Up Next

When I decided to become an educator some fifteen or sixteen years ago, I was well aware that I would not be in it to make money.  As long as I could support myself and my son, I figured I would be okay.  It’s not like I took a vow of poverty but on a teacher’s salary, I might as well have.  I make what most would say is a “livable” wage and truth be told, I do okay.  I am able to pay my bills, feed myself and put gas in my car.  Unfortunately, after all that, there is not much left over to do many of the things I truly enjoy like taking yoga classes, having my hair professionally done or visiting my grandson as often as I’d like.  Don’t get me wrong, I can do those things but not without a plan and putting a little money aside each pay period until I have enough.

This summer, while I do save for summer break, I decided to find a part time job as well to add a little extra cushion to my financial bucket to reduce some of the stress of always being close to the end of my money each month during the school year.  At the end of the summer I made the decision to keep my part time job.  The extra money is great but I must say that I am definitely tired.  Many of my friends and family argue that as a professional with a master’s degree, there is no way I should have to work two jobs.  Well, I totally agree.  My love and I definitely live below our means.  We make every effort to save more than we spend.  My love does the grocery shopping and recently he came home and said, “did you know the price of bananas has gone from forty-nine cent a pound to seventy-nine cent a pound?  Our paychecks stay the same but prices all around us are going up.”  This is so true.  While we are doing our best to simply maintain our household, we are spending more on things like gas and food.

When I was in my twenties and working to finish my first degree, I dreamed of owning a home.  I kind of pushed that dream to the back of my mind once I became a teacher.  Being a teacher didn’t really allow me to save the kind of money I’d need to purchase a house.  All I wanted to do was make sure my child was fed, that he had a roof over his head and that the power stayed on.  About five years ago when I decided that I wanted to bring that dream to light, I asked questions, did research and found that I could actually make my dream a reality.  I became a home owner in June of 2016.

Last year, while out of town visiting my love’s family for the Christmas holidays I had the opportunity to chat with my father-in-law at one of his stores.  I joked that he should open a store in my area so that I could quit teaching and come work for him as I was certain to make more money.  We laughed and then he said, “why don’t you open your own business? What is it you like to do?”  My response, “Teach! That’s what I know and that’s what I’m good at.”  Besides owning a home, I also dreamed of owning my own business.  Again, that idea was pushed to the back of my mind as I thought there is no way I could do that on a teacher’s salary.  I went through all the reason’s I couldn’t do it.  I shared my conversation with my father-in-law with one of my best friend’s who happens to be a very successful event planner.  She started her business from scratch and as she patiently listened to me list all of the reasons why there was no way I could start my own business she simply said to me, “why not?”

I have spent the better part of the last ten months doing the very thing I did when I decided to buy a home, I asked questions, researched all I could and found that I might actually be able to turn this dream into a reality.  In my research I came across the Women’s Business Centre of Tampa Bay.  The women there were more than happy to answer any and all of my questions.  They helped me to make connections with the women at the non-profit, Enterprising Latins.  The bridge to owing my own business is being build with each and every connection I make.  Along the way, my love and my best friends have been encouraging me with each step.  While conducting research, I came across a business conference being held in Dallas, TX.  From the website information and reviews, it looked like a great opportunity for business owners and I said to myself, “if I get my business up and running, this would be a great way for me to learn more.”  Once again, sharing what I’d found with my friend, she asked, “why not go and get all of the information now so that you are a little bit ahead of the game.”  When I told her the cost and that there was no way I’d be able to afford it, her response was, “see of they have a payment plan.”  Of course, she was right…they had a payment plan.

As I am writing this post I am sitting at the Dallas Love Field airport on my way home from the conference.  I arrived here on Wednesday to attend the Thursday through Saturday sessions.  This was probably the best thing I could have let her talk me into doing.  I was able to network and hear from some of the best in the business.  When I shared my business idea with attendees and told them that I hadn’t yet opened the doors on my business, they jumped at the opportunity to share all that they knew, things I needed to do, the order I needed to do them in and what to look out for. They were so encouraging and positive that I want to go home, apply for a business loan Monday morning and open doors on Tuesday.  Although I am very aware that there are still a few steps left to complete in my plan, I think this conference gave me even more courage to step out of my comfort zone one more time to make this dream happen.  If God did it before, I am most certain He can do it again.  I am the one who has to let go of the fear and simply rely on the faith I keep saying I have.

