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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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Fitness Fun

Here’s some inspiration: dancing, weight lifting, walking and stretching, 6 days a week, 3-4 hours per week, and 10,000+ steps per day. Today, I clocked in 67 minutes of Zumba fitness and 11,458 steps (so far). It was just a few weeks after my surgery in January that I got back into exercise. I started earlier than recommended (for the average person) and took it slow for a couple weeks by just making sure I was walking around the house and getting steps in. Eventually, I graduated to Youtube videos and my personal arsenal of DVDs (circa early 2000s).

Exercise has been my anti-anxiety, anti-depression, and anti-stress medication for many years. I have a new reason to maintain my healthy habit: to ensure a healthy mid-life. I keep hearing the voice of a doctor who specializes in women’s health say “the greatest predictor of health in old age is health at middle age”. I’ve done my research on menopause and recovering from a hysterectomy. I’m determined to live a healthy, non-sedentary life.

Since the pandemic, I’ve broadened my horizon on exercise thanks to Youtube. I have my favorite exercise enthusiasts I follow such as the ladies with KuKuwa Fitness. I blogged about my introduction to these brown beauties and some other Youtubers in my post Shaking things up in 2020.

If you read my 6-month update post on my hysterectomy recovery (you can read about it here), then you’ll know I’ve gained some weight since my surgery. I know my body is adjusting to being in a post menopausal state. I’ve been focusing on amping up my nutrition and incorporating more weight training (at least 4 days a week). I tell myself to keep moving forward and use other measures to determine progress. For example, I’ve noticed the exercise is paying off because my resting heart rate has decreased which hasn’t happened in years. That has increased my cardio fitness score per my Fitbit app. About a month ago, I started attending Zumba Fitness classes in person again, at least 1 day a week, and it’s been so much fun! I’ve also been sleeping more soundly at night.

Since February, I’ve been addicted to routines created by Josephine Sophia and her platform called GROWWITHJO. She has so many videos on her channel to choose from. I love the variety and have found myself working muscles in ways I haven’t done before because of her routines.

In my fitness circle, I used to hear the phrase “never miss a Monday” in regards to working out, but I personally never a miss a Sunday because Sunday is the start to my week. Exercising on Sunday sets the tone for my week and I’m patting myself on the back for getting it in.

I hope this post has inspired you to start moving, shake up your routine, increase your efforts, or just keep moving forward. Do what will keep you coming back for more. Feel free to let me know what your favorite exercise is.

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Take a leap

We’ve made it to beyond the midpoint of 2022, believe it or not. If you think 2022 is going by SUPER FAST, you’re not alone. Someone I work with often jokes Christmas is around the corner. She’s been repeating that joke since January, and sure enough, Christmas will be here before you know it. So much has happened this year already. I don’t even remember what my goals were for 2022. Well, I take that back…here’s a big one: get through my surgery (January) and have a smooth recovery. Done! The gynecologist who performed my hysterectomy sent me off into the sunset with a “You’ve done great! I’ll see you next year.” And my oncologist is hopeful I won’t need to be on medications anymore, which I’ll find out about in a few weeks.

There is one huge goal I’m striving for, which I will not reveal what it is just yet. I know, I’m usually all for sharing, but at the same time, I’m a private person. The stakes are high on this goal and I don’t want to invite unknown energies into the mix. Not everyone is your cheerleader or will understand. But this post isn’t about what my goal actually is or what other people will think about my goal.

I was actively working on my goal a few months ago and then something happened that brought it to a halt. That “thing” was actually several things (i.e., family issues, work drama, beloved pet died, etc.). My goal started feeling like it was at the top of this mountain and my legs were getting heavier and heavier as I tried to walk to the top. I began doubting the timing of my goal and convinced myself to wait. The idea of this is not unreasonable, after all, timing is very important. These other things were important too, which is why they were popping up. Never mind I thought of this goal over a year ago.

