Week 8: Storr Summer Adventure

So yes we I have started the plunge of Back to School shopping that means Summer is almost over. With that in mind I have started my fall back on paying events because I like to save more now and until I know what Back to School will cost, I cut back for 2 weeks than we pick it back up! I know that seems strange to do but my system works and has worked for years! Week 8 we spent a hefty $14.38!

Monday

We went to the library and attended the end of Summer Reading Party. We have been going to the library weekly and completing fun tasks that gave them a free book each week. This is in addition to Week 7’s Barnes and Nobles. Reading has been pushed it’s hardest this Summer and my requirement is simple. Just read what you love. It worked! Thanks to Eastwick Library there were we least 30 kids in attendance!

Nothing more fun than Ritas water ice and Philadelphia Pretzels

They also gifted them one last book!

Tuesday

It was a park day! A day of working out as well as physical activity for them! It waa hot but we got it done!

Wednesday

I had a blog event at the Philadelphia Zoo and I was able to take the kids. In addition to being able to visit the new Gorilla Tree House they toured the rest of the zoo for an ultimate win! It was super hot but we were armed and ready with food, snacks, and water!

Thursday

We went to the James Shuler Memorial Gym Back to School event! They did an amazing job! The kids enjoyed the time with the boxers! They are also celebrating their 25th anniversary! More to come with a separate blog!

I had an event Thursday night with Diva Girl Philly as we learned to not get stuck! It was informative and relaxing.

I was able to relax afterwards at my favorite spot: Piazza Pod Park!

Friday

I wanted it to be laid back plus Marques Sr. was sick! These kids had me cracking up! They played hard and in addition convinced me to chase the incream truck down! It was worth it I was able to get an old school bomb pop! Total $14.38!!

So between work, the blog, the kids; life is always moving!! We will wind down a bit for week 9 but end the Summer with a bang and an amazing recap of all money spent. I’m on a mission to spend less but not cheapen the fun!

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Knowing Yourself College Edition

What I know now is no where what I knew in college about myself. In college is where you begin to take the veil off of your eyes to what you learned all your life to what you want to be in life. It’s a line that crosses to merge the two and the journey is a battle!

I left high school and entered Penn State university and this was what I knew at the time: I was a straight A student since 2nd grade, I was a daughter of ministers, and I was goal oriented. That was my identity. I didn’t know I could be Toi and have my past be my identity while learning who I wanted to be. I could date if I wanted to and define what dating meant to me. I could party and still be an amazing student. I could be goal oriented and want to find joy in all things and I didn’t have to choose.

Growing up in a strict household and having everything be about church wasn’t the issue. The issue is my church in particular only preached Hell and marriage as the basis of life. Everything was Hell and being married because marriage was great was the focus. I watched couples who shouldn’t have been married run and get married just cause they wanted to date and dating wasn’t allowed unless it was for the purpose of marriage. Most of those marriages didn’t make it! Truth hurts! You wasn’t allowed to date just because two people had an interest in one another! You couldn’t see where things went. Every date doesn’t end in a proposal! It actually breeds unhealthy dating relationships in other areas!

As a college student my focus was going to college, completing a degree and finding a husband. The reality is I could form my life on my terms and college is where SOME find husbands but the reality is getting my degree was key, finding myself, and enjoying the experience should have been the focus. Now that also means learning how to incorporate my love of God into a balanced life. No one not one preacher at my church taught it. So many of us went to college and struggled. Some dropped out! Some completed and got shunned for breaking away from what we were taught! Some still have resentment for that period of their life.

I struggled without support. I should have been supported into being able to be an adult and make healthy choices instead of thinking even healthy choices were dooming me to Hell. I should have also been encouraged to just be free instead of this pressure of if you are dating and it’s not for marriage than I was doomed. Great respect to those who married young but as an 18 year old passport stamps, girl trips, and fun while maintaining my grades should have been the focus! I choose to try to please everyone and in the end I wasn’t happy!

So freshman year I meet this amazing guy. Rewind, I met amazing guys. I literally messed up relationships because the thought that I could multi date was foreign. Men do it and are applauded. Women do it and they are a hoe. You do know women can date multiple folks and not have sex with them if she doesn’t want to? It exist! Women do it all the time. I lied to my parents about my relationship with my then boyfriend who is now my husband and then covered it and that was one is the most horrible experiences I went through! Shout out to the folks around me who called me out! Grateful for getting through! Grateful for even the friends lost during that heavy transition if I’m honest!!

