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I tested positive

An office photo on Thursday, 12/1. My thoughts, “Oy vey!”

The week before last, I was basking in a Thanksgiving stupor of love and good cheer with family and friends. A few days later, on Monday, I woke up with a faint, dull headache. I was scheduled off work, but decided to catch up from the holiday. I work from home anyway, so no big deal.

About 7 hours later, I felt something building up in my respiratory system and decided to call it a day. My husband, Bryan, had been feeling sick since Sunday. I went to bed early and actually got 9+ hours of sleep. I worked again on Tuesday, but only about 6 hours. Good thing I stocked up on over the counter medications because I decided to take a dose of a generic Nyquil. A COVID-19 test reported a negative result. But things got really interesting early Wednesday morning.

Rewind to the Monday before Thanksgiving. It was my first time attending an in-person, all day conference in almost 3 years. It was a leadership conference at a hotel, targeted for women in Texas state government. I was so excited to be around so many other influential women and practice some of what I learned with my team. On Tuesday, I worked and at some point at the start of my day, my son, Caleb, asked me to help him find the thermometer because he was feeling sick. He said he had been coughing all night and didn’t feel well. I told him to mask up until his symptoms subsided. He had a slight fever and against my advise, decided to go to work. He said he had to go because other people were calling in sick.

A few hours later, I heard Caleb’s voice and learned from Bryan that Caleb’s boss sent him home. We reminded him to wear masks around us and he went on to stay in his room the rest of that day. It was the next day, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, while I was in the grocery store stocking up on medications I thought to call Caleb to tell him to take a COVID-19 test. Admittedly, it didn’t occur to me to ask him to test until I was talking to a friend. When I got home, he said he took it and the result was negative.

On the following Wednesday after Thanksgiving, I was awakened to uncontrollable chills, weakness in my joints, and a pounding headache. I could barely lift myself off the toilet when I went to the restroom. I decided not to work though I signed into my laptop for a few minutes to notify my boss and team I would be out sick. I stayed in bed the whole day, napping mostly in the morning. The chills only occurred one time in the early morning. The headache refused to subside until hours later, even despite medications. The weakness steadily improved.

I woke up groggy Thursday morning, but felt much better than Wednesday. My nose was stuffy and generally felt like I had a cold. After texting with my siblings and learning two of my nieces, my great niece, and my brother in law in Chicago tested positive, I decided to do the COVID-19 test again and WHOILA! The result was positive. Since my symptoms felt more like a cold, I proceeded to work in my office for most of the day. I went to bed early and did it again on Friday.

Both Bryan and Caleb took the test (Caleb twice) and their results were negative. I’m doubtful I’m the only one in the house who has/had COVID-19 and am convinced Caleb brought it in the house. However, I had been out in public a few days before Thanksgiving too. I let our friends know so they could be aware. And actually, the Friday after Thanksgiving my friend let me know her husband was sick, but with none of the symptoms we ended up having. Our symptoms didn’t start until days later. I’ve been quarantining since the positive result last Thursday and have since taken two more tests, both were positive.

My natural instinct is to try to figure out how I got it, but it really doesn’t matter. My main concern now is recovering and making sure I don’t pass this on so we are not playing a game of hot potato with this virus. Bryan has been sleeping on the couch which has been the hardest because we are each other’s cuddle buddy. It feels weird being separate in the same house. Elise doesn’t come near me. She’s been masking up in the house and walks around with disinfectant wipes. Caleb has a lingering cough and is the most reckless among us. We told him he needs to go to a drive through clinic tomorrow.

For the past almost 3 years, I’ve wondered if the fate of most would be to eventually catch the virus. Now that I got it, I do think it’s a bummer especially not knowing the long term effects considering my medical history. However, I’m thankful my symptoms are mild, which I attribute to the vaccines. My doctor also gave me a pneumonia and flu shot in September. It all helps.

In the mean time, I will retire to bed early tonight. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Let me know if you or someone you know had the virus and what the symptoms were like.

Bryan being the trooper that he is! Nights without my cuddle buddy is the worst.

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Silver Fox Anniversary

In September, Bryan and I celebrated a HUGE milestone – 25 years of marriage. Neither of us “feel like” it’s been that long, so we believe that’s a good sign. Unfortunately, my mother in law passed away a few days before our anniversary, so we didn’t get to celebrate as we had hoped. However, I’ve spent some time reflecting on how grateful I am for our union. To have a life partner who you love and respect and who is your rock is a beautiful thing. After all these years, I still get excited to hear his voice and I nearly swooned when he recently told me I’m his soul mate.

