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He loved us with his whole ❤️

Today, on Easter Sunday, I’m finally able to gather my thoughts to blog about unexpectedly losing our beloved Beignet on Wednesday. What we thought was a simple trip to the vet to get some medicine because he was clearly not feeling well, turned into us saying our last goodbyes to our sweet, mischievous kitty.

Beignet cozied up on the couch.

It came on so quickly. While she was getting ready for school, my daughter noticed Beignet could only take a few steps and would sit down. I picked him up and noticed he was very light…he had lost a lot of weight. Every time I put him down, he would immediately lay down. My son expressed his concerns about Beignet’s lethargic behavior. My husband got an appointment scheduled for later in the morning.

Beignet and Cannoli wanting to get into the office, but I threw them out and closed the door cause they had been fighting.

We went from worrying about if we could afford whatever treatment he might need to learning not only he had a knot in his stomach, he had an advanced illness which we didn’t know about. The doctor wasn’t sure if he would survive the surgeries, let alone the recovery and treatment that would follow. We decided to put him down so he wouldn’t be in any more pain.

Beignet inspecting the windows in the new house

Beignet was the type of cat that was always into something. We were calling his name constantly. It’s so quiet now. Beignet was the dominant cat in relation to his brother, Cannoli. We got them both when they were about 4 weeks old and this year makes 6 years since they became a part of our family. They definitely had different personalities. Beignet desperately wanted your attention ALL THE TIME. Cannoli was more subtle in his approach.

Beignet enjoying the window on a rainy day.

I used to joke with my husband that I needed him to show me the type of love Beignet showed me. Beignet would sleep on my shoes, keep my office chair warm with his body, try to sip my bath water, usher me around the house, give me tail hugs, and gaze into my eyes. He was also a pain because he would chew on things he shouldn’t like some of my plants, any type of string, and plastic things.

He would never poop in the litter box. He would poop around it, but never in it. We tried every cat litter around. At one time, we had four litter boxes around the house. Then, I gave up eventually. We would be sure to keep bathroom doors closed because something about a hard surface floor made him want to poop on it. The kids have been greeted by a turd a time or two in their bathroom. That’ll teach them for keeping the door open.

Beignet asleep on my office chair again.

I cried so much and so hard while saying goodbye. In fact, we all did and the tears still come and go. My mourning was no different than losing a person I loved. He was our fur baby, a member of our family for almost six years. We raised him from four weeks old. We all loved him so much and thought we would have at least ten more years with him. We know Beignet loved us with his whole heart. Beignet knew we were his and I got to thank him for loving us the way he did.

Oh Beignet

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For the caregivers in the house

In January 2020, I blogged about being brave and accepting the realities of my life, which at the time was to be the caregiver to my husband, Bryan. MAN, have the tables turned because for the past two weeks and until I’m recovered from my surgery, Bryan has once again been my ROCK, my caregiver. Honestly, the tone of that Post was touching on “Poor me”, but I’m humbled again by Bryan taking care of me in my sickest moments. And I have to add his brain health and memory have improved tremendously since this mysterious (to us) chronic illness landed in our lives roughly five years ago.

We have repeatedly lived out the theme of “in sickness and in health” from our wedding vowels. I’m jokingly losing count of our illnesses/conditions, but between the both of us, here’s a sample: brain surgeries, hydrocephalus, knee surgery, breast cancer, surgeries, and treatment, wisdom teeth removal, hysterectomy, and menopause.

Could I have imagined all we’ve been through thus far while raising our family? No, but we’ve been married for twenty four years and life happens. I’m not bitter or disillusioned either. This is marriage. We love each other and will do whatever we can for the other person. I’m deeply grateful I have a partner who is devoted to me and our children. We will continue to take turns being the caregiver for as many times as we need to for the rest of our lives.

So if you’re a caregiver of any age, to any one, I know what that means. I encourage you to be brave. Stay encouraged. You are the best person to care for your loved one. But take time for yourself. I know this sounds cliche, but it’s so true.

Normal things people don’t think of count towards self-care like breathing, taking a warm shower, cooking (or buying) healthy meals to nourish yourself while you care for others, drinking water, calling/texting a friend, unplugging, listening to inspiring music, researching support groups online, and taking time off work, to name a few.

If you’re a caregiver, you’re not alone. I’d love to hear how you take care of yourself. Please share any tips for me and Bryan as we embark on this journey together.

