isn’t that bad because I don’t even look my age”. However, what about the day when you actually start to look your age or look older? How do you deal with that? I’m not a shallow person. I’m acknowledging my tension with aging is likely because I’ve internalized society’s rules to some degree: beauty equates to youth. The message is everywhere. I need a detox from that message and different definition of beauty.

I intend to age beautifully with a full appreciation for all of my experiences, capabilities, accomplishments, failures, idiosyncrasies, my body, mind, and spirit, and the people who mean the most to me. Some of what I do to take care of myself as I get older are habits I actually started in my twenties such as exercising most days of the week and having a solid skincare regimen. I learned a lot about skincare when I used to sell Mary Kay products. Other things I’ve incorporated over the years are drinking green smoothies daily, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and drinking more water. What I’m working on now is reducing my sugar intake and losing a few extra pounds.

The truth is the voice inside my head doesn’t have an age, so for me, it’s true: age is nothing but a number. In fact, I have to remind myself to slow down; otherwise I’ll suffer the consequences later (i.e. exercising too hard). I strive daily to be the best version of myself I can be. Inevitably, we’re all getting older and sometimes it feels scary, but it’s okay. Here are a few light lessons I hope you embrace:

  • Acknowledge and process your feelings about aging
  • Talk about it with someone you trust
  • Things you can do to age beautifully are:
    • Guard your mind, body, and spirit from negativity
    • Eat healthily
    • Exercise regularly
    • Do activities in nature (ex. walking)
    • Take care of your body (ex. stretch, doctor’s appointments, massage)
    • Practice gratefulness
    • Apply makeup and clothing that accentuate your features
    • Do things you enjoy
    • Learn new things
    • Keep setting new goals
    • Keep in close contact with the people who mean the most to you
    • Laugh A LOT

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This is for you, my ❤

A whole lot can change in a year! On this day in 2017, I was trying to get through to Bryan’s (my husband), neurosurgeon’s office. After watching his decline for the past several months, but especially over the pre-Christmas weekend, I decided we were going to see his doctor that day, the day after Christmas, instead of waiting for the scheduled appointment in two weeks. He needed an adjustment to the shunt inserted in his brain in 2016. I had been telling the physician’s assistant and doctor about his symptoms for months, but his lab results kept coming back “normal”. They didn’t listen to me and suggested he see a neurologist for the memory loss.

On 12/26/17, no one answered the office phone and there was no answering service. Plan B was to take Bryan to the emergency room, but I didn’t know if I would be able to convince him to go. A slight panic was developing inside of me, but I am calm under pressure. He had been very lethargic the whole weekend and complained he was tired when I said something. I knew we were up against the clock after I had done some additional research on his symptoms on Christmas day. Thankfully, he agreed to go to the emergency room, but another problem ensued. He couldn’t get out of the bed. I noticed his eyes were glassy. He tried over and over again to get out of the bed, but I could see that his nerves wouldn’t allow his body to do the simple action. I called to our son, Caleb, to help and nothing. Thirty minutes later, I moved to Plan C which was a call the paramedics. He couldn’t walk. He wasn’t oriented to time. He thought it was July 2008.

Seventeen days later, Bryan returned from the hospital. He was released from the intensive care unit after the second day, received a shunt adjustment, and was eventually moved to the rehabilitation center within the hospital where he had cognitive, speech, and physical therapy. Following his hospital admission, he had another four months of cognitive, speech, and physical therapy.

Whew!!! Typing this post is stirring up all the emotions I experienced at the time. Our lives were totally disrupted again. You can read my previous blog posts to learn more about our journey. Somehow (update and more precisely…by God’s doing), I managed to get a promotion through this latest ordeal, which I needed because Bryan was not able to work. I managed to get my kids through it and keep our family’s day to day schedule going. However, this blog post is not about me, but of the sheer strength, will, and resilience of my husband.

We’ve been married for twenty one years so it goes without saying I love my husband, but I’ve gotten a whole new appreciation for this guy. His life was totally disrupted. He suffered a great deal. This is a college-educated man, who embodies being a provider for his family, and is faced with the prospect of never working in his profession again. For most of 2018, he’s been recovering while battling depression and coping with his disorder. Yet, what I’ve seen from him in these last few months has been amazing.

