The Dangers of Social Media

Run at your own pace

I read a post the other day that said: Stop comparing your life to someone else’s controlled content on IG. The author hit a home run with that meme.

I always come across profiles of superwomen that seem to have it all together while I am falling apart. I’ve seen women that, regardless of their profession, can give your favorite model a run for her money. I don’t have a clue about makeup, but apparently that’s a prerequisite to post a bomb photo. Here I was thinking my twist outs and dimples are sufficient. Tuh.

I can’t keep up with the DIY queens and creative gurus. I can’t sew and I don’t have time for Pinterest. I have a few staple meals that my family loves and when we are at the table I’m like ohhhhhh yeahhhhhhh. But I can easily start to feel like my cooking is sub par. I’m not a gourmet chef and that’s okay.

Don’t get me started about the hashtag “iwokeuplikedis” underneath a glamour shot. Meanwhile, I wake up frantic because chances are I’m running late since I hit the snooze button one too many times. I probably have dried up drool on my cheek and my hair is a mess. No Egyptian cotton or satin sheets here.

Winning looks different for every person and happiness has a different meaning for each family. I’m lucky if I can get to work on time, shave my legs and clean my house. Winning to me is cooking dinner at a decent time. Remembering to switch over the load from the washer to dryer, AND folding laundry the same day it was washed. Remembering my to-do list for the day.

Baewatch

What may look like the picture perfect relationship can actually be two people holding on by a thread. Last year, DJ Envy and his wife participated in a twelve days of Christmas scavenger hunt of extravagant gifts and love notes. They take a lot of vacations with their beautiful family. While the masses are all googly-eyed and deeming their relationship as #goals, DJ Envy has always been very open about cheating on his wife.

Whitney Houston sang about good love. Well, Papoose and Remy Ma are the face of hood love. But what about the fact that he waited for her while she served a several year prison sentence?

While looking forward to a Barack and Michelle Obama companionship, you have to be willing to go through some tough times together. Everything is not always what it seems on the outside. Social media has a way of highlighting the joyous moments, and leaving a false expectation that marriage is perfect. No one likes to talk about the work and constant willingness it takes to honor your vows. True love is a never-ending journey of forgiveness and compromise.

I believe that our generation misses out on a lot of memorable moments, because we are too busy documenting everything on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. Heck, even the next President can’t control his urge to Tweet lol.

It’s almost like people have become subconsciously competitive with each other to see who can best portray living the life. Even when someone is supposedly being transparent and caption a photo about how their life is not so perfect, the photo usually is.

One can easily get discouraged from comparing themselves-especially when it’s a false lifestyle they are envious of. Even I had to stop worrying about what everyone else was doing. I used to get depressed around graduation time, because I’ve been in school forever. I would feel that my goals were taking too long while I sat on the sidelines and cheered my friends on. It’s hard to celebrate moments in sheer happiness when comparison, the thief of joy, creeps in and reminds you: But what about me?

I guess I have said all this to say, try inspiring someone instead of bragging. Call or text that negative person on your friend’s list who may actually be crying out for help. Humble yourself and be who you “post” to be.

Stay classy my friends. Happy scrolling.

 

OG Mamas Need Love Too: What to expect while you are raising children

I’ve been searching the web for years to find a motherhood blog that I can relate to. I’ve only come across blogs for expecting mothers or blogs written by newbie moms with babies and toddlers.

I might find something for school aged children, but nothing for tweens and teens. I always feel left out. What about the OG mamas? Ya know, the mommies that have been around the block and back. The Veteran moms that can use a little support from time to time. The moms that are not privileged enough to stay at home or work from home.  The moms that were once trying to figure out what to expect while they were expecting and are open to advice long after childbirth.

Parenting plans, just like birthplans, often fail. You may have an idea for discipline, but every child (much like every pregnancy) is different. You simply cannot have a one-sized-fits-all approach to parenting.

One day, I had an epiphany that maybe I need to create what I am looking for. I have no idea what this will look like in the long run, but I sure as heck will try to make it work.

I know that I can’t be the only one that experiences some of the joys realities of parenting. It’s all fun and games while you’re staging monthly photoshoots to capture your baby’s first twelve months of life. And then they grow up and stuff just ain’t that cute anymore. No one tells you how to deal with a five year old that lies. Or that raising a teenager can be both fun and challenging. Add in a blended family from different cultures and that’s a whole lot of mixed emotions.

Sure, my children are my biggest blessings but it does get hard at times. I would love to hear the stories behind the highlight reel as one of my favorite bloggers often says. It takes a village to raise a child, but I spent a lot of time feeling like I let mine down.

Two halves of my heart

After years of trial and error, I am ready to help other mothers cope with different parenting styles and techniques. What are some of the things you wish you knew before you became a mom?  Sound off in the comments.

Holiday Toy Shopping: Representation Matters

I took a Sociology class last year that investigated the correlation between dolls and racism. The study revealed a preference for the white doll among all children, internalized racism and self-hatred in African-American children, likely the result of segregation.

elfTaking a trip down the toy aisle of any major retail store, you will find a distinct difference between the availability of white dolls in comparison to brown dolls. Privilege. I went shopping for an Elf on the Shelf, a popular Christmas tradition for young children to be on their best behavior, in San Marcos, CA. I searched three different stores in my neighborhood for a brown Elf before being told that they are only manufactured in white. Privilege.

I couldn’t believe that I was experiencing white privilege while toy shopping. The sales associate tried to brush me off until I demanded he check the inventory for stores within a 15 mile radius.  I also suggested that he not offer information that he was unsure of. I had already checked online and knew for a fact that the brown option was available.

princess

Last year, I was shopping online to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals. As a mother of a little girl, I was super excited to find that Target had a Disney Princess 7-pack of dolls on sale. At first glance, I noticed that Princess Tiana was not in the group. Bummer. Then, I realized that ALL of the ethnic princess were noticeably absent from the 7 pack of dolls-major deal breaker. Privilege. Why does toy shopping for minorities mean not inclusive?

