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I tested positive

An office photo on Thursday, 12/1. My thoughts, “Oy vey!”

The week before last, I was basking in a Thanksgiving stupor of love and good cheer with family and friends. A few days later, on Monday, I woke up with a faint, dull headache. I was scheduled off work, but decided to catch up from the holiday. I work from home anyway, so no big deal.

About 7 hours later, I felt something building up in my respiratory system and decided to call it a day. My husband, Bryan, had been feeling sick since Sunday. I went to bed early and actually got 9+ hours of sleep. I worked again on Tuesday, but only about 6 hours. Good thing I stocked up on over the counter medications because I decided to take a dose of a generic Nyquil. A COVID-19 test reported a negative result. But things got really interesting early Wednesday morning.

Rewind to the Monday before Thanksgiving. It was my first time attending an in-person, all day conference in almost 3 years. It was a leadership conference at a hotel, targeted for women in Texas state government. I was so excited to be around so many other influential women and practice some of what I learned with my team. On Tuesday, I worked and at some point at the start of my day, my son, Caleb, asked me to help him find the thermometer because he was feeling sick. He said he had been coughing all night and didn’t feel well. I told him to mask up until his symptoms subsided. He had a slight fever and against my advise, decided to go to work. He said he had to go because other people were calling in sick.

A few hours later, I heard Caleb’s voice and learned from Bryan that Caleb’s boss sent him home. We reminded him to wear masks around us and he went on to stay in his room the rest of that day. It was the next day, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, while I was in the grocery store stocking up on medications I thought to call Caleb to tell him to take a COVID-19 test. Admittedly, it didn’t occur to me to ask him to test until I was talking to a friend. When I got home, he said he took it and the result was negative.

On the following Wednesday after Thanksgiving, I was awakened to uncontrollable chills, weakness in my joints, and a pounding headache. I could barely lift myself off the toilet when I went to the restroom. I decided not to work though I signed into my laptop for a few minutes to notify my boss and team I would be out sick. I stayed in bed the whole day, napping mostly in the morning. The chills only occurred one time in the early morning. The headache refused to subside until hours later, even despite medications. The weakness steadily improved.

I woke up groggy Thursday morning, but felt much better than Wednesday. My nose was stuffy and generally felt like I had a cold. After texting with my siblings and learning two of my nieces, my great niece, and my brother in law in Chicago tested positive, I decided to do the COVID-19 test again and WHOILA! The result was positive. Since my symptoms felt more like a cold, I proceeded to work in my office for most of the day. I went to bed early and did it again on Friday.

Both Bryan and Caleb took the test (Caleb twice) and their results were negative. I’m doubtful I’m the only one in the house who has/had COVID-19 and am convinced Caleb brought it in the house. However, I had been out in public a few days before Thanksgiving too. I let our friends know so they could be aware. And actually, the Friday after Thanksgiving my friend let me know her husband was sick, but with none of the symptoms we ended up having. Our symptoms didn’t start until days later. I’ve been quarantining since the positive result last Thursday and have since taken two more tests, both were positive.

My natural instinct is to try to figure out how I got it, but it really doesn’t matter. My main concern now is recovering and making sure I don’t pass this on so we are not playing a game of hot potato with this virus. Bryan has been sleeping on the couch which has been the hardest because we are each other’s cuddle buddy. It feels weird being separate in the same house. Elise doesn’t come near me. She’s been masking up in the house and walks around with disinfectant wipes. Caleb has a lingering cough and is the most reckless among us. We told him he needs to go to a drive through clinic tomorrow.

For the past almost 3 years, I’ve wondered if the fate of most would be to eventually catch the virus. Now that I got it, I do think it’s a bummer especially not knowing the long term effects considering my medical history. However, I’m thankful my symptoms are mild, which I attribute to the vaccines. My doctor also gave me a pneumonia and flu shot in September. It all helps.

In the mean time, I will retire to bed early tonight. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Let me know if you or someone you know had the virus and what the symptoms were like.

Bryan being the trooper that he is! Nights without my cuddle buddy is the worst.

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11-Month Post Surgery Update

The holiday season is upon us and before the year ends in a blur, I’m doing some self-reflection. There’s something to be said for memorializing one’s life. I gained a new appreciation for maintaining my blog while watching a youtuber passionately explain how important it is for everyone to document their lives in some way so as not to forget and to get the lessons. I wholeheartedly believe this. Not long ago, I was rereading my previous posts and in Take a leap, which I wrote as a mid-year reflection, I reminded myself of my “whys” and to keep going. My past me reminded the present (at the time) me of what the future me needed to do. A couple of months ago while in Chicago, my niece and I got on the topic of my blog and that conversation encouraged me to keep it going. So here I am again.

