Make Your Bed

The Twin Tornadoes

Currently, I have three children in my home.  My twins who are sixteen and my grandson who is four.  Since my twins are older and soon to be out of the house, what I try to instill in them most right now is self-discipline.  As I listen to them talk about their goals and dreams for the future, I think about all of the challenges they will face simply making an attempt to reach those goals and dreams.  When those challenges come, without self-discipline, they may quit before they even get started good.

During one of our conversations about their future, I again brought up developing self-discipline.  As I was explaining that self-discipline was going to be an important aspect of being successful later on in life, my son, the funny one, said, “I’m good.  I know how to control myself.”  My boy, he’s got ears but they do not listen.

So I challenged him and his sister with a simple task…make your bed every day, without fail, for thirty days.  My son pipes up again, “that’s easy.  I can do that!”  “Great!” I replied and went on to explain that self-discipline is the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses and, most importantly for me, the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.

Making their beds is the one thing I have to constantly get on to them about.  Growing up, my mom would always say, “if you can’t do something as simple as make your bed everyday, how can you expect to be successful at the larger things in life?”  Of course, I had no idea what that meant at the time.  Like my kids, I thought it was just a trick to get me to clean my room.  Here I am some thirty years later, still making my bed every morning.  For me, my day isn’t going to go well if I don’t make my bed.  If I could discipline myself to do something as simple as make my bed every day, then I could meet and overcome other challenges I faced, those that I cared deeply about and those I could careless about.  However, no matter the challenge, a little self-discipline would help me along the way.

How did the challenge go, you ask?  Well, I posed the challenge to them about three months ago and my daughter was able to hang in there a bit longer than my son.  Upon coming home from school everyday, she said she liked coming into a clean room.  It made her feel better after a long day.  She still puts forth an effort to keep her space cleaner and make her bed daily.  There are days when she is running late and doesn’t do it but overall it is much better than it was before the challenge.  Now, my son on the other hand, well he got frustrated with the whole thing about a week in.  He said he really didn’t understand how making his bed would help him be successful later on in life.  He went on to explain that he was going to play in the NFL and rich people had people to make their beds for them.

My boy had a point.  Maybe people with money had people to make their beds for them.  My advice to him was something else my mother used to say, “don’t let nobody else do for you what you can do for yourself.  Train yourself and receive your own rewards.”  I explained to him what I have always gathered from this little statement is that I should be building myself up in all areas of my life and not waiting on some else to do it for me.

As always, my hope is that my words and actions will lead and guide my kids.  As grandma used to say, “you can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make him drink.”

One more for the road…

 Psalm 19:14 ~ May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. 🙂

It’s My Birthday

Recently, I was watching James Corden interview Mr. Billy Porter. I love both of these men and watching their friendship and banter always puts a smile on my face. In the interview James wished Billy a Happy Birthday and asked how he felt about his birthday. Billy’s reply was absolutely perfect! Billy stated that he was a member of the 50’s club and that it is true what his friends had been telling him for years, ‘when you turn 50, you no longer give two flips (Billy didn’t say flips so feel free to  insert any word you think fits) about what people think or say about you.

Reflecting on my life today as I turn forty-six years old, I think Billy’s words are beginning to take root in me.  I am growing in ways I could have only dreamed of years ago.  Spiritually, mentally and physically, life is being good to me.  I am learning that people’s thoughts and opinions of me are none of my business.  It allows me to simply be myself and live my best life on my terms.  I am not hindered by someone else’s dark cloud.  That in itself is an amazing feeling.

Sometimes when you see people living life the way you’ve hoped, wished and dreamed you would, you forget that behind the scenes, they’ve worked hard too.  All we see is the end results, we don’t see all that was done leading up to them being successful.  What I’ve learned most recently is that time is the answer.  The way I see it, no one wakes up successful and living their dreams.  It takes hard work, time and diligence.  I am coming to understand that now.  Everyone’s obstacles and challenges are not the same.  We all start at different places in our lives.  The key is to not quit.  Yes, days, months and years may go by and it will seem as if nothing is happening.  But, if you keep pushing, attacking your goal a little at a time everyday, success will happen for you too.

I had a conversation with our oldest son not too long ago and he was very much feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with some challenges he was facing.  I asked him a question a wise person once asked me.  “How do you eat an elephant?”  Of course, his reply was, “huh?”  When I said, “you eat an elephant one bite at a time.”  His reply was, “oh, now that makes sense.”  At that point we were able to talk about what he needed to do and how he could organize those things into smaller, ‘bite sized pieces’.  While all of the things needed to get done, they didn’t all have to get done at the same time.

