Set Your Own Expectations

If we became only what other people thought we would become, many of us would have never achieved half of our accomplishments.  Somewhere through the negative noise and circumstances, I told myself that I was going to make something out of nothing.  Some of this came from positive television shows that depicted the awesomeness of college and success, along with great movies that showed the underdog coming out triumphant every time.  Looking back now, that was a window out of my dark world and into an opportunity that helped create my ambitious spirit.  We become what we see around us.  I was influenced by more than just the images I saw on TV, but by amazing people who used their gifts to love and lead me.

An aunt that I grew up around always expected excellence from me.  My aunt spoke to me in a way that helped me to see the greatness in myself.  I always felt like she was my personal guardian angel, but she used her gifts to support and encourage her friends, family, and students .  Being around her always made me strive for more, despite anything that I was going through at the time.  The seeds of success had been planted by family and teachers throughout my life, but while I was in high school my aunt tilled and cultivated my intellectual, emotional, and social garden.  She did not allow me to make excuses or pity myself.  She helped me to see the lessons in my negatives and taught me how to use them as positives in my future.  She allowed me to speak freely, but did not allow me to retain that bitterness and anger that permeated my soul at times.

These important moments in my life taught me that no matter what others said I would or would not be, what others assumed I could or could not achieve, or whatever things I did not have were not determinative of my success.  When I went off to college, I did not have anyone pushing me to be the best.  The first semester I coasted through and ended up with mediocre grades.  I had to refocus myself, decide if college was where I wanted to be, and step up to the plate to prove to MYSELF that I belonged at Howard.  There were so many times when I wanted to give up, but I had to remind myself that I was built to win and the end result would be worth the sacrifice.

Many times we allow others to set expectations for us.  We live up to the standards that are set by those around us.  If the expectations are high and we do not achieve it or if the expectations are low and we exceed them, our success or failures could become a stumbling block to getting to our true purpose.  If you want the most out of life, YOU have to expect more out of yourself and follow your heart, not just simply achieving what others want for you.  People may see you working hard and admire you, but you know if you need to put in more work to get to the next level.  Outsiders may exalt you for what you have done, but you have to remain focused on where it is that you want to end up.  People may laugh at your failures and remind you of where you said you would be, but only bitter people measure your failures against their standard of success. Remain driven, passionate, and ambitious to not lose sight of your dreams.

Expect greatness from yourself.  Walk in excellence.  Speak positively.  Teach willingly.  Live in humility.  Give your all to everything that matters to you most.

Set your own expectations.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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Bring Back Sunday Dinner

Our generation has steered away from traditional anything but one tradition that must remain is Sunday dinner.  Today we celebrated my husbands godson’s christening today and had dinner at another friend’s home.  Some of their family was present, as well as a few friends.  We spent time watching football, discussing rivalries and laughing at my child sing the Philadelphia Eagles fight song, much to my dismay.  Our friends family got on the road home and the men sat down to doze off to late afternoon football games.  Us women went outside to light the fire pit, make smores, and talk about life.

The few hours we spent talking passed by so quickly, and we got a chance to candidly discuss religion, spirituality, relationships, friendships, finances, futures, dreams, growth and found so many common threads in our success and many of our struggles.  Taking a moment away from it all to simply connect and be vulnerable was rejuvenating and empowering.  We all felt connected and less alone, despite feeling as if we were the only ones experiencing socks left on the floor or clothes randomly placed throughout the house! We affirmed that we are normal and many husbands do the same things.

I have been longing to connect with many of my friends again because so much time has passed since we just sat down to talk and laugh face to face.  Just a few years ago, we had no problem getting together just to catch up and create memories.  Now we have gotten so busy being homeowners, wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, students or just busy trying to get somewhere soon that we rarely stop to connect and recharge.  We keep saying tomorrow instead of making a plan today.  I am challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone and spend my weekends spending time with people, doing nothing but laughing and talking.

Money does not always have to spent to have a good time.  Pick up a few sandwiches, a bottle of wine and a few snacks (if the kids are coming) and enjoy each others company.  Don’t get too busy that you miss the chance to see your friends and hear about their accomplishments and be a sound board for their dreams.  The only way we can survive, is by being there for each other and extending that love that is needed to continue on.