Marriage is an incredible amount of inner and outer work.

In honor of our silver anniversary, in this post I will share 25 nuggets I’ve learned about marriage, of which I wrote in my journal. These nuggets are meant to be short and real. This is not an exhaustive list. This list isn’t in any particular order. I didn’t identify these particular nuggets to boast about how we’ve mastered them. Marriage is a lot of work and there are nuggets we’re actively working on. I may expand on some of these nuggets in future posts.

  1. Discuss, plan, and execute the vision of your lives together. Revisit as often as necessary.
  2. You make the commitment to be married daily, not just on the wedding day.
  3. You choose to love every day, every minute.
  4. You must be intentional about your actions.
  5. You must apologize as often as necessary.
  6. You must decide if you want to be right or want peace.
  7. Compromise, compromise, compromise.
  8. Sex keeps you connected.
  9. See things from your partner’s perspective sometimes.
  10. Hold each other accountable, but extend grace often.
  11. Seek to understand, not to be right.
  12. Each person will change and evolve over time, over and again, but the core of who you fell in love with is still there.
  13. Celebrate all the wins, big and small.
  14. Don’t take each other for granted.
  15. Even in seasons where small children (or children with disabilities) take priority, nurture your marriage.
  16. Your are each other’s best friend.
  17. Do simple and kind gestures to show your partner you care. Learn their love language.
  18. Plan and review finances together.
  19. Accept your partner for who they are.
  20. Discuss marital problems only with each other, a therapist, and/or your pastor.
  21. Speak highly of your partner to others.
  22. Pray for your marriage.
  23. Pray for your sex life.
  24. Make time for sex.
  25. Make time to spend time together.

What did I miss? I’m sure a lot. The thing about this list is that we may have mastered some nuggets at certain points in our lives, but may need to work on them again in another circumstance. As a gardener, I see marriage as a constant tending to, refining, fertilizing, and pruning. Life is not linear and perfect. It’s messy, unscripted, painful, joyful, and all consuming. At least mine is. Until next time.

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11-Month Post Surgery Update

The holiday season is upon us and before the year ends in a blur, I’m doing some self-reflection. There’s something to be said for memorializing one’s life. I gained a new appreciation for maintaining my blog while watching a youtuber passionately explain how important it is for everyone to document their lives in some way so as not to forget and to get the lessons. I wholeheartedly believe this. Not long ago, I was rereading my previous posts and in Take a leap, which I wrote as a mid-year reflection, I reminded myself of my “whys” and to keep going. My past me reminded the present (at the time) me of what the future me needed to do. A couple of months ago while in Chicago, my niece and I got on the topic of my blog and that conversation encouraged me to keep it going. So here I am again.

At the beginning of 2022, I was optimistic about my hysterectomy recovery. It feels like so long ago with all that’s happened this year. In my post Feeding my soul: 6 months post surgery, I shared some updates on my progress. I will keep the same format in this post by focusing on my surgical recovery, menopause symptoms, and general health.

Surgical recovery – In January, my gynecologist completed a laparoscopic hysterectomy with oophorectomy (ovary removal) on my body. My uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries were removed. Translation: I no longer have these organs in my body. In the months leading up to the surgery, I thoroughly (so I thought) researched the procedure, but after the fact, I’m still learning about the implications of the surgery. The main takeaways are that I’ve healed well internally and the scaring from the 4 incisions are fading. However, I didn’t fully conceptualize how my body would adjust to the missing organs. Let that sink in. I do have more lower back pain than anticipated, especially within a few months post surgery. I didn’t realize my uterus and ovaries were supporting my frame and lower back. I’m more mindful about not overdoing it with exercise and other activities. That’s not to say I don’t overdo it sometimes, because I definitely do. However, I make it a point to soak in the tub and allow myself some extra rest whenever my lower back does hurt.

