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The voice inside your head

This is a true story from a few years ago, but still resonates today. I stood in the hallway of an unfamiliar building, not sure which direction my meeting was. No one was around. “Darn it! I don’t want to be late. Managers get to meetings early.” As I shuffled through my notebook to find the printed Microsoft Outlook invitation with the room number, I saw a sentence instructing attendees to plan to provide a one minute introduction about themselves. “Great (insert sarcasm)! How did I miss that? I didn’t prepare anything. I’m going to have to wing it AGAIN. It’ll be ok. One minute isn’t long. I’ll think of something on the elevator ride up.”

I got off the elevator to find 3 familiar faces and each appeared lost. No one knew how to get to the conference room. I felt relieved I wasn’t alone. After a few minutes of confusion, another familiar, smiling face appeared and guided us to our destination. At the entry to the room, I laid eyes on the many professionals: managers, directors, and officials. “Do I belong here? Absolutely.”

There were about 30 of us crammed in a small conference room. This was the first meeting of its kind. The introductions commenced, and to my dread, they were starting at my table plus we each had to stand up. As an introvert, I’m usually uncomfortable talking about myself. I decided, “I can do this” as I have many times. However, the stakes were higher this time because of who was in the room. I recalled my boss telling me in the past, “It’s time to shine.” I always resented her telling me that because I shine on my own accord, not by command or pressure. My boss was in the room, at my table. Even though I had my elevator speech ready, thankfully, the facilitator decided to go to the other tables, so I would almost be the last person to speak. I claimed my stake and told myself I would be relaxed and make an impression. As I listened to the years of experience, wit, and honesty, I began to feel inspired and privileged to be in the room.

With each person who spoke, I’d think of something else I wanted to say about myself and add it to my imaginary list. By the time it was my turn, I was poised and relaxed. For a moment, I questioned my attire, particularly my top, because when I stood up, eyes seemed to have laid on the tie at the base of my denim blouse. I was imagining curious looks. I knew I needed to call attention to my words not my attire so I amped it up. I blocked out the thought about my blouse because let’s face it, I couldn’t do anything about it at that point. It was cute. It just didn’t look as conservative as shirts other people were wearing. I said a couple of things that made people laugh, even my boss. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I felt exhilarated after the meeting.

The meeting lasted four hours. I’m sharing because I want to emphasize how important positive “self-talk” is. Do you hear what you are telling yourself? I too have moments of insecurity and doubt, but I’m actively working on being more self-compassionate and putting less pressure on myself.

I believe most people wouldn’t tell their best friends the negative things they say to themselves so why do we do it? For some, it can be oddly comfortable wallowing in negative emotions and self-talk. They might not even notice the negative mumbles, which is why it takes self-awareness and intention to do the work of change. It also takes courage.

If the voice inside your head is mostly negative, then it’s time to change that.

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Day 3 & 4: Post Surgery

MAMA BEAR has been down, but I’m slowly getting better. The recovery process is in full effect. For two days straight I’ve layed in the bed for most of the day, dozing off periodically as I attempt to binge watch shows on Netflix. With each day, I’m more alert. Though it hurts (pain is concentrated in my abdomen), I’ve gotten quite good at getting myself up out of the bed to go to the restroom with no help. I use my strong arms to prop me forward then I turn my legs around and push them down. Our bed sits way higher than the hospital bed so it’s a challenge. It also hurts to get back in the bed and to walk, but I know the pain will ease with time. My husband, Bryan, has been caring for me nonstop. If he’s busy, I’m able to get my kids to help with things like pouring some water into my water bottle on my nightstand or pouring a glass of prune juice for me. I’m so thankful I have the help and feel very loved.

