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Bring on the soups

It’s soup season and last month, I decided to join a 10-day soup challenge brought to you by Simple Green Smoothies. These are my favorite green smoothie people but they also have loads of plant-based recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts. Throughout this process, I definitely sharpened my soup-making chops. Of course, I took all the photos myself which enhanced the experience.

The not so secret to stress free cooking is prep.

For me, the ultimate form of self-care is cooking healthy, nutritious meals. I’ve been eating about 90% vegan and plant- based since June 2021. I love comforting foods such as soups which you can read about in my previous posts such as Food chronicles: November comfort and Comfort.

Most of the soups started with this trusty trio of celery, carrots, and onions.

I find cooking to be therapeutic and rewarding. Through cooking, I also remain connected to my mom who passed away 4 years ago because she taught me how to cook. I’ve ventured into cooking different cuisines beyond the Haitian dishes my mom taught me, but she would still be proud. I was fortunate enough to cook for her many times on her visits to see me and my family in Texas.

When you see me, you see my mom. This is me in my oldest sister’s beautiful kitchen in a south suburb of Chicago. On this visit early in November, I made her family the Red Lentil Curry Soup which they loved.

My hope for this post is that you are inspired to cook more meals at home. The more you practice, the easier and more second nature it becomes. You will become more creative. The more home cooked, healthy meals you consume, the better off you’ll be.

Day 5: Ultimate Detox Soup
Day 6: Paprika Corn Chowder
Day 9: Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup
Day 10: Carrot Ginger Soup

Looking at these pictures again is making me hungry. I loved that each soup was unique and opened me up to interesting flavor combinations.

The fun thing about this challenge was that I participated in a live Facebook group where we shared our versions and pictures of our soups. Like many great cooks, I use recipes as a guide and will tweak the recipe according to my taste. I also got some ideas from other participants from all over the world.

Every soup was delicious and I’ve not only made a few of them several times already, I’ve also frozen about 6 of the recipes so I can enjoy later.

I imagine many people in the states are still enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers. Not us though because we had Thanksgiving in Chicago with our family. If you want something different, I highly recommend any one of these recipes, some of which you can find Here.

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Thanksgiving in Chicago

I feel obligated to acknowledge it’s been so long since my last blog post. What can I say??? Life is a roller coaster ride BUT I’m so thankful I have this platform to connect with others. We have plenty of time to catch up, but today I want share some Thanksgiving gratitude for making this trip to spend time with family!

View of Downtown Chicago from Lake Shore Drive on our way to the Shedd Aquarium 11/23/2021

Saturday morning, my husband, Bryan, children and I embarked on our much anticipated road trip to Chicago from Buda, Texas.

Outside of the famous Buc-ees near Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas (2 of 2 on this road trip) 11/20/2021. This store is the ULTIMATE gas station. I mostly APPRECIATE the restrooms.
Inside Buc-ees in Temple, Texas (1 of 2 on the road trip) 11/20/2021. This store was so busy & crowded. We stopped for the restroom & gas. Bryan grabbed this photo before we dashed out.

Our trip was smooth “sailing”, relaxing, and peaceful…until we stayed at a Motel 6 in West Memphis, Arkansas. We wanted to break up the 16 hour drive into 2 days. We’ve never stayed at a Motel 6 before but all the decent hotels in the area were booked. We didn’t think about the other families traveling to see their loved ones this Thanksgiving. Bryan and I needed to rest to finish the drive the next morning. With the exception of Bryan, the rest of us got very little sleep.

Though I’m very thankful we took a short reprieve because there was a lot of traffic, we hope to never stay at a dingy little hotel like this one again. The room was icky and cold, the surroundings were loud, and nothing about it was comfortable. I was so miserable and cold that I thought about waking up my family so we could leave in the middle of the night several times. At about 2:00 am, after seeing shadows of people walking by which had been the case since we got there, I felt the need to monitor our car. I observed how packed the parking lot was and I thought to myself “we’re not alone in this discomfort and we’re doing what we’ve got to do like everybody else”. 