Menopause symptoms – Not much has changed here. I do get hot flashes throughout the day, but I still think they are manageable. I’ve learned to dress in layers and I keep a fan near me or on as much as possible. My husband, Bryan, says the ceiling fan irritates his sinuses so he’ll turn them all off. I have to gently remind him my body NEEDS the fan. But I do have a general sensitivity to being too hot or too cold, so sometimes a fan is too much. I’ve experienced cloudy thinking for years and what’s helped this last year is drinking an expresso or cappuccino a few times a week. In my research on the best foods for women during menopause, I learned that expressos are beneficial to women in menopause due to the antioxidants. I find that drinking one during the work day keeps me alert and more focused. Who knew that it wouldn’t be until I reached my late forties I would gain an appreciation for a form of coffee? I’ve spent practically my whole adult life not liking or drinking coffee at all. But there is a difference between coffee and expresso and my taste buds and body prefers the later. I enjoy them a few days a week because I’ve also noticed too much caffeine can ignite the dreaded hot flashes. I would probably drink more if I didn’t forget to make them by 2pm. My rule is if I don’t drink it by 2pm, then I’ll forego because I don’t want the caffeine to interfere with my sleep.

General Health – In the summer and fall, I’ve met with my oncologist, primary care physician (PCP), pulmonologist, and neurologist. That’s a lot of specialists for this little ole body. Overall, from an oncology and general medicine standpoint, I’m healthy. My blood work is impressive – all “between the lines”, as my oncologist would say. However, I’ve gained a new diagnosis – asthma and there is an outstanding issue that seems to be a residual consequence of the surgery (occasional stuttering) that needs to be addressed….hence the neurologist. I will have an MRI in a couple of weeks. Also, I’ve gained 10 pounds since the surgery. I’m not happy about it, but I know it’s a consequence of the hysterectomy. My PCP thinks my metabolism is low and she’s probably right. I’ve been working on extending myself some extra grace and have been intentional about focusing on other markers of health. I still continue to eat healthy, watch my portions, exercise 5-6 days a week (dance, yoga, HIIT, weights, stretch), and educate myself on what the right formula is for me. I refuse to give up, and though I could, I don’t want to engage in any extreme tactics. One thing I do not have under control and what I’ve been struggling with for years is the sleep. Perhaps that is the secret sauce that may help my hormones. I have developed a lovely nightly bed time routine, which includes filling my scented oil diffusers, lighting a candle, listening to music (Neo-Soul or meditation mostly), pampering my face, showering or bathing, and putting on one of my favorite lotions. Also, a big change is once I sleep, I tend to stay asleep (except for going to the restroom to pee); whereas in the past, I used to awaken in the middle of the night ruminating about things like work.

Overall – My body is adjusting and I’m still learning what will work best to keep me functioning at optimal levels. The surgery was the right choice for me. And as a 49-year old woman with no period, I have to say it’s quite empowering. I didn’t realize how much planning for, being on, and caring for my period occupied so much of my life. Now, I have other things to occupy my time. Additionally, I’ve been undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts. I suppose this is common in mid-life. Despite no longer having a uterus which is the epicenter of creativity, my creative juices have been flowing. More to come on that.

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Giving Thanks

My Thanksgiving plate: smoked turkey, green beans, macaroni and cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, dressing, mixed greens (collard, mustard, turnip), potato salad, and cranberry sauce. I made all the sides, except for the greens beans (made by our friends). My husband smoked the turkey and a pork butt. Everything was delicious!

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving in the U.S. and I’m carrying the gratitude with me into this week. It’s true there is something to be thankful for every single day, even every moment, no matter how small. The Thanksgiving holiday reminds me to slow down and count my blessings. Thanksgiving kicks off my favorite holiday season.

Last year we drove to Chicago and spent the time with our family. That was so special because our time together is precious especially after my mom passed away. I think we all sense our time on this earth is limited and so we’re more intentional about making the time for each other. I like to say that I’ve been fueled up (with love) after those visits.

My nieces, siblings, and kids. Thanksgiving 2021
My daughter, Elise, and I Thanksgiving Day 2022

This year, we celebrated the holiday with friends. So many people have moved to Texas from other places so it’s not uncommon to not have family near. I was excited about cooking for friends. And it dawned on me this would actually be the first Thanksgiving in our new home. Being in a new home is and of itself something to be thankful for. We moved into our freshly built home about a year and 8 months ago so I’m not sure how long I can call it new. Whatever the case, since the pandemic we haven’t really had people over.

I made things easier on myself by keeping the menu simple. My husband, Bryan, decided to smoke the meats (turkey breast, turkey legs, and pork butt), which means I was responsible for cooking the sides.