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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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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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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.

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Home stretch of our new construction build

Preparing for our new home has sucked up most of my mental space and time these last few months. I’ve not been able to blog as much which I’m bummed about. Interwoven with work, I’ve spent most days packing, visiting the house, and planning with a little shopping in between. I’ve been on YouTube incessantly watching “Empty House Tours”, interior design videos, and the like.

We started packing in January so we would be ahead of the game. Since I despise moving, I definitely didn’t want to torture myself further by waiting until the last minute. Our two children have boxes piled in their rooms too. The downside of packing so early is our cats have been terrorizing some of the boxes – peeling off the labels and digging holes. Now, they both just seem overwhelmed with all the boxes and new packages. They know something is up.

Beignet having a serious talk with himself and my new purchases.
Beignet atop of Bryan’s new side table in the midst of the garage mess. Cannoli walking towards me.
Kitchen metamorphosis. LPC

If you’ve never had a home built, it is an exciting and fun process. It might not be for everyone because it’s a long process requiring attention to detail and planning. Our process has taken about 6 months. An added bonus is in that time, our credit scores have increased substantially which puts us in a better position at closing than when we started.

Some people may want/need to move in more quickly. If you have time, a new construction build may be the option for you. It was the best option for us although it wasn’t in our initial plans.

Once you’ve determined affordability for your budget and the best location, the main things you need are patience and imagination.

You need patience for the process – anywhere from 4 months to years depending on the type of home.  There are also many decisions you need to make (depending on your builder) which will challenge your patience,  especially considerating your budget. We signed our new construction home contract in August 2020.

Me on our freshly cemented foundation….maybe not so fresh😉. LPC

Your healthy imagination is needed to help you envision your home. There are usually model homes built with all the bells and whistles (i.e., upgrades). Those upgrades come with individual prices and they can add up quickly. It’s up to you to know and stick to your budget.

Freshly laid ceramic tile. LPC

We’ve been fortunate to have experienced this process with our first home circa 2000. With life’s twists and turns, we sold our home during the housing recession of 2007/2008. My husband, Bryan, was laid off work from the job that brought us to Texas. Things were tight for a couple of years before deciding to sell. Although it was painful, it was the best decision we made for our family. For almost 14 years, we’ve been renting a duplex.

Renting isn’t bad when it fits your needs. I’ve heard the perspective that renting is like throwing money away. It’s only been recently I’ve been hearing more advice to the contrary. I was tired of being house poor. I was tired of worrying about how we were going to pay the full mortgage each month. Although we downsized, renting a duplex was the best option because it was what we could afford and eventually allowed us to live below our means. Looking back, it was some semblance of the lifestyle we had been living in the house in that the rental had a huge back yard for our children to play, the same amount of bedrooms, and a garage for storage.

Master bath under construction. LPC

Our lives have evolved so much in 14 years and now it’s time to move on. In a few years, we’ll be empty nesters which was a very important factor in planning for our house. Our children are 15 and 20 years old. This will be our retirement home. I’m hesitant to call it our “forever” home as I often hear on home improvement shows.

My favorite space. LPC

What side of town do we want to live? How much space will we need? Do we want to walk up and down stairs? How much yard do we need? What rooms/features are essential for our lifestyle? Which builder will maximize our needs/wants within our budget?

With so much to decide in the planning, we are so pleased our structural and design selections have come together beautifully. You’re just not sure because you pick your selections at one time (or more depending on your builder) from pictures, swats, and samples. Also, the budget is the main factor in making the selections.

Once we ruled out other builders and selected “the one”, we selected a floor plan which was not the model home. We made extra efforts to view this particular floor plan to ensure it “SPOKE” to us and was OUR home. We found the floor plan at different communities outside of ours and made arrangements with that communities’ sales office to view.

We chose a single story, open floor plan with 3 bedrooms, a study, a large kitchen open to the dining and living rooms with a laundry room, pantry, and 2 car garage.

The boxes are multiplying

In less than a week, we’ll be closing. We encountered a plumbing problem at the walk through which delayed our closing by a few days. I’ll share what happened in a future blog post. I plan to post more detail about this new construction process in the coming months. I’ll even share video footage I recorded. I’m determined to learn how to record great videos!

