9 Secrets To Wellness During Difficult Times

Living your best life, is a common phrase often used in 2019.  Look anywhere on social media. As a matter of fact, do a hashtag (#) search on Instagram or other social media.  Pictures of smiling faces, adventure shots, weddings, graduations, and more are everywhere! In the comments, you are likely to see a “living your best life” comment. 

When you are living your best life, wellness is easy to incorporate into your lifestyle.  During these highs, your job/career is, at the least, satisfactory. Finances are flexible.  Relationships are rewarding. Family life is well. You feel good with no major health concerns. And, you can even carve in some me time to do the things that matter most to you. During these periods, God is good to you.  Amen!  

But what happens when the wind shifts and the pendulum swings too far to the right or too far to the left and shit gets off balance?

How do you live your best life then?  How do you then show up with a smile? How do you respond when your company down-sizes and your job is eliminated? What gets you out of bed when the bill collectors’ call you before you plant your feet on the floor?  Hmm…. When that one person you thought was your ride or die drops the ball and bails….now what and who do you turn to? Worse yet, the doctor informs you that you have a major health issue?

Now what?

Where is wellness in the mix of chaos and disaster?  Did the wrecking ball smash your sense of wellness into unrecognizable pieces?  During a recent sermon, the pastor reminded his members that, God did not promise us that life would be easy.  

I believe life is a journey of peaks and valleys.  At some point in time, everyone is blessed with the joy of winning and the feeling of being on top (the peak). 

Likewise, no one is lucky enough to to avoid nesting on the bottom in the valley.

When you are in either spot, you tend to forget about the “other” place. In a sense, you are either climbing, falling, or performing a balancing act somewhere in the middle.

When you are on top, everything is great. If you are not careful, the memories of the nightmare of the last valley you crawled out of can fade quickly.  But you must remember and live humble. When you fall deep, you might not even recall how you got there because your fall was so fast. 

Then how do you embody wellness during difficult times? You embody wellness the same as you during good and bad times.

1. Begin each day with gratitude.  No matter what your situation, begin each day with a few moments to think about all that is good in your life.  You will experience hard times but you still have goodness in your life. Everything is not bad. If you are reading this, your heart is beating.  You woke up this morning. You can read. You have a device to access this blog. You have electricity. You are of sound mind. Enlist in a gratitude journal. Write three things you are grateful for each day.  Write in the morning or at night; whichever works for you.

2. Focus on the present.  Yesterday was either good, a day you would like to forget, or somewhere in the centre. One thing for sure, yesterday is gone. Pastor Dharius Daniels, says, “Don’t visit what you cannot revise!”  Did you get that? You cannot fix yesterday, so let it be. Yesterday may have delivered hurt, pain, sorrow, grief, or anger, but what you chose to feel today is your choice. By no means am I suggesting that you will get over hurt in one day, because the heart and the mind does not function that way. What  I am saying is that reliving the moments will not make you feel better. You will feel worse. Consider how you will move forward. What do you want to do? What goals have you set for yourself? Go about chipping away at your long-term goals one bite at a time. No matter how small, each step will move you to a better place. Your mind will focus on the task at hand and keep you moving forward. 

3. Submerge yourself in positive words. I am talking about fully drowning yourself in encouraging and uplifting words.  Beginning with your bedside. Place an inspiring book next to your bed. Read it in the morning and at bedtime. In the series, Being Mary Jane, Gabrielle Union stuck post it notes all over her bathroom mirror. Hang inspirational messages throughout your home.

Seeing positive words daily will uplift you.  When you hear or read words that reverberate with you, write them down. Post them in your bathroom, in your car, at work, at your desk, in the kitchen, on the walls, wherever you will see them. Listen to an inspiring podcast like Tiffany F. Southerland. Watch an inspiring message on youtube such as Dharius Daniels or an encouraging message about Hasty Faith//Crazy Faith. Music is a simple way to change your mood. Create a playlist of music that makes you smile, dance, laugh, or happy. Any of these activities will lift your spirit or keep you juiced up.

