Friday, November 29, 2019

Clear Hip Handstands and 12 Cents



I have been wrestling with the Bible verse that tells me God works for good.

When life is tough and when situations don’t make sense, it’s hard to see God working for good. Yeah, I try to look for His favor to keep that light cracking through but sometimes things are just too hard and too much. The good just doesn’t seem to be there. Everything is anything but good.

So many keep telling us God is our strength and He can provide peace. He is working for good.

Right now, in this very moment and in this very space, we don’t see the good. 

When I write we, I mean Chris, Gervais, the girls and I. I also mean our people, our community. 

Last week, as I swept the floor in Chris’ house in Lubbock, I couldn’t believe the pile of dirt and trash I gathered. From under one sofa came a plate, tube of toothpaste and candy wrappers. I asked out loud to no one listening ‘who lived under this sofa?’ 

When I started gathering empty pizza boxes and sorting through the piles of junk mail, I came across a dime. I moved out of the living room and started cleaning the kitchen counter. There I found a penny. 

As Chris packed for an earlier than expected thanksgiving break, I found Clorox wipes to give a once over to the bathroom sinks. I found another penny in that room. 

I said out loud — again, without expecting response — ‘if I keep this up, I’ll be rich.’

We loaded up Chris’ car and I kept the 12 cents. 

Our drive home was punctuated by conversations without resolution, music and times of quiet. Our drive home, all six hours of it, gave us time to think and rest in a stillness. You see the days leading up to the drive were anything but still. Full of confusion and emotions. 

But then we got home. Then we were all together. Chris would be home a whole two weeks before going back to school for finals and graduation. So even though we struggled with questions and texts and calls, we were all together.

Our schedule was normal with the only difference being Chris at home. Our schedule this time of year includes Gervais’ basketball and Camille’s gymnastics practice that is focused on the soon to be here season. There are intense practices with refining new skills and routines. There is lots of emotion and in Camille’s case, tears. Sobs. You see over the past month Camille has struggled with a new skill in the bars. Her coach reassures this is a part of her learning and joining gymnastics late (7-years-old is late apparently). Her strength helps her on the floor, vault and beam, but those pesky bars. She’s not been able to build on skills over the years. Rather, she has had to learn them quickly.

And, a clear hip handstand is not something to be learned quickly. The technicality of this skill is precise. It requires a coach who can watch and adjust and correct. It also requires an athlete to have persistence and patience. Camille has a persistence and perseverance drive that can outdo any athlete. What she doesn’t have is patience. Her perfectionism overwhelms the patience and that turns into frustration — emotion — tears. Sobs. Crawl up in my lap type of crying. 

So, what do you do as a parent of an athlete who is in a sport of which you know very little — we had to YouTube the skill. With Chris, Gervais was able to work through plays and moves on the field and court. He knows those games. 

Well, after a couple of weeks of those late-night tears, we reached out to the coach. We met with our lead coach and the new bars coach. Both presented methods for how we can help from home and what they are working through with Camille. All involved patience and pushing through frustration without turning into a puddle of tears on the floor. 

As I spoke to the coach, I learned he was Chris’ age and had been a wide-out receiver in high school. The similarities don’t end there. This coach played one year of D3 football and very well could have played Chris when their two teams met. Suddenly, my compassion for this kid increased and I knew Camille would have equal care and thought for him as she could picture him as her brother.

And, Camille cares for her brother. She wants him to live with us after graduation. She cries when he leaves for school or when we leave Lubbock. She wants to be able to see him to make sure he is OK. 

More than ever, I want to make sure he is OK. While we had started to process through his experience in Lubbock and try to find God’s favor through it, while I got back to work, greater confusion and emotion poured out and flooded our being.

Monday, Chris experienced a second tragedy. This one involved a dear friend, a sweet boy from within our community. He was a part of our people. We were impacted by an intensity of heartbreak that I never wanted to have known or believed could exist. Something a gentle pat or hug from his sisters couldn’t help. Something a prayer or statement of God’s strength couldn’t immediately heal. The bits of light we had started to feel just disappeared. 

The sobs and tears came from a different room in my house and had nothing to do with a clear hip handstand. The sobs and tears came from a sadness so deep. 

Our pastor shared that athletes have an ability to push through complex, difficult situations and have minds trained to handle them. Michael Jordan had one of his best games while battling the flu and played the day after his dad was murdered. 

My former athlete tried to push through — doing homework as he committed to his professors since he was already missing class. He tried to persevere. He tried. That trying was punctuated by sobs and questions and responses to countless texts and phone calls. 

God works for good? I couldn’t see it. God gives me peace? I couldn’t find that. Our pastor counseled me and shared that Romans 8:28 doesn’t say God works for our good or your good. It reads God works for the good. 

