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Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE

On February 17, 2020, I wrote a blog post sharing my financial goals for 2020 with an image from my 2020 Vision Board. Guess what? Despite the madness of 2020, it is possible to accomplish goals and align yourself in the appropriate path to secure a better future. My life is moving right along despite the pandemic, political turmoil, and racial unrest. I still don’t have enough time in my day to work, take care of my family, and do a little self-care because there’s so much I want to accomplish. I’ve been shielding myself from media to focus on the things that matter to me the most (i.e., read the previous sentence again on what matters most to me).

I do realize there are many people struggling and have lost their jobs. I’m not typing this post with the intent of being insensitive to them. I can only speak to what I’m experiencing in my life. However, I’ve experienced my share of turmoil with financial and physical setbacks that has caused cascading effects on emotional, mental, and spiritual well being. I think every person will experience life’s tumultuous ride at some point. You can overcome it, especially with faith, support, patience, education, and action.

In full transparency, since WordPress updated it’s site features a while ago, I haven’t quite figured out how to link previous posts into my current posts. Until I figure that out, please feel free to read my post from February 17, 2020 because it will give you insight into my financial goals and why I chose them. In this post, I will provide an update on my progress with the intention that it inspires you to keep reaching (or plan) for your 2020 goals.

DEBT. Since April 2020, my husband, Bryan, and I have been aggressively tackling debt and paid off thousands of dollars. I just realized I need to tally up the figures. We each had our own debt, and as a married couple, had some combined debt. The amount we’ve paid is probably well over $15,000 (update: roughly $20,000), but I’ll get into that in another post.

In case you’re wondering how we accumulated debt (also read the 2/17/2020 post) and how we paid it, here’s an explanation. Bryan has not worked in gainful employment for over 3 years. He has had decent paying jobs over his lifetime, especially while living in Texas. He acquired a medical disability that threw that out the window and impacted our lives forever (i.e., turmoil I mentioned).

My income is the only income, albeit a decent income, that has supported our family since 2017…except for the 2 months he worked at UPS in the fall of 2018 so we could have a good Christmas (and we had a GREAT Christmas!). In case you don’t know, I have a real GEM in this man. He was approved for full disability status in March 2020.

As part of his disability determination, he received back pay for most, but not all of the time he didn’t work. Our plan all along has been to pay down debt and save money so we could buy another house. PERIOD. I type “another house” because we’ve owned before and downsized due to life circumstances (some of that turmoil I mentioned earlier). Read my posts from 2016 through 2018 for insight.

If you are familiar with financial expert, Dave Ramsey, then you’ll know his stance on debt. He abhors debt! We’ve learned a lot from him, but I’m going to make a pivot from his baby steps. The only substantial debt I have is student loans and I’m not going to wait until I pay those completely off before I buy a house. PERIOD. I totally agree with eliminating the consumer debt and the like. Most of our debt was medical. We were both diagnosed with chronic medical conditions in 2016. We had internal revenue service debt, very little credit card debt and no car loan, personal loan, or mortgage debt.

Lately, I’ve been following YouTubers who show there are other ways of conceptualizing and managing debt and overall personal finance. I’ve been so inspired. All in all, we’ve been crushing debt!

INCOME. I work hard. I have a demanding job. I work in public mental health. I manage a team of smart, driven people committed to serving the most vulnerable populations. I earned a raise in June 2020, which increased my salary. In August, I was promoted. I’m transitioning from manager to director. This was not in my vision board, but fruits of hard labor eventually pay off. All of this is for the benefit of our goal to buy a house and to provide a better life for our family. PERIOD. Now that Bryan receives a monthly disability check, we are in even better shape.

HOUSE. We’re in the process of purchasing a home, which will be built by the spring of 2021. We are so EXCITED!!! How fitting is my cover image which is from my 2020 Vision Board??? Is this a good time to buy, let alone build a house? It is for me & mine. PERIOD. As I tend to do when embarking on new endeavors, I’ve been consumed with learning everything I can about the home buying process and real estate market. I’ve been YouTubing myself into a coma. Bryan even asked me if I planned on pursuing another career with all this knowledge. NOPE. My goal is to be informed so I can make the best decisions.

Sure, there are predictions about a housing market crash here and there. There are so many opinions. You know what? The best time to buy a house is when YOU ARE READY. PERIOD. Will we have a down payment? YES. Will we have savings? YES. Are we able to afford a house? YES. Can we do all this and take care of our kids? YES.