So what do you do when you have a goal you really want, but your efforts begin to wane under the pressures of life? I was faced with this very scenario. Since this goal will have a significant impact to my quality of life, one thing I did was reevaluate my “why” for wanting to achieve the goal in the first place. Part of that re-evaluation included assessing whether my goal was reasonable. Yet, I knew my goal was more than reasonable because I made it a SMART goal.

Once I re-established my goal as a solid, non-negotiable goal, I began to question what about these distractions caused me to slow down. I was likely tired, mentally drained, and overwhelmed. The remedy has been amping up my self-nurturing (checking my internal dialogue, slowing down, resting more, increasing meditation, reducing stress, practicing gratitude, and more prayer). I needed to be vigilant about my “figurative” ADLs – Activities of Daily Living (eating nutritionally, exercise daily, deep breathing, meditation).

Some light lessons that popped up were: life is going to happen no matter what; there will always be distractions.; there will rarely be a time when nothing is going on; there will never be the “right” time; I have to make the time; and I have to continue to push forward until I achieve it. Although there are many uncertainties, I have to take the leap of faith it will work out in my favor.

If you find yourself wavering on an important goal that you can’t let go, try these tips to see if they help:

  1. Re-evaluate your “why”.. the reason wht you want to accomplish the goal.
  2. Make sure your goal is a SMART goal.
  3. Be kind and extra patient with yourself rather than beating yourself up for not achieving the goal.
  4. Develop some “Power Statements” to refer to often to keep you focused on your goal. (i.e., I can do this!)
  5. Restart or put more energy into activities that will help you achieve your goal.
  6. Take a leap of faith and JUST DO IT.

One of my favorite things about the cover photo I took with my smartphone is catching the little gecko as he contemplated his next move. He was so small compared to my wild foliage in the landscape at the old house. Yet, he was bold and fearless, eager to see where he might land, focused on getting to that next destination. He knew staying where he was, was not an option. I want to be that lizard (not FOR REAL, but in mindset…if that’s what he was thinking. You know what I mean!)

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Feeding my soul: 6 months post surgery

Where has the time gone? It feels like a distant memory I had a hysterectomy on January 26th. And I actually started typing this post for a 4-month update, but I’ve finally gotten around to completing it. It’s been a very long 2 months since my last post because I’ve been so busy with life. Without fail, I’ve been consistently exercising, meditating, and eating healthy. My therapist calls these my ADLs (activities of daily living). If you’ve spent any time working with, or know people of the older generation, then you might appreciate the comparison.

I’ve provided several post-surgery updates in previous posts such as Day 1: Post Surgery, How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery , and 4 Week Post Surgery Update, to mention a few. In this post, I’ll provide some updates on what I’ve been up to and my recovery progress. In my very last post in April, I shared we had to put down our beloved kittie, Beignet. It was sudden and traumatic. His death occurred within days of me having to navigate through a difficult work situation that together put be in a high anxiety and depressing head space.

One thing about me and what I hope my readers glean is I ALWAYS turn the situation around to a “light lesson” that will not only propel me forward, but will hopefully help others. It’s simply changing my attitude about the situation. I do have a pattern of retreating to myself and not blogging when I’m embroiled in life challenges. It’s difficult for me to share when I don’t see the way out just yet. However, I’ve ALWAYS returned to blogging because it’s an integral part of my self-care. It’s an outlet for me to express myself.

The grieving process was difficult as you can imagine. I’ve never grieved so hard with losing a pet. My husband, Bryan, and our kids had a difficult time. We’ve since become more at peace and are thankful Beignet is no longer in pain. Beignet loved us with his whole little heart and we loved him with all of ours.

I’m not going to share the work situation because I’ve been actively working on a resolution. I may choose to reveal what it is once it’s settled. I can tell you it didn’t help my recovery one bit. I spiraled into a pattern of poor sleeping habits and eventually getting sick AGAIN. I saw a doctor in early June and this time, the diagnosis is along the lines of asthma likely brought on by allergies. I do live in the ‘Allergy Capitol’ of the United States.

