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March 2017

Inspiration and Motivation

The Measures of Success…By Whose Standards?

March 30, 2017

Many times I have heard individuals whether close family, friends, or on social media speak about being successful. However, the question still lingers in my mind…“What is true success?”

As glamorous and lucrative as the lives of many celebrities, or other ‘well off’ persons may seem, I have come to learn that we have to be careful of how we define and measure success. Additionally, we have to be transparent with ourselves on whose standards we are using to define this very complicated and at times disillusioned topic.   If not, we can find ourselves in the unfortunate situation of being a hamster on a wheel, as we desperately try and catch up to the world’s standards of success.

Another thing, when it comes to being ‘successful’ something that is often overlooked is “What is the cost of achieving this great success?” Furthermore, what is one willing to sacrifice in order to achieve that ‘true’ goal of victory?  Again, we see the glamorous, lucrative side of success being constantly thrown in our faces everywhere we turn nowadays. However, as the old saying goes “Not everything that glitters is gold”, so it is with success.

So, what is one willing to pay, to achieve their “Mount Everest”? Sleep, quality time, health, children, spouses, morality, happiness, the list can go on and on.  Yes, everything does come with a price, but how can we ensure that the required price does not destroy us, and/or those around us that we love so dearly? How can we accomplish our biggest dreams in life without losing the most staple people or assets in it? Someone once told me that, it is very lonely at the top.   Well, does it really have to be, or is it what the world’s success recipe demands?

Another favorite well known saying of mine is… “In life everything should be a balance”.  In my personal life experiences, this has proven to be very true. When I went solely after success in the form of schooling and job promotion, my life became imbalanced and abruptly disrupted. The people and things that I so dearly cherish felt as if they were slipping through my finger tips—as water slips through the hand of a person trying to hold it hostage in their palm.

Now for the million dollar question… Can we have success and live a meaningful and happy life with those who we love and care so deeply about?  In further thought, will we reach the pinnacle of our success mountain by ourselves? Hmm, is attaining everything that you ever wanted in life, all worth it if you truly do not have anyone of significance to share it with?

I strongly believe that you can maintain a meaningful and happy life, while being successful.  However, the individual has to constantly remember one very important thing—“quality or quantity” (one of my father-in-law’s staple quotes).   In other words, when the quality of your life starts going down, quickly recalculate to determine where you have gone wrong, or where you may need to modify— because wealth and success does NOT buy true happiness.

So how can we be successful and still maintain a well-balanced and meaningful life?

Emma Seppala, the science director for Standard University explains it in 7 straight forwards steps:

1. Live (or work) in the moment

Instead of always thinking about what’s next on your to-do list, focus on the task or conversation at hand. You will become not only more productive but also more charismatic.

2. Tap into your resilience.

Instead of living in overdrive, train your nervous system to bounce back from setbacks. You will naturally reduce stress and thrive in the face of difficulties and challenges.

3. Manage your energy.

Instead of engaging in states of mind that exhaust you, learn to manage your stamina by remaining calm and centered. You’ll be able to save precious mental energy for the tasks that need it most.

4. Do nothing.

Instead of spending all your time focused intently on your work, make time for idleness, fun, and irrelevant interests. You will become more creative and innovative and will be more likely to come up with breakthrough ideas.

5. Be good to yourself.

Instead of being self-critical, be compassionate with yourself. You will improve your ability to excel in the face of challenge and be more likely to learn from mistakes.

6. Step outside your comfort zone.

We tend to think we’re good at only certain things, and we play it safe when we should be taking risks. Understand that your brain is built to learn new things — that’s how we attain new skills and expertise.

7. Show compassion to others.

Instead of focusing on yourself, express compassion to and show interest in those around you, and maintain supportive relationships.

In reflecting upon my life, I look at why I am still on the path to achieving my goals, when I would have be more than likely done and deep in my career of choice by now. However, I made a conscious decision years ago to choose “quality” or “quantity”. I have come to realize, that what is it for me to gain the whole world, but not have those whom I love the most by my side to share it with them. So, in light of the dedication and love that I have for my family and friends, I had to scale it back a little at times. Let me say for the record to ‘scale it back’ does not mean quitting, because I am not a quitter, never was, and never will be. I still have my eye on the prize and I know I am going to get there soon. I stopped measuring myself against the world’s standard of success (which was and still is challenging), and I have decided long ago to create my own measurement unit. That unit includes the health and happiness of myself, and of those around me who I love and cherish.   I may not have a huge house, or a $500,000 car to show as a determinant of my success. However, that is okay, because I determine my own standard of success, and I could care less what the world has to say about it.

What does success mean to you? Have you found your own standards of success to adapt to, or is the world’s standards puppet strings still attached to your life? I encourage everyone to make a list to help define what constitutes real success for you. You will be surprised of the clarity this brings forth in your lives. Overall, please stay true to who you are as you navigate your own pathways of success.

 

References

Economy, Peter (2016) Want To Be Happy And Successful? Science Say To Do These 7 Things. Retrieved on March 29, 2017 from http://www.inc.com/peter-economy/want-to-be-happy-and-successful-science-says-do-these-7-things.html

 

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Inspiration and Motivation

Living On Auto-pilot

March 26, 2017

Last Wednesday was one of the most overwhelming days I have had to face in a long time. 

You may be wondering,  ” what made your day so overwhelming? “

My normal routine consists of waking up, worshipping with my sister and grandma on the phone, getting the kids ready to home school, and teaching all day. After school, we then run errands, head to the YMCA, head back home, and then wind down for bed.  The issue was, on top of my already busy day, there were so many unaccounted factors that crept into my day!!  To make matters even more trying, the kids were off the wall!

I literally wanted to yell, cry, scream, and punch that wall.

Instead, I had to breathe, keep it cool and smile.

How many of us get so sucked into the routine of life that we feel overwhelmed, frustrated and sometimes we even forget to live? 

Some of us become so fixated on all the cares and responsibilities of life (work, motherhood, fatherhood, church responsibilities, uplifting others…etc.) that we forget who WE are. 

We live each day in a zone, while each moment passes by without active mind processes. It’s more like what my good friend told me… “our brains are on autopilot”.

I just want to share some advice with you that I am literally working towards incorporating into my own life.  

1. Take time to hear your own voice

If your life is so busy, where there are constantly things going on in your day; you’re always working, thinking and doing something you need to take a break.  With all that going on you will probably have no time to hear your own voice. Hearing your own voice is a moment where you can actually listen to your inner voice. You can hear your breathing, internalize how you actually feel at that given moment. You can take the time to answer some of the questions you’re asking yourself. You can process what is going on around you and apply it. It is very important to hear what YOU have to say. 

I personally know that for me, I spend so much time doing for my children, doing for my husband and doing for others that I don’t even know what I’m saying to myself. I don’t have time to hear my own voice.  We really have to take the time to hear ourselves, as this is vital for our sanity.

2. Take time to actually think- (Brain Challenge) 

We have to take the time to think about things and to challenge our brains.  The brain is a muscle. In order for a muscle to grow it has to be exercised. If we don’t exercise it, the muscle will suffer atrophy or become smaller. We cannot afford for our brains to shrink. 

