Find Your Peace

In the midst of all of the sexual assault news, I wanted to share a message of hope and peace today...

But those words didn't come to mind. 

As a survivor, I am sickened by what I have seen and heard. I re-live my experience over and over in an attempt to explain why women should be believed. And I am tired.

In times like these, when we are confronted with the worst parts of our own humanity, it's okay to step away. Log off social media. Go to your quiet place. And find rest and peace.

To all of my fellow survivors, I am sending you Love, Light, and Peace today and always.


Saying No

Have you ever had to say 'no' to someone you love?

A few weeks ago, a loved one asked me to go to an event. There were a few major hurdles to jump to get there:

1.   The event was in a neighborhood that was inconvenient for me.
2.   The event started at 10 p.m.
3.   This was a Wednesday night.
4.   Uber/Lyft is very expensive getting in and out of that neighborhood.
5.   Which means I would be on the train well after midnight.

I said no.

I wanted to be there to support my loved one. But, on a Wednesday night, at 10 p.m., in a strange neighborhood, on the train, with an 8 a.m. meeting the next morning, NO was the right way to go. Thankfully, they were totally understanding and we got together at another time that made sense for both of us. Nevertheless, when I said no, I was nervous about disappointing them.

For those of us who are highly relational people, sometimes saying no is hard. And it's especially difficult to set boundaries with people that we love. But I'm learning that the more I stay true to my boundaries, the deeper connections I've been able to build. I can say no when something doesn't work for me. And I can respect when other people need to say no because something doesn't work for them.

Saying no has led to healthier relationships. 

Who would've thought??

5 years ago, I wouldn't have said no. I was still struggling to set boundaries. This resulted in a lot of unhealthy relationships, personally and professionally. 

Now, I am learning to love the word no 
just as much as I love the word yes. 

Because those words are clear and concrete. I encourage you to say no when you need to. I encourage you to say yes when you need to. I encourage you to find balance in both. Our no is just as good as our yes. And we are worthy of healthy relationships and healthy boundaries.


Mindfulness Matters

There are days when the noise seems so loud that my mind can't seem to think or function the way that it normally does. There's so much clutter: to-do lists, meetings, gigs, and social events. It's like I can't keep up.

These are typically the times when we most feel that we don't have time to breathe and to take care of ourselves. But in my own life, I have discovered that this is the most important time for me to practice self-care. 

Recently one morning, for example, as I began to dive into my calendar, I immediately felt overwhelmed and behind. In my younger days, I would just sink deep into those feelings and struggle to get things accomplished. As I have grown and become more intentional about my mindfulness practices, I am better able to recognize the emotions and respond proactively. On this day, instead of succumbing to that overwhelming feeling and allowing it to control my mental space which typically leads to me moving about frantically, I scheduled in time for meditation. I took myself away from my desk, I went for a short walk to get my blood flowing. I found a quiet space and I meditated. Every time I do this, no matter how frantic life is moving around me, my world stands still for just a moment. And when I return to my desk, I feel free. I am reminded why I do the work that I do and how much I love it. I am reminded that social events and time with friends and family fuels me rather than exhausts me. 

I am reminded that I run my calendar, my calendar does not run me. 

I am reminded that I can say no or yes, whatever is necessary for my self sustainability.

I am reminded that mindfulness matters. Depending on your work and family life, it may seem bizarre or impossible to set aside time for mindfulness. And believe me, I know what it's like to feel that you're not allowed to get up and move about and breathe freely. But I encourage you to consider what small steps you can take. For me, this space to be still began on my commute to work. I would sit on the train put in my headphones and pray and meditate. That was the only time that I had. One of my former managers used to go for a long walk on her hour lunch break, rain, shine, or snow. She did that faithfully because it was what helped her to maintain a sense of mental peace. 

I ask you: What brings you peace? I encourage you to find whatever space allows you to be still. Even if it's just for a moment, it can change and set the tone for your day. And if you make it a practice, it can help you set the tone for the life that you want to live.


Where Do We Go From Here?