If God is willing, this is our retirement home, our FINAL home. Do I think my life will change once I get the house??? To a degree, YES. Some people may not understand the big deal, so to them, I say bare with me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to live where I want in the surroundings that will afford me the most comfort and peace of mind. PERIOD.

What progress are you making on your financial goals? Feel free to share any tips you may have.

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Blessings abound

Even in the midst of a pandemic, blessings abound. I’m approaching my 8th week of telework already and it has been an adjustment. Yet, my stress from the work commute is zero. I’ve been meeting some work related goals such as hiring another brilliant person to my team. My family and I have been spending unprecidented amounts of time together without being at each other’s throats. My son got hired at Walmart about a month ago. I feel loved, safe, and healthy. I’m actually reluctant to return to the office whenever that is and my agency is definitely in the planning stages.

My husband, Bryan, and I have had our share of hardship over the years, but particularly since 2016. We have serious battle scars, so as I’ve indicated in previous posts, this pandemic pales in comparison to what we’ve been through. Hell, I even took the COVID-19 test and never worried about the results. We were so thrilled when we received the FABULOUS news that Bryan’s social security disability was finally approved after two years since he applied.

Bryan’s social security disability hearing with an administrative law judge was held in March… right when COVID-19 was solidifying itself as a global pandemic. I think it’s cruel for a person to be forced to wait so long (years) to get results. When I worked at an outpatient mental health clinic years ago, I saw my clients struggle with housing, food, and health issues as they waited on disability. On some level, I’m assured that the government doesn’t just grant it to whoever who asks. You have to prove you need disability. It is what it is and ours was approved during a time when many people are living through very tough financial circumstances due to COVID-19.

I’ve financially supported my household solely for almost 3 years. I would be lying if I didnt tell you it was a struggle at times, especially in the last 6 months. It did force us to be very careful about spending and stick to a budget. We’ve accumulated so many medical bills due to both of our health issues. After a while my credit score began to suffer, but I knew in January 2020 things would get a little worse before they got better. That didn’t stop me from making a plan. See my previous posts about my 2020 financial goals.

I’m so grateful to have been able to support my family and will continue to do so. Bryan’s social security disability determination puts an end to the waiting, wondering, and stressing. A huge weight has been lifted from Bryan’s shoulders more so than mine. I also find the news bitter sweet because it confirms he has a disability, but we’ve known this and are coping with it just fine. Now, Bryan gets to put this process behind him and plan what his future will be.

This past week was one of the best weeks for us in a long time because we were able to pay off some debt, add to our savings, and gift funds to our family. We did make a few purchases. The gifting was the most exciting part. We also tithed to our church. On top of that, on Thursday, my boss told me I received a raise (without asking)!!!

And the ultimate activity that almost took me over the edge on Friday was telling a few members on my team that they would be getting raises, unbeknownst to them. They were so surprised and one told me her spouse had been impacted by COVID-19, so the raise was shocking and much appreciated. I was grateful I had a window of opportunity a couple of months back to make this happen for them.

I wasn’t sure about posting this message because I never want it to seem as if I’m tooting my own horn. I struggle with embracing the good in my life with humility. If you get anything out of my message, I hope it’s that with patience, faith in God, positive action, and perseverance, you can get through just about anything. Just keep moving forward.

How have you been coping? What blessings have you seen come out of this pandemic?

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2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole

Hello world! On February 3, 2020, after a glorious January of drinking delicious green smoothies and crushing my health goals, I came down with a vicious, RELENTLESS COLD! I haven’t had a cold in like…YEARS. I honestly think I haven’t had a cold since some time before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. Let me tell you, I don’t want another one again!!! I believe I picked it up from someone at work and passed it on to my husband. The rest is history. It was terrible! I’m mostly better, but I’m not 100% yet.

Despite spending the first half of February fighting a cold, I’ve set other goals related to my finances. Check out a snapshot of my vision board in the cover photo. (Ignore the weird smile.) Have you ever made up your mind about something to the point where you became obsessed??? This is me right now. I can barely think of anything else.

I’m not quite sure what clicked in my head that’s caused me to become so laser focused and determined to get out of debt, but I’m glad to be here. I’ve been reading and watching videos on YouTube daily, and mostly all day on weekends, about personal finance, getting out of debt, and building wealth.