At the beginning of 2022, I was optimistic about my hysterectomy recovery. It feels like so long ago with all that’s happened this year. In my post Feeding my soul: 6 months post surgery, I shared some updates on my progress. I will keep the same format in this post by focusing on my surgical recovery, menopause symptoms, and general health.

Surgical recovery – In January, my gynecologist completed a laparoscopic hysterectomy with oophorectomy (ovary removal) on my body. My uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries were removed. Translation: I no longer have these organs in my body. In the months leading up to the surgery, I thoroughly (so I thought) researched the procedure, but after the fact, I’m still learning about the implications of the surgery. The main takeaways are that I’ve healed well internally and the scaring from the 4 incisions are fading. However, I didn’t fully conceptualize how my body would adjust to the missing organs. Let that sink in. I do have more lower back pain than anticipated, especially within a few months post surgery. I didn’t realize my uterus and ovaries were supporting my frame and lower back. I’m more mindful about not overdoing it with exercise and other activities. That’s not to say I don’t overdo it sometimes, because I definitely do. However, I make it a point to soak in the tub and allow myself some extra rest whenever my lower back does hurt.

Menopause symptoms – Not much has changed here. I do get hot flashes throughout the day, but I still think they are manageable. I’ve learned to dress in layers and I keep a fan near me or on as much as possible. My husband, Bryan, says the ceiling fan irritates his sinuses so he’ll turn them all off. I have to gently remind him my body NEEDS the fan. But I do have a general sensitivity to being too hot or too cold, so sometimes a fan is too much. I’ve experienced cloudy thinking for years and what’s helped this last year is drinking an expresso or cappuccino a few times a week. In my research on the best foods for women during menopause, I learned that expressos are beneficial to women in menopause due to the antioxidants. I find that drinking one during the work day keeps me alert and more focused. Who knew that it wouldn’t be until I reached my late forties I would gain an appreciation for a form of coffee? I’ve spent practically my whole adult life not liking or drinking coffee at all. But there is a difference between coffee and expresso and my taste buds and body prefers the later. I enjoy them a few days a week because I’ve also noticed too much caffeine can ignite the dreaded hot flashes. I would probably drink more if I didn’t forget to make them by 2pm. My rule is if I don’t drink it by 2pm, then I’ll forego because I don’t want the caffeine to interfere with my sleep.

General Health – In the summer and fall, I’ve met with my oncologist, primary care physician (PCP), pulmonologist, and neurologist. That’s a lot of specialists for this little ole body. Overall, from an oncology and general medicine standpoint, I’m healthy. My blood work is impressive – all “between the lines”, as my oncologist would say. However, I’ve gained a new diagnosis – asthma and there is an outstanding issue that seems to be a residual consequence of the surgery (occasional stuttering) that needs to be addressed….hence the neurologist. I will have an MRI in a couple of weeks. Also, I’ve gained 10 pounds since the surgery. I’m not happy about it, but I know it’s a consequence of the hysterectomy. My PCP thinks my metabolism is low and she’s probably right. I’ve been working on extending myself some extra grace and have been intentional about focusing on other markers of health. I still continue to eat healthy, watch my portions, exercise 5-6 days a week (dance, yoga, HIIT, weights, stretch), and educate myself on what the right formula is for me. I refuse to give up, and though I could, I don’t want to engage in any extreme tactics. One thing I do not have under control and what I’ve been struggling with for years is the sleep. Perhaps that is the secret sauce that may help my hormones. I have developed a lovely nightly bed time routine, which includes filling my scented oil diffusers, lighting a candle, listening to music (Neo-Soul or meditation mostly), pampering my face, showering or bathing, and putting on one of my favorite lotions. Also, a big change is once I sleep, I tend to stay asleep (except for going to the restroom to pee); whereas in the past, I used to awaken in the middle of the night ruminating about things like work.

Overall – My body is adjusting and I’m still learning what will work best to keep me functioning at optimal levels. The surgery was the right choice for me. And as a 49-year old woman with no period, I have to say it’s quite empowering. I didn’t realize how much planning for, being on, and caring for my period occupied so much of my life. Now, I have other things to occupy my time. Additionally, I’ve been undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts. I suppose this is common in mid-life. Despite no longer having a uterus which is the epicenter of creativity, my creative juices have been flowing. More to come on that.

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Soups On: Fall Favorites

It’s been a while since my last post, but rest assured, I’ve been busy doing the things that feed my soul (pun intended) and giving myself some extra grace. These last few months have been rough on my family. My beautiful mother in law passed away in September and my brother in law has been ill most of 2022.

