Personal essays

Oh July…

It’s the last few hours of July, my birth month. I can usually reflect back on all the love I received and/or the fun I have had. But I looked at my calendar hanging on the wall and the flower chosen for July is barely seen because the edges are folded over and I looked thinking, “I cannot believe I am actually turning the page to a new month.” July was a busy blur and I don’t like that at all. So much happening between home, work, church, and my life smashed up in there. I am disappointed. It makes me sad to think that my one birthday wish – to receive the love that I give out – really was not fulfilled. The irony here is that when I had that thought this morning, I received a text from a friend who said I crossed her mind and she chose to encourage me. I think God was wanted me to know that He heard my heart’s cry.

Either way, as I lay in bed very tired, I cannot believe that this 7th month of 2017 is over. Seven is the number of rest. I did very little of that. It is the number of perfection and my life has been far from that. I am just wishing I could rewind to July 1st and make some adjustments. I do not know what I could actually change because there was so much going on but I wish I could have found time to celebrate me. I kept telling myself that I will just borrow some time in August but it does not feel worth it at this point.

But in spite of it all, I am grateful. I am a full-time employee and as of August 1st, I will earn the most amount of money yet in this field. My car is still running when I thought it would have given out by own. I am able to sleep in the bed I want even though my parents think I should have gotten a smaller one. My skin is reacting to something; I feel as though I am breaking out from everything but it could be worse.

And what’s crazy, I did not plan a birthday dinner, per usual, but I really wanted a lobster dinner.😏 Guess that’s for the best because I truly want to adopt a vegetarian diet.

I think I had more to say but I started watching a Bishop TD Jakes message from a few weeks ago and my feelings of disappointment are beginning to dissipate so I am ready to sleep in peace.

Get love. Give love.

Personal essays

Seven – Seventeen – Seventeen

Today is my BIRTHDAY!!! 🎂🎁🎊🎉 (<—- and world emoji day 😄)

I left my journal at home 😕 so I might as well blog, right?? I had some good writing to get done, great thoughts to get out! Hopefully, I will be able to pen it all tonight.  I also left a check I needed to cash. I did not sleep well because my mind was racing and I think my music was up too loud – I think I heard every song between each sleep cycle. 😞 I am also at work, which is rare. I typically take off for my birthday, or if I must work, I leave early or something. I am here all day today! It’s a national holiday, and as much as I appreciate God for allowing me the ability to get wealth, I would have preferred enjoying it my own way.

In other 1st, I received birthday gifts from my family weeks early! That was pleasantly surprising. I also did not plan anything for my birthday. There are things I want to enjoy for myself and by myself (i. e. sips n strokes, possibly lunch at a winery) but I typically plan a dinner or some sort of gathering with my friends and family, and I did no such thing this year. There is so much going on, I felt that I would have been disappointed by the lack of participation or the flood of excuses, so I just opted to do me.

I do, however, plan on celebrating until the end of the month. I will try to stop on July 31st, but I am not making any promises! 😏 I expect the most from this year, so I will not be bound by time. I will be 37 for the next 364 days and every day is a gift!

But it’s 7 – 17 – 17 and I plan on just resting in silence satisfaction in all those numbers have to offer. 7 – perfection and rest. 17 – victory. I love it! I will rest in perfect victory today and for the remainder of the month. Taking advantage of this moment will carry me through the end of 2017.

My birthday wish: to see and experience God’s blessings while I am living and well-able.

I love my family for accepting me. I love my friends for loving me.

Give Love. Get Love.

Self Love

Attitude of Gratitude

It is Saturday and this day has earned this hash tag #selfcareSaturdays. So today I slept in, washed my clothes, bedding, and my hair, and now I’m writing! I have done my best to manage my pain without medication. I even do some window shopping online for a new car. Ideally, a massage, possibly deep tissue (if I could handle it!), a manicure, a shopping trip, and maybe a movie would have been so terrific. Yet I have had a free day, in more than one way and I am grateful.