I hadn’t found any more pennies or dimes. I couldn’t stop any of the crying. I couldn’t assure Caroline that she didn’t need to be scared because her Bubba was so upset.

I could take a breath and get off the sofa. I could organize my thoughts to focus on Chris.

My son has experienced too much sorrow this week. I remain steadfast in my decision to protect him from prying questions and bring him home. I continue to assert he is my focus.

Chris must go back to school Sunday after attending two services for two boys too young. Chris must go back and stay by himself at a house in Lubbock while he finishes up college. Chris has to move forward knowing one of his closest friends won’t be.

Romans 8:28 is one verse in a chapter that talks of suffering and God’s hand and help. We get ‘God is for us who can be against us’ in verse 31 in chapter 8. Verse 35 tells us nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And, the chapter wraps up with the explanation that height, depth, present, future, angels, demons, death, life cannot separate us from God’s love.

I’m going to have to clean Chris’ house again and there will be more sweeping, and possibly more change found. We are going to celebrate his graduation. 

Our hearts are heavy. Our friends are hurting beyond any human understanding. We will struggle for a very long time. Our people will never be the same.

Yet, we will persevere, and we will push through. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

General Boarding and Bracelets


I don't own a lot of jewelry. I wish it was because I only select precious pieces that stand the test of time and are classics. Yes, I have strands of pearls (I think one is real). I own both gold and silver. I have items that belonged to my grandmother and great-grandmother. I have some diamonds. 

I do not have a Cartier tank watch or an Hermes enamel bangle bracelet (yes, two dream pieces on the aptly-titled One Day Pinterest board).

The jewelry I do have, I love and I wear. I've culled through the costume jewelry, the pieces I've purchased at ’those’ parties and items I just never or won’t wear no matter how much I like them.

After the cleaning out, when I survey what remains, I have a lot of bracelets. Quick reminder and possibly the influence on my stacks of bracelets, I don't wear earrings. I tore my left ear lobe in my mid-20s after wearing the Belinda Carlisle, Jody Watley gold hoops and always being on the phone tugging those hoops down. Along with the aforementioned Cartier and Hermes pieces, fixing my ear lobe and then finding diamond studs to wear is on the wish list.

The bracelets range from precious because of what they are and who they are from. I have the ones I wear each and every day and the one I put on when I travel (strangely superstitious in that one area). 

Because I travel frequently, I know the routine with jewelry as I go through security. I rarely wear dangly, chunky pieces because pat downs slow me down. I do wear bracelets. Of the three I wear, I take off two and put them in a bin. I leave one on. Habit. One has two charms that represent my children. It’s a hook bangle bracelet so I always check if it is hooked and both charms are still there.

I walk through the scanner and immediately hold out my right arm to show the TSA agent my wrist. It is often-times examined.

Now, when I'm flying solo, I cut it close. I get to the airport with just the right amount of time. I don't get to enjoy a coffee or a sit-down breakfast. Most of the time, I make it with a handful of moments to spare. I know to go through without items which could potentially complicate or delay my travel. I know I need three bins — one for my purse, one for the laptop and one for shoes (strangely, I’m no longer TSA pre-check) and the two bracelets. 

I frequent two airports in Texas. I’ve flown into others in my state and many more across the country. I know the lay of the land or at best, can figure out where to go. 

But there are some days that my knowledge, frequent flyer status and minimalist jewelry gets me no where fast. 

Those days cutting it close is riskier than usual. Those times removing two bracelets takes up too much time.

Yet, I do. 

Frequent flyer status means absolutely nothing when you are cutting it close — OK, running late to a flight. Yes, running. (I also have my travel flats because running through an airport in heels is not only dramatic and made for TV movies, it hurts and is hard.)

Dashing through those who arrive the recommended two hours early for a flight (who are you people) and those who leisurely browse the magazines at the news stand, is a skill. I know how to anticipate movement and can cut like OJ. (I know I should probably not refer to him but come on, he ran through airports for Hertz commercials. It’s a reference people.)

Even with dashing, hustling and quick side steps, I sometimes get to the gate right when boarding begins or has already started (yes, sometimes almost ended). I try to calm my heart rate and pray I’m not breathing heavy or have any visible sweat beads. I sometimes need to really use the ladies room, but, yeah, no time.

It stinks when I have one of the first few numbers of the boarding passes. It really stinks when I have the highly coveted prize number one spot. 

When you are One, you get to scroll down the jetway and upon stepping on to the plane, get to tell the flight attendant ‘general boarding.’ Then, an announcement is made so all are aware. It feels as close to the announcement made when the president boards his plane. ‘Welcome to Air Force One.’