Lucrece’s Financial reading

I’ve been toying with Dave Ramsey for years. I even bought his daughter, Rachel Cruze’s book and audio of “Love Your Life Not Theirs” (not pictured). I’ve taken on some of Dave Ramsey’s principles, many of which are from the Bible, but haven’t fully committed. For example, I’ve been doing a zero based budget for years. In my budget binder, where I track our household expenses, I can see I’ve been using the budget worksheet from one of his books since at least 2007-2008. I also have a Financial Planner I’ve recently recovered and have notes in there from 2008 (when my handwriting was much neater). What I haven’t done is save for the emergency fund and start the debt snowball yet.

For the last few years, I’ve been living in some kind of alternate reality, as best as I can describe, because I haven’t put much thought into my financial goals. Sure, I do a budget every month and pay my bills, but I haven’t planned much beyond that. Retirement and insurance are automatically withdrawn from my check. My husband hasn’t worked for a couple of years due to his health issues, so my income is all that we’re working with for this period in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good things working in our favor with regard to our finances such as my salary and I’m fairly organized. However, there’s much, MUCH more work to be done. My husband is on board now too. Call it mid-life CRISIS or perimenopause, but there’s a sense of urgency in getting this part of my life together that I’ve not had before. I’d like to build wealth for my family.

Like most Americans today, a large chunk of my debt is student loan debt. If I had to do it again, I would definitely do some things differently; however, I can’t go back in the past. I must move forward learning the light lessons along the way. I’m highly educated (my student loans are my receipt of this education) and am going to use the tools I already possess to reach my financial goals.

I’ve taken the time to total my debt, which I haven’t done in years and years. I think this is a sign I’m serious. I actually wrote down the numbers. The amount is mind boggling. However, I know if we (my husband and I) put our minds to it, we can dig ourselves out of this hole. You can too.

The best place to start is to: acknowledge there is a problem, decide to do something about it, decide on the best course of action, plan, and then put your plan to ACTION. Also, surround yourself with information and successful stories of people who have reached your same goals. And then often VISUALIZE yourself reaching your goal(s). IMAGINE what it feels like. How good does it feel to make that accomplishment?

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

What are your financial goals for 2020? How much progress have you made? Planning on getting a 2nd or 3rd job?

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2020 Communication-Can you hear me MEOW?

Let’s get clear about something in 2020. Effective communication is essential in sustaining fulfilling relationships. Yet, in communicating, it’s so easy to get wires crossed, misinterpret, make assumptions, jump to conclusions, ignore the facts, etc. I urge everyone to work on improving your communication in 2020. If you think you communicate superbly, you might want to consider further refining your skills.

What am I talking about? I’m glad you asked because as you know, communication takes several forms such verbal, nonverbal, and written. The communication styles I learned about in college as a social sciences student was assertive, passive, aggressive, and passive aggressive. (HINT: You want to be assertive.) There are many platforms of which to communicate (Ex., in person, phone, instant message, text, emails, audio, video calls, etc.) and the act of communicating can entail multiple simultaneous activities (Ex., listening, watching, speaking, processing, interpreting, etc.)

At my place of work, communication is a constant challenge because I work for a large bureaucratic agency. The volume of work is VAST. I’m flooded with emails on a daily basis. And here’s a NEWS FLASH!!! Emails are not the most effective mode of communication. Yet interestingly, many people think it is the best way to communicate. My opinion is that in person is the best way and all other modes can work to support in person communication, but not without extra effort.

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed communication problems with a member of my team. In these types of situations, as the leader, I assess where I can tighten up my communication style to ensure I’m communicating effectively. Be direct. Check. Give sufficient information – no more, no less. Check. Paraphrase what was said to ensure I understand. Check. Repeat. Check. Summarize. Check. However, despite my best efforts, communication continued to decline. We ended up having a meeting with a director to help mediate the situation. At the end of the day, it was a matter of communication styles and some other factors.

I love how my cats Beignet and Cannoli (pictured) communicate with the four humans in their house (us) and with each other. Beignet is the alpha cat of the two. He’s aggressive with his expression of love. He is constantly affirming his love for me by following me EVERY WHERE, giving me tail hugs, brushing up against my leg when I’m on the toilet, meowing for me to open the door after I purposely locked him out, winking at me when we lock eyes, laying on my chest in the early morning, sleeping on my shoes, and believe it or not, there are many more ways Beignet displays his love for me.