I even got to catch one of my favorite shows, ER. Way back during the early days of cellular devices, I wanted the theme song to be my ringtone. I remember periodically checking to see if I could ever purchase it through a website or whatever avenue we used to use for that purpose. I can’t remember if I tried to record it, but I probably did. I, also watched some great documentaries on the presidency and the White House on the Smithsonian network (did not even know this channel existed). And I now get to watch Jeopardy!!!

It truly is the simple things and the joy they bring. If I had my way, this day would have been spent in the streets but I have recently become a full-time teacher again, and it has been such an adjustment. The job is not what I want, but I am very grateful for this time and trying my best to be patient and take advantage of the opportunity given to me each day. So today in all its simplicity was necessary. I have no regrets. And because I will be 37 Monday, I have been quite reflective. Trying my best not be depressive because I cannot spend my day the way I wish but again, grateful. I guess my self-care Saturday is simply about gratitude. I will take it!

Give Love. Get Love.

Parenting

Toddler Tidbits: Part 2

You’ve survived your 1st year of parenting! Your baby has gone from being held to crawling, and now you have a full-blown walker! Bottles are being phased out. They open their mouths every time you raise a fork or spoon to yours. And you have found less need for that huge baby bag. Maybe you have already transitioned or have found it easier to carry a backpack but now that your child is older, what do you really need to carry?

At this point, you know your child’s cries and needs. Therefore the essentials of carry are simple:

  • 1 change of clothes (this may vary depending on how your child eats and how they potty but use your best judgment, especially depending on how long you will be out and about)
  • Diapers (again the amount depends on how long you will be out but keep about 8-10 in the bag that you can store and forget)
  • 2 cups – an empty, one with juice and then a bottle of water. If you child has transitioned to whole, almond or soy milk, I would recommend using a thermos because it needs to be kept cold, unless your bag has an insulated pocket/compartment.
  • Wipes
  • Travel-sized ointments, creams, lotions
  • Snacks (varies depending on your child’s taste or your preference)
    • If your child loves fruit, use your smaller Tupperware containers and fill ’em
    • I love to combine toddler tidbits to make a little finger trail mix such as the yogurt melts, cereals, raisins, Teddy Grahams, Goldfish crackers, etc.
  • Toys and small board books
    • Toys should be small and quiet (cars, balls, action figures or small stuffed toy, 
    • It is nice to include toys that they love but I suggest that these toys remain in the bag so that your child can forget about it – out of sight out of mind. Every time they see the toy, it will be new to them.
  • Bib – not the cotton drool bib, unless your child is a drooler or still teething but a feeding bib. Walmart and Target sell them for about $5 for 2.
  • Fork and spoon (optional) depending on if you are trying to help your child learn how to self-feed with utensils

Eventually, you might be able to phase out to just a freezer bag with a change of clothes and a travel-sized pack of wipes, a couple of toys, and a cup. It truly depends on your need and how prepared you want to be for your child. I always tell parents to do what works for you. Everyone has an opinion but you must do what is best for you and your child.

Parenting is a journey definitely not a destination.

Give Love. Get Love.

 

Parenting · Self Love

Kitchen ABC’s

For most adults, you learn how to feed yourselves according to your appetite. If you love watching Food Network, like me, you imagine a kitchen filled with the latest gadgets and utensils. Until that dream becomes a reality, you might have these basics on hand (most probably acquired during your college years): pots and pans, spatula, maybe a mixing spoon, probably a whisk, and aside from the staple silverware, you might have a knife block. 

As a woman, the saying goes, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Yet, any man that is willing to cook for me and with me is a keeper! I like using my hands and trying to figure out how seasonings pair or standing over a mixing bowl saying, “what if I add this?” or “I wonder how this will taste?” Sharing my creations has not always worked in my favor BUT I can follow a recipe to a tee (I still have to add my own personal touch!)

But regardless if you have flights of fancy of starting your own cooking web series, there are some kitchen staples that every home can use. You never know when the day will come and you want to host a dinner party, or you might feel like experimenting in the kitchen like I do.

