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Stay above the fray

I debated about what to title this blog post because I know a provocative title attracts the readers. In recent months, I’ve been working on my goal of being more consistent with blogging. I’ve also been experimenting with my content, thereby showing my readers the other sides of me that contribute to who I am such as my love of cooking. In the process, I’ve noticed more traction to my site, of which I’m grateful.

There are many layers that contribute to me being …ME. At the end of the day, this site is an extension of me being a social worker, in an administrative leadership role, who wants to share wisdom with you. Social workers are change agents, help fight social injustices, and are advocates. I’m my biggest advocate. So as is true in life, it’s not all fun and games. This post isn’t about food or a recent adventure. I want to share some points that came up for me this week regarding leadership. I hope you pick up some light lessons as you go along this blog post journey with me.

I’ve been told (and have heard) that I’m viewed as calm, sharp, a person that can have hard conversations, I have good ideas, I’m a person of few words, I’m the voice of reason, etc. This week in particular, the “calm” characteristic came up because I’ve had to have pretty poignant discussions with some of my team members. So my mentee asked, “how can you be so calm?”

I’ve learned to harness my anxiety over the years. When I tell people, I struggle with anxiety, they don’t believe me. The first thing they point to is my calm demeanor. Yes, I’m an anxious person, and as I get older and learn more, through working in public health, about trauma and its impacts on people, I can appreciate my early life circumstances contributed to my anxiety. I have self-compassion. I’ve been working through my issues, but it’s a lifelong process. You can’t necessarily foresee triggers, or may not even be aware of specific triggers, as is the case with me. Yet, these triggers can set the stage for some much needed work to get through issues that seemingly pop up randomly.

One major way I harness anxiety is exercising 6-7 days a week. I exercise mostly for the brain boost of endorphins and not be slim. I’m a healthy, albeit fit, size. (I almost typed my size, but didn’t to keep you in suspense). I’ve been an avid exerciser for over 20 years. I absolutely love my cardio, dancing. and free weights. And core exercises…not so much. My blood pressure is a “dream” for many as I’ve been told by my doctors for years. In addition to calmness, the other fruits of my exercise are peace, contentment, confidence, happiness, and ARM MUSCLES.

In terms of calmness as it relates to my leadership, one particular class in graduate school made a significant impression on me. In this class, our instructor invited a different leader to speak on a regular schedule. One particular leader was the head of a major federal department, and during his leadership, a major catastrophe occurred that resulted in the loss of life….many lives. It was mind blowing. It was an unrelenting mess for years. What he said got him through was an expression I had never used before. He said his biggest lesson in that circumstance was to “stay above the fray”. It was a phrase he’d learned as a result of being a pilot in the military.

“Staying above the fray” means to stay above the chaos. Don’t let the chaos seep inside of you. Don’t contribute to the chaos. Otherwise, you may lose your objectivity and problem solving sensibilities. The leader should have the level head. The leader should have the calm demeanor. It doesn’t mean you don’t feel emotion or empathy, but you’re not taking it in. There is strength in being calm, especially for people you are leading. Calmness means not overeacting, which may contribute to someone else’s anxiety. Calmness allows for quick and nimble thinking.

My calmness doesn’t mean I’m going to blow up once I get through whatever it is either. You may have heard the expression “calm before the storm”…? That’s not me. My calmness doesn’t mean I’m not anxious on the inside. Again, I intentionally harness my anxiety, so I can operate in calmness.

The light lesson here is to protect yourself from taking on other people’s anxieties, problems, etc. You have your own stuff. For whatever situation is going on…”stay above the fray”. Invest in doing the mental, spiritual, emotional, and/or physical work needed that will allow you to function at optimal levels.

Be your biggest advocate and do the work.

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Satisfied

Do you know that feeling when you have the first taste of a delectable item you’ve been craving? And every bite that follows proves to be more and more pleasurable…? Then, you finish the dish completely satisfied and might even shout, “That hit the spot!” Well, I had this very feeling tonight after having dreamt about my meal all day. This post is just a little taste (pun intended😁) of my enjoyment.

On Sunday, 9/1/2019, I embarked on a 7-day vegan cleanse of all plant-based, vegan meals/snacks along with green smoothies. I’ve been craving ALL produce lately. Sunday seemed like the best day to start. I planned my meals and have been prepping my heart out. Read about it in my previous post here.

This is my 3rd day on the cleanse and I had a bit of a headache. It’s not uncommon to have some detox symptoms initially. The headache went away after I took an Alleve.

My main goals for this cleanse are:

  1. Better sleep
  2. Better digestion
  3. Feel lighter
  4. Eliminate sugar cravings
  5. Clearer skin
  6. Partake of as many vegetables as I want
  7. Lose a few pounds

Roasted vegetable medley with basil pesto. LPC

Season, season , SEASON the vegetables. LPC.

My main goal for this post is to inspire you to cook and eat more healthier foods at home because it does your body and wallet good. It’s easier than you think, especially when it becomes a habit.

I hope you enjoyed a little taste of my Tuesday evening. Ciao!

