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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!

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Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE

On February 17, 2020, I wrote a blog post sharing my financial goals for 2020 with an image from my 2020 Vision Board. Guess what? Despite the madness of 2020, it is possible to accomplish goals and align yourself in the appropriate path to secure a better future. My life is moving right along despite the pandemic, political turmoil, and racial unrest. I still don’t have enough time in my day to work, take care of my family, and do a little self-care because there’s so much I want to accomplish. I’ve been shielding myself from media to focus on the things that matter to me the most (i.e., read the previous sentence again on what matters most to me).

I do realize there are many people struggling and have lost their jobs. I’m not typing this post with the intent of being insensitive to them. I can only speak to what I’m experiencing in my life. However, I’ve experienced my share of turmoil with financial and physical setbacks that has caused cascading effects on emotional, mental, and spiritual well being. I think every person will experience life’s tumultuous ride at some point. You can overcome it, especially with faith, support, patience, education, and action.

In full transparency, since WordPress updated it’s site features a while ago, I haven’t quite figured out how to link previous posts into my current posts. Until I figure that out, please feel free to read my post from February 17, 2020 because it will give you insight into my financial goals and why I chose them. In this post, I will provide an update on my progress with the intention that it inspires you to keep reaching (or plan) for your 2020 goals.

DEBT. Since April 2020, my husband, Bryan, and I have been aggressively tackling debt and paid off thousands of dollars. I just realized I need to tally up the figures. We each had our own debt, and as a married couple, had some combined debt. The amount we’ve paid is probably well over $15,000 (update: roughly $20,000), but I’ll get into that in another post.

In case you’re wondering how we accumulated debt (also read the 2/17/2020 post) and how we paid it, here’s an explanation. Bryan has not worked in gainful employment for over 3 years. He has had decent paying jobs over his lifetime, especially while living in Texas. He acquired a medical disability that threw that out the window and impacted our lives forever (i.e., turmoil I mentioned).

My income is the only income, albeit a decent income, that has supported our family since 2017…except for the 2 months he worked at UPS in the fall of 2018 so we could have a good Christmas (and we had a GREAT Christmas!). In case you don’t know, I have a real GEM in this man. He was approved for full disability status in March 2020.

As part of his disability determination, he received back pay for most, but not all of the time he didn’t work. Our plan all along has been to pay down debt and save money so we could buy another house. PERIOD. I type “another house” because we’ve owned before and downsized due to life circumstances (some of that turmoil I mentioned earlier). Read my posts from 2016 through 2018 for insight.

If you are familiar with financial expert, Dave Ramsey, then you’ll know his stance on debt. He abhors debt! We’ve learned a lot from him, but I’m going to make a pivot from his baby steps. The only substantial debt I have is student loans and I’m not going to wait until I pay those completely off before I buy a house. PERIOD. I totally agree with eliminating the consumer debt and the like. Most of our debt was medical. We were both diagnosed with chronic medical conditions in 2016. We had internal revenue service debt, very little credit card debt and no car loan, personal loan, or mortgage debt.

Lately, I’ve been following YouTubers who show there are other ways of conceptualizing and managing debt and overall personal finance. I’ve been so inspired. All in all, we’ve been crushing debt!

INCOME. I work hard. I have a demanding job. I work in public mental health. I manage a team of smart, driven people committed to serving the most vulnerable populations. I earned a raise in June 2020, which increased my salary. In August, I was promoted. I’m transitioning from manager to director. This was not in my vision board, but fruits of hard labor eventually pay off. All of this is for the benefit of our goal to buy a house and to provide a better life for our family. PERIOD. Now that Bryan receives a monthly disability check, we are in even better shape.

HOUSE. We’re in the process of purchasing a home, which will be built by the spring of 2021. We are so EXCITED!!! How fitting is my cover image which is from my 2020 Vision Board??? Is this a good time to buy, let alone build a house? It is for me & mine. PERIOD. As I tend to do when embarking on new endeavors, I’ve been consumed with learning everything I can about the home buying process and real estate market. I’ve been YouTubing myself into a coma. Bryan even asked me if I planned on pursuing another career with all this knowledge. NOPE. My goal is to be informed so I can make the best decisions.