4. Eat Well.  According to the Stress Management Society, there are three stages of stress.   1. Alarm – When an event occurs, the body’s initial response is the alarm. At this time, your body produces adrenaline.  You either respond or hold back (fight or flight). 2. Resistance Stage – Your body goes into resistance stage, which occurs if there is no response.  The body forms a mechanism that learns to cope with the event. Resources are gradually being drained, eventually the body’s ability to resist will fade.  3. Exhaustion Stage – Your body has used up all of its resources from coping with the stress. If not resolved, this is when you begin to see the first symptoms of stress such as:  muscle tension, edgy personality, increased heart rate, headaches, loss of appetite, a short temper, or loss of focus/concentration. Prolonged symptoms can result in ulcers, depression, other mental/health problems, heart/cardiovascular problems, diabetes, bowel/digestive problems, or another illness.  

When stressed, loss of appetite is normal for some people.  It is you body’s response to pressure but can also lead to unhealthy eating habits. Furthermore, “stress can cause the body to crave foods that are high in fats and sugars.” People tend to eat badly when they are stressed.  Being aware of your body’s natural response is key to surviving difficult times. So wallowing away in a bag of chips, cookies, or overindulging in alcohol will only cause you to feel worse.

This is the time when it is most important for you to nourish yourself properly.  Drink more water, eat more fruits and vegetables, and consume a calming tea like chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, or rose tea. Avoid skipping meals, excessive alcohol, sugar, fast-foods, and refined carbs. Eat well, feel better!

5. Incorporate essential oils into your daily routine. Essential oils are derived from plants. Oils are concentrated natural compounds that come from the roots, seeds, and flowers of plants. They have been in existence since the earliest readings of mankind.  Some essential oil solutions for tension, stress, anxiety, and sleep aid are Lavender, Serenity,  Pasttense, Frankincense, Placing a diffuser in your bedroom and using it before bedtime and during sleep will assist to promote calmness and relaxation, which can help you to sleep better. To learn more usage for your essential oils, contact me at Lexa’s Wellness.

6. Include meditation and prayer in your daily practice.  Both will ground you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  If your belief is in a higher being, the universe, or elsewhere, that’s fantastic.  Go to your source in meditation. Sit in silence with your source and gain hope, clarity, and inspiration to continue to live each day with peace and gratitude in your heart. If you need help with meditation, there are my apps  to help you. Try the app Relax and Rest , which has guided meditations. Another favorite is Calm. And finally, Insight Timer The apps will guide you through each step. Your mind will wander but do not give up. Use the apps at work, in your car, or anywhere you feel stressed.

7. Maintain mental health. Seek professional help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported 19.1% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018 (47.6 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults. 4.6% of U.S. adults experienced serious mental illness in 2018 (11.4 million people). This represents 1 in 25 adults.

We are living in a period where access to mental health service is more available than any other time.  Yet, men are told to suck it up, man up… no tears. At a young age, women are taught to bury their feelings and to put their emotions on pause, be strong and take care of your family first.   Both notions are misguided. Lack of treatment will create an environment of suffering for you, suffering for your spouse, and suffering for your children. Lack of treatment may cause job loss and other financial consequences.   Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anger, and grief are normal. But the right trained professional for you can help you to sort through these feelings, and not necessarily with medication. If you prefer to avoid medication, search for a holistic practitioner who meets your needs. 

8. Play.  See a movie. Ride a bike. Walk in a park. Go to the theatre. Zip line. Take a cooking class.  Enroll in a belly dancing course. See a comedy show. Learn a new skill. Partake in an activity that brings you joy…that makes you smile…that makes you laugh.  Laughter is good for you. 