I searched Target’s website today and only found a $99 Shimmering Dreams collection of Disney Princesses. However, Walmart still has the original gift set. I did complain last year and posted my dissatisfaction to all of my social media accounts, encouraging my friends to do the same. I’m not sure if it helped or if Target simply discontinued the product. Either way, I look forward to a day where all of our children can feel important and represented.

Target is not the problem, it’s Disney that I had an issue with. It’s bad enough that it took so long for them to make a movie about a Black princess (I’m not even going to get into the horrible story line). I found it strange that the set included Elsa, although Frozen was released four years after The Princess & the Frog. Privilege.

Disney has recently announced their newest Princess, Moana, a Pacific Islander. I’m waiting to see if she will make the cut for the classic gift sets this year. My guess is that it’s highly unlikely.

Barbie is guilty of this as well. Their white dolls are usually adorned with all sorts of accessories and come in different careers/characters. For black dolls, selections are already extremely limited and depending on the area you shop in its worse. Upscale shopping areas will have more white dolls available.

White privilege is being able to go shopping for your children and not worry about finding suitable toys that represent your family whether it’s skin color or hair type. White privilege is being able to shop at upscale stores without possibly limiting your purchase options. White privilege is always having toys that portray your race as the norm..

This topic may seem insignificant to the average American without children. However, it represents a larger problem within society. Representation matters for all children. I know that it’s not completely up to toy manufacturers for children to be comfortable in their own skin, but it can certainly help. Body image is another thing that must be tackled to do away with perfection, but that’s an entirely different argument for another day.

I want my children to choose the toys that closely resembles their own skin. Thankfully, my son loved hot wheels and was never into action figures because that would have been an issue for me, too. I want my daughter to feel that black Barbie and baby dolls are just as beautiful as the white dolls. I wish I can go back and undo the time I had to encourage my four-year old daughter to embrace her curly black hair and not feel ostracized because all of her classmates and their dolls have straight blonde hair. Heck, I just want my daughter’s brown skin to finally be normalized.

Signed,

A Fed Up Mama

 

*Sound off in the comments section and let me know about your experiences with toy shopping this season. Thank you, for reading. <3

From Nothing to a Masterpiece

I’m an artistic person although I’m overly critical of things that I create. I have always had a love for the arts. I’ve been writing stories since Kindergarten, dabbled with singing (I am NOT a singer haha) and played three instruments. I grew up surrounded by my mom and aunt drawing, painting, writing poetry, designing clothes-anything creative, they did it. So, it was no strange thing that I’ve been wanting to express myself through painting for the last several years. The problem is, I had never painted before and I’m no good at drawing. Still, it’s like I could see the finished portrait in my mind.Whatever it may be, I knew it would be beautiful.

One day, I was browsing paintings for my daughter’s room and came across a little Black ballerina. Something told me to do a sketch of it. Okay, maybe it was me being frugal when I saw the prices of all the paintings I liked. [Sidebar: I’m the DIY queen when something is outside of my budget. End Sidebar] I started drawing the picture thinking that it would not be great, but I would try it anyway. I was shocked when the drawing came out perfectly.  I thought to myself, “I may be sitting on an undiscovered talent and that’s why I kept feeling the urge to paint. It no longer wanted to be hidden.” How often do we bury our gifts, meanwhile planting seeds for others to cultivate theirs? I decided that it’s time I start tending to my own crops, so I can eventually reap a bountiful harvest.

In 2013, I purchased a voucher for wine and canvas as a birthday gift for my sister, but never made it before the voucher expired. Three years later, myself and a group of friends surprised her with a Paint Night to close out her birthday celebration. A friend and I arrived long before everyone else. I was a bit drained, because we had just finished a women’s retreat an hour earlier, that I helped to coordinate (this is key for the revelation I received while painting). I had no idea that I would gain so much from the retreat. In fact, I feel that I probably received the most out of all the attendees, but I also feel that I was willing to go there and do the work. I did some big girl soul searching and root digging. I left with my heart pure and vision clear. I felt free and weightless. It was a purge I never saw coming, but was right on time. To top it all off, one of the workshop facilitators, Melissa Mitchell gifted me with a painting that she used for her session. When I saw the painting, I saw myself. More importantly, the take away from her circle, was that everything we need to be successful as women–the lives we want to build, the businesses we want to start, etc.–everything we need is in our hands. That experience created a space of gratitude and receptiveness. My heart was W I D E open.
 
IMG_5255-1While waiting for our party, I noticed an easel across from me that had my initials on the bottom right hand corner. The painted letters were identical to my handwriting. I took this as a sign that our festivities were much, much more than a ladies night out. It was personal for me. I began to think about all of the work that God is doing in and through me. I envisioned all of the special things that were placed deep inside me that have yet to be revealed. I got really emotional about my purpose in life. I am not here by accident. I pondered my true calling. I reflected on the diamond that I’ve become under pressure and accepted the multifaceted layer of my being. I have so many dreams that may seem like polar opposites, but they will all blend together to work towards one common goal: I’m passionate about making a difference in the world. The message became loud and clear to me: As complex as I may seem, I am a work of art.

The Paint Night crowd was a bit more rowdy than I would have liked, but I did not let their IMG_5265-1noise distract me as I focused intently on my portrait. Everyone in the class were supposed to do the same painting under the direction of an instructor. Although, we had the same task, each finished product was unique to the painter. That’s a lot like how we were formed by the hands of God. We were all made in His image and likeness, yet we have our own customized color spectrum that makes us who we are. We may have similarities of phenotypes, but genetically we are one in a million.

While I am far from being able to call myself a painter nor is that profession anywhere on my radar, I learned a few lessons from this experience:

  • Just try it: I would have never known my abilities if I did not try. Sometimes, things happen in our lives to stir up our gifts. Stop talking yourself out of doing something. Stop worrying and over-planning it. Take the first step. Got a business venture you’ve been sitting on? Write out your business plan. Design business cards. Get out and network. Do SOMETHING.
  • Cultivate your gifts: Like a farmer, you must spend time taking care of and growing that special thing that you were blessed with. Practice makes perfect, so have at it. Find your passion and then master your craft. Identify that wow factor that sets you apart from competitors.
  • Stay focused: Limit your distractions and never give up. Netflix and chill after the grind.
  • Be flexible to change: I noticed that I had to frequently change the size of my brush to achieve certain results. A lot of times I had to wash my brush and start over with a new color palette. It’s okay to start over. Fresh starts can be revolutionary to your journey! The instructor told me there is no such thing as messing up. That gave me the green light to relax, break the mold and paint outside the lines when necessary.
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Not bad for the first time, eh?