Sure, there are predictions about a housing market crash here and there. There are so many opinions. You know what? The best time to buy a house is when YOU ARE READY. PERIOD. Will we have a down payment? YES. Will we have savings? YES. Are we able to afford a house? YES. Can we do all this and take care of our kids? YES.

If God is willing, this is our retirement home, our FINAL home. Do I think my life will change once I get the house??? To a degree, YES. Some people may not understand the big deal, so to them, I say bare with me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to live where I want in the surroundings that will afford me the most comfort and peace of mind. PERIOD.

What progress are you making on your financial goals? Feel free to share any tips you may have.

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For the caregivers

Thus far in 2020, I’m being brave and accepting the realities in my life. I’m a caregiver. I have no choice, but to be brave because it’s vital for me to live in honesty and authenticity. I’m not a caregiver to a parent who is aging, as you would expect, because my mom passed away two years ago. My biological father and stepfather passed away several years before my mom. My mom was 78 years old. I’m a care giver to my husband, Bryan, who is just 54 years old. I’m just 46 years old.

Could I have imagined this in my life at this time while raising a family? Absolutely, not. I’m not bitter or disillusioned either. It goes without saying that I love Bryan. I will do whatever I can for him. I’m deeply grateful I have the capacity to manage all I do because I’ve often prayed for God to give me the capacity and He continues to do so. I’m coming to terms with yet another challenge I must endure.

It does sting a little to add the title of caregiver to my list of roles because it requires me to let go of dreams and plans for how I saw my life. I remember a year ago when I was planning to get my 4 wisdom teeth removed, one member of my team was describing how wonderful her mom was with catering to her as she recovered from getting her wisdom teeth removed. She indicated I would enjoy being catered to. I vividly recall telling her that in my life, I’m the one who takes care of people not the other way around. I’m her mom! This employee, and about half of my team, fit the millenial demographic.

It is what it is. I’m built to be strong. And Bryan is my rock when he is well. He did take care of me for those days of recovery after my wisdom tooth surgery. He could drive at the time too, which was helpful. When I was in the thick of my breast cancer treatment, he took care of me. We’ve taken care of each other over the years. That’s what marriage is.

I’m not interested in wrestling with my circumstances. I’m interested in learning from the light lessons, increasing my mental, spiritual, and physical capacity, and finding joy in the seemingly smallest things.

So if you’re a caregiver of any age, to any one, I know what that means. I choose to focus my energies on encouraging you (and myself) 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.

Little things count towards self-care like taking a warm shower, cooking (or buying) healthy meals to nourish yourself while you care for others, 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 in my journey. 😀

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What’s next on this 2020 health journey?

Now that I’ve completed the 10-Day green smoothie challenge, what’s next for me on this health journey? Well, for starters, I will use this momentum to continue to cook and eat healthy meals.

Canned goods for Sunday soup. Mango Madness green smoothie in the background. LPC

I used my homemade chicken broth (collagen benefits) as a base for my delicious vegetable soup called Flat Flush soup. Soup is my ultimate comfort food. Flat Flush soup is full of nutrition. You can do a search on the internet for Flat Flush soup recipes.

Soup prep LPC

The ingredients in my soup are: onions, garlic, a variety of peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, spinach, canned tomatoes, beans, parsley, cilantro, lots of spices, and chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth). Whatever healthy ingredients you have on hand for this soup will work. The cover photo was taken prior to simmering for 2 hours.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that cooking healthy meals is not just about keeping my physical body healthy, it is a soothing, essential part of my self-care routine. I particularly needed self-care yesterday after sitting in the emergency room for hours with my husband, Bryan. I was reminded then (not that I needed the reminding) health is beyond physical health. Physical health is very important, but in order to take care of our whole selves, there are other aspects we must attend to.

Health is a state of well being that includes physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, intellectual, social, occupational and environmental health.

It’s essential that we all take care of our whole health. It may not be feasible or make sense to tackle everything at one time. This is where goal setting, planning, and execution comes in.

On a special note, I’ve adopted a new perspective on planning in the midst of the realities of life. I’ve been following Pastor Tony Evans out of Dallas, Texas. He wrote the bible lesson plan on Detours. He says to by all means plan, but plan making a space for God’s will. Plan acknowledging, “if God wills it”. That way when life doesn’t go according to our plans, we won’t be so crushed because we know God is with us and we’ve made a space for Him.