The PREP

We began prepping the weekend before Thanksgiving by taking the meats out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge. On Tuesday, Bryan seasoned the pork and brined the turkey parts. I chopped up all my vegetables for each dish and put them in baggies that I labeled. I also made a big pot of liquid gold aka turkey broth. I also roasted about 10 sweet potatoes for my mashed sweet potatoes and sweet potato pies. In my grocery shopping, I purchased some time saving items like preboiled eggs, herb croutons for the dressing, and cornbread mix. And something I’ve never done for previous Thanksgivings most likely because I didn’t have the space was use my CROCK POT. I had her set up on the island.

This Ninja cooked up my greens and smoked turkey like a charm.

It was certainly a blessing to serve a bounty of food and be surrounded with loved ones and friends. Growing up in poverty, I’m reminded of how far my family has come to make a better life for ourselves and our children. What we didn’t have in financial means, we were rich in faith, hope, and love. The part of Thanksgiving that I will take with me everyday is to often show appreciation to the people who love and show up for me, to extend extra care and grace to others, to be encouraging, to demonstrate compassion to myself (first) and others, to help where I can, and to reflect more on what I do have rather than what I don’t.

What are you thankful for?

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Soups On: Fall Favorites

It’s been a while since my last post, but rest assured, I’ve been busy doing the things that feed my soul (pun intended) and giving myself some extra grace. These last few months have been rough on my family. My beautiful mother in law passed away in September and my brother in law has been ill most of 2022.

Like many of you, I wear multiple hats as a working mom, wife, caregiver, sister, friend, boss, etc. Information on self-care is so prevalent nowadays and it’s no wonder because self-care is essential to mental well being. I believe this so much that my whole blog is about self-care. You may hear about common self-care activities: take a bubble bath, journal, go shopping, exercise, get a massage, get a manicure/pedicure, read a book, take yourself out to dinner, sleep, etc.

Self-care can actually be anything that fills you up rather than depletes you. You don’t have to do a bunch of things all the time. You don’t have to spend money you don’t have. Self-care is also not just about doing things which can be exhausting, especially when you’re under stress. Self-care can be about being: self-compassionate, authentic, aware, quiet, at peace, etc. Self-care can be about choosing one thing in a moment.

I personally have my “go to” self-care activities that fill me up (pun intended). One thing I love to do for self-care is cook. And I just don’t cook anything..I’m intentional about cooking healthy and nutritious food. It fills me up (pun intended) because I’m being creative, concentrating on the food rather than the problem, giving my taste buds and my family something to look forward to, and will be filling my body with a bountiful medley of deliciousness which will bring about a host of other benefits.

When we returned from Chicago in early October, I started a 10-Day Soup Challenge brought about by my favorite people at www.simplegreensmoothies.com.And this challenge couldn’t have come at a better time because I ate many of the calorie dense Chicago delicacies (pizza, Italian beef, Chinese food, gyros) and was in need of a reset.

Something different about this challenge is that I didn’t make it to all 10 soups. I was getting back to my home and work routine, so I was a little busy. In fact, I didn’t even do the challenge for the 10 days. I completed 8 recipes so that means there are still 2 recipes I didn’t get to. I started the challenge a day late and it probably took me 3 weeks to complete 8 recipes, BUT I DID IT. Now you get to enjoy my photos which I took myself. You can find the recipes on the http://www.simplegreensmoothies.com website. I blogged about my first soup challenge here: Bring on the soups

Keep in mind, I’ve modified the recipes in different ways and it’s been too long ago for me to remember what I modified for each one. My general approach to recipes is to use them as guides. You can do that when you know what you’re doing.

I hope these soups inspire you to cook more of your meals at home, try new recipes, and eat well.