Like many of you, I wear multiple hats as a working mom, wife, caregiver, sister, friend, boss, etc. Information on self-care is so prevalent nowadays and it’s no wonder because self-care is essential to mental well being. I believe this so much that my whole blog is about self-care. You may hear about common self-care activities: take a bubble bath, journal, go shopping, exercise, get a massage, get a manicure/pedicure, read a book, take yourself out to dinner, sleep, etc.

Self-care can actually be anything that fills you up rather than depletes you. You don’t have to do a bunch of things all the time. You don’t have to spend money you don’t have. Self-care is also not just about doing things which can be exhausting, especially when you’re under stress. Self-care can be about being: self-compassionate, authentic, aware, quiet, at peace, etc. Self-care can be about choosing one thing in a moment.

I personally have my “go to” self-care activities that fill me up (pun intended). One thing I love to do for self-care is cook. And I just don’t cook anything..I’m intentional about cooking healthy and nutritious food. It fills me up (pun intended) because I’m being creative, concentrating on the food rather than the problem, giving my taste buds and my family something to look forward to, and will be filling my body with a bountiful medley of deliciousness which will bring about a host of other benefits.

When we returned from Chicago in early October, I started a 10-Day Soup Challenge brought about by my favorite people at www.simplegreensmoothies.com.And this challenge couldn’t have come at a better time because I ate many of the calorie dense Chicago delicacies (pizza, Italian beef, Chinese food, gyros) and was in need of a reset.

Something different about this challenge is that I didn’t make it to all 10 soups. I was getting back to my home and work routine, so I was a little busy. In fact, I didn’t even do the challenge for the 10 days. I completed 8 recipes so that means there are still 2 recipes I didn’t get to. I started the challenge a day late and it probably took me 3 weeks to complete 8 recipes, BUT I DID IT. Now you get to enjoy my photos which I took myself. You can find the recipes on the http://www.simplegreensmoothies.com website. I blogged about my first soup challenge here: Bring on the soups

Keep in mind, I’ve modified the recipes in different ways and it’s been too long ago for me to remember what I modified for each one. My general approach to recipes is to use them as guides. You can do that when you know what you’re doing.

I hope these soups inspire you to cook more of your meals at home, try new recipes, and eat well.

  1. Potato Comfort Soup
  2. Spiced Lentil Soup
  3. Bieler’s Blended Vegetable Soup
  4. 1-Pot Vegetable Soup
  5. Vegan Tomato Soup
  6. Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup
  7. Thai Coconut Soup
  8. Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

1. Potato Comfort soup with kale croutons- This is a favorite I’ve made many times and served with homemade garlic bread. The added cauliflower was pleasantly sneaky.
2.Spiced Lentil Soup – I first tried red lentils in last fall’s soup challenge and I’ve been hooked every since. Delicious.
3. Bieler’s Blended Vegetable Soup – This was a new recipe and it surprised me. Never have I ever blended zucchini, green beans, and celery with a few spices before. I served with a scrumptious salad on the side. This one was a favorite, along with the other 3 blended soups, particularly because I could sip from a mug and consume all the nutritious goodness rather quickly.
4 1-Pot Vegetable soup -This reminded me of the “vegan” chicken noodle from last November, no tofu in this recipe. It was very good.
5. Vegan tomato soup – This was a repeat recipe from last fall’s challenge and it was just as good this time. Pictured are the vegetables simmering before I blended them. I get excited thinking about all the nutrition in this pot: zucchini, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, tomatoes, and spices. This blended soup was another favorite.
6. Slow cooker minestrone – This was a new version of minesteone that pleasantly surprised me. The butternut squash added an irresistible sweetness.
7. Thai Coconut soup – This is an old favorite that I’ve made a few times over the years. However, this was my first time using frozen zucchini spirals. They made my life so much easier in that moment. Sometimes, you need a break. It was also very comforting.
8. Vegetarian tortilla soup – This was a new version of tortilla soup that surprised me. I’ve never cooked a soup with actual tortilla chips (used store bought) in the broth. This was the 4th blended soup that was one of my favorites. I topped it off with my homemade oven baked tortilla chips & a side of one bean taco.
Of course, I used my homemade liquid gold aka vegetable broth in each recipe, which added even more robust flavor and nutrition.
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Hey September

Is it just me or are the days going by faster? It seems as though I blinked and August was over. Growing up in Chicago, I always got the “je ne sais quoi” feeling inside of my being when September rolled around. September marked the beginning of fall…one of my favorite seasons in Chicago because of the crispness in the air, vibrant colors of the trees as they change and leaves fall, the beginning of the school year, and the coziness factor. Here in Texas, it’s still HOT. The temperatures are expected to be in the mid nineties at least for this upcoming week. Believe me, I’m ready for the eighties and it doesn’t help that we got a small taste of a cool front last week with the rain. Now, it’s back to being what it usually is… HOT. We probably won’t get a break until October.