Why am I talking about this for college students?! Take your time to enjoy your time on campus. Even if you find an amazing person you don’t have to commit to them right off the bat. I love my husband now and then as a boyfriend but I should have allowed myself the opportunity to do whatever I wanted. Our love was intense. College years are different than normal dating time. The connection for me was intense. We were in classes together, we were in the same scholarship program, so we were together alllll the time! When we loved hard it was great and we fought hard too! Instead of being sneaky just be an adult! It’s understandable that you are going to find yourself in situations that your parents aren’t going to approve of. I would be lying if I pretended that wouldn’t happen. No matter what you get into I know you will be okay. You will find a way out! Don’t do anything you as an individual aren’t proud of. Do what you can stand on. If you can’t be proud of a decision don’t do it! Don’t do anything to make someone prouder than you feel looking in a mirror-EVER!

Make every decision on what makes you happy, safe, and fulfilled! Stay on top of your studies! You are there to learn. Don’t start the journey by going into a field that someone else has for you. The biggest lie you can tell is the one that has you lying to yourself! You can’t keep up a lifestyle that only honors those around you! Trust me the heartaches, lost friends and friendships, broken promises, and general dishonor to yourself isn’t worth it. When I think about those beginning years of how in the end I dishonored myself saving my reputation from folks I later found out was doing the same makes me parent my kids differently, live with purpose and makes me grateful I figured it out!! FYI this isn’t about my parents doing something wrong this is about a I needed to do right by me!

For every decision right or wrong I fully own! As a college student I learned how to break out and be okay being who I wanted to be. I learned that I like what I like and daily instead of packaging myself to make others happy I make sure I can live daily with myself! College is more about getting to that aha moment than what your GPA is! But don’t sleep on your studies! The best opportunities come for those who do the work. So do your work literally. Don’t skip a bunch of classes-at least not all the time. You get out what you put into it in every aspect!

If you’re returning to campus return and start the process of what makes you-you! Don’t show up on campus for your parents, your church, your community more than you show up for yourself! Not one person is getting your grades and they definitely won’t help wipe shame off your soul when you live on their terms. Not one!

To my parents who send your kids with the do as I say do cause I’m paying for it: you will get a better child, a better person; when you support your child where they are. If you want to not “waste” your money invest in your adult child where they feel like they will thrive. Support them in mistakes. If your child has to lie to you it isn’t just because they are a liar it too may mean you aren’t fostering an environment conducive to having an open engaged communication!

To my husband who at the time was my boyfriend-you stuck by my side and didn’t hold it against me when I couldn’t be authentic! You loved me during that time and hadn’t we not married now I would have still had nothing but the most upmost love and respect for you!

To my parents: the life you gave me protected me for a point of life. As much as I could easily blame you for my inauthentic ways life showed me that I would be faced with more inauthentic areas that belonged to me and only me. I would love to go back and stand up for myself. The only thing I regret was not doing it sooner. I love that you gave me a great foundation and for that I will always honor that!

To my Penn State friends who stood by my side you are amazing! I definitely know we have made each other life friends! The love we experienced life together! If it hadn’t pressed through together we wouldn’t be as close as we are now!

My parents birthed me and gave me the foundation I still have in many ways. Penn State refined me. Life polished me and now as a parent I get to redo little mes!!

Go back to college or step into college and take the journey for what it is. You will fail in many ways and you will succeed in a lot of them. As you continue the journey get grounded. Make new friends. Find ways to travel. Take that internship! Study Abroad! Go to that party! Date that guy/girl just because! Smile and take the lumps because it all will mold you into a dynamic person!

Philadelphia Zoo and the New Gorilla Tree House

When you think about the zoo of course animals come to mind. There is no zoo without them. Providing the animals a place that is safe, clean, and gives them a better space to thrive is important to their well being. The Philadelphia Zoo is doing all they can to ensure the needs of the animals are their top priority. With that being said, the new Gorilla Tree House aids in the Gorillas having enough space to roam and play.

This 20 foot structure is everything that the gorillas need to play, eat, and have the time of their lives! I was there as I watched the gorillas interact with each other. They jumped from the new treehouse as well as played! It was amazing to see. I even spoke to one of the gorillas handlers about how contrary to popular belief they eat vegetables and not fruit. They enjoy eating mostly in the morning hours and they spend about 1/3 of their day resting. I also learned that in the gorilla groupings it’s usually in the case of the Philadelphia Zoo one male to two females and their babies.

Pictured are my three kids, Marques, Naila, and Noelle along with one of the gorilla handlers; Kelsey Wise. Not pictured is Kristen Farley-Rambo another gorilla handler

To start the festivities of the opening of the Gorilla Tree House was Michael Stern. Michael is the Curator of Primates. You can tell he loves what he does. It has to be interesting to be designated as the one to ensure that the Primates have all that they need! He was so energetic and funny. You can catch his speech on my Instagram! I enjoyed the fact that he was so knowledgeable about the primates and has a heart for them.