I typically go a few rows down and take a window seat. I settle in, pop on my ear buds and ignore the other passengers. If traveling with co-workers, I’ll sometimes sit with them. I hate to save seats. I’ve also seen friends on flights .... again, I don’t save seats (except for my family and that’s a whole tray flipping down thing around row 15).

Because I fly so often, I forget that it is a luxury and makes work trips quicker than a drive. I forget that not everyone knows airplane seat etiquette and some don’t know how to quickly get through security. 

Once on board and seated, I sit. I take a breath. I start watching a downloaded show or listening to a podcast. It’s similar to my drive home from work. Just me, by myself, in my mode of transportation.

Rarely do I take a drink or snack. I like the quiet. I like being in my own space.

During these short flights. I catch myself checking and rechecking if my travel bracelet it hooked and both charms are there. And, each time I check, I get that reminder that my flight home is leading me back to my family.

Recently, I told G that traveling for work is something I have to do, not necessarily enjoy. The crack of dawn flights and the late returns require child care arrangements, heightened planning and adjusting sleep schedules. I’m tired and just off if I have a long travel day. I know the flights and the traveling are a means to an end (let’s call it something important like a paycheck) but it isn’t all fun and exciting.

Traveling used to be a fancy luxury. I remember my grandmother dressed up — wore pantyhose. She didn’t lug a carry-on and try to heave it into the overhead compartment. She had her pocket book and maybe a small cosmetic train case. She read. 

She traveled the world and usually brought home interesting pieces of jewelry. Amber from Russia, scarabs from Egypt, charms from Ireland, necklaces from Israel. She traveled before security required her to remove shoes. She didn’t have to remove her jewelry.

I haven’t had to travel for work in a few weeks, but do have a trip next week. I even have a spend the night trip late September. (That’s a
whole other set of planning requirements.) I’ll probably be cutting it close, rushing through security, wearing my three travel bracelets and this time, adding one of the bracelets from my grandmother.

It will remind me that travel is a luxury and oh how I wish I could be traveling with her.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Backpacks and Blood Work

I am at the age where blood draws are a part of most annual check ups. Not to test if I'm pregnant, but to test for levels. Levels of cholesterol, thyroxin, glucose and now, added to list -- hormones. Yep, I'm that age.

Recently, I had my annual with my beloved Dr. Harden. (She delivered Chris and the girls. I love her. Really, I love her.) Along with telling me not to take Xanax (wait, who is this woman and why is she denying me peace) and to meditate more (uh, what?), she scheduled some blood work.

The recurring issues I've encountered, including my hyped up anxiety, are due to lack of estrogen. Yep, I'm that age.

Estrogen is a major player in our bodies. Lack of it impacts cognition, sleep and energy. Negatively impacts those. And, if you don't have enough, there is chance of weight gain. Bring on anything and everything that will provide estrogen. Maybe I've found the silver bullet of weight loss. Yep, I'm that age.

As she walked me through what I need to do to positively impact my estrogen, she also mentioned I need to go on a plant-based diet and cut processed sugar. (Hi. I used to love this woman now I'm wondering what has this relationship become.) I nodded, sure, I'll do that -- how hard can cutting sugar and swapping out all that is plant into my diet and leaving behind hamburgers, steak, sushi, shrimp.

OK, I can do this.

If this helps with weight loss and my skin looking better, I'm in. Remember, y'all, I'm all about the outside. Don't really care what's going on inside. Apparently, estrogen does.

I hit up Whole Foods and Trader Joe's like never before. I print out recipes from Gwyneth and Goop. My Healthy Eating Pinterest board is suddenly filled with lots of vegan recipes. I buy two jars of coconut oil. I'm in.

Then, Chris wants steak. He wants to learn how to grill the best steak so how can I say no to a bonding moment between father and son. Yeah, two days in and I'm eating steak. Monday is a new day.

Over the weeks that I've been plant-based, yes, I've had some shrimp, sausage and a bite or two (or three or four) of a burger. But, I've done pretty good. Oh, and I've had a brownie or two which are made with butter and eggs -- not plant based in case you are keeping track.

I've continued to cook meat for my family. Spaghetti one night had turkey meat sauce for the family and zucchini 'meat' balls for me. On an overnight work trip, I bought two snack trays from a take-out place that had hummus, tapenade and almond butter with fruit. Dinner and dessert. Oh, I also had two glasses of red wine -- grapes, praise God, grapes.

I'm eating more carbs (which is supposed to be bad), but eating less processed sugar (the brownies were just a couple of times and maybe there was ice cream in the mix, too at one point, but I'm eating less people).

Guess what? I'm sleeping better. I'm feeling as if I have more energy. Not seeing the dramatic weight loss for which I was hoping, but hey, I'll take two of the three.