The day after the walk through, 3/17/2021 🤯😱

Stay tuned…

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Top things February 2021 had me doing for the first time in my LIFE

The 3rd month of 2021 feels more like the 6th month considering everything that’s happened in the world thus far. I do welcome March with open arms and hope for subdued weather, productive packing, a smooth move to our new home, a healthy family, and reconnecting with friends. If you don’t know about the winter storm in Texas the week before last, you can catch up in my blog posts Is this Texas? and Is this Texas Part Deux? It took about a week for me to process what happened. Just when I thought I experienced mostly everything in life, I was wrong. Here are the top things February 2021 had me doing for the first time in my FREAKING LIFE!!!

  1. Dress for freezing weather inside the house – We went without electricity for over 50 hours. For us, no electricity means no stove and other electrical appliances, no heat, and no hot water. Everything in the duplex operates on electricity which translates to we were sorely at a disadvantage. Some homes have gas and electricity which will be the case in our new house. The weather was in the single digits outside. What I know about the cold having grown up in Chicago (where winters are long and miserable) is to LAYER UP. I put on so many clothes at one point it was uncomfortable to lay in bed under the blankets so I had to take some off.
  2. Collect snow to fill buckets and the bath tub – Well, it was my husband, Bryan, who filled the buckets. We picked up on that tip from Facebook and talking to our neighbors who were in the same situation. One thing about a natural disaster or any stressful situation, is that your creative juices start flowing at some point. Mine kicked in early. On the 3rd day of no electricity the water shut off. This means we could not flush toilets, wash the dirty dishes in the sink, do laundry, wash hands, take a shower….YOU GET IT. The purpose of collecting the snow was to help with flushing toilets. Within an hour of no water, my son said he had to do a NUMBER 2. Of all the weeks, he decided to consume protein shakes daily so he could bulk up his physique. It wasn’t pretty and the snow didn’t help. My husband cleaned up the mess.
  3. Poop in a plastic bag – I probably should have included a disclaimer that this post might be a little TMI (too much information), but since I already typed #2, I might as well continue along in the same vein. I was really worried about not having water to flush the toilets, especially after my son’s experience. The snow wasn’t working out. My bowel movements are very regular since I eat lots of produce and fiber. Bryan had been searching for gallons of water for a couple of days now. All the stores were sold out. I slowed down my water intake hoping that would cause my bodily functions to slow down. It worked for a little while but then the inevitable happened. It was right before that moment the idea came to me to poop in double plastic bags. I thought it would be less messy and it was. I was a little grossed out but I did what I had to do. I shared my experience with my family and made sure they had access to plastic bags, disposable gloves, cleansing wipes, and disinfecting wipes.
  4. Melt snow and ice – One things for sure…we were trying to make the best use of the snow. The electricity came on at 11:54 pm late Wednesday (electricity went out Monday afternoon). A few hours earlier, the water was shut off. We had plenty of individual bottles of water; however, none of the stores had gallons of water or water PERIOD. In order to wash the dishes that were in the sink, I gathered all the ice cubes from the freezer compartment and boiled them. I successfully washed the dishes. We boiled the snow for the toilets. It was a smooth operation: collect snow in one bucket, pour the snow in the large pot on the stove, once the snow starts boiling, pour the boiling water into the toilets, fill bucket with snow and start all over. We did that for a few hours.
  5. Not taking a bath or shower for a week – When the electricity went out, so did the hot water. When the electricity came back on, we didn’t have water. Thankfully, we were able to buy a box body cleansing wipes from Costco mid week. We were all so relieved to be able to take showers by the weekend.

It’s amazing what we experienced in February. Never in a million years would I have imagined this. During the ordeal, I was keenly aware that we were experiencing a collective trauma here in Texas. My husband and I banded together to keep our children as comfortable as possible during the circumstances. By the weekend the weather was in the seventies which reminded me why I love living in Texas.

I’m grateful I didn’t have to go through this alone as some people likely did. I also know we had more resources than others and I was grateful for that too. People were helping each other all over the state. A couple of friends even offered their homes to us. However, with COVID, we didn’t want to take any chances. We knew the power would be back on eventually. We just had to withstand the discomfort and we preferred to do that with each other. It was definitely a bonding week for us.

I’m looking forward to March with a little hesitation though. We’ll see what it’s store. I’ll keep you posted.

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Is this Texas?