Pictured are my children again and Michael Stern as he shows the kids how to beat their chest like gorillas do

The Gorillas that are at the Philadelphia Zoo are grouped into a family: Motuba, Honi, Kira, Amani, and Ajabu. There are also 2 bachelor males; Louis and Kuchimba!

Pictured is Louis

Pictured is Ajabu hanging out

Between the fun of watching these animals swing, play, run, and jump in their habitats it appears that they will he loving this new structure for quite some time. The Philadelphia Zoo is committed to the change and as the habitats around us changes so will the Philadelphia Zoo in keeping align with change.

So in addition to the Gorilla Tree House you can see and learn a lot about the Philadelphia Zoo and the rest of the animals. Remember they also have amazing new food trucks at the Urban Green that offer top of the line food options to help keep you stay healthy and full! The Zoo Key is back and that is vital in helping you not just take pictures of animals but an interactive way to learn. If you want to be interactive yourself don’t forget to stop at the KidZoo U, Wildworks Rope Course, the Swan Boats, and it’s the home of the Zoo 360 Animal Trails. There is something for everyone. Your patronage at the Zoo helps the animals and a way to keep the Western Lowland Gorillas who are considered dangerously critically endangered a place to thrive!

Thank you to the Philadelphia Zoo and Aversa PR for the invite. Thank you to the generous donors; the Korman Family, Tom Hartman, and AnnMarie Byrnes, Lisa Gemmill and the Ruth Solomon Foundation!

Week 7: Storr Summer Adventure

So it’s week 7 already? Summer isn’t playing with none of us. Between the kids fun during the week, blogging events, and weekend fun no one in my house can be bored! This week’s total was $74.37!

Monday

Park time. I knew it would be hot so instead of going out later I decided we would go to the park first thing. I was able to get my 3 miles in and they were able to run and play. It felt good to switch up our day and I was able to switch up my work day as well! They enjoyed it and then went home had lunch and read their books and played together!

Tuesday

Today we took it to the bowling alley. Two games for free, shoe rental, and dino bowling helper for $22! They brought a friend of Noelle so it cost us $14 so for the day $36 total and hours of fun! 40 min drive due to traffic both ways armed with packed snacks and water made for an afternoon outing full of fun! Watching them be competitive was hilarious! The way they kept trying to beat each other had me in tears!

Wednesday

Let’s get to reading. They have been reading about 4 books a week and the younger two have their Summer book reports complete! We made a stop to the library to return books and get new ones! The librarian definitely knows us at this point! I’m glad that I finally stopped in instead of going to other libraries near us. Also through the library’s Summer reading program another free book to add to their collection. At least we were able to get done before the storm came! We also stopped to have lunch at Burger King well they did anyway! Total was $14.26. I had Salad Works for $12.12! Combined total is 26.38!

Thursday

We decided to switch it up. They had balances on their Five Below card so I decided to let them spend it. They each got one toy, a snack and I brought drinks with us. This was after they spent the morning reading and doing their math while I worked! They spent 30 min inside that store because they were making sure they got the “right toy.” I added about 11.99 for whatever wasn’t covered with the gift cards!

Barnes and Nobles is doing a Summer reading challenge. For reading 8 books of any kind, you get to choose one book from a list of books for free! I love this. Between the library’s challenge, Barnes and Nobles and me just making reading a priority they have been doing amazing! Taking them to one of my absolute favorite stores always makes me happy!

Friday

It was a chill day. It was also my anniversary so I wanted to rest and relax. No working for me just spent the day watching them create forts in the living room, reading, we ate in the living room I rarely never let them do and just laughed and had a great time!

We did pretty good and as the Summer gets closer to a close I will be switching more family related activities and focusing on the weekend events! However I’m determined to still get them out and about and I found some new free events to do so!!

I hope you enjoyed this week and I can’t wait to recap the entire Summer!! You can have fun by doing something that you love and a little research!!

Amp up your Self Care

This weekend I found myself caught between love and self care. I celebrated my 7th wedding anniversary so all the lovey and dovey feelings came flooding in. But I also needed to reorganize and bolster my self care.

I needed to increase it and with all that is going on in the world it’s super necessary to feed our souls often. I find that it’s imaginable to think that we can exist only merely being an extension to others. We have to show ourselves more grace, understanding and love that others pull from us. It’s like being on a plane and making sure that everyone else on the plane has oxygen but depleting our own. This is self sabotage. You can be booked and busy but still need rest and recharging! It’s not selfish to bolster self care back into your soul.