Sometimes we become complacent in life. We have a degree, or our career and we just stop exercising that brain muscle.  

Sometimes, when you’re a stay at home mom, this can become a problem. I actually realized this need to challenge my brain and I have been given the opportunity to become a group fitness certified instructor.   I’ve been studying, and seeking to accomplish as this is truly a way for me to exercise my brain.

3. Take time to do something for you.

I am guilty of this.  My girlfriends schooled me on this topic. Like for real.  Sometimes as mothers, we find ourselves doing so much for our children,  and our husbands, and even for our extended family or friends, that we forget to take care of ourselves.  If we are currently working, we are fixated on work, or if we are a church leader in some capacity, our life becomes consumed with planning and preparation.  

Doing, doing, doing so much to help others (which is great by that way) but  the question remains,  what about you? 

” Oooh we have to live a selfless life”

Yes I agree with that to a certain extent but…

You can’t be selfless if you don’t have yourself!!

YOU HAVE TO TAKE TIME AND DO SOMETHING FOR YOU! 

Can a battery operate on 1%?  Can a car drive with the gas tank on E?

Leave behind the routine of life, and do something for you. Get a manicure and pedicure!  Treat yourself to a massage! Go eat at a restaurant with some friends or even by yourself if you so choose.  Do something for you!

4. Take time to express yourself, your feelings and emotions (don’t bottle them up inside) 

Women are emotional beings, even though occasionally you may find that some women lack that emotional component.  However, women are emotional. It is essential to have an outlet, or a means to express what we are feeling, as keeping them inside can be detrimental to your life. 

If you have a spouse, they should be your number 1 go to for emotional release.  If you’re not married, then a friend perhaps, or if you believe in God, then talk to him.  Write it down in a journal, whatever you have to do, get it out.

If you know me personally, you would probably say I’m tough.  I seem to weather the storm well.  But I’m confessing today that I’m emotional!!! And sometimes I just need to get it out!!! 

“Aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh”

Okay. I feel better now. 

5. Take time to say no

I know we like to do whatever is asked of us to do, but sometimes we just have to say “no”.  We as mere humans would find it near impossible to do everything that individuals ask of us. 

We have to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.

6. Free yourself of other people’s opinions. 

Someone else’s opinions should not dictate your choices.  You cannot live under the preface of what someone else thinks, or you will spend your life forever trying to please others.  Live with purpose, stand true to your morals and values, and love others. 

“You can really derail your life by trying to live up to people’s perceptions of you ” -K.C.

Live in freedom, and DO not base how you live on anyone else’s opinion of you.

It’s time to shift gears. It’s time to get out of autopilot.  It’s time to live with purpose again.  It’s time to hear your own voice.  

Change your gear into drive and start living. Find your rhythm and groove to run this race… that we all know so well as life.

You will be so much happier when you do!

~Candace Mezetin 

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Inspiration and Motivation

The True Power of Forgiveness

March 23, 2017

Finding the right topic to write about each week can definitely be challenging as one never knows how, or when an idea will come to them.   However, as the end of the week started creeping closer, I began to worry a little, as God knows that I did not have a clear topic to write about this week.   That quickly changed yesterday afternoon, over brunch with my loving friend/neighbor.   The true power of forgiveness, and its ability to transform a life that is riddled with pain, grief, regrets, and animosity is amazing.

While at lunch with my friend/neighbor at Panera, we touched on many topics of discussion.   We first started out with pregnancy, and how her past pregnancy affected her, and how my past ones and now present pregnancy is affecting me. We had a little pow wow session about the strength of women, and what it takes to actually endure a full term pregnancy (for many this is not an easy mountain to climb), and yes we also spent a moment on the rewards and challenges of motherhood.  We then went on to converse about her past and her ex-husband—and all that she and their son suffered at the hands of him and his mother.   She poured out her heart as we spoke, and did not hold anything back.   She spoke about how she overcame the stages of grief as she coped with her husband leaving her, and their one-year-old son high and dry.   She bravely talked about the 6 years where she held on to the hope of him returning, while he fathered other children in the span of that time— and a mother-in-law who clearly did not want to see her succeed.

My dear friend/neighbor endured a lot as a single mother raising a young boy.   Thankfully, she had a supportive family that stood behind her all the way.   Today, 8 years later her son is a beautiful young man, who is so wise beyond his years. The love of family, and especially the love of her older brother who treated his nephew like one of his own children, truly helped to shape and mold her son’s character –REAL SACRIFICIAL love truly surpasses all…no matter how bad the situation may be!

Then she touched on her heart, and the past anger and resentment that she had harbored there for her ex-husband and his mother.   She told me that there were nights that the hate was so strong in her heart that she would wake up with the most terrible stomach pains.   It was literally as if the hate was killing her.   The great Nelson Mandela once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping that it kills your enemies”.   Hmmm…food for thought.

Thankfully, the story did not end there. She began attending church and left all her problems, regrets, and resentments at the feet of God.   That is when she began to experience relief from the pain in her heart.   She truly let go and let God take control! What faith and strength!

As I listened to her recap her life, my heart ached because I also witnessed and knew this hurt so well.   You see… my mother went through similar circumstances. As a little girl, I witnessed a tremendous amount of abuse in my life, and was also the recipient of it.   Some people can put you through certain inhumane circumstances in your life that hating them feels like the only logical and natural thing to do. Again, just keeping it 100% real.   Well, thankfully I was able to find that inner peace and trust in God, that He would handle it all.   I was able to let go and love those people that truly hurt my mother, siblings, and myself.

There is also a saying that goes…”Forgive and Forget”. Well, I believe in forgiving, but to forget that is a different story.   Just because one may not forget the traumatic experiences in their life does not mean that they have not forgiven.   I wanted to make that very clear.   I use myself, and my neighbor as an example.   We have not forgotten the hurt that certain individuals put us through, but we have forgiven them, and love them despite the fact of whether or not they deserve it.   To truly forgive means that you can be in a room, or see the person who inflicted such deep emotional/physical wounds, and not wish death or extreme agony upon them.   You are able to rise above the hate, and love with a genuine heart.

This type of forgiveness I might add is hard to achieve solely within ourselves. We are broken and unstable beings. I believe that it takes the unconditional love of God living within our hearts to truly love like He does— in order to forgive the unforgivable. Most of the world may not understand how that mother and father could drop those criminal charges against the drunk driver that killed their beloved child—but REAL SACRIFICAL love transcends ALL human understanding. We stop asking “Why?” and being asking “How?”.

Life comes with its many surprises, and we often do not know why people choose to do the things that they do. However, one thing I have learned is to love…love even when it does not make sense to do so.

Are you still holding on to a grudge that is literally eating you alive from the inside out? I challenge you right now to let it go and live! Be FREE from its poisonous affects.   Let it go, and feel the “TRUE POWER OF FORGIVENESS” today.

~Contessa Thomas

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Inspiration and Motivation

Kids Gone Wild…Is There Something Wrong With My Child?

