Family

LVI: November Goals

I finally have time to sit down and set out my goals for the month, so why not set out my November Goals?

These will be simple goals for my blog, for my life, for my family/relationships, and for my fitness! I’ll try and keep it short by making one goal per topic, that way it’s more realistic and actually doable, because, why make unobtainable goals, right?! Here we go:

FOR MY BLOG:

My November goal for my blog is to get out and take more photographs for my posts.

I’ve been blessed with a bit more free time, but haven’t used it much to enhance my peace of mind. Photography, eating and working out are the things that make me happiest (when I am not around other people), so, in my solitude, I want to get out and get some great shots. 

 I believe that photographs bring life to my posts and they make it much easier to notify my followers on Socials about my new blog posts.

FOR MY LIFE: 

This November, I’d just like to see myself happier. I want to find that I am studying more, cooking more, reading more, writing more, and, smiling a lot more.

I want more life, but, more than that, I want more happy life.  

But, I want to take it day-by-day. Some days just staying home and watching that same old movies over and over in sweats with wine makes me happy. And some days, all I want to do is go out and mingle a bit.

Basically, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be happy. I force happiness, I push for happiness in crappy situations, and I settle for happiness-lite when I simply don’t have to!

The trend this November is ME — I am working on my happiness, my fitness, my studies, my reading, my writing, my time.  

FOR MY RELATIONSHIPS

The biggest thing that I am going to work on, from this point forward, and in all relationships is communication.

The odd thing about me is that, before I will talk it out, I always prefer to just walk it out. Meaning, I’d rather just walk away completely than do the work to stay (usually out of fear).

I’d usually rather just try to fix my feelings myself when they are hurt, or try to deal with whatever caused the quarrel in the first place rather than attempt to talk to the person.

The problem is that I do not find it odd when I prefer not to communicate, but the reality is that there are actually people out there who are adult enough to come to you and talk to you about a misunderstanding. So, one should also be open to that.

FOR MY FITNESS: 

I usually don’t make fitness goals just because I hate putting pressure on something that I do for pleasure, but, for the purposes of this post:

My November goal for my fitness is to run more! Believe it or not, I am still working off all of the weight that I gained while being cuddled up this summer. BUT, the summer love is gone and so must go the summer love handles!

A little summer weight is no match, however, for a good old cardio regime, so let’s set a goal of 28 miles for the month of November. This will include cycling, running, walking, hiking, and anything physical except driving (😂, I would try it).

I’ll be honest, I’m only about 6 miles in so far, but will take a ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture to see if any progress happens on these beautiful 22 miles that will be completed by the end of November.

So, my November goals are set!

READY, SET, ACCOMPLISH!

Stock Image Used

L: ... Too Fly To Be Depressed?

Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance which, in me, manifested itself in the form of: staring at blank walls for hours; filling my hot showers with tears; struggling to get out of bed; dreading human interaction (more so than usual); and an overall disconnect from everything and everyone.

My depression was a culmination of everything that I let build up over the years, and it hit me at the worst time (because when is the right time for it to hit?)

Let’s Address The Perception:

When I initially decided to reveal to a select few how I was feeling, the reactions were either very supportive or very expected.

The way that people would receive this information is one of the reasons that I kept this information quiet for so long. The supportive reactions were just that: very soft spoken words of encouragement. The very expected reactions were those of selfishness: the ‘but you’re still alive, why are you complaining’; the ‘let me send you links to streamed church sessions’; and the ‘well, we all got problems [insert their problems]’.

I know that the movies and the extreme cases on the news have hardened our hearts to the idea that those surrounding you may be capable of suffering such an ailment, but please remember that it is very possible. And, whether or not you believe in it, if someone else is going through it and chooses to open up to you about it (1) feel honored that they thought that you were human enough to understand that they are not feeling “okay”, (2) try to tear yourself away from YOU for at least 20 minutes and hear that person out, and (3) do not assume that you know what is going on or what it is like. Everyone’s experiences are different and someone else’s depression is not yours.

The Feels:

Let’s talk about what a depression felt like for me:

The Loneliness:

Even though I wasn’t always alone, I always felt alone. I felt like I did not have anyone and could not go to anyone. This is the fault of no one, it’s just an effect that I suffered.

The Sadness:

There was a build-up that lead to my depressed state and it had to do with: my level of activity, the amount of people who rely on me financially, the way that I treat those that I am close to and the fact that I expect similar treatment in return (a bad habit that I am trying to break), the uncertainty about my future, and the negative feelings associated with opening yourself up to others.