Photo by: Unapologetically Pam, taken by Gavin McCollum
In my ten years working in education, I have had very few students die. Of those few, most were from natural causes. One was from suicide, which really hurt. But those wounds were few and far between. I was able to mourn them for as long as I needed to, and thereafter rejoice in the memory and legacy of those students as my heart healed.

I have been in my new job for just one week. And in that time, two young people affiliated with my organization have been shot and killed. Another was killed three weeks ago, prior to my start, but my colleagues have told me that he was a bright young man with immense potential.

Three within three weeks vs. maybe three within ten years. I'm letting that sink in.

You see, I know all of the statistics about Chicago neighborhoods. I am well aware of the stigmas attached to communities of color in particular. I knew that choosing to work with students of color from these low-income communities would not be without challenges. But I was not entirely ready to experience the fullness of pain. I have watched colleagues,  who knew these young people intimately, mourn. I have seen heartbreak. I am wrestling with my own despair.

Where do we go from here?

We must allow ourselves the fullness of grief, the fullness of mourning. Even the fullness of shock, numbness, and aching. We must allow ourselves to feel, so that we might empathize with our communities and with our families who are losing young people. We must allow ourselves to feel, because only then will we loudly proclaim that BLACK LIVES MATTER, because it is our conviction. It is our hope. It is integral to our redemption.

I want to be clear that I refuse to let this story be yet another piece that feeds into fear-based, ignorant rhetoric about communities of color in Chicago. I have seen far more resilience and hope than I have seen pain and despair. Yet, I must live within these two realities: that both pain and hope exist within the communities that I serve. That both fear and resilience co-exist in these spaces. And I must learn to live within these spaces as well.

Where do we go from here?

We go forth with the knowledge that only Love can drown out darkness. 

Love on your babies and your families. Love your neighbors as you love yourself. Love those who are different from you. Love hard and Love often. It is the only way that we will drive out fear.

Pam ♥

I still believe...

I still believe
there is good

When the sun
bursting with joy
can't wait
to peek through my window

When the wind
tugs at my hair,
piled high on my head
on a summer's day

When human beings
in our shared humanity
share empathy
with one another

When we are kind...

When we are humble...

When we give...

When we love...

I still believe
there is good.

Growth & Change: A Time for Complaint

Photo by: Unapologetically Pam

There is a time for everything. There is a season and a place for every action under the sun. 

But, is there a time to complain?

I would argue absolutely! There are good times to complain, especially when something violates your values. When you feel that tug on your heart-string after something sexist, racist, classist, homophobic, or xenophobic, is said, speak up. That is an excellent time to complain.

But, have you ever been around someone who seems to complain all the time, about things that don't even really matter? Here's an example - recently, I overheard someone complaining about the free coffee that was provided during a meeting. Now, mind you, this meeting was about ways in which we can continue to provide resources and empowerment to underserved communities. When I walked into the meeting, I was really impressed with the effort the staff put into this provision. There were two different kinds of coffee - Peets or Starbucks. Plus plenty of creamer - french vanilla, hazlenut, lowfat, dairy-free, you name it! I walked in and thought, "Wow, this is really nice of them to provide!" But not this other person. This other person said, "Ewww, the coffee here is so gross. Peets basically tastes like brown water. Starbucks sucks. Why couldn't they do Intelligentsia? Ugh...I hate the coffee here so much." This person then continued to grumble throughout the meeting about various things they didn't like. For all of your coffee connoisseurs out there, I get it. You may agree with this sentiment. Maybe you aren't a fan of these brands. And that's totally cool. But, I would argue that in a meeting where we're discussing ways to serve underserved communities, this is not the place to complain about the coffee. And in the most general sense, when someone is providing you a courtesy, not a requirement, is it really the right time to proclaim that you HATE that thing they gave you for free?

I tried to shake off their comment, to not allow their negative actions to dictate my own. But it still was nagging at the back of my mind. Rather than ignore the nag, I decided to lean into it. When I dug deeper into this, I understood that really what frustrated me about this person's complaints was the position of privilege that they spoke from. With all of the things in our world that are important, that we should be fighting for - should complaining about free coffee be one of them? Furthermore, in a space where we are seeking to serve those who are under systemic oppression, should we fight about coffee? Or fight about inequality? Moreover, as someone who grew up low-income and as a member of one of these underserved/underrepresented communities, most of the places I went to didn't provide anything for free. The meetings I've gone to, I would be grateful if there was water available. But, I don't expect it from them. 

