Give. Yourself. Time.

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Freedman’s Mill Park, Gwinnett County Georgia. An old Gristmill along the Alcovy River.

After two shocking celebrity suicides within one week and several not-so-famous deaths about a month or so later, I began thinking more about mental health.

Mental health is a taboo that many would rather dance around than approach it head-on.  Naturally, pointing the finger at others is easier than examining one’s own mental health.

This post sat in my “draft” box for weeks over a month.  Ongoing edits, determining if the piece is worth publishing, and sprinkled with a little fear of what you will think (of me).  While pondering and editing, I learned of yet another suicide from a close friend, so I decided to go with it.

For anyone who has never experienced depression, it is probably easy to misunderstand the complexities of a mental health disorder. I have overheard comments from others who emphatically purport that suicide is a selfish act. However, I think the statement is selfish, troublesome, and demonstrates a lack of empathy and a lack of knowledge with respect to mental health and suicide. It’s proof that that people really don’t understand the scope of the problem.

People who suffer from depression or die from suicide are worthy of empathy, compassion, and love.

My thoughts about the people who took their lives are that,

They must have been emotionally and mentally broken. They must have experienced an insurmountable amount of agony. They must have been badly hurting. They must have felt helpless. Did the person have second thoughts? They must have believed their world would be better on the other side. They must have taken a considerable amount of time to make the decision. I cannot imagine their pain.

Like you, I have many questions. An extension of empathy for anyone dealing with depression led me to think long and hard. To consider if I had ever been in such a dark place. Did I ever experience depression? My immediate response was no.  No, because the face of depression did not look like me.

However, I did recall a hectic time in my life.  I worked full-time in midlevel management, I was a college student commuting an hour away from home and from work, sometimes twice a day (before and after work).

My multiple roles as wife to a supportive husband and mother to a pre-teen daughter were relationships that I cherished.

At times, my commitment to my family, career, and education was suffocating because I never came up for air.

Unfortunately, I could not see myself drowning with self-inflicted obligations. Perhaps I overcompensated for being away from home.

No one was aware of how overwhelmed I felt because I appeared to be just another resilient and strong black woman who was present to support, help, and encourage everyone else…but myself.  I know one when I see one.  My mother was one and her mother who nurtured 13 children was one.  My grandmother raised nine strong women.

Several of my friends are that black woman too.  I am not being dismissive of white women, I just can’t speak for one that I am not but I’m certain this post will resonate with my white and brown friends too.  Anyways I wholeheartedly bought into the stereotype of the Strong Black Women.

Some of us (black women) talk and jive amongst ourselves. We bond over personal war stories like we earned medals of honor. We toot-our-horns about how we persevered through the toughest of times without the likes of Prozac and other pills.

Looking back at that time, I did not want my family to sacrifice or suffer because of my personal and professional goals.  Today I know this way of thinking is severely flawed, and harmful to my mental health and well-being. I was teaching my daughter bad habitude.  Our home would have survived just fine with dusty floors, a pile or two of dirty laundry, and dust coated coffee tables. What was I thinking? Sigh!

Although it’s been over 25 years, I recall on one occasion while driving to a workshop in Trenton. I was cruising on the Garden State Parkway passing a large body of water in Raritan, NJ. Although I don’t recall being stressed, sad, depressed or angered by any particular event, for a moment, I impulsively thought to pull the car over and jump. Yessss, I said it!  Me. The happy one. At that moment, the word suicide never came to mind. I remember feeling tired. Not sleep deprived tired but simply tired from doing it all. Tired of guiltily doing too much.

During my drives to/from the university, on at least three occasions, similar and random thoughts flashed in mind.

While driving at a high rate of speed, simply turn the wheel in the right direction and I could rest. Sigh. 😦 

I have never shared this with anyone. If you know me, you are probably surprised. I was happy. I wasn’t using drugs or drinking. My marriage was intact. My child was healthy and doing okay. Life was good, or so I thought. I was employed and liked my job. I wasn’t dealing with financial problems.  I know know,

I was just doing too damned much.