I know I’m living a privileged life because I have everything I need at my disposal. I’m a planner so I made sure some things were in place so all I would have to do is rest and heal. Some things I did in the days leading up to the surgery which put my mind at ease were:

  1. Cleaned my spa-like bathroom – Bryan is capable, but no one cleans our bathroom like me.
  2. Watered/pruned my 60+ plants – This is one of my favorite mindful activities because it puts me in a zen mental space.
  3. Prepped a few more nutritious smoothies – It’s a priority for me to feed my body with healthy options. The cover photo shows a mug of my warm almond milk drink with turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. This drink is soothing and healing.
  4. Took inventory of my vegan/plant-based options in the freezer – Same reason as previous…months ago I began freezing nutritious soups/meals.
  5. Laundry- I wanted to make sure my comfortable items were freshly laundered. Bryan bought me several, comfortable loungewear outfits.
  6. Packed my hospital bag- The only thing I used from the bag was my waist trainer.
  7. Took off work the day prior to surgery – I could have used at least 2 full days to decompress from work, but I at least had one. January has already been a stressful month so the one day was better than nothing.
  8. Met with my therapist the day prior to surgery – This session helped me talk through some things and get my mind focused on surgery and recovery.
  9. Exercising – This was important because I knew exercising would be off limits for several weeks post surgery. I wanted to release some of the anxiety with dancing and strength training.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll provide more information on the steps I took to plan for this major surgery….a hysterectomy. One of the best light lessons I can give in the midst of fear of the unknown is to arm yourself with information. Knowledge is power and I used that to quell my fears.

Until next time…

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Do hard things

These three words have been ringing in my ears: “DO HARD THINGS”. I know it’s easy to do “familiar things” and “comfortable things” but what about “hard things”? Well, silly rabbit (nod to the Twix cereal commercial from back in the day), there’s a reason why doing hard things is hard, but there are also benefits.

What comes up often in my job is being asked to present to groups of various sizes and audiences on programs I oversee. This was a task I could delegate to someone on my team though public speaking is one of my responsibilities. Like many people, I do not enjoy public speaking because I’m mostly an introvert, preferring to be behind the scenes. However, I’m strong in representing my programs so when duty calls, I often perform.

There are people on my team who don’t like public speaking even more than me. I decided I would do the presentation with backup. As I was reviewing the presentation content with my backup, I literally said “it’s because I do hard things”. I don’t recall the exact thought that led me to say it, but she agreed, with relief. Otherwise, she would be the speaker for the presentation.

Some may think it’s not difficult for me to do public speaking because I do it well, but OH CONTRARE. I’ve learned long ago if I wanted success as I’ve defined it for myself, then I had to do things I didn’t necessarily want to do. This means I do activities to ensure I have a successful outcome such as preparing and practicing. Doing hard things doesn’t mean it gets easier over time either. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it’s hard EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Deciding to undergo a major surgery with the hope that I’ll have a better quality of life on the other side of it is a HARD THING. The anxiety, the pain, the discomfort, the lack of control, are what I’m working through now, I believe it will be worth it. (See more information about my surgery in the post Fight).

As you embark on this day or week, think about what hard things you will tackle. The hard things may be just what you need to boost your confidence so you can do more hard things.

What hard things are you thinking about tackling?

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Day 2: Post Surgery

With these posts, I’m chronicling my experience of undergoing major surgery to remove my uterus and other female productive organs due to fibroids. The purpose of this procedure is to improve my quality of life. My gynecologist, who performed the hysterectomy on Wednesday, said I did great. I can tell you I don’ feel great just yet. In fact, I’m mostly in pain despite taking pain medications. BUT a milestone happened today that I’d like to share.

I spent one night in the hospital mostly because I had a very difficult time waking up from the anesthesia. My surgery started at 8:00 am & it was a 3 hour procedure. Hours after the surgery, I still kept falling asleep and my bladder was very sleepy also. The doctor didn’t want to release me until I peed on my own which was something I couldn’t do after trying several times. My husband, Bryan, told me there were 30 surgical procedures performed that morning but, only 2 patients were ordered to stay overnight….I was one of them.

To my dismay, the nurse inserted a catheter for a second time and discharged me with an appointment to see my gynecologist Friday morning. One good thing about the catheter is I didn’t have to get up to use the restroom in the middle of the night. I was already in pain and it takes a lot of effort to get me out of the bed. My appointment was early. It was an ordeal to get me in the car. Thankfully I planned ahead and ordered a waist belt to wear under my clothes to keep my tummy steady. I also ordered a pillow that attaches to the seat belt in the car which helps shield the impact against potentially bumpy car rides. Bryan passed a couple of speed bumps that made me holler due to the pain but, we got to the doctor’s office safely.

