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Exercise: Do what works for you but do it

For the past few months, I’ve made several adjustments to my exercise routine to determine what works best for this 45 year old body. You probably can’t tell from this particular picture, but exercise for me is like breathing… there is no question I’m going to do some form of exercise. I’m addicted to how strong and alive I feel post a good workout. Today, I will have exercised 7 days this week, which I haven’t done in a while.

Zumba fitness has worked for me for many years, but as much as I love it, it has also taken a toll on my body to the point I only do it once or twice a week. My ankles ache most of the time. Plus, I’ve been getting bored with Zumba fitness. I accomplished my goal of becoming a licensed Zumba fitness instructor when I turned 40…5 years ago. Although I have not taught a class for two years now, I’ve been wrestling with canceling my Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) membership. Canceling would essentially cancel my ability to teach if I ever decided to do it again. If I change my mind, I don’t want to have to go through the process of getting licensed again. I think other reasons why it’s difficult for me to cancel has to do with working so hard to accomplish my goal. I also have many fond memories of events I’ve danced in and of teaching students.

Whatever the case, what I’ve done lately is utilize my old DVDs from my vast exercise video library collection. These are DVDs I collected in the early 2000s when I exercised mostly at home instead of a gym, for convenience, post giving birth to my two babies. I’ve also been walking more. My work hours have increased substantially due to my responsibilities, so exercising at home is convenient. I’ve found I’m tired when I get home. I’ve been assessing if my tiredness is a result of getting older. I haven’t totally embraced that possibility, yet I can’t deny I get tired. As I’ve noted in several posts, I’ve been working on getting more sleep too, which has been helping.

While most people drink coffee, I don’t. However, exercise wakes my body right up, so I prefer to do it every day before work. I also incorporate more walking into my work day by purposely taking the stairs several times a day and going on short walking spurts in between meetings. This routine has been working so I’ll continue for while.

My light lesson for you is find what works for you and then do it. If you need to change it up, by all means do so. As we get older, shoulder more responsibility, experience life changing events, etc., we may need to adjust. So adjust, but keep going.

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Father’s Day message

There’s no denying the impact a present father has on his child’s life. I’m not going to get into if we call him “father” or “daddy”. In my culture, we call him “poppy”. Whether a positive, negative, or mixed impact, it’s an impact that can be tied back to the father. I think when a father hasn’t been in his child’s life, especially from an early age, the impact becomes more tricky to assess. My perspective is personal because my father was not in my life. In fact, I barely speak of him. He was dangerous. He was irrational. He was bitter. He was defeated. He was misunderstood. He was broken.

My father was around, but he didn’t raise me because he was incapable of raising his family at the time. People whispered about him in my presence. When visiting my uncle, his brother, he couldn’t sit in the living room…he could only go to the basement. My uncle would arrange for me to see him on occasion, but those visits were brief and lacked substance. That’s my uncle in the picture as I was getting baptized. My father wasn’t present at this most special occassion. I’ve seen positive examples of father figures through my extended family and friends. I knew what a good father was and I knew I didn’t have one. Some might argue it was in my best interest. Some might say that I would have only been disappointed and would have gotten hurt. The impact of him being in my life might have been tragic. I don’t know. What I can say is by him not being in my life, the impact is this underlying feeling of disconnection I’ve carried with me for years. I’ve not placed the source of this feeling until now. Not to mention, I don’t know anything about my father personally. I don’t know what traits I picked up from him. I don’t know his likes/dislikes or what his passion was. As I reread this, I want to be clear my tone is not of bitterness. My tone is of acceptance.

To know your father, is to know where you came from…to know who you are. My beautiful mom did her God-given best, but there was a void she could never fill or replace. Now, both of my parents are deceased, and their parents are deceased. How do I contend with this void?

I have solace in knowing great examples of fathers who selflessly love their children. Men in my family: my uncle, my brother, my brother-in-laws, my cousins, and my friends’ fathers. I also sleep with one of these selfless fathers. He’s my partner in crime…my husband, Arnold (goes by his middle name Bryan), named after his father, Arnold, who passed away when my husband was 10. Even though my husband feels inadequate and gets frustrated at times…likely because his father passed at an early age and he lacked examples of positive father figures, he’s here every day…involved in his children’s lives. If it has to do with his children, my husband is the most selfless person I know.

If you’re feeling alone and disconnected because your father wasn’t in your life, pray about it and adopt a family or two ot three. Don’t be bitter. There’s no going back to the fact you grew up without a father, but you can seek positive examples of father figures and allow them to have a positive impact on your life. For men, continuously make a positive impact on your children’s lives. Get to know your children and allow them to know you. For women, if you haven’t already, marry a man who has the traits of a good father and support him always. For all, ensure your children see other positive examples of father figures.

