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Faith moves

Ok. Ok. I’ve been slacking on my blog. In all fairness, I’ve had an unusually busy May with two work travel trips, Mother’s day and my birthday. May was also very emotionally draining. May served as a painful reminder that my mom is gone. I felt as though I was grieving all over again during my birthday weekend. Eventually, it passed, but it took its toll. I’m still not getting enough sleep. I feel like I’m struggling to keep up at work. I’ve decreased the duration and intensity of my workouts mostly because of my long work days. However, I did kiss goodbye my love affair with pastries, cookies, and other sweets and stopped eating them cold turkey.

I also made a monumental decision in May that is exciting and daring – my son and I are going on a week long mission trip to Haiti. When I learned our church was planning this for July, I knew I had to go to commemorate my mom, especially since July is the one year anniversary of her passing. Knowing I’m finally going to visit the island where my parents and siblings were born has eased some of my sadness from missing her. The sadness has been replaced with excitement.

Initially, I thought I would go solo, but my son, Caleb, said he wanted to go too, which surprised me…even after he learned what we would be doing. I’m really impressed that he knows the purpose of the trip is to serve and he is still all in. I’ll write more about the trip in later posts. I wasn’t completely sure how we would produce funds for both of us, but I made a faith move. We sent letters to family and friends asking them to donate on our behalf. I knew there was no turning back once I emailed the letters. We’ve already gotten some donations. Caleb is looking for a summer job to help, plus he wants to save for a new laptop.

June came with a lovely visit from my sister early in the month. What’s so sweet is she’s promised to visit us in Austin every year like my mom used to do. My mom has come to Texas more than anyone on either side of our families, which magnifies how much she supported me.

As much as I’d like to maintain some balance in my life, something inevitably comes up that tips the scales, so I have to adjust. For example, after my kids dental appointment this week, we learned one needs braces and the other needs several fillings for all the cavities in his mouth. Really?

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I’m a bad ass

Yesterday, I was reminded that I really am a bad ass. Listen, my normal stance is that of humility, grace, and gratefulness. However, sometimes, it’s healthy to stop and appreciate how awesome you actually are. Three things happened that made me pause. Here we go.

I held an interview for one of my vacant positions, and the applicant, a doctoral student, went above and beyond in selling herself. At one point, she revealed that she did research on us, the interviewers, and was shocked to learn she’d be interviewed by two black women. Not to mention, my colleague has a PHd and I’m a licensed social worker. Come to think of it, I hadn’t had the experience either. To blow her mind further, we pointed out two of our key executive leadership positions were also held by black women. This is not typical. It is a blessing to have these women as role models. To think, I am a member of our leadership structure is amazing and humbles me.

The 2nd time I was reminded that I’m a badass was when I was chatting with my team member and shared my story of being a whistleblower at two different organizations. These cases involved how staff were being mistreated and disenfranchised. Early on in my pursuit of social work, I felt strongly that I was an agent of change, which is what social workers prescribe to: we are CHANGE AGENTS. I won’t go into detail about those situations, but it does take a lot of courage to do what I did. I was reminded I take being an advocate for whoever the population (mental health clients, homeless, coworkers, agency staff, my husband, my kids, myself) very seriously and I’ve witnessed positive results in most cases.

The 3rd reminder of my bad ass-ness occurred when I ended the day with notifying my team member I was promoting her. She interviewed well and demonstrated she has the “chops”. She deserved this news on a Friday afternoon, so she could smile about it all weekend. She was so excited, though, she tried to play it calm. I was excited for her. I told her she could let me know by Monday, or sooner. First, she said she’ll think about it. Then, she said she was likely going to say “yes”, but wanted to think about it over the weekend. Within the hour of her leaving the office, she texted me “yes”.

I suppose this last example is more about someone getting rewarded for their bad ass-ness, but I certainly felt bad ass by being in the position to offer the opportunity.

The “light” lesson for the weekend is to appreciate and OWN your bad ass-ness. Live in your element, in your authentic way, and you will sparkle and shine as only you can.

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Work-Life

This week was rough physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally. It was full of obstacles, temptations, stress, productivity, high points, low points and everything in between. I suppose it’s called my LIFE.