My body still craves everything that comes with fall in Chicago despite living in Texas for 25 years. September is a bittersweet month for me because not only is it my wedding anniversary month and the month I moved to Texas, but it’s also the month I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma – Breast cancer. I wrote a little about the “bitter” 5 years ago, in the post Oh September. I wrote it months after losing my mom and a year after my diagnosis.

Every September since my diagnosis, I navigate the joy of celebrating another anniversary with my husband, Bryan, the memories of living in Texas since the day after our wedding, along with the sheer fear of hearing those words from my doctor for the first time (you have breast cancer) and the anxiety of doing my annual mammogram at the end of the month. I can say that with each year that passes, the bitter is less bitter. It’s not necessarily that time heals all wounds because losing my mom is like a wound that will never be healed. However, it hurts less and acceptance settles in more with each year.

I need to give myself credit for making many strides over the years. January 2022 made 5 years of being cancer free. It’s been over a year since I started taking intravenous mediation to prepare my body for a hysterectomy. And it’s been 8 months since my hysterectomy surgery.

This September, I’m choosing to focus on new possibilities and opportunities, gratitude for my blessings, contentment, cooler temperatures on the horizon, and personal growth.

What are you looking forward to this September?

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Fitness Fun

Here’s some inspiration: dancing, weight lifting, walking and stretching, 6 days a week, 3-4 hours per week, and 10,000+ steps per day. Today, I clocked in 67 minutes of Zumba fitness and 11,458 steps (so far). It was just a few weeks after my surgery in January that I got back into exercise. I started earlier than recommended (for the average person) and took it slow for a couple weeks by just making sure I was walking around the house and getting steps in. Eventually, I graduated to Youtube videos and my personal arsenal of DVDs (circa early 2000s).

Exercise has been my anti-anxiety, anti-depression, and anti-stress medication for many years. I have a new reason to maintain my healthy habit: to ensure a healthy mid-life. I keep hearing the voice of a doctor who specializes in women’s health say “the greatest predictor of health in old age is health at middle age”. I’ve done my research on menopause and recovering from a hysterectomy. I’m determined to live a healthy, non-sedentary life.

Since the pandemic, I’ve broadened my horizon on exercise thanks to Youtube. I have my favorite exercise enthusiasts I follow such as the ladies with KuKuwa Fitness. I blogged about my introduction to these brown beauties and some other Youtubers in my post Shaking things up in 2020.

If you read my 6-month update post on my hysterectomy recovery (you can read about it here), then you’ll know I’ve gained some weight since my surgery. I know my body is adjusting to being in a post menopausal state. I’ve been focusing on amping up my nutrition and incorporating more weight training (at least 4 days a week). I tell myself to keep moving forward and use other measures to determine progress. For example, I’ve noticed the exercise is paying off because my resting heart rate has decreased which hasn’t happened in years. That has increased my cardio fitness score per my Fitbit app. About a month ago, I started attending Zumba Fitness classes in person again, at least 1 day a week, and it’s been so much fun! I’ve also been sleeping more soundly at night.

Since February, I’ve been addicted to routines created by Josephine Sophia and her platform called GROWWITHJO. She has so many videos on her channel to choose from. I love the variety and have found myself working muscles in ways I haven’t done before because of her routines.

In my fitness circle, I used to hear the phrase “never miss a Monday” in regards to working out, but I personally never a miss a Sunday because Sunday is the start to my week. Exercising on Sunday sets the tone for my week and I’m patting myself on the back for getting it in.

I hope this post has inspired you to start moving, shake up your routine, increase your efforts, or just keep moving forward. Do what will keep you coming back for more. Feel free to let me know what your favorite exercise is.

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Food chronicles: Summer obsessions

When I tell you my creative juices have been flowing (pun intended😁), I mean it. Two things I’ve been into this summer are 1) propagating my plants (I’ll take a deeper dive in another post) and 2) pickling. I was inspired to try my hand at pickling cucumbers while doing one of my favorite past times: watching YouTube videos. The set of videos I was watching was either on meal prepping, vegan recipe ideas, frugal shopping tips, high protein meals, or all of the above.

Pickled red onions and cucumbers

I’m not sure why I’ve never thought to pickle anything especially when I learned how easy and inexpensive it is. All you need are common household items like vinegar (your choice on what kind), basic spices like pepper, herbs (if you have on hand), and the produce. I collect jars to store foods in (homemade smoothies, juices, broth), so I had a few to spare. I researched some recipes online to determine what appealed to me the most. I generally use recipes as guides and to give me ideas. When I’m baking, I’ll follow the recipe precisely because it’s backed by science.