Talking to my kids is always a great reminder to me of all the wisdom I’ve come to know and understand.  I can now pass these nuggets on to them and while I am encouraging them, I am encouraging myself as well.  So, as I am celebrate my birthday today, I am thinking of all I am blessed with, all that God has blessed me to give to others and all that I still have to look forward to.

 

May God continue to bless all of you…:)

Excitement Not Contained

At this very moment, I am sitting in a dental office with our sixteen year old twins.  It is just after 9 am and I have been up since about 5:15 am getting our three-year old grandson ready for his day at school.  From here, I am heading to work where I have a full schedule for which I am grateful to have an intern to cover much of my instruction, and a meeting right after dismissal.  After that, I’m making a stop at the mall to pick up race packets for my friend and myself so that we can participate in a 5K on Saturday, picking up the grandbaby and then straight home to pack up for our son’s football game that is an hour away.

As I am typing this post, I am going back and forth into the treatment area to speak with the dentist about what’s happen with my kids’ dental health.  Of course, these trips are doubled since I have twins back there!  And then there are the text messages between their Dad and me as I do my best to keep him up to date on what’s happening here.

A few nights ago, I sat talking with the twins about my upcoming book signing event.  Our son asked, “when did you have time to write a book?”  I had to laugh and the only thing I could say is, “while you guys are sleeping, I’m up working.”  For the most part this is true.  I do work a lot at night after everyone has gone to bed but I also use moments like this one, where I am forced to be sitting and waiting.  Any moment of still and quiet I can get, I try to take advantage of it.

Using my time wisely is a top priority.  Working two jobs, raising our last two kids plus now our grandson and maintaining a positive, respectful relationship with my life partner takes up much of my time.  My goal is to never short change myself, my work or my family relationships so managing time is important.

With that being said, accomplishing my goal of becoming an author has been so rewarding because it took a while to get here.  I am proud of myself for not giving up when times got hard and it looked like this goal wouldn’t happen.  Yesterday, my publisher/agent called to let me know that my books had been delivered.  I had planned to go home after work to take a short nap so that I’d have a bit more energy prior to picking up my grandson from preschool but when she called I headed straight to her office after work.

Opening that box and seeing my books, I could not contain my excitement.  Wow!  I was actually holding in my hands what I’d been carrying around in my heart and mind for over twenty years.  With the many detours, challenges and unexpected events that have happened in my life it has truly taken me by surprise that I can finally cross this item off my goal list.  The crazy thing is that while I’d always hoped this would happen, this is not the goal I had been putting most of my energy into over the past two year.  I had been working on starting my own business and somehow, in that, the opportunity to publish my book came to light.  Funny how God works.

Over the next few days, weeks and months I will be promoting my book and planning my book launch event.  I am planning to enjoy this ride!  As I sit here think again about my son’s question, I am reminded of how one eats an elephant…one bite (moment) at a time.

 

Dreaming big dreams…

 

Becoming Unstuck

Reading an article today that was poised to encourage women. the writer stated that she feels that if more women weren’t crippled by fear  but had the courage and audacity to pursue their dreams or believed in themselves they could change the world.  While the writer made some great points about women being passionate and driven beings who could accomplish anything they put their minds to, that initial line about courage, audacity and fear made me pause.

I volunteer with a service organization in my community, Soroptimist International of Tampa, that focuses on improving the lives of women and girls.  During the ten or so years I have been apart of this organization I have met and spent time with many women and girls.  These women and girls have come from all walks of life and socio-economic status.  I have learned and grown so much by simply being in their presence.  I am grateful for the opportunity because it opens my eyes and my thoughts to life outside my own experiences.

I have learned and personally believe that women are fearless beings.  Women are intelligent, driven, courageous, passionate and best of all, loving.  All of these things are what makes us great thinkers, business owners, contributors to our communities, mothers, wives, partners and friends.  Women have to endure, change, grow and overcome.  We are strong and resilient.

In response to that article, I would like to respectfully disagree.  I do not believe that women give up on their dreams out of fear or lack of courage.  In my experience, and I think it happens for many women, circumstances and situations change our dreams but I don’t believe we lose or give up on them.  As life happens, many of our dreams take on a different trajectory.  Over time and through experience we find that one thing that has meaning to us.  Often that may not happen until our children are out of the house, we’ve finally completed that degree, or overcome a hardship.  We come into the plan God has for our lives at the moment we are supposed to.

We have the courage and the audacity.  Often what we lack to reach our dreams is resources, guidance or financial means.  All of those things take time.  As long as we are chipping away at it every day, asking the questions and gaining the experience, our dreams will begin to take shape and become a reality.  I want to take this opportunity to tell any woman who is fighting for her dreams, “I know it may be hard and sometimes it seems as if the challenges never stop coming but I believe in you!  You can and you will.  You were made to win!”