On Tuesday, I was running late for a meeting offsite and had a bad fall in the parking garage that resulted in huge knots on my foot and elbow. It was an interesting fall because I missed the final step going down the stairs. The way I landed…almost in a yoga, cross legged pose, made it difficult for me to get up and caused me to twist my foot. Everything is still sore including my hips and knees. I had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, but it was with my oncologist. He doesn’t treat falls, but did tell me I’m healthy. And you know what…they didn’t even ask me to speak at that meeting. Really?

I’ve been attempting to embark on a weight loss journey (10 pounds), but there were food temptations this week such as the ice cream social we held on Wednesday in honor of our administrative professional staff. I did partake of ice cream because I don’t believe in being overly restrictive, but me and sugar have a love thing going on. I do want to limit my sugar intake, particularly as part of my cancer recovery. We have a lot of ice cream remaining, so…well, I also partook on Thursday and Friday. I didn’t know Blue Bell has a “banana pudding” flavor. Additionally, my general work stress and busyness from a week jam packed with meetings and interviews didn’t allow me time to log my food at all and I had been doing so well with this new habit. I did bring my healthy breakfast and lunch daily. A few of us also signed up for our agency’s weight loss challenge, which starts on May 4.

I wore my social work advocacy hat to address some issues I observed with my husband’s clinical team. I politely gave them a piece of my mind. They were very responsive and addressed my concerns. I also participated in my husband’s intake for his neuropsyche exam. It was emotional for him. Unlike other weeks, dealing with his medical stuff was interwoven in my schedule daily. It did add a bit of extra stress.

We’re on one income (mine), for the time being, and I get paid once a month. Despite my good salary, money is tight, but all bills are paid. For the first time in my life, I actually bought generic maxi pads because, you know, I need them. And you know what…I didn’t have an accident. The world didn’t end. I don’t know why I even made a big deal about it. The decision was actually easy when I considered my funds.

My son was sick a couple of days. There’s pressure because he’s behind on a couple of classes. We need him to pass his classes for obvious reasons. It’s a chore getting that boy to see the benefit of education. Perhaps the mission trip we’re planning to Haiti will open his eyes.

All in all, it was another productive week for the history books. I’m glad to be in recovery mode. I will spend the weekend resting and recharging, which is what I encourage my team to do. I’m also about to get my exercise on. Work-life balance. You’ve got to work on it.

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Coping with life’s curve balls

I wear many hats in my life. The most recent, and most unexpected, is being the caretaker to my husband. We could not have ever imagined the impact his health would have on our family this early in life, but his brain condition is not going away any time soon. Don’t get me wrong, he is still a high functioning person, however, there are definitely some things he needs assistance with that he didn’t previously. This is indeed a curve ball to my plans of fully acclimating into my role at work, having a clear separation of work and home, getting up to date on all of my children’s medical/dental/vision appointments, serving in ministry at our church, building up a savings, and taking care of myself. Right now, my life is filled with my husband’s numerous appointments, funding and managing all finances of our household, coordinating appointments at my children’s schools, coordinating everyone’s appointments for that matter, hanging by the seat of my pants at work, etc.

I was almost speechless one time back in January by a colleague’s comment to me after he found out my vehicle died on me at work and I had to get an uber ride. (By the way, that was my first and only experience with uber and I was thoroughly impressed). Remember, my husband was hospitalized for 17 days earlier in the month, then there was car trouble with both vehicles. My colleague actually said to me, with the most “poor thing” look I’ve ever received, “your life seems to be crumbling around you”. Ouch. Gulp. Pain. I’m dead. Hey…I really don’t feel like my life is that bad.

How do I manage to keep my family together and cope with life’s curves balls when everything seems to be crumbling around me? (My 12 year daughter told me the other day that I was keeping our family together. That made my heart smile.) First and foremost, I have a deep belief that things will always work out in my favor and that God covers me. I am also a rational person so I lean into that too. However, there are moments where it can feel unbearable. Things that I do to cope are:

  • Breathe
  • Pray
  • Take things day by day
  • Don’t look too far into the future
  • Lean into my organizational skills
  • Tell myself I can do it
  • Be grateful for the little joys in life (e.g., epsom salt baths, hearing my my children call me “mom” or “mommy”)
  • Care for myself by taking my medication, vitamins, eating well, and exercising
  • Squeeze in some time for the things I enjoy such as reading, writing and walking in nature

Inevitably, I believe being flexible and making adjustments relieves some of the pain and pressure that a loss of control can have. In the big scheme of things, there is very little we can control. However, we can control our attitudes and how we see the world. It takes practice.