9. Spend 30 minutes taking a 5-minute walk. Yeah, you right. This exercise is taken from a book on mindfulness that I love. Depending on where you live, this one can be challenging. But give it a try anyway. The pace of life on the sidewalks is fast. It feels good. We are often driven that way internal, too. Some of us even want our walks to count as training. Which is why “slow down” is a ubiquitous counter-mantra. How slow? How about as slow as can be. Think of it as walking meditation, what Zen Buddhists call Kinhin. Take a step, breathe, look. Study the bark on a tree. Examine something in a store window. Explore the cracks in the sidewalk, or the ants crawling along the pavement. Allow yourself to be completely distracted from the goal of reaching your destination. You will fight it, but if and when you are able to let go of the tug to “hurry up,”you might just discover a new experience.

“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.”   – Eleanor’s Duse


I Listened To My Body: It Warned Me About A Health Issue

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid,

but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

(2 Timothy 1:7)

Photo taken (by me) at the Gaylord Hotel, Grapevine Texas

Eat well. √

Exercise daily. √ 

Get enough sleep. √

Minimize stress… Well I am pretty sure that I have my stress levels in check but to be perfectly honest with you, sometimes we think we are doing a good enough job of managing stress when in actuality we are not. We package and shelf it nice and neatly on the inside, and that is where it (the pressure) quietly does its dirty work. I’ll get back to the stress in a minute.

For about two months, maybe longer, I had experienced occasional headaches. Something I rarely get. The headaches were random, so I wasn’t too concerned. We have two blood pressures devices at home, so I started to occasionally take my pressure. First thing in the morning, before you start moving around is the best time to check your pressure; so that is what I did.

My average reading has always been in the area of 117/72.

  • My readings were in the area of 180/99 and sometimes higher!!

Long story short, the diagnosis is hypertension.  

Anyone who knows me will corroborate, I am a health, wellness and fitness devotee. Wellness is a way of life that I take pride in. I do all the right things–not to perfection–but enough to look and feel vibrant and to have excellent physical health.

So when the doctor confirmed my suspicion, I was crushed. Honestly, I think it was an ego thing. You know–

How is the wellness professional gonna tell somebody how to prevent hypertension, when she has it?

It comes down to pride. The fact is, I am genetically predisposed to hypertension. Family history prevails over my lifestyle.

Know your body. Be aware of what your normal is and be prepared to take immediate action (see a doctor) when your ordinary is out of sorts.

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Seek Beauty In Your Broken Pieces

A crack. A break. A defect. Imperfection. Busted. Broken. Early in life, we are positioned to see what is wrong and to prevent failure. When coloring with crayons, we are encouraged to stay inside the lines. When learning to ride a bicycle, we’re instructed to place both hands on the handlebars, so we don’t fall. Don’t run too fast, or you will fall. In elementary school, I remember easily crumbling a half-dozen loose-leaf notebook paper because I’d made a mistake and couldn’t completely erase my error.

The average student frets earning an “F” on a school project, a weekly quiz, a unit test, or worse, failing a class. In my late teens, several times, I failed a required written test for Rickles. Rickles was an 80’s version of Home Depot. After a week or two of training, I could handle the register with ease, however, at the site of the exam, my heart raced like I had completed the 100-yard dash. Although I knew the content, I repeatedly froze and performed poorly on the exam. To get the job, I needed to pass the test.

I legitimately did my best. But my best wasn’t good enough nor was it meant to be. My mother saw my failure as a significant blemish on my young work record and a potential hurdle to future achievements. I was chastised as though my failure was intentional. I was laughed at. Inside I felt like a failure and questioned my intelligence. On the outside, I masked my shame and humiliation with laughter. I didn’t know that I would fail. Naivety convinced me that effort would always prevail.

Looking back on my experience, I am confident that failing Rickel’s exam was the best thing for me. The failure was painful, but it changed the course of my life. My little hiccup temporarily derailed my confidence. I let it go and moved on. I discovered grit and tenacity. I grew stronger.

I wish I knew about The Wisdom of KINTSUKUROI

Kintsukuroi is a Japanese word meaning, “to repair with gold.”