At what point in our lives do we become so privileged that we complain about the provisions in front of us rather than responding with gratitude?

There is a time and place for everything. I encourage you to use your voice and to speak out, especially in places where your voice would be silenced. However, do not become blind to what's really important. 

Pick your battles and complain wisely.

Pam ♥

Growth & Change: Envy

Photographer: Nancy Valladolid | Model: Unapologetically Pam
I used to want other people's talents. I would see the way another person dressed and styled pieces in unexpected ways and think, "I want to be like that!" Or I'd hear someone else sing and think, "Man if only my voice could do that, I'd be golden." I saw a picture of Teyana Taylor and thought, "I want my body to look like that." These sound like harmless thoughts, but they were sparked from envy.

I disguised the envy behind the idea of self-improvement. 

I would copy others in order to reach a 'better' version of myself. My mind hid away the envy in my subconscious. At the forefront of my mind was, "I'm doing this to 'better' myself." So I'd work out incessantly and count calories to look like someone else. I'd practice vocal runs and impressions to sound like someone else. I'd spend hours in my wardrobe trying to figure out how to force myself to dress like an artist or hipster.

When we think about envy, we often think about BIG things: jealousy of the things someone has or owns: wealth, a huge house, a huge car, an esteemed job title, etc. These are all true examples of things we can envy, but we cannot neglect the more hidden ways we are envious: such as jealousy of personalities,  traits, features, or talents.

When I was hiding behind the disguise of 'self-improvement,' I convinced myself that I was just inspired by others and wanted to take it upon myself to be better. And, truthfully, you absolutely can be inspired when you see someone doing well. But when you see that post about another's blessings, before you make an effort to change, ask yourself,  "Am I inspired or am I jealous and wanting that for myself?"

There is a difference between being inspired by someone and obsessing about becoming like someone.

I could say all day that I was working out because I wanted Teyana Taylor abs. I could have said that I was practicing those vocal runs because I want to keep improving. I could say that I was using those creative artistic dress styles for motivation. But truthfully? I was doing these things because I thought they were BETTER than what I have to offer the world. I thought Teyana's body was BETTER. I thought other voices were better. I thought other styles were better. 

But they're NOT better. They are just different. Those people are working with their talents. And I need to work with mine.

What I've learned about envy is that it robs you of all the things that make you beautiful, smart, unique, creative, and gifted.

Jealousy is an act of violence against the self.

Undoing envy and this thought that others are 'better' has allowed me to embrace my strengths more. And the remarkable thing? I found that as I learned to love the things that make me unique and beautiful, I became more thankful and appreciative of others talents rather than being envious. You are YOU, and I am me. I love my body, my voice, my style, and my life.


Growth & Change: Get Lost ♥

Photo by: CreateHer Stock

When was the last time you relaxed? Like really, really relaxed? Turned off your phone and notifications, gone out to dinner without distraction, kicked your feet up and watched a movie, and allowed your mind to rest?

I feel like many of us struggle to fully disconnect. That's certainly true for me. During the week, I work really hard. I give of myself in my professional and personal relationships. I'm always coaching, budgeting, planning, organizing, writing, consulting, etc. Sometimes, I forget to eat lunch. There are nights when I lay down and I'm already thinking of to-do lists for the next day. And still, even when I can't sleep, I often feel as if I haven't done enough. 

Can anybody relate?

When I started to notice bags under my eyes, a persistent headache, and upper back pain, I really had to take inventory of my life. I want work that is fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding. And when it is time to close the laptop and leave the office, I want to be present at home. I desire to be present with myself. I crave balance. And I wish the same for all of you. My advice for all of you hard-working, selfless, hyper-achieving, motivated folks out there:

Don't work so much that you forget to live and enjoy the fruits of that labor.