2021 isn’t going to disappoint us is it? On this Tuesday, February 16, 2021, my household has been without power since 5:30 pm on Monday. This means no electricity, no heat and no hot water….no hot food, no hot tea or coffee, and no warm showers. It was cute when we were scrounging for candles amidst the sea of boxes because we’ve been packing for our move to the new house next month. We found a flashlight for which we have no batteries. We have plenty of matches. When I woke up this morning after an uncomfortable night of sleep, to say the least, it was 5 degrees. The 5 or so inches of snow that had fallen on Sunday was still frozen on the ground. This is no longer cute. We’re FREAKING COLD!

Let’s face it…Texas isn’t used to this kind of weather and we’re in for it at least until the weekend. Almost half of Austin is without power. This weather has broken 30-year old records. Growing up in Chicago, the only way the city would shut down was due to a blizzard which was rare. Here, most everything is shut down, at least on my side of town. People are furious! I’m not going to bash the electric companies and the like. My heart goes out to those who are aging, young babies/children, and those who are ill. I’m not angry…just trying to survive until power is restored.

I warmed up this morning by getting dressed in warm clothes including my winter hat and fuzzy socks. I was so pleased to catch the last bit of warm water in the pipes to wash my face. I put one of my exercise DVDs in my laptop, put on my gloves, and racked up some steps and zone minutes (Fitbit). I cleaned up the kitchen area a little after my husband, Bryan, and son, Caleb, warmed up in their vehicles. Caleb has heated seats in his car. Nice!

I’ve decided to have a positive outlook. My agency closed our offices across Texas. I generally appreciate being forced to slow down. Also, it’s almost like we’re camping indoors. Keep in mind, I’ve never been camping. We have plenty of non-perishable foods, toilet paper, water, and general necessities. I’m not worried about the fridge and deep freezer defrosting in the garage because it’s very cold out there. It’s about 50 degrees in the house. The fridge in the house is losing cool air but it’s fine for now. I can always move items to the garage.

So as I lay in bed under 3 blankets, I’m making lemonade out of 🍋s. The good news is that this will all go away by the weekend! I may have a different perspective if we have to spend another night without power. I’ll let you know how it goes.

How are you faring in your neck of the woods?

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Christmas Eve Message

Today was a pretty uneventful Christmas Eve. I slept in, worked out for an hour, and watched a few videos on YouTube. Then mid-afternoon, I decided to take a nap, headed to my bed and proceeded to spend several more hours watching YouTube videos and scrolling through my social media channels periodically. I felt that my body needed to do nothing and I actually listened. My husband, Bryan, picked up pizza for dinner so I didn’t cook. After I recuperated, I wrapped the rest of my Christmas gifts, straightened up the house a little, and began preparing for our Christmas meal. It’s going to be so good and a departure from what I said I was going to cook in my post Fall Food Chronicles 2020.

Yesterday was Bryan’s birthday. We started the celebration on Tuesday, a few hours after my doctor’s appointment, rather than Wednesday. His birthday is the same day as my mom, Solange’s, who passed away 3 years ago. It was a bittersweet day. Although my mom didn’t celebrate her birthday for religious reasons, it is still and will forever be her birthday. On Wednesday, I actually forgot it was her birthday until Bryan said something indicating he remembered. His memory has greatly improved in the last year. The reason why he has a problem with memory in the first place is due to hydrocephalus.

I felt bad for a little while because I forgot it was also my mom’s birthday. I had received some news that I was preoccupied with. My sister sent a group text to my siblings and myself indicating that she was missing our mom. I expressed how much I missed her too.

I was reminded that aside from this global COVID-19 pandemic, which has many people anxious and on edge, this time of the year, the holiday season, is difficult for many people. It’s especially difficult for those who have lost loved ones and friends, lost jobs, have strained or no relationships with their families, and/or don’t have a lot of money to get their kids what they want, let alone put food on the table. Many people have lost their loved ones due to COVID-19.

Some messages during the holiday season are that this is the season of sharing, caring, togetherness, giving, kindness, and gratitude. But there is also loss, grief, despair, depression, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, and people who act unkind, impatient, and entitled.

It bothers me that people, including myself sometimes, lose sight of the real reason for Christmas, which is to celebrate Jesus’s birth. Jesus lived a life we can never fully live up to on this earth. Yet, there is pressure, at least depending on how you look at it, for people to spend money on gifts….a lot of money on gifts. I was at a retail store recently and to see how people were frantically looking for stuff to buy really struck me. Why do we feel so compelled to show people how much we love them by buying things?

