I’ve come to a point in my life where I am learning to value self-care. I’ve also come to realize the value of time, vacations as well as the value of building solid relationships. For years I thought that it was selfish and unproductive for a person to focus on themselves… indulging in weekend getaways, lengthy visits to the spa or salon, shopping sprees, regular Girls Night Outs or simply going off to a quiet place to enjoy a good book, write or enjoy some good, soothing music. I thought, “How can people do those things when there is so much work to do in the world?
I had been told that I was selfish a few times as a teenager and I guess it stuck for about a decade or two. I had also been taught to stay busy… to not just sit and be a spectator but to get involved in life, events and relationships. At church and school I engaged in everything from singing in the choir, ushering and leading the youth group to cheerleading, volunteering and leading my senior class as President. Keeping busy and living a full, productive life was not bad advice, but it’s how a person maintains balance throughout life.
I never really understood why I was this so-called selfish person. The only thing that I can remember about this “selfishness status” was that I recognized early that I wanted a better life for myself. Even after unexpectantly becoming a young, single, mother, I refused to remain on government assistance, accepting the short-term help and then quickly moving on to work three jobs to support my child. As a youth, I pursued education, saved my small allowance to purchase things that I really wanted and later worked part-time so that I could help out at home and still engage in extra-curricular activities. I was always drawn to the finer things in life. Although I could not yet afford many of the things I wanted and my environment was not desirable, I had some very good dreams and goals as a teenager and young adult. Those dreams and goals were my imaginary friends and I could count on them to get me through some tough times. They would wisp me away to other worlds as I read a book or comfort me as I wrote in my journal or listened to music. This, in essence, was my self-care. Somewhere along life’s journey I forgot about them.
I spent years pursuing status, seeking things, helping others, pleasing others and in the meantime, I forgot about how to care for myself. Yes, I obtained the education. Yes, I got married. Yes, I secured the job I desired. Yes, I have two beautiful children. Yes…I have been fulfilled by so many dreams that have come true. However, in the course of obtaining all of those beautiful blessings there were times when I thought I would lose my mind. The busy schedules, the numerous activities, full-time wife and mother, full-time work, full-time school…there were not enough hours in a day to do everything that I felt I needed to do and I had forgotten how to slow down and take care of myself.
Today I find myself looking at life very differently. I appreciate the years of hard work and service to others. I admit…I enjoyed it the intrinsic rewards. I’m not saying that I have simply become a spectator in life. That is far from the truth. I am still young and very involved in life…eager to make my mark in the world. I have, however, learned the art of prioritizing. I focus on my passion to work with youth, teaching them to live with integrity and to create positive change and experiences in their lives and in the lives of others. The best part of this journey is that I have reconnected with the things that provide me the care that I need to thrive and continue to serve others. Music, writing, reading, exercising and spending time and getting away with my family to reconnect and recharge are all a part of my self-care plan. I am experiencing abundant peace and joy.
Families were also afforded the chance to tour the entire museum at no cost that evening. According to Ms. Epps, Title I Coordinator – Family Engagement, many of the families had never visited the museum or other community attractions possibly due to a lack of funds or knowledge of such places. Hosting the educational event at this popular area attraction was deemed a success according to the post-surveys that were completed by the participants.
Maximizing Character leaders and Character (Youth) Ambassadors attended the event, providing information about character education, life skills and community service opportunities with the program. The leaders and Youth Ambassadors greeted the children and their families, shared information, answered questions about Maximizing Character services and engaged the youth in an activity called “Know Your Character, Show Your Character”. Youth participants also had a chance to engage in coloring their own “All About Character” poster or take it with them. The children and families were encouraged to “Do the Right Thing, All Day… Every Day!”
The event proved to be a success and Maximizing Character was proud to be a part of the school system’s efforts to promote parent and community engagement! In a statement made during the event summary, Coordinator Ms. Epps said,
“Thank you all for another successful Title I Family Learning Project Event (this was our 8th year!) as we took over the Air & Space Center! The families were engaged with wonderful activities and resources and were VERY excited about exploring the exhibits. We had 739 participants! We also had 26 community vendors! Thank you again for all that you did to make this event a success.”
Most of us know that the best way to maintain physical health is to exercise regularly and to eat nutritious foods daily. However did you know that the foods we eat also affect our mood and overall wellness? Poor diets contribute to weight gain, obesity, a plethora of medical problems, lack of energy and often times, stress, worry and a bad attitude. A good diet, including a balance of fruit, vegetables, proteins and grains, maintains blood pressure, contributes to good cholesterol and energy levels and even helps to maintain clear complexions. Healthy eating and engaging in regular exercise can also put you in a positive mood, fostering optimism, productivity, focus and overall physical and emotional wellness. So…Here’s to your health!