Painting was therapeutic for me. I literally felt the presence of God and was reminded of His love for me. I had to frequently reel myself back into the conversation my group was having because I was so caught up in my picture.

This is the year to follow your dreams. It seems that everyone in my circle have reached their breaking point career-wise. Tired of the limitations placed on us while working in corporate America. We no longer want to be bound by fear or doubt. The funny thing is, everyone in my circle are creative in some way. We are all in alignment to take a leap of faith and get outside of the box.

I am ready to take my blank canvas and turn it into a masterpiece. I’ve been saying that this is my year of harvest. Guess what? According to the season, it’s officially Harvest Time! This is the most labor-intense activity of the season, but it also calls for celebration. What seeds have you planted this year? What seeds do you plan to sow? It is time for you to reap the benefits of sharing your gifts with the world! No better time than the present. Let’s get it!

Melissa Mitchell’s art can be purchased via this link: http://abeillecreations.storenvy.com/?page=1

Cherish Each Day

I made a lot of plans for Labor Day weekend to close out the summer. The first set of plans were cancelled due to Hurricane Hermine. My back up plans were cancelled after I suddenly fell ill and had to be admitted to the hospital. I would like to walk you through my thoughts and revelations while I was literally fighting for my life. 

I work in the Emergency Room and it’s nothing like I thought it would be. I’m learning that I get way too attached to my patients. Not Izzie from Grey’s Anatomy attached, but more like Miranda Bailey-tough shell, soft heart-attached. It has taken a toll on my body to say the least.
On Friday, September 2nd, I was assigned one-to-one observation for a patient that arrived with a knife. He was checking in for mental health reasons, but he’s a veteran which tells me he’s also a trained killer. You may think I’m being pessimistic, but I think it’s being realistic. My stress level was through the roof. It was the second time I had to care for a patient with a weapon. While I was not in any immediate danger, the thought of that possibility frightened me. He told the triage nurse that he was suicidal and homicidal. Police were contacted, but had not arrived yet. What if he was not honest when staff asked him about weapons? The first time I had a patient check in with weapons was a month ago. He came in with a loaded gun, extra magazine of ammunition, knife, nun-chucks and who knows what else.
I’d been having severe migraines since August 20th and chest discomfort 9/1-9/2, but I kept pushing. I would tell myself things to refute the truth. Things such as…..Oh, it’s just really bad acid reflux/gerd from that Chinese Food-you know better than to eat that garbage! Maybe the headache is sinus pressure. Or from my glasses. Or from the filtration system in the hospital.
I came up with every excuse under the sun about what I was feeling. When I got home Friday night, I expressed to my husband how excited I was to be off work for a three day weekend. I vented about my rough week as usual. I had become accustomed to that routine. On a regular workday, I am mentally drained, but when I know I’m off the next day, it seems I run on adrenaline. Hubby just looked at me and bodly said, “I don’t know why you’re still there. I’ve been waiting for you to leave, but you must know what you are doing. I don’t think it’s worth it.”
Saturday night, September 3rd, I felt short of breath every time I walked in addition to the chest discomfort. We made a quick run to Target to get a birthday gift for my daughter’s friend. By the time I left the store, I didn’t feel right. We got to the friend’s home and when I tried to get out of the car just to say hello, I felt dizzy. I was so delirious I told my husband I would just stay in the car but he saw my face and took me home right away. Then, I began to have palpitations. I decided it was time to seek medical care. Grabbed a blanket, some footies and opted against extra clothing or my phone charger.  I figured I would be in and out. I wondered if I was a hypochondriac and considered not going. However, this feeling was weird. It did not quite feel like a heart attack, but I couldn’t say that it wasn’t my heart.
On the way out of the door, I told my husband to let our son know that we would be right back. For a split second, I thought to myself that I should go tell him. Then, I remembered that I had already told him that I love him before he went to his room. I stood on my porch staring into the dark, praying that I would see the light of day. I had no idea what was going on with my body. We finally got on the road and two miles into our trip was stopped by a long line of cars waiting for a train to go by. Imagine having chest pain, shortness of breath and being delayed on your way to get help. I started crying lol.
I went to urgent care, because I’ve had similar episodes of chest discomfort before and was told it was “just anxiety.” {insert side eye here} When I arrived, medical personnel hooked me up to the monitor and so the story begins.

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Knocked smooth out after that Morphine injection lol

My heart rate was in the 40s and systolic blood pressure was upwards of 130. My baseline (normal) vital signs are as follows: Pulse Rate-low 60s, Systolic Blood Pressure-no more than 110. This means that my heart rate was significantly lower than what it’s supposed to be and my BP was elevated. The doctor kept stressing that active people such as marathoners are known to have a low resting heart rate. Nah. I’m not that active. This wasn’t normal for me. I told the doctor of my 2012 Lupus diagnosis and was subsequently transferred to the hospital for admission.
While riding in the ambulance, I felt like I was having a panic attack. I made the paramedic sit beside me and talk to me; I felt alone and scared. (Hubby trailed the ambulance but I couldn’t see anything from inside). I arrived at the hospital and was briefed on my status. My intake doctor basically said that he wanted to redo labs because my liver enzymes were elevated. That normally happens if you have hepatitis, suffered a recent heart attack, or have some other kind of liver disease. I knew that hepatitis was ruled out and my Troponin test (helpful in identifying an active heart attack) was negative. My crazy behind was in the hospital looking up my lab results from my phone smh.