Cannoli does all the same things as Beignet, but to a much more tame degree. He barely meows. Yet, he will communicate he loves me by laying at the foot of the bed instead of on my chest, except for when I’m on the couch…he’ll lay on my lap. He’ll gently rub against me when passing by, but not always. He’ll give me a wink too if he feels like it. I don’t get quite as many physical expressions of love from Cannoli as Beignet, but that’s fine because they’re different cats, communicating the same thing. They love me. Message received.

When my kids were younger and we first got our cats as kittens, I taught them to “listen” to what the cats were trying to tell us by their actions. I especially had to remind my daughter, the younger of my two kids. Don’t keep trying to hold Cannoli when he’s squirming in your arms. Let him go. He’ll come back to you when he’s ready. Beignet is wagging his tail rapidly and his ears are pointed up, which probably means he’s agitated and may lash out at you. Don’t get in his face. Cannoli is rubbing up against you again, which probably means he wants you to pick him up. There are plenty of nonverbal cues our cats give to let us know what they want, but you have to be observant and discerning.

I wish communicating with other humans were as simple as communicating with pets. Despite all the tools at our disposal, communication can go haywire if you don’t pay attention. Each person is different, has different learning and communication styles, and motivations. People can use all the tools thinking communication will be better, but not necessarily. It takes effort and intentionality. Beignet demonstrates his love using all of his tools and because I’ve received his message, I reciprocate. You have to be intentional about communicating. I’ll do a later post on communicating with your loved ones.

So I encourage you to evaluate how you may need to improve your communication style in 2020. There is always room for improvement.

What’s your communication style? What areas do you need to improve upon?

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To all the badass women leaders

Oh dear! This is the last Christmas Eve of the decade! Listen, 2019 has tried to WHOOP my behind and I mean TRIED, but I have a second wind. I’m percolating with ideas and enthusiasm. I’ve been laying low and recharging my battery, particularly my spiritual battery. For anyone in a similar situation as me, we can end 2019 with a BANG, or at least with the acknowledgment that we did the best we could and we’re still standing to tell our story.

My lovely boss gave me an early Christmas gift and I’ve already begun diving into this book. I know I’m a badass and I don’t doubt myself like I used to. In fact, the older I get, and the more experience I gain, the less I doubt myself. However, sometimes the obstacles of life can make you doubt your path, BUT I’m here to tell you to keep going. Obstacles, challenges, disappointments, disasters, and defeats come with the human experience. Don’t bother asking, “Why me?”.

If you’re not in a struggle now, you’re coming out of one or are headed that way in the future. But don’t fret! It strengthens your muscle, and which muscle being strengthened (character, spiritual, resilience, emotional, mental, financial, intellectual, integrity, professional, parenting, friendship, etc.) depends on what lesson you’re meant to learn.

Intermingled with the obstacles in 2019, are some definite wins. This is why it’s so important to take time every so often to reflect on your life. The end of the year, or decade for that matter, is a great time to reflect. It’s important to review your goals, assess your progress with achieving them, and determine what other work you need to invest to reach them. It’s also important to acknowledge and express gratitude for the things working well in your life because there’s something to acknowledge, no matter how small.

I want to spend a little time doting on the badass women leaders I know. I’m fortunate to work in a environment with a diverse group of exceptional women leaders. I’ve known this already, but it really stood out to me last week. The strongest traits I see in them that I admire are articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things, encouraging others, providing constructive feedback, taking the time to learn, adjusting, and bravely making hard decisions on a daily basis. These are just my current colleagues. I’ve had examples of strong, badass women leaders my whole life.

My mom, Solange, was a package of strength and vulnerability. I was perplexed by this combination for a long time. She raised 4 children on a meager salary on her own for years (before she married my stepfather when I was 16). I don’t know how she did it when I learned how much her salary was. I think I made more money than her in my first full time job and that job wasn’t much.

Solange was strict and had high standards. She passed her work ethic down to all of her children. I believe the work ethic she instilled in me is responsible for why I’m in a leadership position. My work ethic is responsible for why I push myself so hard….I’m an overachiever. Overachieving comes with some drawbacks as you’ve seen me blog about previously. I’m in a constant battle of doing and being okay with not doing. I have to tell myself to “chill out” sometimes.

The other badass woman leader example I grew up with in my own home is my older sister, Gina. Growing up, she was the one everybody called “bossy”. Naturally, most people have a problem with the “bossy” ones because they don’t want to be told what to do. However, she was practical and had an organized sense about her.

As it turns out, people who are bossy make great managers and she’s been in leadership roles at various jobs starting at an early age. I’ve always admired Gina’s ability to speak with confidence and articulate what she meant. Gina was frank and honest. I’m grateful she’s one of my resources for feedback in managing certain personnel matters at work.