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Summer love

I’m a little late to addressing this fact, but summer time is here. Summer nights are my favorite! My husband and I enjoy walks in the park in the 45 minutes before it gets dark here in Austin (approximately 8:50 p.m.). I like to also sit on the porch sipping my tea or warm almond milk and listening to all the noisy bugs. You can glean from this picture my daughter’s agenda for the next 2 months. The only other thing she wants to do is go horse back riding on her birthday in August. She does do other things such as play on her trampoline, dance, and search for real estate in countries where she’s thinking of relocating. Yes, you read that correctly. She’s interested in free college education. Smart girl.

I don’t know about other parents, but I also appreciate the summer break from school. I think kids should lounge around and be bored because it sparks creativity. I was bored a whole lot during the summer when I was growing up. My son occasionally rides his bike to see his friends. I notice he’s slowed down likely because riding a bike in this Austin heat is no joke. He’s also been applying for jobs. However, overall, there is no pressure in the household or major demands on our family’s time in the summer months. How about for you?

I plan to catch up on sleep where I can. Sleeping has been more of a challenge lately because I’m still recovering from May. It feels like my body doesn’t want to cooperate with me on getting enough sleep. I have my nightly rituals, but something feels off. I will continue to work on it.

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Faith moves

Ok. Ok. I’ve been slacking on my blog. In all fairness, I’ve had an unusually busy May with two work travel trips, Mother’s day and my birthday. May was also very emotionally draining. May served as a painful reminder that my mom is gone. I felt as though I was grieving all over again during my birthday weekend. Eventually, it passed, but it took its toll. I’m still not getting enough sleep. I feel like I’m struggling to keep up at work. I’ve decreased the duration and intensity of my workouts mostly because of my long work days. However, I did kiss goodbye my love affair with pastries, cookies, and other sweets and stopped eating them cold turkey.

I also made a monumental decision in May that is exciting and daring – my son and I are going on a week long mission trip to Haiti. When I learned our church was planning this for July, I knew I had to go to commemorate my mom, especially since July is the one year anniversary of her passing. Knowing I’m finally going to visit the island where my parents and siblings were born has eased some of my sadness from missing her. The sadness has been replaced with excitement.

Initially, I thought I would go solo, but my son, Caleb, said he wanted to go too, which surprised me…even after he learned what we would be doing. I’m really impressed that he knows the purpose of the trip is to serve and he is still all in. I’ll write more about the trip in later posts. I wasn’t completely sure how we would produce funds for both of us, but I made a faith move. We sent letters to family and friends asking them to donate on our behalf. I knew there was no turning back once I emailed the letters. We’ve already gotten some donations. Caleb is looking for a summer job to help, plus he wants to save for a new laptop.

June came with a lovely visit from my sister early in the month. What’s so sweet is she’s promised to visit us in Austin every year like my mom used to do. My mom has come to Texas more than anyone on either side of our families, which magnifies how much she supported me.

As much as I’d like to maintain some balance in my life, something inevitably comes up that tips the scales, so I have to adjust. For example, after my kids dental appointment this week, we learned one needs braces and the other needs several fillings for all the cavities in his mouth. Really?

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I’m a bad ass

Yesterday, I was reminded that I really am a bad ass. Listen, my normal stance is that of humility, grace, and gratefulness. However, sometimes, it’s healthy to stop and appreciate how awesome you actually are. Three things happened that made me pause. Here we go.

I held an interview for one of my vacant positions, and the applicant, a doctoral student, went above and beyond in selling herself. At one point, she revealed that she did research on us, the interviewers, and was shocked to learn she’d be interviewed by two black women. Not to mention, my colleague has a PHd and I’m a licensed social worker. Come to think of it, I hadn’t had the experience either. To blow her mind further, we pointed out two of our key executive leadership positions were also held by black women. This is not typical. It is a blessing to have these women as role models. To think, I am a member of our leadership structure is amazing and humbles me.

The 2nd time I was reminded that I’m a badass was when I was chatting with my team member and shared my story of being a whistleblower at two different organizations. These cases involved how staff were being mistreated and disenfranchised. Early on in my pursuit of social work, I felt strongly that I was an agent of change, which is what social workers prescribe to: we are CHANGE AGENTS. I won’t go into detail about those situations, but it does take a lot of courage to do what I did. I was reminded I take being an advocate for whoever the population (mental health clients, homeless, coworkers, agency staff, my husband, my kids, myself) very seriously and I’ve witnessed positive results in most cases.

The 3rd reminder of my bad ass-ness occurred when I ended the day with notifying my team member I was promoting her. She interviewed well and demonstrated she has the “chops”. She deserved this news on a Friday afternoon, so she could smile about it all weekend. She was so excited, though, she tried to play it calm. I was excited for her. I told her she could let me know by Monday, or sooner. First, she said she’ll think about it. Then, she said she was likely going to say “yes”, but wanted to think about it over the weekend. Within the hour of her leaving the office, she texted me “yes”.

I suppose this last example is more about someone getting rewarded for their bad ass-ness, but I certainly felt bad ass by being in the position to offer the opportunity.