There were some BRIGHTER moments in May such as celebrating Mother’s Day with my family and my birthday. I was initially sad on my birthday because I always think of my mummy who’s passed away almost 5 years ago. I cheered up eventually, especially after thinking about how blessed I am to make it to 49 years old.

We had a beautiful Mother’s Day service at church. I chose to wear my big, barely cream colored hat with the black bow along with my striped maxi dress. Bryan took us out for breakfast afterwards.
Enjoying the sun at the Lazy River on my birthday.
Birthday dinner!

For my mental and emotional health, I journal occassionally, practice mindfulness, am being intentionally self-compassionate, and do all the homework my therapist assigns. Homework usually pertains to exploring a thought through journaling, practicing a technique, completing some research, or following through on something that’ll make me feel better…it just depends.

Spiritually, I’ve doubled down on reading and meditating on the scriptures daily. I pray a lot more too. This year is the first year I’ve been consistent with meditation. I thank my FITBIT app for the variety of options on my phone which make it easy. I do a guided meditation at least five days a week, usually before bed. Bryan has gotten used to it too and now asks me to start it when he’s ready for bed.

For nutrition, I’ve gone back to eating meat though I still mostly eat plant-based. Some meals, or days, I don’t eat meat. I enjoy eating meat and realized after over 6 months of solely eating vegan and plant-based, that my body does so well without dairy. I was even eating plant-based cheese, but since I do not like the taste of most of these alternative cheese products, I decided to stop eating cheese altogether.

I named this post “Feeding my soul” because I feel like I’ve been attempting to bring myself back to myself, and a major way I do this, is through nourishing foods. In the cover photo, I enjoyed a plate of pinto beans and rice, smoked chicken, and collard greens. It was so yummy. I believe the foods I choose to eat keep menopausal symptoms at bay.

One day I even made an old school, delicious version of pot roast. Old school because I used a box of Lipton Noodle Soup mix….a recipe I learned from my mummy years ago.

As I’ve noted earlier in terms of my mental, emotional, and spiritual health, I’ve been nourishing by mind, body, and spirit with activities that help me feel good, relaxed, calm, and hopeful. I’ve incorporated more stretching into my exercise routines (I’ve done more downward facing dogs this year, then I ever have.) Through life’s normal challenges, such as helping Bryan navigate his mom’s and brother’s declining health and family situations, I attend to ADLs because they keep me grounded and sane.

In terms of recovery post hysterectomy, I’m doing well. I’ve educated myself to the nth degree on all things hysterectomy and menopause. Education is another line of defense I use to demystify a topic that can feel overwhelming, especially when it’s personal. Below are some highlights of what I’ve experienced with the disclaimer some of the information may be TMI or for mature audiences.

Surgical Recovery. The four scars on my abdomen are healed although sometimes I can feel a tug on any one, or all of them, when I do too much activity like gardening. I had a follow up appointment with my gynecologist at 8 weeks, and after her exam, she said I was doing very well. She encouraged me to not delay having sex with my husband. I’ve been nervous about it. We tried shortly after and the first time was uncomfortable for both of us. For me because my body had gone through a traumatic experience and was out of practice in that regard. For him because I was jumpy, which made him jumpy. Initially, it was a bit painful. After a couple of times, we were back at it like riding a bike. I’m so delighted I can still orgasm with no problem. I’m relieved we get to continue to enjoy each other in this way.