March 19, 2017

The alarm goes off and before you could roll over to hit the snooze button, your child dashes into your room full speed, ready to take over the world.  Your child jumps on your bed, up and down, up and down, wanting breakfast. Your child doesn’t just ask once. It begins to sound like a broken record playing in your room. You get up to meet your child’s needs.  Instead of walking down the stairs as any normal child would, your child slides down the banister on ROLLER BLADES!!!!

Lololololololol.

Ok… Ok.  That’s a bit wild, but you see the picture I’m painting here.  This child has gone wild. 

Do you have a child that always seems to keep moving?  I mean literally.  They keep on moving and moving and moving; having a hard time keeping still.  Every movement seems forceful, extra and overly stimulating. 

This sounds like a sensory seeking child…

SENSORY SEEKING????!!!

WHAT’S THAT?

Sensory seeking children are always looking for ways to feed their malnourished nervous systems.  They are looking for high impact activities to get the input needed. These children are known to be hyperactive and impulsive, and they are commonly labeled as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  If these children are able to get enough of the sensory input they yearn for, they more than likely will be able to calm down and focus.

A 2009 study found that 1 in every 6 children has sensory issues that make it hard to learn and function in school. While sensory processing issues are often seen in autistic children, they can also be found in those with ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and other developmental delays—or with no other diagnosis at all.

Children who are sensory seeking manifest behaviors through the 7 sensory systems

  • Tactile system (Touch)
  • Gustatory/oral system (Taste)
  • Olfactory (Smell)
  • Auditory (Hearing)
  • Visual system (Sight)
  • Vestibular system (Movement)
  • Proprioceptive system (Body awareness)

Sensory seeking is just one component of sensory processing disorders. Sensory processing difficulties (SPD) were first recognized by occupational therapist Dr. A. Jean Ayres in the 1970s. Dr. Ayres commenced the idea that certain people’s brains cannot process all the information coming in through the seven senses.

Dr. Ayres included the “internal” senses of body awareness (proprioception) and movement (vestibular) in her explanation of sensory processing. When the brain is unable to combine all the information coming in at once, it is difficult to make sense of anything.
So what are these “internal senses” Dr. Ayres opened our world to?

Proprioceptive receptors are actually located in the joints and ligaments, and they allow for motor control and posture. The proprioceptive system communicates to the brain where the body is in relation to other objects and how to move.

The vestibular receptors are located in the inner ear, and they tell the brain where the body is in space by providing the information related to movement and head position. It is vital to know that balance and coordination are dependent upon the vestibular system (SIGN, 2017).

How can I tell if my child is sensory seeking?

Before homeschooling, my 2 eldest children went to school. My girl was in pre-K at the time, and I remember going to a parent teacher conference, and the teacher telling me that my child had difficulty sitting and focusing on her work. She was easily distracted, always moving and always talking. I listened, but thought to myself that was typical behavior of a 4 year old. The following year I began homeschooling, and I had a firsthand experience of what her Pre-K teacher was explaining to me. Except it seemed worse! I had a hard time getting my girl to sit still. She was always running, jumping, crashing into things, always rubbing my leg, just in general always touching something. It’s so funny, because being an OT, I should have seen the signs…but I missed it. I kept asking myself, “What is wrong with my child?” I kept redirecting her, telling her to sit down, and putting her on time out. It wasn’t helping. AND THEN…it hit me… My child is sensory seeking!!!

Sensory seeking behaviors can manifest in many different ways.

C.S. Kranowitz, author of “The Out of Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder” provides ample examples of sensory seeking behaviors:

  • Seeking dirty/messy play 
  • Splashing in mud
  • Dumping toy bins and rummaging through them aimlessly
  • Chewing on objects or clothing
  • Rubbing against walls, furniture and people
  • Loves spinning in circles, constantly moving
  • Fidgets, has difficulty sitting still
  • Frequently wants bear hugs
  • Seeks visually stimulating screens, shiny objects, strobe lights, or sunlight
  • Loves loud noises, TV or music volume
  • Problems sleeping
  • Enjoys strong odors, even unattractive ones
  • May lick or taste inedible objects and prefers spicy or hot foods
  • Frequently attempt to engage in rough play, such as wrestling

http://out-of-sync-child.com/

So, here I have my child, seeking sensory input. This was a problem because it was affecting her ability to focus and learn while being schooled. Being active is a typical characteristic of children, but it poses a problem when they can’t turn it off sort to speak. So, I pulled out my occupational therapy expertise and I started working with my child. I had her do some of her school work standing, gave her frequent jumping breaks, where I allowed her to jump on the trampoline for 3-5 minutes at a time, and I also gave her crunchy snacks to eat during home school. These activities helped her to focus better and for longer periods of time.

You may be wondering, why do these activities help?

The theory behind sensory seeking behaviors is that the child is seeking input to reach a neurological threshold where the brain/nervous systems are satiated. Once they reach that threshold, the child can then calm down. A child is constantly wired if they are not receiving adequate input to achieve satiation— hence they keep on going and going.

I remember when I worked at a Pediatric clinic, and one of the children I saw was a 12 year old boy who was very sensory seeking. I recall spinning him on a tire swing for 15 minutes of our 30 minutes session to get him to calm down to focus on our schoolwork activities. Some children need more input than others to reach their threshold, but once they are satiated, you will begin to see a difference in their ability to focus.

There are so many activities that can be incorporated into life to help feed children the adequate input that is needed to help them calm down.

STAR Institute for sensory processing disorders provides a list of activities that can be incorporated into everyday life that may assist the sensory seeking child. Before I share these ideas, it is important to note that there is no cookie cutter solution, or one size fits all. You have to know your child, know what they like, and what they can tolerate. It is also recommended to consult your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns and they can direct you to the right professionals to help you.

Incorporating Sensory Input into Daily Activities

Bath time: Scrub with washcloth or bath brush, try a variety of soaps and lotions for bathing, play on the wall with shaving cream or bathing foam, rub body with lotion after bath time (deep massage), sprinkle powder onto body and brush or rub into skin.

Bath time is an opportunity where deep pressure can be applied to the body through textured washcloths or even with using a bath brush. There are soaps with a scrub like consistency that can also provide more input to a sensory seeking child. On a personal note, I have used shaving cream during bath time with all my children, but my sensory seeking child did demonstrate calmer behaviors at the end of her bath. Giving her that time to be really seemed to relax her.

Meal preparation or baking: Let your child mix ingredients, especially the thick ones that will really work those muscles. Let child mix and roll dough and push flat. Allow child to help you carry pots and pans, bowls of water or ingredients (with supervision, of course). Let your child tenderize meat with the meat mallet.

This is a form of heavy work. Any work that gives sufficient input to the muscles and joints really help sensory seeking children to fill up their tanks reducing their cravings. This is also why I use jumping on a trampoline as it has the same effect (giving input to the muscles and joints)

Grocery shopping: Have your child push the heavy cart (as long as the weight is within their capability). Let your child help carry heavy groceries and help put them away.

Here it is again: Heavy work!

MealtimeEncourage eating of chewy foods and drinking out of a straw. Try having your child sit on an air cushion to allow some movement. A weighted lap blanket may be helpful as well.

