Image

Goodbye, So So, my Haitian queen

Yesterday, I received the dreaded call that no one ever wants.  My sister was on the other end of the line. She sounded calm, and for a moment, I was relieved. However, her next few words pierced me to the core, “Mummy, passed away this morning”.  It took me a few seconds to process. I heard her voice quiver. We exchanged a few more words of which I can’t remember and she reassured me of something.  I told her I’d call her back. I walked to the group of ladies from my Zumba class who were talking. I  tapped on Mary’s shoulder and muttered the words, “I just found out that my mom passed away”.  I cried hard and loud as they embraced me for what felt like forever and I’ve been sobbing intermittently every since.

Albeit painful, I made peace on Friday that mummy might not make it through the night based on my sister’s report from the doctor.  They were transitioning mummy to hospice care. This is painful to write and I stopped a few times due to the uncontrollable tears. My husband told me that I should stop and that it’s too soon, but I must because writing for me is therapeutic. When I woke up Saturday morning without hearing new updates, I decided to go about my normal routine of  going to Zumba class and then the grocery store. I’m so thankful that I was in the company of my Zumba-loving prayer warriors because they consoled and prayed for me.

Words can’t truly express the sorrow I am feeling right now. However, despite the sorrow, I am overwhelmingly thankful Solange (SoSo) Nicholas was my mother. I’m thankful that I saw her beautiful smile in person last month. I’m thankful that I hugged and kissed her.  I’m thankful that my sisters and brother made sure mummy was not alone while she was in the hospital for almost 2 weeks. I’m thankful that my sisters made efforts to shield me from what they were experiencing while watching mummy suffer. I’m thankful my sister put her phone to mummy’s ear so mummy could hear me tell her that I loved her.  She told me that mummy’s eyes got bigger indicating she heard me.  I’m thankful that mummy is no longer in pain and that she can finally rest in peace. I’m thankful that mummy gave us her best. I’m thankful that she saw me beat breast cancer and came to Texas to be with me for my surgeries. I’m thankful that she always thought of us first. She even made and paid for her funeral and burial arrangements, so we wouldn’t have to worry. I’m thankful that I had a loving mother because not everyone has a loving mother.

SoSo, you did a valient job raising your 4 children…only if you knew it while you were alive. However, maybe you did because I spotted the look of contentment on your face when all of your children were together last month. You were always so humble and generous.  You came to Texas to visit your baby, the youngest (me), any time you could. You’ve been here, by far, more than anyone else.  You’ve been there for me, by far, more than anyone else. I can only aspire to be like you. BRAVO, my Haitian queen!

I have no more words…for now.

 

Image

Family is everything

This has been a difficult week…so much so, that it feels like months since I wrote the blog post “Happy Place” a few weeks ago. I lost my happy place this week. My mom, my mummy, had a heart attack on Monday & went into kidney failure shortly after. The prognosis was grave. She was on a ventilater. The doctors inserted a balloon pump to help her heart. The doctors placed her on continuous dialysis. Then, she got a contagious infection. My sister asked me my thoughts on resuscitation. She and my other sister said mummy told them on different occassions she didn’t want it. Having completed my 1st social work internship in a nursing home a few years ago, I knew resuscitation could cause more harm than good for the people that are aging. I couldn’t hold back the tears on several occasions as I told some of my staff and coworkers what was going on.

Day 7 in critical condition and she’s doing better. No more heart pump. No more ventilator as of today. She’s still on continuous dialysis in the Intensive Care Unit  (ICU), but she’s headed in the right direction. Her primary oncologist said her body’s reaction to the chemotherapy for multiple myoma indicates she can’t do chemotherapy. We’re all ok with that.

To think that I almost lost my mom this week is heart wrenching and I’m all the way in Texas. My two sisters and brother are the ones who’ve been there: taking turns spending the night, talking to the doctors, talking to mummy, conforting her, and notifying her friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have called the hospital myself and requested constant updates from my siblings. 

I even bit the bullet and called my uncle despite the somewhat strained relationship. One of my sisters was opposed, but acknowledged that it was the right thing to do. He and my mom go way back…way back to Haiti. This has to be a 55-60 year old relationship. They’re ex-brother/sister-in-laws for I don’t know how long. I find the dynamics strange at times, but who am I? Mummy would have wanted him to know, so I called. I’m glad I did too because he’s been to see her twice. He told my cousins and they’ve visited. In fact, members from mummy’s key tribe have taken the time to visit and pray for her. I’ve also asked my friends to pray for her.