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Happy Self-Care Weekend

Just what I needed…a 3-DAY WEEKEND to rest and recharge. I’m taking advantage of every minute. The intensity has been high at work for a couple of months as we implement programs across the state. How fitting it is to AMP UP my self-care routine during Labor Day weekend! I’ve been working hard at work and home. I strive to be a shining example to my team, colleagues, and family of managing IT ALL while simultaneously taking care of myself. My constant reminder to my team is to “take care of yourself”.

Self-care entails so many different things, but in my blog site, I share what works for me. I like to keep it simple. I do things within my budget, if money is involved. I hope you pick up some of my ideas to create a self-care plan that works for you.

Bubble bath

I kicked my Friday night off with a long soak in an Epsom salt and lavender scented bubble bath. I don’t know about you, but I’m achy all the time. I’m also very active with exercise. I don’t normally do bubble baths on Friday nights either. However, my body has been BEGGING for it. I have no idea why I haven’t had a bubble bath in a while (maybe 2-3 weeks), but if I had the time and energy (i.e., wash tub daily…no thank you), I would soak daily. Whatever the case, I was serious about getting some quality sleep of which I’ve been lacking lately. A nice warm bubble bath soothes my aches and sprains while setting the stage for some quality sleep. Speaking of which…

Sleep

As much as I try, I have a difficult time getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night. My average is about 6 hours per week night. On the weekends, I thought I was making up for it by sleeping in and taking naps, but I recently listened to a doctor indicate that the requirements for 7-8 hours of sleep account for daily sleep and not the “make up on the weekend” kind of sleep. I might be in trouble, but OH WELL. My goal this weekend was to take naps regardless. I took a 2-hour nap on Saturday and a 1 hour and 55 minute nap on Sunday. I’m still tired.

Unplug

I haven’t spent much time on social media this weekend. I’ve found that when I’m not feeling like my full self, I need to steer clear of social media. I’ve been concerned about my husband’s health lately and attempting to get some answers. Also, overall, I’ve been tired. I need to focus on nurturing myself and not reading about what other people are doing. I think it’s very healthy to pull back occasionally. As an introvert, I thrive on solitude.

Eat Well

I’ve noticed myself more freely accepting goodies at work. We had a retreat on Thursday and I WENT TO TOWN (expression meaning I overindulged)! I’ve done cleanses for several years now, a couple of times a year. I love the benefits of a cleanse: better sleep, better mood, better digestion, banish cravings for unhealthy foods, glowing skin, etc. With schedules being more structured now that the kids are back in school, this is the perfect time for a reset.

My reset means I’ll be doing a 7-day green smoothie and vegan cleanse. I wrote about my GLOW UP from the Fresh Start 21-Day Cleanse I’ve completed several times, which you can read about here. What I plan to do this week, starting on Sunday, is combine my favorite recipes from two cleanses (Fresh Start 21 and Thrive, courtesy of https://simplegreensmoothies.com/). I’ve written posts about my love of green smoothies and just overall eating well. You can read about them here and here.

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Reset Menu. LPC

I wrote out the recipes I plan to eat this week. I’ve since added a meal not pictured on my list: Vegetable Medley with Basil Pesto. I’ve already spent a good amount of time meal prepping, which is essential for a successful cleanse.

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Tamari Almonds. LPC

I forgot how much I love these Tamari almonds which are simple to make. Don’t believe me? Mix 1 cup of raw almonds with a tablespoon of Tamari sauce. Pour onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool. Eat. Whoila!

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A morning at the Farmer’s Market. LPC

On Saturday morning, my husband and I actually went to a Farmer’s Market. I haven’t been in over a year. I bought some apples, local honey, basil, and lemongrass. We enjoyed the experience.

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Farmer’s market basil freshly washed. LPC

I made the Basil Pesto this evening and it is amazing! I’ve also made cashew cream, Vegan Waldorf salad, strawberry herb dressing, and the Cauliflower Rice Bowl…on a plate (Ha! Cover picture). This dish was like a flavor BOMB in my mouth. It consists of sauted cauliflower rice with lime and cilantro, roasted sweet potato cubes, onions, and peppers, and pineapple salsa. What I love about my vegan recipes is they are very decadent and make me feel like I’m treating myself.

Pamper

Although I was up very late on Saturday night, I’m glad I invested the time to wash/set my hair and give myself a mani-pedi. I didn’t have the funds this month to make a trip to the salon like I did last month, but that’s not a big deal. On one level, it seems like polishing my nails is a small thing, but it’s amazing how it makes me feel so much more pulled together.

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Wash Day. LPC

My urge to cut my hair has been growing recently. I went as far as to ask my niece, who is a hair stylist, to send me pictures of short hair styles that would look good with my face. Well, she sent me some lovely photos! She matched various pictures of me from the past to a similarly styled short cut. The pictures were side by side: the short cut option, next to a picture of me. All of the short styles were FABULOUS, but what I unexpectedly got out of it is that I loved my hair in the pictures.

