Oranjestad, Aruba

20191221_164040I’m sure many of us are sitting in the house taking this time to reflect, relax, and regroup. Some of us are spending more time exercising, reading, learning new crafts and enjoying family. Many of us that spend a lot of time on social media have probably used this time to look through our 7,982 selfies and all the pictures that show our delight when we were able to socialize and hang with our friends.

One of the last trips I took before this pandemic was a trip to Aruba. I wanted to travel somewhere quiet and calm but near the water. Aruba was the perfect place to go to experience this tranquility and stillness. Oranjestad was busy and magnificently quiet at the same time. I spent everyday on the beach and while there were thousands of people hanging out, it was almost as if I was in seclusion. The indescribable joy I experienced gazing out at the clear blue water, listening to the sultry sounds of nature and watching families relish in some of the most blissful moments made the trip even more incredible.

While it’s not a secret that I love the beach, few people know I love butterflies just as much. I knew there was a Butterfly Farm and I almost opted to skip the chance to visit because of the holiday schedule. It was closed most of the days I was there but on the last day, it opened. I had an internal battle with myself as to whether or not I should go and I’m glad I chose to stop by. It was a glorious sight to be surrounded by the beauty that is the butterfly.

Typically when I travel, I scratch the place off the list and look towards the next adventure. However, Aruba is definitely worth doing again sooner rather than later. As I sit back reminiscing, looking at the pictures, and watching videos of the crashing waves, I can’t help but remain at peace and appreciate the opportunities to experience and explore.

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Self-Care 2020

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Working out before we had to practice social-distancing.

2020 has definitely forced us to reassess and take time to reevaluate what’s important. Self-care was a top priority for me in 2020 and being quarantined has given me time to self-reflect and focus on getting organized and smashing some goals.

My number one priority was to focus on healing. Learning to forgive others and forgive myself for the times I underestimated who I am capable of becoming has been one of my greatest joys. Therapy has provided me a sense of peace and a happiness that had been lost long ago. Even during this time I can attend therapy live or virtually so that idea was very  promising on this journey.

My favorite hobbies are reading and journaling. These are two things that bring me solace. I allowed myself to become so overwhelmed with my responsibilities that I forgot to take time out to enjoy simple pleasures. My goal for the year was to continue reading for enjoyment. I was reading for academia purposes and for training purposes at work, but there is nothing more enjoyable than just reading for sheer pleasure. I’ve had the opportunity to read two books every month in 2020 and my reading selections have brought me so much entertainment. I was also gifted a journal for Christmas and whew! The journal has given me a chance to revisit my past and it also allows me to seek answers from others as to how I am perceived. The great thing about this activity is the questions warrant positive responses but when people are brutally honest, yeah…lol

Working out is also relaxing for me. A couple of summers ago I worked out every day and it was challenging to push myself daily. I worked out twice a day and while I found myself exhausted many days, I endured it all for the sake of my health. (Petite does not equate to healthy and getting people to understand that is very difficult.) This year,  I wanted to start working out at least three times a week just for the sake of getting fresh air and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Lately, I’ve been able to work out at least five days a week and I can spend as long as I want just enjoying the outdoors.

How are you managing during this time? Are you learning new crafts or mastering old ones? Are you exercising or waiting to fill out your application for My 600-lb Life? Are you knocking out goals or still trying to figure out what you want to accomplish? Whatever it is you’re doing, stay safe and take care of you and your loved ones.

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“Heal the Girl and the Woman Will Appear” – Part 2

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Mental health is essential to your overall functioning. It impacts your thoughts, behaviors, and your capacity to cope in life. While my motivation for starting therapy was my needing an outlet as I tried to adjust to life without my dad; I actually felt the need for therapy many years prior to my dad even falling ill. My initial thoughts of needing therapy started approximately 12 years ago when I found myself exhibiting behaviors that were self-destructive. I was very aggressive with people, noting it as being competitive or passionate. I had a nonchalant attitude about life and was sometimes very inconsiderate of people’s feelings and/or their efforts. I was struggling to deal with my own sanity and I began to become frightened of the impact my emotional stability would have on my son. So, I kept saying, “I’m going to find a therapist. I’m going to sit on somebody’s couch.” But I never did. Internally I made the decision I was going to pray my worries away. All I needed was God and time.