Chewy foods require more work for those muscles of mastication, therefore giving the body more input. It’s so funny, because as I write this I realize that my daughter LOVES chewy foods such as bagels, and pizza!!!

Household chores: Allow the child to help with the vacuuming or moving the furniture. Let the child help carry the laundry basket or the detergent. Let the child help with digging for gardening or landscaping.

This is one practical area where you can help your child meet their sensory threshold needs while at the same time teaching them homemaking skills. My daughter uses our big Kirby vacuum cleaner to vacuum the classroom, which gives great impact to her joints and muscles as she pushes against the resistance of the carpet. She also has learned how to VACUUM!

Playtime: Reading books in a rocking chair or bean-bag chair may be beneficial. You can help your child make up obstacle courses in the house or yard using crawling, jumping, hopping, skipping, rolling, etc. Listen to soft music. Play the sandwich game (child lies in between two pillows and pretends to be the sandwich, while you provide pressure to the top pillow to the child’s desired amount). Ask them “harder or softer?” as you push on the pillow. Some children will like much more pressure than you would expect. You can also go for a neighborhood walk with a wagon and have your child pull it (make it semi-heavy by loading it with something the child would like to pull around). You can do the same with a baby-doll carriage. Swimming in a pool is a wonderful activity if you have that available, as are horseback riding and bowling. Mini or full-size trampolines are excellent for providing sensory input as well. Make sure the child is using them safely. Sandboxes, or big containers of beans, or popcorn kernels can be fun play-boxes too, if you add small cars, shovels, cups, etc.

All of these playtime activities are great for the sensory seeking child. These activities can also be incorporated during learning moments. For example, when I was treating children at my old job, I designed an activity where my child was a hot dog all rolled up in a soft pillowed mat, and the child had to roll from one end of the room to the other taking a puzzle piece from one side to the other to complete it. While the child was rolling, I was applying pressure to the pillowed mat, which was giving input to my sensory seeking child. After we completed the puzzle, we would sit at the table and work on handwriting (on an antigravity surface).

Errands and appointments: Before visiting the dentist or hairdresser try deep massage to the head or scalp (if tolerated), or try having your child wear a weighted hat. Try chewy foods or vibration to the mouth with an electric toothbrush. Let your child wear a heavy backpack (weighted to their liking with books and with the straps padded as needed). Be sure to give the child ample warning before any changes in routine or any unscheduled trips or errands. Many children with SPD need predictability.

This is a good recommendation for parents if you have to go out and need your child to focus, attend, and stay calm.

https://www.spdstar.org/basic/home-activities

Even though “kids go wild” on an everyday basis, even those who have difficulty controlling their sensory cravings need these moments. I hope that the information here provides you with a greater understanding of sensory seeking, as well as with options on how you can help your child to modulate themselves. As children grow, they learn and understand themselves better.
As previously mentioned, it is recommended to consult your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns, and they can direct you to the right professionals to help you.

~Candace Mezetin

 

References

SIGN (2017). Sensory Integration Global Network. Resources/Parents. Retrieved on March 16, 2017 from https://www.siglobalnetwork.org/2-parents-resources-2

http://spdlife.org/symptoms/sensory-seeking.html

https://www.spdstar.org/basic/home-activities

 

 

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Inspiration and Motivation

Motherhood Memoir Series: Mamma Mia!

March 16, 2017

Mamma Mia! This is an Italian saying, which literally means “My Mother!” Despite the literal meaning of the word, this phrase is used by native Italians and non-Italians alike to express moments of surprise to moments of deep frustration (Wines,M.;2012[LiveLikeAnItalian.com]). Well, my “Mamma Mia!”came as a result of the most rewarding, but also most difficult job I have ever experienced—Motherhood.

Living in the Northeast, blizzards and other outrageous snowstorms are quite common throughout the winter season. Well this past Tuesday (3/14), marked one of those moments in time when schools from New York State all the way down to Virginia were closed due to the winter storm Stella. As my children did the ‘snow dance’ in utmost bliss that morning throughout the house, internally I did, the ‘snow cry’ as I knew what my day would entail. Those of us who have children, especially young ones can relate to the following sayings: “Mommy, I am bored.”; “Mommy, he/she hit me!”; “Mommy, can I watch TV all day.”; “Mommy, I’m hungry!”— just to name a few.

Nonetheless, it also does not help that my husband works in New York (we reside in Maryland) and is away for the entire week.   So, basically Mommy is on duty for 100 percent of the time during the week.  Again, this is okay because we are women and we are also resilient…right?!?!?!?…who am I fooling—EVERYONE needs a break sometimes, including mothers. This gave birth to the commencement of our “ Motherhood Memoir Series”.   The purpose of this series is from time to time to be REAL about the joys, ups and downs of motherhood.  

So…back to the main story that inspired this article, and the beginning of our Motherhood Memoir series. Yes, so on that snow day, and on top of my husband being stuck in New York, I was left solo to brace the inside storm that was blowing through my home, as the kids went wild on their unexpected day off. At the realization that I had to survive this day in spite of the looming circumstances— I humbly sucked it up and started cleaning the kitchen in order to begin preparing dinner for us all. There in that moment I stood at the sink, and I reminisced just how much easier it was to go to work in the office.   Once more, throwing in the towel crossed my tired mind. However, I strongly shooed it away as I picked up the phone to call my sister in order to vent and regain some strength. Yes, my loving sister, and the other half of SisArias United—Candace.  

You see Candace is a stay at home mother of 4 children, who took a break from her lucrative profession as an Occupational Therapist to raise her children full time.   When I say full time, I literally mean that.   Candace homeschools all her children, and makes sure that they are socially invested, as well as physically balanced as she totes them around to various sports and activities.   Many of times, we speak at night and as I listen to her recap her day, my mind becomes even more exhausted as I think—how does she do it all and remain sane?!?!   Well, just like the tootsie roll pop commercial goes—“how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop…the world may never know”. This is exactly what I think of when it comes to Candace, and how she braves the successes and hardships of being a mom—“…the world may never know”.  

I can honestly say that I am truly blessed to have a sister where I can just pick up the phone and call her without ever having the fear of being judged—regardless of whatever may come out of my mouth (trust me at times it is not the most kosher things). As I vented to Candace on the phone, she lovingly paused the movie she was watching with her family and listened to me spill my heart out.   After about almost 5 minutes of me talking non-stop, she empathizes and encourages me.   God, how did I get a sister like this, Thank You!   As my way of paying it forward I am writing this article, and we are starting this memoir series to aid in the uplifting and success of mothers everywhere.