Perhaps I was unaware of the fact that I was experiencing bouts of depression. Maybe I was ignorant to the face of depression.  Maybe it wasn’t depression.  Perhaps I was just overwhelmed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports, depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life.  So what did I experience?  More importantly, what if I had acted on my sudden impulse to do the unthinkable?  What about those who did and died?  I pose a few questions but have more. What I know is this.

I didn’t talk about my torrent feelings.

As a child, I learned from adults that you don’t talk about feeling overwhelmed.

I was raised to handle my business.

Don’t complain.

Don’t Wine.

Don’t Cry.

Put your big girl panties on and handle your shit.

Why didn’t I speak up about my feelings?  Probably from fear of looking weak. What’s bad about being weak?  Nothing!  It is a state of needing help.  Weak is fatigue, exhaustion, powerless, fragile, unsteady, and unstable.  None of which one should be ashamed of.

I never saw anyone in my family and tight-knit community ask for help.  You endure.  End of discussion. We must unlearn and unteach this behavior for ourselves and for everyone around us.  It is detrimental to our health.

Ages ago, I don’t know what I thought about depression. Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, I think it was treated privately with medication and whispered about.  Depression facts, according to (WHO) :

  • Worldwide more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression 
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.
  • Depressive episodes can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.
  • As of March 2017, the number of people suffering from depression increased 18% from 2005-2015.
  • Depression is a common mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for 14 days or longer.
  • More women are affected by depression than men.

Although I did not suffer from a classic case of depression, I now realize that I still needed and should have sought professional help. I should have taken a break from my responsibilities.  I am thankful for my network of family and friends, who supported and encouraged me to follow my dream.  Without them, I would have never earned my degree.  In retrospect, I learned much from my experience.  The number one lesson I learned–Don’t ever stretch myself that thin again. Period.  The purpose of sharing my story is to help others.

I was in a hurry.  The rush compromised my quality of life and caused me to miss out on important time with my family.  In life, we are supposed to enjoy our journey.  Recently I saw an image that illustrated a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.  The caption read, Give. Yourself. Time.

Now, I do just that.  I take my time and understand that, as long as I pace myself while working toward my goals, I will accomplish them when it’s meant to be. Romans 12:12 reminds us, Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 

Hurdles and hiccups serve a purpose and growth evolve through all struggles.  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4 ).

To prevent feeling overwhelmed, I carefully pick and choose my activities.  I think long and hard before taking on commitments, and when I do, it’s because I choose to NOT because I feel obligated to do so.  I don’t let anyone guilt me into doing anything I don’t want to do. Saying no becomes easier with frequency.  🙂  Saying yes to what you love is more fun.

The videos in this post are from a family excursion to a nearby park. The stroll through the park didn’t cost a dime but the hours spent with my husband and children were worth a million bucks.

Now I live a simpler and more purposeful life. My life isn’t perfect but it is a lot less complicated. Having large windows of downtime is wonderful.  I still have goals but the difference is, I take my time. I have quiet time.  I listen to the birds sing in the morning and the noise of the bugs at night.  My teen son participates in sports, but don’t look for me at the concession stand before, during, or after a game. I read more and stress less. Lastly, I shifted gears and have made a major career change.  I haven’t found my new career niche yet but in due time, I will.  Until that time, I am enjoying my journey and hope that you are enjoying yours.

Peace and love and remember to Give. Yourself. Time.

Smooches! 🙂

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Getting Help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-8255

Youth

LGBTQ+

WHO Mental Health Management

Mental Health

National Institute of Mental Health

Mental Health Quiz

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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In The Name of Wellness: Why Your Words Matter

The concept of total wellness recognizes that our every thought, word and behavior affects our greater health and well-being.  And we, in turn are affected not only emotionally but also physically and spiritually.  -Greg Anderson

While ironing a shirt for work (do people still iron?) you mentally drift. The tip of the iron touches your left hand. Ouch! It burned your skin. There is strong possibility that the burn will leave a permanent mark. Years later, you can recount the story of your injury.

