Hi! Been a few weeks, I know. I’ve been busy. Don’t judge me.

Alot has happened. My position at work has shifted. My bestie moved into a new place. My kid went on a weekend trip. And, I went to IKEA. So, it’s a wonder you are getting a post at all. It’s shocking that I am not still in IKEA.

That being said, while I was at IKEA – I experienced panic. True panic. And not for the great deals – or sytlish swedish furniture with their fun names. Nope.

I thought my nine year old was kidnapped. Literally. Scariest 45 seconds of my life. And I’m a widow. And that was scarier.

I asked Jacoby to return the shopping cart to the cart corral, (because we aren’t lazy people who leave carts all over the parking lot. It was literally 10 feet from my jeep. I put the last bag in the car, I get in the car, and I don’t see him. Back out we go.

I yell for him.

Nothing.

I full on scream for him. To the top of my lungs.

Nothing.

He vanished.

I am now walking quickly, and then break into a full on run – yelling for him. And then I hear, “MOMMY?”

This boy, is walking out the front door of the store. He took the cart to the front door. You see, he didn’t see a way to get the cart off the sidewalk. So, while I was arranging the bag in the car, he walked by me to the front door. I never saw him. He returned the cart inside.

He thought I saw him. I thought he was kidnapped by a pedophile rapist. What I am saying is this.

You never know what a day will hold. I had a happy ending. But my goodness – it gave me that “lesson” that your whole life can be turned upside down in an instant.

Panic realized. Panic hated.

My Sweet Boy.

Love fully. Live fully. Shine on.

Sat nam.

Sitting back and thinking about it, I probably should have put this as the first part – buy hey. Here we are. You really want to know how I do it all? The big, huge, deep and dark secret?

I don’t. I don’t do it all.

It might seem like a lot to you, but if it seems like a lot-I am betting that it is our “all” is different. Maybe you are carting kids and their friends to ball practices, recitals, and maybe working four jobs. Who Knows!?! But, I bet – our all is different.

Let’s start with an important aspect to me. I have some health issues – and sometimes, my energy is in the toilet. Complete and utter exhaustion. I feel mentally foggy, physically lethargic, and all in all – just want to nap. Now, those times are much farther spaced now, because I have learned to take control, and not over do it. I know my capabilities, and if my energy is on the lower end of the spectrum- I don’t drain it any further by overexerting myself. I have to take care of ME so I am capable of taking care of those I love. And sometimes that requires me to say, “I’m sorry baby, but I can’t go out to dinner tonight. I know I said that I would, but I am really exhausted and I want to stay healthy for you!” Does it suck? Sure. It is also a hard lesson learned, because I wanted to ‘follow through’ on a promise when I wasn’t able, I end up stuck in bed all weekend long. Luckily – I haven’t had one of those in months!

Guys. Believe it or not. This is a filter! I don’t really have kitten ears and a gold glitter nose.

A key aspect to doing this with grace? Let all of the guilt go. You have to take care of you – to be the best for those you love. Let me tell you something, write this down Tattoo it on your forearm. Write it on your mirror. Memorize it. WHEN GUILT LEADS, YOU TRY TO PLEASE EVERYONE. THE IRONY? YOU PLEASE NO ONE, ESPECIALLY YOURSELF.

So let’s use the dinner situation above as an example, shall we? Let’s say I go. I feel like utter crap, but I go. I’m slow. I am sitting, watching the clock, wanting to leave. I try to engage in conversation – but remember, there’s mental fog. It’s a struggle for me, which becomes a struggle for my company. No one is having a good time.

On the flip side, what if I say, “I don’t feel like it – but can you come over and sit in bed with me and we can order take out?” I say that, because that has literally happened. A few times. LOL! Please understand, there is a difference between being a flake, and taking care of yourself, too! If you are a person with commitment remorse, buck up once you commit. Because honestly, you probably need to get out for your mental health!