It was a very long night and since we got to the hospital at 3am, I was exhausted. As soon as I finally dozed off, the nurse runs into my room and wakes me up. She asks if I’m okay while putting a nasal cannula on my face. Once again, I’m scared, because… Just because. Why do I need oxygen?! Note: You cannot be a control freak and trust God at the same time.Apparently, my heart rate dropped into the 30s while I was sleeping. Now, I’m legit having a panic attack. Here’s the thing. I’m Advance Cardiac Life Support certified and the first thing I thought of was, “OMG that’s grounds to begin life saving interventions.” With eyes WIIIIIDE open, I sat up in my bed and suddenly was no longer sleepy. “Nope, not today. I aint going to sleep and not waking up. Not yet. I’m not ready. I have way too much to do.” My husband and I prayed together and specifically asked God to lead the doctors. To keep His hands on me and heal my body.

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Bedside reading in the hospital

 

The daytime doctor arrived early Sunday afternoon and discussed her plan of action. I felt peace in the fact that she was beyond brilliant. Plus, I understood medical terminology, so that eased my anxiety. She was an internal medicine doctor, well studied in widespread diseases and knew exactly how to treat my medical condition. For starters, she confirmed that my symptoms were in fact a lupus flare with labs instead of making assumptions. Most doctors look at me and because I’m young, healthy, fit and have no risk factors, they take shortcuts. *It is imperative that you advocate for your own health.

She started me on round the clock anti-inflammatory medication followed by steroids. I received two injections IN MY STOMACH to prevent blood clots. I drank a cocktail that had Lidocaine in it. Felt like my throat was closing and I was being choked whenever I swallowed. I can’t forget that the urgent care nurse gave me Morphine and I straight up lost it. That was the craziest interaction I’ve ever had after receiving a medication. My entire body felt like it was being paralyzed, my head became flushed and hot. My vision became blurred and speech slurred. It was a legit Twilight Zone feeling. Again, I had absolutely no control and had to trust God. Wholeheartedly. I began to feel better and my family kept me in good cheer. However, the funsnatcher Patient Care Tech would come in to do another set of vital signs and the realization repeatedly set in that my heart rate remained too low-in the 40s.
My faith went through so many highs and lows. Each time I saw those numbers I would sink into fear. At one point, I just sat on the bed and cried. I tried to hide the tears and even turned away from my children because I just couldn’t understand it. The whole time, my husband kept reminding me to remain faithful. Whenever I lost hope, he was right there encouraging me, never leaving my side.

 Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding.
 
I had to stop looking at the vital signs machine, throw away all of the information I had learned in my eight year tenure in the medical field and trust God. It. Was. Hard.
 I had to believe that I would be okay even though I did not feel okay. I placed my hands on my chest and prayed. I have power to lay hands on myself for healing, but what happens when you have to wait? What happens when your deliverance is delayed? I would soon find out :-).
I finally started making phone calls to family to let them know what was going on. I did not want anyone to worry, and I certainly did not want to call them until I had knowledge of my diagnosis. I had the biggest, most powerful circle of prayer. I knew I was loved, but jeese. The outpour of love I received was so very special. I am a firm believer of giving people flowers while they are still here. I know for a fact, prayer is what kept my heart going–slow as it was, it was still going nonetheless. Before doctors could determine what medication to give me all we had was prayer. When my body was not responding to medications we stood on prayer. I had people praying for me that I don’t even know. I had people praying for me that swore off church and religion. People prayed for me that thought they did not know how to pray. I prepared to face another day in the hospital and awaited results.
Monday morning, I got up and began posting inspirational pictures, replying to text messages and just surfing the web. Hubby asks if I read my bible, yet. I replied, “My plans aren’t good ones this time and I have to make myself read out of obligation. I like when I thirst for the word and can’t stop reading. I asked you last night to send me some of yours or give me recommendations.” He remained silent but that gave me the chance to correct my stance. Here I was bed-ridden and complaining about my reading plan not being captivating enough to hold my attention. Like, was I really in the position to pick and choose when I would read? Especially, when I normally read first thing in the morning. Ummmm, find a new plan. Duh! So, I started a few new plans, but the first one I read was soooooooo good tears of joy began streaming. I was much more confident that I would be okay and God would restore my health. Here’s an excerpt: “I am the beginning, my love. I am your beginning. There is nowhere else you need to look. There is nothing else you need to chase. I speak to your heart-in whispers. This moment now, my dear. This moment now. Each breath a testament to my life in you. I am right here, in the middle, child. You are held, and I can’t ever let you go. Let me show you what it is for us to do together. I have good plans for your life. Cling to me. I am steadfast. Cling to me. I give you words. Cling to me-a life of prayer, each thought and action in accordance with my spirit in you. You are not alone.” So, I did just that. I decided to let go of fear and cling to God. Tightly.
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Preparing to go home, by faith.
After reading and journaling, I washed up and let my hair down. I prepared to go home by faith, although I had not been given medical clearance yet. Hubby kept saying we would be discharged because he already made it up in his mind when he picked up our children and packed two outfits for me.”We aren’t staying a third day, you are in the tail end of this.” Me: I know, but my heart rate is still low. Him: You will be okay, you’re going home today. He was constantly reminding me to get my weight up and exercise visionary faith. Every time staff came in with unwelcoming news, he immediately rebuked it.
By evening, my doctor asked how I was feeling and orders for the Pulmonary team to measure my heart rate and oxygen while walking. For the first time since Saturday, my heart rate shot up to 75 beats per minute. I kind of stood there in shock and disbelief. When it finally hit me, I’m like OMG let me take a picture! The rest of the evening, my heart rate gradually improved, so I started packing. When I got official notice that I would be discharged I just repeatedly thanked God.
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I did not know if I would leave that hospital alive. That’s how bad I felt and how bad the reality of my situation was. Lupus had attacked my heart, lungs and liver. Guess what triggered the flare? Stress. I know that this is a lengthy post, but I really felt the need to share every detail. I hope that my story helps someone. I pray that you listen to your body and do not allow chasing dreams, or money or anything else get in the way of what’s really important. Most importantly, I hope that whatever it is you have been putting off or procrastinating to do, you decide to DO IT NOW. Once I realized my life was at stake, I immediately thought about all the things I had not done, yet.
 