 

I asked my childhood friend and talented chef, Birmingham’s Chef Eryka Perry of Not Just Catering, to lend her expertise by providing a list of kitchen staples that everyone should have – married, single parent, doting bachelor or family of 5.

Pantry:

  • Garlic (fresh or minced)
  • Basic seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika)
  • Coconut and olive oils (these are NOT interchangeable)
  • Liquid amino acids – building blocks of life (great substitute for soy sauce, and flavor additive) 
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Italian herb mix: oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage
  • Lemon or lemon juice

 

Equipment:

  • One good knife because it can make magic
  • One pyrex or casserole dish
  • Small and large saute pan or skillet
  • Median and large sauce pot
  • Bowls (various sizes: small, medium and large)
  • Ziplock bags (varying sizes: sandwich, quart, freezer)
  • Nuwave oven: can replace stove, oven, and microwave
  • Rubber spatula
  • Tongs
  • Wooden spoon
  • Forks and spoons (4 of each) – never know when you will want to or need to entertain

 

Foods:

  • Greens: Kale, spinach, collards
  • Frozen fruits
  • Bananas
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Beans (canned or dried, depending on your preference)
  • Rice (brown or wild rice blend)
  • Butter

I am going to add flour and sugar to this list because anything can be made or created when you have those in your cabinet as well.

These are just some basics that you should keep stocked. You can add other foods, seasons, equipment to your liking.

Besides, recipes are becoming easier to follow. If you can subscribe to Hello Fresh or Blue Apron, you can surely select a recipe online or at your local Publix, purchase the needed ingredients and then enjoy the fruits of your labor. BONUS: Having a home cooked meal saves money and calories! 

(Shameless Plug): Chef Eryka offers food coaching, cooking classes, lunch and learns, AND she will even come to your home and cook for you and yours!!!! Contact her today <info@notjustcatering.com> and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and THEN subscribe to her newsletter  😉

 

 

 

Parenting

365 days later

You made it! You survived your 1st year as a parent! You kept your child alive for an entire year :). Now you enter into the potentially highly stressful situation of planning his birthday party. Do you make reservations at the infamous Chuck E. Cheese that does not genuinely cater to children under 5? Do you go to McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A with a cake where your child, who may or may not be walking, cannot climb up the play structures and slide? Or do you invite friends and family to your home and try to have a cartoon-themed party?

How should your child’s 1st year be celebrated? In my opinion, this should be a time for the family to congratulate themselves. Parents are not wholeheartedly prepared for the numerous responsibilities of childrearing. So many changes as your child is growing, exploring, and evolving. Does it stop after the 1st year? Of course not! However, if you take the time to glance back at the pictures you took in the hospital, during their 1st doctor’s visit, the 1st time they smiled, the video of them tasting food, or the 1st time they sat up alone, you see all of those firsts!

So it is my humble opinion that parents should enjoy their child’s 1st birthday. They deserve a level of celebration. I was discussing this topic with my sister-in-law and she suggested the parents get wined and dined and I agree! I do not see anything wrong with parents clanking glasses to say, “Yes! We did it! We made it! The little human that we were privileged to create is still here and healthy 12 months later.” This is a highly interdependent relationship: parents did not exist with a child and a child is not created without parents. Celebrations all around!

Over the past year, I have attended four one-year-old birthday parties.

  • There were 2 house parties
    • One parent had a story time. The godmother is a library so she read “Pete the Cat” and it was a hit.
    • The other party was just a big family affair with a Peppa Pig theme. All the foods were pig related – curly fries to represent a cute little piggy tail and pigs in the blanket.
  • The other 2 were on-location
    • The mall has a carousel in the middle of the food court, so these parents reserved tables near the ride. They got a chicken tray from Chick-Fil-A and the little attendees were treated to vanilla ice cream cone. Then the birthday girl and her court were able to ride, many of them for the 1st time. It was easy and convenient. (Even if someone forgot a gift or didn’t have time to shop, they could just go to a store there!)
    • One grandparent decided to have a big Mickey Mouse theme blowout with a huge inflatable house and water slide at a local park. This party had so much grilled food – hot dogs for the kids and chicken for the adults. The weather was perfect! There was no rush to leave the pavilion and when the birthday boy got tired, he napped in his stroller.