Kintsukuroi is a Japanese art that meticulously mends broken ceramics with gold. The repairs are made by hand using urushi lacquer, and the seam is highlighted with gold or other metals. The technique is designed to enhance the beauty of the flaws and is said to be made even more beautiful than it was originally.

With the tradition, beauty is derived from the broken and flawed pieces. We’re all scarred just the same. Some scars we display physically. Other blemishes are hidden and packaged neatly like a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift. We are scared from failed relationships, failed businesses, wrecked finances, chronic illness, battle scars from cancer, low GPA’s in high school and college, foreclosed homes, and more. Cyndie Speigal’s book of daily inspiration, wisdom, and courage reminds us:

You will fail.

You will fail.

You will break.

You will stand up and dust yourself off.

You will repair yourself again and again.

And eventually, though you will be different than before, you will again become whole.

You will be even more beautiful precisely because of all of this.

You will be a better person because of your imperfections, not in spite of them.

Cyndie Spiegel

It’s 2019! Surely we will experience successes and failures in the New Year. Make a commitment today to allow yourself a moment to feel failure but to get back up and start over.

I will NOT be shaken

Psalms 16:8

Happy New Year Loves!!!


Magnify Your View on Wellness: Take a Closer Look

Health is a relationship between you and your body.
-Unknown

Path

Today, the focus on health and wellness is everywhere.  There is no loss of trends in diets.  The Keto Diet, Paleo diet, Alkaline diet, Whole 30, Intermittent diet, Carb Cycling,  and more.  How the heck are you to comprehend which program is best for you?

Women’s Health Magazine lists 20 the top fitness trends that include everything from Yoga, to Functional Fitness Training, and Postrehabilitation Classes. Whew….that’s a lot.  If you are confused, I am not surprised.

I am asking you to set all of the above aside and instead to think about the many components of your daily life.  It is your routine and habits, which you do not consider that gives you a zing for life or provide a framework for health issues and a decline in your quality of life.

Contemplate the following:

Transportation
If you work outside of the home, how is your commute to work? Do you drive or use public transportation?  If you use public transportation, is it safe?  Are the wait areas enclosed and well lit? Are you exposed to second-hand smoke or other unhealthy carcinogens? Are the crosswalks safe or dangerous?

Do you drive a car to work? Do you carpool? How long is your commute?  Is your drive one hour or longer?  If so, take a moment and calculate the total amount of hours spent commuting per day, per week, per month, and annually.

Think about the commute.  Is it an easy-breezy ride or does your ride consist of high-volume traffic, horns, middle fingers, f-bombs, and weaving in and out of traffic?  How do you feel when you arrive at work and home? Over an extended period of time, this type of commute can negate the quality of your life. Yes, I know. The job may pay well. But ask yourself, what is the trade-off?

Workplace Environment
Where is your company located?  How many hours per week do you work?  Is the number greater than 50?  Been there done that, rolling my eyes.  Does your day include a lunch break? Where do you take your break?  Can you walk on your break? Does your company provide ergonomically designed chairs and workstations?  Is your workstation quiet or loud?

How is the air quality? Is the building well ventilated and are the filters cleaned regularly to prevent dust mold, and other pollutants?  What types of relationships do you have with your colleagues?  Does your company promote healthy living?

Are you required to lift heavy objects?  According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), back injuries account for nearly 20% of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace and cost the nation an estimated 20 to 50 billion dollars per year. If so, does your company provide or encourage the use of safety belts?

Do you drive a vehicle for a living?  If so, how many hours do you spend on the road daily?  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the number of hours a driver can drive. The restrictions protect everyone on the road.  Driving sleepy or fatigued is estimated to cause up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year (CDC).

Is your job stressful? My point is that a stressful lifestyle may lead to unhealthy behaviors and adversely impact your overall health.  Inadequate coping skills and a lack of leisure time may lead to excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and/or drug usage.

Healthcare
Do you have health insurance?  Is it affordable? What does it include?  Can you afford it and do you seek annual doctor visits for the dentist, Obgyn (females), mammograms, colonoscopy (over age 40), and general practitioners?  Does your insurance include coverage for mental health counseling?  What is your attitude and what are your beliefs regarding you and your family’s health?