Words leave scars too. >>>>>>>>

While visiting my bestie in Texas, I bought an authentic pair of cowboy boots. I wore them for the first time today. As I slid them on, I was reminded why I purchased them–good quality leather, comfort, and stylish. Looking in the mirror, I thought, Damn girl, you’ve got big feet. ‘Dem boots look big as hell!

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Sipping on a green smoothie and reflecting on the boots.

Mentally, I traveled back to my awkward and gawky pre-teen years when my lanky arms and boney legs were disproportioned. My family would remind me daily that I had BIG feet. Mom would make me wear specific shoes that were orthopedically sound but ugly as hell.

Double time to today. My mom’s words have clung to the inner parts of my psyche, resurfacing without solicitation at the opportune time and trying to steal my joy.

Yup, the red boots look super-sized! I could have got them in black. Black looks smaller. Women with big feet probably shouldn’t wear bright colors…right? The truth is, does anyone really give a damn? Even if they do care, what does it matter?  My personality is vibrant, and so are my color choices in clothes, sometimes shoes, and everything else. I bought the red because they are me and I loved them. I adore them just as much today.

When I wear the boots today, someone might glance at my feet and think, damn, she’s got some big ass feet!! And if they do believe that, what changes? Nothing! The world continues to evolve. I look the same….fabulous! I feel the same…marvelous! Worse case scenario, someone thinks I have big feet, and it’s true. Hehe!

The truth; the reality is that someone will always have an opinion about you.  You do not have power over the thoughts of others.

You do, however; have the POWER to govern your own thoughts and it is YOUR thoughts that matter most.  Incessant chatter is the term Michael A. Singer uses in, the untethered soul. You have the choice to become crippled by your thoughts, but you also have the option to acknowledge the notions and to move on.   Once you are paralyzed, you start to miss out on the abundance of pleasures life has to offer you.

If I had listened to the inimical chatter in my head this morning, I wouldn’t have worn my boots.  I would have missed out on the joy of high stepping with my eclectic Jersey swag through the streets of Gwinnett County. Although I wasn’t dressed up, I felt special wearing my Ariat cowboy boots.

I don’t know if anyone took note of my boots, but if they did, it might have been because it seems stilettos are more popular than cowboy boots in Georgia or merely because they thought my footwear was cool.

Anyways, I have to points here. First, to remind you that words matter. When speaking to children, know that everything you say is heard by them. Repeated messages hang around and take up mental space and can influence the child’s behavior well into adulthood.

And second, to encourage you to try something that you’ve wanted to but are afraid to do. It can be something small like wearing a brighter color nail polish, applying for the next promotion at work, taking a dance class, getting your first tattoo, or something else.  Just do it!

 

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I couldn’t resist jumping around in my boots. 🙂

Wellness is more than exercising and eating well.  If you search wellness, you will find many definitions.  My favorite definition of wellness is:

…the experience of living life with  high levels of awareness, conscious choice, self-acceptance, interconnectedness, love, meaning, and purpose… living consciously in ways that improve your health and well-being.    – Michael Arloski

Make each day count!

Smooches!


The Gift Of Gratitude

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

-William Arthur Ward

My life is wonderful!!  It is NOT perfect either, but I am truly grateful for everything.  While I live in a beautiful home and have a few nice possessions; they are replaceable tangibles.  I am more appreciative and grateful for my loving husband, my cool and quirky children, my hard working and hilarious brother, my adventurous sister, my sharp-tongued mother, my loyal friends, my health and more!  I don’t take any of the loves in my life for granted, and as often as I can, I try to consistently communicate and share the gratefulness.