Prepped vegetables for Pikliz, a Haitian condiment you eat with most anything, especially rice. Vegetables: habanero peppers (a substitute for the traditional scotch bonnet), mini red, yellow, & orange peppers, shallot, and cabbage.

I used the same liquid for the pickled cucumbers and red onions. I combined a recipe that called for vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, and peppercorns. I didn’t use as much sugar as the recipe indicated. The only difference is I added dried dill to the cucumber jars.

The liquid requires heating in a sauce pan over the stove until the sugar dissolves. I placed the vegetables in the jars and poured enough liquid to cover them. I let them cool down on the counter before sealing with the lids and placing in the refrigerator. I began enjoying the pickled onions the next day on my veggie burgers. I let the cucumbers marinate for 2 weeks and WHOILA, I had delicious pickles.

The Pikliz liquid didn’t require heating and only comprised of vinegar. An addition I made was added garlic to the jars. I used black pepper and thyme. I made a whopping 5 jars of that good stuff. I placed 4 in the refrigerater and one in the cabinet as a test. Some recipes didn’t require refrigeration. It’s been a week and I haven’t tried it yet. I’m looking forward to tasting.

Pickled carrots

Two wonderful things about pickling vetables are: the options are endless, from the vegetables, herbs, and spices; and you’re preserving vegetables which reduces food waste. It also presents a new way to eat them with the added probiotic benefits. This pickled carrot recipe was in the cookbook my son bought me for Christmas called Thug Kitchen… This recipe was particularly recommened for burritos and tacos.

I hope you’re inspired to try some delicious pickling recipes this summer. They will add an undeniable elevated flavor profile to your dishes.

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Take a leap

We’ve made it to beyond the midpoint of 2022, believe it or not. If you think 2022 is going by SUPER FAST, you’re not alone. Someone I work with often jokes Christmas is around the corner. She’s been repeating that joke since January, and sure enough, Christmas will be here before you know it. So much has happened this year already. I don’t even remember what my goals were for 2022. Well, I take that back…here’s a big one: get through my surgery (January) and have a smooth recovery. Done! The gynecologist who performed my hysterectomy sent me off into the sunset with a “You’ve done great! I’ll see you next year.” And my oncologist is hopeful I won’t need to be on medications anymore, which I’ll find out about in a few weeks.

There is one huge goal I’m striving for, which I will not reveal what it is just yet. I know, I’m usually all for sharing, but at the same time, I’m a private person. The stakes are high on this goal and I don’t want to invite unknown energies into the mix. Not everyone is your cheerleader or will understand. But this post isn’t about what my goal actually is or what other people will think about my goal.

I was actively working on my goal a few months ago and then something happened that brought it to a halt. That “thing” was actually several things (i.e., family issues, work drama, beloved pet died, etc.). My goal started feeling like it was at the top of this mountain and my legs were getting heavier and heavier as I tried to walk to the top. I began doubting the timing of my goal and convinced myself to wait. The idea of this is not unreasonable, after all, timing is very important. These other things were important too, which is why they were popping up. Never mind I thought of this goal over a year ago.

So what do you do when you have a goal you really want, but your efforts begin to wane under the pressures of life? I was faced with this very scenario. Since this goal will have a significant impact to my quality of life, one thing I did was reevaluate my “why” for wanting to achieve the goal in the first place. Part of that re-evaluation included assessing whether my goal was reasonable. Yet, I knew my goal was more than reasonable because I made it a SMART goal.

Once I re-established my goal as a solid, non-negotiable goal, I began to question what about these distractions caused me to slow down. I was likely tired, mentally drained, and overwhelmed. The remedy has been amping up my self-nurturing (checking my internal dialogue, slowing down, resting more, increasing meditation, reducing stress, practicing gratitude, and more prayer). I needed to be vigilant about my “figurative” ADLs – Activities of Daily Living (eating nutritionally, exercise daily, deep breathing, meditation).

Some light lessons that popped up were: life is going to happen no matter what; there will always be distractions.; there will rarely be a time when nothing is going on; there will never be the “right” time; I have to make the time; and I have to continue to push forward until I achieve it. Although there are many uncertainties, I have to take the leap of faith it will work out in my favor.