Give yourself grace. My friends will laugh when they read this – because I say that all the freaking time. But it’s true. I still suck at it. I beat myself up way too often. And often times, If a friends told me the same thing I was beating myself up for – I would be much more loving and patient. One thing that I beat myself up over? My kids extra curricular stuff. Tariq, although he is an adult-ish, I love to go to his performances. He is my kid. Bella and Jacoby – same. I want them to look out in the audience, and see momma. To know that momma is always there and cheering them on.

Last year, I missed one of Bella’s concerts? Why you ask? Long story short – Jacoby made a poor life choice, fell out of a tree, and I was in the ER. Good reason to miss, right? Of course. It took me about two months to get over it. No joke. I felt horrible.

Two weeks ago, Tariq sung in an event downtown. I had planned on going, but I was so tired, and it was a huge convention. Tariq is telling me to stay home. He said it was so short, it would take me longer to park and walk there than what I would hear. So, I stayed home. It was the right choice. I still had guilt. I had to talk myself through it.

To sum it up. There are some things you have to do. Laundry. Groceries. Work. There are other things that you have to do also – like kids activities, dating, vacations, relaxation, etc. Some days – you might need to let the laundry go, and go out on that date. Do the laundry tomorrow. It’s fine. Don’t feel guilty about it. I mean honestly, the crap is gonna get dirty again anyway.

So, I guess I just changed my mind again. I do – do it all. I just do it all on different days, different phases, and to my ability. I wrap myself in grace, I make sure that my energy and activities match, I know what I have to do, what I want to do, and then I try to arrange it.

Listen, we are never going to live in a “there is time for everything utopia”, it’s not gonna happen. Nor, or we going to be able to add more hours to our day. So, let’s make every hour the best we can for that moment, and go to bed, happy and content, and not running through all we didn’t do.

Love Fully. Live Fully. Shine on.

Sat Nam.

Today is my son’s birthday. My oldest. My first. And today, he is no longer a teenager.

Wow. I don’t know how that happened.

It seems like just yesterday, he was playing in the floor, asking for a “Kit Kat Big Kat”. Loving on his momma. Always wanting to crawl up on my lap and watch Blues Clues. Backstory, I lived in Tucson, Arizona when he was born. And we didn’t really know anyone but a few military folks. It was just us. But it was all we needed.

Tariq and I went on a ton of adventures together when we lived in Arizona. We drove to Las Vegas, in a Toyota Echo. We went to San Diego. Although he was only two or three, there was something about him, that made me feel strong. Little did I know how much that would always be true.

We ended up moving to Northern Virginia, and lived there for about 10 years. In that time frame, he went through alot. But that kid never lost his smile. And he was always there for his momma.

When we moved to Florida, he morphed again. He got involved in the choir program. And this kid found his beautiful voice. High school was calm for us. There were no issues. You hear nightmare stories about kids in high school – I have yet to experience it. (I pray I never do.) Now, he is twenty. And I am shook.

You see, this kid wasn’t the football quarter back. He wasn’t the most popular boy in school. He didn’t make a 4.9 GPA and receive a full ride to college. He didn’t do any of that. Let me tell you what he did do.

When his stepdad died, he sat with me and held my hand. And since that day, he has helped raise his brother and sister. From helping with laundry, to fixing lunches, to checking homework (I cannot do this new-fangled math.) But now, it’s different.

Somebody Loves his brother!

Now, my little baby boy is a grown man. This twenty year old man has seen more in his twenty years that many have in a lifetime. His heart is huge. A few months back, maybe more, I was sick as a dog. Puking – whole nine. He sat in the floor with me. When I was having health issues and they were trying to figure out what was wrong, I would wake up at night and he would be laying in the floor beside me. That’s something we do as parents to our kids, I never thought about them doing to us. When I was sad, he would just hug me. Not say a word. Not pry (he knows better, LOL!) – just hug me.

I can come home, and no one is there. Why? He took his brother and sister out to dinner. I get a text, asking permission to take his little brother to the new Marvel movie. AND HE PAYS. This kid works full-time, and is putting himself through college. He is involved in an adult choir, and last year went to Ireland – this upcoming year, Austria. He is smart, hard-working, and loves his family. I might have given birth to this man, but more than once – he has given me life.

