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Make room for the sweet stuff

It’s been 2 weeks since we welcomed our sweet babies, our new kittens, into our home. It couldn’t have come at a better time. My 15 year old son, Caleb, took one look at one (supposedly the more outgoing of the two) rolling around and said that kitten reminds him of a cannoli because of the contrast of the solid white on his tummy against the grayish stripes on the rest of his body. And just like that, my son proclaimed with a grin that he should be named Cannoli.  

I laughed because he is usually thinking food, but I kind of liked the name. So then my children and I agreed that their names should have a theme and since Cannoli is an Italian dessert, we’d find a French dessert name for the other.  After a quick google search, we landed on Beignet, which was PERFECT because my husband, Bryan, has made beignets (our first time ever having this dessert) twice to help Caleb earn extra credit in his French class. So there you have it, our kittens are named Cannoli and Beignet. As it turns out Beignet is the more outgoing of the two and Cannoli is more chill. Cannoli is also completely litter trained unlike his brother.

In June, my coworker was going around telling folks about a litter of kittens that her mom’s cat had and they needed a home. I jumped in right away and not only said that I wanted one, but I was thinking about two. The look on her face was of surprise and sheer delight. I had never been so sure of anything in a long time. I had thought about maybe two in the past so they wouldn’t get lonely while the family was away at school and work. You see, my children and I created a 2016 vision board in January and a picture of a cat is on there.  Yup, I told Bryan that this was the year, so he’d better get his mind right. I’ve missed having cats. In the 19 years of living in Texas, I haven’t had one, except for the neighborhood cat that we feed sporadically.

The kittens are a complete joy to everyone, including Bryan. We are in complete awe of them (ok…maybe Bryan isn’t in complete awe, but they make him smile a lot, especially when they fall asleep on his lap). I know families who’ve gotten pets when their children are much younger than mine, but Caleb used to be allergic to both cats and dogs, so that was the main reason we didn’t have pets. When he was tested a few years ago, we found out that he was no longer allergic to cats. He is still allergic to dogs.

Now my children are ages 15 and 10 (11 next month), which is old enough to really appreciate and help take care of them. It’s been a joy  to see how loving my children are to them. This really was the perfect time to receive them into our home because we’re getting them litter trained while we’re still on summer schedule and have more time to play and enjoy them before the school year hustle/bustle starts. Plus, with Bryan’s surgery in May, and disappointment with not making it to Florida for my cousin’s wedding that same month (see my first post), we needed a burst of joy.

I see why some animals make great therapy pets.  Pets don’t judge you. They just want to be loved and cared for. This whole experience makes me think about how you have to open yourself up to receive joy. I wrote a previous post in response to the daily word prompt about being open. I’m convinced that being open is a conscious decision that you have to make. I could be bitter about a lot of things, but it’s my decision on how negative experiences affect me.  I know it’s easier said than done, but it takes work, and for some, fight. If negative internal dialogue is an issue, then you need to be deliberate about keeping your internal dialogue positive and in check.

I could type more, but I want to end noting that there is a lot of misfortune, hate and injustice in the world, but seize opportunities to receive and express joy. Be grateful. Make room for the sweet stuff.


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Heart of hope

As I write this, I’m inundated with a flood of emotions due to the recent deaths. It’s amazing to me how humans are able to function despite inner turmoil, helplessness, fear, anger, distress, sadness, ambivalence, uncertainty, feelings of powerlessness and even terror. People experience these emotions daily, sometimes simultaneously, as they experience the injustices of this world, yet continue to go to work, go to school, and carry out their daily lives.

I struggled on what to write this week because I tend to focus on the light hearted, positive, and things that can be done within one’s control to take care of self, but my heart is heavy. Too heavy for the post I drafted on Thursday, but never published. It’s too heavy for the pink hearts in the picture I took and shared in this post, but I will circle back around to its significance later. This post will be different from my others because I tend to not write about these sorts of things although they impact me a great deal. I’m Haitian American married to an African American and we’re raising a son and a daughter in this world. The color of our skin is evident upon first laying eyes on us. The color of our skin definitely impacts the way we raise our children.

Truthfully, I haven’t been able to really articulate my feelings. It’s a combination of helplessness, sadness, anxiety, hope, gratefulness, and uncercertainty as best as I can tell right now.  My family has experienced abuse when I was a child. By my family, I mean my mother and her 4 children, which includes me (the youngest), at the hands of my father. A thought came to me when I learned of the Dallas police shootings and that was this is what happens in an abusive relationship. The abused is beat down (the best I can do right now in terms of clinical terminology as a social worker) and tormented mentally, psychologically, and sometimes physically. There is also a shrouding of secrecy in abused families. The abused will plead, beg, adjust behaviors, and sometimes even tell someone as attempts to stop or reduce the abuse, but it falls on deaf ears and the abuse continues. This all becomes internalized.  I view the shootings of the police officers as direct result of what happens when one has been unheard and unseen repeatedly. The abused decides that enough is enough and takes matters into their own hands. It is not the solution, but in that moment, it appeared to be the best option. Think of the countless women in prison, incarcerated for killing their abusers.  
This is all I will write about my thoughts on the shootings and racism in America because I know there are a lot of opinions.  I don’t want to get into that nor simplify the magnitude of problem. What I want to focus on is how to live a meaningfil life in a world with so much injustice going on that is out of one’s control. 

Yesterday, I went into a store where everything is $1. The store is aptly named the Dollar Tree and I was looking for items for a party at work. We’re throwing a going away party for one of my coworkers and I had everyone at work write a memorable message for her on the pink hearts (in the picture) that my daughter helped me cut out. The hearts will be folded, placed in a mason jar and presented as a gift . At the Dollar Tree, I found a cute reddish ribbon to wrap the mason jar with.  I was in line assessing (really judging in my head) a family in front of me.  I recognized the woman, but I couldn’t place from where.  I eventually thought that she might have been a cashier at one of the grocery stores I frequented.  

I assessed that in this family was the woman who was with her adult daughter and her daughter’s 3 children. Two of the children looked a little unkempt and one had matted hair.  I observed them unloading their cart full of processed snacks and drinks. Things I would never buy my kids. I observed the two women mouthing the number of items, estimating the cost of their purchases. I admit I was staring too much, but I am a people watcher.  The woman that I recognized gave me a gentle smile a couple of times and then exclaimed she loved my dress. I made the assessment that she was kind and warm. I said “thank you” and continued to be bothered by the belt full of processed food that they were purchasing. I began to think that maybe this is all they could afford. I thought about how privileged I was for being educated on the benefits of making better food choices and having the financial ability to do so.  The woman put an item separater in front and one behind my items. Every now and again, she would tell one of her grandkids to behave in some way. There was a moment where I thought she knew I was staring  too much and cleverly attempted to break my gaze by being overly gracious. That could have been my guilt. Whatever the case, I eventually thought to myself, “here you are judging these good people and for what”? They are kind.

There are huge problems in this world like racisim, poverty, hunger, wars, rapes, slavery, kidnappings, persecution (to name a few), that may not be resolved in my lifetime. In fact, I do not believe that they will be resolved without an act from God. It can be overwhelming. But I think we were put on this earth to make connections with each other. Being kind and making meaningful connections with people, even if for brief moments, gives hope. In the same way that I will fill the mason jar with positive messages of hope to give away as a gift, making meaningful connections with people fills our hearts with hope that we can give as  gifts to others. I think being kind, listening and really trying to understand another person’s experience (people we come across every day) brings out the best in us. This expression of love is within our control and is something that each person can take action on now.