Never let go of your dreams…:>

 

Just Me

I was born a fighter.  I’m sure God must have known what I’d endure over my lifetime and He just decided to build me to last.  I can remember the exact day life as I’d known it had changed.  I was in seventh grade and I just knew.  That morning, I woke up a confused, withdrawn, sad and very angry child.  That was all I could think to be at that time.  I had lots of questions but no one I trusted to answer them so I learned to be silent.  I let my attitude and anger speak for me.  I often heard people say, “what’s wrong with her”, yet no one asked me directly.

Adults are funny that way.  Instead of facing issues directly, they make excuses for why children behave a certain way or they choose to ignore it altogether.  Getting to the heart of the matter may shine light on their own insecurities so they teach children to be quiet and what children learn to do is suffer in silence. What we all end up with are generational curses that span decades.  Children who learn to be silent become adults who often suffer through abusive relationships, allow anger to fuel promiscuity, develop mental heath issues or other toxic, unhealthy problems.  The cycle continues until one brave soul decides to break the curse.

 

Very few people know my story.  For me, there has to be a need to share it.  I have to know that the person who hears it will benefit from it in some way.  Other than that, they are mere words spoken with no direction or path.  As I’ve gotten older and have had the opportunity to share my story, I usually hear one of two things, “how have you not lost your mind” and “you should write a book.”  I always laugh because there was a time when I thought I had “lost my mind.”  In order to cope with all that I had endured up to that point in my life, I simply became someone else.  Due to the fact that I’d lost my identity at such a young age, through my anger and frustration, I learned to be the person everyone expected me to be.  Yet, I never felt quite right.  I didn’t have balance.

I lived my life in this crazy limbo until I was twenty-eight years old.  I had the privilege to meet this great lady, whom I affectionately refer to as Shug, at a point when my anger and false persona was causing more grief than help.  She literally spoke life into me.  Over the course of about a year, she changed my life and opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that I’m still riding today.  She gave me direction which is something I hadn’t had since I was about twelve years old.  She asked the hard questions, expected truthful answers, pressed and pushed until I was ready cut her out of my life forever.  I am thankful and grateful that she never quit.  Prior to Shug, I thought my anger made me a fighter.  She helped me to see that my true resilience, perseverance and innate ability to believe that there is more to me and my life than what people see or may perceive is what makes me a fighter.

It’s just in me to keep pushing.  I don’t quit.  When I look back over my life and reflect on all that I have lived through, the fires I’ve walked through and all those who told me I’d never amount to anything I think, “wow, look at that! If that didn’t stop me…nothing will.”  And I don’t quit!  Everyday is not my best day and I’m not always as positive as I should be.  I have my moments.  I cry, scream and if you catch me on a good day, I might even throw something.  However, I’ve learned not to stay in that place of anger because no one can get a level head when they are fueled with anger.  When my anger begins to subside, I pray, listen and plan.  (I’m learning to pray in my anger.  Not all the way there yet.)  I encourage myself and remind this girl that she is a fighter.

Through it all, I’ve always come out better than I went in.  Tension, challenges and struggles will produce growth if you don’t quit.

Planted but not buried…😊

 

The Lives of Boys

If you know me, then you know I love to read. The more I read, the more I learn and the more I grow. Learning and growing are two of my favorite things to do. I think it is just a waste to be on this earth, living this life and never growing.  There is so much freedom in this life especially, in this country.  We shouldn’t waste it.

Somehow, in a recent morning quiet time I began reading the book of Revelation.  Not sure how that came to be but I learned quite a bit.  Growing up, my grandmother would always tell us how life simply repeated itself because people don’t learn from their mistakes or from the situations of those who came before them.  As I began reading Chapter 12 in Revelation, I was reminded of my grandmothers’ words.  Reading this chapter taught me about the strength of women and the struggle that will forever haunt young boys who, without proper guidance, will become men under attack.