Then there was my older cousin who is so smart. I’m purposely not typing her name. There’s a lot of pressure in Haitian culture to do as your parents have set out for you. Our parents’ generation had some relational tactics that I found were controlling and manipulative. As the middle child, my cousin, from my perspective, learned to be a great neutralizer and negotiator in the family. In fact, I think Gina, also has these traits as she is the middle child.

My cousin maintains relationships with everyone even if those individuals don’t get along with each other and some don’t. She’s the common denominator. They all get along with her. I’ve also watched her achieve her goals and meet high standards she set for herself and standards her parents set for her.

I could go on, but these are just some of my examples. If you’re a striving to be, or are a current badass woman leader, surround yourself with other badass women leaders.

The traits I admire in women leaders such as articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things despite the audience, constantly learning and adjusting, negotiating, managing personalities successfully, offering constructive feedback, bravely making and standing by hard decisions, managing work and family life simultaneously, don’t come easily to many of us. Women are raised, or at least used to be raised, counterintuitively to what makes a great leader (please everyone, don’t say what you think, be nice, etc.)

2020 is right around the corner and I plan on being even more BADASS than I already am. And BADASS for me does include taking the time out for myself doing the things I most enjoy. I’ll share some of my goals in the coming weeks.

As a jump start, I started my Christmas break doing something I love…dancing. I was one of the instructors at a Zumbathon benefiting a shelter for women and children.

LPC leading a song at the Zumbathon 12-21-2019
Zumbathon 12-21-19…badass instructors and students who remained to the end. LPC

We normally attend Austin’s Trails of Lights spectacular, but we opted to go more low key and small town this year. Therefore, my husband, and I, went to the small town of Buda’s Trail of Lights. It was seasonably cold.

Peace..more of this in 2020 – Buda Trail of Lights 2019 LPC

Then, yesterday after I spent the day preparing a feast for my husband’s birthday, we went to our church to hear the amazing Annie Moses Band play Christmas music. Their performance was so beautiful, it left us speechless.

Annie Moses Band LifeAustin 12-23-19 LPC

I hope you all have an AMAZING Christmas and holiday season! I know this time of year is difficult for many due to financial stress, missing a loved one who is deceased, and loneliness, to name a few. The biggest misconception is that you’re alone. The reason for the season is Jesus’s birth and He is with you. Please take comfort in Jesus’ sacrifice for you.

Now it has just occurred to me, I’ve repeatedly used the same curse word throughout this post, and yet ended the post writing about Jesus. I’m not perfect, but I know the reason for the season. I plan to curse less in 2020, but in all fairness the book started it!

What wins have you had in 2019? Who are the positive examples in your life? How do you plan to spend the last few days of the decade?

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Faith and Vision

Say it aint so…about 23 days left in 2019. Really??? December is upon us. It’s a great month to reflect on the year and to think about goals for the upcoming year. Although these last 3 months have been the most difficult for me, I’m fairly optimistic about 2020. I know I am because I went to the Dollar Tree and bought my daughter, Elise, and I a couple of poster boards for our 2020 vision boards. It was Elise’s idea. We’ll embark on this activity during the Christmas break. I’m looking forward to the time off and spending it with my family.

Why is it that the time flies by the fastest from September to December? To be honest, the first 5 months of the year were a blur. I can best summarize it as: work was gruesomely rewarding, my son graduated high school, my daughter completed 8th grade, my son and I traveled to the Dominican Republic for a life changing trip, and some family members came to visit us in Austin in between. It was a roller coaster ride, for sure. I was doing alright with 2019 until my husband started getting sick again.

What I’ve learned in these last few months, the hardest months of my 2019, is that God’s hand is on me and my family. He’s been trying to tell me something for a while. I’m listening. He’s got my attention. God has me where He wants me. I know this because my intellect, education, and experience can’t get me out of this. I have no where else to turn except to God.

I no longer believe in happenstance, coincidence, or the like. I’ve known since my twenties my God given purpose is to help people. However, I’m coming to terms that God has a plan for my destiny. I don’t know what it is yet, and that’s hard to live with.

I’ve been spending time daily reading and listening to teachings about Detours. My faith is being tested. I feel like this is the final exam. I’m recalling a time in college, where I was waiting on the results of a final exam. It was a difficult exam. Sometimes, you just know when you do well on a test or not, but in this case, it could have gone either way. This is where I am now.