Defeated

Sometimes we feel defeated because we have forgotten we need to renew our reasons why! Why do you want to pursue your goal? What does it mean to you? How much work are you prepated to do? How hard is your drive? These are the things that must be thought about and re-evaluated daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly!

Re-alignment

What can you do to take some pressure off of yourself? Can you collaborate with someone else? Ask for help? Prioritize? Take a break? Make a to do list? Whatever you need to do; do it today! You have to be one with yourself to get things done. An organized mindset and working environment can help!

Burnout

Burnout is real! You can blow a fuse without the right amount of energy flowing in your life. Moderation in all things will help create balance! Learning to drink and eat and have a spiritual connection will be key to creating balance! We all need balance! We need structure! If you go hard for a few weeks solid schedule some mental time off. It may not mean take a day off but it could mean schedule some rest stops! You could schedule a nap, an hour of quiet, reading a good book, a massage, an appointment in your favorite spot, or time to just watch something you enjoy! Whatever is is you need it!

You will burnout trying to take on the world especially if you don’t fill your cup up of those things that make you smile. Even if you have someone in your life having things that you like that that doesn’t require your significant other’s participating is better!

Sunday Message: In the Middle of Tears

Crying is a release. It cleanses us from the inside out. It doesn’t mean that after the tears are shed that it changes our circumstances! It does mean we have a temporary relief. Some of my best moves have come from tears.

Life is hard! It comes with ups and downs. I used to view crying as a sign of weakness. That’s not the case! Tears for me personally means I’m hurting and I’m overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed for many especially if no sign of comfort is nearby is what makes people stay in the feeling of hopelessness! It’s a terrible feeling. I’ve felt that sense of not having hope. It’s scary and often times it feels lonely. I would be lying if I acted as if the tears were inspirational all the time. They don’t feel like it!

I’m grateful for the times I’ve been able to cry and let it out and in addition to that dried my face and faced my shortcomings, failures, or humiliation! That isn’t weak at all that takes strength! It takes strength to say I’ve messed up and I’m not measuring up! You don’t know what and how others will view you! That is scary! But I am a witness you can look at the bottom and see the top even in darkness. In darkness if have had to ask God to turn on my night vision! That’s why when you are riding in life in light to build yourself up for those dark days! They are coming!! We also experience it!

So if you’re in a dark time right now-I understand! It’s not a great place but remember the time before this? Guess what? You come out! I know you see no way out but it’s coming! A way out is always near even if it seems out of reach! I pray night vision in your darkest time! Grace is there to carry you! This is why the whole cancel culture doesn’t make sense! Be mad at what a person has done but the same grace that covers me in my mess is the same grace that covers others! You can lose everything and be at the bottom but with work, forgiveness, and love you can shine. You might shine with humility or different support but you can still shine!

Happy Sunday! Make it your best!!

Giving you The Best That I Got…Year 7!

It’s year 7 and I must say as much as I would love to downplay it, I’m not! I wish I could take a behind the scenes of the early years. I do all I can to not let that old couple pop up. Between not communicating and just yelling and being a team player on paper but not in thought or deed…whew I’m grateful for days like today.

I immediately listened to one of my artist, Anita Baker. When I was younger anytime she and most other R&B artist was played I knew it meant it was time to clean. When I was a kid I told myself I knew who I would married by whether or not I wanted to sing that song to him….thus music became an association I made in a lot of situations. I still do! Anyway the growth as a woman and a person that I’ve made makes me so incredibly happy. I know the trials I’ve made over the years. I can now sing those sounds in confidence since back then my momma reminded me I ain’t know what I was talking about. Now I’m working towards more knowledge AND practice daily!

Now that I am putting into the work I can honestly say I’m giving my husband the best that I got daily. It may not be perfect but the energy to be better daily is what makes the huge difference. I wasn’t doing that as often before. It was a rush to point to him as the reason or if he wasn’t the reason in my mind he needed to fix it. How in the world he was supposed to fix me is beyond me but these type of unstable requests and wars was going on.

Year 7 means a sense of completion. Although we have waves to go through a small sense of accomplishment exists. I am giving the best that I got to myself daily. It’s not selfish to practice self care so we all can live in peace. He benefits from making sure I check my energy and attitude as he does the same. It helps two VERY different people to be able to coexist. We are friends! We have our own language. We have our own code words. We laugh at things that we alone might only find funny! We want the best for one another. As long as we keep that going we can continue this partnership.

20 years of friendship, 7 years of marriage and 3 beautiful children and a lifetime to go!!

So as we celebrate year 7 enjoy my favorite artist-love you Mr. Storr!!

He Said…

I love that you try to find the joy in everything and bring a positive attitude to all that are around you.