The stress at work was almost unbearable coupled with what was happening with mummy. I lost myself this week. I really did. I barely used any self-care tools. I exercised a little, barely ate, barely slept, and was in a constant state of anxiety. I did pray. 

It’s Sunday night and I’m just now starting to feel better. When my sister told me via text that they were taking out the ventilater, my response was, “I can finally breathe again.” This evening, I completed about 30 minutes of Zumba and 15 minutes of stretching. I am actually breathing again.

The siblings: Gina, Patrick, Mylene & me. Chicago, June 2017

Tragedy has a way of bringing families together, and with each experience, good or bad, we’ve gotten closer. Words can’t express how glad I am for making the trip to Chicago at the end of May/early June because I almost canceled my trip for a JOB. You read that right. As mummy gets older, I don’t know when our last time seeing each other will be. Therefore, I went to Chicago with my children and had a wonderful time. Having experienced breast cancer first hand, I’m keenly aware that tomorrow is not promised. 

Work is the wheel that keeps turning whether you are there or not. Work is work. Family is everything.

Image

Happy place

I’m enjoying a soothing, warm drink at one of my favorite places in the world right now…my front porch. It’s a modest porch…more like a covered stoop, but good enough for me to fit 2 comfortable chairs, a variety of plants/herbs, and a couple of citronella candles. It’s a party for my senses sitting out here as I get a slight chill from the light breeze, inhale the soothing candle aroma, catch its flickering light in my peripheral vision, and listen to the bugs, cars and other sounds in the distance.

I’m in my happy place. I’ve always loved summer nights and I’ve accomplished much today. Earlier, I took a nap, cooked a few meals/snacks for the week, exercised, jotted down my Monday to do list, and now I’m writing a blog post, which I didn’t think I’d get to do. A lot has happened in the last few weeks and I’m grateful for the experiences. Even the Bishop at my church has spent the past few weeks on the message of being responsible for your own happiness.

I have to write a post about my trip to Chicago to visit my famy last week, but that will have to wait for another time. It was FABULOUS and just what I needed. I look forward to writing about my experience in my new position at work. I’m having growing pains, but nothing I can’t handle. The most beneficial thing is that I was set up with a mentor. He was on my interview panel, we’ve had one phone consultation, and we plan to meet tomorrow. I’m excited about all that I will learn. I also want to write about a post I read from a journalist who is a fellow cancer survivor. She shared what she’s learned from other renowned doctor’s about how cancers develop. I’ve been thinking about it a lot as for me it emphasized how important it is to reduce stress. The key seems to be having a strong immune system because a weak one can invite trouble. It reaffirmed in mind that daily prayer, eating well, cooking, exercising, sleeping, doing the things that make me happy, saying no to some things, saying yes to others, etc. is necessary for my survival. Self-care is not selfish, it’s life saving. 

Image

Oh sweet May is coming to an end

I’ve always loved May mostly because it’s my birthday month. I love that it signals spring (or summer in Texas). Growing up in Chicago, I’ve experienced a cold day or two (or more) in May, so you’re really not in the clear in terms of warm weather until maybe June. Since I’ve become a mom, I get to add Mother’s Day to the festivities. Then there’s Cinco de Mayo, which I didn’t start celebrating until I moved to Texas. Mexican food has always been my favorite. We end the month remembering those who’ve lost their lives in the armed forced on Memorial Day. For me, the whole month of May is about celebration, inspiration, creativity, reflection and gratitude. This May has been especially sweet to me.

Last May, my husband experienced a serious health challenge and ended up having brain surgery on my birthday. This May, I get to prepare to see my family and friends in Chicago. I almost canceled this trip because with my new position, I was concerned about coverage for my unit, but some other managers agreed to cover for me. Plus there really isn’t any other time. I got a sweet deal on the tickets and my kids may be involved in various summer activities. We’re moving forward with the plan as scheduled.