So in 2020 I’m looking forward to setting more goals, planning, and taking care of my whole self, my whole health, bit by bit.

How about you? What are your health plans/goals for 2020? What steps have you made thus far? How are you setting yourself up for success?

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to my WP friends from all over the world! I was up super early after a night of repeatedly getting up to use the restroom. Serves me right for drinking a glass of water close to bed time. You’d think it was a gallon.

Of course, my cats heard my movements, so I could hear the purring from out in the hallway. My husband, Bryan, and I were on our cell phones. Then, my son, Caleb, walked into our room. Soon after, I heard my daughter, Elise, come out of her room. They were ready to open gifts. I’m tickled that my kids still feel the excitement even though they’re getting older.

Beignet and Cannoli Carr with their gifts – LPC

Everyone was back in bed by 8:00 a.m. I’d been exchanging texts with family and friends most of the morning. I spoke to a dear friend for a while. I exercised on my step board my husband got me. I was so excited I had saved one of my old step aerobics DVDs.

I burned some serious calories on Christmas Day! LPC

I plan to have a quiet day at home. My real purpose in this post is to send a special message to those of you who may be struggling this time of year. Whether the struggle is financial, grieving a lost loved one, loneliness, isolation, weariness, homelessness, illness, etc., the reason for this season is to celebrate Jesus’s birth. It’s not about the consumerism and materialiam that we’re bombarded with daily.

There’s peace, joy, generosity, good will, gratitude, and love in the air that I hope permeates your soul today and every day.

Merry Christmas!

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Hug in a bowl

In my last blog post titled Comfort, I noted how I have been prepping to make my mom’s Haitian Bouillon (beef soup) since last weekend. Although I’ve been living in Texas for 22 years, my body knows I was born and raised in the midwest and I tend to crave comforting foods this time of year….just in time for fall. I couldn’t let this weekend go without sharing the outcome of my efforts.

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1 week old watercress. LPC

I rarely hear anyone talking about watercress, especially in Texas, but when I grew up, my mom, aunt, and cousins used it often. It has a peppery taste and many nutritional benefits. Growing up in Chicago, my mom would go to “Commercial” to buy all of the unconventional produce (e.g., malanga) she needed for her Haitian dishes. “Commercial” is a predominantly Mexican area of the city.

I’ve only been able to find watercress at a couple of stores in Austin. I bought one bunch last weekend. On second thought, I probably should have waited to ensure absolute freshness, but oh well! I’m not wasting any food. I ended up using the whole bunch in my soup.

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Beef bone broth. LPC

What I didn’t mention in my last blog post (you can read about it here), is that last weekend, I also made a large pot of beef bone broth from some bones I bought from Central Market. I wanted to ensure my soup had depth of flavor and richness. Also, I’ve been reading on the benefits of bone broth. It has collagen which is good for the skin, hair, nails…plus there are other nutritional benefits. I’ve been making my own chicken broth for years, but this might have been my first bone broth adventure. I let the beef bones simmer with herbs and vegetables for hours. I skimmed the layer of fat off the top when ready to use.

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Scratch made french bread before the rise. LPC

I was really feeling myself yesterday because I had the nerve to make French bread from SCRATCH. I’ve made it before, but this was by far my best product. It’s also mind blowing how easy it is to make bread. I simply “googled” a recipe online. Why don’t I make bread more often?

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One day old homemade french bread. LPC

I attribute the bread’s deliciousness to the organic flour. I forgot to take a picture of the brand, but I’m so glad I got it on sale. This might have been my first time buying organic flour. In the past, I’ve used pastry flour, which also makes a beautiful bread.

Fall in Chicago is by far my favorite season because it reminds me of comfort, change, coziness, cooler temperatures (not in Texas), friends and family. I’ve had a lot on my plate (no pun intended) lately, and cooking, especially the dishes my mom taught me how to make, soothes me and allows me to feel closer to her.

