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Blog refresh

Several months ago, I changed the name of my WordPress blog site from “Enlightened Social Worker” to “My Enlightened Life”. The address is still the same, but the name is different. I selected the original name mainly because I wanted to establish myself with some credibility and be recognized as a licensed social worker. However, although I’m still the hard-working professional I’ve always been, I am no longer licensed as a social worker. I remember being so proud of the work I accomplished to get licensed back in 2012. I waited almost a year after my graduation and completed all the steps, including studying, taking multiple practice exams, taking a couple of other exams, and ending with the final step – a 4-hour comprehensive social work licensing exam. I didn’t care if I passed by the skin of my teeth….as long as I passed. As it turned out, I had a decent score.

In Texas to be considered a social worker, you must be licensed. Alas, I will always be a social worker at heart, plus I earned a graduate degree in social work. I just cannot legally say I am a social worker. I am no longer licensed because I couldn’t keep up with the required continuing education credits due to my demanding job, raising my children with my husband, and my families’ health issues, including my own. It was difficult to manage it all and something had to give.

I never thought I wouldn’t maintain my license, but life happens and I don’t need it for the work I currently do as an administrator with the state of Texas. I also don’t need it for my blog. I just thought readers would be more receptive to content from a credible source. Moving forward, I deem myself credible by virtue of my ample life experience filled with ups and downs and my professional life which is also filled with ups and downs.

I did most recently inquire to the board that oversees social work licensing on what I need to do to get my license back. I’m working on some activities to get my life in alignment with my goals. I may decide to pursue my license again so that I can keep my career options more open.

I’ve also been wanting to make a pivot on my blog for quite some time. It’s hard to believe that I started this blog 7 years ago, especially when it took me a year to commit myself to start. Most often the hardest thing to do is start. I exhibited some courage when I started this blog. Over the years, the frequency of my posts have ebbed and flowed depending on what’s been going on my life.

Though this blog continues to be about self-care, I’ve evolved over time to share more of my favorite self-care activities such as cooking, smoothie challenges, exercising, gardening, and maintaining my health. This evolution is why I changed the name of my blog to “My Enlightened Life” because my blog content extends beyond social work. It’s about navigating life in my authentic way and me striving to be mentally lighter, more self-compassionate, more present, more joyful, and more self-accepting.

I suspect other people are striving for the same things, so if that’s you, stick around. If you’ve been sticking around, I’m forever grateful.

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Daily Prompt V.1

What is one word that describes you?

One word that describes me is resilient. If you know me, then you know. My 16 year old self couldn’t have imagined my life today and what I’ve been through. I always manage to get to the other side and not without some bruising at times. I seek the light in every situation, no matter how painful.

I personify the saying, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.” But there have also been plenty of joyful times mostly because I choose to be grateful and focus on the blessings.

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Intention for this week V.5

Last week, I finally had a medical procedure that was scheduled over a month ago. I’ve never had a lumbar puncture before, but it was necessary in order to gather more evidence on a possible diagnosis. I won’t go into what the diagnosis may be in this post. I will say that the procedure went smoothly and I was impressed with how well the staff took care of me.

Unfiltered selfie before they rolled me away for the procedure on 3/16/2023

My husband, Bryan, accompanied me because I couldn’t drive home. I was put under mild sedation and local anesthesia. I was aware of what was going on. The radiologist inserted a needle in my spine, in the lower back area, to extract a small sample of spinal fluid. I was very surprised by how clear the spinal fluid was – it was as clear as water.

I made peace with this health condition last month. I had an MRI done at the end of January, and a week later, the doctor called me to tell me the findings. I was initially stunned, but I had been having some long-standing health symptoms that I put on the back burner of my mind for years except for the stuttering I acquired after the hysterectomy last January. I’ve researched the condition to the NTH degree all of February and some of March. It was the stuttering that reopened this door, although I’ve never stuttered prior to the hysterectomy.

I stayed in bed the rest of the day following the procedure….Bryan made sure of it. He lay in the rocking chair watching me nap and, at times, napping himself. I even called in from work the next day also to take in more rest, so I had nice a long weekend. My back has been sore but manageable.

On Saturday morning, I wanted to participate in the neighborhood garage sale, so I prepped my little spider plant babies I had been nursing for 6+ months. I was also selling some of my cute clothes and shoes.

My spider babies getting ready for a new home. I sold the red cardinals but still have the squirrels. They will make great gifts.

On Sunday, I took some of my homemade chicken noodle soup, garlic bread, and chocolate chip cookies to a sick coworker who lives near me. I also gave her a spider baby.