We layed down fully clothed on top of the bed and were on the road again by 5:00 am. By 2:00pm, we were at my oldest sister’s house in the south suburbs of Chicago. For the return trip, we’ve already reserved a hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, which is about our mid travel point.

I’m so grateful for being able to be with my family this Thanksgiving. I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I flew to Chicago at the beginning of November to attend my Uncle’s funeral. I have the double blessing of spending time with my family twice this year. The time with our families always reminds me of how precious life is and what’s truly important.

To see Bryan and our children with our family and friends has warmed my heart so much.

And even though I am not in my own kitchen, you know I’m going to be cooking the vegan/plant based Thanksgiving sides for everyone else to enjoy right??? Yes, I’m impressed with myself for maintaining this way of eating since June!

If Thanksgiving is celebrated in your part of the world, my hope is that it is abundant in love, food, and whatever else pleases your soul, restful, splendid, and blessed!

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What therapy is teaching me

It took me a few minutes to realize the inevitable as I lay in bed moist and warm from my hormones being out of control. I tossed and turned as the thoughts started flooding my mind. I finally glanced at my watch to see it was about 4:00 am. “Why am I up?” “You know you’re awake so you might as well get up.” “Why don’t you read a book so you can get sleepy again?” “What should I do now?” “What was my homework assignment again?” “You know what??? I should write a blog post!”

So here I am, up early in the morning wanting to share my epiphanies from the last few months. I’ve been consistently inconsistent with writing my blog posts. This is where I am in life right now and that’s okay. I always have a story or lesson to share. Capturing them in a blog post has been challenging because I only have so much time in a day. In fact, this is true for all of us. I’ve chosen to prioritize other things but always return to blogging because it’s a form of self-care for me. And whoever reads this, gets to ride with me on this journey.

Shortly after we moved into our new home earlier this year, I decided it was time to revisit what I had been putting off for a while. Also, a conversation I had with my nephew helped me to move forward with the decision, which was to seek therapy. This big wonderful thing happened in my life – a new house, new surroundings, and new beginnings. However, there were some personal challenges I’ve been wanting to work on related to my relationships, career, and health. On top of that, I was also realizing the toll the pandemic was taking on me. The move encouraged me to do other things to improve the quality of my life. This was the perfect time because my life wasn’t in crisis mode and things were settling down.

I work in the mental health field and understand the benefits of therapy. It’s not a stigma to me but mental health is still a stigma for many. However, I think the tides are changing. More people have access to and are seeking the mental health help they need. I see signs that therapy is being normalized. Some of my young adult family members have or are participating in therapy. I mentioned my nephew earlier who is very open about it. He also encouraged me to consider a therapist who would understand the unique cultural and racial challenges brown skinned people face.

I decided to take the steps to find a therapist. It took me a few weeks to find someone I was interested in through the Therapy for Black Girls website. I was able to peruse the websites and information for the different therapists in my state. It was important for me to work with a woman, slightly older than myself. I contacted her, we connected, and the rest is history.

It’s been 4 months now since I’ve been in therapy and it’s one of the best investments in myself I’ve made. I attend bimonthly sessions. Here are just a few thoughts on what therapy is teaching me about myself:

  1. I need to constantly work on boundaries – setting them, refining them, reinforcing them, and communicating them. I used to pride myself on setting boundaries. This is how I’ve established and maintained a place of peace since my early twenties. I have boundaries that are firmly planted; however, over time, I’ve allowed people and circumstances to erode some of them. I’m back to setting, refining, and reinforcing boundaries because they keep me safe and in check. They also teach others how to treat me.
  2. I had no idea how to demonstrate self-compassion. It was a foreign concept to me but I’m learning. I was not taught to show compassion for myself. I’m an overachieving, recovering perfectionist, constantly on the prowl to do better/be better, and to do things/do things for others, but what about self-compassion? And self-compassion is different from self-care. Self-compassion means I don’t mentally beat myself up because I can’t figure out how to relate to someone close to me. It means I don’t keep pushing myself when I know I’m tired. There is so much more to this.
  3. Validation is so important. I’m in a leadership position at work and it’s true that it can be lonely at the top. My workload is heavy and I don’t have the capacity to meet with my peers on a regular basis. Not only that, I’m not always sure who I can trust at work. Having the outlet from my therapist to be able to express my thoughts and be validated has been very helpful to me. Also, the validation helps in my personal life too because I don’t want to burden family (and they probably won’t understand anyway) with the particular challenges my husband and I experience with our health issues.
  4. It’s OK to retrain your habits and thoughts; in fact, it’s necessary if you want to change. A lot of what I’m working on is retraining habits I picked up over time and building new ones. Is it frustrating? YES! Is it hard? YES! Is it worth it? YES!