Problem is -- it's now officially summer. In our house that means, easy breezy meals with cheese, crackers and prosciutto. It means ice cream and desserts. It means corn on the cob with butter and tortillas wrapped around cheese and meats. So the corn counts as plant based, but there's so much to be had outside of the fruits and veggies and nuts.

Sigh.

I can do this. Last night, we celebrated the last day of school -- yes, June 6. Gosh. This school year lasted for multiple years. We went to a great burger place. I watched my family eat and I had a single onion ring -- a plant with maybe some batter that included an egg. We then went to get our traditional last day of school celebratory dessert -- froyo at Orange Leaf. I mixed vanilla with coffee (made from two beans?!). It was a fun evening. All of us together. Enjoying the time-has-finally-come summer.

Today, we woke up when we wanted. I have a vacation day and the girls -- no school! I had a plant-based breakfast around 10 a.m. and have done just some light cleaning up around the house while washing clothes. Easy day.

As part of our entering summer, we always do backpack clean out. Nothing more joyous to my ears than hearing "I've been looking for this all year" come out of their rooms. Decisions to toss things, ideas on where to store leftover supplies and wiping down lunch boxes are all a part of the routine.

Caroline finished first. She decided to keep this year's lunch box, which was actually from the second grade, and her third grade backpack to use for next year. Camille decided to toss this year's lunch box and will keep her backpack -- it was her compulsory competition back pack -- for next year.

Fifth grade is next year. It is the last year in elementary school. Our last year in elementary school, too. Yep, they're that age.

Sigh.

Later, we'll clean out the two baskets of left-over school supplies, used spiral notebooks and workbooks (why would we keep those for even a minute??). The entryway space for the school gear will be empty and Gervais can fix the wall hook rack he's been wanting to get to for a few months. School days will disappear for a few months.

We will sleep later -- I still have work and Camille has practice -- but it won't be 6:15 a.m. wake ups. The projects will be of our own choosing. The same play clothes will be worn over and over and over again. Swimsuits will be put on most days.

My family will enjoy popsicles and Cheetos for dinner while I enjoy all the fruits of summer.






Saturday, April 27, 2019

Make-Up Counters and Funmiola

Exercising.

Praying.

Writing.

Reading.

Cleaning.

Cooking.

Making lists.

I know all the coping strategies. I follow the protocol. I recognize the triggers.

But sometimes, it just flares up and there are no triggers. Burns from the inside. Shakes me up.

My mind runs and runs and runs. My sleep is affected as I toss and turn. My attitude changes and I snap at people. My heart races. My skin flares up. My bones ache.

Over the last few weeks and really, if I'm honest with myself, it's been a couple of months, it's been bad. There's no more stress than usual. I don't have any extraordinary worries or concerns. I've been working out regularly, watching my carb intake a bit more closely and managing my work travel.

So why is it on hyper-overdrive now? I woke up in the middle of the night last week sobbing from a nightmare and then my mind ran. I started to ask God questions that bordered on ridiculous and were nonsensical. I'm grateful for God's mercy and His patience. Thankfully, he listens and listens and listens. Then, he provides. He opens my eyes to some sights He directs my mind and attention to the place I need to focus. Oftentimes, it is scripture. And, at other times it is books I'm reading, podcasts I'm listening to or running into people God places in front of me at the right time.

Will. God directed my path and had my feet walk right over to the NARS counter at the Dallas North Park Mall Nordstrom. I did not need any more make-up and yet, I walked over to that counter asking for some cover-up. My skin did not look as if I recently increased my care regimen. Rather, it presented itself with red spots, bumps and dryness. The concealer I purchased a few weeks back (hmmm, pattern?) wasn't doing the trick and I had a work dinner to get to that evening.

Will. He wasn't the first make-up artist I encountered. He walked up and sat me down and with very few questions began to fix my face. He answered my concealer question, but then told me he wanted to help. I had only shared my work dinner. I had not shared my heightened anxiety.

Will. He patted and powdered and used all sorts of products to create a smooth foundation. He talked to himself as he worked only engaging me when he needed to confirm a decision. He would lean over and ask me to turn to the light. He would turn the chair in which I sat to put me in a different light. And, when I told him I needed to get going, he said, not yet. He asked me to stand in another light and started on my eyes. He said I needed a bit of warmth.

Will. Did he know he was the warmth I needed? I didn't have to tell him about my work or the event. I didn't share any stories with him other than I had a dinner to attend. And, when he added the highlight and bronzer for my two-minute eye (his words, not mine), I did feel the warmth. The physically-debilitating anxiety that had been running through my body went away and it was replaced with a warmth. Hard to explain, but it happened.