Neighborhood
Does your neighborhood provide sidewalks, clean and safe parks, playgrounds, lighted streets, and bike paths? What are your grocery stores like?  Do they sell a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables?
Facts:

  • The United States disproportionately spends less on social services and on health care.
  • Despite healthcare expenditures are projected to exceed 3 trillion dollars, health outcomes in the United States continue to fall behind other developed countries.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that long-term stress can harm your health. For more information, click here.

Emotional Hygiene (EH)
Most of us have childhood memories of injuries from trips and falls. While playing outside, we scraped a knee, suffered a broken arm, or cut a finger.  We cried a bit, moved on, and allowed our wounds to heal.  Somehow as adults, we unlearned the art of healing.  The consequence is baggage that we carry with us everyplace. The baggage is stuffed with fear, resentment, anger, hostility, guilt, and more.

The truth is we never learned how to care for our minds.  We do nothing until we have mental breakdowns and even then, the antidote is a prescription for medication. Barring severe psychological issues, the script is a pretty band-aid that covers the wound. The fact is, we need to probe deeper; we need to treat the mental infection. When this occurs, seeking professional help is a good starting point. Want to learn more? Listen to this TED Talk by Psychologist Dr. Guy Winch.


I have posted many questions because I want to help you to expand your thinking regarding what a healthy lifestyle means to you.  You can eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and exercise but other factors in your life may contribute to your health.  The determinants in your environment will impact your well-being.

So now what?

Is there something you want to change?  I hope that after reading this post, you’ve identified at least one area of your life to improve.  If everything is hunky-dory, congrats!  Still, save this post, because life is filled with peaks and valleys.

What can you do?

  1. Assess your current situation.
  2. Make a list and prioritize what is most important to you.
  3. Think baby steps.
  4. Schedule the doctor’s appointment that you’ve been putting off
  5. If the change is a new job, assess your skills. If you know what you want to do but lack the skills, determine where you can acquire additional knowledge.  In addition to your local college, most colleges offer online courses.  What are the costs and does your company offer tuition reimbursement? Explore if you can acquire new skills by volunteering.
  6. What are your current untapped skills and resources?  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  7. Maybe you’re not sure about your next career move but you are ready for a change.  MyNextMove.org is a great site to learn about careers. You can also take an assessment to help you to decide what field may be right for you.
  8. If it’s a lifestyle change, what are the specifics? Do you seek a relationship change, location change, or something else?
  9. Schedule an appointment with a therapist so you can work through your struggles.

My point here is to expand your thinking.  First to include yourself but then to add your family to the mix.  Our children observe us and learn from everything we do, just as we did from our parents.

I urge you to broaden your concept and understanding of health and wellness and take steps to improve your life.

Your health is what you make of it. Everything you do and think either adds to the vitality, energy, and spirit you possess or takes away from it.
Ann Wigmore


A Change in Location: A Change in Mind

I have lived in Georgia for a little over a year now and have visited more parks than I did in my entire life in the Garden State for over 50 years.  How does that happen? A friend said it best,

“A Change in location can equal a change in mind.” -NCH

Never did I believe that breathing the fresh outdoor warm summer air while walking miles and observing the beauty in a wooded park would spark so many delightful thoughts.

This post is inspired by a trail in Tribble Park. When your mind is quiet, static, and at peace to wander, you will view the world around you differently.

Walking through the park, my intentions were to get a few miles in while taking in the natural beauty of the parkland. What took place surprised me. As I strolled along the trail, objects like the shapes of the trees, the colors of the leaves, and the brokenness of tree branches, triggered random but inspiring thoughts.

New Paths and Journey’s

Reflections: We set personal and professional goals. In spite of well thought out plans (or so we think), we truly don’t know where the path will lead us. Some paths are more familiar than others. The roads are narrow, wide, straight, covered with debris, and even lead to dead ends. We think we know precisely where we are going. But amiss, we end up in a new place.