This past school year Maximizing Character had the opportunity to help establish a Girls Group with a group of energetic middle school girls. It was a pleasure to work with them as they were transitioning from childhood into adolescence. These young ladies were selected for the group based upon academic and behavioral challenges they had experienced. The objective of the girls group was to empower these future leaders, helping to keep them from “falling through the cracks” academically and socially. I had the opportunity to share my passion for character building while also teaching the girls to love themselves, enjoy their youth and invest in their education and future success.
Each Monday afternoon I would travel to the school, greet the girls who were usually finishing up their tutoring with college students from the local university, and begin our group session together. During G.I.R.L.S. Group, we engaged in activities and discussions about character development, boys, effective communication, self-esteem and other topics critical to this age group. I was truly “in my element” during those sessions. The girls asked questions about relationships with peers, boys, how to communicate with fussy parents and how to envision a successful and fulfilling life. Maximizing Character G.I.R.L.S. Group projects and activities included developing a “vision board”, role playing scenarios about bullying, communicating with peers and adults, drama-free living and open discussions about self-worth and how to interact appropriately with boys.
The program started off slowly, canceling a few of the first meetings due to low attendance and attempting to build new relationships with the diverse group of girls. However, after the Christmas break, the program seemed to take off, allowing me to interact more often with the girls and build camaraderie with school staff and the girls. By the end of the ten weeks, the girls appeared to be more comfortable with initiating discussions and activities with me, had improved their grades and behaviors and were eager to exchange social media information in order to keep in touch with me and the Maximizing Character Ambassadors.
On April 30, 2014, Maximizing Character graduated its first G.I.R.L.S. Group! The group had a small ceremony in one of the classrooms at the school where Mrs. Manning, the Student Advancement Coach, who implemented this program, the boys’ group, parents and volunteers joined together for a light dinner and awards ceremony. The Maximizing Character G.I.R.L.S. Group graduates were presented with a certificate of participation, a “Character Couture” bracelet and a bag of goodies. It was a great school year and I wished the girls well as most of them would advance to high school. As a result of the success of the M.C. G.I.R.L.S. Group, we were asked to facilitate the program again during the 2014-2015 school year! I am so excited about the opportunity to mentor a new group of girls!
It’s been months since I took the time to express my thoughts in writing, aside from a “to do” list or random ideas for my business. It definitely feels good to be back! This year has been amazing! I have had the opportunity to grow my business as well as develop professionally and spiritually. However, as ecstatic as I have been about my youth program expanding, I have experienced a great deal of stress. I’ve had to learn to create balance in my life in order to maintain my health and wellness and so that I can be the best wife, mother and servant that I can be. I realized that in order to sustain my energy and to develop personally and perhaps professionally, I would have to find ways to relax and steal away to a peaceful place or state.
Writing, listening to music, dancing and singing, engaging in creative thought and arts and crafts had always been my go-t0 activities in the past. Nevertheless, I strayed from many of those activities as my priorities as a wife, mother, daughter, employee and servant increased over the years. This year, despite some successes professionally, I experienced severe fatigue and developed a medical issue as a result of keeping a busy schedule and my propensity to worry and overthink everything. I decided several weeks ago to create some peace in my life.
I resolved to renew my mind and I developed a “toolkit” to help me to decrease stress and experience peace and wellness. Prayer, meditation, scriptures, affirmations, music, reading and yes…writing are included in my “go-to toolkit”. I am enjoying the opportunity to “breathe” again and to engage in self care. I even turned on some upbeat, “old school” jams and danced myself happy as I cleaned my house today! I’m delighted to be writing again and I’m looking forward to enjoying future successes in my life without all the added stress. Here’s to good health, wellness, peace and success.
Mental illness is real. If the recent events in the media haven’t caught your attention over the past 5 to 10 years, please recognize that there are an estimated 54 million Americans who are affected by mental illness. We must address its effects on our families, communities and nation. Those affected are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, neighbors and friends. It is imperative that society engages in the conversation about mental illness and how it affects those who experience disturbances in their thoughts or behaviors. It is important that families talk about the reality of mental illness, no longer sweeping it under the rug for fear of the stigma, leaving our loved ones to suffer in silence or pretend that the mood swings and the voices in their head aren’t real.
