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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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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Have you ever had the experience of minding your business, scrolling through your social media, and then witnessing something so absolutely shocking that it consumes you for like two to three hours? That happened to me recently. Friday night, after a very long day at work (7:20am-8:15pm), I needed to get home to some mind numbing activity. When I got home, I immediately undressed and paraded around my bedroom naked for a few minutes because nakedness is soothing to me. I didn’t bother to eat dinner although I was hungry. I eventually took a shower, got in the bed, with my phone in hand, and proceeded to scroll through my facebook feed hoping to temporarily erase my mind of the day’s events. My logic was flawed at the start because in the hopes of forgetting my day, I was scrolling through the feeds of other people’s baggage. Light lesson #1: Dont replace your baggage with someone else’s baggage. It’s still baggage.

I came across a post that had only been posted for a few minutes, but in it, the poster accused a fiance of not responding to her in a month….really… like A MONTH? My “drama” senses suggested I read the comments and explore further. What soon unfolded was a barrage of posts with inflammatory accusations and insults from each party, with other people chiming in. This went on for a while. It was vile, but I felt compelled to continue to read. It was certainly more interesting than my day. Hours later, the posts subsided, but only after both parties totally demeaned each other on a public, social media platform…for all to see.

I’m sensitive to the fact that this is the life of two people despite myself and other people tuning in as if we were watching a television drama. Someone even posted a meme of Michael Jackson eating popcorn from the music video “Thriller” to illustrate the sentiment. The social worker in me kept asking what breakdown caused this type of communication. I don’t want to be on a high horse, but I have thought about unfriending this “friend” on my feed before because I don’t agree with her tactics of telling all her relationship business on social media and sharing negative information. She’s done this to another boyfriend. I don’t want that energy on my feed. Whatever the case, she was still on my feed, I never deleted her, and here was another case.

I felt empathy for her because it sounds like she was being mistreated, but she seems to have contributed a great deal to her own situation. Sharing on social media only compounds the problem. She probably thought she was seeking help and sympathy on this very public platform, but in my opinion, she got slaughtered. Light lesson #2: don’t share intimate details of your relationship on social media. One day, I may devote a post to the phenomenon of social media and its affect on people and relationships.

The debacle made me think about my “soon to be” twenty one year marriage to my husband, Bryan, and why is it that in our many arguements and disagreements over the years, we’ve never resorted to name calling and sharing our business with everyone else. Last week, I made note of some ingedients that have been essential to my marriage (read it here). I also wrote a post last year on marriage intimacy, which you can read about here.

The bottom line is RESPECT. Light lesson #3: Have some self-respect and Light lesson #4: Respect your partner. No one asked me, but my assessment is both parties have self-esteem issues and could benefit from doing the work to unpack their own baggage, getting clear on what they expect in a relationship, and setting some foundational ground rules for their relationship and sticking to them.

The “friend” seems to have removed herself from facebook, which I think is a promising step.

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What makes my marriage work

Next month, my husband, Bryan, and I will have been married for 21 years. We often marvel at how much time has passed and discuss how it doesn’t feel as long as it has been. I usually don’t talk about my marriage to others because I learned a long time ago that marriage is a sacred relationship between two people and you don’t want others in your business…family or otherwise, with the exception of a marriage counselor or pastor, if you so choose. I’m sharing some gems now because I believe that 21 years is no small feat, especially considering the high divorce rate.

One thing that makes my marriage to my husband work is that I fiercely protect it and I protect my husband. I remember years ago when I was dating someone, who was not Bryan, and he did a hurtful thing to me. I told my friends. Big MISTAKE! One friend, in particular, wouldn’t let me, or him, live it down, even after I had gotten over it and forgave him. You can’t do this in marriage. I respect Bryan immensely and that respect causes me to want to manage things with him only. I also want him to be seen in a positive light. For one thing, your friends and family may want to fiercely protect you too, so you have to monitor what you tell them. You learn that in marriage there is a constant extension of grace, mercy, and forgiveness because you will hurt each other, unintentionally and otherwise. Some people in your circle may not be as forgiving in their own lives. Some people in your circle want to be right more than anything. Some people in your circle make things about themselves. Some people in your circle don’t understand marriage.

If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been faced with several challenges in the last few years and they’ve all put my marriage to the test. One significant issue is my husband’s health, which has caused him to have problems with long and short-term memory. We’ve gotten even closer because he’s in a vulnerable place and we realize how important our relationship is to each other. Don’t get me wrong, prior to this health condition, I’ve complained about feeling like I’ve been taken for granted at times and other things couples face, after having been married for so long. However, I communicate that to him and we work on it. I also pray constantly for our marriage and for him.

Last week, we were watching, with our 17-year old son, a television show about revamping failing family restaurants. The wife said that when she reached out to touch her husband, he moved his hand away to reject her touch. My assessment was that he was too consumed with feeling like a failure. He felt alone and like he wasn’t worthy of love because he couldn’t figure out how to fix their problem. He tried to handle things alone instead of reaching for his partner. You could feel the hurt she expressed and see the hurt in his eyes. Bryan and I instinctively made eye contact and grabbed each other’s hand tightly. We each have our own wounds, but we don’t ever want to be in that place. I’m glad our son witnessed our exchange.