At times, the surprising destination is wonderful. On the other hand, the landing-place is unanticipated. At that moment, we have a choice to give up and to end the journey or chose receive and accept God’s lesson and beget further growth.

What is important is that, on our journey, we pay attention to all of the elements. On this walk, I observed many beautiful components of nature, such as this magnificent and variegated leaf.

The vivid spotted decaying leaf was the brightest leaf in a pile. If I were daydreaming and not focusing on the details along the path, I would have missed it. Squatting and eyeballing the leaf,  four ladies walked up. “What did you find? A snake?” Now that’s funny and boy did I laugh. I told them I don’t photograph snakes, I run from them. I pointed out the leaf to the women. They stopped to look and were also stunned by its beauty. Think about it. I walked over four miles in an extraordinarily wooded park and was able to find this beauty.

Here’s a closer look!

img_2503

The leaf is beautiful right? The image is also a reminder of the beauty in so-called defects and of the charm in aging.

Obstacles

Underneath this oversized tree with split roots is a pathway for water to flow through. The day I took this picture, the area was dry; however, once it rains, water freely flows through the park along to this tree and under its thick and twisted roots.

Reflections: In life, we must learn when to plow forward, under or around, and when to break off in a different direction. The canal is natural. Created by nature… and by God. The tree made a bridge for which the water runs under. Allowing ourselves quiet moments to reflect on any given situation, will help us to make the best choices.

Trash

Reflections: Get rid of the baggage! Learn and unlearn. Not all learned behavior is good; even if you learned the behavior as a child and from an adult. It’s like money. Not all money is good money. Recognize what helps you. Recognize what harms your mental health and well-being. Then do something about it. Oprah says, “When you know better, you do better.”

Don’t be afraid to remove trappings, and people from your life and do so without all the fanfare. If someone in your life doesn’t support your goals, or perhaps they bring negative energy to your life, eliminate them from your life.  There’s no need to call a soon-to-be former friend to make a formal declaration, just stop calling and responding. Eventually, they may call to ask why you stop calling. Be honest but not mean and tell them why but don’t negotiate.

The same goes for bad habits. Smoking, alcohol or substance abuse and, if needed, seek professional help. National Helpline Hotline (free, confidential, 24/7, 365-days-a-year treatment referral and information service, in English & Spanish, for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance abuse disorders).

Failure

Reflection: The dried pieces of tree trunks look like they have been precisely cut. Probably to protect park guests from falling dead trees. The stump remains. The stump can represent a distinct period in our life that may resonate feelings of failure, pain, anger, or joy and happiness. The stub within us is there for us to do what we choose. We can live with resentment, regret, remorse, hate, compassion, love, happiness, peace, faith, or with forgiveness in our hearts; we determine the method of reconciliation. 

I read from termite-control.com, that termites in trees can create real hazards. Since termites eat wood from the inside, they can make a tree so unstable that it cannot support itself. If that happens, the tree dies. We are no different.  Allowing emotions to internally harbor and fester is no different and can cause damage to our bodies, including our mental health. 

According to the World Health Organization, poor mental health is also associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health, and human rights violations.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Perspective & Attitude

Reflections: Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Is your glass-half-empty or half-full?  Like most, I can focus on what wrong and what I don’t like. However, I have so much more to be grateful for and so do you.  I make a conscious decision to look up–not down, and to thank God every day for the tremendous volume of greatness in my life.

Whatever your situation, if you need to cry, pout, or complain, do that then come to grips with the fact that your situation could be worse. Someone else’s life is ALWAYS worse off than yours.  See the good in your present spot and assess how you can make it better.

Fear

Reflections: Them damn fears! Ugh! This bridge right here is about overcoming fears and transcending to the other side. I fear heights. Even with my feet being just a tiny bit off the ground sends my heart into a triple beat. This unexplainable and horrible feeling creeps up my calves and travels to hamstrings into my rear gluts. I feel sick and jittery.