Just a thought…:)

 

Summer of Me Tour

Well, this summer I had nothing but time on my hands.  After about a week of resting and being lazy, I thought it best that I start on some of the many things I’d planned to get done this summer.  I cleaned out closets, scrubbed floors and shower walls, and organized my never ending pile of paperwork.  I even started on the garage.  The operative word in that sentence is ‘started’, because finishing is a completely different word!

Then the fun really started!  I had plans to, at some point in the summer, meet my new grandson and spend some time with my older one.  Somehow, this little trip turned into a mini excursion as I thought about all the friends I’d love to see and spend time with.  I have met and built so many positive friendships throughout the years.  Many continue to live in states where I’ve lived and some have moved.  I miss my friends.  I miss hanging out with them and so I thought, why not?  Since I’d decided that I would drive to North Carolina, I figured it would be just as easy to drive to Atlanta and South Carolina as well.  Mapping out my trip, I began to get excited.  Could I really do this?  Of course, I could!

Leaving my home on June 24th, I stopped in Atlanta, Georgia.  My friend, Lissahn lives there.  She and met about twenty years ago when both of our boys were in Kindergarten.  She is an amazing, fun, and loving person.  I truly enjoy her friendship.  Also while in Atlanta, I had lunch and dinner with my friends Renee and JD.  While we do stay in touch, I honestly can’t remember the last time I’d seen them so it was a great opportunity for us to catch up.

From Atlanta, I headed over to North Carolina.  I knew this stop was going to be a challenge for me.  I miss having my son close to home.  I am definitely grateful that he is not more than five hundred miles away but it would sure be nice to have him and my grandsons here in the Tampa area.  The bulk of my trip was spent with them.  I spent eleven days watching my three year old grandson run through parks, chase butterflies and explore waterfalls.  He is definitely a child that requires outdoor play everyday.  Meeting my one month old grandson for the first time was a true blessing.  I had to tell myself often to lay him down.  Leaving North Carolina was very hard.  I would have loved to have packed them all in the car and brought them home with me.

In North Carolina, I had also planned to see my niece and my friends, Katie and Simone.  Unfortunately, scheduling didn’t permit.  Katie and Simone are friends I met in Atlanta.  Shortly after I moved to Florida, they moved to North Carolina.  The three of us spent a lot of time together and we ate a lot of pizza, which is Simone’s favorite.  My hope and prayer is that I can plan a weekend trip soon just to see them.

My next and final stop was in Beaufort, South Carolina to see my friend and mentor, Denise.  This lady, I met here in Tampa.  After a few moves with her job, she retired and settled back in her hometown.  She and I keep in touch quite often.  Once roommates, we learned that we are similar in so many ways which makes hanging out and finding things to do that interest us both very easy.  In South Carolina, we fed my soul with history tours about West African slaves and their journey to freedom in the Beaufort and Hilton Head areas.  Hours upon hours of conversation brought me back to myself and gave me the clarity I needed to focus on my goals and dreams.

As of today, I have been back home for four days.  I missed my family but I also realize how important it is for me to take time for myself, to do things I enjoy and to be pushed out of my comfort zone.  It is true what they say, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Grateful for my journey…:)

Lazy Days

The month of May for an educator is one of the longest months of the school year.  Students are antsy for summer and teachers are longing for a break.  I’m not sure about my colleagues but I make a lot of plans for my summer break.  There are so many things I don’t have time for during the school year like doctor’s appointments, reading, spending time with family and friends or simply relaxing.  The one major thing I wanted to tackle this summer is the garage.  Somehow or another things in there just keep growing.  I organize and I organize but somehow…

To be perfectly honest, in my first four days off, I have done absolutely nothing.  I tried, I really tried to motivate myself to make it happen, to be productive however, outside of a couple of morning walks and reading a few pages, nothing!  I have spent more time on the couch and in my bed than is natural.  On about the second or third day I really started feeling guilty.  It’s not in me to simply sit, at least not this much. I felt as if I should be ashamed for being so lazy.

While I was wallowing on the forth day, trying to convince myself that 10:30 am was most certainly a good consideration for “sleeping in”, my love so gently laid down next to me and reminded me of how hard I work during the school year.  For twenty minutes or so, he told me stories of times I stayed late at school, worked on the weekends, volunteered with my non-profit and taxied our own children from here to Kingdom Come.  I deserved the break, rest as long as you like, he said.

And just like that, I was feeling better about my unproductive, non-active self because you know what, I do deserve it.  Teaching is not easy.  It is a thankless, sacrificial, hard profession.  I love my students as if they were my own.  There is no way I can step into my classroom each day and not give 100% to those kids.  I care about them, their education and helping to instill in them principles that will lead them to their vision of success.  So yeah, the past five days have pretty much been a bust, however, I still have 56 days to go on my break and a lot can happen, including finally getting around to the garage!