Menopause Symptoms. There are many symptoms of menopause, but the hallmark symptoms mostly discussed are hot flashes, night sweats, cloudy thinking, weight gain, mood swings, and irritability. I’ve not had much of the symptoms noted except cloudy thinking, weight gain, and slight shifts in mood. The tricky thing about the cloudy thinking is that I’ve had that for years as I’m sure it’s a symptom of perimenopause too. What I’m not happy about, but am living with is weight gain. I know my body is a different body in postvmenopause because I’ve done nothing to put on weight. This is an act of my body not having any estrogen, which is a major hormone that regulates so much in the body. In the big scheme of things, it’s not a lot of weight, but it definitely landed in my already large stomach area and a little bit in my hips. Not only is the scale a bit higher, but some of my clothes fit tighter. I’m glad I still have many options of clothes to wear. I’ve been practicing more self-compassion while continuing to double down on nutrition, weight training, and reducing stress. Sleep is another area I’m working on.

General Health. I met with my oncologist earlier in June for my routine 6-month visit and he always makes me feel like I’m doing something right. It’s been 5 years since my breast cancer diagnosis and I’m still in treatment (oral medications). The doc said my bloodwork was on target (although I thought my glucose was slightly higher than my normal). He said I was doing great and looked great. We discussed a different medication regimen since I’m now post-menopausal. He’s going to run some tests on my old tumor to determine if I even need to continue with treatment since it’s been 5 years. I’ll return to his office in early August for the results. This is exciting news. And I mentioned earlier, a doctor told me I have asthma likely as a result of allergies. He did refer me to a pulmonologist (who I see this week) because of my history of experiencing pneumonia out of the blue last year and bronchitis the year before that.

What’s next. I have so many blog posts topics in my mind. In fact, that’s how they all start…in my mind. My plan is to share them. I will work on getting on a more regular schedule with my blogging. Bare with me because I don’t know what it will look like yet. In the meantime, I have so much existing content on my blog. I appreciate all the new viewers to my page. Feel free to peruse at your leisure and I hope you learn something new or get inspired along the way.

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Did somebody say SALAD and CHA-LUNGE in the same sentence?

March was a busy month. I returned to work after 5 weeks of recovery from my hysterectomy in January. 2022 definitely seems to be another year of firsts for me. Never have I EVER thought someone would think of a CHA-LUNGE that involved salads! REALLY? If you’ve been following me, then you know that eating healthy is my ultimate form of self-care and this blog is all about self-care. I decided to eat about 90% vegan/plant-based from July 2021-Janauary 2022 in an effort to prepare my body for menopause and to just generally eat more plants and clean. I’ve slowly been incorporating more fish and meats because I like them, but it’s still mostly (70/30) a plant-based lifestyle for me.

Back to the salads. My favorite people at Simple Green Smoothies had the audacity to come up with a 10-Day Salad Challenge and it was absolutely FREE. Spring is in full swing here in Texas and I’m more than happy to get ready for lighter eating. I signed up for this CHA-LUNGE on the spot. I received the recipes, including the shopping lists in an email. Initially, I had planned to just use what ingredients I had and modify the recipes as needed. Experienced home cooks like me know that recipes serve as guides. I was mostly ready, but then something happened….My niece visited from Chicago on Day 1 of the CHA-LUNGE. She blessed us for 6 days straight and we blessed her mostly every day with the Austin, Texas food faves.

That didn’t stop me though because I made 6 of the salads and am still going. Of course, I captured every salad in my own personal photos. I also attached the actual recipes/pictures from the CHA-LUNGE. And the salads are out of sequence because I made them when I could. I hope this post gets your mouth watering. LET’S GO!

My version of Strawberry Mixed Greens: Two plates because one was for my niece. I omitted the green apple because I didn’t have one and used a herb salad blend. Fun and scrumptious.
The Sweet and Crunchy Salad: My version did not have pepitas and I used the herb mix again. The dressing on this one was my FAVE!
Bright Berry Salad: This was REFRESHING! I hadn’t eaten grapefruit in years due to my medications, but I thought what the heck, I’m going to commit to this CHA-LUNGE. I’m so glad I did. I missed grapefruit.
Vegan Potato Salad: This version surprised me! I omitted the black olives because I didn’t have any. I probably would not have added them anyway. I served with a side of homemade fried shrimp.
Healthy Pasta Salad: This was the leftovers I served with half a leftover fish wrap. I used leftover garbanzo beans, red pepper, cucumber, and carrots from the Sweet and Crunchy salad recipe. I’m not wasting any food around here. I subbed green olives for black and red onions for green onions and vegan parm for feta. I completed forgot to add the herbs! It was still DELICIOUS and quick to assemble. I made it on my lunch break.
Kale Caesar: Made with no kale in sight. I had romaine lettuce that I didn’t want to go back plus traditional caesar salads are made with romaine, right? I had some produce I didn’t want to waste, so the only thing I followed in this recipe is the dressing ingredients and the addition of garbanzo beans. It was yummy!
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To all the badass women leaders