It is true that giving to others is a gift to yourself because it allows you to take the focus off of you and your problems. It fills you up with joy. Whatever happens, I’ll be ok for many reasons, including a supportive husband and family and quality healthcare.

Intention for the week ahead: May I not take things personally. May I not act defensively. May I be present in the moment more often than not. May I be patient and kind. May I remember who I am in the heat of moments that try to test me. May I indulge in a bubble bath or two. 
A little posing after church on Sunday, 3/19/2023
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Intention for this week V.4

Something happened at the end of last week where I wasn’t as stressed as in previous weeks, but it was just as hectic. I believe I settled into something. I saw things objectively. I finally detached and let it go. It was like I was a fly on a wall. I was even able to laugh at the lunacy of my day.

We’ve had some organizational shifts at work and I was anxious about the changes. However, Tuesday of last week, I honestly expressed my concerns during a meeting, and at that moment, I realized I might be able to leverage the changes for my benefit. A sigh of release washed over me. I got my mind right!

I know I’m being vague about the situation but I hope you can sift out the nuggets – let go of things you can’t control, be honest, and be yourself. In the big scheme of things, few things matter in life. Who knows??? In two days, I might feel differently, but I embrace the freedom I feel today.

Intention for the week: May I detach from things that are not my concern. May I not make decisions on emotion. May I tap into my well of knowledge, experience, and wisdom as often as possible. May I give praise where praise is due. May I rest when rest is due. And may I express love freely.
Bryan snapped this photo of me with one of many sleek Corvettes celebrating Black History Month in February.
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Intention for this week V.3

The busy season at my work involves the state’s legislative session and I’ve been a busy bee 🐝 lately. The busy season at home is near as we get closer to our daughter’s (senior in high school) graduation and making college selections. While corralling the people at work and home to be on the same page, in their respective worlds, it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of it all, at least for me.

I managed to accomplish a whole lot last week. I’ve noticed it’s easy to focus on how much more you can do when you’re on that achievement “HIGH”. It’s not necessarily a healthy place to be because I’m not taking time to appreciate what I’ve accomplished and simply be in the moment. I’m just pushing myself to do more.

Over the weekend as I tended to my many plants (read my post Flourish Part I), I noticed it was a brilliant idea for me to invest time, money, and energy into these beautiful living things because caring for them allows me to slow down, notice, and appreciate.

I thought this was Christmas cactus. I rescued this plant from the garden center about a year ago & placed her on my bookshelf in the living room. She had very slow growth then seemed to stop growing altogether but she also wasn’t dying either…just maintaining. I moved her to a window over the Christmas break & BAM! She blessed me with this gorgeous bloom over the weekend. I don’t think she’s a Christmas cactus.

This past weekend, I returned a call to a dear friend and enjoyed catching up with her. We had such a great conversation that turned into us pulling out our yearbooks and discussing old classmates. I shared some news that I’m having a medical exam soon to determine a diagnosis (I may blog about it later) and she reminded me that I’m resilient. I so needed that reminder.

My intention for this week: May I insert minibreaks into my day to slow down, breathe, and appreciate the beauty in my surroundings. May I celebrate the small wins. May I allow myself compassion for when things really suck (because sometimes they do). May I celebrate others who I appreciate. May I dig into my deep well of resilience in moments of weariness. May I dance for the sheer enjoyment.
Found this photo from a few years back after a dance session in our old garage. Dance is my favorite exercise.
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Food chronicles: Salads!

Last April, my favorite people at Simple Green Smoothies had the audacity to come up with a 10-Day Salad Challenge and it was absolutely FREE. It’s a great time to start thinking about lighter eating. I received the recipes, including the shopping lists in an email. Initially, I had planned to just use what ingredients I had and modify the recipes as needed. Experienced home cooks like me know that recipes serve as guides. I was mostly ready, but then something happened….My niece visited from Chicago on Day 1 of the challenge. She blessed us for 6 days straight and we blessed her every day with the Austin, Texas food faves.

That didn’t stop me though because I made 6 of the salads while she was in town. It took me longer than 10 days. Of course, I captured every salad in my personal photos. I also attached the actual recipes/pictures from the challenge. And the salads are out of sequence according to my taste. I hope this post gets your mouth watering. LET’S GO!