This resulted in a bunch of me blaming myself for this continuing pattern in my life where I give my best (and worst) self to people only for them to take it, give nothing in return, and reap the benefit with one foot out the door. These types of things happened to me with past boyfriends, friends, family, and then when it happened again on top of everything else that I was feeling, it was just too much…

This sadness doesn’t easily go away. Mix this with the loneliness that you’re already experiencing and you’ve got one sad drink!

I still haven’t figured out how to deal with or get past this sadness just yet, but I am working on it.

The Denial:

Let’s not forget the fact that we don’t want to be going through this in the first place, so my initial thought was to just deny it.

I did not want to believe that I could experience something like this. But, once I got to the point where I really did not want to have to experience this anymore and that I wanted to get out of it, I was more willing to accept that this was happening. Once I accept it, I can start working towards getting better, was my mindset and it worked. I am now working through this ugly battle.

The Fatigue:

When you are depressed, you literally wake up feeling tired (if you get sleep at all). You often need a nap or a break in your day.

Little things tire you out, your days seem impossibly long (but also not long enough), and your feet weigh a ton anytime you have to get up and move.

So much weighs you down when you are “down”, and the fatigue is just another thing that you have to combat on the road to recovery.  

The Sleepless Nights:

Now, I experienced a complete lack of sleep when I was experiencing my “down time”. I just couldn’t fall asleep. I would lay awake and think, or stare at the walls, or watch “It’s Complicated” or “Living Single” over and over and over. As if those things would “heal” me.

The part that I dreaded the most was that, when the sun would start to set, I would just get sad because I’d know that I would spend another night laying awake and wishing that I could just go to some other subconscious world. I never have dreams but you have no idea how much I prayed for any type of dream to take my mind off of whatever else it was on.

Add to that the fact that I literally could not sleep in my own bed! I would begin my night in my cozy king bed but lay awake for hours. Once I finally got tired of tossing and turning, I would finally give in and move to the couch — the only place that I even have a chance at falling asleep. Hence, the sleeplessness. 

The Loss of Appetite:

As hungry of a state that I constantly live in, it shocked me that I could not eat!

I would find it being 1p.m. or 2p.m. before realizing that I hadn’t eaten a thing. Not because I didn’t have things to eat, but because I literally could not eat. Food would make me sick, but, I guess, to add to the drama of it all, my stomach would growl. 

No clue what the loss of appetite was about, but I didn’t like it when I experienced it. 

The Healing:

I don’t know what other people’s healing is like, but I know that mine is a long process that involves me getting back to my very routine lifestyle.

It is the fact that I decided to leave my very routine bubble that led me to this depressed state, so I am literally backtracking in order to get back on track (which means going back to a completely closed off state, as bad as that sounds). Unfortunately, this is harder to do than it seems like it should be, so I find myself constantly straddling the line between “okay” and “back in”.

My circle is not big, at all, there are probably 3 people that genuinely care about me and my wellbeing apart from family, but there are also people around my campus that make it a point to check on me.

I have so much love for those of you who saw me around campus, noticed I was down and talked to me (Josh and Ron); and those of you who randomly check on me (Corina, Em, Jason and Alicia); and NATHAN thanks for just being there to hug me. You guys have no idea how much those things have meant. You have no idea how far those simple acts go.

In short, the healing is harder than actually going through the depression itself. It’s a process that requires patience. And, it’s not easy, but believe me when I say, IT HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF US. So, if this is happening to you, embrace it, because this too shall pass, and I promise you ain’t too fly to feel it (because I surely thought I was).

XLIII: Washington D.C. - Can We Eat A Little?

One of my absolute favorite places in the world (so far), is Washington D.C. I love this place so much so that I make it a point to go there each year (time and money permitting). 

On this year's wonderful trip, I decided to invite my mom, who never travels, and my sister, who always travels. My main goal was to eat as much food as I could and to celebrate my 27th birthday. This was the perfect plan because everyone on the trip knew that I literally only went there to eat and see the city (two very easy things to do in D.C.).

So, when we finally got there, my first stop was:


Bojangles | Famous chicken n' Biscuits

This was our first stop, mainly because I was hyping this place up for about a month before we actually got to D.C. and secondly because of it's close proximity to our hotel. We were staying in the heart of Capitol Hill (literally a 5 minute walk to the Capitol) which was conveniently placed by Union Station. Union Station is a beautiful metro station filled with food (BOJANGLES!) and stores for shopping. 