I am so blessed to be around such amazing women and watch how God is moving in all of our lives.  I pray you pick up a tradition that reconnects you with your loved ones. Sunday Dinner.  Get togethers.  Laugh.  Cry.  Create memories.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Top 30 Things I Love About Him

Happy 30th Birthday to my husband and hero.  Four years ago, no one could have told us this is where we would be, but it has been a beautiful struggle to get here.  We have accomplished so much and taken many steps toward our dreams! Today is your birthday but this year will be about making every moment count and memories that will last a life time.  Here is my ode to you.


I love him because:

  1. He is always honest.
  2. He reminds me to fulfill my promises.
  3. He always says I love you.
  4. He sends me sweet text through the day to remind me he is thinking of me.
  5. He works hard for our family.
  6. He seizes opportunities to advance his career.
  7. He never forgets a holiday or important moment. (I do…often. Too often.)
  8. He lets me put my cold feet on him.
  9. He eats all of my cooking, even when it’s not that great.
  10. He brings home my favorite things to surprise me. (Currently Talenti ice cream).
  11. He has taken my suggestions on improving his style and made it his own.
  12. He encourages me to fulfill my dreams.
  13. He never backs down when he thinks he is right.
  14. He will eventually admit to me that I was right.
  15. He defers to me on many issues that I feel passionately about.
  16. He is adventurous.
  17. He loves great food and explores many different cultural experiences.
  18. He loves his family.
  19. He has an amazing set of friends who have welcomed me with open arms and hearts.
  20. He will stay up late to put the clothes in the dryer.
  21. He makes me laugh, smile and cry tears of joy.
  22. He is passionate about his craft and does it well.
  23. He has given me the world.
  24. Simple things make him happy.
  25. He loves his namesake.
  26. He supports all of my crazy ideas.
  27. He prays with me and for me.
  28. We laugh at many of the same things…inside jokes for days.
  29. He tells me I am beautiful often.
  30. He chose me to be his life partner.

HAPPY 30th Birthday! This list could go on for days because you are all of this and much more.

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Believing I Am Beautiful

I remember being teased a lot for many different reasons.  I was teased for being a church girl, not having a perm, my hair being short, being dark, being chubby, not wearing the flyest clothes or having a boyfriend all the time.  Do not feel bad for me.  I did my fair share of teasing and it was not just in defense of myself, but as a way to mark my territory.  I was very good at hitting you where it hurt and laughing about it loudly in your face.  Despite being teased all through primary school, I think the words that always hurt the most were those that came from my father.

My father would say things like, “I hope you don’t think you are cute, because you are not?” or “You are so fat.” or “No one will ever want you.  You are going to turn out just like your crackhead mother.”  or  harsher words that cut much deeper and left internal scars that took years to heal.  Looking back at my pictures, I was actually pretty thin.  I was in ROTC and the marching band, which forced me to workout a lot and we never had a lot of food to eat, so it wasn’t like I over ate.  He said those things to hurt me and to control my perception of myself.  His words always stuck with me.  When I looked in the mirror I saw someone who was ugly, fat, and never good enough.

I was the late bloomer.  I was shaped like Taylor Swift my freshman year of high school but the following summer the Lord saw fit to allow me to blossom.  As I started to become more shapely, my father’s words became harsher and cut deeper.  By this time, my stepmother had moved back to Connecticut and I only had my girlfriends to help me get through these fragile years.  Thankfully, many of them had older sisters and their words of wisdom helped me to appreciate the young woman I was becoming ,but that only helped on a superficial level.  I understood that I was physically changing for the better but my self-esteem remained the same.  Low.  The foundation of your self-esteem is built at home and my home was filled with destructive words instead of words of love and power.

I never realized how hard I was on myself until my sophomore year of college.  I cannot pinpoint the moment or the exact set of events that led up to my epiphany, but I remember being in the car with my friend and she turned to me and said, “You look different.  You look very pretty.  I don’t know what it is but you look good.”  I remember that moment so vividly and I looked in the mirror and there wasn’t anything different about me except the fact that I had decided to just be happy.  I made the conscious decision to stop being so critical of myself and pointing out all of my flaws because I wasn’t going to change.  I learned to accept myself and find the beauty in my being.