A few ingredients that make our marriage work for us are:

  1. Love demonstrated by our actions
  2. Mutual respect
  3. Constant, intentional communication
  4. Being best friends
  5. Constant extension of grace, mercy, and forgiveness
  6. Patience and empathy
  7. Unselfishness, compromise, constant self-evaluation, and editing
  8. Treating our relationship as sacred
  9. Discussing our problems with each other
  10. Enjoying each other’s company
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Can you learn to love the pain?

I love the many things going on in my life right now. Obvious ones are I love my family, friends, pets, career, and how far I’ve come in my relationships with my siblings, husband, extended family, and friends. I love the city I live in…Austin, and I also love the city I was born in… Chicago. I love my age because I feel like I’m finally at a place where I can be myself without the burden of worrying about what other people think. I genuinely love myself…my mind and my body. I love that I’m not a people pleaser. I love that I make myself a priority. I love that I set boundaries. I love that I can see through the bullshit…people’s bullshit, and step back and decide how to handle the bullshit. With my children, I’ll call them out. With other situations and people, it depends. I love that I’m discerning and am usually able to assess the source of the bullshit: fear, anger, lack of experience/knowledge, miscommunication, systemic problems, etc. I tend to file the information away in my mental library as additional tidbits until it’s time to address and take action.

I could go on about the things I love, but, what about the “not so lovely” things that inevitably happen to all of us. Why can’t we have the good stuff all the time? It feels so good! I don’t think our lives were meant to experience euphoria in isolation. The human experience is perplexing and all encompassing. There are books that can explain it better than I. I’m simply here sharing my perspective. In the last two years alone, I’ve experienced extreme challenges and pain: my husband’s brain surgery and the ongoing subsequent health issues, my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, my mom’s death, and me being the sole financial support in my household. Those are the big pains, but then there are the other ones that add up too: the disapointments (my trip to Haiti was just canceled last week), miscommunications, misunderstandings, financial shortcomings, feelings of inadequacy, helplessness and/or hopelessness, parenting, children that struggle in school and relationships, failed dreams and aspirations, miscarriages and inability to have children, broken relationships, work sacrifices and demands, etc.

I don’t have the answer to all of life’s problems, but what I do know is I experience great joy despite the pains of life. Better yet, I experience great joy because of the pains. I’m content. Firstly, it comes from a place of deep gratitude for being alive and gratitude from knowing I’ve encountered and survived many obstacles. I have supportive people in my life and people that pray for me. I accept that I can’t control most things. I’m also flexible in my thinking and have learned to go with the flow, not to force outcomes, and trust God.

Can you learn to “love” the pain? In short, I don’t know. I think it may go against human nature. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully get to the place where I love pain, but I’ll strive to love it. I do appreciate it. I can see that pain makes me appreciate all the great things in my life even better.

What are your thoughts?

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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 growing up, we called 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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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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Oh September

September has been difficult for me emotionally. Last September (2016), mummy came to Austin for a two and a half week visit. The whole time she was here, I was undergoing multiple tests to determine what the tumor was in my left breast. I didn’t tell her what I was going through and I wasn’t planning on it until it was confirmed by my doctor. I don’t regret it either. The day she left, my husband and I took her to the airport, then headed to my doctor’s appointment for the news. I already knew. I had been researching breast cancer obsessively. September 28 marks one year since my life changed drammatically.

It’s been almost 3 months since mummy passed away and it’s been a struggle. Most days, I’m well, going through my normal routine and then it’ll hit me. I become overwhelmed with emotion and start crying. It especially hits me when I’m driving home from work because for about 5 years, it was my routine to call her during this time. I miss her voice. My Facebook memories feed also reminds me through pictures that she is gone. I’m glad that I’ve taken so many pictures with mummy when she’s come to visit or vice versa. My sister noted that she and my other siblings didn’t think to take as many pictures with mummy since they all live in the same city and saw each other frequently. I happen to enjoy selfies plus I didn’t have the luxury of seeing mummy often, so I loved commemorating her visits.

On September 1, I had my annual exam with my primary care doctor and it was also emotional for me because the last time I saw her, she told me that I had breast cancer. She was on the verge of tears when she told me. Of course, I was happy to report that I’ve been well and healthy, but I soon found out that I need more tests for some other potential issues. Her words were, “You’ve been through a lot this past year already. There are still some questions.” I had testing on my breasts yesterday and things didn’t go as smoothly as 6 months ago. The radiology technician called me back 3 times for more testing, then requested the ultrsound. This was all too familiar, but last year, I didn’t think anything of it. Apparently, I’m not completely out of the woods yet on this cancer thing. I need a biopsy. The doctors want to be sure about the 2 new spots on the same breast.

I’m generally a positive person, but I don’t want to go down this road again. However, this does put things in perspective in terms of what is important in life. I needed the reminder. The hardest part of all of this is that my biggest supporter will not be around to take care of me for whatever procedures/treatment I may need. Last year, once it was confirmed that I had breast cancer, and after we had met with the surgeons and oncologist, I told mummy of my diagnosis. She took it hard, but was back in Austin by the end of October to be present for my two surgeries in November. How will I get through this next phase of “whatever” without her?

Whatever happens, I will do what I need to do to be alive as long as I can for my family. I am strong and brave. I just wish September wouldn’t be so hard. On the positive side, the weather has changed. The expression, “seasons change”, just rang in my ears and we all know that to be true. Only God knows why I’m faced with these health challenges in this season of my life. I will go through this season with everything in me… like a champ or chump, by fighting hard or barely hanging on, but I’ll get through it with her spirit within me. I’ll get through it with the support of my family and friends. I’ll get through it with God.