Women’s Month, Year of the Woman: Stephanie S!

Thank you to the wonderful women who answered the call to be interviewed. It takes a lot to open up about who you are.  You are who you are and this process can be a little intimidating.  Thank you to all of my volunteers.  As women we all have unique situations that vary but collectively we go through much of the same things.  Not just for this month or for the #METOO movement, let’s all bond as one.

Stephanie S., is a mother to two beautiful girls.  Her oldest is actually her niece that she has raised since she was 13 until the age of 18 and her youngest is her biological daughter, she’s 4-years-old.  She’s been with her husband for 16 years and they will be celebrating their 9th wedding anniversary on May 9th.  She’s one of a few in her family to graduate high school and college and have gone onto graduate school.  She still has 3 more classes to go before she graduates. She was laid off in 2015 and found two jobs the following year in 2016, but she’s only working at one of those jobs and couldn’t be more happier.  She is finally in a place that she enjoys where she is currently.
What she would tell her younger self:
The life ahead of you will not be easy, but keep faith in God and trust that He will not give you more than you can handle.  Also, you need to relax more, things will work themselves out in the end. 
Lessons for her daughters:
Nothing in life is truly free.  Be honest, be kind, and the world will be yours. 
Love: Don’t rush into it.  If you truly want to know if your partner is right for you, please don’t be afraid to bring them to meet your father or me. 
Career: don’t settle for comfort.  Find a career that you’re truly passionate about and makes you happy to go to everyday.  In the end, if there’s anything in all three that you feel uncomfortable with, let someone know.  Don’t be afraid to tell anyone.
Our future and where we want to be should be something that we attempt to work at all the time. Nothing is simply going to be handed to us.  I asked where Stephanie sees herself in 5 years:
In a better position at my job.  I love my place of employment, but would like to advance to higher position.
What are the things you have accomplished:
Well, when it comes to personal accomplishments, I’d say, participating in art shows.  I love art and to be able to participate in art shows has been such an honor and a joy to share my own work with others who love art just as much as I do. 
Another personal accomplishment is that I decided to go to grad school to get my Master’s degree.  I haven’t finished my grad schooling yet, but I will soon or at least hope to. 
Career accomplishments, I would say is jumping into a position that no one else wanted and ended up being the best person they had done the job.
I think we tend to hold certain people in high regards.  This #METOO movement has allowed some of the ones we hold high to be seen differently.  No matter who it is, if you have sexually assaulted, harassed or abused another woman regardless of which roles you may have played, how much money you have, even if you are someone’s boss, it’s not okay.
What are your thoughts on the #METOO movement:
To be honest, I didn’t want to believe that some of the things being said about celebrities like Bill Cosby were true, but when you have so many women coming forward, then there must be some truth to the allegations.  It’s great that more women are coming forward and ousting their tormentors/abusers.  Women shouldn’t be afraid to speak out.  Value your self-worth before you value where your career can take you.  I feel my youngest is too young to truly understand what the movement means so I’m unsure of how I plan on using the movement.  The closest thing I can think of to tell my daughter would be, “If you don’t like someone touching you or you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to tell anyone.”
What are the things that Stephanie is looking to accomplish or crush:
The major thing on my heart that I hope to crush is completing my graduate degree.  When I do go back to complete it, I will have to pay for my three classes and I just can’t afford to pay for them right now.  So as soon as I can afford it, then I will complete my degree. 
Lastly what does self-love look like to you:
Accepting myself for who I am.  I am a person who is shy, but is trying to be more vocal when I need to be.  When having a rough day, listening to music every chance I get.  When I’m home, I wait until my daughter is in to bed to sit at my desk and write in my bullet journal or plan things out in my other planners.  And as silly as it sounds, I like to straighten my hair sometimes because it makes me feel good about my looks.  I chose to give up drinking sodas in order to care about my health.  I was drinking sodas to keep my energy levels up especially when I was at work, but I realized that as long as I’m laughing and staying productive at work, my energy is generally high or at a normal level.  Plus, I don’t get headaches anymore.  In place of sodas, I’ve been drinking more water.  Still working on getting to bed at a normal hour, but I will get there in time. 
Stephanie thank you again for participating.  I am sending positive vibes that you will get the funding you need to complete your master’s degree.  Do NOT stop just because you have this hiccup in the road. I hope your daughters know just how smart, how beautiful, how strong you really are.  I hope through your example that others around you will know continue to have purpose and move towards that purpose daily.
Another note if you’re looking for a photographer in central Pennsylvania, take a look at her information:
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Women’s Month, Year of the Woman: Erica M!