Will --through make-up application -- helped me move from one place to another. Yes, he directed me to step in various lights around the make-up counter. Yes, he applied bronzer to my cheeks and eye lids. Yes, he used a concealer on both my undereyes and eye lids. Yes, he used highlighter on my cheekbones and as eyeliner. But his work moved me to a more stable place.

He met the definition of will when used as a noun: "The faculty of conscious and especially deliberate action; the power of control the mind has over its own actions." His deliberate action helped my mind control my actions.

I walked out of Nordstrom feeling better. I didn't pay attention to how I looked when he held up the mirror for me to approve the makeover. Rather, I felt the warmth.

His ability to communicate with me through make up reassured me of my ability to communicate. The event I had upcoming required me to talk and encourage. It was my job the following day to direct my energy into over 100 people. No matter the make up, no matter the hair style, no matter the outfit I wore, my job was to deliver a message that used minimal words in a manner that built trust. My intention mattered, but what mattered more was how it was received.

I listen to a lot of podcasts -- from funny to serious, from a perspective of a fan of television shows to documentaries. When the girls are in the car with me, we listen to Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. The girls have the book which has stories of women who have made a difference. From Simone Biles to Florence Nightingale to Joan Jett and Maria Montessori. These stories inspire and provide conversation starters.

The podcast has other women leaders read the stories. Funmiola Fagbamila, a professor, community organizer and activist, narrated the Queen Nanny story. The podcast also has episodes where children interview the narrators. As we listened to the interview of Fagbamila, she described Queen Nanny as someone who was the definition of audacity. Queen Nanny put her life on the line for the collective.

As the interview with Fagbamila continued, the she shared the traits she has and sees in community organizers and activists. She said it takes courage, energy, intention, strategy and a willingness to know how to communicate with people in ways that are uncomfortable and difficult. As an activist, she said transformation does not come unless there is a level of discomfort. She also pointed out working toward transformation does not mean you are stripped of joy. She said you can be engaging in transformation and find joy in your life. "If means that you find joy in doing the things that need to be done in this world that are most urgent and most productive," said Fagbamila.

Will did that. He knew it was urgent and productive to help me. More importantly, God knew I needed Will. He sent Will to me. The timing was God's.

I bought three NARS products from Will that evening -- a highlighting powder, a tinted moisturizer and the concealer I needed. He gave me blush and bronzer samples as a bonus. I asked him for his card and he gave me his direct number.

He gave me a hug, too.

So, I have a new list to help me work through my anxiety (along with my Xanax, of course).

Warmth.

Care.

Time.

Kindness.

Transformation.

Joy.

Will.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Light Fixtures and Coconut Manna

I need to figure out what it is in my personality that drives me to go on kicks. I get a wild hair and I'm off either organizing, cleaning out, making homemade almond milk or painting a hallway.

When I start, I can't stop. Except oftentimes I become extremely frustrated because I can't find the right paint color or rug or blanched almonds to get started. So, then, I stop. I freeze. I cannot make a decision. I keep looking and looking and looking. I recently scrolled through over 2000 rugs on Wayfair with the filters area rug, thin or medium thickness, blue/gray/yellow/green/cream and under $250. I went through 67 pages. I found a few I liked and popped one into my shopping cart. Guess what? It's still sitting there.

I've also looked at the Target options, the Home Goods choices and even ventured into the aisles of Home Depot to look for rugs.

It's an area rug, not blood needed for a transfusion.

I have 'find new living room rug' on the Spring Break project list. I've scratched out two -- 'fix necklaces' and 'hem batik fabric for table runner.' I have half on two items completed 'new hallway light fixtures' without painting the hallway and 'paint the alcove' without the new light fixture installed. Good news is the alcove will have a new light fixture Monday. So, that item will be completely taken care of and marked off our projects list.

Our list. OK, it's really only mine.

Gervais is helping with one of the big items - new bedroom flooring. He's handling the measurements, the calls, the ordering and scheduling the laying of the new floors. Whew.

With all these projects and home improvements, I become quickly overwhelmed and decide much more needs to be changed which requires much more than is in our bank account. We divvy the projects up according to the budget. I think I'll pay someone to paint the hallway -- too much to tape and too many corners. I think I'll also pay someone to paint some a couple of ceilings in already painted and new light fixtured rooms.

Ikea is now in San Antonio to finding the light fixtures was easy. They are so simple and inexpensive. They match what we are going for in this soon to be looking better home.

The rug. That isn't simple. When I change the living room rug, I need to change the side chair and ottoman. I then need to change the paint color and the bar stools. That leads to changing up the kitchen and knocking down the bar to make one level of lovely butcher block which means I won't need the 30-inch bar stools I would have already ordered. And, then I would need to change the counter tops throughout the kitchen and the back splash will need to be replaced. Oh, and the cabinets.