My journey towards a happier me was slow and riddled with pitfalls, mistakes and setbacks.  I reached a pinnacle of happiness the year I prepared for my friend’s wedding.  I set a weight loss goal and focused on cleaner eating.  I worked hard at my job but I was also having the time of my life.  That year was amazing from start to finish and I vowed to only go higher from there.

When I look in the mirror I still notice my flaws but I don’t use them to deconstruct myself down to the studs.  I see an issue with my skin, I go and find a treatment regimen that will clear it up.  I don’t like how I look in my clothes, I prepare a workout regimen or set a running goal and stick with it.  If I am ever unhappy, I try to get to the root of the problem and deal with it accordingly.  This is the new me.  The me that arrived in 2005 and believed that I was beautiful because I am.

Our words changes lives.  Our words empowers.  Our words destroys.  Use your words wisely.  Build up yourself and those around you.  Be proud of who you are and work hard to be better each day.  Believe that you are beautiful.

Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

50 Years of Love and Life

My 50th post is dedicated to my grandparents who would have celebrated 50 years of marriage today.  They have both taught me so much individually and collectively.  Their strengths and weaknesses have allowed me to be the woman I am today, without any apologies.  They shared many ups and downs, celebrated many milestones and supported all of their children and grandchildren through the good, bad, right, wrong or otherwise.  I appreciate their honesty, depth and selflessness.  Adam and I are two years in and we can only hope that we make it as long as they did and still be generous enough to give until we cannot give anymore.  I love my NeeNee and PaPa so much. May his memory live on and his life continue to be celebrated. Rest in Power. Happy Anniversary.

Cheers to 50 years.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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Live Life on Purpose

If everyone’s life ended peacefully, then we would forget to live life purposefully.

Live life on purpose; that your echo will continue to be heard many days after you have left this earth.

May your works change the lives of many, inspire others to continue your legacy and your loved ones beam with pride when they hear your name.

There will be a point where there will be no more “Im sorry,” “I love you,” “We can work on that tomorrow.”  So share those words now and do those things today, because they will forever mean something to the person who receives them.

Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Positive Parenting: The Road to Transforming an Overthinking Control Freak

All parents should know that he who knows patience knows peace. Chinese Proverb

 

My friend’s mother gave my husband and I a book, “The Power of Positive Parenting,” a collection of bible verses, quotes and humorous statements about parenting.  When I first received the book, I read a few of the quotes and I immediately started to chuckle on the inside.  The quotes and statements reminded me that I am not the first parent to be driven crazy by a child who wouldn’t listen or the first to be so sleepy and delirious that my child ended up in the bed with me many more nights than not.  Parenting is a journey that will take you on a roller coaster higher and lower than any you can ever dream of. One of the lessons that I am learning as a fairly new parent is that this journey is not about just raising my son but transforming myself.

I am a very detail oriented, very meticulous, over thinking control freak.  I want things done a certain way, every time and I know that my way is best because I have thought or tried the alternatives and it has failed or looks like it will fail.  So when children come into your life and you are used to being hung up on the details, your entire method of daily living is derailed, in a good way. In the early days I have been dressed and ready to walk out the door and either my son would pee or release a poop that would seep out of his clothes and all the way up his back.  As he got older, I had to get him ready and then put him in a place that he wouldn’t move so that I could get ready.  That was the downside of him crawling, walking and then learning how to run!  And now we are at the point where we are tip toeing down the potty training road, so bathroom visits, extra pull ups and underwear are now our primary focus.  He understands now that when its time to go to get his shoes and backpack which helps but not having everything by the door causes me to run in and out and back in until finally I am exhausted and running too late to care about grabbing anything else.

