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Happy place

I’m enjoying a soothing, warm drink at one of my favorite places in the world right now…my front porch. It’s a modest porch…more like a covered stoop, but good enough for me to fit 2 comfortable chairs, a variety of plants/herbs, and a couple of citronella candles. It’s a party for my senses sitting out here as I get a slight chill from the light breeze, inhale the soothing candle aroma, catch its flickering light in my peripheral vision, and listen to the bugs, cars and other sounds in the distance.

I’m in my happy place. I’ve always loved summer nights and I’ve accomplished much today. Earlier, I took a nap, cooked a few meals/snacks for the week, exercised, jotted down my Monday to do list, and now I’m writing a blog post, which I didn’t think I’d get to do. A lot has happened in the last few weeks and I’m grateful for the experiences. Even the Bishop at my church has spent the past few weeks on the message of being responsible for your own happiness.

I have to write a post about my trip to Chicago to visit my famy last week, but that will have to wait for another time. It was FABULOUS and just what I needed. I look forward to writing about my experience in my new position at work. I’m having growing pains, but nothing I can’t handle. The most beneficial thing is that I was set up with a mentor. He was on my interview panel, we’ve had one phone consultation, and we plan to meet tomorrow. I’m excited about all that I will learn. I also want to write about a post I read from a journalist who is a fellow cancer survivor. She shared what she’s learned from other renowned doctor’s about how cancers develop. I’ve been thinking about it a lot as for me it emphasized how important it is to reduce stress. The key seems to be having a strong immune system because a weak one can invite trouble. It reaffirmed in mind that daily prayer, eating well, cooking, exercising, sleeping, doing the things that make me happy, saying no to some things, saying yes to others, etc. is necessary for my survival. Self-care is not selfish, it’s life saving. 

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Oh sweet May is coming to an end

I’ve always loved May mostly because it’s my birthday month. I love that it signals spring (or summer in Texas). Growing up in Chicago, I’ve experienced a cold day or two (or more) in May, so you’re really not in the clear in terms of warm weather until maybe June. Since I’ve become a mom, I get to add Mother’s Day to the festivities. Then there’s Cinco de Mayo, which I didn’t start celebrating until I moved to Texas. Mexican food has always been my favorite. We end the month remembering those who’ve lost their lives in the armed forced on Memorial Day. For me, the whole month of May is about celebration, inspiration, creativity, reflection and gratitude. This May has been especially sweet to me.

Last May, my husband experienced a serious health challenge and ended up having brain surgery on my birthday. This May, I get to prepare to see my family and friends in Chicago. I almost canceled this trip because with my new position, I was concerned about coverage for my unit, but some other managers agreed to cover for me. Plus there really isn’t any other time. I got a sweet deal on the tickets and my kids may be involved in various summer activities. We’re moving forward with the plan as scheduled.

My kids and I are leaving on 5/31 while my husband stays with the kittens. My son was on the verge of staying home too if he hadn’t arranged to take his finals early. I can hardly wait and neither can the kids. I’m so looking forward to getting fueled up with love. Not that I don’t get it here, but you know what I mean. It’s just my husband and I in Texas with our kids while mostly everyone we know and love is in Chicago. I’m also looking forward to the food, sites, and smells that I miss. I don’t have any plans of moving back because I hate the winter (so does my husband), but I don’t mind visiting when it’s technically supposed to be warm (weather channel shows 60’s & 70’s this week). Hey…it’s not December. I made a vow in 2009 that I would never return in December because it was so cold.

This visit is especially sweet because having dealt with breast cancer, I realize how fragile life is. Today, I picked out my outfits for the suitcase and have been encouraging my kids to do the same. Sometimes I surprise myself with how quickly and efficiently I pack now when that hasn’t always been the case.  I’ve been traveling for work for at least 3 years now, so I’ve become a pro.

Oh sweet May, you’ve been so good to me. I can’t wait to see what June brings besides the heat.

 

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Happy Birthday to me

Today, I turn 44 years old. I was talking to my 78 year old mom on the phone yesterday, reminding her of my birthday and she exclaimed repeatedly, “My BABY is turning 44!” Yup, mummy, its true…your baby turns 44 and I feel great. I love the confidence, wisdom, discernment, patience, focus, and unapologetic self-assuredness that comes with being in your 40’s. These attributes helped me nail the best job interview of my life on Monday, 5/15/17, resulting in a promotion. I’ve been floating all week. 