I strive to be content with what I have, which we know is contrary to societal pressures to constantly “want more”, “be more”, and “consume more”. It occurred to me that maybe I’m getting close to a breakthrough with my hair length and I shouldn’t cut it yet. I’m also not ready for the maintenance required with shorter hairstyles.

Instead of cutting my hair, (not in my budget anyway), I treated myself to some new products (not all pictured), which my hair enjoyed. I’m still basking in the lovely scent of my products. I will add I purchase products with natural and organic ingredients, free of harsh chemicals. I’ve toned it down some, but I can be a product junkie. I wrote a blog post about my product junkie ways, which you can read about here.

Day 2 of 3 of my weekend has been great. If you do or don’t have an extra long weekend, I hope you are practicing self-care daily. And it’s the little things. It doesn’t have to be expensive or cost any money at all.  Call a friend. Go for a walk in nature. Write in a journal. Go to the doctor.  Make a cup of tea.  Take a deep breath.

Take care of yourself. Do it for you.

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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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Comfort

Last weekend, I found myself craving my favorite comfort foods, so I had to indulge. In Texas, we have at least another month or so of the hot heat, but that doesn’t stop my taste buds from wanting slow cooked soups, chilis, and stews, roasted meats, and other pots of deliciousness. My body knows we’re approaching the fall season.

In my first few years living in Texas, I would get tremendously homesick in September. The seasons are so distinct in Chicago and fall was my favorite. There really isn’t a fall season in Austin, Texas. December and January are more like fall to me. My body knows fall starts close to September.

August has been a stressful and busy month. Cooking my favorite foods is a way to sooth myself. Two of my favorite vegan soups are recipes from the vegan cleanse I do at least once a year: Fennel Lentil and Coconut Ginger Zoodles (I modified the recipe into a soup).

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Coconut Ginger Zoodles Soup. LPC

I even got the idea to cook a Haitian soup, or Bouillon, my mom used to make when I was growing up. It’s basically a beef soup with lots of vegetables including lots of watercress. I initially thought I would make it last weekend, but I spent that time gathering the ingredients from different stores. I’m still in need of a few more items.

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Malanga. LPC

I’ve only made this Haitian soup once since I’ve been living in Texas. I remembered that I found Malanga at one grocery store in Austin….Fiesta. Malanga is like a potato with a gummy texture….my favorite part of the soup followed by the broth and watercress. I was disappointed by the Malanga selection, but I still picked up a few. I had intended to pick up the watercress from the same store, but they looked more pitiful than the Malanga. I made a trip to Central Market to pick up the watercress.

I learned early on from my mom the importance of marinating meats. The foundation of a delicious dish is a well seasoned protein. In Cajun and Creole cuisine, there is a trio of flavor called “mirepoix”, which is celery, onion, and bell peppers. I do enjoy that combination, but I believe the “mirepoix” of Haitian cooking is parsley, green onions, and garlic. I make a marinade often that includes, parsley, green onions, garlic, a pepper of some kind (jalepeno, hatch green chili), olive oil, fresh lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper. I made a large batch enough to marinade my chuck roast and cornish hens. By Sunday, I decided I’d make the Bouillon the upcoming weekend since I’d gone through so much trouble and still didn’t have all the ingredients. I still need to buy potatoes, plantains, and carrots. On Monday, I eventually put the chuck roast in the freezer.

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Roasted Cornish Hens. LPC

The cornish hens with rice and beans (not pictured) were delicious although I was disappointed I was the only one who ate Sunday dinner. My two teenagers had eaten fast food earlier and I don’t remember my husband’s excuse. However, he made up for it the following days because he did what he said he would do, “Since you made it, I’ll eat it!”

I enjoy cooking and eating delicious and healthy food. It makes me happy. I also find cooking stress relieving.

I can’t wait to let you know how the Bouillon comes out. I took the marinated chuck out of the freezer to dethaw. I’m looking forward to my Saturday dinner!

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Imperfection Part II

Gem for the week Part II. Let go of the “P” word.

enlightenedsocialworker

Isn’t it interesting how upon learning a new concept, you see it vividly in others, but not necessarily in yourself. Well, that’s not the case this time because I know all too well how perfectionism has played out in my life. I do see it in others too. I’m done with it although this is easier said than done.

  • Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgement, and blame.  

  • Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception-we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable-there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.

  • Perfectionism is addictive because when…

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Imperfection Part I

A gem for the week.

enlightenedsocialworker

I love it when I find research to support what I’ve believed to be true. Followers of my blog know that I refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist. A couple of years ago, my boss at the time commented on how exceptional a spreadsheet was that I had created and noted how much of a perfectionist I was. Of course, I was flattered by the compliment, but told her that I strive for excellence rather than perfection and explained the difference that I saw in the two. She didn’t seem to grasp it completely, but commented that whatever I wanted to call it, it was great. I walked away thinking I have more work to do if others still perceive me as a perfectionist. I was glad that I was bold enough to provide a different perspective for consideration. As I mature and uncover new things about myself, I’ve…

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