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Top 12 things 2021 had me out here doing

What a year! Like many of you, I’ve been reflecting on 2021 and my first thought is that it FLEW by so FAST. And with each month, it seemed to go faster. It’s practically a blur, but so much has happened. Also, it’s been a doozy, FOR SURE. I’ve experienced so many emotions this year from joy and excitement to pain and sorrow. This pandemic has been mind boggling and ever changing. I’ve been doing my best to keep myself and my family safe and healthy.

I know many people are ready for it to end, but I’m learning that there is no sense in rushing it because it will end eventually. I recall a colleague saying to me in 2017 that it was a rough year and she couldn’t wait for it to end. That year my mom passed away and I’m not sure what the year ending sooner would have accomplished because she’s still not here 4 years later. I’m learning that each year is intertwined with many emotions and experiences because it’s called LIFE. Before you know it, it will be gone. There is beauty all around us and we have to choose to keep our eyes on it.

To keep this post light at a time when I know many are suffering and/or want this freaking year to end, I will share the many first time experiences I’ve had in 2021. It’s amazing to me how just when you think you’ve experienced a whole lot, God let’s you know there is a whole lot more for you to learn and do. Here’s my list of 12 things, in somewhat chronological order, 2021 had me out here doing and/or experiencing:

  1. No electricity and water for days – You might have heard of SNOVID (SNOW during COVID), no??? Well, here in Texas in February of 2021, it snowed, the temps fell below 10 degrees, and the power went out. I had no idea that we would be living like it was the 1800s just because it got cold. This is ludicrous coming from a person who grew up in Chicago where it would need to be a blizzard before the city shuts down. People in Texas were literally freezing in their homes and sadly, some people died. I wrote a series of blog posts about the experience starting with Is this Texas? and then Is this Texas Part Deux?. The stockpiling I learned about earlier in the pandemic came in handy because we had plenty of food and water for drinking.
  2. Pooped in a plastic bag- This is a continuation of #1. I had to get REALLY creative once the water went out a few days after the electricity did. I think when you are in dire straights, your instincts kick in, which is the only way I can explain why I would get the idea to poop in a bag. Since there was no water to flush the toilets, this made the best sense to me. I passed this nugget on to my husband and kids. We did what we had to do, but I hope to not experience that again. I might be ready to go camping next summer though. (Is that what it’s like? I’ve never been camping.)
  3. Boiled snow- This is another continuation of #1. Again, we were being creative in the face of a dire situation. We had no running water for washing our hands, face, body, cooking, cleaning, flushing the toilet, etc. And as the freak situation would have it, when our electricity finally came back on, the water stopped. We were able to boil the snow to wash the few dishes we had and fill buckets to flush down the toilet. This experience showed me we could survive anything and we gained some survival techniques in the process. I learned to keep a supply of paper products, plastic cutlery, and aluminum pans/containers on hand because you don’t want a sink of dirty dishes when you have no water. I also believe the experience further bonded our family.
  4. Colonoscopy- Aside from the horrendous preparation for the procedure, my first actual colonoscopy went fine. Previous medical advise was for adults to get their first colonoscopy at 50 years old, but my doctor told me the guidelines have changed to 45 years old. Therefore, I was scheduled for my first colonoscopy a few months before my 48th birthday. The preparation entails taking medication that will clean your bowels completely out. It will clean you out to the point of feeling like you’re peeing from your butt. I vividly recall telling my husband I wasn’t going to make it (a little dramatic). He told me I would make it and he was right. I’ll move on now.
  5. Bought a new home and moved out of Austin- In the 20+ years of living in Texas, we’ve always lived in Austin. I never thought we would live outside of Austin, but we fell in love with our dream home, which was to be built in a small town about 10 minutes away from where we had lived for 14 years. The town of Buda is very quaint and growing very rapidly. We’re so close to Austin, we still do our shopping and other activities as we normally would. Although this is our second time having a home built, it is our first home in a single story and we absolutely love it.