The more I delve into the spiritual side of me, the more closed off I want to be. This means I want to spend less time on social media. I want to spend less time trying to impress people on purpose. I want to spend less time writing on my blog. I just want to get to understand God better. Can anyone relate?

With all of my life’s experiences thus far, I will say that God has molded me to be a STRONG and COURAGEOUS person. I can’t imagine what else He is preparing me for. Only God knows. I’m learning how to wait patiently and to wait well.

My words should have painted the picture that I’ve been struggling. The struggle is the underlying tug in my words. However, I know there are better days ahead. In fact, TODAY is a GOOD day and it really was(time for bed). It’s called FAITH. This blog site is about self-care and I would be remiss to not acknowledge the most important tool in my self-care box is FAITH. Faith in God and then faith that he’s equipping me to withstand anything. Admittedly, it’s a little scary to think about what other challenges I may face in this life, but whatever it is, I will withstand it.

In 2020, I’m looking forward to a fresh new year to start over. I want to make more meaningful connections with people, especially the people I love and those who love me. Life is too short to worry about people who don’t matter when the people who do matter are right under your nose. They deserve most of our attention and love. I also see more travel on the horizon.

I’ve been saving old magazines so Elise and I can work on our vision boards. I’ll be thinking about some other goals for 2020. I hope I find the pictures to capture it. Do you know that visualization in your mind increases the likeliness of achieving goals. I visualize in my mind often. However, the last time we did a vision board was in 2016. It’s been long overdo.

How about you? What lessons surfaced for you in 2019? What are you looking forward to in 2020?

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Face your fears Part Deux

Last week, I wrote a blog post about facing my fears by finally getting my wisdom teeth removed. In case you’re wondering, I’m healing very well. Thank you. Although a significant experience, it proved to be less dramatic than I imagined. This past week, I’ve mulled over the lessons that can be learned from dealing with our fears head on. I found myself recalling my upbringing and experiences.

Fear was a big part of my life growing up. The mindset of fear was imposed on me. My point isn’t I’m a victim, but that fear is powerful. You don’t just unlearn fear. It can creep into your thoughts and seduce you with misinformation without you realizing what’s happening. Fear can cripple your mind. It can make you freeze. And there may be legitimate reasons to be fearful, but I don’t think we are meant to live in a state of fear. It takes a great amount of conscious, hard work to train yourself as an adult to overcome the damaging effects of fear. For some, this work may entail therapy, which is ok.

Fear started in my life before I was born. My parents were born into poverty in Haiti, an island with a tragic history of government corruption and civil unrest. I don’t know much about my grandparents on either side, but they were no doubt born into poverty in Haiti. My father physically and emotionally abused my mother. My siblings witnessed and internalized the abuse. Although I was too young to remember, there is no doubt in my mind that I internalized the atmosphere (terror, shame, secrecy, inadequacy, sadness). I was raised in two different, opposing religions, inundated with strict rules that created fear. My family were immigrants to the United States, and in Haitian culture, there is fear of Haitian children becoming Americanized and abandoning their roots.

Those are the big ticket “fear” items that I contend with…there are more. Each scenario manifests fear differently and in countless ways, but it’s all fear. For example, when I was little, we literally moved around a lot to escape my father. Divorce didn’t stop him from terrorizing my family. He would get on drunken rampages, find out where my mom lived, then would obscenely bang on the door and harrass until eventually my mom found another place to escape. We were fine as long as we kept our distance, but there was the constant fear of him finding out where we were and then what would he do.

I feared people in my Catholic elementary school would find out that my mom was really a Jehovah’s Witness. My uncle’s family thought it best that all of the children attended Catholic school. It’s common in Haiti for children to attend private, parochial schools. I believe my mom’s fear of what could happen to me based on her status as a single, immigrant parent in the United States caused her to make decisions based on loyalty and familiarity. She didn’t have anybody else.

How do I contend with generational fear? I consciously work to break the cycle. Awareness is an important first step. Next steps included learning about who I was through soul searching and education, determining my purpose through prayer, implementing my vision for my life, and living as God had intended for me. I don’t think God wants us to live in fear. I don’t raise my children to live in fear. There is so much GOODNESS and fortune on the other side of fear.

By no means am I completely absolved of fear. It’s a lifelong struggle. Thoughts creep up that I can’t control. However, awareness is still that important first step. Then, I go through a process of determining the source…the reason behind the fear. When I come to an understanding of what the fear is, then I challenge it. I face it. If I’m brave enough, which I usually am, I move towards it. I keep moving towards it until it has no more power.