  1. Potato Comfort Soup
  2. Spiced Lentil Soup
  3. Bieler’s Blended Vegetable Soup
  4. 1-Pot Vegetable Soup
  5. Vegan Tomato Soup
  6. Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup
  7. Thai Coconut Soup
  8. Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

1. Potato Comfort soup with kale croutons- This is a favorite I’ve made many times and served with homemade garlic bread. The added cauliflower was pleasantly sneaky.
2.Spiced Lentil Soup – I first tried red lentils in last fall’s soup challenge and I’ve been hooked every since. Delicious.
3. Bieler’s Blended Vegetable Soup – This was a new recipe and it surprised me. Never have I ever blended zucchini, green beans, and celery with a few spices before. I served with a scrumptious salad on the side. This one was a favorite, along with the other 3 blended soups, particularly because I could sip from a mug and consume all the nutritious goodness rather quickly.
4 1-Pot Vegetable soup -This reminded me of the “vegan” chicken noodle from last November, no tofu in this recipe. It was very good.
5. Vegan tomato soup – This was a repeat recipe from last fall’s challenge and it was just as good this time. Pictured are the vegetables simmering before I blended them. I get excited thinking about all the nutrition in this pot: zucchini, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, tomatoes, and spices. This blended soup was another favorite.
6. Slow cooker minestrone – This was a new version of minesteone that pleasantly surprised me. The butternut squash added an irresistible sweetness.
7. Thai Coconut soup – This is an old favorite that I’ve made a few times over the years. However, this was my first time using frozen zucchini spirals. They made my life so much easier in that moment. Sometimes, you need a break. It was also very comforting.
8. Vegetarian tortilla soup – This was a new version of tortilla soup that surprised me. I’ve never cooked a soup with actual tortilla chips (used store bought) in the broth. This was the 4th blended soup that was one of my favorites. I topped it off with my homemade oven baked tortilla chips & a side of one bean taco.
Of course, I used my homemade liquid gold aka vegetable broth in each recipe, which added even more robust flavor and nutrition.
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Soup’s up

You know I love a good food challenge and it’s the perfect time to bring in the fall season with soups filled with bountiful ingredients. Last month, my friends at Simple Green Smoothies sent me an email with an invitation to participate in a free 10-day soup challenge.

I had so much fun last fall, I decided to do it again. Plus, it will be a great reset after a long weekend of visiting with family out of state. Since I’m on the road traveling back from Chicago to Austin, I might be a day behind, but I’ll be posting my luscious soups once I get set up.

In the mean time, you can read about all 10 delicious soups I prepared from the previous soup challenge Here.

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Legacy

Last week my family got on the road from Texas to Illnois to say our final goodbyes to my beautiful mother in law (MIL)…my husband, Bryan’s, mom. Though it was a sad occassion, we were excited about seeing our families.

When I think about my 25+ year relationship with Carol as my MIL, the word that first comes to mind is easy. I know people who have had, or cuurently have, strained and contentious relationships with their MILs or in laws. I’ve never had that with Carol. It’s been an easy relationship.

What I’ve loved about Carol since I met her is she enjoyed sharing family stories of how Bryan grew up. In fact, she was always sharing information. I appreciated that very much because it helped me with perspective on why Byran was the way he was, especially earlier on in our marriage.

Carol was also very warm and nurturing. She was the epitome of the family matriarch. Like my mom, Solange, who passed away in 2017, Carol was a worrier and it seemed to get worse the older she got. I wished both of them could be free of all that worrying.

Carol loved her family and I know she loved me. Though it was sad we all gathered for her homegoing, this weekend was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had with Bryan’s side of the family in a long time. We gathered at an aunt’s house after the funeral on Friday for the repass and again on Saturday at an uncle’s house.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching my children playing with their cousins, especially my son, Caleb. It was too many cousins to keep count, especially the little ones. They were all over Caleb. They were fighting over who was next to ride on his back. They also enjoyed toppling over him.

On Saturday evening, we spent time over my second oldest sister, Gina’s house with my other sinblings and our children, helping celebrate niece’s birthday (Gina’s youngest daughter). Since my mom passed away, my siblings and I have been intentional about seeing each other more and staying connected.

My other niece (my oldest sister, Mylene’s daughter) had her first baby, Serenity, a month ago. I fell in love with that little tiny angel. Serenity would be my mom’s first great grand baby.

I’m still processing the beauty and genuine positive vibes of spending time with both sides of our family on this short trip. Bryan and I have experienced both of our parent’s passing away. We were talking about being orphans in a way. Our parents’ loss reminds us of how crucial it is for us to remain connected to our families because life is so short.

Like my mom, Solange, Carol’s grand children and great grand children are the legacy she left here on earth. She passed on her love for family, taking care of people, and actually being loving. She didn’t judge. She just loved and sometimes that may have been to a fault because she never put herself first. And all of her family benefited from her selflessness.