Over the last few years, God has really shown me his sense of humor. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and he will make your paths straight.” In trusting I started doing daily devotions, at least twice a day, which consisted of reading and analyzing scripture followed by prayer . I took on the role of facilitating Sunday School classes, taught a couple of Vacation Bible School classes, and I starting paying my tithes consistently. In seeking and trusting Him, He set me on a path, straight to a therapist. Sitting in therapy, God has forced me to become honest with myself. I always understood the idea of Him knowing my truth but it didn’t stop me from dressing up a lie for myself or the world.

My parents put a lot of emphasis on being neat. While we didn’t spend large sums of money on clothes and shoes, we could have still been placed in the category of “best dressed” at all times. We were clean , matching and our hair was always in tact. As I grew older, my appearance became a part of my facade. I always looked like I had it together and I played the role of having it together all too well. During my teenage years when my self esteem started to falter due to the various phases of life that all teenagers experience, I continued to hold on to what my parents taught me about presentation. It was the easiest way to dress my life up, I mean my dress my lies up. I lived in the neighborhood of falsehood for many years. I am so relieved to have allowed my therapist to help me unmask. My trauma has molded me but I will never let it define who I am to become. Therapy has given me the freedom to release my own truth and become greater than I ever imagined.

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“Heal the Girl and the Woman Will Appear” – Part I

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.” -David Richo

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Exactly six months ago, I posted my last blog post. The day before I would have posted my weekly post, I received a phone call saying my dad had passed. While I was very much in tune with my dad’s health crisis, having multiple visits with him every week, I was still devastated and heartbroken. His last words to me before he lost his speech were, “Baby, I’m trying.” While talking to him the day before he perished the earth, he tried to respond to me by simply nodding his head and grunting. Because my dad was a strong willed man and very stubborn, I believed wholeheartedly he would recover and we would share many more days together. But God had a different plan. He had a plan that didn’t care about my selfishness. And He had a plan that would no longer allow suffering to be a part of my dad’s daily life. As I walked the streets in a daze for several days following my father’s death, I knew life would never be the same for me. In trying to accept that, I started to wonder, “How will I do life?”

Two days after my dad passed I made a decision to do something I had been telling myself I would do for years. I accessed my benefits online to determine what services were available to me and with tears in my eyes I contacted a therapist. I scheduled a consultation based on the date of my dad’s homegoing celebration but I immediately started to wonder what people would think of me because I needed to see a “shrink”. Everything in me kept screaming I needed to cancel but I knew I needed help like never before. I kept stressing myself saying things in my head like, “Black people don’t go to counseling.” or “You’ve got to be weak if you can’t deal with your problems on your own.” Four days after we laid my father to rest, I had my first session.

During my first month of therapy I’m sure my co-pay was being used to purchase more Kleenex for the office because I’m sure I used a box every week. Approximately six weeks into therapy I was instructed to journal about each of my grandparents and each grandparent was to have a week of their own. All of my grandparents are deceased so this was a very arduous process for me. I had no desire to write about my beloved grandparents who were resting peacefully. However, this set the tone for helping me understand why I respond to things as I do. More importantly, it forced me to become more accountable for how I act or react. I realized what I considered passion was aggression. I started to understand my struggle of needing to do all things in a precise manner. More importantly, I started to grasp how people used the idea that I thought I was better than others to manipulate me while I was constantly trying to prove I never thought I was better than anybody. Believe me, finding your triggers serve as a real wake up call in your life.

Six months later, therapy has become my safe space. Some sessions I cry real tears and some days I laugh so hard I question my own identity. I wish I could say therapy has kept me from grieving but that would be a lie. What therapy has taught me is I have the right to grieve and not a soul gets to determine how I grieve and/or set a timeline for how long I can grieve. I’ve learned many things about myself including the idea that I don’t have to be strong all the time. This was a toxic trait I picked up from my dad, believing I could do it all, if necessary. I never realized how accommodating I was and how much I pacified people until I started going to therapy. “No” has become the most powerful phrase in my vocabulary. The most important thing I’m learning is to stop giving people my power. There are some people close to me in this world that, unfortunately, have an impure mindset. I’ve always allowed these few people to upset me to the point of ruining my day on more occasions than I should have. These days I can ignore them and keep moving forward. I’m starting to exist in a world where I am finally starting to not only learn, but experience my true self and it has become the safest place I’ve ever lived.