What I’ve shared are the biggest relatable lessons but there are many other things I’m learning about myself. If you’re interested in pursuing therapy, I hope you move forward with it. Really consider who you would want to work with, how much it will cost and is it within your budget, and your availability to attend regular sessions.

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Vegan truths I can’t ignore

Hey friends! I’ve officially been on a Vegan journey for 6 WHOLE weeks now. Over the years on my blog, I’ve posted about my Vegan adventures I partake in a couple of times year. The last time was in November 2020. I did a series named Sometimes Vegan Chronicles where I posted for the full 7 days of a Vegan cleanse. This time is different though. In the past, I’ve done Vegan cleanses from as few as 3 days to as long as 21 days. As noted, those were cleanses. This time, I intentionally chose a Vegan diet for all meals as normal eating…sans cleanse. This has been the longest I’ve eaten Vegan and I plan to keep going.

Peppers, okra, and tomatoes washed for the grill

I chose to do this primarily for health reasons. My big issue is fibroids, which I won’t get into too much detail about. Fibroids are non-cancerous growths found in a woman’s uterus. African American women most commonly get fibroids but many women tend to get them at some point. Usually, they don’t require any drastic treatment, but sometimes surgery is needed to remove them. Treatment can range from birth control pills to a hysterectomy. There are other less invasive surgical procedures such as an endometrial ablation which I had around 2007. This was a same day surgery where the doctor thinned the lining of my uterus with a device. Guess what? The fibroids returned and have been wreaking havoc on my body. I won’t go into detail about how, but trust me. I’ve gotten 3 doctor’s opinions that a hysterectomy is my best option.

Grilled Zucchini, tomatoes and peppers with a mustard green garnish over rice

This act of changing my diet (not using the term as a temporary restriction) is my way of gaining some control. My hopes are that this diet infuses my body with ample nutrients, causes me to lose a little weight, shrinks the fibroids some, and prepares my body for surgery (in the late fall) and the resulting menopause. Yes, MENOPAUSE….at 48 years old. I’ve been working with my therapist on processing and navigating all of this. Due to the type of breast cancer I had ( read any of my previous breast cancer posts such as What breast cancer has taught me), I won’t be able to do any type of hormone therapy during menopause (not that I would anyway, but it won’t be an option at all). I’ve read several articles on how the proper diet can help relieve menopausal symptoms. So I’m going full force.

Sesame bagel, cashew cream, and Everything Bagel Seasoning
Quinoa corn muffins

If you’re considering becoming Vegan for whatever your reason is, I do want to share a few truths I’ve learned thus far:

  1. Plan ahead – Eating Vegan didn’t come naturally to me 6 weeks ago like it does now, so I had to plan and prep my meals to ensure success. But truth be told, I still plan and prep every weekend because I don’t want to be caught hungry without a plan. This entails literally writing down a few ideas for meals for the week and reviewing my trusty Vegan cookbooks. I spend my weekends washing/prepping produce, making at least one batch of soup, and making sure I know my options. It’s just better to be prepared, especially if you’re serious about not eating meat or dairy.
  2. Your bowels will change – I’ve read this previously and have heard people talk about it, but it’s always been vague….accompanied by a joke about “beans”. Good thing I’m here to tell you EXACTLY what will change about your bowel movements or poop. It took about a month to kick in, but my bowel movements have gone from a trusty one poop a day to 3, 4 and sometimes A WHOPPING 5 times a day! You may not experience as often as me, but I think if you embark on a Vegan diet, you will notice a change. Will this last for the duration of my Vegan journey??? I don’t know. I’ve read that this change occurs when you first become Vegan but will eventually level off.
  3. People will think you’re crazy – I’m proud of myself for all the research I’ve done. It’s become my new normal, so sometimes I forget this may be considered extreme for many people. I find it to be a nice challenge. I mentioned my journey to some staff on my team and there were lots of GASPS and questions like: “How do you get protein?” “Aren’t you always hungry?” There are also comments like: “I can’t live without my burgers!” “I like meat too much.” Regardless of the feedback, I’m going to continue along this path because I believe it’s right for me plus I’m enjoying it.
  4. Be open to new foods – When I’ve done cleanses in the past, they’ve been whole and plant based with no processed ingredients. Because I’m not on a cleanse, I’ve been open to try some of the Vegan options in the grocery stores which I’m very happy about such as “Beyond Meat”, prepared Vegan frozen items, and alternative options such as Vegan cheese, butter, and eggs. I’ve even been experimenting with tofu. (Yes, I know there is controversy about its potential impact on hormones). Some restaurants offer more Vegan options besides just salads. I don’t partake every day, but I find these other options help make the experience more enjoyable. Some people may feel strongly against this, but it works for me and keeps me satisfied.

Even if you don’t embark on a Vegan diet, I hope the photos I’ve taken of my delicious dishes inspire you to eat healthier and try new meals.

Fried teriyaki tofu my son made with sauce, green onions, & peanuts with jasmine rice
Light breakfast of protein packed edamame, heirloom tomatoes, and a hash brown.
Avocado toast with Everything Bagel Seasoning on sourdough bread
Cajun grilled vegetable pasta with Okra, mushrooms, and peppers.
Roasted vegetables over grits
15 bean soup
Air Fried Oyster mushrooms with watercress salad
Grilled asparagus, rice, tomatoes, and watercress salad
Hummus and tomato sammich on sourdough bread
Fresh raspberries with cashew cream, roasted almonds, and maple syrup
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That green thumb

I’m not sure when I realized I had a green thumb but I knew it was something special having tended to an Aloe Vera plant older than my ‘soon to be’ 16-year old daughter. My green thumb has been greener than usual lately since we’ve moved into our new house. I have plants and flowers everywhere. I don’t want to live without them. It takes me some time to water them all every 2 weeks, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This post is dedicated to my greenery.

Hydrangeas have become my new favorite flower. I don’t know why I didn’t notice them before now. They’re absolutely beautiful on my dining room table.
Small plants in my bathroom so I can have a Zen experience: ZZ plant, African Violet, succulent, baby orchid, bromlead, & another one not in the picture. I also found a painting of hydrangeas I couldn’t pass up.
I love these plants. I only remember the Fiddly Fig’s name in the black pot. The others are tropical.
Not only is our home cat friendly (hence the cat trees and toys in the background), it’s plant friendly too. My Pothos plants LOVE it in this house because of all the light. They’ve been growing so well. I’ve never seen the leaves so healthy.
Snake plants 🪴add pizzazz.
It’s been years since I’ve had my own African Violets. The kitchen window is the perfect place for them. My lucky Bamboo seems to like this window also.
There is no way I wouldn’t have a little plant collection in my home office. So cute.
In June, I returned to the office 2 days a week. We moved to a new office space & I’m thrilled to have an office with windows so my plants can thrive. My daughter painted the bird in between the 2 plants when she was itty bitty. I think it’s supposed to be a turkey.
It was important for me to display plants throughout my home, especially the entrance because I love them so much. This table is right outside my daughter’s bedroom.
Beautiful Succulent in my home office.
I can’t take credit for this lovely sunflower. My daughter has been doing all the work on this one. She planted them from seeds and watered them daily. I think she had at least 6 blooms from this batch.