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Sleepy head

I’ve had a couple of people say to me lately, “You must be up all night with all of your responsibilities”. I’ve paused for a moment to ponder the question, then respond with a confident, “No, I sleep like a brick”. There’s more to this story that isn’t pretty. For the hours I do get to sleep, I sleep soundly and deeply. That wasn’t always the case. I would be up in the middle of the night ruminating over the days events or worrying about various things. I think it’s a small victory that I’m able to sleep. However, I acknowledge that I need more of it. I often say that I’m chronically sleep deprived. My Fitbit goal is 7 hours of sleep per night, but I’m averaging about 6 hours…not ideal. Thursday night, I only got 4 hours and 58 minutes. I paid the price.

Yesterday, (Friday), I planned a pancake breakfast for my team. I also had back to back meetings all day. We had our team meeting with breakfast (I made the pancakes) and it was a long, but productive meeting. By 10:15am , I was beginning to feel the exhaustion. At 11am, I had a meeting with other managers and we participated in an ice breaking activity. We actually talked about what we did for self-care. Sleep wasn’t on my list at the time, but it needs to be. For the rest of the day, I literally had meetings every hour except noon and 4pm. By the afternoon, I found myself dozing off at my computer. Dare I say, at one point, I dozed off while looking up something for a staff member and SHE WAS IN MY OFFICE. It was a quick doze and sleep deprived people may know what this is like. I just had too much going on yesterday with very little sleep.

I’ve noticed that even while driving, I become very sleepy. Needless to say this is dangerous. I’ve also expressed my concern about possibly being anemic to my husband. I have a doctor’s appointment with my oncologist this month and I will share my concerns.

I love that my Fitbit shows me how much sleep I’m getting and also tracks the amounts of REM, Light, and deep sleep. Each stage is so important and impacts memory, rejuvenation, and healing the body. My husband bought the Fitbit for me for the purpose of tracking my sleep. It’s been over a year since I’ve had it and I still need to work on a good sleep plan so that I can feel refreshed.

In the selfie attached to this post, I think I look refreshed, but the truth is that I was likely sleepy. In fact, I wake up sleepy. My remedy last night after I got home was to go to bed early. I tend to awaken early every day despite the time I go to bed. Today, I can tell that I slept well, but there seems to always be a slight deficit. I’ll continue to work on my goal of getting more sleep despite all of the responsibilities in my life. In fact, I need sleep to deal with my responsibilities. I may even go back to sleep after writing this blog post. Sadly, it’ll mean I’ll miss my Saturday morning Zumba class, but sleep is a priority too.

I encourage everyone to take sleep seriously. Gone are the days of sacrificing sleep to get more done. There’s plenty of research demonstrating the benefits of sleep and the consequences of sleep deprivation. I want to function at optimal levels and getting enough, quality sleep will help me achieve this.

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Spicy escapade

I love to buy most of my spices in bulk from Central Market. I don’t go to Central Market often, so when I do, it’s a treat. There’s a turmeric tonic drink I have on rotation in the early mornings for its healing and detoxification properties. I ran out of turmeric. I had a stressful January. February wasn’t looking much better. On this particular day, I took advantage of being in Central Market’s vicinity and went on a spice shopping spree. Mind you, at that moment, I was feeling overwhelmed with life, but I enjoy grocery shopping. I’m the type of person that studies the sales flyers, peruses through the isles, and reads ingredients for every single item. Two communication exchanges occurred during this shopping trip that made me really appreciate the impact people have on each other.