  6. Bought a luxury car- A few months after we moved into our new home, wouldn’t you know our trusty Jeep Grand Cherokee stopped workingWe knew it waa coming though because we’ve had our vehicles for 10+years. Going down to one vehicle wasn’t a big deal to me because I’ve been teleworking since March 2020 so sharing a vehicle with my husband, Bryan, was fine. Plus, my son also has a car. I didn’t even get to see it one last time before it clunked out because Bryan left it at the car repair shop and arranged for the someone to take it to the junk yard. I didn’t care what our next vehicle would be, except I knew I wanted it to be an SUV. Bryan did all the research and a few months later, we brought home our beautiful preowned Audi. She rides smooth like butter and is so pretty.
  7. Wore shorts to gym class- I love Zumba fitness and from about the spring, I started attending my beautiful Z-sister’s class on a regular basis. She’s such a great instructor and exudes SEXINESS. She sometimes wears shorts and inspired me to wear shorts to class in public and I did it several times. I will devote a complete blog post to this because it taught me to accept my body. As long as I was comfortable and enjoyed my shorts, that’s what matters.
  8. Came down with pneumonia- Right after July 4th, I came down with a bad case of pneumonia, which took me out for about 2 weeks. I was tested for COVID twice during that time and tests came back negative. I’ve not been that sick since I had bronchitis for the first time in April 2020. My therapist believes it was the stress that caused it. The medical doctors don’t know why I got it. The whole experience changed my mind about returning to the office to work. I believed if the pneumonia was a taste of what it would be like to get COVID, then I needed to be extra careful. At the time, my leadership told us the staff had to work a hybrid work schedule. We’ve since been allowed to choose how we want to work and I chose to do 100% telework to minimize my exposure to the virus. Working from home has improved my quality of life immensely. This by far was one of the best decisions of 2021.
  9. Tried new foods- I’ve been on a mostly vegan/plant-based journey since June 2021. This is the longest I’ve ever done it. Considering that this is a lifestyle change, I decided to broaden my food palate, so for the first time, I made oyster mushrooms and tried some plant-based foods like beyond meat. I’ve even been eating and cooking tofu on a regular basis. All are delicious when prepared the way I like them. I changed my diet for mostly health reasons. You can read more about what I’ve learned about eating this way from this post: Vegan truths I can’t ignore
  10. Breast Cancer Awareness Walk – It’s been 5 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I don’t know why it’s taken me 5 years to actually participate in the Susan G. Komen More Than Pink Walk. And honestly, if Bryan hadn’t signed us up, I still wouldn’t have participated. It was Bryan, myself, and our 2 kids that did the walk and it was an amazing experience. I was so inspired by all the women who are trying to heal and get over this disease. It’s astounding how many people are affected. Not only did this activity bond our family, but they got to be in the company of so many other people affected by breast cancer. One of the most touching moments was me writing a note to my mom, who died from complications of a different cancer, in a booth devoted to those that passed on. I cried as a wrote the note thanking my mom for passing down her warrior genes to me.
  11. Rode in a Tesla- I’m not really into cars. I’ve always been the type of person who is practical and care more about the vehicle being dependable and a smooth ride. I mentioned in #6, Bryan picked out our new, preowned vehicle. I didn’t care too much about what it would be except I didn’t like this battery powered one we test drove earlier in the year. While in Chicago in November for my Uncle’s funeral, I stayed with my sister and my brother in law who have a Tesla. I never paid attention to Teslas even though we’ve known the headquarters and factory were moving to Austin. It definitely looks and feels like a futuristic car. It was fun to ride in.
  12. Two trips to Chicago in the same month- At the end of the summer, Bryan expressed he really wanted to see his mom and uncle since they’re getting older. He wanted us to plan a trip to Chicago for Thanksgiving. My general rule has been I don’t do Chicago when it’s cold. PERIOD. However, I was willing to go so we could see our family. Sadly, I learned my Uncle on my father’s side passed away at the beginning of November. Since he was a close part of my family, I flew solo for his funeral. That trip was a blessing in disguise because I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away from work and how much I missed my family. It was wonderful seeing them. On top of that, I got to see them again at the end of the month for Thanksgiving. It was one of the best highlights of 2021.

Enjoy the pictures!