My kids and I are leaving on 5/31 while my husband stays with the kittens. My son was on the verge of staying home too if he hadn’t arranged to take his finals early. I can hardly wait and neither can the kids. I’m so looking forward to getting fueled up with love. Not that I don’t get it here, but you know what I mean. It’s just my husband and I in Texas with our kids while mostly everyone we know and love is in Chicago. I’m also looking forward to the food, sites, and smells that I miss. I don’t have any plans of moving back because I hate the winter (so does my husband), but I don’t mind visiting when it’s technically supposed to be warm (weather channel shows 60’s & 70’s this week). Hey…it’s not December. I made a vow in 2009 that I would never return in December because it was so cold.

This visit is especially sweet because having dealt with breast cancer, I realize how fragile life is. Today, I picked out my outfits for the suitcase and have been encouraging my kids to do the same. Sometimes I surprise myself with how quickly and efficiently I pack now when that hasn’t always been the case.  I’ve been traveling for work for at least 3 years now, so I’ve become a pro.

Oh sweet May, you’ve been so good to me. I can’t wait to see what June brings besides the heat.

 

Image

Happy Birthday to me

Today, I turn 44 years old. I was talking to my 78 year old mom on the phone yesterday, reminding her of my birthday and she exclaimed repeatedly, “My BABY is turning 44!” Yup, mummy, its true…your baby turns 44 and I feel great. I love the confidence, wisdom, discernment, patience, focus, and unapologetic self-assuredness that comes with being in your 40’s. These attributes helped me nail the best job interview of my life on Monday, 5/15/17, resulting in a promotion. I’ve been floating all week. 

Sure, I see more defined frown lines on my forehead and bags under my eyes. I was just telling my hubby this week I can see I look older. I recently noticed some small lines on both sides of my mouth when I smile. After Zumba class last week, I actually questioned if I was getting too old for all the jumping because I was unusually sore the next day after giving it my all and “leaving it on the dance floor”. I later concluded that I probably should have gone to bed early instead of attending Zumba class because I was exercising on an almost empty tank after a long day. I toned down my intensity in subsequent classes. I do get the occasional aches and pains. However, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been and even have muscle definition in my arms. I wouldn’t trade my emotional, spiritual, and mental growth to be back in my twenties where I was depressed, unhappy, insecure, and didn’t appreciate my size 8/10 shape. I admit those old insecurities still come, but I know how to manage them.

Office birthday party favors 5-19-17

This time last year, I didn’t celebrate my birthday because my husband had brain surgery…on my birthday. We visited the emergency room twice in May 2016 and had to cancel our trip to Florida. My very first post to my blog was about that whole experience which you can read about here. My hubby is doing much better. Little did we know that 4 months later, I would be diagnosed with breast cancer. At the Caribbean themed birthday party my coworkers coordinated for myself and another coworker yesterday, someone commented, “You guys have been through an ordeal!” My response was that we did get some mileage out of our health insurance plan and you better believe we met our deductible! We got a good laugh out of that. The point is life happens. You deal with it, make adjustments, and keep moving forward. I’m thankful to be alive and thriving with the ones I love. 

Today, will be a low key day with my family. I plan to get some rest because I’ve worked late all week as a result of getting acclimated to my new job which includes managing staff. Long work days will become a new normal, but I am not deviating from my self-care strategies. Exercise, eating well, reading, sleeping, writing, catching up with friends…these are all things that rejuvenate me. 

We may hit a movie and dinner later, but for the most part, I want to be around the house. I’m content because I have everything I need and am grateful to be alive. I can’t wait to see what this next year of growth has in store for me.


Image

My fit life

My coworker recently joined the YMCA and we’ve been sharing our experiences with certain group exercise classes. Turns out, I’ve participated in several that she’s recently tried, so I’ve been giving my point of view. Yesterday, she blurted out in excitement, “Lucrece, have you tried STRONG?” I replied excitedly, “Yes…Zumba Strong? Strong by Zumba? My friend is licensed in Zumba Strong and I love it.” Her response, “No, Lucrece. Just STRONG. Everything isn’t about Zumba you know!” I picked up on the sarcasm. In my mind, “Says who?”

I’ve been a licensed Zumba instructor for 4 years now and it’s been a fabulous ride. I remember watching Zumba fitness infomercials about 6 years ago and knowing that I would love that class if I could just find out where to attend locally. My husband signed us up for the YMCA out of the blue one day in 2011, I took a Zumba class, and the rest is history. I have a confession. While in treatment and recovery for breast cancer, I lost my Zumba mojo. I didn’t desire to teach it anymore and was getting bored with it, but that was short-lived. I’ve been attending my friends classes regularly a couple of days of week since January 2017 and my Zumba fire has been ignited. I’ve enjoyed being the student and not the teacher, so that may have a lot to do with it. I haven’t been back to teaching Zumba at work since I was on medical leave. I’ve been thinking about resuming my class, but we’ll see.