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Polka Dot.Com

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You can never go wrong with black and white. People are constantly throwing parties with black and white themes because black and white clothes are easily accessible. People buy black and white for work, interviews, church functions and the list goes on. Therefore, I keep black and white stored away for those occasions that call for the neutral colors I generally shy away from.

This number was found on the clearance racks at a small store called Shasta. It was reasonably priced and a quick find for a 40th birthday celebration. Like most of my dresses, I tried to find something that was multi-purpose. I figured I could always pair it with a pair of white canvas tennis shoes or heels. This dress could serve as attire for a party, a picnic or to hang out on The Boardwalk. When shopping, do you think long term and  look for versatile pieces or do you buy attire to satisfy the need in that moment?

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Polka Dot Power

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Can we talk comfortable, cute and casual? This number from New York and Company is a must have if you love polka dots and maxi dresses. This dress is definitely multi-purpose. It can be worn to church, work, dinner and can even be worn as a cute, casual spring look if you’re going out for coffee or lunch.

Initially, I wanted to get the length of this dress altered but after putting it on and wearing it out of the house, I realized I loved the flow of it. It drags the ground but it’s not so long that I find myself tripping over it. I also like the fact that it is a full wrap dress that can withstand the wind without revealing anything and it allows me to move freely.

Similar to the last number, the dots are sizable which makes the dress more lively. I prefer longer dresses and skirts because it gives a slimmer appeal. And by the way, I always look for blue and white polka dots first. Do you have a preference of colors when selecting polka dots? Do you like prints and patterns or do you stick to the basics?

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Patterns and Polka Dots

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My love affair with polka dots today is as strong as America’s love affair was with polka dots in the 1920’s. While polka dots are popular for kids, I have always been obsessed with the playful pattern. Polka dots are very feminine and “extra”. It’s definitely a pattern that helps you stand out in a crowd.

During the month of September, I’m going to sport some of my favorite polka dot outfits. I’ll start with this little number I found on Amazon. I loved this dress not only because of the polka dots but also the mixture of patterns and colors. Initially, I purchased this to wear to church and/or work but after receiving it, I discovered that was not going to happen. Although it was a cute number, I did not find it appropriate for either setting. However, I was so fixated with this dress that I decided it would be used for date night. This dress has enough stretch to hug all your curves and the length is perfect for taller women. The split in the front definitely adds a layer of sexiness to the dress. While this dress did not become my first Sunday communion uniform, it was definitely a date night hit.

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Cancun, Quintana Roo

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Every summer we take a family trip and this summer was no different. This year we pulled out the passports and headed to Cancun, Quintana Roo. After having completed my first graduate class, this trip definitely gave me a renewed strength. And it also gave me an opportunity to cross some things off of my bucket list.

Being the only female in my household results in me taking many adventures. Because of this, I know being dainty is not in the agenda. This year was no different. In my mind, we would relax on the beach, enjoy a few cocktails and watch sunrises and sunsets. In fact, I searched long and hard for cute bathing suits for lounging purposes. And then, I was presented with the agenda. It was nothing I would have imagined doing in Cancun.

Day one, we got settled and sat on the balcony relaxing and enjoying our view of the beach. Then we went to a nearby restaurant and had the most amazing, authentic mexican food ever. Day two is when the games started. We went from riding ATVs to ziplining to horse back riding to swimming in the Cenote’. Lord knows I was out of my comfort zone, but I was not one to ruin the party. I went through one adventure after another faking it. When it was done, I was happy I had gone through each experience. When my husband asked if I would ever do it again, my reply was, “If I never do it again, I will always be able to say I’ve done it once.”

Activities for days three and four were more relatable to me. On day three we spent time during the day shopping at Mercado 28. That evening we went to the nightly food festival at Parque las Palapas for more authentic mexican food. We ate and drank until we could barely walk anymore. From tacos to nachos to churros to cotton candy, we wanted to delight in everything. The next day (day four) we took a ferry ride across to Isla Mujeres and rented a golf cart to drive around on the island. We decided to take a break and enjoy lunch before heading to the beach for pure relaxation. The water was blue, the sun was bright and the noise was calming. I’m not sure which one, but one member of our party of three was so relaxed they went to sleep before making it to the water.