This Year the theme is the Year of the Woman.  This is not a theme that I made up but is the theme of Woman’s Month all around the world.  We have celebrity women who are speaking up and this is so awesome to have.  Now I feel like I need to give the voice of the everyday woman.  The single mother trying to make ends meet, the married woman trying to balance it all, the career woman trying to make it up the ladder without having to drop her panties along the way, and all of the women in between. Women are beautiful and strong beings.  Like Beyoncé says, we have the kids and get back to business.  Women can do it all, have it all, and this year and beyond are looking out for the next generation so our daughters and granddaughters don’t have to say #METOO!
In addition to that we have to showcase regular women because we have a voice and power too.  We are women who have been married, some divorce, some single, some moms who are all making their marks in this world.  They are giving back to their communities, keeping families together, raising families with and sometimes on their own, completing college, making their and other people around them better.
Erica M.is the oldest of 3 siblings, a single mom of two daughters ages 16 and 13, raising their 19-year-old sister which she considers her my own (oh yes the headaches :).  She currently works for a financial institution going on 23 years and attends college a few months shy of earning her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in hospitality. Erica is a social bean and loves to spend time with family, friends and herself. Yes she enjoys time with herself including scheduling days off to do some of the things she enjoys.
Some times as we get wiser we often think back on the times of our younger days.  We wonder what lessons could we go back and tell our younger selves.  I asked Erica what her lesson would be to a young Erica back in her day:
I would tell my younger self not to rush through life, marriage and family. All these things will come in perfect timing. Enjoy your childhood go play in the park instead of worrying why your parents are fighting. Enjoy being a teenager and do teenager things like hang out with your friends, focus in school and don’t worry about adult things and in your young adult years explore and venture out don’t worry about putting your life on hold for others. 
Being a mom myself I often ask myself during times when I am with them what lessons I want them to get.  My daughters are young so of course I try to keep it in perspective but I asked Erica what she wanted her daughters to know in life, love and career.
Life – It flies by very quickly and has many stages so take hold of the present and worry about tomorrow when it gets here.
Love – Don’t rush, force or look for it because it can lead to failure. Love is natural and will happen when you least expect it. 
Career – Let your heart and passion lead you to career of choice not money. Go hard to be the best in that field regardless of what it is.  
So what has Erica accomplished so far:
  • Purchased her home at the age of 19
  • When back to school during a separation with my then husband
  • Bouncing back from having to file for bankruptcy
  • Having the means to support my daughters alone
  • Working for the same company for 23 years and I am only 40 years old
  • Instilling in my daughters the meaning of faith
  • Working my way up to a Co-lead for a team at church
  • Stayed focused on my weight loss. About a little over a year ago I was a size 24 (extremely tight) and now I am wearing a 18 -20.
First of all congrats on all of your accomplishments Erica! Let me just add from this list, there was failure. You have had to made bad credit decisions to have to file for bankruptcy but…..she now owns a home.  She now can financially support her girls on her own. Did you catch that?  Sometimes we fail but if we KEEP on going, we will come out of top.  So if you are a woman who is struggling with any failed relationship, bad credit or anything that you DEEM negative, the only way it stays that way is if you allow it.  Kudos to you Erica!!
 Even with all of the great accomplishments that Erica has already done, I wanted to know where she sees herself in 5 years:
This is always a difficult question to answer because our vision changes over time but as of right now. I want to see myself in 5 years living for me and not others, in a position of choice with work and not must, and enjoying life with my girls, family, friends and maybe with a new-found love.
Now the #METOO movement is something that didn’t start on the internet.  It started from women getting tired of being sexually abused, harassed or assaulted.  The Internet made it easier for women to band together.  Women have been seen as accessories in times past.  This is why often times they are not believed or if they are to be believed they are seen as the one who agitated their aggressor.  I do NOT want myself or other women and God help me, my daughters to have to say METOO!
I asked Erica what the #METOO movement meant to her:
 The Me Too movement is a great organization that helps those that were or are being sexually assault or harassed. They provide support, ways to speak up and remind you that you are not alone. Finally and hopefully people can start feeling more comfortable in speaking up because they are not alone. I plan on using this movement to reassure my daughters that if they are ever made to feel uncomfortable to please speak up. It is not their fault of someone else’s actions.  
Finally I wanted to know about what the future holds for Erica:
Things that are on my heart that I look forward to crushing is
  • Continue losing weight and getting fit for myself. There are things that I want to do but have weight restrictions. I don’t want to be restricted of nothing I want to do.
  • Work on my bucket list which would lead to enjoying my life
  • Be in a position in my career were there is still passion and have it not be just work
  • Utilizing my event planning skills to plan family trips as family time is so important to me
 Anyone who has been reading my blogs knows I am a huge pusher of self-care.  I want everyone especially my ladies to work from a full cup instead of this notion that they must work until there’s no working in them left.  To keep giving from empty cups and stop caring of what others think about them taking time for themselves.  So Erica, what do you do for self-care:
  • I read a lot of inspirational books such as a Woman’s daily prayer, Too blessed to be stressed, and a moment for your soul. There are many days that I feel down and out, wondering why me, or when will my prince charming come. These books remind me of my purpose now and to remain focus on today.
  • I have a journal that I am writing to my future self. In the book I write things that I want to do but afraid to do, mistakes I did today that may affect tomorrow or areas that I want to change that will benefit the future me, Honestly it helps me stay focus on doing things for me today because I don’t want to let down the future me.
  • I try to exercise daily and make conscious decisions when eating because the more weight I lose the more I feel good about myself.