Summer Break 2019…:)

Black Men and Mental Health

I should just title this “Black People and Mental Health” but I lean toward men at this point for two reasons: 1. I live with a black man and 2. I teach predominantly black and brown male children.

As an educator of students with special needs I sit in on and conduct meetings regarding a child’s behavior, social skills and academic skills.  I’ve poured over thousands of pages of psychological and family reports, as well as observations from teachers and therapists.  For the past ten years, based on those reports, I’ve written hundreds of Individual Education Plans and I can often see and hear what others may not when it comes to a persons/child’s challenges or disabilities.  From my own history with childhood trauma and studies of childhood abuse, I can often pick up on issues that others may not be aware even exist.  I have had children pour their hearts out to me about the pain and anger they feel due to family dynamics and drama that is beyond their control.  I’ve sat in conferences with parents who ask, “what are some things I can do at home to help my child,” and I’ve had others say to me, “well, what do you want me to do about it?”

No matter where I am or who I’m speaking with, if the conversation seems to be taking a negative turn, I try, first, not to judge and then I make sure to remind myself that I don’t know what is going on in this persons life at this moment and that what they are projecting most likely has nothing to do with me.

However, working where I work, living with what I’ve been through, and knowing what I know makes me very afraid for the future of young brown and black children, male and female.

Recently, I read an article about elementary schools that are incorporating mindfulness and calming strategies into classrooms to help students deal with anger and frustration in a positive way.  One purpose for this was to decrease the rise many schools are seeing in behavior issues.  Two things stood out for me in this article: first, statistics show that many of the students in the mindfulness class were brown and black and two, most of them were male children.  Of course, there were positive and negative reviews about whether or not mindfulness and calming strategies should be taught at school.  I found one parent’s comment very odd.  She said, “mindfulness is a modern form of brainwashing and schools that have this program are just brainwashing children.”

There are times when I believe that, as a society, we’ve come a long way, baby, but then I read a comment like that a realize we are not as far as we could be.

I am constantly concerned about my students and my own children.  I am concerned about the negative images they are exposed to as well as the negative conversations.  I am continuously giving them positive encouragement and being open to talking to them no matter the subject.  I try to validate their thoughts and feelings and together, help them find positive ways to combat their struggles and challenges.

So when I read something like that parents’ comment on mindfulness I am reminded of how growing up in my family, mental health was not acknowledged and definitely not something we talked about.  What we all did know was that we had that one relative we were told was, “just going through some things.” Mental health was just not dealt with.

Now, here we are in 2019, and we are seeing and reading more and more about issues surrounding mental health.  I brought this topic up to my husband and he flat out refused to even consider the impact poor mental health has on black men.  We are in our mid-forties, born during that “we don’t discuss those things in this house” era.  Black men were raised to be tough.  You got problems, you keep them to yourself.  Men are providers, anything else, you just deal with it.  And that they did, only it often times came out in negative ways. Fathers who drank just a little too much, were abusive or simply turned their backs on their families taught these same coping strategies to their children.  And then those children taught it to their children and the cycle of the generational curse began.  Not to say that mothers can’t negatively impact their children because they can as well.

There is just something about the fact that when young brown and black boys are told not to show emotion, to be tough and not to cry, the impact that has on them as men trying to get ahead in life or raise their own children is far greater than many can even imagine.  My husband’s comment made me think about the stigma most black men his age face, if there is a problem, you just deal with it.  Black people don’t go to therapy, black people don’t talk about their problems, they deal with it.

Yet, we have a society full of young, capable and brilliant black and brown men dealing with on their problems on their own and struggling to figure it out. I see it at school every single day.  Boys that just want to be kids, to not have the responsibility of their whole family on their shoulders, to not be told to be tough, not to cry or to handle it like a man.  It would probably shock many people to know that many times I can diffuse rage in one of my male students with a simple hug and then some conversation.  They want to know that they matter, that their feelings are valid.  Most of all, all they want to know is that someone cares.

I would really just hate to see a continuation of children growing up in a society that does not value the benefits of positive mental health and to not have men speak life into them about positive ways to handle life issues. They need to know that its ok to speak about whatever they are feeling.  That’s what makes them tough, that’s what makes them strong.  Mental health is real.  If as a culture we don’t start taking action, especially in our homes, we are going to continue to lose our children at an even more alarming rate.

While I speak mostly about minority children, it is only because I connect with what is closest to me.  I am certain all children are faced with challenges and struggles they need help dealing with.  My hope is that as adults we can recognize our own need for assistance with our mental help so that we can in turn support children with theirs.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Fact: 1 in 5 people will be affected by mental health in their lifetime.

Educate yourself…:)