When people ask me how I stay so strong? I’ll tell ya. It’s him. He never let’s my crown slip. He treats my like a queen. I love you, Tariq.

Love Fully. Live Fully. Shine On.

Sat nam.

Let’s be honest – being a single parent/married parent – or just an aunt trying to have fun with some kids – can be EXPENSIVE! My budget is so tight this year, you can almost hear the seams ripping in the process. That being said – I still want to give my kids a summer to remember, so here are a few of my plans that won’t cost you a penny!

Winter Garden, FL

1. SPLASH PAD!– I live in Winter Garden, Florida. In our downtown area – there is a splash pad. Pack a few sandwiches, throw them in a backpack, and go down there. I don’t get in a splash pad myself – but I have seen parents wear their swimsuits and walk through it. It’s great fun for the kids, and you can get some serious reading done if you want! DON’T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN!

2. SCAVENGER HUNT! – A scavenger hunt is a little bit of work with a whole lot of payoff. Now, my kids are 20(almost), 16, and 9. My suggestion is this. Tailor it to the kids level. There are a ton of ideas that you can do! I live in a neighborhood, and I am fan of the photo scavenger hunts. That’s where you have to take picture of something with the clue. Use your cell phone! And for my youngest, I can let him borrow an ipod, have one of the bigger ones go with him, or actually have him gather. What’s fun? If it’s way too hot…. you can do this in a mall! And have all the kids work together! Some examples could be, 1.Film your sister doing 10 jumping jacks in front of the fountain! 2. Ask an employee at H&M their middle name. 3. Find the letters “ch” together in the name of the store. And that’s just a few! You can get on Pinterest and find a ton of list ideas ! I take a few of those and make them my own! Just type it up in word/notes on your phone/ and text or print it out! (This can also make a fun date night, just sayin’.)

3. OUTDOOR/INDOOR MOVIES – This is gonna sound basic, but it’s fun. Put your TV in the garage. Get on Netflix. And watch a movie. If you don’t have a garage, put it in a window. Live in an apartment? Put it on the balcony. Now take blankets, air mattresses, whatever you got, pile em up. And lay down and watch a movie. Why? One , you get fresh air. Two, it’s a change of scenery. Three, It’s the intention. Of course you could watch TV on the couch. Or a movie. But it’s the whole plan of making everyone be together, and setting the intention of having fun. And trust me – they will remember. And if you have TV’s outside already? Change the seating – the key here is intention.

4. FAMILY GAME NIGHT/NEW LOCATION – Ok, I love the idea of family game night. I don’t do it – but I love the idea of it. I am going to try to make a part of my life this upcoming school year, but we will see. I love this because it’s intentional, again. Here’s how I do it. Cook dinner (or make a sandwich- judgement free zone, here.) And head to the closest park with a picnic table. I recommend doing this around 7 or 8. Take a card game, or a time managing board game. (We aren’t talking about monopoly or something that can be hours – cause guys, it will get dark.) But it’s a fun time, and it’s alot better to be in a new spot. It really seems to make the kids talk more, especially the older ones.

5. BIKE RIDES/HIKE ON THE TRAIL OR BECOME A LOCAL HISTORIAN– As we already established, I live in Florida. And lucky for me, I am surrounded by nature trails. This is easy – just go. Walk, ride, whichever. But notice things along the way. If you do this all the time? Go a different way. Start at a new location. Now, here is another fun part – become a local historian! You and your kids research your city. A specific fact or location. Read about it. Now, trek over to the spot. And you (or whichever kid) becomes the teacher! This is fun, and I like to try to find the most obscure and random facts!

6. CHALK PAINT/BOMBS/ART – So much fun. And you can do this in a driveway, parking spot, anywhere there is asphalt. (If you live in an area without a driveway, check with your complex, chalk comes off, and they might just ask you to clean after play – and you just need a bucket of water. Also, check in the downtown area. Many places close at 5 or may not open until 10. Ask if your kids could do some chalk art in their lot! ) Now, if you want to buy chalk – hit up the dollar tree. They have it. Saw it this past weekend. If you don’t have the dollar tree, or want to make your own, here’s how ya do it.