He started feeling better later in the summer while embarking on our long walks around Austin. I could tell he was better because he started planning and getting back involved with the kids’ schools. He’s always been the school and homework guy. If there’s a problem with the administration and/or treatment of my kids in their respective schools, then I’m the tough person they will answer to. I don’t play around. In November 2018, against my advice, Bryan applied for some seasonal work. It was all physical and what I witnessed was an improvement in his overall cognitive function and mood.

For us, Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birth and being grateful for our blessings and family. Due to Bryan’s efforts, we were able to have a Christmas with gifts. I get paid well, but enough to cover our living expenses. Living in Austin is not cheap. He even surprised me with my gifts. In fact, for the first time ever, Bryan did almost all of the Christmas shopping. Granted, I work long hours, but he said it was the least he could do since I was doing everything. I don’t see it that way. Working isn’t the only way to contribute in a marriage/family, but I’m married to a manly guy, so his esteem is rooted in providing for his family. I’m working on having him see it differently. Whatever the case, he came through in a big way and when you’ve been married as long as we have, you don’t keep score. There have been times where he’s carried me. Our job is to carry each other when needed. And for the record, I don’t really see myself as carrying him. I’m grateful I’m able to support my family.

At the beginning of 2018, I was hesitant about creating new goals because I wasn’t sure what life would throw at me. Heck, he didn’t get released from the hospital until 1/12/18. My main goal at the time was to get him out of the hospital. Between my health and his, we’ve been on a roller coaster ride since 2016. Upon witnessing Bryan’s healing, I’m inspired. I’ve prayed a lot for his healing and so have others. We still don’t know what’s in store for his future, but we’re in it together and can overcome anything.

All this to say, I had a FABULOUS Christmas and am looking forward to 2019 thanks to my ❤.

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The Slow Down

I love the holiday season for many obvious reasons: family time, delicious food, sleeping in, holiday decorations, nostalgic feelings, and connecting with family and friends. There is one more reason I’ve been craving since August: the overall slow down. I’m able to unravel my thoughts after a few days of rest. During the “non-holiday” part of the year, life can be fast-paced, busy, sometimes chaotic…especially my life. If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know I’ve had a lot going on since 12/26/2017. My Thanksgiving 2018 was no fuss, no travel, no rush, and no stress. I was only surrounded by my husband and children. We made calls to family, but ours was a quiet Thanksgiving. A friend said she might stop by, but there was no pressure or expectation. She ended up not coming, which was worked out fine.

The holiday slow down is my time to refuel, realign, and re-engage with my family and myself. I planned an extra day off work today because I like to be off on Cyber Monday (although my holiday money hasn’t arrived yet 😑). I also prefer not return to work on a Monday after an extended weekend off. Ironically, my plans for today includes catching up on some office work, but it will be balanced with some pampering, organizing, and getting up to speed on my personal affairs.

Although I’m slowing down, I fully recognize that for many people, this is the time of year for what seems like endless shopping, holiday parties, and overall doing and buying stuff. Even the driving on the roads tends to being more frenetic and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more car accidents this time of year. I don’t want to fall into the trap this season. Yes, I will Christmas shop (mostly online) as I do have 2 children, but it will not be the mindless, overconsumption of stuff.

There’s something to be said for giving yourself what you need and creating a space for it to happen. I’m grateful I can create this space for myself.

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Confidence boost

How do I get women to have the courage to be bold, confident and work in their own power? It’s not by coincidence I’m asking because not only have I struggled in the past with this personally, and quite frankly, I still do in specific situations, but I manage a team of mostly women. I see women struggling with confidence and speaking their knowledge with authority. The one male on my team has no problem with confidence and speaking knowledge, yet I prefer he reigns it in at times (different post). Some goals I have for women are to be empowered to share their ideas with confidence, to stop second guessing, to step out of their comfort zone, and to speak with authority.