Live each day like it’s your last. Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

Lastly, about two weeks ago, I decided to make a purchase from the Women of Faith nonprofit tshirt campaign I started to raise funds for homeless women. When I got home, my shirt was in the mailbox.  It’s the first official sell, too! The very thing I created to help someone else, turned out to be a blessing to me. The same goes for my pulse oximeter/pulse rate monitor. (A long time ago, I had a patient that presented with a collapsed lung, but all of the pulse oximeters I could find at work were broken. So, I purchased my own to never be in that situation again.) My husband was able to monitor me throughout the night while I slept. Furthermore, the same selfless care I give my patients was returned to me. I had thee best team at Atlanta Piedmont Hospital. 
 
This past Sunday, I was praying that I would live to see another day. My birthday is this upcoming Sunday–I’m about to have an epic celebration! Let’s not even talk about the praise dance I’m about to do in church haha. The best gift God could have given me was another day and an increase in faith. I will never ever ever ever ever take another moment or person for granted! As I struggled to breathe, it became so much more clear to me, that each breath really is a blessing. I’m still here.
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By faith, I am healed <3
This year my birthday is super special, because I almost did not make it. You wanna give me a gift? Help me to pay it forward for another woman. So, for a limited time, I am offering the Women of Faith tshirts at a reduced price.
Enjoy 15% off by following this link:

All my love,
Ciara
 

Blessings x Seven

Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary. It was nothing short of amazing and I STILL can’t form the words to adequately express how I feel. Normally, I plan our celebrations but this year I was dragging my feet. He kept asking if I decided where we were going before finally saying that he would make plans for us this year. I could tell he was as excited as I was which is a rarity.

On the flip side, this past week has been extremely emotional for me. I’m normally reflecting on how much we’ve grown through the years as a married couple. However, this year I thought about how many more celebrations we would have, considering I’m married to a Black man. An overwhelmingly crippling fear fell on my shoulders as I watched  the news chronicle the unjustified killings of two African American men. Because of my stupid settings on Facebook, I even came across video of both of them. I don’t think I can ever get those images out of my mind.

We have been planning to expand our family, but this week I wasn’t so sure about that. Do I really want to bring another child into this world? What can I do to ensure the safety of my family? I remember being pulled over by two racist cops with my children in the back seat a few years ago. I remember shaking with fear as the cops lied about why I was pulled over, and how humiliating it was to do a sobriety test, even though I don’t drink.  It was very clear to me that I was being harassed. Trying to maintain control and not cause my kids to panic, I took that moment to educate them on safety and etiquette when approached by the police. It’s crazy that I even have to include that “lesson” as part of parenting. There was absolutely no reason for them to stop me. No expired tags, no speeding, no busted lights, nothing…just the fact that I was a Black woman driving through an upscale, predominantly White neighborhood.

The bottom line is that these things happen as a direct result of hate. You can only overcome hate with love. I told one of my friends how much the murders bothered me. So much so, that I lost my appetite and was unable to sleep. She replied, “It’s very important to be whatever it is that you would like to see more of. If you want to see more love, then you need to become love. Everyone is asking what they should do, but the real question is what are you being?” That resonated with me throughout the weekend, as I began to shift my focus to love. Careful not to forget about what happened, but intentionally spending more time on positivity. Up until that point, the reality of racism had consumed me and it was painful.

The itinerary hubby had planned for us could not have come at a more perfect time. I always ask him for flowers so he made sure I was surrounded by them.  We went to a sprawling estate with gardens
and trails and an abundance of nature…all of my favorite things. On the way there, he said that it could be our regular weekend getaway if I liked it. All that he wanted me to do was to stay focused in school and be motivated at work. (Meanwhile, all I want him to do is come home safely every day).
The property was so huge it literally looks like an entire city. The best part? I love butterflies and have held a very dear place in my heart for them since 2001. I was able to actually see the process of metamorphosis which  in and of itself is breathtaking. Then, I opened the doors of the observation room to a tropical paradise of butterflies EVERYWHERE.
I told him that I am hereby resigning from planning any future dates. He completely outdid himself with our anniversary celebration. It’s so ironic that I spent the entire week really worried about him as a Black man, yet the plans he made for OUR anniversary were really for ME.

What does police brutality have to do with my anniversary? I kept thinking to myself that spending time with your significant other, father, brother, uncle, cousin, friend, son, etc. should not be like rolling dice. Getting in your vehicle or walking down the street should not be an involuntary game of Russian Roulette.

Sadly, things like this happen because people choose to view the world through clouded lens of corruption.  So, what can you do to uplift a man that is constantly put down by society? You can make sure that you are not a part of the problem. You can treat him with respect and shower him with words of affirmation. You can celebrate love in the midst of a world that’s driven by hate. You can be his refuge after a long day of battling against the odds and stereotypes. You can plant your feet firmly, rooted and grounded in faith, grab hold of his hand and tell him that you are in it for the long haul. When his back is up against the wall, you can pray your way through that wall until he can see the glory on the other side. You can bet your bottom dollar that Black love aint going nowhere.


No More



America: Liberty and justice  for all




Freedom ain’t free
For someone that looks like me
& I’m not sure if we can ever afford it
Cuz the Negro deficit continues to grow
Still fighting for what was rightfully ours a long time ago.
So much for freedom and equality
That’s a dream for someone that looks like me.
I’m tired.

A bit afraid.
Confused

as to why my

people are constantly abused.
Misused, Left for dead.
It’s like they manufacture
lead with us in mind
Like the bullets are designed
to travel in one direction
programmed to pierce brown skin.
Who cares about the vigils
We never stopped marching
We never silenced the protests
But they’re just gonna do it again
& again
& again.
There is no right way to live
when you reside in this skin.
Avoidance aint never been enough
Denial does not grant protection
With my bible to my chest
& prayer as a bulletproof vest
I cry out, Oh Lord! Please, help me past this test.

No more remediation, I got it now.

No more black lives minimized to a hashtag
No more promising futures met with a body bag
No more systematic oppression

No more acquittals despite a confession
No more racial profiling because of complexion

No more sitting back and doing a whole lot of nothing
I don’t know how, I don’t know what…
but I’m gonna do something.