My bouillon had so much depth of flavor and richness. It’s also full of healthy ingredients: onions, garlic, plantains, carrots, malanga, watercress, herbs, spices, homemade beef broth, and beef (iron rich). In every way, it reminded me of my mom, who I miss so much. I would be talking to her about some of my woes if she were here. I poured my heart into my bouillon, thinking of what she taught me to do. My husband and daughter loved it, especially with the bread.

I wonder what other cravings I’ll have in the coming weeks. What are some of your favorite comfort foods?

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Solange taught me how to cook

This isn’t the first time I’ve boasted about my good cooking. I attribute my cooking skills to my mom. She started teaching me as early as 11 or 12 years old. She taught me when I didn’t want to learn. She made me do it. She would call me into the kitchen when she was making a dish like one of our Haitian staples: rice and beans. You can make rice and beans two ways: separately (pot of rice, pot of beans-sauce pois) or together (rice and beans cooked in the same pot with herbs and spices). These two methods could produce probably hundreds of meals depending on the combination of beans and rice you choose. She’d have all the ingredients out and would walk me through every step from washing the ingredients, to chopping, to putting them in the pan, to tasting, and to admiring the completed dish.

As it’s been two years since my mom passed away, she’s been on my mind a lot lately, so I decided to use my pilon (Haitian Creole) that I purchased from a garage sale a while ago. My mom always used a wooden pilon, but what you usually find nowadays in stores are marble ones. I didn’t know it was called a mortar and pestle until sometime after I moved to Texas. I’m very big on meal prep and I had a taste for rice and beans made in the same pot. The types of beans and rice are endless, but I particularly selected peas because I learned a month ago that I’m iron deficient and peas are a good source of iron. I’ve been diligent about increasing my iron intake.

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I haven’t actually used a pilon in years. One time a friend was over for dinner and she saw me using the pilon. She asked me why I just didn’t use a mini food chopper/processor. I thought to myself at the time, “Good idea!” because it was easier, so I stopped using the pilon. Looking back, what I should have told her is that by smashing the herbs in the pilon, it releases the juices allowing for more flavor. For years, I used the food processor, but today I tested my theory. I was right…the herbs were more fragrant. I might be a little biased. This reminded me there is wisdom in tradition. My grandmother likely showed my mother how to cook the same way. I also remembered using a pilon is a workout in itself as a result of pounding the herbs.

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Herbs sauteing in olive oil before I add the peas. I ommitted the salt pork. LPC

The rice and peas were delicious. I ate a bowl with nothing else. So did my daughter. For my work lunches, I will have them with chicken breasts. I blogged about Haitian food when I was in the Dominican Republic last month which you can read about here. I’m not putting any pressure on my daughter to learn the techniques my mom taught me. I want her to come to me when she’s ready. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll continue to bless my family with these creations.

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The largest “Pilon” or mortar and pestle I’ve ever seen-Dominican Republic 6-7-19. LPC

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Missing you today

Two years ago today, my mom, Solange, passed away. She was mummy and Grandma SoSo. The void of her physical presence is like an aching, gaping hole that will never be filled. The pain isn’t as intense as when she first passed, but I feel it. You can read about my experience here. My solace is that she is no longer in pain. I’m grateful for her love, sacrifice, and everything she taught me.

I’ve been toiling with the notion that I am, in fact, an orphan. One of Merriam-Webster’s definition of orphan is “a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents”. Both of my parents and my stepfather are deceased. I’m hesitant to put too much thought into the term orphan, but I heard someone refer to another adult as an orphan the other day and it got me thinking. I imagine that orphans who grow up without their parents from an early age feel alone in the world. I had my mom for 44 years of my life and I’m grateful. However, as the youngest of four children, I am not alone. As a child of God, I am not alone.
Our mom’s passing has brought my siblings closer. My brother, Patrick, visits her grave every Sunday and sends us (my sisters and I) a picture via group text.

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Patrick at the cemetery – Chicago, Il. LPC

I love these texts. Visiting my mom’s grave at the cemetery is how my brother and sisters honor her and manage their grief. I live in a different state and manage my grief (and everything else) through writing.