While walking to the office once we parked, I got really dizzy and disoriented a few times. The nurse checked my catheter and inserted fluids to see if I could pee on my own and GUESS WHAT??? I did it! No more catheter. All day today I’ve been getting out of the bed alone to go to the restroom. I’m so looking forward to getting passed this initial pain.

I will be on bed rest for the next couple of weeks. Bryan has been taking great care of me. If you’re interested in my progress I plan to post a few lines everyday as long as I feel up to it. You can review my previous posts to learn about what led me here.

Overall, I’m proud of myself for undergoing this major move to improve my quality of life. So many people live in suboptimal conditions because they’re afraid. And I was afraid of the needles, cuts, blood, pain, but, I did it anyway. See you next time.

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Day 1: Post Surgery

My gynecologist told me the hysterectomy went well. The anesthesia kicked in on the way to the operating room so I don’t remember anything about the surgery. When I had my breast reconstruction surgery, I actually got to see the operating room before I was out. I don’t think I dreamed about my beautiful dancing uterus either for this surgery…oh well. When I woke up, I was in the recovery room and laid eyes on my husband, Bryan, and a couple of nurses.

Yesterday was rough because I was so drowsy from the anesthesia, in a lot pain, and my bladder wasn’t cooperating. I tried to walk to the restroom with the walker several times but I wasn’t steady. The nurses got me to the toilet, but I would sit down, forget what I was doing, and fall asleep. So my doctor said I needed to stay the night in the hospital. I slept well with the pain medication.

Today, I was more alert and walked the floors of the unit with and without the walker. My main tasks were to drink more liquids and go the restroom. I drank a lot (for me), but I could only pee a little bit each time which was not enough. Unfortunately, my doctor ordered that I leave with a catheter. I see her in the morning to see how long I need to wear this thing.

In the mean time, I’m at home in my comfortable bed. I ate, took a very nice shower, and drank a green smoothie. These last few months I prepared and froze several soups and smoothies to ensure I have healthy, nutritious food while I’m recovering.

I’m looking forward to sleeping in my bed although I wish my bed was adjustable like the hospital bed. I’m going to make due with several pillows that will prop me up.

I’m so grateful for the medical team because they were so kind and patient with me. I’m so grateful for my husband, Bryan, because he is my caretaker throughout my recovery.

I’ll provide another update tomorrow.

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Confidence boost

How do I get women to have the courage to be bold, confident, and work in their own power? It’s not by coincidence I’m asking because not only have I struggled in the past with this personally, and quite frankly, I still do in specific situations, but I oversee a team of mostly women. I see women struggling with confidence and speaking their knowledge with authority. Some goals I have for women are to be empowered to share their ideas with confidence, to stop second guessing, to step out of their comfort zone, and to speak with authority.

I propose the following strategies (in no particular order) to help women gain more confidence in the work place and in life:

  • Do your homework- Educate yourself on the topic at hand. In my work environment, the core workforce are called subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs learn everything there is to know about their particular program, including learning what other states are doing. I’ve found the more I learn about a topic, the more confident I become.
  • Practice – When I was in high school and college, I used to rehearse my presentations with other students, or solo by looking in the mirror and literally reciting my script out loud. In my line of work, these techniques haven’t gone away. I make lots of presentations and still need to rehearse, but not to the same degree as I did when I was a student. For group presentations with my team and/or others, we plan on who will say what. You might even record your voice and listen later to hear how you sound. You might want to rehearse asking for a promotion, for a job interview, and for delivering bad news.
  • Believe in yourself through positive self-talk – We all have the inner critic in our heads judging everything we do. Train your critic to be your cheerleader. It takes practice, but replace, “I can’t do this” with “I will”. I’ve trained my inner voice to be kind and it speaks to me as if I were a friend. That’s not to say the critic doesn’t come out every so often, but I work hard to make my cheerleader my main voice.
  • Make time to do things you enjoy – my love of exercise and Zumba fitness, on the surface doesn’t appear to impact my job, but the energy, calm, and joy I draw from these activities, spill into other areas of my life. In fact, becoming a Zumba fitness instructor, and the act of dancing in front of others has boosted my confidence in ways I couldn’t have imagined. That boldness has helped me in my current leadership role, which leads to the next strategy.
  • Set goals for yourself – As you accomplish your goals, you’ll develop more confidence. I had the goal of completing the training to be a Zumba fitness instructor for my 40th birthday. That was five years ago. I also had goals of earning advanced degrees, losing weight, spending more time with my family, etc. The more goals you accomplish, the more your confidence increases. Keep setting new goals.
  • Just do it – This Nike slogan has been one of my favorite mantras. Sometimes, you’ve just got to put yourself out there and “do the darn thing”. It won’t be perfect. It may not be as rehearsed as you would have liked, but put yourself out there. Take a chance. We only live once. I work in a fast-paced environment where we often sacrifice 100% quality for getting it done and out the door. If perfection is holding you back, let it go because nothing is perfect. I, myself, am a “recovering perfectionist”.
  • Channel all parts of you – I’m a parent, wife, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, cousin, niece, manager, mentor, exercise enthusiast, cook, reader, etc. As a parent, I’m used to raising my children, being nurturing/loving, setting boundaries, and teaching and directing them. Parenting is hard, but I’m confident that I’m raising my kids the best I can. I channel the parenting part of me in my role at work. I’m confident in my relationship with God and His purpose for my life, which I channel in my work. The confidence I’ve developed in the various parts of my life adds to my overall confidence bucket and greatly impacts how I demonstrate my confidence to the world.