Cuz I just can’t take it any more.
/cw

*To stand in solidarity against what our country has become and how we are seemingly repeating history, purchase the “Stars and Stripes” shirt at the following link. https://teespring.com/wear-stars-and-stripes#pid=2&cid=2122&sid=front


100% of proceeds will go towards scholarships for http://raisinganadvocate.com. Knowledge is power and the best way to fight this war on Blacks is to educate yourself. So many people are outraged and shocked about the news, but truth be told, this has always been our untold history.
 

Good Samaritan

I love to tell stories through my writing. Did I ever tell you all about that time I thought my husband was crazy for getting in the car with a complete stranger, while I helplessly followed behind them? No? Well, I wrote a story about it. Like to hear it, here it goes.

I got off work late one night and insisted on going to Wendy’s. Judge me, if you will. My husband and I talked for a little while before heading out to the restaurant. Upon arriving, we kept hesitating about going inside or the drive through. This caused us to drive around the parking lot, before finally deciding to go inside since the line was shorter. *Laziness never pays off.

After we placed our order, one of the employees yell to his coworkers that there’s a medical emergency outside. Initially, I’m thinking that we should’ve stayed in the drive through line, because we would have been done. The man would have been two cars behind us. At the same time, I know that everything happens for a reason and that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.

I just worked twelve hours, so the last thing I want to do is work for free. I’m still in my work clothes with a big ole emblem on the back that says ER lol. Great. I stand there as if I was waiting to turn
invisible and my husband nudges me, “Get out there.” What the heck am I supposed to do? Wait. Is he seriously making me go out there alone? Alright, God…this one is on you.

I go outside to see an older Caucasian man standing up against the building in agony. Pause. No, everything is not about race. But this is Georgia. The deep south. During a time when racial tension is high. Resume. My husband was a few steps behind me. Sigh of relief. The man told us his name, but to protect his identity, I will call him Sir Sweat A Lot or Sal for short. Just wait for it. Sal had already given his keys to the employee that came inside for help. That employee parked his van and kind of gave us the “good luck with that” look. In fact, everyone that drove past us did the same. One person even gave us a thumbs up, but the look on his face was a complete contradiction.

I introduce myself and ask what his problem was while scanning his body for blood, injuries, etc.
Sal tells me that he just finished a several hour long tennis match and now has crippling leg cramps. Honestly, I’m thinking really dude? You seriously held up the drive through for leg cramps?  Get in your car and go home. Suck it up. Grow a pair. Call your wife. My fries are getting cold. If I had stayed in the drive through we would be at home. Sarcasm to follow: However, God has such a great sense of humor. The way our marriage is balanced, my sweet husband blurts out, “Do you want us to take you home?” Wheeeeeeet?! [Insert ‘are you kidding me’ obscenities here]. Sir Sweat A Lot says that he would love for that and was about to ask us. He went to his trunk and grabbed a banana. He even tried drinking water with a ton of salt packets. He said that when he sweats a lot, he needs to ingest salt. I had never heard of that before, so I asked about his medical history. I was so desperate to get out of this situation, I even offered my fries since they’re loaded with salt. I’m standing there trying to figure out the reason for this not-by-chance-interaction. [cue Matt 5:13, Mark 9:49-50]

My husband doesn’t even have his phone and all I have is a crappy 30 something percent with  no charger. Sir Sweat A Lot says that he lives a few miles from where we were and gave us the address while explaining the direction we were going to take. Unfamiliar, with the area, I said a prayer. Actually, I never stopped praying. I did not like the discomfort of losing control and seemingly handing my husband over to who knows what. An ax murderer? A secret clan member? The enemy had a field day in my mind. Finally, I casually walked over to my husband and told him, “Pray.” He said, “already did,” then kissed me. Duh. His eyes told me not to worry.

“but my prayers are 
more powerful.”

Sal called his wife and I sat in the car with 911 already dialed on my phone. We head off and I frantically pray: This doesn’t make any sense. Lord, are you really leading in this situation? Please, cover my husband and keep us both safe (followed by a whole lot of begging). I should be happy that he has such a big heart, but why does he have to risk our safety? Then, I snapped out of it and got an attitude. Wait a minute.

YOU have not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love and a sound mind. We have all power over the enemy. We are courageously helping your child. I am boldly proclaiming victory. My husband WILL return to me. No weapon formed against us shall prosper. You said the fervent, effectual prayer of the righteous availeth much, so I’m here praying for his safety. I’m believing you for his safety. I declare and decree that all is well. Besides, my husband aint no punk. I know how he rolls. Who am I to think that I have to protect him?! I thank you for this test. For showing me how important it is for me to pray as a wife. Even though he is the head of this family, I can pray that you continue to order his steps. If necessary, I can run Sir Sweat A Lot over should he try anything crazy, but my prayers are more powerful.”

The whole time, we are driving a lot further than Sal said his home was located, but I eventually have an overwhelming sense of peace. I begin affirming things. I’m locking in landmarks and paying attention to street names. My phone still has 911 on standby, so all I have to do is press CALL. But I’ve already called on God. We finally arrive to a house and the front door opens. I’m waiting for a family of cannibals to come out. Ya know, just in case. Watch and pray, right? Because, NOT TUH DAY! Instead, a loving wife runs to her husband and simultaneously thank us. She told him that he needs to stop playing tennis. Sal can’t imagine life without his beloved sport but he promises his wife that he will go to his doctor appointment later that week. We chat with them briefly, then get out of there, because it was literally in the middle of nowhere.

God will take you to unfamiliar territory to see if you really trust Him. It will be against your better judgment and will oftentimes not make any sense. You will even have to walk alone sometimes. That’s the purpose of it, though. In it, you will find your strength.
People oftentimes talk about the leap of faith. I always say that my walk consists of many leaps of faith. The beauty of this journey is that you will not always know where you are going, but if you hold fast, know that it will always be for your good.
You may not receive an actual turn by turn list of the route beforehand, like Sir Sweat A Lot gave us, but with your GPS (God-Purpose-Steadfastness) navigating the way, you will surely arrive at your destination better than you were when you first started.
You may even have to give up some things, but the small sacrifices will be nothing compared to the blessings that will be released on your life in exchange for your obedience. 2 Cor 5:7

Why is Black Girl Magic Necessary?