My previous boss gave me this book as an early Christmas gift in 2019 and I devoured it. It’s filled with so many valuable nuggets in a light, digestable style of writing. I knew at one time I was a BADASS, but something happened months into COVID causing me to doubt myself. A large part of it had to do with burn out from chronic stress and life demands. BUT in the last 11 months or so, I’ve been finding myself again and I’m back to believing I’m a BADASS. Sometimes the obstacles of life can make you doubt yourself and your path. However, I’m here to tell you to keep going. Struggles, obstacles, challenges, disappointments, disasters, and defeats come with the human experience. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It will turn around.

If you’re not in a struggle now, you’re coming out of one or are headed that way in the future. But don’t fret! Struggles strengthen your muscles (i.e., character, spiritual, resilience, emotional, mental, financial, intellectual, integrity, professional, parenting, friendship, etc.), depending on what lessons you’re meant to learn. I can’t say I enjoy my life’s struggles yet, but I’ve learned so many lessons from them and from the strong women in my life.

In this post, I will share some of the BADASS women leaders who’ve impacted my life the most. I’m fortunate to work in an environment with a diverse group of exceptional women leaders. Several of them are African American. The strongest traits I see in them are articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things, encouraging others, providing constructive feedback, taking the time to learn, adjusting, and bravely making hard decisions on a daily basis. I’ve had examples of strong, badass women leaders my whole life.

My mom, Solange, immigrated to the United States from Haiti and she was a package of strength and vulnerability. I was perplexed by this combination for a long time. She raised 4 children on a meager salary as a single mother for years (before she married my stepfather when I was 16). I don’t know how she did it when I learned her salary amount. I made more money than her in my first full time job.

Solange was strict and had high standards. She instilled her work ethic into each of her children. My work ethic is why I’m in a leadership position. My work ethic is why I push myself so hard as an overachiever. Overachieving comes with some drawbacks as you’ve seen me blog about previously. I’m in a constant battle of doing and being okay with not doing. Therapy is helping me to unpack this.

The other BADASS woman leader I grew up with in my own home is my older sister, Gina. Growing up, she was the one everybody (or at least I did) called “bossy”. Naturally, most people have a problem with the “bossy” ones because they don’t want to be told what to do. However, she was practical and had an organized sense about her.

As it turns out, people who are bossy make great leaders and she’s been in leadership roles at various jobs starting at an early age. I’ve always admired Gina’s ability to speak with confidence and articulate what she meant. Gina is direct and honest. I’m grateful she’s one of my resources for feedback in managing certain matters at work.

Then, there was my older cousin who is so smart. I’m purposely not typing her name. There’s a lot of pressure in Haitian culture to do as your parents plan for you. From my perspective, as the middle child, my cousin learned to be a great neutralizer and negotiator in the family. Gina has these traits considering she is also the middle child. Middle children are known to be great negotiators.

My observation is my cousin maintains relationships with everyone, even if those individuals who don’t get along with each other. She’s the common denominator. They all get along with her. I’ve also watched her achieve her goals and meet high standards she set for herself and standards her parents set for her.