I’ve since added plants to our back patio. I’ll share another time. In the mean time, what’s your favorite plant/flower?

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It’s going to be a long night

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. The main reasons are I haven’t been feeling inspired to write and I’ve been busy with homework from my therapy sessions. As much as I want to inspire others, it does no good if I’m pulling from an empty well. 2021 has been a DOOZY of a year. I’ve come to realize how much the pandemic has affected my family and I. We’ve been together everyday for over a year, I’ve juggled telework and managing my family’s needs, the political environment has been tense, and we’ve experienced collective trauma as a state (Texas – Is this Texas?), country, and world. To add insult to injury, I’ve come down with an insidious virus that has me burning up from the inside. Literally, I have a fever of 103.9 in each ear! The soles of my feet are burning, my body is aching, and I feel overall TERRIBLE. In consideration of all of this, I’m extending myself some self-compassion and grace. I developed a plan to be more self-compassionate as a homework assignment from my therapist. It does me some good to practice self-compassion. I recommend the same for everyone.

I’ve mustered up a little energy to let you know that I’m still here – determined to inspire and share light lessons in the midst of an illness. We’ll see how much I’ll share. I’m so tired, but I suddenly have so much time on my hands and typing does not seem to hurt that much.

I’ve slept most of the day. Though I haven’t exercised since Friday, my FITBIT sports watch has been logging Zone minutes. I got 83 Zone minutes today, 65 yesterday, and a whopping 170 on Friday. Those are pretty significant numbers. Interestingly, FITBIT interprets labored breathing and physical exertion as being in the Zone. When in fact, my body has been working extra hard to just breathe and fight this virus. The corona virus test I took at the Urgent Care Clinic yesterday was negative. I think I’ve had 3 corona virus tests since 2020. In my posts COVID-19 Chronicles: I took the test and COVID-19 Chronicles: Test results are in, I write about an acute case of bronchitis I had last year. In February 2021, I also had a corona virus test as part of the protocol prior to my first colonoscopy. It was also negative.

I’m so thankful, Bryan, my husband, has been taking care of me. I’ve been staying hydrated with coconut water, regular water, tea, and fruit. What are some of your favorite ways to take care of yourself when you’re sick?

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Good bones: The kitchen

Living in my new home has been everything I dreamed of and more. One of my favorite spaces in the house is the KITCHEN. After living in a much smaller space for years and being cramped in our small kitchen, this was my time to plan for a large, functional kitchen. You see, I love to COOK. And EATING is the one activity we all love to do in my family and we do it often. In the next post, I’ll share photos of the delectable food creations I’ve made in the new kitchen. For this post, I’ll share the kitchen metamorphosis and the good bones (pun intended) which make for a great, functional space.

Before and after: Kitchen a week prior to closing and a couple of weeks post move in. One of the first things we did was change the light fixtures. I prefer clear glass and was intentional about introducing more rounded shapes to balance out the many sharp and square shapes in the home.

In my post Home stretch of our new construction build, I mentioned our closing was delayed, which was a huge disappointment. Imagine the excitement and anticipation of building your dream home for months and then you have to keep waiting. During our first walk through with the construction manager, a leak had spread from under the dishwasher location, to the dining area wall, and even to my daughter’s room….all on the same wall.

I tried my best not to get too worried after they pulled apart the cabinet, my beautiful backsplash, and the wall. The reassurance from the construction manager and our real estate agent that it’ll only take a few days to repair once they determined the source of the leak was helpful. It turns out a nail caused the damage, but they had it all repaired in about a week.

I think it’s important to go through the new construction home building process understanding nothing is perfect. You want them to do an excellent job, but things go wrong at times. You want the materials to be free of imperfections, but that’s not always possible. You want your move to be smooth and seamless, but things happen.

For example, we noticed days after our new refrigerator was delivered there was a dent on the upper lefthand side of the door which you’ll probably notice in the above picture. We contacted Lowe’s (where we made the purchase) and they returned some of our money (over $200), which we preferred rather than replacing it. My husband, Bryan, suggested if I didn’t like the dent to put some magnets or a dry erase board at the location, but I like the clean look. I may add something later.