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Do what works for you but do it

For the past few months, I’ve made several adjustments to my exercise routine to determine what works best for this 45 year old body. You probably can’t tell from this particular picture, but exercise for me is like breathing… there is no question I’m going to do some form of exercise. I’m addicted to how strong and alive I feel post a good workout. Today, I will have exercised 7 days this week, which I haven’t done in a while.

Zumba fitness has worked for me for many years, but as much as I love it, it has also taken a toll on my body to the point I only do it once or twice a week. My ankles ache most of the time. Plus, I’ve been getting bored with Zumba fitness. I accomplished my goal of becoming a licensed Zumba fitness instructor when I turned 40…5 years ago. Although I have not taught a class for two years now, I’ve been wrestling with canceling my Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) membership. Canceling would essentially cancel my ability to teach if I ever decided to do it again. If I change my mind, I don’t want to have to go through the process of getting licensed again. I think other reasons why it’s difficult for me to cancel has to do with working so hard to accomplish my goal. I also have many fond memories of events I’ve danced in and of teaching students.

Whatever the case, what I’ve done lately is utilize my old DVDs from my vast exercise video library collection. These are DVDs I collected in the early 2000s when I exercised mostly at home instead of a gym, for convenience, post giving birth to my two babies. I’ve also been walking more. My work hours have increased substantially due to my responsibilities, so exercising at home is convenient. I’ve found I’m tired when I get home. I’ve been assessing if my tiredness is a result of getting older. I haven’t totally embraced that possibility, yet I can’t deny I get tired. As I’ve noted in several posts, I’ve been working on getting more sleep too, which has been helping.

While most people drink coffee, I don’t, but exercise wakes my body right up. I prefer to do it every day before work. I also incorporate more walking into my work day by purposely taking the stairs several times a day and going on short walking spurts in between meetings. This routine has been working so I’ll continue for while.

My light lesson for you is find what works for you and then do it. If you need to change it up, by all means do so. As we get older, shoulder more responsibility, experience life changing events, etc., we may need to adjust. So adjust, but keep going.

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Full Circle Part III

Here’s something I noticed, I get the most views on my blog from my Facebook followers when I write about my personal life. Either I have some nosey followers, we share a similar story, and/or you can relate, or all three. Whatever the case, I will continue to be as transparent as I feel comfortable because I’ve had ample learning opportunities. Believe it or not, there are some private lessons that I’m not willing to share, especially as they concern others that are close to me and that’s ok.  My first blog post in this series that I’m calling “Full Circle”(you can read it here) was prompted by self-empathy as I reflected on my life experiences after I completed radiation therapy due to breast cancer last month. My contemplative state of mind can also be attributed to the fact that it’s still somewhat the beginning of 2017 (I still have not finalized my goals!).  At the conclusion of radiation treatment in January, I wanted to rid my body of the toxins I’d been exposed to since my cancer treatments began. Therefore, I completed two green smoothie challenges (one of which included a vegan detox meal plan by Simple Green Smoothies). Currently, I feel myself transitioning into another phase of life. I’m in the midst of a metamorphosis. I’ve been thinking about everything. Thoughts that have been buried away for years have resurfaced. I’ve had new epiphanies and perspectives on old situations.

At the end of that first “Full Circle” blog post, I asked my readers to stay tuned for the strategies I used to get through that difficult time of confusion and depression. I was lost. And although I had not consciously decided to sleep my life away as my previous coworker indirectly suggested (you can read about it here in Full Circle Part II), I wasn’t living. I was afraid to make any more moves. I was stuck.

When I think about how I overcame that time in my life, I think about my frame of mind, the thoughts that sustained me, and the actions I took that got me through it.  I attempted to make this list as comprehensive as I could. After rereading, I can very well say that I continue to embody this process as I am constantly evolving. This has worked for me in the past and continues to work for me.

  1. I Didn’t Give up
  2. I Prayed and Believed
  3. I Was Patient
  4. I Had a Positive Mind
  5. I Dreamed
  6. I Had an Honest Conversation with Myself
  7. I Gathered Information
  8. I Created Measurable Goals
  9. I Filled Out Paperwork and Followed Through
  10. I Set New Goals as I Crossed Old Ones Off My List

Some of these items are self-explanatory, but I will give my spin on what they each mean to me.