Sure, I see more defined frown lines on my forehead and bags under my eyes. I was just telling my hubby this week I can see I look older. I recently noticed some small lines on both sides of my mouth when I smile. After Zumba class last week, I actually questioned if I was getting too old for all the jumping because I was unusually sore the next day after giving it my all and “leaving it on the dance floor”. I later concluded that I probably should have gone to bed early instead of attending Zumba class because I was exercising on an almost empty tank after a long day. I toned down my intensity in subsequent classes. I do get the occasional aches and pains. However, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been and even have muscle definition in my arms. I wouldn’t trade my emotional, spiritual, and mental growth to be back in my twenties where I was depressed, unhappy, insecure, and didn’t appreciate my size 8/10 shape. I admit those old insecurities still come, but I know how to manage them.

Office birthday party favors 5-19-17

This time last year, I didn’t celebrate my birthday because my husband had brain surgery…on my birthday. We visited the emergency room twice in May 2016 and had to cancel our trip to Florida. My very first post to my blog was about that whole experience which you can read about here. My hubby is doing much better. Little did we know that 4 months later, I would be diagnosed with breast cancer. At the Caribbean themed birthday party my coworkers coordinated for myself and another coworker yesterday, someone commented, “You guys have been through an ordeal!” My response was that we did get some mileage out of our health insurance plan and you better believe we met our deductible! We got a good laugh out of that. The point is life happens. You deal with it, make adjustments, and keep moving forward. I’m thankful to be alive and thriving with the ones I love. 

Today, will be a low key day with my family. I plan to get some rest because I’ve worked late all week as a result of getting acclimated to my new job which includes managing staff. Long work days will become a new normal, but I am not deviating from my self-care strategies. Exercise, eating well, reading, sleeping, writing, catching up with friends…these are all things that rejuvenate me. 

We may hit a movie and dinner later, but for the most part, I want to be around the house. I’m content because I have everything I need and am grateful to be alive. I can’t wait to see what this next year of growth has in store for me.


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My fit life

My coworker recently joined the YMCA and we’ve been sharing our experiences with certain group exercise classes. Turns out, I’ve participated in several that she’s recently tried, so I’ve been giving my point of view. Yesterday, she blurted out in excitement, “Lucrece, have you tried STRONG?” I replied excitedly, “Yes…Zumba Strong? Strong by Zumba? My friend is licensed in Zumba Strong and I love it.” Her response, “No, Lucrece. Just STRONG. Everything isn’t about Zumba you know!” I picked up on the sarcasm. In my mind, “Says who?”

I’ve been a licensed Zumba instructor for 4 years now and it’s been a fabulous ride. I remember watching Zumba fitness infomercials about 6 years ago and knowing that I would love that class if I could just find out where to attend locally. My husband signed us up for the YMCA out of the blue one day in 2011, I took a Zumba class, and the rest is history. I have a confession. While in treatment and recovery for breast cancer, I lost my Zumba mojo. I didn’t desire to teach it anymore and was getting bored with it, but that was short-lived. I’ve been attending my friends classes regularly a couple of days of week since January 2017 and my Zumba fire has been ignited. I’ve enjoyed being the student and not the teacher, so that may have a lot to do with it. I haven’t been back to teaching Zumba at work since I was on medical leave. I’ve been thinking about resuming my class, but we’ll see.

I’ve always loved the family vibes at the YMCA and had been a member in Chicago in my early twenties. After I  had my son in 2001, I stopped going to gyms because I didn’t trust the child care. I don’t know why we didn’t join the YMCA in Austin. I began working out at home and gradually developed a library of exercise tapes/DVD’s. I would get up 5:00 am and do an hour of one of my DVD’s before work. One of my favorites was The FIRM because they combined cardio and free weights. I shredded some serious pounds (the same 15-20 have come and gone…I think I’ve finally permanently gotten rid of them).  I still have my vast collection and exercise at home a few days a week. Every now and then in amazement, my husband will comment, “You still have those DVD’s…? How old is that one?”

