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Live Your Life

Here’s an idea…it’s your life, so why not live it unapologetically…full throttle, without all the explaining? How about you check in with the people who depend on you to make sure you don’t leave them in the dust, but aside from that, it’s your life for the taking, so LIVE it.

My LIGHT lesson for this post is to do whatever you need and want to do to live your life to the fullest….your “best life” as often phrased today, in our American culture. However, also spend a good amount of time “being” rather than “doing”. “Be” for the sake of “being” and not to prove to friends, family, coworkers, haters, society, or who ever. Be the change, inspiration, advocate, enthusiast, peace, love, etc. Stop seeking other people’s approval and/or permission.

I remember years ago, my male boss at the time asked me what I was trying to prove. Granted, I believe he was threatened by me, but I did have an aura about me that took on the air of having to prove something to the world. I was in graduate school at almost 40 years old, worked full time, had a family, and was a first generation college graduate after having previously been a college “drop out”. My mother was a single parent from a different country who cleaned hospitals for a living. My father was abusive and did nothing to support us. The odds were stacked against me, for sure. I remember my aunt saying to my mom in creole when I was about a pre-teen, “what are you going to do with her?”. The “her” was me. So I thought I had a lot to prove to everyone. That pushed me to crush goals, but I could have possibly gone farther had I focused that energy to prove on myself. I don’t know. Nowadays, I have nothing to prove to anyone, but myself.

I type this like I have it all figured out and I don’t. However, I know what I’m striving for and I’m tired of setting limits on myself. The beauty of getting older and being a breast cancer thriver is I care less, but there is room for me to care to a lesser degree about what others think of me.

One step I’ve taken to get more clear on my goals is to reduce my time on social media. As much as I love catching up with family and friends and getting updates from my favorite pages, my struggle with social media is the many competing messages about most everything and everything seems to be taken out of context. You see the constant self-promotion and borderline narcissistic posts. There’s the danger of getting into the “comparison” trap. All of these factors, and more, are counterintuitive to how I see myself “being” in this life.

As I process this message, I’m sure I will find other areas I will want to work on to get me where I want to be. In the meantime, I will strive to live unapologetically and in full throttle.

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This is for you, my ❤

A whole lot can change in a year! On this day in 2017, I was trying to get through to Bryan’s (my husband), neurosurgeon’s office. After watching his decline for the past several months, but especially over the pre-Christmas weekend, I decided we were going to see his doctor that day, the day after Christmas, instead of waiting for the scheduled appointment in two weeks. He needed an adjustment to the shunt inserted in his brain in 2016. I had been telling the physician’s assistant and doctor about his symptoms for months, but his lab results kept coming back “normal”. They didn’t listen to me and suggested he see a neurologist for the memory loss.

On 12/26/17, no one answered the office phone and there was no answering service. Plan B was to take Bryan to the emergency room, but I didn’t know if I would be able to convince him to go. A slight panic was developing inside of me, but I am calm under pressure. He had been very lethargic the whole weekend and complained he was tired when I said something. I knew we were up against the clock after I had done some additional research on his symptoms on Christmas day. Thankfully, he agreed to go to the emergency room, but another problem ensued. He couldn’t get out of the bed. I noticed his eyes were glassy. He tried over and over again to get out of the bed, but I could see that his nerves wouldn’t allow his body to do the simple action. I called to our son, Caleb, to help and nothing. Thirty minutes later, I moved to Plan C which was a call the paramedics. He couldn’t walk. He wasn’t oriented to time. He thought it was July 2008.

Seventeen days later, Bryan returned from the hospital. He was released from the intensive care unit after the second day, received a shunt adjustment, and was eventually moved to the rehabilitation center within the hospital where he had cognitive, speech, and physical therapy. Following his hospital admission, he had another four months of cognitive, speech, and physical therapy.

Whew!!! Typing this post is stirring up all the emotions I experienced at the time. Our lives were totally disrupted again. You can read my previous blog posts to learn more about our journey. Somehow (update and more precisely…by God’s doing), I managed to get a promotion through this latest ordeal, which I needed because Bryan was not able to work. I managed to get my kids through it and keep our family’s day to day schedule going. However, this blog post is not about me, but of the sheer strength, will, and resilience of my husband.

We’ve been married for twenty one years so it goes without saying I love my husband, but I’ve gotten a whole new appreciation for this guy. His life was totally disrupted. He suffered a great deal. This is a college-educated man, who embodies being a provider for his family, and is faced with the prospect of never working in his profession again. For most of 2018, he’s been recovering while battling depression and coping with his disorder. Yet, what I’ve seen from him in these last few months has been amazing.

He started feeling better later in the summer while embarking on our long walks around Austin. I could tell he was better because he started planning and getting back involved with the kids’ schools. He’s always been the school and homework guy. If there’s a problem with the administration and/or treatment of my kids in their respective schools, then I’m the tough person they will answer to. I don’t play around. In November 2018, against my advice, Bryan applied for some seasonal work. It was all physical and what I witnessed was an improvement in his overall cognitive function and mood.

For us, Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birth and being grateful for our blessings and family. Due to Bryan’s efforts, we were able to have a Christmas with gifts. I get paid well, but enough to cover our living expenses. Living in Austin is not cheap. He even surprised me with my gifts. In fact, for the first time ever, Bryan did almost all of the Christmas shopping. Granted, I work long hours, but he said it was the least he could do since I was doing everything. I don’t see it that way. Working isn’t the only way to contribute in a marriage/family, but I’m married to a manly guy, so his esteem is rooted in providing for his family. I’m working on having him see it differently. Whatever the case, he came through in a big way and when you’ve been married as long as we have, you don’t keep score. There have been times where he’s carried me. Our job is to carry each other when needed. And for the record, I don’t really see myself as carrying him. I’m grateful I’m able to support my family.

At the beginning of 2018, I was hesitant about creating new goals because I wasn’t sure what life would throw at me. Heck, he didn’t get released from the hospital until 1/12/18. My main goal at the time was to get him out of the hospital. Between my health and his, we’ve been on a roller coaster ride since 2016. Upon witnessing Bryan’s healing, I’m inspired. I’ve prayed a lot for his healing and so have others. We still don’t know what’s in store for his future, but we’re in it together and can overcome anything.

All this to say, I had a FABULOUS Christmas and am looking forward to 2019 thanks to my ❤.

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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.