You know where you need to get to. An obstacle (fear) confronts you. Maybe you plan to obtain your GED, start or complete college, audition for a part, read your work at a Spoken Word event, or something else. Do you give up or confront your fear?  I’ve confronted some of mine but I still have a few more to tackle. Since first sprinting across this bridge, I can now walk slower and alone. Each time I cross the bridge, it gets a little easier for me. Don’t give up!

Your Village

Reflections:  The base of this tree is one solid trunk. But as the tree grew, seven strong limbs sprouted. The cluster of limbs remind me of the ancient proverb that I heard often growing up, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a child that means, everyone in the community, family, and non takes interest in the child.  The strength of the village reinforced the values taught in the home. When you were caught in the streets doing good, your neighbor reported it to your parents. When you were seen behaving inappropriately, whoever witnessed your transgression, corrected you and told your parents. Ultimately, you were disciplined at home too.

NJ Senator, Cory Book said,

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

Strength lies in numbers. While working on my Bachelors of Arts Degree in English, I worked a full-time job and had the responsibility of a young child, managing home life, including my relationship with my husband. I had my village of supporters and without their advice, wisdom, child-care services, love, and patience, I would have never had the opportunity to walk across the stage at Rowan University. Don’t go it alone; find your supportive network or your village and ask for help.

Downtime

Reflections: Tribble Mill Park is a 700-acre park that has two lakes and one large meadow. The park has nearly 3 1/2 miles of paved and unpaved trails. When I first set out on the trail, I was unfamiliar with the path and, at times, felt uncertain.  Since then, I have walked both the paved and un-paved surfaced trails. The non-paved was more challenging and it was easy to wander off the trail and to get lost. What I did notice on the trails were the benches.

The benches are a reminder to stop and to take a break. How often do you take breaks from your weekly routine of obligations? Unless you are literally running a marathon, you must set aside time to catch your breath and fully divert your attention away from your project. Find a quiet place that brings you solitude. Doing so will de-clutter your mind. You will think clearer and you will find solutions to some of your dilemmas.

Below are a few more of my favorite pictures from my walk.  Since this writing, my husband and I have returned to the park only to discover new paths and I love it!

My son deep in his thoughts.

..undisturbed and unbothered by people.

Other cool pics. 🙂

 

I love how this tree is bent and ends atop the paved trail.  But notice a few branches growing from the top of it.

Never grow too old to swing!

Pausing…. taking in the beauty.

The above video is unedited. The fantastic sparkles that you see are from the sun rays hitting the lake. The beauty of this video is also a reminder to sparkle to stay alive, to live intentionally, and to sparkle through as many days as possible.

 

 

 


The Harsh Reality For One Teen

 

IMG_2084An upright small black suitcase on wheels stands on the curb. Next to it are two large and nearly filled plastic bags with orange shoe boxes inside.  Easily identifiable is the Nike brand logo. A tethered book bag and a few other loose items perched on the blacktop.

Young, athletic looking, lean, and flawless nearly onyx colored skin, Jay moves from the rays of Georgia’s blazing summer’s heat and into the shade under a large crape myrtle.

He’s been sitting curbside for a few hours. Jokingly my daughter says, invite him in to stay over, but that’s not an option.  Seriously my cup runneth over with a house of five multi-generational people, but still, my heart is never full.

I saw Jay at the end of my five-mile morning walk.  After showering, polishing my toenails, moisturizing my locs, and snacking, he still lingered in the parking lot in front of the community clubhouse.

Now my heart softens for him. Without even talking to Jay, I figured out what most likely happened.  He had “the look.”

The look of a bewildered teen who thought he knew but begins to realize he isn’t nearly as smart as he thought.

The look of a dejected youth attempting to pilot unknown territory.

The look of a juvenile who is facing the harsh reality of his consequences.

The look of an astonished adolescent who can’t believe his parents put him out.

The look of fear and not knowing what to do next.