A little chalk photo shoot!
  • You will need a muffin tin, cornstarch, food coloring, and paper towels. I recommend that you do this outside!
  • I fill up the muffin tin about halfway up with the cornstarch.
  • Then, add a few drops of food coloring at a time, mixing in between.
  • Next, water. I also do this a little at a time, until I get my desired texture. and Voila! Chalk paint hack.
  • If you want to do the bombs, which are hilariously fun – make the mixture super thin. Then pour it into a pump bottle. Pump the mixture into balloons. There you go!

I also recommend doing a photo shoot. We have done this – actually as a gift for my parents. And it is so adorable. Think it out, and let them get creative! These pictures can have some great memories, and also – might be making some gifts in the future to save you some more money come Holiday time! Nothing like planning your Christmas gifts in JULY!

I hope you can use one or all these ideas, and have some fun with them! I would love to hear what are some of your cost effective summer ideas to do with the kids! Please comment below or send me a message… and sidebar, all of these would be fun date ideas, also!

Live Fully. Live Fully. Shine On.

Sat Nam.

“If what I am experiencing is heartbreak, then grieving is inevitable.” – Brene’ Brown

Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of Shaun’s death. Should we even call it an anniversary? I mean, Webster’s defines an anniversary as this:

Definition of anniversary

1: the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event

a wedding anniversary broadlya date that follows such an event by a specified period of time measured in units other than years

the 6-month anniversary of the accident

2: the celebration of an anniversary

Webster’s Online Dictionary

So, I guess according to Webster’s ‘anniversary’ is the right term. Was yesterday hard? No. Not really. It was no harder or no better than any other day. I say this, because, every day, since the day of his death, he has been gone. Profound statement, right? The “anniversary” of the date, for me, means more to others than to me. I remember it all the time. The anniversary date – others remember. I have lived with the grief of his death for years.

Grief. What is it? It’s a lot of things to different people. Now, my grief is basically for my son. I have worked through my own over the years. I struggle with the fact though, that my son never got to know his father. I see that as a total tragedy. So to me, my definition of grief, is missing something that we never got to have. Missing the memories that will never get to be made. And this, this one thing – I can’t fix for him.

As a mom, we want to protect our kids and help them through the things life throws at them. This one thing, I can’t help. And I am not gonna lie, once I came to grips with the loss that I felt, I got angry. Rationally speaking, I know that Shaun couldn’t help it that he died. I know that. I was still angry, though. It has taken a lot of work, to forgive him. This is the best way I can describe it for those that haven’t lived it. Consider ‘your person’. Whether it be your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, adult child – pick one. Now, how would you feel, if they just up and left. No goodbye. No kisses. And you knew they up and left to live a millionaire lifestyle, where they could never get sick, never suffer, and could be eternally happy -and to do so, they had to leave like that. Do you want the best for your loved one? Yes. Would you feel resentful? Of course. Resentful that you are here, to pick up the pieces. Resentful over the plans that you had made together, and now they just dipped out. Resentful over having to be sad, while they are having a good time. I have been resentful over leaving me to tell a kid how it’s okay that his father is in heaven. Because, let’s be honest – it sucks for him.

Guess what I did, though? I forgave him. Forgiveness, that is the biggest way you can show love, right? I mean, I know I am so grateful for the folks who have forgiven me in my past, and I am grateful for the folks who will forgive me in the future. Forgiving, not only makes live better for you , it does for everyone. This is whether you are the forgiver or forgive-ee.

So, This is my “anniversary” post. I live Shaun’s death everyday. Not that it is always a conscious thing, but it is definitely something that impacted my whole life and makes me who I am today. Shaun was forgiven. So I forgave him, too. I am also doing a pretty good job raising his little boy, if I do say so myself. Although, I need to give credit where credit is due – I have had an army of people, rally around me. An army of people, held me up when I couldn’t stand alone. And today? It’s the same. Even in a new town – my support system, and those who love me are incredible. My children and I have been so blessed by those around us. I am forever grateful. I was looking for a pic to capture Shaun and Jacoby, I knew the one I wanted – but I guess that it is hidden in my archives somewhere. I ran across this one. And that is a true capture of him.