Let's just write about it and not make any decisions right now. That calms me.

Maybe I'll make some chai. Never mind, I forgot to go to Whole Foods and buy the ingredients to make my own and store it in a mason jar.

I have three cookbooks from the library encouraging me to Whole 30 while going grain free and eating a plant-based diet. I told y'all I go on kicks.

All maintain homemade almond milk and almond butter is the direction I should head.

'Alexa, add blanched almonds to the list.'

I follow a woman on Instagram who I am obsessed with -- kicks, I tell you. Her dad happens to be Mike Singletary -- one of the greatest linebackers ever and he happened to play for Baylor back in the day. I don't follow her for that reason, instead, I follow her because she lives a grain-free, plant-based meal life where she paints and homeschools her littles. That is so me, right?

Well, maybe not the grain-free, plant-based meals and painting as a hobby. But I did develop a homeschool curriculum for the girls when they were little. And, I made homemade baby food.

Let's get real. If I introduced a grain-free, plant-based diet around this house, I would be cooking for one. Nutella, cheese crackers and fish (we've loads of it in the freezer) would be out the door along with my people. We do like to eat healthy-ish (there's a cookbook by that name, too). We also like to go to the candy store and bring home bags of sour gummy bears and Bit-o-Honeys. (For the kids, for the kids.)

I'm on a kick though and really want to change my diet. I know dairy is not my friend so I switched to store-bought almond milk a couple of years ago. I need to embark on the vegan cream cheese and butter (where in the world do you buy that stuff -- what's this Thrive market I keep reading about on all my plant-based diet friends Instastories?). I would like to rely less on processed and focus more on cleaner, less additives, make it at home foods.

A few ingredients are already in stock as I do have a clean smoothie each morning (OK, 80 percent of my mornings). Chia seeds, hemp hearts and flaxseeds, along with spinach and almond butter (store bought, heavens me) are always on hand. That would be in my first chapter of my cookbook titled 'Who am I kidding? From healthy to chocolate cake in a few pages."

Along with blanched almonds, I need to add nutritional yeast and coconut manna to my pantry. Why? Who knows? I read in one of these cookbooks, I need those items so yeah, I'm on a hunt.

'Alexa, add coconut manna to the list.'

Alexa responded with something along the lines of that doesn't match up with some of my other items such as Cheetos.

I think coconut manna is like butter. Oh, wait that's ghee.

'Alexa, add ghee to the list.'

(She's losing her mind right now.)

Maybe it makes my hair shiny or helps my gut. Apparently, our guts are out of whack and they need to be normalized. I know mine is so I drink a cayenne-based kombucha, which I love. I also add turmeric to my smoothies -- keeps inflammation at bay.

Yes, I want shiny hair and clear skin. I want less pounds on my body. I care about the outside way more than my inside, but as I age I need to be thinking about my insides more.

Am I to bathe in coconut manna? I already use coconut oil to remove my make up which could explain some of the clogged pores. It's fat. On my face.

'Alexa, add collagen to the list.'

I read I'm to add collagen to my smoothies, or rub it on my face or take a pill. Anyway, collagen. Yep, that's the secret.

My two kicks I'm on -- changing my diet and changing my house -- seem to be colliding into one heap, right? Figuring out paint and rug colors is like figuring out smoothie ingredients. How will they work in natural light or bathed in light from a bulb hanging from a beautiful new fixture? How will my skin look without an Insta-filter or skin primer?

I read articles about how kids used to play outside in the 70s and they loved it. There was no cable television or internet to distract us. We just rode our bikes and played. We listened to the radio and had to pull the one family phone into the bathroom to have a private conversation. I think we knew about vitamin C because we didn't want scurvy and we drank milk for calcium so we would have strong bones. My mom used Ponds and Oil of Olay.

I'm not going to go back to the 70s, even though I dig the fashion. I find new skin products and treatments fascinating. I am thrilled whenever there's a new discovery that can lead to glowing skin and less brown spots (using Skinceuticals right now for that). I am a researcher at heart, always searching and trying to find information.

The Internet works for me. I love social media and really enjoy following pretty people on Instagram. I enjoy the art of it. I usually don't get the FOMO feeling, but I do get the 'hey, I should try that' feeling.

That's HISTT which almost reads hysteric.

Which rhymes with kick.

It all runs full circle.

Circles, maybe that is the pattern for the rug. That lessens the search to about 157. I like other geometric shapes, too so maybe diamonds? Or stripes?

I think I need a snack. Should have ordered the makings for grain-free granola from HEB.