For those who are experiencing mental illness, there is help. There are mental health professionals and agencies in just about every community across the country. There are family members, clergy and support groups to help individuals cope with mental illness. There is hope that more resources will become available as society becomes more knowledgeable and accepting of mental illness. There is also hope that our nations’ leaders will implement a plan to provide support and care to those in need. We need every member of our nation to recognize the warning signs of mental illness, know how to access the appropriate resources and how to cope. Let’s do our part to support and care for those affected by mental illness.
I believe that our words frame our world. We should be careful about what we say about ourselves and to others because those words will produce a positive or negative product. If a parent tells a child that they are worthless long enough the child may begin to first think and then believe that they are worthless. If you confess that you are sick all of the time or constantly tell yourself that you don’t have what it takes to accomplish your goals, 9 times out of 10 you are a sickly person or you are not satisfied with your life. Remember, if you don’t want it, don’t say it. Commit to changing your language and speak life into the atmosphere. Speak positively over your life and over those lives that you have been fortunate enough to connect with.
I’ve had to learn this valuable lesson the hard way. Growing up I did not understand this principle so I said whatever came to mind, good or bad: “I’m broke,” “There is no way that I can accomplish that!” “I’ll never finish school, this is taking too long!” And so…I was broke, had low self-esteem for a period in my life, causing me to stop pursuing my goals and I had mismanaged my time and resources in my early years of college because I was focusing on the wrong things. While the situations in my life may have been true at that point in time, it did not mean that they had to be that way forever. I had the power to change my life with my words – spoken as well as written…I just didn’t know it.
Flash-forward 20 years and I’m living a Wonder Full life, I’ve accomplished many goals that I had set for myself as a teenager and young adult and I’m on a mission to continue to leave a positive legacy on this planet. My life began to take a positive turn as a result of changing my language about myself and the world. I became more aware of the words that came out of my mouth and the words that I began to write on paper…goals, visions, positive changes that I desired to make in my life. I envisioned the life that I wanted and I began to produce what I saw. No, my life is not perfect and I still have to be mindful of what I think and say. No, it’s not magic but I will declare that it all happened by faith~my unwavering faith in God. A faith that convinced me that God would hear my specific prayers, hear the words that I spoke into existence and see the words that I frequently wrote about the life I desired, and honor them. My Pastor and Teacher taught me that “everything begins with a thought.” When my thoughts changed, then my Words changed and my Life changed. If You Don’t Want It, Don’t Say It, but if you Do Want It…Speak It Into Existence! Speak Life!
I love this! It’s a daily struggle but it can be done!
I’m shaking at the prospect
Of trying to deny
My need of certain gimmicks
To make my time pass by
I gaze at sites like E-Bay
Perusing all they’ve got
if I had my fleshly way
I’d go and buy the lot.
Self control is difficult
It’s something I should learn
Just to live within my means
My money not to burn
Store your treasure up above
A cheerful giver be
Peace will reign inside your heart
Just you wait and see.
Yesterday my co-worker shared a video (see the link above) with me that caused me to truly re-assess the way I spend my time and life energy. At first glance, it just looks like a typical day with people doing typical things, and in fact, it is typical…for this day and age. In each scene of the video there are cell phones actively being used. The video captures the essence of what has happened in our technological world. We are so busy using our phones that we neglect to truly engage in life’s moments.
I’ve heard many people use the term “live in the NOW” and I began to embrace this philosophy when I realized that television, computers and social media were beginning to take over my life. However, I have to consistently remind myself of this mantra because it is so easy to pick up the gadgets or turn on the T.V. to “engage” in the events of the day. The video demonstrates the sad reality that many of us have become disengaged with humanity. Not only have we allowed our phones and cameras to dictate our way of life, but we are missing out on the beauty and joy of engaging in memorable life events.
Remember that couple that got engaged on the beach in the video? At the very moment that his bride-to-be said yes, embraced and attempted to kiss him, the young man was engaged in taking the, oh, so popular “Selfie” pic. The scene with the children at the playground…one little girl was engrossed in some type of activity on her phone while she swung back and forth on the swings. And those two groups of people who were celebrating a birthday and having dinner…most of those folks had their heads down, interacting with their phones or were busy snapping pics and probably uploading them to some social media page. It was appalling to see, but it was so true.
After watching the short video I was ashamed at how many times I had been guilty of some of the same things. In my response to my coworker, I said that it should be everyone’s New Year resolution to put the phone down sometimes, especially during life’s most precious and memorable moments. We must exercise balance when it comes to technology otherwise it will deprive us of a wonderful, full life. Remember to live in the Now and Engage in Life with Humanity. During this New Year, accept the gift of the Present and Live!