From reading this particular chapter in the bible, I thought about my own life and the lives of the boys I raised.  When my love and I met, he had three boys and I had one.  So, I had the pleasure of raising four boys.  Saleem is now 25, DJ is 24, Jaylen is 21 and James is 15.  Our two oldest are out on their own, Jaylen is doing well in college and the baby, James, is still at home giving us a run for our money.  All of our boys are the sweetest, kindest human-beings I know.  After reading Revelation, I think there is one area where we may have failed them.  While we made every attempt to raise them to be respectful, thankful, grateful and to treat others as they wanted to be treated, I think we failed to teach them the undeniable power that they held within.

Yes, we took them to church, prayed with them and talked to them about developing a relationship with God, however, we didn’t tell them the story about how they’d be attacked on every side through no fault of their own.  We didn’t know to tell that that the attacks they’d face were due to the power and strength they possessed to stand as the kings they were born to be.  Our boys were born to be fighters, to stand up for what is right and to be examples of God on earth.  When we know better, we do better.  It’s never too late to turn and that is just what I intend to do.  I will work to remind my boys that they are true kings of God and within them, God has placed all they need to fight against any darkness that is meant to take them down.

 

Standing strong…:)

Part Two of To Sleep or Not to Sleep

An extra long title for a not so long post 🙂

After a discussion with my chiropractor about how long I’d had my mattress and its connection to my recent back, leg and arm pains and restlessness, I started my journey for a new mattress.

As with anything I plan to purchase, I set out to do a little research first.  Who knew buying a new bed would take three months of research and testing of mattresses?  It was awful!  Every time I thought I’d narrowed it down, I’d read about some other mattress that was sure to help with chronic lower back issues or help to promote a better night’s sleep.  Well, when my allergist threw in her two cents about how certain mattresses could help with my allergies and sinus troubles, I was fit to be tied.

What I knew for certain was that I was going to be spending A LOT of money and I had to get this mattress thing just right.  It is amazing how little I knew about how a lack of good sleep, joint pain and blood circulation can make the difference between a successful, productive day and a bad day.  I learned that its not just about getting eight hours of sleep.  We can all probably get eight hours on a good night but are you comfortable and peacefully sleeping for those eight hours or tossing, turning and getting up every couple of hours?

My research included visiting various mattress stores and laying on more mattresses than I ever thought possible!  Here are a few things I am convinced of…

1. There is no way you can buy a mattress that is best for you without being able to try it out first.

2. Buying a bed in a box is risky.  If you can’t find a store nearby that has one of those bed in a box mattresses available to try, cross it off your list.

3. You have to be certain about your mattress expectations and be sure it will fit your specific needs and desires.

4. Stay away from weird sales people. I had a salesperson ask me if I liked to sleep on my side or in the casket position.  Of course, that grabbed my attention but it also creeped me out.  No way was I going to let her sell me a mattress no matter what the sales price was.  Here I was concerned about my health and with the money I was planning to spend, this was not the time for her jokes.

5. If you want to go with an organic mattress, like with organic food certifications, know exactly what it means for a mattress to be certified organic and if you agree with those standards.

6. It really is a good idea to change your mattress every eight to ten years.  Trust me, it makes a difference so start your search early.

When the smoke cleared, we decided on a TempurPedic.  Just like the last time I bought a car, this was THE most pleasant buying experience!  First, our salesperson, Yahiara, was amazing!  Even though I know it’s her job to sell products, she didn’t make us feel as it we had to purchase a mattress right then.  She answered all of our questions, talked about the benefits of each mattress in the store that was within our budget and never tried to talk us into something more pricey.

Second, we purchased our mattress from an actual TempurPedic store and not from a third party mattress store for several reasons.  The pricing was about the same at all the other stores we’d been to but the medical discounts, free pillows, and mattress protectors we got at the TempurPedic store made the difference.