Sunday, February 24, 2019

Instant Snow and Biscuits

Kindness. When is the last time you felt kindness from someone? And not simply tulips and roses kind of words or a hug or a post-surgery delivered casserole. The type of kindness best served over a breakfast of biscuits where words are honest and truthful. Where questions of interest are sincere. Where a work call is delayed because you don't want to leave the soothing, safe space created by a kind heart.

Urban Dictionary gets it right. (OK, people don't go to Urban Dictionary because you will probably get more than you bargained for, just trust me on this definition.) The definition from that interesting site reads 'one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. A visible attribute of a true Christian life as found in Galatians 5:22-23. Kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respect and helping others without waiting for someone to help one back. It implies kindness no matter what.'

(An entire blog post and book could be written about true Christian life demonstrating kindness. I don't have time for that now. There is a lack though of kindness in our world. Let's all try a bit harder.)

I didn't stop with the Urban Dictionary. I went to another source -- elementary school-aged girls. My 9-year-old twins said kindness means being respectful of others and being selfless. Camille further described kindness as the color green and a big field of grass that calms you but also shows life. Caroline added saying kindness reminds her of the color yellow. She said it is warm and bright like the sun.

I expanded my focus group to include some of Camille's gymnastic teammates. Three continued the color theme. Rory said pink because those things are normally sweet and nice and soft. Rachel saw yellow because it reminds her of happiness. Avery thought of white because it is clean. Avery continued with the idea that kindness also means people don't lie to you and they show you favor.

We were coming fresh off an out-of-town meet and we were enjoying a day in Waco at the Silos with way more people than I thought would be there on a random Friday. Kindness, Jill. Show kindness for other's choices. As a result of just completing a meet, one of the gymnasts, Berlin, said kindness is when you are at the gym and someone is cheering you on.

Kindness is shown me countless times a day. I try to notice each and every one so that I might show gratefulness in some manner. The day of the biscuit-sharing session, I had breakfast with a friend with whom I used to work. We spoke of work, but really spent time talking about being a mom and the desire to continue to learn and grow and contribute. She and I are able to be direct and ask each other tough questions. We also allow for responses that may be more than we want to hear, but need to hear. At one point, after talking for over an hour, she stopped almost mid-sentence in a thought to pause and ask me, 'how are you?' Such a common question, but the way in which she asked, the body language displayed and her focused eyes almost brought me to tears. She wanted to know how I was doing. She cared. She was kind. Even after about two weeks, I can still see her face as she asked the question. Powerful. Not the question in and of itself, but the sincere way in which she asked it and the way in which she waited for the answer.

When you experience true kindness, it's a gift. It's something you want to bottle up or box up and store away to use on a day when kindness is needed. OK, we should show kindness each and every moment each and every day. No doubt. Yet at times, we rush through our day and inadvertently miss opportunities to show kindness.

We can read Bible verses, look at quotes on Instagram, write messages on our mirrors, post notes to remind ourselves to be kind. Why can't we simply be kind all the time? Can kindness be our surrounding environment or habitat? How can we wrap ourselves in kindness and then show kindness?

Kindness is a necessary ingredient for relationships, for humans. There are substitutes, but without the sincerest of kindness, the outcome is not as pure. Imagine substituting kindness with politeness in a recipe for friendship. It would be considerate and respectful, but could it go beyond the surface? Or consider substituting kindness with generousness. Yes, being generous means giving more than expected but does it involve the friendly and considerate factors required in a relationship.

Kindness soothes.Kindness is a balm. Kindness balances the ups and downs in a relationship. There are no substitute ingredients. There are additives.

Caroline and Camille have a slime business. (Yes, that's a thing. Look on Instagram to find all the slimers out there. Or, visit YouTube to watch video after video on slime.) As a part of the slime business, you need supplies. Currently, the girls are trying to keep Instant Snow in stock. This makes cloud slime. The Instant Snow comes in a box the size of instant potato flakes. It's somewhat of a seasonal product, but if you hunt and hunt the shelves of Michael's or go on to Amazon, you can find a box. The 40 percent off coupon at Michael's makes it a real deal.

Without Instant Snow, making cloud slime is not as easy. It's a critical ingredient. There are work-around recipes, but there really isn't a substitute for the box of flakes.

The girls pour out the Instant Snow into a large plastic container and then once the slime is made, it is rolled into the flakes to create the cloud drizzle. The girls knead the slime over and over, allowing the correct amount of Instant Snow to work it's way into the creation.

We don't have another coffee on the books just quite yet, but my former co-worker and now, forever friend, will be getting together soon for a play date with my twin girls and her sweet new baby. We'll show some basic kindness by bringing over food and sending her to her room for some rest. We can talk later.

Over biscuits.



Friday, January 4, 2019

Seat Gaps and Too Many Choices

The gap between the seats in my car is my inaccessible lost and rarely found. Somehow items can be lost in that space and I can find the items because I see them, but they can never be in my hands again.