A key component of that enjoyment is relaxation. To relax means to make or become less tense or anxious. How can we become less tense? Less anxious? I have tried many things. Only a few have really stuck with me. 

1. Meditation
I've spoken about this a bit during this series so I won't go too much into it. Meditation and prayer helps to de-clutter my mind. Once again, my favorite meditation app is Stop, Breathe, and Think. It is a free app and I really feel that you won't regret trying it.

2. Phones Off
I know, I know, it's hard. It's so tempting to get lost in the world of twitter, instagram, and facebook. If you struggle to disconnect, I encourage you to set a time frame where you will check those apps. Give yourself 10-15 minutes. Then turn it off! It will do wonders for your mental space.

3. Get Lost
What is something that you can really get lost in? Is it a warm bath? A long walk? Cooking? Movies? A good book and a glass of wine? Whatever that 'something' is for you, set aside time at the end of your week (or whenever you need!) to just get lost. This is a great expression of your love for you

I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care. It is tempting to neglect yourself while caring for your family, your job, your relationships, etc. But please remember:

The best way to be fully present with others is to be fully present with yourself. The best way to care for others is to care for yourself.

Relax. You're worth it.


Growth & Change: Actions

Photo by: CreateHer Stock

It took me a long time to accept the fact that I cannot control other people's actions. That sounds like a no-brainer, but really think about it. How often are you in a good mood and then an irrational driver cuts you off in traffic, and suddenly you become filled with road rage, you speed up, flip them off, and race away? We often will change our actions/responses according to how others behave.

For example, I once had a co-worker who had the worst attitude in the mornings. Most days, this co-worker would walk in the door and not speak to anyone. At first, I took it personal. When they would walk in the door, I would immediately feel tension. I eventually stopped speaking in the morning, to accommodate the culture this co-worker was creating. It got to the point where everyone in the office would be quiet for an hour or so in the morning. Over a few months, the mood became grumpy.

Finally one day, I thought - WAIT A MINUTE! This is just not who I am. Sure this co-worker may be in a bad mood every morning. I can't control their actions. But I can control my own. I decided from that day forward that not only would I cheerfully say, "Good morning!" every day, I would also play music to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. I started arriving to work early to ensure that I had time to settle in before this colleague arrived so that we could set a different tone in the building.

And you know what? It worked! My colleagues became more joyful. We laughed more. By not allowing that one person's actions to determine my response, I became more of myself.

The example above is a little bit easier to digest. But what about when it's hard? What about when you and your significant other have gotten into a huge fight and you're both waiting to see who will be the first to apologize? What about when your family member says something racist and you have the opportunity to speak out, but you hesitate? What about when there is an injustice happening in your workplace, something that goes against your values - how do you respond?

This idea that you cannot control other people's actions is real. But you can control your actions. You can control how you respond. You can decide to speak up in that meeting when something sexist was said. You can call out that family member for their racism. And on the lighter side, you can still choose to say, "Thank you!" to the cashier who was rude to you while you were checking out at the corner store.

A huge step on the journey to becoming unapologetically yourself is to acknowledge that you matter. 

How you respond when the actions of others are less than ideal add to your character, for better or worse. Your actions and responses matter.

Your voice is important. Your perspective is valuable. Your presence has significance

You cannot control other people's actions, but you can control your response. And that gives you even more freedom to be you.



A lot has changed in my life since Part One of this series. I got married! In fact, when I wrote Part One, my partner and I were already engaged. He proposed to me two months prior to that post, but we chose to keep our engagement private. We only celebrated with close family and friends.

Our wedding anniversary is coming up soon and I have been reflecting on my journey to sexual healing (cue Marvin Gaye).

As mentioned in the first post of this series, my introduction to sex was through sexual assault. Yes, I am a survivor! And DeMico and I chose to wait until marriage to have sex. I know there is a lot of conversation around this topic, especially with celebrities like Ciara & Russell Wilson and Meagan Good & DeVon Franklin having open conversations about "The Wait." When it comes to consensual sex, I want to express my conviction once again that:

Sex is about choice. Whatever you choose, nothing can separate you from the love of God. Period.