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We ordered about $40.00 worth of food which came in a huge box (with a sweet tea). You literally cannot go wrong with either spicy chicken wings, or spicy chicken strips from Bojangles! Add a side of their perfectly seasoned fries, and red beans and rice and you've got a satisfying food coma. 

If you can't resist something sweet, then I highly recommend that you get one of their BoBiscuits (even though I missed out on this gem) or one of their delicious pies. 

Something else that we missed out on was requesting that they throw some Mumbo Sauce in with our order. My friend mentioned, over and over, that we find Mumbo Sauce while we were in Washington D.C. (the home of Mumbo Sauce), but it just kept slipping our minds due to all of the other excitement around us. 

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The next morning, we all got up, got dressed and asked for food recommendations! One place that everyone at our hotel (Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill - horrible service and you'll always get overcharged) couldn't stop raving about was Art & Soul. 

Luckily for us, this restaurant was located right across the street and all we had to do was take one hot and humid stroll over. 

Art and Soul

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This was basically a fancy twist on soul food. Now, normally, anytime someone attempts to "fancify" soul food, it's disgusting and offensive, but, Art & Soul was a pleasant surprise that I did not see coming. 

The ambiance inside of this restaurant was everything that you imagine for a swanky, upscale, D.C., socialite-type of restaurant. It had a clear and open floor plan, low hanging lights, a chic color scheme, and it was well furnished.

We were seated at a high table near the bar (so my friend could watch sports, I mean, enjoy being in my presence), and one thing that stuck out to me was the fact that there was a huge, beautiful floor-to-ceiling mirror with silver sparkly trim to our right. In the reflection was nothing but us four and the beautiful restaurant behind us. It was a beautiful sight to eat brunch to...

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Now let’s get to the food. 

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I ordered cheesy grits with ham and bacon. This was a perfectly savory breakfast that was surely to stick to the arteries!

My friend got delicious lemon pancakes with mixed berries cooked into them. Now, the lemon flavored pancakes were good enough alone but with the mixed berries... it was simply amazing! If I get the chance to go back to Art & Soul, that will be my next meal. 


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Shake Shack

Next up, well after a nail shop, a farmers market and a very pleasant visit to Loc Luv, we went looking for a quick bite. What better place to grab a quick bite than Shake Shack?!

If you have ever been to the East Coast and haven't tried Shake Shack then you're totally missing out. It would have to be the best burger and fries combo that you can get. I ate it a total of 2 times in about 3 total days while in the food hub (Washington D.C.), so trust me when I say that this food is good. 


RPM Italian

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This was probably the best meal I've ever had.

No, I am not over-exaggerating! If you've ever been to Washington D.C. and had RPM Italian, then you'll agree, it's some of the best food you've eaten. Even a dish as simple as spaghetti is delicious! 

This location is definitely a more upscale one, but they are still willing to serve you as you are. Trust me, I rolled up to this restaurant on my long board with my friend, dying from the humidity of D.C. and they were perfectly fine with treating us as if we were dressed in our finest. 

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The atmosphere was absolutely marvelous. We saw everything from: casual long-boarders on a mission for good food and a romantic evening to couples celebrating anniversaries, to co-workers in desperate need of a drink after work. 

I more than enjoyed myself throughout this whole dinner. I enjoyed the company that I kept and I especially enjoyed the food. RPM provided me with a dining experience that I will, surely, never forget.

Here's what we ordered:

Truffled Garlic Bread circa 1963

Spaghetti & Meatball

Sautéed Broccolini

&

The Seafood Pasta Special

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And, for dessert, we had:

Vanilla Gelato

Delicious Beignets

Together forever  - Tati | Terry | Brianna J. 

Together forever - Tati | Terry | Brianna J. 

*Stock Images Used Throughout This Post*

XLI: But, Who Comes First?

We all have some type of hierarchy to our lives whether we notice it or not. There are inherent levels of importance that we place on the groups of people and individuals in our lives. 

Ideally, we would put our family first, right? I mean we came into this world knowing no one but them! We've grown up with them. We've been around them for years, maybe even decades depending on how old we are. Long story short, they've been there. They've seen us at our best, they've seen us at our worst. They were there when we won our first doubles tennis match, and our first varsity wrestling match! So, to me, family is first.

But, we may also have that one faithful, fun and loyal friend. This is a friend that is so close that they feel like family. So, where does this person fall in our hierarchy? 

And what about those cool people that we met at church who tell us that we are all family -- collectively, children of God? Where do they fall? 