Here a few things I want to say to Mothers around the world:

  • Remember You Are Not A Failure – It is OKAY, to feel like you can’t do it all. Being a mother does not mean that we have to be perfect all the time. We are allowed to make mistakes too. Trust me, our children won’t love us any less.
  • It Is Okay To Accept Or Look For Help – I know that it is sometimes difficult for us women to admit that we need help, because again the F word (failure) creeps up in our minds. Listen I am here to say today, that I believe it takes more strength to realize that you have reached your limit and need assistance ASAP, then to suffer in silence. Enlist the help of Dear Hubby, perhaps get a maid part-time to help alleviate some of your household chores, or perhaps your mom, or aunt, or someone who is available to come over and help out a couple of days within the week or month.   If you never ask, you will never know or receive that much needed help.
  • Do Not Compare Yourself To Other Moms – Every woman has their own unique way of parenting. It is basically figuring out your very own logistics, or equation to make your journey through motherhood successful.  I have been guilty of this in my past. As I previously mentioned, I have a sister who seems to do it all so perfectly. However, I constantly remind myself, we are all different individuals with various thresholds, gifts, and abilities.
  • Self Hate Equates To Self Destruction – Love the mom, you are! Self hate in whichever context it is applied to destroys—including motherhood.  Truly loving yourself also helps you to better love your family.

To all my mothers out there—those who have biological, and/or non-biological children, you are very vital to the success of your families.   Not everyday is going to be filled with sunshine and pots of gold, but remember that every tear cried, and every word spoken is not in vain. Like my mom would always say to us growing up—“You all won’t be small forever”, and she was 100 percent right about that. Children grow up fast, so let us cherish the moments we have with them now.

In closing, stay strong and know that you are amazing and unique in your very own way. Remember that being a mother in every sense of the word signifies great strength and power.   Don’t ever feel like you are less than the best, because you are amongst the world’s most elite workforce (100% of which goes unpaid). Wear your momma badge with a huge smile because you have more than earned it, and embrace those “Mamma Mia!” moments that will inevitably come—for they too shall pass.

From One Mother To The Next,

~Contessa Thomas

 

References

Wines, Mazzoni (2012). “Live Like An Italian: Mamma Mia! Italian Sayings…” Retrieved on March 14, 2017 from https://livelikeanitalian.com/2012/06/13/mamma-mia-italian-sayings/

 

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Inspiration and Motivation

What’s Cooking?

March 12, 2017

Being overweight is becoming more and more common within our present day and age, and obesity is on the rise within our current nation. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 30. While our nation is becoming more and more obese, I don’t believe that this is the true desire of man’s heart. No one really wants to be fat, right? Statistics show the weight ratio within our nation (below) and we see that the majority of the world is overweight/obese.

■ Normal weight or underweight (BMI under 24.9) – 31.2%
■ Overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) – 33.1 %
■ Obesity (BMI of 30+) – 35.7%
■ Extreme obesity (BMI of 40+)  – 6.3%

Source: NHANES, 2009–2010

So, here’s a little insight into my past.

Growing up, I was fat. Yes, I said it fat, fat…FAT!!! I was greedy and I loved food!

Out of all my siblings, I was the biggest one with the biggest stomach. I was known as the finisher, because after I ate my food (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) I was lurking around the table, waiting to see if my siblings would leave behind any of their food so I could FINISH it! Being overweight was not my desire. It came with many implications and stigmatizations. I remember being called nasty, ugly, disgusting, and it really hurt me. Many of my classmates did not want to be my friend. I was called many names, and one that I never forgot was “Grizzly Bear”. I remember having crushes, and they NEVER looked my way. It was hard growing up as an overweight child. I was overweight for the majority of my childhood up until the 7th grade. That summer between 7th and 8th grade my life drastically changed. I was outside EVERYDAY learning how to jump double dutch. I literally mean every day. Our neighbors and cousins would come by my house and we would jump rope all day. By the end of the summer I realized that a lot of my fat melted away!!!

From there I managed to maintain an ideal weight for my height and age, but as I got older and my life patterns changed I noticed a drastic fluctuation of my weight. I knew that I needed to take charge of my diet in order to stay consistent, but every time I tried to, I would fall back into old habits/patterns.

May 24, 2009 changed my life forever.

There was a couple at my church conducting a healthy living seminar where we learned about food being a source of vitality, and that through your blood you can identify your health. That day I had my blood analyzed, and I learned that I was not as healthy as I thought I was. My cells were clumped together, my cholesterol wasn’t ideal, and if I continued on the path I was on, I would succumb to illnesses and diseases during my lifespan. We also learned about the effects of meat and animal products on the body, and how it contributed to my current state.

That day I did a complete turnaround! (After I had a Whopper meal from Burger King…LOL.)

I decided to give up meat and become a vegetarian.

That meant no more chicken, oxtail, turkey…I was done with it.

After that decision, I began the Daniel Fast, which included eating a diet of only fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables. At first this was difficult for me, but I soon adapted to the change in diet and soon enough it became a part of me.

After changing my diet alone, I lost a significant amount of weight to the point where I was actually skinny!!! People kept asking me if I was stressed, or if I wasn’t eating. In all actuality, none of the former was true. I was pretty content and I ate a whole lot!!! The key was in the type of foods I was eating.

Please know, that I’m not here to convert you to a vegetarian, but I do want to share the importance of diet and health.

Eating a balanced diet is essential because, truth be told; your organs and tissues need proper nutrition to work effectively. Think about it this way, if your car requires ultra gas to function 100%, but instead you fill it with regular gas, the car will not function at its fullest capacity. It may appear to at first, but overtime you will see the effects of using regular gas versus ultra gas for which it calls for. Without good nutrition, your body is more likely to become diseased; you can contract infections more easily; become fatigued; and overall exhibit poor presentation with everything that you do.

As I mentioned earlier, the rates of obesity in our country is alarming, and it is mainly contributed to a poor diet and a lack of exercise. (We will touch on exercise another time.)

This is also important to know: The United States Department of Agriculture reports that four of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States are directly influenced by diet. These are:

  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • stroke
  • diabetes

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/

As a wife and mother of 4, I want to lead a healthy life as much as possible, so that I can be physically, mentally, and overall able to function for my family – as well as for my purpose within society.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  – Hippocrates

How can food be our medicine?

We will look at foods that can heal, and foods that promote weight loss:

Foods That Heal

  1. Olives and Olive Oil– There has been adequate research on the health benefits of olives.  The regular consumption of olives gives rise to a healthy heart, brain, skin, and joints. They have even been linked to the prevention of cancer and diabetes. (Dr. Axe, 2017)
  2. Pomegranate– Pomegranates are known to contain strong anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-obesity, and anti-tumor properties. Pomegranates are also being considered as legitimate treatment options for chronic diseases such as intestinal inflammation, cancer, insulin resistance, and obesity. (Dr. Axe, 2017)
  3. Flax– Flax provides a natural, vegan source of Omega-3 essential fatty acid, lignans, and fiber. Flax is also known to help fight against cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. (Dr. Axe, 2017)
  4. Sprouted Grain Bread– “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar, and use them to make bread for yourself.” (Ezekiel 4:9).