Photo taken from my back yard during SNOVID in February 2021
Our beautiful new kitchen inside our new home. The refrigerator has since been replaced and clutter abounds.
Our new home has been a blessing! We love it!
At the More than Pink Walk, Austin, Texas, October 2021
Look at those shorts…Sweaty after a Zumbathon with this beautiful Zumba fitness instructor in August 2021
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Festive feasts

Happy New Year all! One thing that’s not changing in 2021 is my love for cooking. It’s day 10, a Sunday, and here’s a TWIST… at 8:00 p.m., I made a grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickles for dinner. Sunday is the day where I usually put forth effort to make something a little more extravagant. I almost didn’t make the grilled cheese sandwich. I ended up seasoning my 2 bone-in chicken breasts a little later than intended because I’d spent hours packing. Yes, you read that correctly. We’re moving into our new home in a couple of months and I don’t want to wait until the last minute. I was on the fence about what to make with the chicken breasts anyway – chicken tortilla soup, a pasta dish, chicken and rice, or chicken pot pie. I can use each breasts for a different dish.

We had a wonderful Christmas at our household. In my post Fall Food Chronicles 2020 , I indicated that I would be making rib roast for the first time at Christmas. When I think of Christmas dinner, I think people tend to make something special. Well, I was NOT feeling that rib roast and it was probably the most special meat I had in the freezer, so I changed my mind. Chicken enchiladas, shrimp fajitas, and black beans sounded like a winner to me.

Chicken Enchiladas 2 ways ready for the oven: red sauce with corn tortillas and green tomatillo sauce with flour tortillas. LPC

On Christmas day, my niece on my husband’s side visited us from her Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. She didn’t want to be alone for the holidays so she joined us in Austin. She loved my enchiladas. I was especially pleased since I rarely make them.

Vegetables for the shrimp fajitas. LPC

My husband bought a huge tub of pre-sliced vegetables from the grocery store. I don’t normally buy pre-sliced vegetables because it’s much cheaper to buy the produce and slice it yourself. However, one thing I’ve learned in 2020 is to give myself a break. Those pre-sliced vegetables made my life easier on Christmas.

Homemade black beans. LPC

My son, Caleb’s, comment after he confirmed the food was delicious: “Why did you make so much black beans?” I don’t know. I got excited I guess. They were so good. One of my goals for 2021 is to reduce my cooking portions. I have a heavy hand. I inherited that from my mom. You can read about some other goals I’m working on in 2021 here: Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021.

Black bean and cheese quesadillas with jalapeños and avocado. LPC

One thing I’m getting better at is repurposing leftovers. I’m proud that my daughter and I ate up that big ole pot of black beans because I hate to waste food.

Black eyed peas with smoked ham hock. LPC

It’s an American southern tradition to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s day for good luck. There is also a Haitian tradition to make soup joumou on January 1 as this day is also Haiti’s Independence Day from France. On the Haitian American sites I follow on social media, I could see many Haitians were preparing to make this soup. The main ingredient is pumpkin or a vegetable in the squash family. A few years ago, when my mom was still alive, I asked her if she had ever made soup joumou. I don’t recall her making it growing up. My mom didn’t know about the soup which I thought was interesting. I shared some leftovers I made with my mom and she didn’t like it. I think my aunt on my father’s side made a version of this soup. One day, I will ask her. Whatever the case, I decided to go with the black eyed peas instead. They were delicious.

Prime rib roast, well done. LPC

After watching a few YouTube videos, I felt confident about making the Prime Rib Roast. I think I called it Chuck Rib Roast in my Fall Food Chronicles 2020 post. For my first time, it came out pretty good. I’m so glad we had a fairly small piece because it turned out to be a lot. Would I make it again? I can wait until next Christmas, maybe.

Pan fried Brussel sprouts with sautéed onions and pancetta (not shown). LPC
Freshly sliced organic gold potatoes soaking in salted water for potatoes au gratin. LPC

My husband loves to buy me gadgets. One day I will write a blog post of them all to share. I used the mandolin he bought me for the first time to make potatoes au gratin with our Prime Rib Roast dinner and my life changed. Why has it taken me so long to use that thing?