I propose the following strategies (in no particular order) to help women gain more confidence in the workplace and in life:

  • Do your homework- Educate yourself on the topic at hand. In my work environment, the core workforce are called subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs learn everything there is to know about their particular program, including learning what other states do. I’ve found the more I learn about a topic, the more confident I become.
  • Practice – When I was in high school and college, I used to rehearse my presentations with other students, or solo by looking in the mirror and literally reciting my script out loud. In my line of work, these techniques haven’t gone away. I make lots of presentations and still need to rehearse, but not to the same degree as I did when I was a student. For group presentations with my team and/or others, we plan on who will say what. You might even record your voice and listen later to hear how you sound. You might want to rehearse asking for a promotion, for a job interview, and for delivering bad news.
  • Believe in yourself through positive self-talk – We all have the inner critic in our heads judging everything we do. Train your critic to be your cheerleader. It takes practice, but replace, “I can’t do this” with “I will”. I’ve trained my inner voice to be kind and it speaks to me as if I were a friend. That’s not to say the critic doesn’t come out every so often, but I work hard to make my cheerleader my main voice.
  • Make time to do things you enjoy – my love of exercise and Zumba fitness, on the surface doesn’t appear to impact my job, but the energy, calm, and joy I draw from these activities, spill into other areas of my life. In fact, becoming a Zumba fitness instructor, and the act of dancing in front of others has boosted my confidence in ways I couldn’t have imagined. That boldness has helped me in my current leadership role, which leads to the next strategy.
  • Set goals for yourself – As you accomplish your goals, you’ll develop more confidence. I had the goal of completing the training to be a Zumba fitness instructor for my 40th birthday. That was five years ago. I also had goals of earning advanced degrees, losing weight, spending more time with my family, etc. The more goals you accomplish, the more your confidence increases. Keep setting new goals.
  • Just do it – This Nike slogan has been one of my favorite mantras. Sometimes, you’ve just got to put yourself out there and “do the darn thing”. It won’t be perfect. It may not be as rehearsed as you would have liked, but put yourself out there. Take a chance. We only live once. I work in a fast-paced environment where we often sacrifice 100% quality for getting it done and out the door. If perfection is holding you back, let it go because nothing is perfect. I, myself, am a “recovering perfectionist”.
  • Channel all parts of you – I’m a parent, wife, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, cousin, niece, manager, mentor, exercise enthusiast, cook, reader, etc. As a parent, I’m used to raising my children, being nurturing/loving, setting boundaries, and teaching and directing them. Parenting is hard, but I’m confident that I’m raising my kids the best I can. I channel the parenting part of me in my role at work. I’m confident in my relationship with God and His purpose for my life, which I channel in my work. The confidence I’ve developed in the various parts of my life adds to my overall confidence bucket and greatly impacts how I demonstrate my confidence to the world.

My assumption in writing this post is that women are working in environments where they are expected to share ideas and contribute knowledge which will ultimately impact an agency’s bottom line. In my line of work, it’s getting citizens the help they need.

Please feel free to share your challenges and successes with building confidence.

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Fall is in the air

As I look at my overgrown vines and potted plants, I think our front stoop resembles a quaint cottage, which is perfect for fall. Fall is in the air. I’m so ready for sweater and scarf weather, acorn squash, cornbread dressing, and cozying up in the house with my loved ones watching tv. Truth be told, I’ve been ready since August and so has my daughter, Elise. In fact, Elise wants to go straight to Christmas. She already gave me her Christmas list. She’s been listening to Christmas music. One of my team members told me recently that my office smells like Christmas. Yep…on purpose. 😁

There’s been an article circling on my social media feed indicating that putting Christmas decorations up earlier may make you feel happier (read it here to find out why). I’m not going as far as putting up Christmas decorations in October, plus my husband won’t have it. However, we generally have our Christmas tree out by Thanksgiving. We slowly add the other decorations over the following week, but the tree has to be out and decorated.

Back to fall: I believe I’ve been craving fall because I want to slow down, retreat, and surround myself with warmth. For me, warmth is my family. I did grow up in Chicago which has very distinct seasonal changes so this may be a factor as well. It’s also been a busy, demanding year. I think Elise knows it too. I received a job promotion in January and my husband, Bryan, was released from the hospital, also in January, after having been hospitalized for 17 days. I’ve been the sole financial provider for my family while keeping up with my husband’s condition (which is foreign to us although we’ve been learning) and the many doctor’s appointments amongst us all, but especially Bryan. Prior to Bryan’s condition, I’ve not attended his doctor’s appointments, but it’s essential now. It’s been a demanding year for all of us. Everyone has made sacrifices.