My version of Strawberry Mixed Greens: Two plates because one was for my niece. I omitted the green apple because I didn’t have one and used a herb salad blend. Fun and scrumptious.
The Sweet and Crunchy Salad: My version did not have pepitas and I used the herb mix again. The dressing on this one was my FAVE!
Bright Berry Salad: This was REFRESHING! I hadn’t eaten grapefruit in years due to my medications, but I thought what the heck, I’m going to commit to this CHA-LUNGE. I’m so glad I did. I missed grapefruit.
Vegan Potato Salad: This version surprised me! I omitted the black olives because I didn’t have any. I probably would not have added them anyway. I served with a side of homemade fried shrimp.
Healthy Pasta Salad: This was the leftovers I served with half a leftover fish wrap. I used leftover garbanzo beans, red pepper, cucumber, and carrots from the Sweet and Crunchy salad recipe. I’m not wasting any food around here. I subbed green olives for black and red onions for green onions and vegan parm for feta. I completed forgot to add the herbs! It was still DELICIOUS and quick to assemble. I made it on my lunch break.
Kale Caesar: Made with no kale in sight. I had romaine lettuce that I didn’t want to go back plus traditional caesar salads are made with romaine, right? I had some produce I didn’t want to waste, so the only thing I followed in this recipe is the dressing ingredients and the addition of garbanzo beans. It was yummy!
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Weekly re-cap and intention

As I reflect on my intentions from last week, I can see I did accomplish a lot. I even wrote two journal entries on what I was able to accomplish on those days. I exercised for 6 days, meditated 5, ate mostly healthy plant-based meals, prayed daily, fasted as planned one day, and crossed many tasks off my to-do lists. Because we had a short work week due to President’s day, the remainder of the week was hectic.

Thankfully, Friday ended with a celebration for my daughter, Elise, at the African-American Heritage ceremony. Bryan and I attended her event as proud parents and we went to dinner afterward for some family time. Her brother, Caleb, had to work.

Bryan, Elise, and I on 2/24/2023 at the AISD Performimg Arts Center after the ceremony.

What I struggled with was not taking things so seriously. I had a couple of tense meetings which impacted my stress levels and mood. I did remain confident and calm in the moment. I was so glad when my therapist called to check-in and schedule our next meeting. Her call was at the right time. Her soothing and reassuring voice is what I needed at that moment.

Saturday after monthly brunch with some friends. I was tired from the lack of sleep the night before, but I wasn’t going to miss this. The food was decadent, but the company was even better.

I spent the weekend taking care of me and my home (to a lesser degree than normal). I also had more bonding time with my family at church on Sunday and afterward for some breakfast and shopping.

This is the last week in February already. I strive to be my best self every day so my intentions for this week will build off the last and target some of where I perceived I fell short. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not aiming for perfection.

Intention for the week ahead (building from last week): May I spend more time in the moment rather than in the past or future. May I find a reason to laugh every single day. May I slow down and take deep nourishing breaths often. May I remember to smile more than frown. May I spoil my body with the gift of rest and sleep every night. And lastly from my therapist, may I focus and hold closely to the most important things/people in my life.

What are your intentions for the week?

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Intention for the week ahead

Technically the week has already begun though yesterday was a work holiday for me. I’m up early for several reasons, including the urge to go to the restroom, my body feeling a little warm, and Bryan’s restlessness. He naturally went back to sleep, but alas, here I am. I decided to brew a cup of citrus chamomile tea and start my bible reading and meditation earlier than usual. I want to share an exercise I’m using to be more intentional and set the tone for my week. Even when you feel you have no control, you have some control.

Intention for the week ahead: I will be the 3 C's: cool, calm, and confident in the face of any obstacles that come my way. I will breathe deeply and not take life so seriously. I will love fiercely and pray fervently. I will effortlessly cross things off my list even if it needs to be carried onto the next day and even the next. I will be kind. I will be self-compassionate.

What intentions do you have for this week?

Me enjoying a moment on Travaasa spa grounds in 2017. It was a beautiful weekend of pampering.
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Food chronicles: Sandwiches

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, we didn’t have much. The sandwich was an inexpensive and quick meal, usually made for lunch or a snack. Oscar Meyer had several options: salami, ham, and bologna….in order of my preference. A few slices fried made it special. White bread was cheap and readily available. Melted American or “government” cheese made it complete. And mayonnaise and mustard were the icing.

For variety, there was the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I always enjoyed more peanut butter than jelly. Some people think there is a science to the ratio. It’s really about your preference. I recall when I was younger, an older cousin pitted my same-age cousin and me in a battle of who could make the best PB&J. She took a bite out of each of our sandwiches. My cousin won. It hurt my feelings that I didn’t win.

I had so many sandwiches growing up, cold and hot, that I could NOT stand them anymore in adulthood. At some point, well after we moved to Texas, someone from work recommended a submarine sandwich shop, native to Austin and I quickly became hooked.

Although we lived in South Austin, I worked on the Northwest side for several years. I would go there on my lunch breaks a couple of times a week, trying different sandwiches, but I had my favorites.