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In addition to Zumba and my DVD exercise collection, I love to exercise outdoors. For the almost 20 years of living in Austin, I’ve loved the long hot summers. But it’s become more apparent to me this year that spring is actually my favorite season. Temps in the lower 70’s to mid 80’s make me want to be outside all day.  I love soaking up the warm sunshine rays. Over the last few years, my health has made it more difficult to enjoy the hot heat because it tends to exacerbate symptoms related to my autoimmune disorders. The conditions are mild, but I still need to be careful. Whatever the case, that doesn’t stop me from getting outside.

Me at Townlake March 2017

Me at Town lake March 2017

Being outside in nature is relaxing and rejuvenating. When I can, I love to go for a hike along the Lady Bird Johnson Hike and Bike Trail. For the past few weeks, I’ve gotten my husband to take walks with me in the short trail near our house so that I can get my Fitbit steps in. Now that he has a Fitbit, he’s more interested in getting his steps also, so I take advantage of that. I’ve enjoyed bonding with him during this time. On Friday nights, my daughter has her gymnastics class at the YMCA, so my husband and I will spend that time walking the track and catching up.

This habit of exercise I started in my early twenties has enriched my life in so many ways. Exercise is like breathing to me – it’s essential for my survival. It helps me cope, relax, de-stress, unwind, and focus. It’s an anti-anxiety and anti-depression remedy that keeps on giving. You can see that I’m not skinny and that doesn’t bother me. My body wasn’t designed to be skinny and that is not my purpose in exercise. I love how strong and fit my body has become. I believe I’m more productive because I exercise regularly. This fit life of mine has paid me back thousands in dividends. My goal  has been to have my kids adopt this healthy habit into their lifestyles.

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Family time at the Veloway…2014

One of the best things you can do is find an exercise(s) that you enjoy. Then do it all the time.

Commit to be fit

I’ve committed to be fit!

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Illuminata

I knew my husband loved me when he bought me the book, Illuminata by Marianne Williamson, while we were dating over 20 years ago. I asked him what made him buy it and his reply was that he thought it would help me. He saw the author on an Oprah Winfrey show and felt moved by what she said. I knew he was a keeper when he demonstrated that he also cared about my spiritual health. I was just emerging from a rough patch in my life (early twenties) when we got together. Therefore, he was right. My week day morning routine is to pray and read a scriptural/spiritual passage before I get out of the bed to set the tone for my day. I didn’t realize that I had this book by my bed side until I read the titles of the stack of books on my dresser. I love books and keep them very close. Periodically, I rotate them with the ones on my living room bookshelf to ensure that I get through them all. At some point, I moved Illuminata to be bed side. Great choice!

It feels so good to be reconnected with my Illuminata. The prayers are beautiful. It may seem odd for prayers to be captured in a book, but it’s so befitting. While in Catholic school growing up, we learned prayers verbatim from the bible. Sometimes, it’s difficult to come up with the words. Often, I simply have conversations with God, but I don’t always know how to ask for what I need. It’s a thought-provoking, illuminating, contemplative book and I love to marinate on it as I get ready. Sometimes, I even read a few passages before bed.

Books next to my bed

Books next to my bed

Beignet giving me love early in the am

Beignet does not understand how I could read instead of giving him cuddles

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A week in the life

It’s been a week! It started last Sunday with me at the airport for my monthly business trip and ended on Saturday (yesterday) with an unexpected job opportunity that stirred up lingering insecurities that are difficult to shake. Confidence and doubt. Courage and fear. Bold and reticent. Extrovert and introvert. It is possible to live with conflicting traits. I’m a living testimony. At the end of the day, I have nothing to lose…or do I? There is a beginning, middle and end to my story, but I’ll stick with 2 out of 3 since it’s Sunday and I’m a little tired. Here it goes.

The Beginning

Towards the end to my flight to Lubbock, Texas last Sunday, there was a ridiculous amount of turbulence. Turbulence to the point where I didn’t know if I needed the barf bag or a toilet because my stomach was doing somersaults.