In the midst of everything, I’ve been working at holding my own at work while keeping my family together. I have a lot on my plate. I manage a team at work and manage my team at home. I’m not complaining, but merely stating facts. I know myself enough to know I need to recalibrate some things to maintain a balance in my life. This is precisely why I’m looking forward to the overall holiday season…so I can slow down. Office closures make me slow down. Kids out of school make me slow down. Dinner with family and friends make me slow down.

I also am looking forward to more blogging during the fall/holiday season. My busy schedule doesn’t allow me to blog as often as I’d like or planned (weekly). I hope to change it up soon. My blog messages are simple by design because I don’t feel like I need to use complicated, flowery words to make an impact. After reading other blogs, I’ve thought maybe my posts are too simple, but I don’t want to go over people’s heads. I also don’t spend a lot of time developing my posts. As a recovering perfectionist, I would never get the blog posted if I spent too much time on it. An idea comes to mind, I write for an hour or so, then I post. I make edits later. My aim is to make my messages simple, digestible, and relatable. I’ve gotten some indication through “likes” and facebook I’m not alone…others can relate of which I’m grateful.

New seasons allow me to reflect and start fresh. Self-awareness allows me to assess what’s working and not working. It’s an opportunity to refine and adjust.

I would love to read which season(s) resonates with you.

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Brave in Sunny San Diego

San Diego…what a beautiful place! I’m here for a few days to attend a behavioral health business conference. It’s been a positive experience. I generally love conferences because I walk away inspired and energized. I needed this considering I’ve been drained.

I admit the first day, preconference, was rough: a 3 hour flight and then I couldn’t figure out where to enter the hotel due to construction. I drove around several times. There was a slight problem with my hotel reservation, but it was resolved. My ears were plugged up for the rest of the day. I was tired and irritable. My nose was congested.

I felt better when I woke up Thursday morning at 3:14 a.m. My body still thinks it’s 2 hours ahead in Texas, so I woke up on time. On Friday, I woke up at 3:48 a.m. I’ve still been getting a little less than 6 hours sleep. My attitude improved after I wrote Thursday’s blog post.

I decided to make the best of this trip because how often do I get to come to San Diego? It’s a privilege I’m able to travel to interesting places for work. This is my first time in California. I’ve never particularly cared about visiting…go figure. I enjoy networking when it’s the right group and I had an inkling this would be that group. On Thursday, I made some connections, gave some compliments, passed out my business cards, learned some valuable information, and overall embraced the day. I also received a few site seeing recommendations from a conference participant I met from Minnesota. I had something to look forward to at the end of the day.

I spent some time in Seaport Village and I loved it. Although I can’t swim and am afraid of large bodies of water, the water had a calming affect on me. I took lots of pictures and soaked in the breeze.

I took my time strolling. I walked on a pier. I enjoyed watching other people taking in the view. In some ways, Seaport Village, particularly by the pier, reminded me of Chicago (my home town), on the Lakefront. Instead of the Pacific Ocean, Chicago sits right on Lake Michigan. In other ways, the location reminded me of Austin because of the open beautiful, blue sky.

Eventually, I was hungry, but indecisive about which restaurant, so I perused through menus until one felt right.

I landed on a place where my food was mediocre at best, but the window view on the water made up for it.

Thank God for smartphones and GPS because I rely on them so much when traveling. I got nervous when I missed a turn in this very unfamiliar city. For a moment, I thought, “just go back to the hotel”. However, I was determined and when I found my destination along with a parking space, I was relieved.

It was a relaxing and wonderful ending to a great day. I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to do a little exploration of San Diego. It wasn’t much and I won’t be here long, but I wanted to get back to Austin with some good memories of San Diego. The fact that I’m attending this trip solo confirms my commitment to growth. I’m so used to operating outside of my comfort zone, I seem to gravitate towards activities that do just that, without much thought. At the end of the day, I grow in confidence, knowledge, and experience.

Light lessons:

  • Be brave
  • Take responsibility for your growth
  • Live outside your comfort zone sometimes