The traits I admire in women leaders don’t come easily – articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things despite the audience, constantly learning and adjusting, negotiating, managing personalities successfully, offering constructive feedback, bravely making and standing by hard decisions, and managing work and family life simultaneously. Women of color particularly have it hard when you factor living in a world where there is racism, in addition to sexism, ageism, and all the other isms. Being able to lead through the sociological muddiness impresses me even more.

The title of the book is fun, but I will add I personally tend to be humble despite the wisdom I’ve gained from my experiences. So basically, in real life, I don’t go around telling people I’m a BADASS. I got the humility trait from Solange and I can’t help myself. I do think it’s healthy to reflect on things you like about yourself and your accomplishments. This gives you CONFIDENCE and the courage to keep striving.

As a start to another week, I hope you remember you are a BADASS because you made it to see another day. Keep working on whatever it is your working towards. And why not let the other BADASSES in your life know how much they mean to you.

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4 Week Post Surgery Update

I can hardly believe it’s already been four weeks since the surgery.  To think, around three years ago, I totally rejected the option of having surgery and two of my doctors agreed. However, as my symptoms progressively got worse, the hysterectomy turned out to be the best option. For just about all of 2021, I spent lots of time imagining what the experience would be like, and even put some things in my life on hold to plan for the procedure and attend to my health. Well, I tackled my fears head on for the prospect of experiencing a better quality of life. If you haven’t been following my progress, you can catch up on the background by reading my posts Fight and How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery. In this post, I will share some of my recovery progress. My disclaimer is as a squeamish person myself, I feel obligated to caution readers I will be sharing information which might make you squeamish, or which may be considered TMI (too much information).  And for the first time, I will share an unexpectedly odd complication from the surgery.

You can do a basic Google search on “hysterectomy” to learn about what the procedure entails as there is ample information on the internet. It is a major surgery. My surgery was the least invasive procedure called a laparoscopic hysterectomy (performed with the assistance of a robotic device and through my abdomen) and was completed in 3 hours. My uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix were all removed. I was under anesthesia. I stayed in the hospital for one night. I was released with a catheter, so I had to go to the doctor’s office the next day to determine if my bladder would cooperate without the catheter. I was able to get the catheter removed at the doctor’s office. The first week was rough. For the first two weeks, I was primarily on bed rest, meaning I layed in bed all day, sleeping a lot, except for going to the rest room. I’ve been progressively getting better with each day.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, my pain from the surgery has been zero for at least two weeks. This doesn’t mean I don’t feel the dull aches from the four incisions on my abdomen because I do sometimes, especially depending on my activities in a day. I stopped taking the narcotic pain medication (it wasn’t very helpful anyway) about two weeks ago. I do take over the counter Motrin (Ibuprophren) on occasion, but if I do, it’s only once in a day. I’ve been exercising for a little over 2 weeks now. I went from walking 19,860 steps the week after surgery to walking 61,239 steps last week. I’m at full mobility without assistance in that I can finally lay down in bed to sleep, I can bend over, pick up items off the floor, put on my shoes, prepare meals, walk in the neighborhood, and do some light cleaning.

My energy levels have been increasing, which has been wonderful. However, I need to pace myself because I do get tired when I do too much. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t share sometimes the increasing energy goes to my head. Last week, I decided to do some minor cleaning out of my pantry, and as I attempted to reach for an item on the top shelf, I fell off an old stool that broke (while I was standing on it). The jar in my hand hit me in the head as I tripped against the kitchen island and grazed my abdomen. OUCH!!! I avoided falling on the floor though, but not without pain. I took some Motrin and got in the bed the rest of that day and the next day. Bryan was sure to tell my gynecologist about it at my appointment the next day.