By the time we left Cancun, I was so relaxed I didn’t want to go back to adulting. The trip was so refreshing and relaxing it made me lose sight of my professional commitments and obligations to myself for a brief minute. The calm I experienced gave me an opportunity to really understand how important it is to clear my mind of clutter. This trip brought me so much more than an exciting adventure, it magnified my awareness of the importance of self care. What are some of your favorite places to visit when you want to clear your mind?

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Quirky Teacher Habits

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Summer Break is officially over and the kiddos are back in the mix. It’s amazing how students are able to pick up on the habits of their teachers in a very short period of time. They notice EVERYTHING and will quickly go home and tell their parents. They seem to believe our conventions are created for their entertainment. Listed below are five of my habits students and colleagues have picked up on and find quite hilarious.

  1. I eat two boiled eggs almost every single weekday during the school year. I usually treat myself two Fridays out of the month to something different and more exciting.
  2. I keep a log/journal of what I wear to work daily.
  3. All chairs in certain areas of my classroom must match. All the chairs assigned to student desks are a match. All chairs assigned to tables match.
  4. I do not keep Kleenex in the classroom for students because I prefer they step outside the room to blow their nose. Restrooms are literally outside of my door. Leave please!
  5. No matter what content area I am teaching, students are required to have a book available in my classroom and keep a reading log.

What are some of your daily practices? Do you have routines or do you simply ride the wave? Do you change your patterns of behavior when away from work? As crazy as these things seem, the people around me have become accustomed to them very quickly. I’ve had a teacher actually go to my journal and write down my outfit for the day and the kids always inquire about my eggs.

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45 Trips Around the Sun

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Birthdays are occasions that should be celebrated. Whether it’s a party, small intimate dinner or just a group of the people closest to you singing the obligatory, “Happy Birthday”, I think it’s an honor for people to acknowledge the day God gifted you to your loved ones.

Sunday, I celebrated my 45th birthday. And while it did not consist of a typical birthday celebration for our household, my family tried their best to make sure I had an opportunity to relax.

This year I decided to do something totally different in recognizing my 45 years. Since I’ve accomplished most of my goals set at the beginning of the year, I decided to establish 45 goals for MY NEW YEAR in celebration of my 45 trips around the sun.

  1. Read 45 books.
  2. Complete my graduate program.
  3. Celebrate/Acknowledge an accomplishment of an immediate family member at least once a month.
  4. Become more intentional in telling people, “Thank you” and “I love you”.
  5. Cherish every moment with my son as he moves into his senior year. The beginning of the end of this chapter…
  6. Take the time to make others feel important.
  7. Exercise more often.
  8. Go to a professional football game.
  9. Become more involved in volunteer/service projects.
  10. Rid myself of things that serve no purpose in my life (this includes people).
  11. Blog consistently.
  12. Start/Join a book club.
  13. Learn how to swim.
  14. Clean out every closet in my house.
  15. Pay off credit card debt.
  16. Spend more time with my parents.
  17. Take family portraits before the time comes and my son can tell me he’s not going to do it.
  18. Get a massage.
  19. Take one trip every season.
  20. Create a photo gallery/room in my house.
  21. Worry less (God is in control).
  22. Take my youngest Goddaughter on a trip.
  23. Carve a pumpkin.
  24. Go roller skating.
  25. Learn to really love my flaws.
  26. Go on a picnic.
  27. Create albums of family vacations.
  28. Host a garage sale.
  29. Go to the beach.
  30. Color
  31. Host a game night.
  32. Take a cooking class.
  33. Go to the gun range.
  34. Go to an open mic night.
  35. Try yoga.
  36. Go on a family bike ride.
  37. Go to the rodeo.
  38. Pick strawberries.
  39. Make homemade popsicles/cool cups.
  40. Go to the movies.
  41. Create a senior year scrapbook for the kiddo.
  42. Be the loudest parent at my son’s sporting events.
  43. Learn how to cook pancakes and waffles.
  44. Attend a dance class/session
  45. Laugh more.

Whew! That’s a lot to do in 365 days. I need an accountability partner to see how well I’m doing on this journey of appreciating life. What are some of your goals or things on your bucket list to do?

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