If you find yourself wavering on an important goal that you can’t let go, try these tips to see if they help:

  1. Re-evaluate your “why”.. the reason wht you want to accomplish the goal.
  2. Make sure your goal is a SMART goal.
  3. Be kind and extra patient with yourself rather than beating yourself up for not achieving the goal.
  4. Develop some “Power Statements” to refer to often to keep you focused on your goal. (i.e., I can do this!)
  5. Restart or put more energy into activities that will help you achieve your goal.
  6. Take a leap of faith and JUST DO IT.

One of my favorite things about the cover photo I took with my smartphone is catching the little gecko as he contemplated his next move. He was so small compared to my wild foliage in the landscape at the old house. Yet, he was bold and fearless, eager to see where he might land, focused on getting to that next destination. He knew staying where he was, was not an option. I want to be that lizard (not FOR REAL, but in mindset…if that’s what he was thinking. You know what I mean!)

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Feeding my soul: 6 months post surgery

Where has the time gone? It feels like a distant memory I had a hysterectomy on January 26th. And I actually started typing this post for a 4-month update, but I’ve finally gotten around to completing it. It’s been a very long 2 months since my last post because I’ve been so busy with life. Without fail, I’ve been consistently exercising, meditating, and eating healthy. My therapist calls these my ADLs (activities of daily living). If you’ve spent any time working with, or know people of the older generation, then you might appreciate the comparison.

I’ve provided several post-surgery updates in previous posts such as Day 1: Post Surgery, How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery , and 4 Week Post Surgery Update, to mention a few. In this post, I’ll provide some updates on what I’ve been up to and my recovery progress. In my very last post in April, I shared we had to put down our beloved kittie, Beignet. It was sudden and traumatic. His death occurred within days of me having to navigate through a difficult work situation that together put be in a high anxiety and depressing head space.

One thing about me and what I hope my readers glean is I ALWAYS turn the situation around to a “light lesson” that will not only propel me forward, but will hopefully help others. It’s simply changing my attitude about the situation. I do have a pattern of retreating to myself and not blogging when I’m embroiled in life challenges. It’s difficult for me to share when I don’t see the way out just yet. However, I’ve ALWAYS returned to blogging because it’s an integral part of my self-care. It’s an outlet for me to express myself.

The grieving process was difficult as you can imagine. I’ve never grieved so hard with losing a pet. My husband, Bryan, and our kids had a difficult time. We’ve since become more at peace and are thankful Beignet is no longer in pain. Beignet loved us with his whole little heart and we loved him with all of ours.

I’m not going to share the work situation because I’ve been actively working on a resolution. I may choose to reveal what it is once it’s settled. I can tell you it didn’t help my recovery one bit. I spiraled into a pattern of poor sleeping habits and eventually getting sick AGAIN. I saw a doctor in early June and this time, the diagnosis is along the lines of asthma likely brought on by allergies. I do live in the ‘Allergy Capitol’ of the United States.

There were some BRIGHTER moments in May such as celebrating Mother’s Day with my family and my birthday. I was initially sad on my birthday because I always think of my mummy who’s passed away almost 5 years ago. I cheered up eventually, especially after thinking about how blessed I am to make it to 49 years old.

We had a beautiful Mother’s Day service at church. I chose to wear my big, barely cream colored hat with the black bow along with my striped maxi dress. Bryan took us out for breakfast afterwards.
Enjoying the sun at the Lazy River on my birthday.
Birthday dinner!

For my mental and emotional health, I journal occassionally, practice mindfulness, am being intentionally self-compassionate, and do all the homework my therapist assigns. Homework usually pertains to exploring a thought through journaling, practicing a technique, completing some research, or following through on something that’ll make me feel better…it just depends.

Spiritually, I’ve doubled down on reading and meditating on the scriptures daily. I pray a lot more too. This year is the first year I’ve been consistent with meditation. I thank my FITBIT app for the variety of options on my phone which make it easy. I do a guided meditation at least five days a week, usually before bed. Bryan has gotten used to it too and now asks me to start it when he’s ready for bed.

For nutrition, I’ve gone back to eating meat though I still mostly eat plant-based. Some meals, or days, I don’t eat meat. I enjoy eating meat and realized after over 6 months of solely eating vegan and plant-based, that my body does so well without dairy. I was even eating plant-based cheese, but since I do not like the taste of most of these alternative cheese products, I decided to stop eating cheese altogether.

I named this post “Feeding my soul” because I feel like I’ve been attempting to bring myself back to myself, and a major way I do this, is through nourishing foods. In the cover photo, I enjoyed a plate of pinto beans and rice, smoked chicken, and collard greens. It was so yummy. I believe the foods I choose to eat keep menopausal symptoms at bay.

One day I even made an old school, delicious version of pot roast. Old school because I used a box of Lipton Noodle Soup mix….a recipe I learned from my mummy years ago.