I walked into the bulk spice section and felt slightly amused and annoyed (they were in the way of me getting my spices), watching a swarm of people navigate the bulk spice section. It was lunch time, which explains the crowd. I walked up and let my eyes scan for turmeric. I didn’t see it and the attentive worker who was managing the section asked if I needed help. I told him what I was looking for and he followed with an unexpected question: “for healing purposes or cooking?” I had never been asked such a question and proceeded to tell him it was for healing, describing my turmeric tonic. He enthusiastically told me about a type of turmeric the store started selling a few months ago and what makes it different from the other types of turmeric. He uses it too. I was intrigued and thankful that I was learning something new. A minute later, another shopper approached me and said, “I’m glad you asked about turmeric because I’m going to get some too”. I bagged a few more spices and walked out of the bulk spice section feeling a little more perky. That was Exchange #1.

I headed towards the produce section for some salad fixings. Central Market has beautiful produce. Then, a thought hit me right in the midst of shopping: “I haven’t had watercress in a while”. I discovered a few years back that not every store sells watercress. One time, I had attempted to make my mom’s Haitian soup recipe…watercress is a key ingredient. After trying several grocery stores, I found the watercress at Central Market. Here I was again, looking for what I couldn’t find. I spotted a grocer unloading lettuce. He was an older, brown-colored man with a very serious facial expression. I asked him about the watercress. He pointed and described where. That’s when I heard his accent…likely African, but from where? I tend to pick up on accents and like to ask people where they’re from. Given his stance and my mood, I decided to spare him. I proceeded to shop. Next up was lettuce. I headed right behind him and picked up a big head of organic green leaf lettuce. I was getting excited about my salad. After placing the lettuce in a plastic bag, I was headed for something else, when the brown-colored grocer, with the African accent, approached me with a giant head of green leaf lettuce. He said, “This one is bigger”, and handed it to me with a smile. I put the other head back and practically skipped out of the produce section. That was Exchange #2.

There are a few key points I take away from this shopping trip. In terms of customer service, there are people that take pride in their work and do it well. In my opinion, customer service has become a lost art over the years. I even wanted to write a book about it at one time. It’s refreshing to see that good customer service is not dead. Another point is no matter how stressful life is, you need to take time to pay attention to and enjoy the little things. And finally, we have the power to impact others every single day with small acts of kindness. So go do that.

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The boss

There’s a phenomenon I’ve been experiencing at work since becoming the boss to people who were once my peers. It’s been awkward for a few, but most have embraced it. One person on my team told me she was “relieved”. That made me smile. I don’t want to narrow it down solely to haters being haters. I’m constantly self-evaluating and self-regulating to ensure I’m communicating clearly, articulating my expectations constantly, and setting people up to succeed. Despite my best efforts, some people just don’t want to get on board. I can’t please everyone and that’s not my goal.

As I’ve been evaluating what changed for a few people since I’ve become the boss when we were fine as peers, it occurred to me that it is more so the other person’s issue, but I’m fascinated by the reactions. I do empathize because I’ve experienced being passed over for a position and it hurt my ego tremendously. Notice I typed that it hurt my ego, and by that, I mean my work persona. I used that energy to clarify my career goals and make myself better. The next time an opportunity for advancement presented itself, I was not passed over. The situation may not involve competing for the same position and not being selected, but my point is that some people allow change in others to affect them in a negative way. Some become bitter and callous when a better strategy is to focus energy on determining why the other person’s change is causing them to feel insecure and then actually do something positive to repair the insecurity.

Additionally, I think when people elevate or advance, whether that be at work or in life, some people can’t take it because it causes them to question themselves and what they’re doing. It is good to question or self-evaluate, but there really is danger in comparing yourself to others. The danger is to your own self-esteem. I know most people do it, but we need to work towards breaking the habit of comparison. I go farther when I focus on competing with myself rather than others. We can’t see all the mitigating factors that put a person where they are, so we’re at a disadvantage already.

Be happy for other people when they succeed. Your time will come. Don’t be bitter. Don’t be passive aggressive. Don’t be callous. I’m not just saying that because I want people to be happy for me. I believe we all have our own paths to greatness and there’s plenty to go around. Sometimes the negative feelings/behaviors/energy occur because people feel left out or that there aren’t opportunities for them. Turn negative energy into positive energy and take advantage of opportunities to self-evaluate and change. Even if you determine that you’re ok, you may need to change your environment so that it’s a better fit for you.