I’ve always loved the family vibes at the YMCA and had been a member in Chicago in my early twenties. After I  had my son in 2001, I stopped going to gyms because I didn’t trust the child care. I don’t know why we didn’t join the YMCA in Austin. I began working out at home and gradually developed a library of exercise tapes/DVD’s. I would get up 5:00 am and do an hour of one of my DVD’s before work. One of my favorites was The FIRM because they combined cardio and free weights. I shredded some serious pounds (the same 15-20 have come and gone…I think I’ve finally permanently gotten rid of them).  I still have my vast collection and exercise at home a few days a week. Every now and then in amazement, my husband will comment, “You still have those DVD’s…? How old is that one?”

20170513_063522

In addition to Zumba and my DVD exercise collection, I love to exercise outdoors. For the almost 20 years of living in Austin, I’ve loved the long hot summers. But it’s become more apparent to me this year that spring is actually my favorite season. Temps in the lower 70’s to mid 80’s make me want to be outside all day.  I love soaking up the warm sunshine rays. Over the last few years, my health has made it more difficult to enjoy the hot heat because it tends to exacerbate symptoms related to my autoimmune disorders. The conditions are mild, but I still need to be careful. Whatever the case, that doesn’t stop me from getting outside.

Me at Townlake March 2017

Me at Town lake March 2017

Being outside in nature is relaxing and rejuvenating. When I can, I love to go for a hike along the Lady Bird Johnson Hike and Bike Trail. For the past few weeks, I’ve gotten my husband to take walks with me in the short trail near our house so that I can get my Fitbit steps in. Now that he has a Fitbit, he’s more interested in getting his steps also, so I take advantage of that. I’ve enjoyed bonding with him during this time. On Friday nights, my daughter has her gymnastics class at the YMCA, so my husband and I will spend that time walking the track and catching up.

This habit of exercise I started in my early twenties has enriched my life in so many ways. Exercise is like breathing to me – it’s essential for my survival. It helps me cope, relax, de-stress, unwind, and focus. It’s an anti-anxiety and anti-depression remedy that keeps on giving. You can see that I’m not skinny and that doesn’t bother me. My body wasn’t designed to be skinny and that is not my purpose in exercise. I love how strong and fit my body has become. I believe I’m more productive because I exercise regularly. This fit life of mine has paid me back thousands in dividends. My goal  has been to have my kids adopt this healthy habit into their lifestyles.

20170513_072544

Family time at the Veloway…2014

One of the best things you can do is find an exercise(s) that you enjoy. Then do it all the time.

Commit to be fit

I’ve committed to be fit!

Image

Illuminata

I knew my husband loved me when he bought me the book, Illuminata by Marianne Williamson, while we were dating over 20 years ago. I asked him what made him buy it and his reply was that he thought it would help me. He saw the author on an Oprah Winfrey show and felt moved by what she said. I knew he was a keeper when he demonstrated that he also cared about my spiritual health. I was just emerging from a rough patch in my life (early twenties) when we got together. Therefore, he was right. My week day morning routine is to pray and read a scriptural/spiritual passage before I get out of the bed to set the tone for my day. I didn’t realize that I had this book by my bed side until I read the titles of the stack of books on my dresser. I love books and keep them very close. Periodically, I rotate them with the ones on my living room bookshelf to ensure that I get through them all. At some point, I moved Illuminata to be bed side. Great choice!

It feels so good to be reconnected with my Illuminata. The prayers are beautiful. It may seem odd for prayers to be captured in a book, but it’s so befitting. While in Catholic school growing up, we learned prayers verbatim from the bible. Sometimes, it’s difficult to come up with the words. Often, I simply have conversations with God, but I don’t always know how to ask for what I need. It’s a thought-provoking, illuminating, contemplative book and I love to marinate on it as I get ready. Sometimes, I even read a few passages before bed.

Books next to my bed

Books next to my bed

Beignet giving me love early in the am

Beignet does not understand how I could read instead of giving him cuddles