As I had my own kids, I experimented with different meals and made sandwiches on occasion. By this time, I had expanded my repertoire of sandwich combinations and learned it was all in the type of bread and accoutrements (condiments and toppings).

The sandwich thing didn’t take off with my kids. Their taste buds were constantly changing. Also, my son, Caleb, was allergic to many foods including peanuts, so PB&J’s were not for him. There was that one Christmas when preteen Caleb asked for a panini press and a panini press is what he got. He was obsessed for a while, but then the obsession faded. I still have the panini press in a cabinet. I’ll give it to him when he moves out.

The next few photos I took are of decadent sandwiches I’ve made and enjoyed over the last few months. I share my food to inspire healthy and nutritious meals, not necessarily to share recipes (although sometimes I do).

I hope you enjoy my creations.

Another smoked salmon sandwich but this time on wheat bread loaded with veggies and pickles.
A little bacon sandwich on wheat with some veggies and avocado.
Leftover Christmas smoked turkey breast with avocado and tomatoes on sourdough bread. Looks like there is a piece of bacon on there too but I don’t remember ðŸĪ”.

What sandwiches do you love to make?

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Flourish Part I

I’ve become quite a plant enthusiast. I’ve loved tending to plants and flowers for years and since we’ve been in our new home, my love has amplified as evidenced by my more than 70+ plants inside and outside the home. I’ve lost count of how many, especially after I started propagating (starting new plants from existing plants).

Spider 🕷 babies in my office window for the winter.

I enjoy surrounding myself with beauty. My birth sign is a Taurus after all, which is an earth sign and we tend to love beautiful, grounded, and natural surroundings and luxuries. I call myself a Plant Mom (also the Plant Lady) because truly caring for plants entails regularly watering, feeding, pruning, potting and repotting, learning their temperaments, and adjusting based on their preferences. I don’t mind moving my plants around to ensure they’re getting what they need: bright light, low light, humidity, outdoor air, less draft, etc.

This same Monstera from the previous photos is so happy. She loves to show me how happy she is. I had to move her siblings elsewhere because she demanded all the space.

Tending to my plants and witnessing their growth is so rewarding. It’s also a meditative practice that calms me down during my day. It is a practice of patience, nurture, and care.

Every room in our home has plants except for my kids’ rooms. They don’t care much about plants, surprise surprise! Plants not only improve air quality, but they also bring a sense of peace and calmness to our home.

I’ve brought plants back to life from the brink of death.

After 2021/2022’s winter, this plant baby was down to one leaf. I didn’t bring her in from the cold soon enough. I almost lost hope, but I was patient. She does better in a shaded area outside in the warmer months. As soon as it got warmer in spring 2022, I let her out and look at how beautiful she is. Now she is in a sunny window indoors until it gets warmer again.

Despite whatever is going on in the world, I want to flourish in 2023 just like my beautiful plants. Tending to them is tending to myself- nurturing, pruning, and loving. ðŸŠī

Here’s to doing and being surrounded by more of what I love in 2023! I hope the same for you.

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Progress not perfection

Just like that, January is over, and here we are in February. I want to recount the positive things in real time as much as possible because time is flying. As I reflect on my vision board, I indicated that I would “write away” and I did just that by participating in January’s Bloganuary challenge….31 days of blog posts, each day a different topic.

A snapsot of my vision board. For more, check out my post What I want to achieve this year?

It was my first year participating, and I learned I enjoy blogging first thing in the morning after my spiritual meditation practice. I’ve wanted to post daily, but I haven’t been able to keep up with it. Well, I’ve read it takes 21 days to develop a habit and it worked for me. I missed about 3 or 4 days, but this is by far the most I’ve blogged in a month. I probably haven’t blogged 30 times in some years, so I’m off to a great start.

What I enjoyed about the Bloganuary experience were the different blogging prompts, which seemed random, at least to me. It challenged me to blog about topics I previously would not have. I even wrote a short (very short) story. It allowed me to reminisce about pleasant experiences. It reminded me of books and authors that have inspired me to read and write. Finally, I enjoyed the comradery with fellow bloggers.

Other notable January milestones are that I’ve been in remission from breast cancer for 6 WHOLE YEARS. It’s also been one year since my full hysterectomy. I truly believe health is wealth. I strive to keep my physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and financial health in check every day, although sometimes it’s difficult.

I love starting my year off with a challenge because it boosts my sense of accomplishment. February reminds me of love, so I plan to focus on the people I love this month, including myself. My son turns 22 this year, so we will be celebrating. I’m also considering participating in a vegan challenge. I’ll keep you posted.

Cheers to February!ðŸĨ‚

What are you looking forward to this month?