Third, the moment I laid down on my mattress, I knew it was the one for me.  Early on in my search I knew I wanted an adjustable base so my mattress on an adjustable base was simply the best.  My fifteen year old daughter was with me that day, when we laid down on the bed, she and I both said at the same time, “this it the one!”  I truly wanted to carry that mattress out of the store with me because by that point, all I wanted was a restful, peaceful good night’s sleep.

As of today, my Love and I have been in our new bed for about two weeks.  I have slept in Zero Gravity almost every night and best of all, I have slept through the night.  I wake up feeling as if I’d actually slept and rested!  My arms, legs and joints are starting to feel better and not so restless.  With just a little elevation on his side, my Love, still using his C-Pap machine, is breathing much better through the night.  One big bonus…if either one of us happens to turn or move in the night, the other person doesn’t feel it so their sleep isn’t disturbed.

 

Looking forward to restful sleep… 🙂

 

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

After my son was born, I began experiencing pain in my lower back.  I had no idea what was causing it or what to do to make it stop.  When the pain got really severe, I had to be taken to the hospital where they would inject medication into my back.  Over the years, I guess I kind of got used to having this pain.  At my worst, I had difficulty getting out bed, driving and getting in and out of the car.  My doctors would tell me there was not much they could do outside of shots, prescribing pain pills and muscle relaxers.  I am not one to take a lot of medication just to be taking it so, I began simply living with this dull pain in my lower back.  I’d take an aspirin or two if the pain got too bad but for the most part, I just dealt with it.  By the time I started teaching full time, I had no idea how I’d live my life with this constant pain in my back.  I found new doctors who basically recommended the same treatment as my previous doctors, cortisone shots in the area, which I extremely opposed or surgery which was completely out of the question.  I was not able to wrap my head around having back surgery when none of my doctors could pinpoint where the pain was coming from or how the surgery would help.

During my second year of teaching, during Teacher Appreciation Week, my principal at the time had hired a massage company to come in and give teachers fifteen minute massages on their breaks.  Prior to this I had never had a massage by a professional.  During the brief session, a nurse was also there to talk to about spinal health and to ask questions about whether or not you were experiencing any back pain or joint discomfort.  I jumped at the chance to tell her about the lower back pain I’d been experiencing since the birth of my son some ten years prior.  She invited me to come to the chiropractic office where she worked and meet with the doctor.  Chiropractic services were never on my radar as I worked with other doctors to find a solution to my lower back pain.  None of my doctors recommended chiropractic services or any other physical therapy services for that matter.

A few weeks later I met with this doctor, who turned out to be a very nice, kind and knowledgeable guy.  I had x-rays done on my back, met with the rest of his staff and was given a tour of his office where he explained his work and what all of the machines were used for.  A few days later I went back to review my x-rays and talk about treatment options.  Turns out, the pain I had been experiencing was due pressure on my nerves from my spinal cord being a little inflamed and pinched.  I’m sure there is a scientific term for it but I can not recall what he called it.  I began having treatments at his office and after a few weeks, I began to feel better.

I started seeing Dr. Brown about ten years ago and I still see him for treatment maybe about once every other month or so.  I, honestly feel a lot better.  After my car accident five years ago, he was the first person I called.  With no medication or surgery, he was able to help my body heal the three bulging discs, two tears and whiplash I sustained from the accident.  Whenever I have issues with my health, Dr. Brown is usually the first person I call or go see.  So when I recently began experiencing pain in my neck, shoulders and back, I went to his office to talk with him.  His first question, “how old is your mattress?”  My response, “12 years.”

This conversation set me on a journey that taught me even more about my health and listening to my body.

 

More to come…:)

Talk the Talk

Consider this…we can’t create an actual universe with our words, but we can use them to build up or destroy someone else’s world.

I came across this little nugget during my quiet time reading recently and almost immediately shared it on my Facebook page because I thought it was so simple but yet so true.  We have so much power in our words that life and the world would be a much better place if we knew how to use them in a positive way.

When I was younger, I like any other kid, loved watching television.  My favorite part was the commercials.  Back in the day almost every product/ad was promoted through a jingle.  The jingle would get stuck in your head and you’d be singing that thing for the rest of the week!  As I was growing, I had a plan to go off to college and get a degree that would help me to be able to make commercials.  Well, I did go to college and I got a degree but life led me down a different path.

