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Fall is in the air

As I look at my overgrown vines and potted plants, I think our front stoop resembles a quaint cottage, which is perfect for fall. Fall is in the air. I’m so ready for sweater and scarf weather, acorn squash, cornbread dressing, and cozying up in the house with my loved ones watching tv. Truth be told, I’ve been ready since August and so has my daughter, Elise. In fact, Elise wants to go straight to Christmas. She already gave me her Christmas list. She’s been listening to Christmas music. One of my team members told me recently that my office smells like Christmas. Yep…on purpose. 😁

There’s been an article circling on my social media feed indicating that putting Christmas decorations up earlier may make you feel happier (read it here to find out why). I’m not going as far as putting up Christmas decorations in October, plus my husband won’t have it. However, we generally have our Christmas tree out by Thanksgiving. We slowly add the other decorations over the following week, but the tree has to be out and decorated.

Back to fall: I believe I’ve been craving fall because I want to slow down, retreat, and surround myself with warmth. For me, warmth is my family. I did grow up in Chicago which has very distinct seasonal changes so this may be a factor as well. It’s also been a busy, demanding year. I think Elise knows it too. I received a job promotion in January and my husband, Bryan, was released from the hospital, also in January, after having been hospitalized for 17 days. I’ve been the sole financial provider for my family while keeping up with my husband’s condition (which is foreign to us although we’ve been learning) and the many doctor’s appointments amongst us all, but especially Bryan. Prior to Bryan’s condition, I’ve not attended his doctor’s appointments, but it’s essential now. It’s been a demanding year for all of us. Everyone has made sacrifices.

In the midst of everything, I’ve been working at holding my own at work while keeping my family together. I have a lot on my plate. I manage a team at work and manage my team at home. I’m not complaining, but merely stating facts. I know myself enough to know I need to recalibrate some things to maintain a balance in my life. This is precisely why I’m looking forward to the overall holiday season…so I can slow down. Office closures make me slow down. Kids out of school make me slow down. Dinner with family and friends make me slow down.

I also am looking forward to more blogging during the fall/holiday season. My busy schedule doesn’t allow me to blog as often as I’d like or planned (weekly). I hope to change it up soon. My blog messages are simple by design because I don’t feel like I need to use complicated, flowery words to make an impact. After reading other blogs, I’ve thought maybe my posts are too simple, but I don’t want to go over people’s heads. I also don’t spend a lot of time developing my posts. As a recovering perfectionist, I would never get the blog posted if I spent too much time on it. An idea comes to mind, I write for an hour or so, then I post. I make edits later. My aim is to make my messages simple, digestible, and relatable. I’ve gotten some indication through “likes” and facebook I’m not alone…others can relate of which I’m grateful.

New seasons allow me to reflect and start fresh. Self-awareness allows me to assess what’s working and not working. It’s an opportunity to refine and adjust.

I would love to read which season(s) resonates with you.

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Father’s Day message

There’s no denying the impact a present father has on his child’s life. I’m not going to get into if we call him “father” or “daddy”. In my culture, we call him “poppy”. Whether a positive, negative, or mixed impact, it’s an impact that can be tied back to the father. I think when a father hasn’t been in his child’s life, especially from an early age, the impact becomes more tricky to assess. My perspective is personal because my father was not in my life. In fact, I barely speak of him. He was dangerous. He was irrational. He was bitter. He was defeated. He was misunderstood. He was broken.

My father was around, but he didn’t raise me because he was incapable of raising his family at the time. People whispered about him in my presence. When visiting my uncle, his brother, he couldn’t sit in the living room…he could only go to the basement. My uncle would arrange for me to see him on occasion, but those visits were brief and lacked substance. That’s my uncle in the picture as I was getting baptized. My father wasn’t present at this most special occassion. I’ve seen positive examples of father figures through my extended family and friends. I knew what a good father was and I knew I didn’t have one. Some might argue it was in my best interest. Some might say that I would have only been disappointed and would have gotten hurt. The impact of him being in my life might have been tragic. I don’t know. What I can say is by him not being in my life, the impact is this underlying feeling of disconnection I’ve carried with me for years. I’ve not placed the source of this feeling until now. Not to mention, I don’t know anything about my father personally. I don’t know what traits I picked up from him. I don’t know his likes/dislikes or what his passion was. As I reread this, I want to be clear my tone is not of bitterness. My tone is of acceptance.

To know your father, is to know where you came from…to know who you are. My beautiful mom did her God-given best, but there was a void she could never fill or replace. Now, both of my parents are deceased, and their parents are deceased. How do I contend with this void?