If you are struggling with Grief, talk to someone. Find a support system or group. And work on forgiveness. I say work on it – because it isn’t that simple.

Love Fully. Live Fully. Shine On.

Sat Nam.

*Disclaimer – this was written almost a month ago.  I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to post it or not.  But, today – I thought someone could benefit from it.*
I hope this helps someone today.
Too much to get into all the details – but today – I felt unappreciated.  It’s one of those things where it was weighing on my mind and heart.  Where you feel your heart, like are actually aware of the organ in your chest.  Swallowing seemed difficult.  And I felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders and wanted to cry.  
And then,  it hit me.  I am doing what I can.  And I don’t need the outside approval of others to confirm that for myself.  So many people are focused on being  perfect, rich, smartest, best, number one, etc – and I felt like, here I am – trying to make my tribe (and all those related to it) feel  loved and valued.  While trying to productive, perfect, make money, have the best numbers, look pretty, and be noticed and successful. And I don’t feel like anyone cares or appreciates it.  And yes – I just admitted – I care about all the things that I said others focus on.  I am not judging.  I am just saying, I also try to add value and love to those I interact with first.
It hit me.  Stop focusing on feeling bad.  Focus on the fact that you are alive and happy.  Realize that not everyone is always going to behave the way you want them to.  And just because they don’t – doesn’t mean that they don’t care.  It just means – that they might be going through their own stuff.  They might not feel like they need to acknowledge it.  And honestly, why do I expect acknowledgement?  Shouldn’t I be doing it – because I mean it, I love them, and I want the best for them – with no level of expectation back? 
Absolutely.  Sometimes, things can get so overwhelming for me – I feel like I can’t breathe.  I have worn my emotions on my sleeve for years – but one day, I started choking them down.  And just because I choke them down – doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.  They just aren’t seen as visibly to everyone.    So, to everyone who tells me how strong I am – thank you.  But the only real strength I have, is being able to hide my feelings from most people.  
Here is real talk.  I am not that strong.  I am actually pretty weak.  I have basic needs.  I need to be loved.   Valued.  And appreciated.  I get lonely.  I get sad.  I get scared.  I get overwhelmed.  And all of that can happen in under thirty seconds!  Where I feel weaker – is the fact that I struggle with admitting that I am human.  There is a total of about 3 people on this planet who know that part of me.  I am grateful for them – because without them – I’d probably lose my mind.   I don’t admit it often.  But today, I thought – let it rip.  Someone needs to know it’s okay to be human, too.   But while we are being human – let’s extend some grace to our loved ones and let them be human, also. 

Because let’s be honest – our feelings aren’t facts.

Xoxo.

Kristie

Now, I know that mommy just cringed when she read that title.  So first – Mommy, I apologize.  Publicly.  But – I am a poop magnet just didn’t seem to be much of an attention getter.  But this is important – so I feel that it’s important to catch some attention.  Over the past two weeks, I have done a lot of soul searching.  And for anyone who has ever done that – it is absolutely brutal.  I’d like to say that it’s a beautiful and awakening experience, but fact of the matter – it blows.  And here is what I discovered.  I am a crap magnet.  And why?  Because I have been a negative, disobedient, and self serving Christian.  And not a very good Christian at that.

We all know – that for some time – I have talked about how I knew my calling was to write.  And I needed to write to get a message out.  Well guess what kiddos!?  Now forgive me for sounding like the old, southern, Christian Grandma – but when you know what you are supposed to do – the devil is gonna try to stop you.  And that he did.  And here is what is so shocking to me.  Well, first – I let him, to an extent.  Second, how he did it.  But since they are rolled into one – here is the story.

And before I say anything- let me state that this is my issue.  Not the company that I work for, nor the people I work with.  But I do have a difficult job, to an extent.  As I am sure that we all do.  I deal with people in a really bad moment of their lives – wrecked cars.  Ninety-five percent of the people I deal with, have had something bad happen to either their first of second largest investment.  And my job is to make sure their cars gets fixed correctly, in a timely fashion, or total them.  Frankly – all of them are hard for folks – just as it would be for me.  But, here’s the kicker – I need them to LOVE me.  Not like me – LOVE me.  And for the most part they do.  Which is great, right?  I am a hard worker.  I love my customers.  I love the people I work with.  So what’s the problem?