Living in a city full of traffic, you have to be prepared at all times with snacks and planned places to stop to grab food if you are unable to get home before dinner time.  You have to leave early just in case there is an accident or a detour.  You have to know where to find the cheapest gas and when is the safest times to go.  You go from worrying about your own safety to protecting your child and their innocence at all times. For those without children, it may seem like I am being dramatic or over exaggerating, but in reality you cannot even put into words what it is to be a parent to a child, let alone more than one.  You get to watch this little being grow, learn and transform before your very eyes, but you also start to look in the mirror and see yourself changing into someone you weren’t a year or two ago.  You see yourself leaving baskets of laundry around the house because you don’t have the time to fold them perfectly and unmet edges are not going to cut it.  You see yourself scrapping tv time for outside play time and walks down the street to see your neighbors so your son can wave and make them smile.  You find yourself beating yourself up for raising your voice or getting upset, because now that you have calmed down you realized your child wasn’t being disobedient but just curious, as they should be.

You see yourself transforming from good to better.  I am a better person because I am a parent.  I am learning what is important in life and what is not worth the worry and the stress.  There is no perfect parent.  Successful children come from homes of varying socio-economic statuses, neighborhoods and parental make-ups.  Some parents are more hands on than others, some are great providers, while many others invest all of their time, attention and money into their child while putting their own dreams on hold.  Every parent can look back and think about things that they would have done differently, better or more.  In parenting, there is no beginning and there is no end.  There is a continuum of life and love that moves like the waves in the sea.  High tides and low tides.  Great moments and not so great moments.  But many lessons to be learned and shared with those around you, especially fairly new parents like me.

For me, my biggest challenge is to learn patience.  Over the years, God has tried to teach me in various ways, but I still reverted back to my impatient ways.  So one day he blessed me with a permanent lesson of patience.  I have failed many times at being that patient loving mom that I want to be, but I keep trying.  Every moment is a new test.  Every failure is a new lesson.  Positive parenting is not a task for me to use on my son, but for me to use on myself. Positive parenting is a journey to transform my mindset, myself, and my spirit.  God is working on me and he has already given me the reward for my future transformation.  My son is so sweet, smart and kind.  He is a loving child who is like most boys, busy and rambunctious.

My time away from him has given me time to review my parenting style and to cherish my job as a mother.  It is one of the most important and the one that pays the most. I always appreciate the wisdom of mothers who have been where I am.  Their words are affirming and encouraging.  I am placing my book on top of my dresser as a reminder and an outlet to look at when I am struggling with my patience.  We all have work to do.  Some work takes longer but I know this transformation won’t take a lifetime.  Soon I will be a more patient parent, detail oriented, very meticulous, over thinking control freak.  Because that is who I am.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

No More Obligations

 

NeeNee and Papa

Married for 49 years and 10 months

When you finally feel like you have life under control, something comes and knocks you right off of your feet to remind you of how unpredictable life can be.  My heart had already sensed that a tragedy was going to strike, but I knew that I could not change it so I tried to brace for it.  You cannot brace for death, no matter how many times you tell your self that death can be easier than life because your family member does not have to suffer anymore.

Last Wednesday morning was a complete whirlwind.  I received a call from my aunt that my grandfather had suddenly become ill.  Although they had not pronounced him dead, I knew in my heart that his battle on this side was finally over.  I began to cry and try to figure out how I was going to get home on such short notice and then the second call came, informing me that my grandfather had a massive stroke and that he was not going to recover from this one.

In those last few minutes of his life, my family rushed to get everyone together to say their last goodbyes.  I sat at my desk and tried to be apart of that moment through the phone as my family gathered at his hospital bed.  I got a short glimpse at him and said goodbye and I love you through blinding tears.  Within minutes he released his last breath and his soul was set free to the other side.

Then the tears began to flow even more.  The wails of grief rang through my silent house.  I began to contact my other family to inform them of my grandfather’s sudden departure.  And the stages of grief immediately set in.   DENIAL.

This could not be real.  This could not be happening.  This could not be happening right now.  Not during my bar prep.  Not when I didn’t have a plan to get home.    Not while our family was already dealing with so much else.  Not right now.  Not today.

As the hours passed and I decided that I could wait no more, I jumped in my car, prayed and set forth on my journey home.  I arrived into a whirlwind of emotions.  Everyone was dealing with this sudden lost of our patriarch in their own way.  The next few days was a roller coaster of moments.  Some preparing for my Papa’s farewell, while others were full of tension and distress.