I have solace in knowing great examples of fathers who selflessly love their children. Men in my family: my uncle, my brother, my brother-in-laws, my cousins, and my friends’ fathers. I also sleep with one of these selfless fathers. He’s my partner in crime…my husband, Arnold (goes by his middle name Bryan), named after his father, Arnold, who passed away when my husband was 10. Even though my husband feels inadequate and gets frustrated at times…likely because his father passed at an early age and he lacked examples of positive father figures, he’s here every day…involved in his children’s lives. If it has to do with his children, my husband is the most selfless person I know.

If you’re feeling alone and disconnected because your father wasn’t in your life, pray about it and adopt a family or two ot three. Don’t be bitter. There’s no going back to the fact you grew up without a father, but you can seek positive examples of father figures and allow them to have a positive impact on your life. For men, continuously make a positive impact on your children’s lives. Get to know your children and allow them to know you. For women, if you haven’t already, marry a man who has the traits of a good father and support him always. For all, ensure your children see other positive examples of father figures.

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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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Timing 

God’s timing is interesting. He’s pretty much on time…it’s just not on MY time. In the midst dealing with my hubby, Bryan, in the hospital over the Christmas break, I received a call for a job interview taking place this Thursday for another promotion. I’ve been doing the job on a temporary basis for 6 months and now it’s time to seal the deal…and this is a BIG deal!  I’m devoting some time tonight to prepare and catch up on work before I return on Wednesday. 

On one hand, it is a relief to focus on something else besides Bryan, but most of my energy has been depleted dealing with the hospital stuff. This position is significant because it fell in my lap. I didn’t even know about it. While other people were strategizing to get ahead, someone put in a word for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I worked for it and proved I have the chops (what it takes to do the job). I still have lots to learn. It’s a privilege to do what I do. I truly believe God made all of this happen. It will significantly boost my income which is needed since Bryan will be spending some time recovering. I may write about what it’s like being the breadwinner in a future post. Tonight, I’ll go to bed a little earlier and tomorrow, get to the hospital earlier and run my errands so I can get back home early. 

My message: In the midst of turmoil, God always finds a way to let you know He’s got you. 

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Hospital chronicles

This is Day 6 of visiting my hubby, Bryan, in the hospital. In his hand is a thermos of homemade chicken tortilla soup prepared by yours truly…me. If God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, He must think awefully high of me.  Not to mention, my son has been battling some kind of illness that I’m diagnosing as a combination of asthma, allergies, and a cold. I thought I was going to have a stress-free, cozy Christmas break with my family and add in some time to myself to think about my mom. Nope.

It turns out that Bryan needs inpatient physical, occupational, and cognitive therapy and will likely be here for another 2 weeks.  I’ve accepted it because it’s not in my control. However, I’m frustrated because I have been communicating my obervations to his doctor for months now. As a social worker, I understand how the system works, so I am thankful that I can advocate on his behalf. The hospital believes he needs to be here and I can see he does too. I want him to be safe and as close to his optimal level of functioning as he can be prior to discharge.  Naturally, Bryan wants to come home.

I don’t want this experience to dampen my outlook on 2018, but I’m not going to lie, I’m in a funk.  Bryan wants to be home. I want him to be home. Our kids miss him and he misses them. I miss him in our bed. He wants to sleep in his bed. It sucks to drive out here everyday. I’m exhausted spending half my day at the hospital, then going home to attend to the kids. I feel bad that my son has been sick. I feel bad because I’m spending so much time away, but I also feel bad about how lonely it must feel for Bryan to be in a hospital over the holidays. I feel bad that my kids have spent part of their holiday in a hospital. I feel bad about Bryan’s condition. He has a long road of recovery ahead.

Despite my moaning, there have been some bright spots and moments of grace throughout this ordeal.

  1. As the paramedics transferred Bryan from the chair to the gurnee while outside our home, a lady from my old church passed by, stopped and said a prayer for Bryan.
  2. We have health insurance. 
  3. The hospital ER neurosurgeon told me that Bryan’s doctor should have listened to me. 
  4. The hospital staff have been attentive and professional. 
  5. I didn’t get a speeding ticket after being pulled over on Day 3. I told the officer why I was speeding and he gave me a warning instead of a ticket.
  6. My prayer warriors have been praying for us.
  7. My friend treated my daughter and I to some pampering with a mani/pedi.
  8. Traffic has been light due to most people being off work for the holiday break, so the commute hasn’t been so bad despite the distance.
  9. My leadership at work have been understanding.
  10. WE HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE.

I’ve gotten a lot of calls and I’m not in the mood to talk. I haven’t been in the mood to write either, but I can’t stay away from what comes natural. Writing is therapeutic. I do have faith things will get better.  My current strategy is to take things day by day.