In the Book of Ezekiel, taken from the Bible, God gave the prophet Ezekiel a recipe for what has proven to be the best bread on the market as evidenced by science. Ezekiel bread is considered a “complete protein,” which means it contains all essential amino acids. Ezekiel bread is considered healthier than other breads due to the fact that the grains/legumes are soaked and sprouted, which makes them easier to absorb. (Dr. Axe, 2017)

  1. Raw Milk– Raw milk is filled with calcium, vitamin K2, magnesium, phosphorus, and fat-soluble vitamins, all of which is essential to maintain optimal health. (Dr. Axe, 2017)
  2. Coriander and Parsley– Coriander is the seed of the powerful anti-oxidant and natural cleansing agent cilantro. It is often referred to as the “anti-diabetic” because of its mysterious ability to normalize blood sugar. These herbs are also used to reverse diseases, normalize blood sugar, prevent cancer, and offer joint relief. (Dr. Axe, 2017)
  3. Vegetables– Vegetables are the most nutrient-dense and safest foods to eat (Organic). According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, collards, kale, radish etc.) can help prevent cancer, because they are rich in glucosinolates (a large group of sulfur-containing glucosides). Glucosinolates are also known to treat inflammation, bacterial and viral infections, carcinogenic toxicity,tumor angiogenesis (blood vessel formation), and tumor metastasis (tumor migration). (Dr. Axe, 2017)

Foods That Promote Weight Loss:

  • Eggs
  • Leafy Greens
  • Salmon
  • Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Lean Beef and Chicken Breast
  • Boiled Potatoes
  • Tuna
  • Beans and Legumes
  • Whole grains

http://weightloss.susumeviton.com/healthy-foods-to-boost-weight-loss/

As we can see, the same foods that promote healing also help us to lose weight and stay in shape.

One of the most common barriers that individuals face when it comes to changing their diet is:  

What in the world do I eat now?” or I can’t have this…. And I can’t have that…What can I eat???” 

No need to fear!

Please check out the excellent recipes included below.  I have personally used these recipes to make nutritious, healthy, and DELICIOUS meals for my family.

So, the question remains… What’s cooking?

  • What’s cooking is a desire to be better as individuals.
  • What’s cooking is a desire to lead healthy lives by making optimal food choices.
  • What’s cooking is a desire to live to our fullest potential.

**RECIPES**

All recipes are obtained from Minimalist Baker: http://minimalistbaker.com/

CRISPY EGGPLANT “BACON”

Prep time

10 mins

Cook time

30 mins

Total time

40 mins

Crispy vegan bacon made with eggplant! Sliced eggplant is brushed with a smoky sauce and baked to perfection! A tasty, plant-based bacon alternative.

Author: Minimalist Baker

Recipe type: Side

Cuisine: Vegan

Serves: ~14 slices

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant (you’ll only use half)
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) avocado or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp (20 ml) tamari
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) vegan Worcestershire (I like Annie’s brandthis one is GF!)
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, plus more for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F (107 C) – turn to “convection bake” if you have it to speed cooking time. Line 1 large or 2 small baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
  2. Slice an eggplant in half lengthwise and set one half aside for other uses (such as Baba GanoushVegan Queso, or 1-Pot Pasta). Then cut the remaining eggplant in half lengthwise once more so you have two long, skinny pieces.
  3. Use a sharp knife or mandolin to slice into very thin strips (resembling the size/shape of bacon). They should be thicker than paper thin – roughly 1/8th inch. Set aside.
  4. Make sauce by adding avocado oil, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, paprika, sea salt, garlic powder, and black pepper to a small mixing bowl and whisking to combine.
  5. Use a brush (or a spoon) to brush both sides of the eggplant slices with sauce. Arrange in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet(s) and sprinkle with more black pepper.
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the eggplant is deep red in color, appears dry, and is slightly crispy. If needed, increase heat to 250 (121 C) at the end if not crisping up. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. It will crisp up the more it cools.
  7. Use immediately on things such as on sandwiches, in salads, or alongside or mixed into a tofu scramble.
  8. Once cooled, store in a sealed container in the refrigerator up to 5 days or in the freezer up to 1 month. To reheat, heat a skillet over medium heat, add a little oil of choice, then heat bacon on both sides until warmed (be careful not to burn).

Notes

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1 slice of eggplant “bacon” of about 14 total.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 1 slice (of 14 total) Calories: 28 Fat: 2.2 g Saturated fat: 0 g Carbohydrates: 2.1 g Sugar: 1.4 gSodium: 108 mg Fiber: 0.7 g Protein: 0.3 g

 

KALE CHIP NACHOS (30 MINUTES!)

Prep time

10 mins

Cook time

20 mins

Total time

30 mins

30-minute, 7-ingredient vegan nachos made with kale chips, sweet potato rounds, black beans, avocado and salsa! A filling, flavorful, healthy, plant-based meal or snack.

Author: Minimalist Baker

Recipe type: Entrée, Snack, Side, Appetizer

Cuisine: Vegan, Gluten Free, Mexican-Inspired

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients

KALE CHIPS

  • 1 large or 2 small bundles (~500 g) curly kale
  • 2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml) avocado oil or melted coconut oil
  • Healthy pinch each sea salt + black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • optional:1 Tbsp (3 g) nutritional yeast

BLACK BEANS

  • 1 15-ounce (425 g) can black beans (if unsalted, add 1/4 tsp sea salt), slightly drained
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder

SWEET POTATOES

  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut or avocado oil
  • 1 large sweet potato (~150 g), sliced into 1/4-inch rounds (organic when possible)

TOPPINGS optional

  • Ripe avocado
  • Favorite salsa (or make your own!)
  • Fresh chopped cilantro
  • Sliced red onion

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F (107 C) – use convection bake if you have it – and prep kale by rinsing, thoroughly drying, and tearing into small pieces (discard any large stems).
  2. Add kale to a large mixing bowl and drizzle with oil. Use hands to massage the kale to disperse the oil.
  3. Add salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and nutritional yeast (optional) to the kale and toss with hands to distribute.
  4. Divide kale between 2 large baking sheets and spread into an even layer, making sure the pieces aren’t overlapping to ensure crispiness. You may need to bake them in 2 batches depending on size of baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes. Then remove from oven and toss/stir to ensure even baking. Bake for 5-10 minutes more or until chips are crispy and slightly golden brown. Watch carefully to ensure they don’t burn.
  6. In the meantime, add slightly drained black beans to a small saucepan along with cumin and chili powder (add salt if beans are unsalted) and warm over medium heat. Once bubbling, reduce to low to keep warm. Stir occasionally.
  7. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp oil and spread to coat the surface. Then add sliced sweet potatoes in a single layer. Cover to steam.
  8. Cook for 3-5 minutes, checking every couple of minutes to see if the undersides are brown. Once brown, flip to the other side, cover, and continue cooking until both sides are brown and potatoes are tender (about 7-8 minutes total). Set aside.
  9. To serve, arrange kale chips on a serving platter and top with sweet potatoes, black beans, and any other desired toppings, such as avocado, salsa, cilantro, or red onion. Serves 2 as an entrée or 4 as a side.
  10. Store leftover sweet potatoes and black beans separately in the refrigerator up to 3-4 days. Store leftover kale chips in a well-sealed container at room temperature up to 3 days (though best when fresh).
  11. Serve these as is or with my Chipotle Black Bean Tortilla Soupor 5-Ingredient Ginger Beer Margaritas!