I remained emotionally stable for the most part but all my built up strength crumbled onto the notes of Safe in His Arms in the service that paid homage to his life.  The reality set in that my grandfather was gone forever.  I could no longer call him and ask for advice about my car, talk about current events or update him on Baby Adam’s new achievement. I never got a chance to repay him for his many sacrifices and self-less acts that made me the woman I am today.  He always believed in me and my dreams.  He never wavered in his love for any of us.  He had a heart full of unconditional love spread evenly across each child, grandchild and great-grandchild.  He did everything he wanted to do, which was to simply care for us and give us better opportunities.

As I stroll through the last four stages of grief, staggering back and forth between depression and acceptance, I am comforted by the words No More Obligations.  These words were shared a few months ago at a memorial service for a professor who had passed away.  His friend shared these words of comfort with us and they never left my soul.  So I embrace the fact that my grandfather has No More Obligations.  No more appointments, no more medications, no more leg braces and wheel chairs.  No more dependence, no more restrictions, no more stress or strains.

As I deal with this loss and the minor set back in my study schedule, I am comforted in knowing that God has placed another guardian angel in my corner to guide me along the way.  Grandparents are special people.  Grandparents are even more special when they step into the shoes of your parents.  And for that, I am grateful.

Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Papa Thinking

Never Complained. Just loved and lived.

Quietly Married

 

 

 

 

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My husband and I have been married for over a year and a half and been together for over three and a half years.  I try to calculate how long we have been together over and over because it seems like so much longer.  I think that we both knew immediately that this was going to be forever.  Our “how we met” stories vary but our immediate attraction and chemistry has always been undisputed.  When we found out that we were expecting, it was a bit of a shock and took some time to adjust to but we both stepped up to the plate and decided to be the best parents we could be for our son.  We had always talked about being married and I expressed that I wanted to be married before our son was born, but I did not know if that was really going to happen.  Adam, being the man that he is, heard me and decided that we should be more than just boyfriend/girlfriend sooner than later.

He planned out a beautiful engagement which I of course shared with everyone via social media and we personally discussed our plans to marry.  Once we started to discuss getting married before the baby with our friends and family, we began to get a push back that we did not expect.  Our family and friends were rightfully concerned with our timeline and voiced their opinions to us.  When we discussed the push back and concerns with each other, we decided that we knew what was best for our family, so we decided to move forward with our plans quietly.

I was working for a judge that summer and shyly asked if she could marry us.  She responded enthusiastically and we planned for a late summer union.  We did not pick a date or publicize our wedding but our close friends were aware and a few decided that they had to be present.  I wanted to keep it as simple and quiet as possible.  I could not take much more excitement on top of being 8 months pregnant in the summer, new homeowners and now a newlywed.  After the ceremony, we had a small reception with the law clerks, my judge, her assistant and my friends.  Adam and I ventured to a far off land to indulge in breakfast at Cracker Barrel and continue with our regularly scheduled lives.

A friend that was present asked if I wanted to share the photos and I decided that I wanted to keep it quiet for a little while.  I did not want the negative commentary from anyone or have to explain why we decided to make that leap into foreverdom at that moment.  I was scarred from sharing my pregnancy news with some and receiving unsolicited advice that was contrary to a decision that I had already made.  I could not take the emotional stress of people’s judgment so I decided to keep it under wraps.  Some of the apprehension was the shock of being married but a lot of it was enjoying the peace of only a few people knowing.  When I started to refer to Adam as my husband, people began to ask questions.  I was always honest but I never addressed the issue across the board.  One day I decided to change my Facebook marital status (sounds silly saying it out loud).  A lot of people were shocked but most were congratulatory and seemingly genuine.  Despite sharing the news, I still never shared a picture.  So today, as I decided to be vulnerable and share my entire truth through my new blog, I decided today was a perfect time.

I am so happy with our decision.  It was the best decision we could have made and although that first year was rough, we are growing individually, as parents and as husband and wife.  This entire post is really a message to myself to live in my truth always and not retreat because of the fear of others opinions.  Be blessed. Be You. Tell your story.