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Mylene and Patrick visiting mummy’s grave – Chicago, IL. LPC

In the past few months, my mom missed four of her grandchildren graduate: two from college (Nicholas and Saiye), one from high school (my son, Caleb), and one from middle school (my daughter, Elise). At Caleb’s graduation in May, my sister, Gina, reminded me that our children are SoSo’s legacy. My mom missed the news that my niece, Gabriella will be going to graduate school at UCLA in the fall. She missed her nephew, Emmanuel having another baby. Our lives are going on without her and it doesn’t seem fair. Life isn’t meant to be fair. But we have each other, her DNA, memories, and love. We miss you and will see you again one day in paradise.

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Lessons from Solange: Part Two

I’m behind on my blog posts, but I always return back to what brings balance and peace in my life: one such thing is writing. In May, I wrote the blog post Lessons from Solange: Part I. I had intended to complete my second installment sooner than now, but better late than never. I think about my mom often, but my recent trip to the Dominican Republic has me thinking about her and the lessons she taught me even more. My mom, Solange, passed away on 7/8/2017, so we’re coming up on the 2 year anniversary…another reason I’m thinking of her. I requested that day off work, so I can spend the whole day thinking about her undisturbed. I wrote about my grief and loss in these posts: Goodbye, So So, my Haitian queen, Surreal-ality, and Family is everything. I hope these posts will help anyone who has lost someone close to them like a parent.

When you really think about it, it’s amazing the amount of influence mothers have with shaping their children’s lives. I’m more focused on my mother because I didn’t have a relationship with my biological father. He passed away a few years before my mom. My mom was my everything. She shaped my world. You only have one mother. Despite how complicated our relationship was and how much we disappointed each other, the bond was undeniable and cosmic.

A few more lessons Solange taught me that the world (more accurately, the people in my world) get to experience:

  1. Be a good cook – My mom was of the belief that you need to be a good cook to get a husband. My younger, rebellious self was not thinking about a husband. I was about 12 years old when my mom put her foot down and started to teach me how to cook particular dishes. Tears are coming down as I think about how much I respect her now for doing that and how ungrateful I was at the time. It was like participating in my very own cooking class and I didn’t appreciate it. Because I am a good cook thanks to her, I’ve had the satisfaction of pleasing my family with many delicious meals. Did I think my mom’s ideals were sexist…YES! However, I happen to have a family and I know they appreciate my cooking. I can feed them, which I think means something different when poverty was part of your history. I also am able to cook Haitian foods, which connects my family and myself to our heritage. I’ve shared my cooking with others such as extended family, friends, and coworkers. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
  2. Dress well – If you knew my mom, you know she loved her suits, shoes and purses. For every shoe she had, she had a purse to match. After she passed away, I wrote a post about a pair of shoes I took of hers back to Austin. You can read it here: In her shoes. My mom passed on her love of dressing well to me. It was one of the few indulgences she was able to entertain and she deserved it with all the trauma she experienced in her life. I love clothes and I have many of them. A few months back, I binge watched “Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up” on Netflix and purged my supply. I vowed to only keep clothes that bring me “joy” moving forward. In a “not superficial way”, the lesson I received from my mom was to have pride in my appearance, to take care of myself, and to be aware of how I presented myself to the world.
  3. Be a giver – When I was in graduate school, I participated in counseling the last 6 months before graduation because I needed help with managing the stress of being a working mom in a graduate program and attending to my final internship. As I hashed out my stress to the therapist, she said something that I will never forget. As an explanation to my woes in a particular circumstance, she said, “it’s because you’re a giver”. Quite frankly, the comment floored me because I never thought of myself as a “giver”; yet, I had this insatiable appetite to give all the time. I’d often prayed to God to “use me for his purpose”. The therapist referred me to an article about givers and it made sense. It was at that point, I knew I was a giver. Now where did I get this trait? My biggest role model for giving was my mom because she gave so much of herself to her children. She also gave to others like her family in Haiti, New York and beyond. We didn’t have much growing up, but on occasion she would host dinner parties at our small apartment. I remember being so embarrassed because my brother’s bed was in the living room, but she wasn’t too proud to have people over to experience her cooking. She was my greatest example of a giver. I’ve learned to balance some of that giving to others with giving to myself.

A mother’s love is like no other in the cosmos and you only have one. I’m thankful Solange shared many light lessons with me, even the ones I didn’t want.