The “light” lesson for the weekend is to appreciate and OWN your bad ass-ness. Live in your element, in your authentic way, and you will sparkle and shine as only you can.

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Work-Life

This week was rough physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally. It was full of obstacles, temptations, stress, productivity, high points, low points and everything in between. I suppose it’s called my LIFE.

On Tuesday, I was running late for a meeting offsite and had a bad fall in the parking garage that resulted in huge knots on my foot and elbow. It was an interesting fall because I missed the final step going down the stairs. The way I landed…almost in a yoga, cross legged pose, made it difficult for me to get up and caused me to twist my foot. Everything is still sore including my hips and knees. I had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, but it was with my oncologist. He doesn’t treat falls, but did tell me I’m healthy. And you know what…they didn’t even ask me to speak at that meeting. Really?

I’ve been attempting to embark on a weight loss journey (10 pounds), but there were food temptations this week such as the ice cream social we held on Wednesday in honor of our administrative professional staff. I did partake of ice cream because I don’t believe in being overly restrictive, but me and sugar have a love thing going on. I do want to limit my sugar intake, particularly as part of my cancer recovery. We have a lot of ice cream remaining, so…well, I also partook on Thursday and Friday. I didn’t know Blue Bell has a “banana pudding” flavor. Additionally, my general work stress and busyness from a week jam packed with meetings and interviews didn’t allow me time to log my food at all and I had been doing so well with this new habit. I did bring my healthy breakfast and lunch daily. A few of us also signed up for our agency’s weight loss challenge, which starts on May 4.

I wore my social work advocacy hat to address some issues I observed with my husband’s clinical team. I politely gave them a piece of my mind. They were very responsive and addressed my concerns. I also participated in my husband’s intake for his neuropsyche exam. It was emotional for him. Unlike other weeks, dealing with his medical stuff was interwoven in my schedule daily. It did add a bit of extra stress.

We’re on one income (mine), for the time being, and I get paid once a month. Despite my good salary, money is tight, but all bills are paid. For the first time in my life, I actually bought generic maxi pads because, you know, I need them. And you know what…I didn’t have an accident. The world didn’t end. I don’t know why I even made a big deal about it. The decision was actually easy when I considered my funds.

My son was sick a couple of days. There’s pressure because he’s behind on a couple of classes. We need him to pass his classes for obvious reasons. It’s a chore getting that boy to see the benefit of education. Perhaps the mission trip we’re planning to Haiti will open his eyes.

All in all, it was another productive week for the history books. I’m glad to be in recovery mode. I will spend the weekend resting and recharging, which is what I encourage my team to do. I’m also about to get my exercise on. Work-life balance. You’ve got to work on it.

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Coping with life’s curve balls

I wear many hats in my life. The most recent, and most unexpected, is being the caretaker to my husband. We could not have ever imagined the impact his health would have on our family this early in life, but his brain condition is not going away any time soon. Don’t get me wrong, he is still a high functioning person, however, there are definitely some things he needs assistance with that he didn’t previously. This is indeed a curve ball to my plans of fully acclimating into my role at work, having a clear separation of work and home, getting up to date on all of my children’s medical/dental/vision appointments, serving in ministry at our church, building up a savings, and taking care of myself. Right now, my life is filled with my husband’s numerous appointments, funding and managing all finances of our household, coordinating appointments at my children’s schools, coordinating everyone’s appointments for that matter, hanging by the seat of my pants at work, etc.

I was almost speechless one time back in January by a colleague’s comment to me after he found out my vehicle died on me at work and I had to get an uber ride. (By the way, that was my first and only experience with uber and I was thoroughly impressed). Remember, my husband was hospitalized for 17 days earlier in the month, then there was car trouble with both vehicles. My colleague actually said to me, with the most “poor thing” look I’ve ever received, “your life seems to be crumbling around you”. Ouch. Gulp. Pain. I’m dead. Hey…I really don’t feel like my life is that bad.

How do I manage to keep my family together and cope with life’s curves balls when everything seems to be crumbling around me? (My 12 year daughter told me the other day that I was keeping our family together. That made my heart smile.) First and foremost, I have a deep belief that things will always work out in my favor and that God covers me. I am also a rational person so I lean into that too. However, there are moments where it can feel unbearable. Things that I do to cope are:

  • Breathe
  • Pray
  • Take things day by day
  • Don’t look too far into the future
  • Lean into my organizational skills
  • Tell myself I can do it
  • Be grateful for the little joys in life (e.g., epsom salt baths, hearing my my children call me “mom” or “mommy”)
  • Care for myself by taking my medication, vitamins, eating well, and exercising
  • Squeeze in some time for the things I enjoy such as reading, writing and walking in nature

Inevitably, I believe being flexible and making adjustments relieves some of the pain and pressure that a loss of control can have. In the big scheme of things, there is very little we can control. However, we can control our attitudes and how we see the world. It takes practice.