Today, television is the last thing I want to sit down and watch.  I still enjoy a good commercial however, with news programs, tv series and made for tv movies taking such a dark and negative turn, I rarely turn on the television anymore.  If it were solely up to me, I’d toss out every television in the house.

I find it increasingly difficult to expend positive energy to my family and friends or even those I simply run into each day when we, this world, is surrounded in so much negativity.  I feel for my kids the most.  In this age of instant “Likes” and instant posts so that the world knows your every move, my kids are bombarded with instant comments about everything.  And I feel that this is desensitizing them to simple compassion.  It amazes me that everyone has an opinion about everything but what saddens me most is that even in the most positive postings, articles or news reports someone will find a way to turn it into a negative.  You can’t read a post or article about anything where someone hasn’t found a way to make a negative or hurtful comment.  My love gets so frustrated with me because I try to find a positive in all that I do and say.  I am by no means perfect and even though it is hard and often times challenging, I’d much rather find a way to show love and compassion to someone than to be mean and say something negative or hurtful.

What I feel we, as a society, are losing most is our ability to be compassionate.  1 Peter 4: 9-10 says “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  To me that simply means to love one another, to have compassion and respect for my fellow man (woman) and to be compassionate.

Every day, in every situation, find a way to share grace…:)

 

 

The Importance of Sisterhood

I was very lucky to find a great friend early in life.  She is usually the first person I call when anything happens in my life.  Currently, we live on opposite sides of the country, she’s in California and I’m in Florida.  We met at church when we were about nine or ten years old.  We are the same age, our birthday’s are on the same day, different months (she’s in December, I’m in September), and we were born at the same hospital.  To say that we were meant to be is an understatement for us.  I only get to see her once a year but for us nothing has changed except a plane ride.

Over the years I’ve tried to form bonds with other girls/women but the friendships never seemed to connect well.  I think it’s mostly because of me though.  I’ve had some really bad friendships with some who claimed to be a friend but ended up doing or saying something that caused me to not trust them and to pull away.  I learned to keep my circle of friends very small.  Basically, it was just my friend Swayla and my sister.

Recently, I’ve come to understand that creating a sisterhood can be very important in a women’s life.  A sisterhood, community of women, can help to strengthen one other when a safe place can be created that allows women to openly and honestly share with one another.  Two weeks ago I was invited to a gathering at coworker’s house.  While she and I do talk periodically by phone, we don’t hang out or meet up regularly.  I am not one to attend too many get-togethers because I don’t want to open myself up to false friendships.  However, I wanted to support my coworker who was hosting because I find her to be very kind and genuine.

Surprisingly, I had a very nice time.  What stood out to me most that afternoon was the story my coworker told about a group of women she recently began working out with.  At a stressful point in her life, my coworker decided that she wanted to start working out to clear her mind and relieve stress.  After some research, she came across this group of women who met to work out together.  In this group, they not only support one another during work outs but have created a sisterhood to support one another inside and outside of the gym.  They support each others goals, hold one another accountable and regularly meet up to personally check in.

Through her story I learned three important aspect of building trusting, lasting friendships.

First, to find a friend, one must show themselves as a friend.

Second, connect with like-minded people.

Third, don’t be afraid to share your story because God didn’t intent for us to walk this journey alone.

As I have continued to read Craving Connection, I have learned what it means to be a friend and also how silence about my pain and struggles can sometimes push me into isolation and make me fearful of letting others in.  While I am not suggesting that you go out and blab your business to everyone in order to find friends but start small.  Look around the outer ring of your current circle of friends.  See if there is one or two women you could possible have a deeper connection with.  Invite them to lunch or coffee and hang out.  The more you are around them the more you may feel comfortable and this may help you to open up more.  Some friendships may simply be general and pleasant from a distance and that’s ok.  The overall goal is to not isolate yourself to the point where you are not reaching out or growing to your full potential.  Work on developing relationships that will stretch, support and encourage you.

 

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. – Maya Angelou