This is bad. As a side note, I had actually typed “summer saults”, then changed it to “summer salts” because I forgot how to spell the word “somersault”. I knew it was wrong, but couldn’t remember so I looked it up. I’ve had recent conversations with people about the phenomenon of losing our ability to spell. I blame the constant reliance computers. Are we the only ones?

I occasionally glanced at my neighbor and we made exchanges about the turbulence, but then after a while, I noticed that she was staring at me rather intently…too intently for my comfort. She asked me if I lived in Lubbock, and before I knew it, I learned that she was a clinical social work therapist in private practice, working with the elderly and that she was returning from visiting one of her 7 kids in Austin. I’m usually hesitant about telling strangers my state business in Lubbock. However, as a fellow social worker, I gave her a vague snippet. I won’t talk about it here either, but for the record, it’s official state business and it’s not really in Lubbock. Lubbock is just the biggest city to fly in.

That Sunday, I wasn’t in the mood for small talk because I was somewhat sad about leaving my family on a Sunday and was prepping my mind for Monday’s meeting. However, I usually end up caught in random conversations because I’ve accepted the fact that folks in Texas are chatty and I think I have one of those faces that say, “You can tell me anything…I’ll listen”. She might have noticed that I was reading a book about difficult conversations. If I remember, I will come back to cite it later, but I believe the author’s name is Harrier Lerner, a psychotherapist, and it’s one of the “Dance with…” books. (UPDATE: Harriet Lerner, PhD, The Dance of Connection). Her first one was called the “The Dance of Anger”. I have that one too. I learned about her through social worker and researcher Brene Brown’s references.

My flight neighbor and I had a nice conversation, exchanged business cards, and despite her offer to call me whenever I’m in town, I knew that was the end of that exchange. Unless, I see her next month. I’m from Chicago, I come from a long line of suspicious people, so I’ll leave that at that. But seriously, I’ll keep her card just in case.

I spent part of Sunday night shopping for some healthy snacks/foods while away from home and prepping for my Monday meeting. The visit went well. I always feel better when I prepare. I pray that I am relaxed, professional, and myself. I channel my higher self and then everything else goes smoothly. I’m sharing this because on these trips, I’m sure that it would be preferred that I not be there. However, I am there representing the state, the agency that allocated funds to this entity to provide a service, so my hosts tend to be attentive and on their best behavior.

The End (of the week)

Yesterday, I was presented with an opportunity that I had not expected. It would mean a great amount of responsibility at work and I know that there are people who have their doubts about me. However, there are also people in high places that think highly of me. My insecurities bubbled up. Never mind, what they think of me…do I think I can do it? This is what I’m faced with. I can’t go into detail now, but I decided that now is as best a time as ever to have faith in myself. I’ve been making moves already. I simply need to decide. I activated my personal prayer warriors…people who I know will pray for me and I asked them to pray for me about this particular thing. I really want to and need to hear God on this. It’s not about the money although that definitely helps. If I am still in consideration for this opportunity, I’m going to give it my best shot. I deserve to do this for myself. Confidence and doubt. Courage and Fear. Bold and reticent. Extrovert and introvert. I have all of these traits. Some of them can be euphoric, and others downright painful, but I still move forward. It’s about growth.

 

 

 

 

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Gray area

I first noticed this one gray, curly hair in 2009, a little while after I started graduate school at the University of Texas. At the time, it was a shock. Now, I expect them at my age, although I’m not necessarily comfortable with the idea. I’m very curious about if there are more, but I don’t know. I can’t tell with my naked eyes. I don’t have the best vision, and apparently, the best lighting in my bathroom. I think my big kinky, curly hair has the ability to masque the grays, so as far as I know, that’s the only one I have. I’ve asked my husband to check, and insists no, but I’m not confident in how thorough he looked.  I’ve noticed more younger women (30’s, 40’s) with gray hair and they wear it proudly. That makes me want to embrace it.

Admittedly, I’m not excited about going gray, especially since I feel young at heart. The inevitable will happen. I’m acknowledging that I may struggle with this. I’m thinking about making a hair salon appointment next month for my 44th birthday. I haven’t been to a salon or had anyone else work on my hair since I’ve been natural (11 years). I’m contemplating a change. I’m generally a brave person, but we’ll see if I’m brave enough to follow through with this.