Some things I haven’t started doing yet are driving, lifting weights (or any other items) heavier than five pounds, and working. I saw my gynecologist last week and she said I’m healing well. I did share with her since the surgery I’ve developed a speech stutter which is really odd. I’ve not had a problem with stuttering EVER IN MY LIFE. I’m obviously not a doctor, but I attribute it to the anesthesia because it does affect the brain and I had difficulty “waking up” from the anesthesia. I’m somewhat self-conscious about stuttering, but thankfully I’ve mostly only been talking to my family. It doesn’t occur all the time and even seems to be occurring less often compared to the first week of recovery. Bryan was sure to tell the gynecologist how bad it has been. Since the full recovery is eight weeks, my gynecologist plans to discuss an action plan at that time if the stuttering continues.

I’ve made so much progress in just four weeks, but I’m reminded I’m still in recovery and need to take it easy. I’m not at 100% yet and that’s not where I’m meant to be at this time. The main light lessons I’ve learned from this experience are “my health is my number one priority”, to have “patience”, and to know things will get better “in due time”. 

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LOVE Yourself

As most people focus on romantic love on this Valentine’s Day, I’m sending a gentle reminder to everyone who reads my post to also focus on demonstrating love to yourself every single day. Valentine’s Day is cute and sweet, and my husband, Bryan, and I take it in stride. It is a commercialized holiday and just from stopping at a few grocery stores earlier in desperate search (slight exaggeration) of a special type of Asian dipping sauce, we could see the stores were all decked out with flowers, balloons, candies, and gifts.

We know every day counts for showing love to each other and our family. It doesn’t take a holiday to remind us. We did celebrate a little this year with Bryan giving our daughter some treats, buying me some flowers, and making us some delicious margueritas. I made a lovely dinner of pasta and salmon. However, I do think we all need some reminding to love on ourselves because we can often be our own worst critics. And it’s really difficult to love others without loving yourself first. It may not even be possible to fully love others if you don’t fully love yourself first.

As a step towards demonstrating some self-love and self-compassion for myself, several months ago, I created a list of how I will be more compassionate with myself. I keep this list in the notes in my phone and refer to it whenever I need to. Maybe you’ll get some ideas on what you might want to focus on for yourself. You get double points for writing it down.

I will show some compassion for myself by:
*Prioritizing sleep and rest when I’m tired
*Not pushing myself so hard, especially when I’m tired. *Don’t delay eating and going to the restroom when I need to
*Replacing my internal dialigue with more positive, gentle, & calming statements
*Ending circumstances/relationships that don’t align with my values and/or cause me distress
*Reminding myself I’m doing the best I can
*Stop judging myself harshly
*Appreciating who I am, my body, and my accomplishments
*Replacing time thinking about how much I have to do with thinking about things I’ve accomplished
*Slowing down
*Sitting down and breathing
*Stop comparing myself to others
*Meditating daily…sometimes several times a day

This is just a sample list and I add to it as I get more ideas. I receive enough judgment, pressure, high expectations, and comparison from others for reasons of which I can’t control. I’m tired of being hard on myself too. Adhering to this list is something within my control. I choose to demonstrate love to myself because I’m pretty amazing when I think about it. I hope you choose the same for yourself because you’re pretty amazing too when you think about it.

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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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How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery

Exactly two weeks ago, I was in the hospital in South Austin, recovering from the hysterectomy my gynecologist performed. To be exact, I was in the recovery room with my husband, Bryan, trying to wake up from the anesthesia. I stayed in the hospital overnight because, in fact, I couldn’t wake up and my bladder wasn’t cooperating.

This two weeks has flown by so fast. In a word, I feel GREAT compared to back then. I’ve been focused on recovery so I intentionally chose to use food and rest as the medicine my body needs to heal. This is a disclaimer that I may go into some detail providing updates on my anatomy so please continue to read if you’d like. As I’ve navigated information over the year on the hysterectomy, all it entails, and menopause, it was this kind of information I’m sharing that I longed to read about, but there’s not much of it. I hope this will be helpful for some of you.