As I’ve noted earlier in terms of my mental, emotional, and spiritual health, I’ve been nourishing by mind, body, and spirit with activities that help me feel good, relaxed, calm, and hopeful. I’ve incorporated more stretching into my exercise routines (I’ve done more downward facing dogs this year, than I ever have.) Through life’s normal challenges, such as helping Bryan navigate his mom’s and brother’s declining health and family situations, I attend to ADLs because they keep me grounded and sane.

In terms of recovery post hysterectomy, I’m doing well. I’ve educated myself to the nth degree on all things hysterectomy and menopause. Education is another line of defense I use to demystify a topic that can feel overwhelming, especially when it’s personal. Below are some highlights of what I’ve experienced with the disclaimer some of the information may be TMI or for mature audiences.

Surgical Recovery. The four scars on my abdomen are healed although sometimes I can feel a tug on any one, or all of them, when I do too much activity like gardening. I had a follow up appointment with my gynecologist at 8 weeks, and after her exam, she said I was doing very well. She encouraged me to not delay having sex with my husband. I’ve been nervous about it. We tried shortly after and the first time was uncomfortable for both of us. For me because my body had gone through a traumatic experience and was out of practice in that regard. For him because I was jumpy, which made him jumpy. Initially, it was a bit painful. After a couple of times, we were back at it like riding a bike. I’m so delighted I can still orgasm with no problem. I’m relieved we get to continue to enjoy each other in this way.

Menopause Symptoms. There are many symptoms of menopause, but the hallmark symptoms mostly discussed are hot flashes, night sweats, cloudy thinking, weight gain, mood swings, and irritability. I’ve not had much of the symptoms noted except cloudy thinking, weight gain, and slight shifts in mood. The tricky thing about the cloudy thinking is that I’ve had that for years as I’m sure it’s a symptom of perimenopause too. What I’m not happy about, but am living with is weight gain. I know my body is a different body in post menopause because I’ve done nothing out of my normal to put on weight. This is an act of my body not having any estrogen, which is a major hormone that regulates so much in the body. In the big scheme of things, it’s not a lot of weight, but it definitely landed in my already large stomach area and a little bit in my hips. Not only is the scale a bit higher, but some of my clothes fit tighter. I’m glad I still have many options of clothes to wear. I’ve been practicing more self-compassion while continuing to double down on nutrition, weight training, and reducing stress. Sleep is another area I’m working on.

General Health. I met with my oncologist earlier in June for my routine 6-month visit and he always makes me feel like I’m doing something right. It’s been 5 years since my breast cancer diagnosis and I’m still in treatment (oral medications). The doc said my bloodwork was on target (although I thought my glucose was slightly higher than my normal). He said I was doing great and looked great. We discussed a different medication regimen since I’m now post-menopausal. He’s going to run some tests on my old tumor to determine if I even need to continue with treatment since it’s been 5 years. I’ll return to his office in early August for the results. This is exciting news. And I mentioned earlier, a doctor told me I have asthma likely as a result of allergies. He did refer me to a pulmonologist (who I see this week) because of my history of experiencing pneumonia out of the blue last year and bronchitis the year before that.

What’s next. I have so many blog posts topics in my mind. In fact, that’s how they all start…in my mind. My plan is to share them. I will work on getting on a more regular schedule with my blogging. Bare with me because I don’t know what it will look like yet. In the meantime, I have so much existing content on my blog. I appreciate all the new viewers to my page. Feel free to peruse at your leisure and I hope you learn something new or get inspired along the way.

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Did somebody say SALAD and CHA-LUNGE in the same sentence?

March was a busy month. I returned to work after 5 weeks of recovery from my hysterectomy in January. 2022 definitely seems to be another year of firsts for me. Never have I EVER thought someone would think of a CHA-LUNGE that involved salads! REALLY? If you’ve been following me, then you know that eating healthy is my ultimate form of self-care and this blog is all about self-care. I decided to eat about 90% vegan/plant-based from July 2021-Janauary 2022 in an effort to prepare my body for menopause and to just generally eat more plants and clean. I’ve slowly been incorporating more fish and meats because I like them, but it’s still mostly (70/30) a plant-based lifestyle for me.

Back to the salads. My favorite people at Simple Green Smoothies had the audacity to come up with a 10-Day Salad Challenge and it was absolutely FREE. Spring is in full swing here in Texas and I’m more than happy to get ready for lighter eating. I signed up for this CHA-LUNGE on the spot. I received the recipes, including the shopping lists in an email. Initially, I had planned to just use what ingredients I had and modify the recipes as needed. Experienced home cooks like me know that recipes serve as guides. I was mostly ready, but then something happened….My niece visited from Chicago on Day 1 of the CHA-LUNGE. She blessed us for 6 days straight and we blessed her mostly every day with the Austin, Texas food faves.