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I love you back

What’s up with these children of mine?  I’m not sure why I don’t write more about parenting considering I have two children – a 16 year old son and 12 year old daughter. It might be because they’re at a phase where they’re no longer impressed by us as their parents. They’d much rather spend time on the computer, phone, or talking to their friends. My husband and I have officially been deemed boring. We have a few choice words about how we view them too. We often find ourselves rolling our eyes in awe of the foolishness that’s come out of their mouths, particularly my son who I affectionately call, “THE BOY”. Karma is a @#%^!@ because we were once them too.

Whatever they think of us, we know they are our blessing. And I find them to be quite humorous.  I’ve said time and again, my life would be boring without my children. I’ve told many a story to coworkers, friends, and family regarding their shenanigans.  Even though they can get on my nerves with the arguing, ignoring, yelling, making excuses, exaggerating, correcting, resisting, stealing (apparently our room is a store), procrastinating, etc., every now and then, I see a glimmer of sparkle and innocence in their eyes like when they were little. 

Occasionally my daughter spends the day with me at work when she is out of school. On one such day, she typed an action memo on my phone, ” I love you, mommy”. I didn’t see it immediately…maybe later in the day, which made it so much sweeter. Those little gestures warm my heart and fill me with so much joy.  My children like to make me laugh too, which I think is funny. It reminds me of how much our children’s identities are tied to us as parents. We are their first mirror. They look to us for who they are. They look to us for confirmation and validation. They look to us to determine how to act and react. 

When we’re watching my daughter’s shows on tv, she spends more time watching US to see if we are laughing at the funny parts or gasping at the shocking parts. When we make eye contact after having the same reaction to a scene, I can see how excited she gets. Even though she’s starting to explore being in opposition to us (i.e., the clothes she chooses, her selection of hairstyles, what foods she likes), I can see that she’s still watching us…watching to see our reaction…watching to see if we approve.

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Surreal-ality

It’s been over a week since we buried mummy and I’ve been facing a new reality – surreal-ality.  Yes, this a word I made up as an attempt to describe this realm I’m in. It seems surreal that she’s gone, and yet, it’s the reality I must face. Nothing in life prepares you for the death of a parent, although intellectually and spiritually (for some), we know all humans will die.  A high school classmate very thoughtfully wrote on my facebook page, in sum, that she is still with me, but in different form. His words were touching.

From the outside, it looks like I’ve gone on with my life, and in many ways, I have. I went back to work on Tuesday, have been cooking, exercising, tending to my plants, shopping, doing housework, reading articles, and so on.  What has been difficult is not hearing her voice, but I can still hear her voice in my head. You see, for the past 5 years, I’ve called mummy almost daily, particularly during the work week. I decided to do that a few years ago because I was aware that I didn’t know how much longer she would live. Part of that has to do with mummy prepping us for her death for about 15 years now. She became ill a few months after retiring. She’s been telling us since then we need to prepare.

My purpose in calling her was two-fold – distract me from my work day and bring a little joy to mummy’s life. In the process, I’ve gotten to know her as a person and I haven’t held back in letting her get to know me as an adult child. It was difficult at times to switch roles and be the encourager many times, but I did it.  My brother told me twice after the funeral that he knew I was her favorite. He said he heard her talk about things with me he never heard her talk about previously.  I don’t know how to take what he said, but I am certainly thankful I made this effort. I miss her voice. Even when she was irritable due to the medications or pain, or when she was complaining, or when we were arguing, I miss her voice.

The Saturday before I returned to Austin, I was at my oldest sister’s house, in the backyard, reviewing the paperwork from the funeral home and signing the 100+ “thank you” cards.  There were 4 small boxes in a bag. Curiously, we opened our boxes together and gasped with tears when we realized what the gift was – an embedded photo of mummy in a light up key chain.  It was such a special moment that we shared together. My sister asked me not to tell my other siblings because she wanted to be there in person to see their faces.

When we returned to Austin, I was reviewing the many photos I took in Chicago. I came across a photo where I was trying to capture the breath-taking key chain in the light, and in the background, I noticed my kids playing with each other.  They rarely play with each other, let alone outside, but my sister had a toss game that she set outside for them. It was a gorgeous day.  They might have played for all of 10 minutes, but it was so touching to see in the picture because I hadn’t noticed it when we were there.

Caleb & Elise 2017

Caleb and Elise, Chicago, July 15, 2017

As my brother said, mummy is in all of us. This picture gives me comfort because I know that she is with me, with all of us, and that she left a beautiful legacy. We’re going to be okay.