Notes

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1 of 4 servings without additional toppings (i.e. salsa, avocado, onion, etc.).

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 1/4 of recipe without extra toppings Calories: 209 Fat: 5.6 g Saturated fat: 3.6 g Carbohydrates: 33.6 g Sugar: 2.9 g Sodium: 69 mg Fiber: 6.6 g Protein: 8.8 g

~Candace Mezetin

 

References

(Dr. Axe, 2017). Top 10 Bible Foods that Heal. Retrieved on March 10, 2017 from https://draxe.com/top-10-bible-foods-that-heal/

 

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Inspiration and Motivation

“I’m Every Woman…Yes, It’s All In Me!”

March 9, 2017

March marks the beginning of Women’s History Month. In this month we celebrate women and their achievements: past, present, and the future ones to come. When I think about the term “Beautiful Women”, I think about all women, taking into account, our different races, sizes, professional backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and struggles.   Yes, we are all beautiful in our own very unique way, and we are also all winners in our own right.

For some women, they have served as the first lady of the United States, or have become the president or prime ministers of their own country (What an accomplishment indeed!).   Then we have other individuals who have achieved great things in the realms of research, and/or, civil rights, medicine, or space travel.   Again, these are all noble things women around the world and throughout history are recognized for.

Now, I want to take the time to also focus on the EVERY DAY woman. Yes, I said it right the every day woman.   The lady, who gets up early to go to work to make a living for her family, or who stays at home to run her household, or who serves her country behind the scenes in the armed forces—to ensure that we all have a safe place to lay our heads at night, and the list goes on. It is that very woman that goes under the radar for so many years, or even a lifetime without ever being rewarded, or acknowledged for the important contributions that she makes in the lives of those around her on a day-to-day basis.

At this time I want to talk about one of the strongest (literally) and at times under acknowledged woman that I know…my wonderful grandmother Amanda Esterine—also known to her family and friends as “Ma” or “Mama”. At nearly 96 years of age (March 21st is her special birthday), she still serves as a strong tower for her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, friends, and church family. Let me give you a little history lesson on Amanda Esterine. Amanda, was born in Jamaica, West Indies, in the Parish of St. Catherine as Amanda Louise Walsh. She is the youngest of three girls of which, she is the only surviving sibling left.   Amanda, also lost her mother at the tender age of 15 and her father about 4 years later—leaving her and her older sisters alone in a country where the economy was quite poor and where making a ‘decent’ living was very challenging.   At the age of 18, she started her first job as a home attendant, and that would remain her trade throughout her professional years until her retirement.

Amanda met the one and only love of her life Pasco Vanis Esterine at the age of 20. Together they had 9 children, 6 of which are still alive today. They were married for almost 50 years, until Pasco’s death in April 1998. In 1978, Amanda first stepped foot within the USA at the age of 58, and has fought to make a better life for her children and grandchildren (YES, IMMIGRANTS ROCK!!!!) Her matriarchal strength carries on until this very day.

As you can see from her short biography above, she faced some very difficult times in her life. During many of those moments she could not see the light, but she kept the faith and continued to give her all.   This woman, who helped raised me, has assisted in laying a solid foundation in the life of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.   I can speak directly for Candace and myself that our early years spent with Mama, really helped to cement our willingness to survive and fight against the odds—no matter how high they were stacked against us.

This story is one that I know is shared by many individuals other than Candace and myself.   Many of us have had the honored privilege of experiencing that PHENONMENOL woman in our lives.   Whether it was a great grandmother, grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, or a great friend or mentor— the common denominator is that they paved the way for our hopes and dreams. Let us all take a moment within our lives this month—“Women’s History Month” to reflect and thank those beautiful, talented, and strong women that have made our lives just that much better, in whichever capacity.   If that woman is no longer with us, please take the time to tell someone about the contributions that they made in your life, in order to keep their memory alive.

To the women of tomorrow, Anne Frank (The Holocaust Survivor) said it so eloquently with the following quote:

Everyone has inside of her a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be, how much you can love, what you can accomplish, and what your potential is. — Anne Frank

Strive for the highest, and remember that we have an entire new generation of upcoming women who are relying on our strength and accomplishments to pave the way for them.

Let us pay it forward today!

~Contessa Thomas

 

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Inspiration and Motivation

Lasting Impressions

March 5, 2017

Archeologists spend hours upon hours studying the remains and artifacts of animals or individuals that lived many years ago. They dissect every piece of evidence to learn more about the species of study.  The impressions left behind tell a story that lasts a lifetime. Based upon the remains, judgments are made about this species. The impressions give insight as to how the species lived, things they ate, and the type of lifestyle they endured.

What impressions will you leave behind? 

What will be your legacy? 

There are historical leaders who have made a powerful impact within our world.  Some of which are absolutely positive and others… well… are questionable, and the rest are clearly  “mash ups!”

Let’s look at Martin Luther king Jr., hands down… no questions asked… he was a great man.  His life of non-violence, and peace, and his desire to restore love and fellowship between black men and white men was impeccable. Through his actions we are left with a prodigious figure that we use as an emblem to teach the components of love, long suffering, gentleness, meekness, and kindness even in the face of adversity. 

I never knew Martin Luther King Jr., but I love him.  I remember loving him way back in the 3rd grade.  We were learning about him, watching his “I Have A Dream” speech in class and I remember to this day the feeling of pride, joy and love that I felt towards him.  I was so happy for what he did.  His life had forever impacted mine.  To this day, my love for him only grows stronger as I seek to portray similar qualities he exhibited in my own life. 

Lasting Impressions

Another historical figure is Christopher Columbus. Many will say that he left a lasting impression too. Christopher Columbus discovered America!!!….

To be or not to be…that is the question.

During our home school history lesson, we were studying about Christopher Columbus and my son raised an alarming question. 
“Mrs. Teacher, why does Christopher Columbus have a day to remember him when he did all these things to the Native Americans?”

I realized that my son was looking at his actions, which impacted his impression of the man.  Columbus came to the new world, captured the Indians, made them work as slaves, stole their crops and goods, and even took some of the Indians back with him to Spain.

According to History.com, there are 3 controversial issues surrounding Columbus and his interactions with the Indians: 1) his use of violence and slavery, 2) forced conversion of the Indians to Christianity, and 3) the introduction of deadly diseases to this population.  Christopher Columbus and his workers enslaved many of the native inhabitants of the new world and subjected them to violence and brutality. 

The things that Columbus did appeared to be good in the eyes of some people, but when you look at the complete picture, the legacy portrayed is not one that we can affirm, stand for and support.

Lasting Impressions

Lastly, we have Adolf Hitler. Holocaust…Nazi camp…
Need I say anymore?

www.biography.com/.amp/people/adolf-hitler-9340144

Lasting Impressions

Where am I going with this?

Last week I went to work out at the YMCA. I walked in as usual and started my regimen. I’m super friendly and I have established many relationships with other Y members and the staff. 