New Year’s Dinner 2021- Prime rib roast, black eyed peas, corn bread, brussel sprouts, and potatoes au gratin. LPC

New Year’s dinner was special indeed. My plans for food in 2021 are to make new recipes, create new recipes, eat simply, eat more plant based, and foster a healthy relationship with food. What about you? What are you cooking up this week?

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Hindsight is 2020

What a year…though 2020 has not been a miserable year for my household. We received closure on some very important financial matters that had been looming for years. My small family of four spent more countless hours together in 9 months than we ever have. It’s been mostly enjoyable and comforting. In an unprecedented move, the state agency I work for sent thousands of employees home with laptops in March. I love the experience of teleworking. In April I took the COVID-19 test and the results came back negative. It turns out I came down with a very bad case of bronchitis. You can read about experience in my most read posts of 2020: COVID-19 Chronicles: I took the test and COVID-19 Chronicles: Test results are in. In August, we signed papers sealing the deal to build our new home which is an experience we’re having for the 2nd time in our lives. The plan is for this house to be our retirement home. I’ve written about these experiences all year. Thank you for being there with me as I navigated 2020. If you haven’t been there, WELL, you’ve got some catching up to do on my posts.

2020 has revealed some very ugly and unfathomable views and actions of people in America. From my perspective in my 47 years of life, this is the most politically divisive I’ve seen the country. People have gone so far as to ascribe God to a political party as if God is American and takes sides. I generally tend to avoid politics on my blog, but 2020 has shown me anything goes. I still won’t dwell on it in this post. The deaths of people who are black at the hands of law enforcement caused thousands of people (around the world) in sheer FED-UP-NESS to protest, mostly peacefully, during a PANDEMIC. Thankfully, normal, every day people are able to capture the atrocities on their cell phones; otherwise, how would we know and how would we know people are being held accountable? I’m too young to have grown up in the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. While attending my all black high school in Chicago, we learned about civil rights and the works of many notable people who are black during the movement such has Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and many others. I’ve seen countless video footage of speeches and protests. 2020 was eerily similar, which begs the question: how far has this country really gotten?

I feel a great deal of sorrow for all the lives lost and for those suffering. Heroes also emerged in 2020, particularly in the healthcare industry. The grocery, restaurant, and delivery workers also came through for all of us. I know people are ready to put 2020 behind them and move forward. I think it’s healthy in times of uncertainty and global unrest to shrink into your corner of the world…to the things you have more control over. For 2021, I think instead of “goals” and definitely not “resolutions”, I want to use the term “manifest” to describe what I envision for my life. I might change it but it sounds good to me for right now. I’ve been looking ahead to 2021 for a few months now and thinking about what I want to manifest. Some of it is already in process. I find that when I’m thoughtful about what I want to manifest and go as far as to capture it on a Vision Board, it’s more likely to happen. There maybe some research to support this, but I’ll save for another time.

If you have never put a Vision Board together, I think you will find that it will help divert your attention from the sorrow in the world to something that will actually be beneficial to you. Creative activities tend to have that effect. It’s also a great tool to keep you accountable and focused. It takes some planning to create a Vision Board though, so if you’re considering it, I hope you’re up for it.

You’ll need to ask yourself some practical questions and make several decisions on the following such as:

  1. What are your goals or what do you hope to manifest?
  2. What will you use for the board (poster board, cardboard, etc.)?
  3. Where will you get the pictures (old magazines, newspapers, online pictures, etc.)?
  4. Do I have enough supplies (scissors, glue, tape, poster board, glitter, etc.) and where will I get them?
  5. When will I work on my Vision Board and when do I want to complete it?
LPC 2020 Vision Board

I created 2020’s Vision Board in January 2020. I purchased most of the supplies from the Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby, and I used old magazines for the pictures. Of course at the time, I had no clue how 2020 would materialize. Several times throughout the year, I did review my Vision Board and contemplated progress. I even wrote blog posts about my financial progress which you can read about here: 2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole and Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE. In 2020, I was most successful in accomplishing financial goals. I also kept up with my exercise goals and cooked/ate healthy most of the time. There are a couple of pictures of women who signified that I would put more thought into my wardrobe selections for a more polished appearance…not that I struggled with that previously. I accomplished this goal also.

