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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.

 

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Our family is expanding 

A lot has happened this week and I’m too tired to write about it all right now. I do want to share one of the highlights. Our neighbor moved out of town this week and my husband came home to a note (see picture) on our door from our neighbor asking us to take care of his outdoor cat, Baby, because he couldn’t take him (correction..Baby is actually a “her”, but with the male kittens, I’ve been getting confused. Now, I know how my mom feels when she calls her 4 children by each other’s names. Also, English is her second language and as she’s gotten older, she’s been getting the male and female pronouns confused, so I can relate). There is a back story regarding the cat as my family and Baby have been living in this neighborhood well before the neighbor. In fact, I’ve maintained all along that Baby is my cat because I’ve been feeding and allowing her to stay in the garage when the weather has been rainy and/ or cold and when the neighbor has been out of town during the holidays. Baby had been abandoned by a previous neighbor a few houses down, who has since moved away, and she never left the area. It is true that we both had been taking care of her simultaneously for a while, but Baby is really mine. 🙂

I was so happy when I saw the text from my daughter on Thursday. She was very happy too and asked right away if we could bring Baby in the house. I explained that it was more complicated than that because we already have 2, nearly 5-month old kittens and we’re not sure how they, or Baby, would react to each other in the house. We’ve attempted to stand at the door with the kittens, but once they saw Baby, they would claw themselves out of my arms. Plus, Baby, who is about 5 or 6 years old (or maybe even older), is used to living outdoors. It came in handy spending Saturday afternoon watching about 4-5 back to back episodes of Jackson Galaxy ‘s (I don’t remember the name) show on the Animal Planet network. My coworker had been telling me about this so called “cat daddy”, and from what we’ve seen, he is knowledgeable. We learned a lot. As a result, I have some ideas on how to slowly introduce the cat and kittens to each other.

I fed Baby this morning before church and that was the last time I’d seen her until about 9 o’clock this evening, as my son and I were returning from the grocery store. I was worried and hoping she was okay for most of the day. We had been working in the garage and yard for hours with no trace of Baby. When our garage door has been opened in the past, Baby wouldn’t hesitate to sit down and relax while we were doing whatever we were doing. For example, I exercise in the garage, and if the garage is open, Baby freely lays down near me while I take care of business. She even likes to participate (more accurately, “interrupt”) while I’m doing stretching exercises such as yoga. My husband and I were wondering if someone took her because she’s such a friendly cat. Don’t they know she is mine? My son had been reassuring me that she would return. He thought she might have gone with some other stray cats from her litter. Well, I don’t know if she did, but she was definitely someplace else because I called her name many times to no avail.

I fed her again, rubbed her a bunch of times, laid down a pillow near the rocking chair on the porch, and said “good night”. Our little family is growing: 2 children, 2 kittens (Cannoli and Beignet), and 1 cat (Baby). It’s become painfully clear to me, especially since my breast cancer diagnosis (you can can read about it here), how fragile life is, so I welcome love in all shapes and sizes.



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Learn to say no

In the rental car on the way to my meeting while in Lubbock, Texas, I came across a Christian radio station that caught my attention. From what I gathered, people were calling in to discuss their struggles with saying “no”.  I’ve read countless articles on wellness and self-care that often emphasize the benefits of saying “no” sometimes.  As I’ve gotten older and have vanquished my former people-pleasing ways (a lot of them), my “no” indicates that I’ve set some boundaries and recognize that I have limitations. It’s a statement that indicates that I value myself more than I desire to please people.  What struck a chord with me was that the host presented a whole new perspective on thinking about this. His point was that it’s great for people to take on different tasks, goals, activities, etc. as long as it doesn’t prevent them from doing their very best in their primary God-given assignment. Everybody has an assigment from God whether that be taking care of their family, community, business, ministry, etc., but if you take on so much that you are unable to effectively manage your main assignment, then it’s time to say “no” to some things.

 

The main reason that resonated with me is I’ve had to learn to say no without feeling guilty.  I know that my primary God given assignment is to take care of my family. However, there was a point in my life that God had to remind me. I do value an identity outside of being a wife and mother, after all, I was myself before they came along.  As a result, I am involved in different activities that bring me joy.  I constantly set goals on different things I want to accomplish, I’m a constant learner, and tend to be an overachiever.  Balancing all of this while raising a family with my husband can be challenging at times. For example, upon completing graduate school, I felt like SUPERWOMAN. Around that time, I used to pray for God to use me to fulfill his purpose, which is to help people. Completing such a fete while working full time and raising a family with small children fueled the fire that I could do most anything. Plus, I wanted to help people. Therefore, I said a lot of “yeses” when I should have been saying “no”.

 

Soon after I graduated, I became a board member of a small, local dance company that my daughter attended. I had also been leading a ministry at my church. Both projects required a lot of time and effort, which I did put in.  I genuinely enjoyed them both, but boy did I overextend myself.  I started to see the toll this was taking on me and my family.  I honestly didn’t realize how much work each would take. God was sending me messages that I was doing too much. I also didn’t like how stressed I was and I struggled with resentment. I began questioning my intentions and why I had committed myself in such a way.  And then one day, I heard the message loud and clear that I should be using my gifts for my family. I had constantly prayed for God to use me to help others, but he had already entrusted me with my beautiful family (people to help). I had spent so much time away from them while in graduate school and here I was helping other families in these projects when I needed to be with my own. Don’t get me wrong, my family was not neglected (that much – I’m an overachiever), but I began to think about what more I could pour into them by redirecting that energy.

 

I resigned as the board chair of the dance company after a year. That experience taught me to question my intentions and examine my expectations and returns on investment before I agree to extend my time for such a project.  What was I trying to prove and what did this project have to do with my larger goals?  I also eventually phased out of leading the ministry at church, which I had done for a few years. Thankfully, the pastors were messaging the importance of taking a break from ministry to avoid burnout, so it was all coming together.

 

Something that the radio host stated that made me pause was to ask God about what to do when approached with various requests. As an intellectual, yes, I can rationalize, and after careful consideration, come to a solid conclusion on my next steps – participate or not.  In some ways, I do believe that listening to my gut and gaging for signs of peace with my decision (s) are indicators that I am seeking guidance from the God within me, but I will work on also asking God directly.


As I indicated earlier, I’m involved in several activities/groups and I get offers to participate in various activities such as lunches, fitness classes, events, projects, etc.  Similarly to what the radio host indicated, if any of these take me too far away from my primary God-given assignment, then I say “no”.  And I do think it’s possible to have more than one God-given assignment although the radio host didn’t mention it. He did specify “primary” assignment.  Therefore, since my family’s happiness is my gage of performance in my primary assignment, then if either of my children start having problems of any sort, I pull back on things I’m working on. If I find myself working on projects that cause me to spend less time with my family for long periods of time, I pull back.  If it feels more chaotic at home or if I sense that my husband is becoming stressed, I pull back.  If anyone becomes sick, such as when my husband was ill, I pull back. If I no longer feel enjoyment, start feeling burdened or stressed by the activity, I pull back. I schedule my reqired work travel so that I am not gone for too many consecutive days so that I can get back to my assignment.  All of this requires self-awareness, constant re-examination, flexibility, and knowing my assignment.

 

Something tells me that someone from the peanut gallery (I haven’t used or heard that expression in years…ha!) may be frowning and thinking that I’m giving too much and should put myself first. In a lot of ways, I do put myself first, but I also know that my primary God-given assignment (my family) requires me to be selfless too.  And saying “no”  isn’t so bad because it means that I’m saying “yes” to something else that I happen to find more important.