Thank you to Erica for pushing through when life knocked you down many times, raising your daughters with respect and love, and making sure that while you are there for others that you keep yourself your priority.  Good luck on your continued blessed journey!

 

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Ask Toi: Have You Ever dated outside of your race?

Yes I have and it was so super brief not many people knew.  I wasn’t trying to hide him either.  I have zero problems with dating outside of my race if the vibes are right. I have never been one to discriminate against it. All of my life I have made it clear I like cream in my coffee.  I just never tasted enough cream in my coffee to make any waves. I understand some people’s issues with it and that’s their issue. So it was in college after the breakup of my college sweetheart aka my current husband.  I did not go out seeking him either.  He was white.  He was in one of my core classes.  He had a lot of the qualities I liked, tall, funny, beautiful spirit and good-looking.  He had been giving me the sexy eyes for a minute and I denied him since I was in a relationship.  He saw me in class with a hoody on looking all kinds of depressed and tor up.  Yes tor up and sad.  He swooped in with the what’s the matter talk and our conversation shifted since I was back on the market.  We hung out, we studied but it never went any further because into our second official date, he stated he couldn’t date me because he was afraid of what his parents would think.  He asked me to date him privately and that wasn’t then nor has that ever been my thing. So I let him go.  I was upset but knew I had dodged a bullet.

I might have been able to go the distance in my mind with the college guy had he been open. But I have always been any one I dated cup of tea and I wasn’t about to turn down my melanin to suppress his dad’s preferences.  So there you have it.  Yes I dated outside of my race extremely briefly but I did it.

I Will Now….

I have unfortunately been around a lot of people who have had life changing occurrences in their lives. It could be that they are sick, they were at the brink of death, or sadly have lost their life.  The one thing that resonates with all of them that NOW is the time to live.  They want to live their best life because their life is in a balance.  The time to live is everyday you wake up.

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No life isn’t perfect.  It’s not supposed to be but if you have a bucket list, don’t wait until your moments away from kicking the bucket to live. Live on purpose now.  What are you waiting for?  If there is a trip you want to take, start actively saving. How much will it cost?  Research all aspects of the trip.  What can you cut to get you there?  Is it a few Starbucks trips, or maybe it’s spending less on others.  Whatever it is, be active towards those goals.  Wake up every day with purpose.  Wake up with direction and desire to be better than the day before. Today is the best motivation you can get, start now to do what you need for you.

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You have life.  You are here for a purpose.  Don’t sit idle waiting for greatness to drop out of a sky, take control and crush your goal list!

 

 

Self Love

Self love will look different, sound different, taste different, etc to different people. Self love means by the very definition is about loving yourself.  The broadest definition of self-love is learning how to care for you, what you need, how much you need, and being okay to not limit how often you love on yourself. How you achieve the goal will be the unique marker for each individual person.

If you are in a relationship and you are finding that the person that YOU selected isn’t loving on you the way that you want, do some things about it.  For instance, if self-love looks like you taking some me time, that’s what you need to do. In relationships we all need our own time but when you don’t have enough self love and aren’t being active in your self love, the second your mate isn’t doing what he or she needs you get upset.  What you haven’t recognized is that you may not have loved on yourself and therefore what you lack isn’t love from an outside source but from yourself.  Your personal love cup is empty.