I’ve lived to enjoy age 50 and it’s nothing that I ever imagined.  I’m not old!  I’m wiser, more carefree, forgiving, fit and celebrating life.  I intend to make this next decade and new chapter even more colorful than the last.

My 2015 summer vacation has ended and I have experienced one of the best summers ever!!  So much fun that I slacked on my blogging. Lol!  It’s all good tho because I try to keep up a reasonable perspective on life. During the fall and winter, my schedule is less flexible, so in the summer, I unwind and indulge more into my wants.

Celebrating my 50th Birthday was the highlight of my summer.  I had good intentions of writing a post immediately after my birthday, but umm… as you can see, that didn’t happen.  :0)

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At the end of my birthday weekend, my face should have broken and cracked to itty bitty pieces from grinning and laughing so hard.

August 2014, I proclaimed that I wanted to celebrate my 50th birthday in a big way. “A big way” meant partying hard on a tropical island with an intimate group of family and friends. Hahaha! :0)

Little did I know that, for two years, hubby decided that he would surprise me with a 50th birthday bash. OMG!!

My three-day weekend of birthday festivities began with my bestie from high school driving up from Virginia to sweep me away to DC.

Since 1979, we’ve been friends. #loyalfriends

She hates driving bridges and, to get to me, she had to drive over several bridges. Thanks Diane!!

When I arrived at the hotel; her daughter; my God-daughter and flower girl in my wedding (27 years ago) was waiting for me in the hotel room.

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The room was decorated with balloons, ribbons, along with a delicious box of chocolates. I was surprised and I felt very special. :o)

Before heading out to dinner, I was surprised again but this time with Champagne & chocolate covered strawberries!!   We laughed, toasted to the evening, enjoyed the strawberries and left for dinner.

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champ and strawberries

OYADC

We dined, “Where the Birthday Magic happens,” OYA Washington, DC.  Oh my goodness!  The atmosphere and decor, the food and service and the overall vibe was so me.  Lol!

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27 years ago, I never imagined that I'd be celebrating my 50th birthday with my beautiful flower girl. Who knew!!

27 years ago, I never imagined that I’d be celebrating my 50th birthday with my beautiful flower girl. She is wise beyond her years on earth. I love her as much as I love my daughter.  She rocks!

After cocktails and dinner, the waitress served me a mini banana bread cake that was to die for. You can see in the picture a lovely birthday greeting spelled out in dark chocolate. Yummy!
desert plateB'day cake

Hailing a cab in DC on a Friday night was interesting.  I am so used to the convenience of jumping in my car and driving to wherever I need to go, but the cab scene is a different world.  I learned real quick..don’t be afraid to step off the curb and into the street to snag a cab!  Lol!!

Next stop…

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Cool place, great vibe!

This eclectic three-story bar/lounge doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the venue kept us entertained throughout the night with a live Blue’s band and several DJ’s… the perfect setting to dance the night away.

The lead singer of the band, a 49-year-old loc wearing woman from Brooklyn, NY was cooler than cool!  What better way than to celebrate my 50th with a cool ass 49-year-old diva from New York! Her raspy soulful voice made my night.  I could have listened to her sing all night long.  Heeeey!!

Lead singer

Revised Rockstar

The music and dancing worked up our appetites.  My friend insisted that I have a chili dog at DC’s famous Ben’s Chili Bowl.  Well past midnight, the line to order snaked through the restaurant like it was a lunch-time crowd.  I think I was the only one phased by the AM rush. Lol!!  I wolfed down a chili turkey dog and french fries.

Saturday’s Festivities

I was serenaded and embarrassed beyond words during breakfast at Chic & Ruth’s Delly in Annapolis Maryland!

Chick and Ruths

Me and the owner of Chick & Ruth's

Me and the owner of Chick & Ruth’s

Before we ate, employees, including the owner came to “see” me because they didn’t believe that I was 50! The owner also performed a cool magic trick for us. Lol!  “Black don’t crack” felt like the theme of the hour.  The owner told the entire restaurant over the PA system that it was my 50th Birthday and they sang happy birthday to “the girl with the nice tan!”  Hahaha!