I Didn’t Give Up

I think by far the most important decision I made was not to give up on myself, especially having felt that some people had given up on me. I want to emphasize that it was a decision…a choice to not give up. I believed that if I gave up on myself, then it was over. Who else would believe in me? I had hope that I would get through it. Sometimes, hope is all you’ve got until you can gather more tools. My hope wouldn’t allow me to give up.

I Prayed and Believed

At that time, I prayed often for God to reveal his purpose in my life. I was very familiar with bible scriptures having grown up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion and Catholicism (long story for another time). I believed that God wanted the best for me. I just didn’t know what that “best” was. Even though I could not see my future, I knew it was laid out for me. I listened to what God was telling me to do. It was not always easy to hear His voice, but I tried really hard to follow his steps.

I Was Patient

And I still am. There were times that I wanted to see progress immediately, but to some degree, I had dug a hole for myself. I wasn’t coming out of that in a matter of months. There was satisfaction in knowing that I would eventually get myself together and the naysayers (a.k.a. haters) would have to give me my props. There was also a time that I would pray for patience, and boy, I kept getting challenges that tested my patience. I’ve since stopped praying for patience. I’m a pro. 😉

I Had a Positive Mind

I read quite a few self-help books on personal development. I mentioned in the initial Full Circle post that, at that time, I went to a therapist once and was too afraid to go back because of the backlash from my family. I was embarrassed and ashamed and actually convinced myself that a therapist wouldn’t be able to help me with the mound of mess that I was in. I thought a more gentle approach would be for me to spend time doing this on my own. I read books on positivity and personal growth. I practiced what I was learning.

I Dreamed

I have quite the imagination attributed to years of being in environments that I didn’t want to be in so I had to do something with my mind. Just as I had daydreamed under those circumstances, I dreamed of the day that I would accomplish my goals. Visualizing myself being accepted into a college, in my graduation robe, or accepting my college diploma helped to keep me focused on my goals. I would also visualize myself having tough conversations with my family and friends. I’ve spent a lot of time in my head. As an introvert, it’s my favorite place to be.

I Had An Honest Conversation with Myself

I messed up too although I didn’t have the best dealt hand in life to work with either. However, I was not going to have a pity party. I was done sulking and sleeping all the time. I decided that I would attempt to change the things that I could control (insert Serenity Prayer here). I didn’t beat myself up, but looked at the situation as objectively as I could. I had some work to do.

I Gathered Information

I love libraries and my favorite was the Harold Washington Public Library in downtown Chicago. That is where I discovered many of my self-help books and also where I researched careers. Prior to dropping out of college, I was a business major, but that didn’t feel right. When I worked in downtown Chicago, I would spend my lunch breaks walking over to the library and researching the field of “social work”. I was fascinated.

I Created Measurable Goals

I’m a goal setter. I wrote down on paper what my goals were and systematically took the steps to get accomplish each goal. Smaller goals fed into the larger goals. I remember applying at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago because I had known all along (but didn’t accept) that I would thrive in a smaller university. I would set goals to fill out the application (not available online back then…mind blowing), turn it in, meet with an admissions counselor, etc. SMART goals are the way to go – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Specific (SMART).

I Filled Out Paperwork and Followed Through

Boy, did I fill out paperwork – college applications, job applications, personal journal entries, letters to friends, school writing assignments, etc. I wrote a lot and still do. I also followed up and through with my commitments. I wanted to become a FINISHER. I wanted to complete a big goal and that entailed constant follow through.

I Set New Goals as I Crossed Old Ones Off My List

Here’s where the overachiever in me comes in. That euphoric feeling that you get from achieving a goal is addictive, so you want to have that feeling over and over again. I’m also addicted to learning new things, learning new things about myself, and becoming a better version of me. Hopefully, I will finalize (or start) my 2017 goal list. On one hand, I’m surprised that I haven’t done this yet, but on the other hand, I had a lot going on. I just set the goal to complete this list before the weekend ends. It’s a SMART goal.

This blog post is a little longer than my usual, but my early twenties were a defining moment in my life and I had a lot to figure out at the time. I’m very pleased with how my life is blossoming. I acknowledge that it has taken great courage for me to move forward. That courage gives me the confidence to keep going.

What’s interesting is that I am at a crosswords again. I feel like I am birthing something, but I’m not quite sure what yet. A metamorphosis is happening within me. I will get it eventually. Sometimes I’m a little slow with figuring things out and I don’t always hear God clearly, but I’m patient. Stick around with me on this journey and we could learn together.