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This is a new journey that I am taking.  When you start to love yourself even the mundane everyday interactions that you tolerated before will cause your eyes to open.  You start setting limits on how much time you are in one place because you see that the person or location no longer serves you.  This is the by-product of loving you.  Our society always seems to put more on an emphasis on what others do, how they do, and when but not enough on what you require, how often, and when.  Change the way you look at yourself.

When you self-love you can see your flaws, work towards making them better, but still embrace them. Self love isn’t always a come to Jesus moment either.  Self love also involves making some drastic changes and changes that sting and hurt in the beginning. For instance, how can you love on you but don’t care what you consume?  These type of bad habits have to stop when you love on you more. Tap into what YOU need and not what people have set limitations for what THEY think you need.  If a part of you needs to finish school so that can be a goal that you cross off for you, than do that.

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I was walking in the store this morning.  I heard a woman tell the cashier how her husband doesn’t like it when she reads.  First thing that came to mind was what in the unholy hell is that?  How can a man tell his wife that he doesn’t like her reading. Then I stopped because I have no idea what is going on in their home, if it’s a cultural thing, or if she really is in an unsafe environment.  What I did hear is that she said that what he wanted didn’t stop her. She gets up early almost an hour before he does and reads anyway in another room.  She takes books to her job and uses her lunch time.  She uses her E-reader to read and he thinks she is web surfing.  I could go in on her oppressed like home, but she did something about it that made her happy in spite of the environment she was in. What about you who aren’t living in an oppressed environment.  Are you willing to get up early, stay up late, change your schedule, make yourself temporarily uncomfortable to give YOU what you need?  I mean apart of the process of self-love is learning how to tune out the negative thoughts that come from you and those who you seem to want approval from.

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Self love should be the first love you master and re-master over and over again.  This will take loveless relationships and end them fast.  You can’t dip yourself in love and allow someone to give you less than what you give yourself.  Maybe you need to re-check your self-love meter.  If you compromise on you than don’t go off on someone else who does what you allow them and you to do to yourself.  Have you ever been asked what makes you happy but don’t have an answer to give?  I am not talking about winning the lottery.  I am talking about the type of things that make you happy that money can’t buy yet when asked you go blank.  Your self love bank is empty and you need a refill.  What makes you happy? What are your passions?  What makes you at peace when the world is going to hell in a handbag?  I am going to clue you in even as a wife and mom although I love my titles, it’s going to have to be more than changing some diapers and loving on my husband to make me happy.  Relationships change and kids grow.  Simply and only being caught up in either title will leave my self love meter empty.  Why do you think the divorce rate is high when couples get into the empty nest phase.  One they may have not put in enough energy in their relationships or themselves.  However it rolls out to be, self love is the MOST important love you will ever encounter.

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Dreams can be messages!!

So how often do you dream?  Not just the type of dreams where you write down your heart’s desire.  I am talking about the type of dreams where you lay down and visions come to you.  Often times if I am dreaming it’s about little quirky stuff and most of them I do not remember.  However this past weekend that wasn’t the case.

I had something on my heart and mind and it had been bothering me all day.  So when I went to sleep I expected the same as I’ve always had and that was just to go to sleep and nothing more and nothing less.  This weekend I had a dream where I was visited by influential people in my life who all had a message about self-preservation.  I mean it was vivid and I can still remember all of the details and specifically the conversation.

The dream wasn’t about how I can get another person back but how to get me back on track.  I don’t feel as if I have fallen off the wagon but I do know that I have had severe moments of allowing my environment to dictate my attitude.  The whole house can then be subjected to how I feel.  So in the dream the message was simple, find out what is making me unhappy and deal with it.  Don’t deal with it to evoke change in the other person but deal with things that will evoke peace in my personal life.  We all have moments where we allow the lack of change we see in others to deter our spirits when in reality we need to be the change we want to see.