I chose to wait because I needed to heal. I chose to wait because I wanted to be free from the sexual trauma of my past. I chose to wait because I wanted there to be absolutely no guilt and no shame when DeMico and I became one for the first time.

Now, we are One. And I want to talk about the healing that has taken place.

Mental Block
To give you a bit of context to help you better understand my process to healing: My sexual assault lasted many years. During those years of abuse, I had a tactic for survival. I learned to separate my mind from my body. While my body was being used, my mind would go elsewhere: to a book I read about true love, to a song we sang at church, to a distant memory of a family vacation. I became very adept at removing myself from the situation in hopes that it would be less real. My biggest fear was that I would carry this tactic into my marriage bed.

Spiritual Block
The first step for me in addressing that fear was recognizing I could not heal alone. There is this idea in Christianity that when bad things happen, all you need to do is pray about it. Prayer is indeed powerful. Through prayer, I learned forgiveness. I found hope for a better life. My spirit healed. But:

Prayer alone was not enough.

After many years of prayer, my body and mind still hadn't healed. My body's natural response to the idea of sex was separation, shame, fear, and neglect. Deep down, I always knew that:

There is a Divine nature to sex and intimacy.

But, I had not experienced it yet. As I prepared to become One with my husband, I was ready to do the work required to reverse the patterns that were created from my trauma.

Practical Tools
I wholeheartedly believe in the power of counseling and therapy. I advocate for it at all stages of life. Therefore, I chose to see a therapist to help me wade through all the learned behaviors and mental blocks that developed from my past. I needed practical tools to prepare for sex and intimacy.

As I began therapy, my counselor taught me that the sexual practice I developed of separating my mind and body is called "Dissociation." It is a direct a result of my trauma. According to the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, dissociation is a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with each other.

During sex, your mind and body should be connected with one another. Through trauma, I learned to separate them. Even though I had forgiven and released my spirit from the trauma of the past, I still struggled to feel a connection between my spirit, mind, and body. I still could not feel the beauty of intimacy.

In the first post in the Sex, Love, and Christianity series, I talked about how my mental attitude towards sex changed. So, I won't go into detail here about the mental work that I did in therapy to reverse my negative thoughts about sex. Here, I want to talk more about the physical work. How do we reverse those learned behaviors? How do we overcome our bodies response to sex after trauma? This is where my therapist's practical tools have proven to be most useful.

My counselor helped me identify practices that would help me stay present during sex. Whether you identify as Christian or not, you can use these resources. And if you are Christian, in addition to prayer, these tools will help you stay present and begin the good work of feeling the fullness of joy during intimacy:

1. Tune into your arousal.
One of the hardest things for survivors of sexual assault is learning how to experience pleasure that is free from guilt or shame. Sex should be natural and beautiful! But for some of us, it isn't easily so. I encourage you to find what turns you on. What arouses you? Whatever it is, cling to that when it is time for intimacy.

2. Engage all of your senses.
To ensure that you are fully present in the room, engage your senses. What do you feel? With your hands, your skin? What do you see? What do you hear? For those of us who dissociate, engaging our senses requires our mind to be present in the room. Once your mind is there with you, you can begin to explore a deeper sense of pleasure within your body.

3. Have a loving, supportive partner.
I cannot stress the significance of this enough. Having a partner who is patient, supportive, and loving will make a world of difference. They will understand if you need to take things slowly. They will care about your pleasure just as much, if not more, than their own. This will help you to feel safe as you attempt to re-connect your mind and body as a necessary step to sexual trauma healing.

God desires for you to have great, safe, consensual sex! These tools have been tremendously helpful to me on my journey to healing and freedom. I am so thankful to my partner, my counselor, my God, my tribe, and all of you for being on this journey with me!