My assumption in writing this post is that women are working in environments where they are expected to share ideas and contribute knowledge which will ultimately impact a company’s bottom line.

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DAY 10: I made it!

I’m not sure where the 10 days of the 10-Day Green Smoothie CHA-LUNGE went but the Creamy Blueberry Smoothie was just as scrumptuous as the first smoothie and every other one in between. This was truly a varied mixed of smoothie recipes, some with and without greens. Can you tell I highly recommend Simple Green Smoothies? I’m so glad I prioritized putting my blender on overdrive because the smoothies definitely provided the fuel to help me get through my busy days. Yup, I’d do this again! Cheers!

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Day 9: Glorious Glow

Today’s smoothie is a healthy, immune boosting concoction. NEVER have I EVER blended a smoothie with such a beautiful hue. I have to say, the people at Simple Green Smoothies created a fantastic batch of recipes for this winter challenge. I’m surprised that many of the recipes didn’t include greens. I just added them out of habit.

Day 9 of the 10 Day Green Smoothie CHA-LUNGE included the magnificent mango, my favorite fruit.

Honey Turmeric Smoothie ingredients

You can’t tell me my insides weren’t glowing after drinking this.

Freshly blended Honey Turmeric Smoothie

The only change I made was substituting oat milk for cashew milk. It was delicious! And don’t ask me how I got my blouse to match my drink. It was meant to be.😜

Twins

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Day 8…sweet and creamy

What I love most about this 10 Day Green Smoothie CHA-LUNGE is that the recipes are already put together. All I have to do is read, gather the ingredients, blend, and enjoy the fruits of my labor. I’ve been impressed with the great variety of flavor combinations. Today’s was the Creamy Banana Smoothie and I almost titled this post the “creamy dream” or “dreamy and creamy” then I came to my senses. Yes, my mind went straight to the gutter. Whatever the case, this smoothie definitely lives up to its name.

I improvised because not only did I not have cashew yogurt, I didn’t have cashew milk. Sooooooooo I substituted with almond milk and added raw cashews and mixed greens (can’t help myself). Then, I added this one last addition that might make me change the name to the EPIC Creamy Banana Smoothie. I added a dash of high quality cinnamon powder. It was so good.

As in life, my friends, be willing and flexible enough to improvise. You might end up liking the outcome much better.

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Day 7…no words

Ok. I have words 😜 for Day 7 of the 10 Day Green Smoothie CHA-LUNGE. It’s called the Pre-Workout smoothie and it was DELICIOUS!!! I don’t normally fuel up with food or drink prior to exercise because I mostly work out in the mornings, prior to my work day, which is early. However, today is Sunday, I slept in, and after attending church online and tidying up the house, I didn’t exercise until much later in the morning. So I gulped this beauty down prior to my dance session.

Pre-Workout Smoothie ingredients

I definitely had more pep in my step while working out. The coconut water makes the smoothie very hydrating. This will be part of my normal smoothie rotation. Another winner!