My God-daughter raved about their crab dip– I know why… that dip will make you slap somebody!!!   Lord Geez…..   They bake bread fresh on the premises and we sopped up the crab dip with the hot bread like we hadn’t eaten in days!!!  When my ginormous crab omelet was served, I couldn’t finish it.  None of us finished our meal…   Great restaurant… loads of fun.  Another eatery where folks line up and eagerly wait to eat.

After lunch/brunch we got on the road to drive to my home, where I found a crowd walking down that driveway singing, “Happy Birthday” to the tune of  Steve Wonder’s Birthday song blasting from the DJ’s station in the backyard.

crowd

...just getting out of my car...

…just getting out of my car…

Lol!  The moment was priceless and I will never forget it.  It’s the first and only party I’ve ever had!

Too see who was out in the crowd, I climbed atop my car!  Yes, climbed atop my car and danced to the singing and the DJ’s music Lol!!

Turnin' it up!! Lol!

Turnin’ it up!! Lol!

This (me dancing on my car) is what authentic living is all about.  Being true to who you are and not caring what others think.  🙂

viewing the crowd

The bartender walked down the driveway and handed me a cocktail…. sitting atop the carI sat and sipped in amazement.

My God-daughter took this shot of me standing on the sunroof from inside my car.

My God-daughter took this shot of me standing on the sunroof from inside my car.

my homies

These two are also besties for life! They saw and talked with me daily but kept the secret well. Who has three genuine ride or die chicks in their life? Me and for that I am blessed. Love them all!

Leftover crumbs were the only proof that I had a cake!

Leftover crumbs were the only proof that I had a cake!

This is what 50 looks and feels like! Absolutely fabulous!

This is what 50 looks and feels like! Absolutely fabulous!

My AWESOME husband!! I love this man so much!! He loves me unconditionally and has taught me how to do the same. :)

My AWESOME husband!! I love this man so much!! He loves me unconditionally and has taught me how to do the same. 🙂

Since I never had a birthday party and emphatically said that I did not want a party, Big Daddy Cain, was determined to make the party happen anyway.  And boy did he do it right…. just the way I would have planned it for myself.  No stuffy formal party, just a good old time with good music, delightful food and lots of fun.

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Some of the catered grill food. Amazing!

A friend a some kids are shooting me with water guns.

A friend and some kids are shooting me with water guns.

My 81-year old mom.

My 81-year old mom.

My God-mother and 70+ year old aunt. Another one of the nine sisters. :)

My God-mother and 70+ year old aunt. Another one of the nine sisters. 🙂

My 70+ year old aunt came out to celebrate. Lover her! One of my mom's nine sisters.

My 70+ year old aunt came out to celebrate. Lover her! One of my mom’s nine sisters.

My wonderful brother and I. I am so proud of Lou.

My wonderful brother!  I am so proud of Lou.

Ms. Doris Hopkins and her staff at Miss Dee's Cookie Bar did an outstanding job on the food.

Ms. Doris Hopkins and her staff at Miss Dee’s Cookie Bar did an outstanding job on the food.

50 Even after the official partied ended, a few of us continued to celebrate.

The next day, (Sunday) the party continued with a few of the same friends. Lol!

The next morning/afternoon, we're still toasting to my birthday and to friendship. Lol!

The next morning/afternoon, we’re still toasting to my birthday and to friendship. Lol!

A once in a lifetime shot of me doing shots of tequila with my mother.

A once in a lifetime moment of me doing shots of tequila with my mother and a few friends.

Nothing beats having good people in your life who accepts you for who you are. The  number of friends that you have is not important, it is the quality and authenticity of the relationships that matters most.  I cherish my family and closely knit circle of friends.  You guys are the best and thank you again for a lifetime of memories.