This message can be applied all over in so many different ways.  Stop allowing others to move you to the point where you give them the very ammunition to be able to say the negative things that you actually do.  For instance stop allowing others to pull on you to the point where you have an adult tantrum.  Then get mad and say well they are judging you.  No.  They aren’t judging you.  You are showing them your behind because you couldn’t get your way.  You have an ugly disposition about you.  You are all ruffled up over things you can’t even change, just stop.  It’s time to keep your sense of wit.  It’s not easy to allow things around you to happen and feel like you have no control.  I know I am a control freak but that makes others around you feel a certain way.  Do not keep allowing people to change your atmosphere.  You really can’t control everything but there is one person that you can and that person is in the mirror.  You can control your responses.  You can control your attitude.  You can control how you interact with others.  You got you.  Oh by the way I definitely felt a thousand times better when I woke up.  I had fallen asleep on the couch which is not what I would have generally been happy about except I felt so super rested that it didn’t matter.  I wanted to do the running man after gettting the very answers and how to proceed in my life.

I swear to you when I woke up from that dream I thought I was in a total different location. It was so super real to me.  However it was all a dream in my Biggie voice.  That dream was one of the most defining moments in my life this week. It is the drive that will get me to complete a few goals.  What do you have answers for?  Where do your answers come from? If you are open often times, the answer are right inside of you.  You know the answers it’s just a matter of making it happen.  What are you going to do?

College Final Words

So when I graduated I was the happiest person in the world.  I thought about every stressful situation, every heartache, every defeat, every victory and it made me realize just how strong I was to get through it all.  I was happy to finally have my degree.  The very next semester I cried walking in a Walmart because there was no more school.  I know I am a rare person most folks would have rolled over and slept or even just went to work but I didn’t.  College had really been so much fun and a place for me to learn about myself.

I literally wouldn’t be the woman I am had I not gone through the experience.  It helped me to see others for who they really were too.  One of the biggest things I got from Penn State outside of the education was a lifetime supply of friends. College isn’t for everyone. I don’t look down on anyone who hasn’t gone. It seems like a party all the time but it’s not. It’s hard work.  There are many students who start out and don’t finish.  I would be lying if I told you that there were many days I wanted to quit.  I cried a lot.  I was stressed.  I had disappointing times.  End of the day it was something that I wanted so I fought and won.  If you want to take the journey into college whether that’s community classes, a big or small university or college it’s your choice to make.  Make sure to be clear what you want and if you decide to change your mind that’s fine too, but be sure and prepared to do the work to graduate.  To some college is just a piece of paper but I call it the proving grounds. If you are a graduate of higher education do NOT let anyone make you feel bad for attending.  You did the work and like me may even be a first generation college student. I had many people tell me how stuck up I was.  I had people say I thought I was too good.  I wasn’t.  I simply made my plan and with detours in the way made it happen.

To incoming freshman embrace this new life you are about to embark on.  It is the most challenging and most rewarding one yet.

My last key things to remember:

Breaks: It doesn’t matter if its Fall, Spring or Holiday breaks take them.  Try to spend time with family but also go on one trip with your new friends.  It is the time to have a blast so don’t waste it sitting on campus unless you are working getting your coins.

Meal Plans: I had one of the biggest meal plans but like most colleges they have places off campus where you can use them and of course they eat up your points.  Try to do this every now and again or prepare to eat Ramen noodles and spaghetti O’s.

Refunds: It seems like a big check in the beginning but once you account for all of your needs during the semester which will also include entertainment try to budget especially if you don’t have a job or work-study.

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Off Campus Apartments: Make sure you either have a reliable car or get familiar with the bus system in your town.  Make sure that you pick convenient living arrangements.

Roommates: Do not always choose your closest friends to live with.  I did and had no issues but just because you are friends does not mean you can live with one another. I have seen friendships end fast.  You do not know how another person lives.  I was a neat freak it drove my roommates crazy but we were able to live together.

Romance: If you read my college blogs you know that I ended up marrying my college sweetheart but not everyone ends up with that love story.  Make sure the one you decide to make public and date on campus is on the same page.  Dating should never interfere with your grades.  So if you are dating someone who is encouraging you to let your grades slack you already know what to do.  You both came to get an education so get it.  Be balanced.  Yo do not need  to be joined at the hip.  Separate us time, me time, friends time, school time, and maybe work time.  This is practice for when you get into the real world or get married its the same expectations.  If you were interested in certain activities continue them. Keep the campus folks out of your business.  Rumors spread faster on campuses so be aware of what you allow out.

Laundry: Many students do not take laundry into account. Most campuses have machines that take cards, points or some type of monetary exchange.  Please consider the options. Mom and dad love you but no wants to see a semester worth of clothes coming home.