I’m not sitting on my high horse looking down on everyone else either. I participated and bought my family gifts too, but we had some lean Christmas’s in my life where we got very creative. For us, this pandemic is a walk in the park compared to what Bryan and I have been through. In fact, our circumstances helped prepare us for it. My perspective has really shifted on what’s important in life. What’s important to me is keeping myself healthy so I can care for those whom I love and who love me. It’s also to ‘pay it forward’ and lend a helping hand when I can.

Last Christmas, I budgeted for gifts, but it was a lean Christmas. Bryan hadn’t worked in 3 years due to his health condition. The year before he did work for UPS during the season for about 2 months so we could have a great Christmas. That we did! Bryan had his first grand mal seizure in November 2019. He had another one in January 2020. My greatest lesson in these last few years is how precious life is. All of the other stuff is just extra. To be ALIVE is a blessing. To be able to help others is a blessing. I’m grateful that we had those hard times because I appreciate even more that we’re in a good place now.

My message in this post is for anyone who is struggling or grieving a loved one…cast your cares on God. I know it’s not easy, especially as you live through challenging times. Life is hard…so hard that I work to not let any bitterness or coldness settle into my heart. But if you can find one small thing to be grateful for, it will help. Praying and having people pray for you will help. It may not take you out of your situation immediately, but it will help ease the pain. And you will be better on the other side of it.

From my family to yours, I wish you a warm, bright, PEACEFUL, JOYOUS, and LOVE-FILLED, Christmas! Our gathering is usually small with Bryan, our 2 kids, and myself, so we didn’t have to make any modifications. However, I know many families are missing seeing each other. Hopefully, next year will be different. My family and friends and I have already been making plans to see each other in 2021.

I’d love to hear how you are spending the holidays. If you celebrate, what are you cooking for Christmas dinner? Mine is gonna be so good!

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Thank-FULL

Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday because of the fall season, cooler temps, comfort foods, and family and friend time. Although the family and friend time will be more challenging this year, I’m looking forward to CELEBRATING. There is much to be thankful for, even in the midst of this worldwide pandemic that’s boggling our minds. If you’re alive and reading this blog post, be thankful. It is very sad that many people have lost their lives, their loved ones, and their incomes and careers. If you’ve made it this far into 2020, despite the circumstances, be thankful.

I especially love this time of year because the spirit of generosity is amplified during the holiday season. People tend to be more giving of their time, resources, and money. I strive to be that way year round, especially in 2020. I learned many years ago that I can’t save the world and there are many things outside of my control. However, I can do things to express my gratitude such as sharing an extra kind word, providing an extra tip to a service professional, or sending a card of gratitude.

Thanksgiving Cards. LPC

I typically send Christmas cards, but not cards for Thanksgiving. My initial plan was to send cards to my team with a few words of appreciation for their their hard work and commitment. We haven’t worked in the same physical space for nine months, so I’ve had to be more creative with how I let them know how much they mean to me. Another trip to the Dollar Store to purchase more cards and a trip to the post office later, we mailed about 30 cards. If you’re in my tribe and didn’t get a card, don’t fret. I’ll likely catch you at Christmas.

My gesture wasn’t expensive (did you catch I bought the cards from the Dollar Store), but I think people appreciate a kind word and a gesture that lets them know someone is thinking of them. I was surprised that it took me about 2 hours to sign the cards for my team and I spent another 3 hours signing cards for family and friends. In the big scheme of things, it took a little bit of time and cost a little bit of money, but it felt great and made my heart FULL.

Gorgeous fall day November 2020. LPC

Without fail, no matter how I’m feeling, good or bad, happy or sad, I always feel better when I do something nice for someone else, no matter how small. And what I perceive as small, may mean the world to someone else, especially considering the isolation that many people are experiencing due to social distancing and other COVID-19 related measures.

My intent in sharing this post is not to boast, but to empower you to do something for someone else. If you’re not sure how to brighten up someone’s day, or if your day needs to be brightened, I encourage you to find a small, inexpensive (or free) way to spread joy and kindness to others. I’d even love it if you shared some ideas on this post.

2020 isn’t over yet, which means there are opportunities for more blessings, more goal crushing, more connections, more reflection, and more expressions of gratitude. Happy THANKSGIVING from my family to yours!