As Carol’s daughter in law, I was a recipient of her love and of the love she poured into raising Bryan. I want the love to keep flowing and growing so my children can have that love fill them up, especially on days where they may feel alone, sad, or whatever.

I will work on being an even better nurturer because of Carol’s example. I will do my part to ensure her legacy makes her proud.

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5 things I never thought I’d do to save money

For most of 2022, there’s been a lot of media coverage on inflation and the rising costs of groceries, in particular. In 2020, when we were planning for our new construction home, we accomplished some major financial goals after living on one income for 3 years as a result of my husband, Bryan’s, disability. In the last year and a half, we’ve been living very comfortably in our new home and have not been as vigilant with preserving our finances as we had in 2020. And we need to because we have other goals (we have a child who’s in her last year of high school in the house) and the costs of most things have increased so much. Just because you think you an afford something doesn’t mean you should. It’s time to reign in on our spending.

I’ve read many articles and have seen loads of videos on what to do to save money and live frugally. I’ve engaged in various strategies to save money for years, but I thought it would be fun to focus on things I’d thought I’d NEVER DO to save money. We all do things that work for us and it’s taken me some time to buy into some other activities. I started at least 3 of these activities in 2022.

  1. Buy generic or store brand items – Over the years on my blog I’ve shared my love for preparing healthy meals for myself and my family. In many areas of the country (not just in Texas), it can be expensive in up front costs to eat healthy, especially if you purchase solely organic foods. I realize it’s all in how you see it (pay for healthy foods now, or don’t, and pay in medical bills later). However, you can save money on eating healthy and one way is to reduce, or not buy unless on sale, name brand items. I’ve since learned many name brand items are made in the same factories as generic items and even have the same ingredients. Some store brands even have organic store brand items. If you aren’t sure, you can compare the labels while you’re shopping like I often do.
  2. Grocery shop at multiple stores and stop shopping at some – On my quest to find the best deals, I’ve learned I need to branch out to other stores. I’ve even stopped buying at certain stores because I’ve learned I can find a better deal elsewhere. Sorry Target, but I haven’t thought about buying groceries from you in years. Target used to be a store a frequented several days a week when my children were younger, but I’ve since branched out to save some money. Currently, I shop at about 5 different stores during the month to ensure we’re getting the best grocery deals.
  3. Freeze vegetable scraps for broth – I’ve been sharing my food on this blog for years, so it’s no surprise I make my own broths (chicken, vegetable, beef) when I can. However, I have to admit, a few years ago, I used to make broth weekly; whereas, I’ve slowed down in the past couple of years. It’s convenient to buy store bought broths at the grocery store, but have you seen those prices lately? Broth is so easy to make so there is no excuse. One thing I’ve been doing this year to not only ensure I keep broth stocked, but to also avoid wasting food, is saving the vegetable scraps in my freezer rather than throwing them away in my normal meal prep activities. I’m talking about the ends of cut onions, the tips and skins of carrots after I clean them, celery ends, and herbs on the brink of death. Now, they all just go in the freezer bag and when full, I’ll cook some nutritious and tasty broth.
  4. Shop at thrift stores – This one has to be the most surprising activity I’ve done because I’ve never been a thrifter. If it weren’t for my daughter, Elise, asking me to take her to Goodwill on day, I would never do it. I won’t go into what some may perceive as my UPPITY attitude about thrift shopping….just know I’m converted… to a degree. I know how to find great bargains at non-thrift stores. I’ve purchased sweaters for $5 dollars at a mainstream store, so why do I need used clothes and other items from stores such as Goodwill? You catch up on my blog post Shopping deals during COVID-19 to read about the epic deals I got at the beginning of the pandemic. One thing I’ve learned to appreciate at thrift stores is the variety of brands you can find.
  5. Propagate my own plants – I love plants. My home is filled with beautiful plans. I’m probably at 70+ container plants in my home and another 20+ in containers on my back patio. One thing I’ve learned is that plants are expensive. By the time I buy the plants, the pots (I refuse to leave a plant in the nursery container I purchased them in), soil, and fertilizer, it’ll cost a pretty penny (it’s EXPENSIVE!!!). So I got to thinking how can I get more plants by spending very little to zero money? I began following some plants groups on social media and I learned it’s so easy to create more plants from existing plants. It’s a DREAM COME TRUE. Not only that, since I’m a generous person, I love that I can share my love for plants with my family and friends by gifting them my plant babies when they come visit.