Coffee/tea/recipe nook next to dishwasher (where the damage occurred).

I’ve slightly reorganized this nook, added more books, and switched out the plant for a different one. The photo reflects what I did in the first week post move in. I’m so glad I was able to put this shelf to use in the new house and I love how the color is similar to the cabinet. We invested in larger purchases such as new furniture and other items for our home and also used what we already had. I love that! Everything doesn’t have to be new.

The details: What a difference personalization and cabinet hardware makes! We purchased the hardware from Lowe’s and Bryan installed them about 3 weeks after we moved in. The photo of me with the sunglasses is on the day we closed on the house.
Our son admiring his dad’s handy work.
Photo of the hardware after Bryan installed them. That AIR Fryer next to the sink is going to be shipped to my brother in Chicago. It was only out because it’s my daughter’s fave and she just had to make something. It’s since been removed from the kitchen counter.

Cooking in my new kitchen has truly upped my cooking game.

First of all, I have a stove with an AIR FRYER setting. Genious! Everyone in the house loves that feature. Now, I can keep my Ninja Foodie in the cabinet until I need it for the crockpot or pressure cooking setting and give the other air fryer away to my brother. The fridge is pretty neat too. I love that the handles aren’t visible.

I love my SPICES and every good cook has their favorites. I now have an actual spice drawer and it’s huge! Top photo is my work at one week post move in. Bottom is recent. I’ve had to make room for a few more bins to keep my measuring utensils. I am at CAPACITY with my cabinet space. One day I’ll have all the same jars for all spices.
Spice cabinet at the old place
Spice holder at the old place, which we purchased from Ikea. We have no use for it in the new house. I still use the jars and Bryan has since bought me a label maker. I haven’t looked back. It’s a GAME CHANGER!
Dear friends of ours sent us a house warming gift which was right up my alley- UNIQUE SPICES!
I’m in SPICE HEAVEN.
The pantry: I love organization including organizing products. This new pantry was smaller than the old one, and much smaller than I was hoping for. I was determined to make it work. With the products I purchased from Ikea, The Container Store, and At Home, AND MY LABEL MAKER, I made it WORK.
As of today, the pantry is a lot more packed because I like a well stocked pantry. There isn’t much room for anything else but that won’t stop me from trying. I can’t help myself.
Simple things make life more pleasant…instead of a bottle of Dawn or Palmolive on my kitchen sink, I purchased this neat contraption from The Container Store. I find that my dish soap lasts a lot longer too. I love my backsplash!
My label maker is a GAME CHANGER.
Kitchen view from the back door and prior to installing the cabinet hardware. Hydrangeas (see table) are becoming one of my favorite flowers. I keep fresh flowers on the table all the time now.
View of living space from kitchen. We have two bar stools with backs on each end of the island and two backless bar stools in the middle. We bought them in pairs at separate times. The store actually discontinued the bar stools with backs. Although it wasn’t planned, I love that the middle stools don’t obstruct our view of the beautiful window and view.

This was so much fun sharing why I love my new kitchen. I hope you got inspired in some way. Stay tuned for more posts of my favorite rooms in the new house, and of course, the delicious food I’ve cooked.

Lights above the cabinets.☺
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Reflections on Life Without My Best Friend on Mother’s Day

Growing up, especially as a teenager, I never thought of mummy as my best friend, let alone friend. She made it clear we weren’t friends by her stern approach to parenting. Plus, I’ve heard her boast many times about not viewing her children as friends. Mummy was tough. She lived a hard life as an immigrant from Haiti. She worked hard to provide for her four children…much of that time as a single parent. She learned how to speak English, worked jobs she could with her limited education, helped support her own siblings/family, and laid out a foundation for us of strong moral and spiritual values.