We can have careers, healthy marriages, & thriving children.
We can cultivate dreams and nurture friendships.
We can do whatever it is that we put our minds to.
We can and we will. #BlackGirlMagic

***This post was originally drafted during Women’s History Month

Rosie the Riveter, was a campaign to recruit more women into the workforce during World War II. At the time, women were homemakers and relied on their breadwinner husbands for income. When a large portion of the men deployed, America needed the support of women to fill those job vacancies left behind. There was one problem with Rosie. She only represented one type of woman. The propaganda was directed towards recruiting middle class White women into the workforce. However, hidden in the shadows were Black women, often discriminated against and forgotten.

Raising her to embrace #BGM

There were 600,000 Black women that entered the workforce during WWII. Those women had to fight for equal pay, because they sat at the bottom of an unspoken hiring racial hierarchy. Not much has changed in the workforce today. Going back to the campaign. Perhaps, a Black woman wasn’t as beautiful as the woman pictured on the posters. Rosie, with fair skin and cherry cheeks did not represent women of all walks of life. Tough stance, but subtle gaze with the words “WE CAN DO IT” failed to mention that “we” was actually quite exclusive. We did not include me. Every time I see those posters circulating around the web in celebration of Women’s History Month, all I can think is what about us?

While at a children’s birthday party this weekend, I instantly thought of Rosie after seeing a jumbo inflatable boxing glove. The funny thing is, my six year old daughter picked it up first. [sidebar]: Not too keen on gender roles and norms, I will never be the mom that tells her she can’t do something because she’s a girl.  In fact, it made me proud that she wanted to play with the boys and was not afraid nor too prissy to get down and dirty in the grass. [end sidebar] Here’s to knocking out the status quo and shattering all stereotypes that society has placed on us. Here’s to teaching our daughters that they can be self sufficient and independent while still loving and honoring a man. Here’s to raising educated women that do not solely rely on their body to gain popularity or riches. Here’s to juggling a million things and succeeding at them all.

The back story to why I was moved to write on this topic: A kitchen is what Blacks refer to as the hair on the nape of the neck. I used to be embarrassed by my “kitchen.” So, I cut it off every time it grew. I religiously straightened my curls because that’s what made my hair appear longer. Whenever I saw a beautiful woman in the media, she had long hair. If it was not naturally long, extensions were added.  I, like many of my sisters, ran away from the rain or any water that threatened to revert my stretched locs to a curly fro.

I also grew up hiding my pronounced derriere because it seemed like it just did not fit my body. I hated the way I spoke. You see, I’m not one of the Black girls that speaks very well or articulates the right way-the proper way. In fact, I used to wonder if I should take speech therapy classes. The more I mispronounced words, the more silent I became. Without a confident voice, I searched for ways to
present myself as more valuable than a roll in the sack. I did everything I could to avoid becoming a
baby mama and still found myself raising a black boy alone. I tried so hard not to become the stereotypical black woman until I started to learn more about her essence. What does being a Black Woman mean? Why spend my entire life being ashamed of who I am?

In general, Black women are no longer hiding in the shadows. We are busting through the doors once closed and announcing that we have arrived. We are very well aware of all that we bring to the table at home, our workplace, heck even our country of residence. What would America have been without Michelle Obama in office the last eight years? I asked a few of my Instagram followers why Black Girl Magic is necessary and they responded as follows:
@raaaaaaeeeee “For the simple reason, we aren’t shown as black women ENOUGH that there is more to us than our bodies; mass media loves to show us in the Love and Hip Hop outlets, but lack showing the doctors, the activists, entrepreneurs, and businesswomen. To give an avenue to show black girls that they are awesome in a society that doesn’t like to tell them that.”
@jessd83 I think it’s necessary, because what distinguishes Black Girls is minimized, if even acknowledged (like boxer braids). Now, more than ever with a lot of negative images available, I think these two hashtags highlighting some of the [good] things we do is refreshing and great.”
@1thought.nyc BlackGirlMagic is necessary and needed because it is the strength and power of the Black woman that has kept our people alive, giving them the strength and power to continue on. It heals the warriors. It elevates boys to men and turns men into gods. It is needed because it is the life force of the universe, if it wasn’t for the love of the black woman, society would not exist.
@thedanifaust Why is someone even asking the question? SMH

To me, Black Girl Magic, like Black Lives Matter, is not about superiority or even exclusion. It has nothing to do with placing black girls on a pedestal while demeaning others. It has NOTHING to do with any other race. I believe Black Girl Magic has everything to do with finally loving who we are. I struggled with self love for so long because of the inadequacy that I used to feel as a Black woman. I once dated a guy who told me that I was the only black woman he would ever consider marrying. That was the breaking point for me. Was I supposed to take that as a compliment? Things like that had me questioning if I was good enough throughout my twenties. Nowadays, it’s heartbreaking to see so many women that are ashamed of their unique shapes and complexions. I wish we as a people can eventually get away from the mindset of “good hair and lighter skin tones” equating the better genetic variation. People talked about the rapper, Lil Kim, but I went through the same thing she experienced-not to that degree, but it still hurt. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

Moving beyond physical appearance, Black Girl Magic is an ongoing celebration of the strides we
have made and continue to make. It’s a reminder that we are special and don’t need to be like or look like anyone else. It’s more about celebrating OUR plight after so many years of being denied equality. Despite the struggle, our perseverance has consistently set us apart to save an entire nation of people. Generations can have better lives because of the things our sisters endured. Children are promised a brighter future because of the labor pains and the gifts that so many mothers gave birth to. Strength and honor flows through our veins and each curve holds the secrets to our heart. Our men are able to go out each day to face the cruelty of this world knowing they can come back to our warm embrace and tender kiss. The angels taught us how to praise continually and forgive always. It’s a reminder that when God created the Black Woman, He simply created a masterpiece. Every woman unique and different in her own right. Every canvas receiving the same amount of love, attention and dedication yet each one telling a different story. We are all interconnected.