Growth & Change: Managing Expectations

Photo by: CreateHer Stock

I've been having a lot of conversations about expectations in my relationships recently. It seems like many of us are in a place where we are reflecting on where we are at this moment in our lives. For some of us, that has been satisfying. For others, it has been challenging. For example, one of my friends feels like her life isn't where she thought it would be right now, but in a good way. In a short time, she has gotten her dream job, a new romantic relationship, a new home, and has created a killer financial plan. When she looks back over the last few years, she says that this is what she prayed for, but didn't expect it to happen this quickly. Another friend has been in a job that she doesn't enjoy for going on a few years. She thought that after the first year, she would find other work. She hasn't been able to secure that new job yet. When she and I talked about expectations, she admitted that she is a little disappointed that her life isn't where she expected it to be right now.

My husband and I have been talking about expectations a lot, too. We are coming up on our first wedding anniversary. While we are SO excited to celebrate, we are also reflecting on this last year. Has it gone as expected? What goals did we accomplish? What setbacks did we see?

I was watching Jada Pinkett Smith's new Facebook series "Red Table Talk" and she said something profound:

"Expectations will steal the gifts that are sitting right there in front of you...Because you're so concerned about creating this picture that you have in your mind that you can't even see the blessing that is standing right there in front of you."
-Jada Pinkett Smith

It hit me so deep. Especially because recently, one of my dear friends said something similar. I was going through a difficult time and I was complaining about how frustrated I felt. I was looking to the left and to the right for a sign or for confirmation. And she said , "Don't forget to see the beauty in this moment." At first I was like HUH? She then gave insight into her own similar story and how when she looks back at that time in her life now, she remembers that she was happy despite the stress. That she had more time to do things she loved. That she filled that time with people and things that matter to her. And that helped her build a foundation for where she is now.

Because of our conversation, I sat back and took inventory of my life. Yes, I was struggling and it was hard. BUT, in that struggle, my husband I were getting closer. We spent more time snuggling and watching movies. And I had more mental space! I was meditating more. I was drinking more water. I was going to therapy. I was singing in the choir. I was doing things that genuinely brought me joy. She was right.

There is beauty in struggle. 

Since then, I have been working really hard to be present and manage my expectations. Sure, I have a dream, an ideal picture of things I want to be doing. But, while I'm working towards those things, I don't want to miss out on what's right in front of me. I am seeking the small miracles while working towards the bigger picture.

I encourage you to manage your expectations. Aim high! Dream! And while the dream is working itself to reality be present with the people and things that will feed your soul right now, in this moment.

One disclaimer: As I know some of my readers have experienced trauma, I just want to give this helpful tip. If the struggle you are experiencing involves abuse or harm, now is not the time to seek beauty. Now is the time to seek help and find your way out of that situation. After you are physically safe, I encourage you to consider therapy. Then, as you heal, I encourage you to look back to see the beauty that may have been present during this time: a friend who encouraged you or a neighbor who was kind to you. I believe in you.


Growth & Change: Time

Photo by: CreateHer Stock

In the last few years, I have become fiercely protective over my time. I am a planner. I always have been. My calendar is often set at least a month in advance. My friends and I like to joke that there are two kinds of people: the people who plan for the moment and the people who live in the moment. For my friends who are not planners, I offer them structure when we're thinking ahead for dates, trips, etc. And in return, they offer me the opportunity to let go of my need to know what's going on and do something spontaneous from time to time.

In my early twenties, I had a boss who tried to convince me that planning leads to road blocks and doesn't allow you to live freely. True story. Bizarre, right? But since I've always grown up with a desire to please people, I tried to let go of the planner in me and just try things spontaneously. It did not end well. Most of the time, I was miserable trying to adapt to the rules of lets-not-plan-lets-live-in-the-moment-land all the time. I'd go into work and never know what we'd be doing that day. There were days that I'd go in and be told that we were doing a major event that Friday (and it was Tuesday) that had no plan whatsoever. I'd then have to scramble and think through how to make it successful. Week to week, I never knew what my schedule would be so I couldn't plan time with friends or family. I lived in that world for two years before finally saying, "Enough."

When I look back on that time, I realize that I learned a lot. I became very protective over my time. And in that protection, I learned three valuable things:

1. My boss was wrong.
First and foremost, it was wrong of that boss to try and force me to become more like him. As a leader, he should have encouraged my strengths and leaned into them so that I could produce the best possible work. I could have helped him plan out the company calendar for three months within a week! I'm very good at thinking through the details and the necessary components of a thing, then spacing out the timeline for completion. There is no 'one way' of living. I don't have to rip up my calendar in order to live into someone else's idea of freedom. Let me be me! We could have worked a lot better together.