There were some things I didn’t accomplish, one of which was travel. You probably can’t tell because of the lighting, but there are two pictures of tropical beaches. My plan was for my family to vacation on a Caribbean Island somewhere. The pandemic threw that dream out the window…at least for 2020. Also, there is a phrase “care more, stress less”. I did demonstrate caring more in 2020 by donating finances to different causes I don’t normally contribute to. This was not planned or reflected in my Vision Board but 2020 inspired me to help more people when I could. However, I still need to seriously develop a plan for managing stress. In my last post, Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021, I shared some of the areas where I struggle regarding stress.

I asked my husband, Bryan, to buy a poster board for me while he was at Walmart, so I have that. I’ll probably start on my 2021 Vision Board in the next week. I’m still asking myself what I want to manifest.

I’d love to know if you plan on creating a Vision Board if you haven’t already. I know some people start early. What do you most appreciate about the experience? What goals did you accomplish in 2020?

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Top things I’m letting go of in 2021

Be proud of yourselves folks. We made it to 2021! Making it through 2020 means you can overcome anything. Well, in Texas, we still have a few minutes, but I’m counting it early. I was trying to explain to someone this morning that 2020 felt like it flew by rather quickly, yet was excruciatingly long at the same time. How could that be?

How could a year that was traumatic for so many people worldwide, be one of the best years of my life? Only God knows. There is not much I control in this world. What I can control are goals I set for myself and my attitude. Every year, I strive to be better and grow, which entails taking inventory of my life. I came up with a short list of things I’m letting go of in 2021 and I’m sharing with you. I hope my list inspires you to let go of some things no longer serving you too.

  1. Offense
    • I was introduced to the book the “Bait of Satan” through my Life Group in the fall of 2020. A Life Group is comprised of a small group of couples from our church who gather for several weeks to study a lesson together. The book really opened my eyes to offense, how it manifests, and destroys relationships. The concepts are totally counterintuitive to how most people (i.e., Christians), including myself, think. This is a must read, especially if you are a Christian.
    • I will forgive people immediately, whether they are aware or not, and move on.
  2. Stressing
    • On my 2020 Vision Board, I glued the phrase “Care more, stress less”.  I’ve been practicing not caring too much about what people think of me for years now. I need to work on the stress less.
    • I need to stop stressing over my work “to do” list. I put in ample hours. It’s a never-ending list. I will put in my daily hours and then cut it off.
    • I need to stop caring so much about my family having a homecooked meal every day or leftovers of a homecooked meal. I live with two teenagers and a husband who loves fast food. They don’t care.
    • I will instead cook smaller portions of mostly healthy meals I want to eat.
  3. Bad sleep habits
    • I will not slouch around until 10:30 pm to get ready for bed.
    • I need to be ready for bed by 9:30 pm during the work week. Period. “Being ready” means I will have taken a shower, my pajamas are on, and I’ll have a book in hand and am in the bed by 9:30 pm…no phone or laptop.
    • Getting enough sleep is a cure for just about everything.
  4. Underestimating myself
    • It doesn’t happen often as I’m usually very confident, EXCEPT in situations where I’m with people who I PERCEIVE are very knowledgeable. I’m surrounded by smart people on a daily basis, but it’s certain people. Time to unpack that and let it go.
    • Also, no more second guessing or doubting myself.
  5. Weight
    • The physical weight that causes me to be overweight and puts me at higher risk for certain diseases.
    • The mental weight of perfectionism.
    • The mental weight of anxiety.
    • The mental weight of things I can’t control.
    • I’m developing a plan to be much lighter.
  6. Guilt
    • For not being the parent I think I should.
    • For not being the wife I think I should.
    • For not being the sister, aunt, friend, cousin, etc….I think I should.
    • For not doing everything everybody else thinks I should.
    • For taking time for myself.
    • I will work on more positive affirmations and self-talk and acceptance.
LPC’s 2020 Vision Board. I’ll start working on 2021’s next week.
This book and study guide continue to blow me away. I have a lot of growing to do. LPC

I’ll follow up with a post on my vision for 2021. What are you letting go of in 2021?

Cheers to another year full of opportunities, the unknown, joy, peace, blessings, and light lessons!