The problem is that it became an obsession for me.  I wanted to be the best.  I wanted the approval of all my customers.  I wanted to be the best adjuster.  Not because it was the right thing, because I wanted to be the best.  And then here is the kicker.  I let everything else go to the wayside.  I stopped writing my book.  Why? Because I was bitter.  I was angry.  I was sick of people being mad over a car – but acting like I cared.  I have that feeling often, of this – “You think that a wrecked car is bad?  I don’t care that it has 11 miles on it.  I found my husband dead in a bathroom floor.  This car isn’t a problem.  It’s a hiccup.”  But, in the sugary sweet voice, I tried my best to care – deep down.  But guess what – I didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong – I do want to make the process easy for people.  But then I want to make my bosses proud.  I want to get great numbers.  And I obsessed about it all.  I didn’t go to work, and put in a good day’s work, doing the right thing, and then go home.  I worked 60 hours a week.  I worked at work.  At home.  Driving to and from work.  I talked about it all the time.  And it made me bitter.  So, I became a crap magnet.

I read this weekend, that you when you complain – you become a crap magnet.  I complained.  About my stress.  My customers.  My bosses.  Their expectations.  The whole nine – so guess what?  I got a lot of complaints back.  Because misery loves company.  And when you start complaining to folks – they do it back.  So not only am I carrying my junk around – I am carrying theirs too.  So – as of yesterday – that’s all done.  No more complaining.  I am planning on my exit to pursue what I love and know I need to do.  I am gonna blog more. Focus on my book.  Get it done  – It’s 80% done anyway.  I am gonna be happy – change my attitude – and no longer be crap magnet.

I am the mom to a fourteen year old boy, and 10 year old girl, and a three year old little boy.  I love my children in many different ways.  My oldest was my first child, he grew up with me in a way.  My daughter came next, and she is like my little mini me.  And then Jacoby, the baby.  The child that I am in complete awe of, everytime I look at him, because I know just how precious he is.  And I know, after having two before him, how fleeting this time is in his life and to appreciate the moments.

But tonight, I am talking about my oldest.   I have never been a fourteen year old boy.  I can’t imagine what that is like.  I have never had divorced parents.  I never lost a parental figure.  I never was a stepchild.  My son, has experienced more in his fourteen years more than I have, in many ways.  And for the most part, he is a well mannered, well spoken young man.  Does he do things that drive me absolutely crazy?  More than you could ever know.  But does he have a good heart? The best.

I am writing this because he has weighed on my heart a lot lately.  I moved him across the country – and he was willing to go.  He started a new school, that is triple in size than the high school that he would have went to, and he went with a smile.  No fear.  His first day of school – he didn’t have a schedule.  He went with a smile.  I have never been as strong as that kid.  He has seen more in his fourteen years than many people in the US see in their lives.  He has experienced more pain, and pain of his family, than I ever came close to.  And he still does it with a smile.

So what I am saying, Is I am thankful.  Thankful for the resilience of a child.  Thankful for all that he has taught me.  Thankful for the trips we have went on together.  The adventures we have had.  And I look forward to the many to come.  I have not been the perfect parent, I wish I had.  I have learned a lot with him – and I know that I am a better parent to Bella because of it, and even better to Jacoby.

To be honest, on June 22, 2011 – Tariq was a little boy.  On June 23, 2013 – he was almost a man.  Overnight he grew up – literally.  And he has never been the same.  I think, at times, I have expected a lot from him, because of how adult he can act.  Which makes me sometimes forget, that he is still a kid. Learning.  Figuring things out.

So this post is for my son.  I love you Tariq.  To the moon and back again – and I know I am not the perfect momma.  But you are most definitely the perfect son.  And God blessed me so much by giving me  you.  I love you baby…. More than you could ever know.  And I just felt like you should know it too!