2. Our differences make us stronger.
The most lasting thing I learned, however, was that it's okay for humans to be different from one another. You're a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person? Cool, well I'm a planner. If we have to work together, how might we do it well? We definitely can learn from one another, as my friends and I have done. I don't have to become you and you don't have to become me. But we can still help each other without needing to convince each other to cross over to our beliefs/way of life. There is so much 'live in the moment' rhetoric in our overly saturated world. For some people, that totally works. There are maybe some of you reading right now who would be perfect for the job mentioned above. But that's not me. And that's okay. I choose to plan. And I can still plan for tomorrow while living today.

There are blessings in both planning and living spontaneously.

3. Be who you are.
Live into who you are. I'm a planner. I am protective of my time because I know myself. I need time to meditate in the morning. I need time for yoga/pilates. I need time with my husband. I need time with my friends. I need a schedule. I crave order. And there is nothing wrong with that.

I don't need to make space for someone else's spontaneous lack of planning.

But I can if I want to. That's the key. There's such freedom in embracing who you are and living into that. It allows you to live with the ebbs and flows of life with grace. I like being who I am. And that's that.


Growth & Change: A (Hopeful) Series

Photo cred: CreateHER Stock

I have been in a space of deep self exploration for the last three years. At first, I was really keen to share most of that experience here on my blog. 2016 was my year of sharing! Then 2017 came, and I reached a point where I needed to become more protective of myself, my space, and the amount of sharing I did. 2017 was my year of building in silence. There were a lot of changes happening: marriage, new job, new home, financial growth, health issues, etc. The year was filled with extreme highs (like marrying the man of my dreams) and extreme lows (receiving an unexpected diagnosis, which I talked about in an earlier post). I didn't want to live those experiences on paper, on a blog or Instagram post. I needed to be present in those moments without the distraction of sharing with the world or crafting the perfect caption.

Coming into 2018, I feel like this is my year manifesting. 2018 will be my year of harvest. And for me, this harvest begins in my mind.

I keep seeing mental harvest affirmations that go a little something like this:

"Whatever you believe in your mind, you manifest in your life."

Is it true that if you think negatively, negative things will come? And how does that work for someone like me, who has experienced extensive trauma? I sat down with a psychologist recently to dig a little deeper into this idea. The psychologist validated my experience. What I learned has been both affirming and frustrating. For people who have experienced trauma, trauma often breeds fear. Fear, in turn, often will breed negativity. Expecting negative things will ultimately deliver negative things. Isn't that crazy?

So, here's the frustrating part: Negativity will come. You cannot control the negative emotions as they are just a part of being human. What you can control is your response. This is both affirming and frustrating. It is exceedingly difficult to validate your negative emotions and respond to them with personal affirmation. And yet, that is exactly what I've been fighting to do in 2018. To have a positive mental harvest that manifests in my real life.

I don't have all of the answers and I'm on the journey myself. But here are a few tips I've picked up that are helping me to manifest and harvest in 2018:

Meditate | Speak Life | Seek Help | Believe

I took up meditation after attending a class in 2016. Since then, my desire has been to meditate everyday. Realistically, I fall short of this. But, when I do meditate, it helps to calm my mind. I find that when I meditate, I also pray better. Because my head is less cluttered. When I practice consistently, I feel much more connected to my inner self, which produces positive and trusting energy. My favorite app to practice meditation is Stop, Breathe, and Think. They have lots of free options for meditation. Some are short, some are long so you can find meditations that fit your schedule and lifestyle.

Speak Life:
This one is a little bit harder for me. As someone who is still healing from trauma, it is sometimes difficult to believe that God intends good things for me. But She does. I know She does. I struggle to see it sometimes though. When I am afraid is when it is most important for me to speak life into myself. My fear that tells me, "What if I'm not worthy? What if that company doesn't want to work with you? What if that gig doesn't work out?" I validate where those feelings come from. Then I say something simple like, "I am worthy. I am able. I deserve good things." That's it.