That didn’t stop me though because I made 6 of the salads and am still going. Of course, I captured every salad in my own personal photos. I also attached the actual recipes/pictures from the CHA-LUNGE. And the salads are out of sequence because I made them when I could. I hope this post gets your mouth watering. LET’S GO!

My version of Strawberry Mixed Greens: Two plates because one was for my niece. I omitted the green apple because I didn’t have one and used a herb salad blend. Fun and scrumptious.
The Sweet and Crunchy Salad: My version did not have pepitas and I used the herb mix again. The dressing on this one was my FAVE!
Bright Berry Salad: This was REFRESHING! I hadn’t eaten grapefruit in years due to my medications, but I thought what the heck, I’m going to commit to this CHA-LUNGE. I’m so glad I did. I missed grapefruit.
Vegan Potato Salad: This version surprised me! I omitted the black olives because I didn’t have any. I probably would not have added them anyway. I served with a side of homemade fried shrimp.
Healthy Pasta Salad: This was the leftovers I served with half a leftover fish wrap. I used leftover garbanzo beans, red pepper, cucumber, and carrots from the Sweet and Crunchy salad recipe. I’m not wasting any food around here. I subbed green olives for black and red onions for green onions and vegan parm for feta. I completed forgot to add the herbs! It was still DELICIOUS and quick to assemble. I made it on my lunch break.
Kale Caesar: Made with no kale in sight. I had romaine lettuce that I didn’t want to go back plus traditional caesar salads are made with romaine, right? I had some produce I didn’t want to waste, so the only thing I followed in this recipe is the dressing ingredients and the addition of garbanzo beans. It was yummy!
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To all the badass women leaders

My previous boss gave me this book as an early Christmas gift in 2019 and I devoured it. It’s filled with so many valuable nuggets in a light, digestable style of writing. I knew at one time I was a BADASS, but something happened months into COVID causing me to doubt myself. A large part of it had to do with burn out from chronic stress and life demands. BUT in the last 11 months or so, I’ve been finding myself again and I’m back to believing I’m a BADASS. Sometimes the obstacles of life can make you doubt yourself and your path. However, I’m here to tell you to keep going. Struggles, obstacles, challenges, disappointments, disasters, and defeats come with the human experience. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It will turn around.

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! Struggles strengthen your muscles (i.e., character, spiritual, resilience, emotional, mental, financial, intellectual, integrity, professional, parenting, friendship, etc.), depending on what lessons you’re meant to learn. I can’t say I enjoy my life’s struggles yet, but I’ve learned so many lessons from them and from the strong women in my life.

In this post, I will share some of the BADASS women leaders who’ve impacted my life the most. I’m fortunate to work in an environment with a diverse group of exceptional women leaders. Several of them are African American. The strongest traits I see in them 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. I’ve had examples of strong, badass women leaders my whole life.

My mom, Solange, immigrated to the United States from Haiti and she 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 as a single mother for years (before she married my stepfather when I was 16). I don’t know how she did it when I learned her salary amount. I made more money than her in my first full time job.

Solange was strict and had high standards. She instilled her work ethic into each of her children. My work ethic is why I’m in a leadership position. My work ethic is why I push myself so hard as 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. Therapy is helping me to unpack this.

The other BADASS woman leader I grew up with in my own home is my older sister, Gina. Growing up, she was the one everybody (or at least I did) 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 leaders 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 is direct and honest. I’m grateful she’s one of my resources for feedback in managing certain 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 plan for you. From my perspective, as the middle child, my cousin learned to be a great neutralizer and negotiator in the family. Gina has these traits considering she is also the middle child. Middle children are known to be great negotiators.

My observation is my cousin maintains relationships with everyone, even if those individuals who don’t get along with each other. 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.

The traits I admire in women leaders don’t come easily – 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, and managing work and family life simultaneously. Women of color particularly have it hard when you factor living in a world where there is racism, in addition to sexism, ageism, and all the other isms. Being able to lead through the sociological muddiness impresses me even more.

The title of the book is fun, but I will add I personally tend to be humble despite the wisdom I’ve gained from my experiences. So basically, in real life, I don’t go around telling people I’m a BADASS. I got the humility trait from Solange and I can’t help myself. I do think it’s healthy to reflect on things you like about yourself and your accomplishments. This gives you CONFIDENCE and the courage to keep striving.

As a start to another week, I hope you remember you are a BADASS because you made it to see another day. Keep working on whatever it is your working towards. And why not let the other BADASSES in your life know how much they mean to you.