It wasn’t until much later in life, well after I had children, I realized she was my best friend, and of course, much more than a best friend. When I think of a best friend, I think of someone whose been there for you through thick and thin, who knows your family, who has witnessed your history, who you spend lots of time getting to know, who tells you the truth when you’re right and wrong, and who demonstrates their love and support over and over again. My mom was all of that and more. She always had the best intentions for me even if I couldn’t see it at the time.

My relationship with mummy was rough even through adulthood (though not as intense). She was strict and fearful. I was stubborn and wanted to make my own way. That’s the American spirit many other cultures fear for their children – the spirit of Independence. After all, I was born in the United States…the only one of my siblings who was. What more could have been expected? She served as my constant reminder through her example that caring for others is necessary in life. It was not just about me and my independence.

The values I embody: faith in God, hope, care for others, family, support, keeping my word, doing my best, working hard, being a nurturer, being the bigger person, forgiveness…I learned from her.

It’s been almost four years since she’s passed and the hardest thing for me is not being able to have a reciprocal conversation with her. We spoke almost daily, especially the last 4 or 5 years of her life. I speak to her in my mind on occasion though. It’s hard not being able to experience her reaction to all the good that’s happened in my life, including my husband and children’s lives. I want her to know, “See we’re OK. You didn’t need to worry so much because we’re GOOD.”

On this Mother’s Day, if you’re grieving the loss of your mother or mother figure, you’re not alone. Extend yourself some grace, cherish the memories, love on your own children and family, and prioritize rest and relaxation when you can.

Happy Mother’s Day from my heart to yours.

Roses from my crew. The vase behind has hydrangeas which are becoming one of my fave flowers.
Out Friday night for a pre-Mother’s day treat of dinner with my husband and daughter.
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Why it’s important to SPEAK UP

When I was in elementary school, I had many encounters with bullies. I was bullied because I was smart, I was quiet, I looked a certain way, and other reasons I will never understand. I remember the dreaded fear I felt on the school bus (one location of the bullying), praying to disappear in thin air. I think most people, more than who would probably admit, have been bullied at least once in their lives. I’ll save the research for another time though. Those experiences have made me a more compassionate, kind, and considerate person. I’ve invested time over the years in working through insecurities stemming from those experiences and I’m in a much better place…or am I?

I’m here to tell you friends there are real live bullies in the workplace. Some of you know this already and cope the best way you can. I’ve encountered bullies at several agencies I’ve worked for. One bully at a work place is too many yet I’ve seen several over the years. I do believe it speaks to a toxic or an emerging toxic work culture if these people are not stopped and allowed to perpetrate their bad behavior.

You might have heard the best way to deal with a bully is to stand up to them head on. Although this can be very difficult emotionally and mentally, I agree to a point. It also takes courage.. We all knew in school if you told the teacher or other adult in the school you may suffer worse consequences, plus that never stopped the bully anyway. I finally dug up the encourage a time or two to stand up to a few bullies in my preteens. I’ve had to do it in my adulthood too.

The stakes are high in the workplace in that there are risks detrimental to staff morale, staff retention, and whatever the agency’s bottom line is. I think any agency should take bullying seriously because the behaviors are toxic. But what if they don’t know it’s happening in their organization? Then, it’s your job to SPEAK UP and tell them.

Last week was rough and tested my emotional boundaries at work. On top of it, I had a strange interaction with a colleague that made me realize she is a bully. After several email exchanges, she sent a very inappropriate email and there was no mistaking the meaning. I decided not to respond because I will not feed into toxicity. Not only that, I forwarded the email to my direct boss who forwarded it to her boss.

Thankfully, I had a therapy session that afternoon and was able to talk it through with my therapist who validated me. That experience was triggering and I needed to separate myself from the emotion which was difficult at the time. She encouraged me to have peace knowing someone else will handle it.

The next day I was able to speak to my boss and my boss’s boss about it. I felt so much better afterward, especially learning this person has displayed a pattern. My boss’s boss plans to address with this person directly. I emphasized the behavior was manipulative and toxic and because of my choice of words, that got their attention. My boss’s boss stated she had never heard me talk like this so she was definitely taking what I said seriously. She took it a step further and apologized to me which I wasn’t expecting. I’ve reported toxic behaviors to leadership at several agencies and maybe one other person apologized. I was very appreciative, relieved, and felt supported.