The next time you are feeling down and discouraged, sprinkle a little bit of Black Girl Magic on your face as you stare that sister in the mirror while affirming greatness. Walk boldly and confidently down the path God has called you to take. Safe travels on your journey to healing, self discovery and self love. The more in tune you become with yourself, the more you should raise your head up a little higher. Your stride should be that of a model on a catwalk. Your eyes should be set on the finish line of your goals with no looking back. You should exude confidence and regality as the Queen that you are.

May you never forget that Black Girls Rock.


Double Portion
She wears the color of royalty, because she is a Queen
The sway of her hips is like a love scene
The cadence of her feet and pep in her step creates a melody
She is a Black Woman that defines beauty.
Always uplifting others and offering encouragement
Teaching of love and peace-she must be heaven sent.
She is strength all wrapped up in smooth, ebony skin
If I had a choice, I would ask God to create her again.

Like a Fish in a Glass Bowl

Last weekend, my six year old daughter received a gold fish from a friend’s birthday party. The theme was a carnival and his mom fell short of nothing. She included all of the details you would see at your local county fair and it was simply amazing.

While transporting Bailey the goldfish home, the ride was a bit bumpy. My daughter tried her best to keep the fish bowl stable, so it wouldn’t shake around too much. But ya know…speed bumps and turns :-/. It did not help that we were driving in a severe thunderstorm, so I was understandably more concerned about our safety than the goldfish. After an hour drive with very little visibility, we finally made it home. The fish bowl had less water than we started out with, but we kept the gold fish alive as we had planned to. My daughter whispered to her, “Just keep swimming, Bailey.”

The next day, we purchased Bailey a larger home, some decor and food. During the transfer, she went crazy. Like a full fledged panic attack. Bailey did not know what was going on. I’m sure she thought she was dying. Ever heard of the phrase, “like a fish out of water” before? There’s a reason that’s a catchphrase. Anyway, Bailey had no idea that her uncomfortable situation was temporary and she was actually being prepared for something greater. She had no idea that she was going from the little glass bowl to a large aquarium. I wish she knew and I even tried telling her to calm down-“It’s okay Bailey, I got you…you have to trust me!” I know, I know she couldn’t hear me, but it made me feel better talking her through it. I already felt bad that she wasn’t in her natural habitat in the first place. Don’t  judge me. Once I placed Bailey into her new home, she settled down and swam the entire perimeter of that tank. It’s almost like I could see the relaxation as she explored the aquarium.


Bailey reminds me a lot like myself and I know that I’m not the only one. What are you afraid of? What are you panicking about? Why don’t you trust the process? You know darn well that it is temporary but also necessary for elevation. Why don’t you trust that God has you in the palm of His hand? Why do you lose faith just because the ride gets a little bumpy? Sure, you lost a little bit on the way….but you are still breathing. As long as you have breath in your body, you have purpose. So, today I encourage you to spend the rest of your life discovering and fulfilling your purpose. Trust that there is more than your “fish bowl.” There is more than what you can see, you just have to believe that. Even when you feel like a fish out of water, know that you are being elevated to something greater. No one ever reaches their full potential or accomplishes their dreams by staying in their comfort zone. It will be hard, you will want to quit. However, like Dory told Nemo and Tahlia told Bailey, “Just. Keep. Swimming.”

***Update***After publishing this blog post, I received an email from my friend. Turns out, she was inspired by Bailey as well, and it was too good not to share:

On Saturday, a friend of mine took her daughter to our friend’s son’s carnival themed birthday party.  Her daughter left the party with a new pet goldfish.  Yesterday she took her daughter to the pet store to purchase a home for “Bailey”.  This morning she shared a photo of Bailey’s new home and after smiling at her daughter’s excitement I thought, “That’s a big tank for a little gold fish!”
Immediately God took my attention back to our prayer …and enlarge my territory…   I was reminded that “a goldfish will only grow as large as its environment.”  Do you see where I’m going with this?  

This is probably more than you care to know about a goldfish but:
How big your goldfish will grow is determined by the animal’s genetics, not by the size of his environment. If your goldfish doesn’t have enough space to grow to his full size, he will likely die before you notice that the environment is not large enough. Even if your fish does survive in an environment that is too small, other problems are likely. These can include stunted growth, deformities and problems with scales and skin…The cleanliness of your pet’s environment, the kinds of food, and your feeding protocols are all factors…The size of your tank should be based on the size the fish will be when he is completely grown. The length of your tank should be at least seven times that of the adult fish’s size. This means that if you have a “tank suitable” goldfish, your tank should be about 70 inches long. The height of the tank should be double the height of your fish. If your goldfish doesn’t have enough room to move around, he can develop stress-related illnesses…A fishbowl is no longer considered an acceptable environment for goldfish. Bowls cannot provide enough space for a goldfish to grow to his adult size and cannot be set up to provide appropriate filtering and aeration. Most goldfish never reach their adult size in a bowl environment, even if the bowl is large enough. Bowls cannot provide the necessary setup for a fish to get required amounts of oxygen. 

So what did we learn from Bailey today?
1. It’s in YOU.  There is something(s) in you that needs to grow regardless of whether or not you recognize what “IT” is.
2. You need space to live and grow! Praying for God to enlarge your territory is seemingly a matter of spiritual life and death.  It’s a matter of fulfillment and purpose.  You may not die physically, but you are like to experience some complications.
3.  More territory alone is not enough.  You need a clean environment and need to take care of yourself.  We as women often neglect our own needs.  Self-care is key to your growth and survival.  Don’t ever not be able to do whatever it is God will call you to do in this coming territory expansion and answered prayers.
4.  Dream and Pray BIG.  If a gold fish needs a minimum of 15 gallons of water, what more do you think you need?


Father I thank you for every woman who has committed to pray bold prayers with me for 30 days.  I pray that we would dare to pray big, bold, crazy, ridiculous, exceeding and abundantly more than we could ask or think prayers and that you will be true to your word and bless us indeed.  Blow our minds in a magnitude where your favor, grace and glory will be the only explanation.  I thank you that at the end of 30 days we will have all developed a lifestyle and will inspire others to go big.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Have a dream-filled day! ~Cherron D. Keith