🙂


Begin Each Day Like This

 

Photo courtesy of my friend JH.  Thank you! 


What we do is not as important as how we do it. The attitude, the energy, and the flavor that we infuse our actions will determine the scope and magnitude of the results.  

We are enroute to B’Dazzle’s Saturday morning tutoring.  While it is early and I would appreciate sleeping in, I am immersed in gratitude for the gift and blessing of life. I woke up this morning, not everyone did. 

When you get up in the morning, before getting out of bed, take a deep breath and slowly exhale.  

Give sincere thanks for another day. 

Smile. 

Regardless of what lies ahead of you, commit to giving it your all.  Find the sunshine in as many moments as possible. 

Smile.

Don’t be discouraged by happenings that you cannot control. 

Smile. 

Go about your day with a positive attitude and keep forgiveness in your heart. 

Smile. 

Practice random acts of kindness. 

Smile. 

Most of all, “Be the kind of person that you want to meet.”

Make it a fabulous day!  Smooches!  :). 


Food For The Soul

It is a chicken soup kind of day! The whole family is off.  It’s cold outside, the wind is gusty and, other than going to the gym, I have no desire to go outside today.

2015/01/img_3908-0.jpgLike clockwork, my helper showed up right on time! B’Dazzle is having fun washing and peeling carrots.

2015/01/img_3910-0.jpgThe beginnings of a home-made and hearty chicken and  quinoa soup. What are the healthy benefits of carrots?

2015/01/img_3909-0.jpgI love the vibrant colors of uncooked veggies!  Read this to learn about the health benefits of celery.

2015/01/img_3912-0.jpgThe seasoned chicken is baking nicely and is almost done.  Mmm..!  Smells good! 2015/01/img_3913-0.jpgGet your kids involved at home!  My son was eager to help cut the veggies. When your children asks to help out, please let them. Although the process might slow you down a bit, the time together is good for both parent and child. Besides, it’s better time spent than video games and TV. While cooking, we talk about everything… girls, school, family, and more!  Goooood stuff!! 🙂

chicken stockChicken stock in the making!  Are you hungry yet? Lol!

I searched the internet to find a recipe that appealed to me.  Can soup is filled with sodium and other processed stuff and is not the same.

Yeah, I cook often but home-made chicken soup is not my speciality.  Divas Can Cook had a recipe that works for me.  I substituted the noodles with quinoa (It is pronounced KEEN-wah).  Quinoa is a grain filled with nutrition.  Noodles are processed foods that I try to avoid.  The plan was to add brown rice, but since I have a decent amount of leftover quinoa, I decided to add it instead of cooking more rice.  I also added a little nutmeg to the broth.  Mmm… there’s something about nutmeg that gives food a homey and warm feeling. home made chicken soup

This is delicious! Just one spoonful brightened my smile even more today! 🙂 Here’s a link to DCC recipe.

Happy Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Slide1🙂


Simplicity In 2015

Simplicity

[sim-plis-i-tee] 
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Image courtesy of threedifferentdirections.com

Keeping life simple in 2015 is my theme for the year.  I cannot be bothered with another New Year’s Resolution that bites the dust by St. Patty’s Day, if not sooner.

It’s a little past 7 O’clock p.m. on New Year’s day and the hoopla of the holidays are over. Already I’m in bed relishing in the warmth of an electric blanket.

Since hubby is not home, B’Dazzle wanted to join me in bed and under the warm blanket. I thought he’d want to play a game or watch a movie, that is not the case.  He wants to simply enjoy the warmth of the blanket next to mom.  🙂  I just had to snatch my phone and get this picture.

Tailor electric blanketInstead of getting all complicated and deep with this post, I am keeping it simple and am sharing a few of my favorite “simplicity” images.

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apoorve dubey i like simple making the simple secret of happines SIMPLICITY10 there is beauty through simplicity why complicate life

This one is my favorite!  Words to live by.

Happy New Year!! 🙂