Some signs of progress are I no longer have the giant, scary, black bruise on the left side of my waist, my four incisions are healing, I have lots of energy, I’m able to prep meals for myself, I can get in and out of bed effortlessly, and the previous sharp pain in my abdomen is now a dull afterthought. My bladder and bowels are operating smoothly. I can cough, sneeze, and laugh without holding my abdomen in pain. I can bend over and put on my shoes. Bryan was doing this for me. I’m able to do light exercises, including using free weights which I started on Sunday. I’ve gotten four days of exercise in already. Byran and I took a 20 minute walk in our neighborhood today. It’s gloriously sunny with temperatures in the high 60s.

My resting heart rate is back to presurgery levels which is a relief because it’s lower than it was in the days after I had the surgery. My last blood pressure (BP) reading at home was about 116/62. My BP has always been low and doctors have told me over the years it’s excellent, but it’s been lower than my normal. My Fitbit recorded 9 hours and 13 minutes of sleep last night, which is a far cry from my averages in December and early January.

I have not had a single menopausal symptom I can think of aside from no longer having a menstrual cycle. I point this out because I had a complete hysterectomy with my uterus, both ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and cervix removed. As Bryan said, “I guess the body needs time to heal when you literally have organs removed”. The little blood I shedded in the days after surgery has disappeared. At this point, my use of panty liners is just a habit.

I mentioned in my blog post Fight I was on a hormone medication for four months in 2021, which was aimed at shrinking my fibroids prior to the surgery. That medication also causes menopausal symptoms and I displayed most of them from July through December 2021, specifically hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, memory problems, weight gain, and mood changes. I haven’t experienced any of the symptoms since the surgery and I hope it stays that way. Even if not, I’ve done some research on menopause and what lifestyle changes I need to prioritize to manage it because hormone replacement therapy is not an option for me due to my breast cancer history. I learned women who no longer produce estrogen are at higher risks for heart and bone problems, and even dementia, so I wrote down a plan for myself.

One of the best things I’ve done for myself was practice a mostly vegan/plant-based diet for over 7 months prior to the surgery. It’s second nature to me now and I’ve gotten into the habit of viewing how food can heal me. I’ve also increased my water consumption. Though I still eat foods like salmon and chicken on occassion, I’m reaping the benefits of eating a variety of foods of all colors, which fuels my body with the nutrients it needs. I’ve learned women in menopause need foods mostly composed of antioxidants and flavinoids. We also need nutrients like Vitamins C, D, E, K, and magnesium. We need iron and calcium. We need supplements like probiotics, evening primrose oil, and collagen. This is not a comprehensive list, but what I prioritize for my particular body.

Exercise has also been very important to me for over twenty years. It’s more than a habit…it’s a lifestyle choice I decided to maintain. My fitness level prior to surgery may be a factor in why I’m healing so well. Plus, I just can’t got for long periods without exercising. I enjoy it and it keeps anxiety in check.

I do need to reduce stress in my life. Although it took me having a major life altering surgery to do it, I’m so grateful to have four weeks off work to recover and destress. If my doctor says I need longer, I’ve earned the accumulated time at work to recovery for as long as I need to. Work is at the top of the list of the most stressful areas in my life and I’ve been taking notes on how to better manage when I return.

I felt so great yesterday after a workout and a shower that I took a couple of photos of myself sans makeup. I don’t think I look like I had this major surgery merely two weeks ago. As I told Bryan, I’m not at 100% of myself yet, but I’m getting there. I’m also pacing myself. I’ve experimented by not taking pain medications for a few days, but I needed them yesterday, so I took them. I’m still not able to lie down flat, but I’m working towards it. I got a little winded on our walk this afternoon, but I sat down when I got home. I’ll get back to me soon enough, day by day.

Whatever you’re facing, I hope I’m empowering you to face your fears and take the steps you need to make your life better….whatever that is. In an exercise program I do occassionally on YouTube called BodyGroove, the instructor jokingly says to the effect of , “No one can shake your booty for you…only you can do that”. So do what you’ve got to do cause only you can do it. Speaking of which, I hope to be shaking my booty with some Zumba fitness in a couple of weeks.

Until next time…

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