The best thing about each party is that they were all about family. That should be the goal. Surround your child with love from their village. Even though they will not remember the day, they will see the excitement, hear the birthday song, and feel the love.

Give love. Get love.

 

 

Personal essays

Good TV

Can’t believe June is here!!!

Aside from my niece turning the big F-O-U-R, it is summertime! I have big plans of being poolside or oceanside, which ever finds me first! However, TvOne has decided to dedicate a portion of their programming to two of my all-time favorite shows – The Cosby Show and A Different World! These shows shaped my childhood, and I love them! I often times get frustrated with my Hulu and Netflix subscriptions because there is a lack of available shows that have the appeal that these two had and continue to have.

The Cosby Show would air on Thursday nights. I always looked forward to the musical openings, especially at the start of a new season. I wanted to change my name to Vanessa, raid Denise’s closet, date Theo, style my hair after Rudy and have twins like Sandra.  It made sense to me watch a two-parent, dual income household because it was similar to the makeup of my family. It was inspiring to see people with my skin color, hair color, and family situations that seemed so far-fetched at the time yet were quite entertaining.

A Different World gave me something to look forward to upon high school graduation. I definitely wanted to be a student of Hillman University. I wanted to live in the dorm, eat at the Pit, and take math from Dr. War (Colonel Taylor). This show made me feel that I would find love in college and possibly even reside in that same college town upon graduation. It provided hope.

What has been most beneficial about this marathon is that there are tv shows that I can watch with my niece! I do not have to compromise and watch Disney or Nick Jr. These two shows are appropriate for my also four-year-old niece. It has been refreshing to enjoy this together!

Parenting

The Village

Although I am not a parent, I have parented several children throughout my years as an either an educator, nanny, aunt, or sister. Each of those roles as afforded me the opportunity to be a part of a village. From my 3-year-old niece to my just-turned-1-year-old nephew to my friend’s children to all the children I have had the pleasure of calling me, “Ms. Valerie” or more recently, “Ms. Jones,” I have the honor of being a part of several villages.

Raising a child is not easy, and I do think anyone has have made that claim. This is why it is important for parents to know how to create their village. Regardless of how convenient family is or if the grandparents are deceased, your community should consist of those friends and family or “framily” (friends who become family) that you can not only trust with your child but also those who can vent to, cry to, and expect support. Those people become responsible to your family. The 1st year of the child’s life is so unexpected yet very foundational. Books, parents, friends family, other parents, and the childless offer all levels of advice. It is your job to trust your gut and then surround yourself with those who either go with your gut or even challenge it. Then keep away those who are set on destroying what you know to be true.

Your village should protect your child. The world can be scary. The angels assigned to your child and your family are always on guard. But those you have chosen and allowed into your community will be your eyes and ears when you can’t.

Your village will love your child. Perfect love, the love that Jesus personifies, the love that God is, cast out every kind of fear. Love creates a cocoon that your child can help them face the world head on. Knowing you are loved gives you confidence, security, and a sense of bravery needed to conquer any challenge.

Your village should be available for a good laugh. Laughter provides healing to your soul. When your soul is healthy, your body is healthy. Soul prosperity is beneficial to you and your child. Do not be afraid to call on your village just to chuckle.

Your village will provide a strong shoulder. A good cry is just as important as a good laugh. Lyfe Jennings said, “Crying is like taking your soul to the Laundromat.” What we see, hear, and say is how our souls are fed. Sometimes we have been feeding too much of the wrong thing and need a crying detox. There may be times when your child is inconsolable, give them room to cry. When you need to cry, call on your village so you can have the room to just cry. Cleanse your soul.

You do not know what your village will look like. It will just come organically. Embrace those who are willing to embrace your child. Use discernment to only include those you mean you help and not harm. You are not alone. You will have moments you feel lonely, and that is okay but know when to pull on your village, your circle of love.

Give love. Get love.