See below for my photos and more ideas on how to save money.

Store brand items in my pantry from different stores. Store brands have become an essential part of my grocery supply. Some store brands also have their own organic line of products like O Organics sold at Randall’s.
I made this delicious cauliflower, chicken ALFREDO with the Sprout’s brand Cavatappi pasta from the previous photo. I boiled, then pureed in my blender a head of cauliflower. I added nutritional yeast, pasta water, vegetable broth (see below photo), and lots of spices to the cauliflower in the blender to make the base of the “alfredo” sauce.
Liquid gold aka vegetable broth. Over a month or so, I would add any vegetable scraps to a freezer bag I kept in the freezer. Once I had enough vegetables to fill the bags, I loaded them in a pot with water, garlic, and other aromatics for broth. I simmered for about 8-10 hours. Another way I save money is by saving empty jars of marinara, pickled foods, mayonnaise, etc. They come in handy for my smoothies and general food storage.
I froze some of the broth in 1 cup servings in this freezer tray I purchased from Amazon in the fall 2021 for my 10-day soup challenge which you can read about here: Bring on the soups. I use it to freeze so much more than soups like broths and pureed fruits. This allows me to keep my supply longer and avoid wastes. Once frozen, I remove the cubes from the tray, wrap the individual cubes in parchment paper, place all in one freezer bag, and store back in the freezer.
I bought this cute little orange dress from Goodwill and wore it on Easter Sunday 2022 with a denim jacket I’ve had for 5+ years. This is a quality dress from the brand Maeve. I researched the brand online while in the store before I bought it because I wanted to justify the cost….it was $20 which is typically more expensive than other dresses at Goodwill.
This is another top I bought from Goodwill sometime last year. I love this color. I wore this to my medical clinic on Friday (yesterday) and received several compliments. The brand is New York and Company and I probably paid $5.
July 2022 – Babies from my gigantic spider plant. It took the larger ones in the back about 1 month for them to get to this size. To my dismay, none of the smaller babies survived. I don’t think they liked the jars. All glasses purchased from Dollar Tree.
September 2022 – These babies are growing up. Same plants as the larger ones in the previous photo. They love it outside.
This is my second batch of Sunflowers from seeds. They grew really quickly…a few weeks. I’ve become obsessed with sunflowers and want them in my landscape throughout the fall season. I have more sunflowers and gladiolus in nursery pots on the back patio.

What do you do to save money? Feel free to comment to let me know.

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Hey September

Is it just me or are the days going by faster? It seems as though I blinked and August was over. Growing up in Chicago, I always got the “je ne sais quoi” feeling inside of my being when September rolled around. September marked the beginning of fall…one of my favorite seasons in Chicago because of the crispness in the air, vibrant colors of the trees as they change and leaves fall, the beginning of the school year, and the coziness factor. Here in Texas, it’s still HOT. The temperatures are expected to be in the mid nineties at least for this upcoming week. Believe me, I’m ready for the eighties and it doesn’t help that we got a small taste of a cool front last week with the rain. Now, it’s back to being what it usually is… HOT. We probably won’t get a break until October.

My body still craves everything that comes with fall in Chicago despite living in Texas for 25 years. September is a bittersweet month for me because not only is it my wedding anniversary month and the month I moved to Texas, but it’s also the month I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma – Breast cancer. I wrote a little about the “bitter” 5 years ago, in the post Oh September. I wrote it months after losing my mom and a year after my diagnosis.

Every September since my diagnosis, I navigate the joy of celebrating another anniversary with my husband, Bryan, the memories of living in Texas since the day after our wedding, along with the sheer fear of hearing those words from my doctor for the first time (you have breast cancer) and the anxiety of doing my annual mammogram at the end of the month. I can say that with each year that passes, the bitter is less bitter. It’s not necessarily that time heals all wounds because losing my mom is like a wound that will never be healed. However, it hurts less and acceptance settles in more with each year.

I need to give myself credit for making many strides over the years. January 2022 made 5 years of being cancer free. It’s been over a year since I started taking intravenous mediation to prepare my body for a hysterectomy. And it’s been 8 months since my hysterectomy surgery.

This September, I’m choosing to focus on new possibilities and opportunities, gratitude for my blessings, contentment, cooler temperatures on the horizon, and personal growth.

What are you looking forward to this September?

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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.