How do the car keys drop into just the right spot that my hands and fingers cannot reach. Not only do the keys fall into the crack, they settle into a place that up to that point has never been occupied. It's like the first time someone climbed Mr. Everest or set foot on the moon. Uncharted territory that now has a permanent resident.

And, it isn't just keys that find their way into those unreachable spots. My phone, important papers, ear buds, coins and all kinds of trinkets manage to find their way there.

It seems that when I'm needing those times the most, they land in the gap. It opens up at its widest when I'm rushing to get somewhere (in or out of my car). My little valuables seem to leap out of my hand into that land. They act like they are an explorer of old motivated by discovering some place new.

All this leads me to well, crack. I end up with bumps and bruises, scrapes and scratches as I desperately try to retrieve the lost objects. I grab pencils or anything within my reach to try and fish the items out. I start sweating. I start swearing. i become this frenetic, frantic person who has one purpose in life. Get those keys!

Such drive. Such dedication. Such frustration.

So if I slowed down, took a breath and paused would I have more success? Is that the lesson?

My mom used to tell me when I would stub my toe or slam a drawer where my finger was resting, it meant God wanted me to slow down and needed to get my attention. No time to rush is a favorite family saying.

Yet, I rush. And, when I rush, I drop things or forget things or misplace things.

As an avid planner, I typically am on the ball when it comes to having anything and everything I need for anything and everything. I load up my car the night before an outing. I make sure all the gear and items I'm bringing with me into the car have a clever bag or pouch or place. I get this done so I can have a fourth part.

My fourth parts are precious, as you know. I scurry and hustle to get things done before I sit down each evening so I don't have to get up again. Television is calling. There are so many shows available and my list on Netflix is growing faster than I can watch. I know the shows I want to watch and then those sneaky recommendations creep in and I add more to the list.

Amazon Prime also has my attention and again, the recommendations along with the recently added and popular present as I select my show of choice. (Currently, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has my binge ear and eye. I am loving the parents this season. Rose in Paris and Abe convincing the dean to continue to allow her to audit classes are scenes I could re-watch over and over.)

In my bullet journal, (after a few months, still trying to figure that out) I have a list of shows to watch, which includes movies we can watch on our Fire stick, and new podcasts to play. These podcasts are added on top of the countless episode of about 15 podcasts I follow. I'm currently obsessed with Armchair Expert. And, Dax is coming to SA. I desperately want to go, but how do I fit that in between the Netflix, Amaxon Prime and podcasts.

Too, too many choices.

No wonder when I'm dashing out the door and trying to think of what podcast to listen to, my keys fly out of my hands. Or, the power cord I plug into the car gets tangled beneath the seat.

Too, too much.

When I went to work this morning, I noticed the weight of my work bag. It was heavy. I had three planners and a Brene Brown book (because I'm a fan and just listened to her live Armchair Expert episode so I need to read it right now) along with the usual work sleeve. I was also schlepping my workout bag. Holding my keys in one hand and my phone, still attached to the power cord, in the other, I paused. How do I open the door to my car? How do I hit the garage door opener? How do I get these items into the car without dropping anything or throwing out a shoulder?

Too, too much.

I could hear my mom telling me to slow down. I could also hear my voice as I read today's devotion to Camille. (She and I were the only ones up this morning -- she had gymnastics practice and I had work. We left everyone else sleeping.) It was Day 39 of 5-Word Prayers by Lisa Whittle. Today's prayer was "I reach out for you."

I couldn't physically reach out to Jesus because my hands were not only full, they were overwhelmed. As my mind and spirit go, there are my hands. Overwhelmed and it's only day four of the new year. Overwhelmed and I've had kind of an easy entry back into work.

Too, too much.

The verse in today's prayer was Psalm 143:6: I stretch out my hands to you, my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

How can my hands stretch out when they are so full? Or when they are occupied digging around in a purse or pouch or an unreachable spot in my car?

Whittle writes that God always responds without fail and because this prayer creates changes, we fight against it. Wait, we cry out to God and reach out to Him, but we resist in our honest reach. It's in desperation that we pray this prayer (I am reaching for these keys that have fallen somewhere in this car so help me!) yet we oftentimes don't do the work to respond to his delivery or His catching us.

So, I'm going to probably continue to drop things into those deep, dark places in my car. I may still try and carry too much. I might try to handle too many choices of quality television programming (OK, maybe 90-day Fiancee isn't your quality). But, I can reach for God and He is there. He can handle whatever I have going on no matter what it looks like.

As I reach for those out-of-reach objects, I'll remember God is always reaching out for me no matter where I'm hiding or stuck.