So that day, I came in and got on the elliptical and started my workout. I had a quiz coming up for my group fitness certification so I pulled out my flashcards and started studying while I exercised. While I was working out, one of the members that I regularly talked to walked by my elliptical.  Instead of us having an elaborate conversation, I quickly said hello and went back to studying. After I completed my cardio, I walked around to cool down. As I was passing the trainers staff desk, one of the trainers gestured for me to come over. He asked me if I was ok.  I said, “Yes. I’m ok.” He continued on to say “you don’t seem like yourself today. You’re not smiling as much and you’re not bubbly.  If you’re going through something and need an ear, I’m here for you. “

I thanked him and we chatted a little more, then I continued walking.

I kept thinking to myself…what impression did I give off today?!

As I continued walking around the track, I was passing by my same friend who said hello to me earlier while I was on the elliptical.  I tapped him playfully and he turns and said,  ” Now you want to talk to me?!” I responded, “I always want to talk to you.  What happened?” He continued to explain that while I was on the elliptical I didn’t take a moment to talk to him and he thought something was wrong. He even told the trainer that I didn’t seem to be myself. We squared that away, but it left me thinking about the impact that I have on people and how people actually view me.

What impressions am I leaving behind? Am I a positive flow of energy in a room, or do I bring the atmosphere down—bombarding it with negativity. Do I lift people up with my presence, or do people want to leave when I step into the room?

Lasting Impressions

– How do people respond to you? 
– What impressions are you leaving behind?
– How do you impact people?

These are very important and significant questions that we must take the time to assess and answer.

We are passing through this world, and we have one chance to live a life full of rewards, and to greatly impact other individuals.

I want to encourage you to do a self-check.

Jessica Brewer expounds upon 7 questions (which I will paraphrase, condense and modify) that we can ask ourselves to help us determine the type of impression we will leave on people who cross our paths in this lifetime.

  1. Do you help when nobody is watching? When we set our desire to love people, we seek to do what is good for our fellow men even when no one is looking.
  1. Are you motivated by selfish gain, or do you genuinely seek to be a good person? Our true motives always shine through; they can be hidden for but so long. Being a good person will draw people towards you and by default you will make a positive impact on their lives, leaving a lasting impression.
  1. Are you obsessed with yourself? This question can take on two angles. It is important to care about how you look, feel, and to take care of yourself. These things are vital, BUT we must not be so absorbed in ourselves that we no longer see others around us. It’s not ALL about us. We live to impact and affect others as well, and if we are living in the “me…me…me” bubble, we will leave a selfish impression upon all those who cross our paths.
  1. Do you remember where you came from? More often than not, we all are the product of a struggle. If not within our direct lives, our parents struggled, and if not them, then our grandparents struggled. We have to be open about WHO we are and adopt some level of transparency into our lives. When we are open about who we really are, we minimize self-righteousness and eliminate feelings of superiority, and become an instrument that can help another soul; hence leaving a lasting impression.
  1. Do you have faith in something greater? Are we living for more than ourselves? Is everything about me? Do I look to help others and uplift them? These questions have a direct correlation with the type of impression we will leave on other individuals.

Set your life’s purpose that in whatever course you decide to take that you leave a POSITIVE lasting impression.

“Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis

~ Candace Mezetin

 

References

Brewer, J. (2016) Addicted2Success. 7 Questions to Ask Yourself to Keep Your Character in Check.  Retrieved on March 5, 2017  https://addicted2success.com/life/7-questions-to-ask-yourself-to-keep-your-character-in-check/

History Channel (2017). Columbus Controversy. Retrieved on March 4, 2017 from http://www.history.com/topics/exploration/columbus-controversy

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Inspiration and Motivation

Living Life In The Fast Lane…When To Pump The Brakes

March 2, 2017

Ugh! My head hurts, and I feel so exhausted.   I am mentally, physically, and emotionally drained.   Yes, it is the real truth (no fabrication), and how I am feeling at this moment. My goal is to share with my fellow readers the Great, the Good, the Okay, the Bad, and the Terrible moments that I encounter in my life.

Tonight as I stood in the shower, my thoughts began to run wild. It was as if my mind took on the property of the running water that surrounded me. There I stood in the tub, and I started to think about this blog and all the people that I want to reach and the lives that I want to change. I contemplated my role as a mother, my role as a wife, my professional and academic goals, and pretty much all the things that I want to be and achieve like yesterday.   Immediately, my headache grew, and my stomach began to turn, and I started to wish that I could have all that I desired to achieve right now!   My frustration increased, and so did my innate sadness.   Did I make the right choices? Did I waste precious years of my life running after other people’s dreams and making their pockets and organizations thrive?

Ahh! My mind, how do I shut this thing off for a moment of peace? This was the subsequent train of thought that quickly followed, after I could no longer control my feelings.  Then, I took a long deep breath, and whispered in my heart “God, please help me to focus and calm down”.   It was in that moment that I knew I had to write this next article.   How many of us go through life thinking about all the ‘GREAT’ things we want to achieve like right now? How many of us are chasing other people’s dreams under the false pretense of us actually chasing our own?  How many of us go to sleep at night depressed because we feel that our aspirations are out of our reach?  I can go on forever, with these reflective questions, but hey I think the point was made.

So what was my solution during this time of deep self-reflection? I had to give myself the ‘pep talk’. It went something like this:

  • “Contessa you have to slow down.”
  • “Contessa, remember that sometimes you have to pump those brakes in life and move from the fast lane, to either the middle or slow lane—and it is okay.”
  • “Contessa, be patient—what God has for you no one can take from you.”
  • “Contessa, life does not work the same way for everyone. Do not lose courage on the achievements of those around you, but use it as a vector of encouragement.”
  • “Contessa, it will all be okay…stop worrying.”

I think I self medicated pretty well, don’t you?

All jokes aside— moving back to the topic at hand.   We have to be our own biggest advocate. Life is going to have its awesome moments when we feel on top of the world, and it will have those terrible times when we feel like we are in the deepest and darkest pit. Wherever you may find yourself, at whichever point in your life, keep your head up and do not give up hope.

As great as social media (e.g. – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) proves to be, I truly believe it can at times be a contributing factor to an individual’s depressive state.   Let us take a closer look into this phenomenon.   For example, many of us go on to Facebook to post the ‘excellent’ moments in our lives. Most of us usually post the times when we are smiling and feeling oh so good about our families and ourselves. Other parties use the same social media tool, to look at different people’s ‘happy’ lives, which only fuels their sadness, and yearning for a better and more fulfilled life.   The moral of the story—be genuinely content for others, but do not let their achievements, success, or happiness stop you from attaining yours.   It is so easy to sit back and covet someone else’s life that seems so perfect, but through the years, I have learned that what seems to be ‘picture perfect’ is not always the case.

Pace yourself, and know that you will reach your grandest goals and dreams if you persevere and hold on through those difficult and ‘stagnant’ moments.   Remember, we all cannot live life in the fast lane forever.   I truly believe that there comes a point within our lives, where we all have to slow down and pump those brakes. I had one of those moments today.   Again, do not be discouraged, because what may seem like a step backward is really a step forward—but in reverse.

~Contessa Thomas

 

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