Since the temperature was well over 90 degrees outside, I decided to offer him a bottle of cold water.  Hubby walked over with me. I told Jay that I noticed he’d been sitting in front of the clubhouse for a few hours and asked if he wanted the water.

Graciously he thanked me and accepted the water. After a few minutes, hubby left us, and we talked. He was comfortable talking to me. I asked, “So, what’s the story? Why are you out here?”

The day before was Jay’s 19th birthday. To protect his privacy, I call him Jay. He decided to stay out all night. It seems, Jay’s decision was the final straw for his parents. This morning, when he arrived home, as expected, all hell broke loose.

“He wants to see me fail,” is what, Jay said. The 19-year-old lives at home with his mom, dad, and younger sibling. He says his dad could have waited until Thursday to kick him out, but he did it today. Thursday is payday. Thursday would have been more convenient. Jay is learning that bad things typically occur at the most inconvenient time. I also sensed the tension was between Jay and his father.  All of Jay’s comments were preferenced by “he.”  No comments referenced his mother.

There are no perfect words but having been on both sides of the fence, I understood.  I listened to Jay’s story and gave him my perspective.

I told him that without ever meeting or talking to his parents, I suspected the situation was a culmination of events. He shrugged his head in agreement, smiled just enough to show his pretty white teeth, and began to tell me more.

I tried to encourage him, as well as, give him realistic advice and without a preachy tone.  I told him my story of being kicked out of my mom’s house many years ago. To provide him with hope, I explained that my mother now lives with me.  The look on his face was priceless!  I also wanted him to know that his situation is temporary and that it is possible for him to improve his relationship with his parents.

I suggested that when he speaks to his parents, that he show up humble. Apologize with sincerity.  Avoid making excuses. Own his choices and mistakes. Only listen and don’t talk back. His body language and the slight shake of head told me that he wasn’t ready for that type of conversation. I hope he gets there…sooner than later.

He planned to stay the night at a hotel and would figure things out later. I hope that 24 hours later, his perspective changes. I told Jay I would pray for him and his family; he gave me a fist pump and thanked me.

Jay’s story isn’t unique. His situation is a reminder of the ongoing impediments we face raising children. But also the challenges and pressures teens face.  No two stories are the same, but every family faces some challenges.

Reflecting on Jay’s situation, my thoughts are:

  • Kindness is free and so is caring, we must practice as often as possible.
  • When we become so immersed in our own lives, we often fail to notice the people, places, and objects around us. We miss seeing the sad colleague, the depressed child, the ill parent, or someone else who is down and out.
  • We must consciously see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. When we fully engage all five senses, we are cognizant of our surroundings and are more inclined to notice unusual circumstances.
  • To judge others is often instinctive.  However, when we see a situation that is seemingly odd, instead of judging the person or thinking of oneself, offer a listening ear, a kind gesture, or at least acknowledge the persons struggle.  I am not naive and understand the concern for safety. I remember a story from my amazing and generous bestie.  While driving alone on the busy Garden State Parkway, she noticed a car with a woman, whom she did not know, in distress on the shoulder of the road. Many cars passed the lady, but my friend empathized with the stranger and stopped to help her. 🙂

A few days have passed since I met Jay. I haven’t seen him and hope and pray that his situation has improved.

I share this story to emphasize what conscious living looks like but also to encourage you to stay present.  It takes work.

There was a time in my life when I would not have noticed Jay.  Even worse I am ashamed to say; there was a period in my life when I would have seen Jay and jumped to all kinds of false and unfavorable conclusions about him. Lack of exposure, fear, and an idiosyncratic attitude can hold you hostage to impaired thinking.

The current climate in this country of divisiveness, name calling, hatred, and lack of acceptance of people who are different or have opposing views, is disturbing. That’s why it is critical that we live moment-to-moment (mindfully) and engage in kindness and compassionate toward one another.  We cannot achieve complete wellness without consideration for others.

Love and kindness are never wasted.
They always make a difference.
They bless the one who receives them,
and they bless you, the giver.

-Barbara De Angelis

Thanks for visiting! 🙂