Seek Help:
Seriously. Get a good therapist. If you're worried about cost (totally valid, as a lot of insurances don't cover mental health), I suggest looking for a counseling center. Many counseling centers offer sliding scale payments, based on your income. Most private practitioners in my experience can't offer a sliding scale, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't at least ask if you find someone that you want to work with. Whatever you do, wherever you are, if you need help, I encourage you to seek it out. Sometimes taking the first step of talking to a counselor is all you need to get the ball rolling.

Lastly, you have to believe. I have been mediating for almost two years now, along with prayer. I work really hard to speak life, but sometimes I fall short. I have a wonderful therapist, so I'm seeking help. But I struggle so much when it comes to simply believing. Believing that the meditation, speaking life, and therapy will come to fruition. Believing that God really does intend good things for my life. Believing that good things will, indeed, come. But belief is necessary. It is necessary for me to believe that the universe is on my side and that a good harvest will come from the work I've put in over the years.

Thank you for reading ♥


Sometimes I Miss You, Sometimes I Don't

One of the things that I do not miss about full-time blogging is the pressure. Everyone says, "Consistency is key" and that you have to always be pushing your content to your audience. This meant that not only was I doing photo shoots multiple times per week, I was also editing daily, and chugging out content on Hootsuite so that my posts would be shared multiple times per day on all of my social media platforms. This took a lot of work. Any full-time blogger will tell you that this ain't easy. When I was unemployed and not in school, I had plenty of time for that work. I could dedicate my days to waking up and making sure everything was "instagram-able" (this is a real word, I assure you.) Here are some of my favorite "instagram-able" examples:

1. The lighting for my breakfast - I'd take so many pictures, edit it perfectly, and take so much time crafting the perfect caption and hashtags that the food would get cold. I wouldn't even be hungry anymore.
2. The perfect pose for an outfit - I about near popped my hip out of place one time trying to ensure that my curves were on point.
3. Spending time with friends - my makeup, outfit, and smile needed to be perfect for any instagram-worthy shot. I'd spend so much time taking and editing pictures that I'd forget why we were there - to actually spend time together.
4. Date night - God forbid that we go on one of our regular dates with me in comfy clothes, no makeup, and messy hair. Nope, only the perfect days made it to instagram - and those days weren't even the most fun because I'd have on so much makeup that we couldn't even kiss without my lipstick smearing!

Everything needed to be perfect. It needed to be so perfect that I started to miss out on reality - which is anything but perfect. It's like Queen Bey says - "Perfection is a disease of a nation." And she's right, pretty does hurt.

When I started working again in 2016, it took me all of about 3 months to realize that full-time blogging wouldn't work for me. I didn't have time for the perfect picture of my breakfast - I was hungry and dammit, I was gonna eat right then and there.

Furthermore, in 2017, I really started to lean into reality rather than the life I was trying to live up to on instagram. I've talked about this a lot on my blog. I hope that you have seen the evolution.

Sometimes I miss blogging, and sometimes I don't. I do miss sharing bits and pieces of my life. And maybe I will begin to share more again.

In truth, my real life is messy. It's filled with cat litter, students crying in my office, root canals, and more. It's also filled with late-night snuggles with my hubby, the Great British Bake-Off, and walking in the cold to spend time with friends. What is real often cannot be captured in a photograph - authentic conversations, belly laughs from watching that Jake Tapper/Ted Crockett interview, tearful heart-to-hearts over coffee as we whispered "Me, too", and more. That cannot be captured for instagram.

I think I would blog more if it meant less perfection. I would blog more if I can be authentic and real. I'd blog more if I can ramble. I'd blog more if I can share a three line poem about sadness. I'd blog more if every post didn't need a perfect picture in order to be "eye-catching" for the masses. And perhaps, that is where the secret lies. If I can be bold enough to show my real, authentic, not-instagram-perfect life, maybe I would have even more of it to share with you.

Cheers to 2018. Let's see where it all goes ♥
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