This person is not going away anytime soon so I’ll be dealing with her again. What she won’t get from me is a response to her email. She will learn I have boundaries and I will not tolerate the toxicity. I truly care about the people I work with, those I supervise, and most importantly myself too much to not SPEAK UP when I know this isn’t right. I hope if in a similar situation this post encourages you to be brave, stand up for yourself, speak up, and seek support.

There will be a Part II on what happens if nothing changes after you SPEAK UP. In the mean time, I hope you have a productive, exciting, love-filled week with pops of fun and joy.

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How my pets adjusted to the move & pictures of the house

This post is a mini tribute to our cats, Beignet and Cannoli, as they transitioned to our new home. SPOILER ALERT…they’ve adjusted just fine. We spent 7 months planning for our new construction home and the move. We made sure our cats needs were considered in the planning. Bryan, my husband, also made sure our cats would be comfortable. If you love cats, or any pets, then you’ll love these pictures. By the way, since becoming a mom to two cats almost 5 years ago, my appreciation for other pets have increased a whole lot too. Pets are great for your mental health.❤🐈🐈

The cats couldn’t wait for us to open the door to our main bedroom to let them in that morning. We don’t allow the cats to sleep in our rooms at night so they scour  the house in the night sans humans. As morning approaches, like an alarm clock, Beignet starts scratching on all doors until someone let’s him in. It’s usually Bryan or myself. Peep the view of the kitchen/ dining area in the background.
The OFFICE: After one year of my office being the couch at the old place, I finally have a space where I can close the door and work. My goal here was light, airy, and comfortable.
Beignet and Cannoli love to visit me in the office throughout the work day. Cats love to look out of windows. These two especially love it when I open the window to let the air in.

Where do they eat?

Cannoli eating a snack. Initially we had the litter box in this corner by the back door and their food/water by the trash can in the kitchen. Bryan kept tripping over their bowls, spilling their water. Since Bryan bought them a much larger litter box that can’t fit in this corner, moving their bowls here worked out great.

Where do they pee and poop? The answer might be controversial.

Bryan bought this sturdy, multipurpose piece of furniture from Amazon. Don’t mind two of my plants which are growing back from some winter damage a couple months ago. The furniture also happens to be the litter box….AND IT’S IN THE LIVING ROOM next to the window, BUT hear me out. We really had no place else for it to go in our open floor plan. And let’s be honest, you probably wouldn’t know it was a litter box if I didn’t tell you. If you’re a cat owner, you probably noticed the floor pad. I’ve added products to keep it smelling fresh on top of and inside the box. I LOVE that you CAN’T see the smaller litter box that fits inside. I clean this area daily.
Settling in for the night. The cats love this rug which I realized after we layed it down, is too SMALL for this space. One day I’ll get a larger rug. In the mean time it stays. We plan to keep this area open and not add a coffee table.
Beignet perched on his tree. We bought some new furniture pieces for our new home and had to buy the cats their own furniture too. They love this cat tree. Two of those soft pieces at the top go to a different piece of cat furniture that goes on a wall.
We kept the shorter, worn one from the old place so they’d have something familiar plus they love it too as you can tell. Cats love to scratch their nails on posts.

Did I mention cats love windows??? 😉

The cats spend a lot time looking out the windows. I can’t blame them…it’s a beautiful view with lots of activity. Peep the new construction in the background.
After 4 weeks, Beignet figured out how to get in that top window. He had a hard time getting down though. Can you tell where the cat litter box is?
Cannoli watching me as I got dressed in my bathroom one morning. Let’s be real, he was just trying to get close to the window.
This is one of Beignet’s favorite spots.
These cats love to lay around and approve of the new navy blue leather recliners.
This was a quiet Sunday morning yesterday with just me and the cats. I was making breakfast while watching church online. Can you spot the cats? They’re both in the space.

I hope you enjoyed the photos. More to come.