All of this inquisition is basically a call for introspection. Sometimes we forget that family is family. We put people who were complete strangers before people that we've known our whole lives! We make plans with a family member and then completely cancel to, instead, be there for someone who was a stranger just a month ago!

Yes, we are supposed to treat others with respect and be kind, but, I do not think that translates to us putting them before people who put us first for years. 

Now, I too am a person who has become friends with someone, gotten accustomed to being around them constantly, talking to them daily, and, in being wrapped up in my exciting and new friendship, forgotten to call my parents daily like I had before, or canceled on a cousin or sibling because it had become easier to just meet up with this friend instead. But, because I've been on the receiving end of this before, I've become hyper-aware of the effect that this has on you when your family member completely forgets about you or flakes on you.

I say all of this to say that, I don't have the answers for those family members who don't deserve to be placed first in our lives, but I do know that, just becoming more aware of the simple fact that there are levels to our relationships with people will serve to keep us on our toes when dealing with those closest to us. This will help to keep us in check when deciding to visit that cousin who we haven't seen in months instead of spending the day lounging with a friend. It will also show your family members that they are loved and valued. 

You never know what could go wrong and when. Don't continue to put off your family thinking that they'll always be there. Pay more attention to the hierarchy of people within your life, and even take some time to re-evaluate it. This will help us further on our missions to treat others the ways that we want to be treated, and it will improve your overall relationship with your family members. Because, to me, family is  E V E R Y T H I N G.

Happy Monday!

VI: What My Thanksgiving Will Look Like... ?

FAMILY

Imagine this:

The kids are attempting to cook, the turkey is raw, the cranberry sauce has touched the ground multiple times and cream of mushroom soup is going into things that cream of mushroom soup does not belong in. Just kidding, that’s an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  During the Holidays, all of the “feel-good” shows and movies are in heavy syndication and running on all of my favorite networks all day long. My Thanksgivings are shaped and moulded by the shows and movies that I finally get to sit down with family and watch around the Holidays. All I have to do is grab a blanket, snuggle up next to whoever is taking a break from cooking at that moment and indulge.

If I’m next to my uncle, then I’m either watching Star Wars or The Peanuts; if I am next to my aunt then I am either watching The Nanny, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or something on the Lifetime Network; if I am sitting next to my mom then we are definitely watching Martin talk about his Mama’s biscuits; if I am next to my sister (who doesn’t let me get too close) then we are watching the Macy’s Day Parade while she plans out her Black Friday Attack; and if I’m sitting next to my dad or grandpa then I am watching football, Walker Texas Ranger, Andy Griffith or old Westerns.

Oddly enough, the television is the way that I remember the Holidays the most. We are all basically gathered around the television with loved ones up until it is time to gather around the dinner table with loved ones. Thanksgiving for my family happens in two parts: the first part is with my father’s family (usually at my grandparents house) and the second part happens with my mom’s family (now at my cousin’s house). The flavors of the day are insane. I go from eating dressing, ham, yams, greens, turkey, fried chicken, and pie at one house with these flavors to eating the exact same things at another house with completely different flavors. How they do it is pure magic (Black Girl Magic), and all I want to do is learn so that I can, one day, host the Thanksgiving festivities.

LOVE

As I got older, my Thanksgivings were spent sharing a lounge chair made for one while watching television, eating Chinese food, laughing until we cried, and drifting in-and-out of sleep until we got the phone call that the food was ready. At that point, we’d get up and hit as many houses as possible just so that we could fill our bellies, laugh with family we hadn’t seen in months, play board games/video games, and then leave just to end up right back in that lounge chair. No matter how I spend my Thanksgivings, there are two things that are always a constant, family around the television and love.

As someone who is as anti-love as they come, something about the Holidays always lights the little love-flame in my heart. Nice gestures are in the air, giving feels good and manners have their rebirth around the Holidays. I am enchanted by it all. The colors and smells of the Holidays add a warmth in my heart that even Summer can't emulate. 

This upcoming Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for love, taste-testing the food, education, family, friends, creative minds and life. I am excited to spend my Thanksgiving with my loved ones eating all of the pies that I requested throughout the year, laughing, and watching television.

So to all I say, Let's Be Breef, but, most of all, Let's Be Thankful!


What Does My Thanksgiving Look Like?

Anete Millers

As a child, I always remembered waking up to a crisp autumn morning, with the heater providing a welcome solace from the outside November chill. The delectable smells of a Thanksgiving feast emanated from our home’s little kitchen, and when I settled into the living room, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade would be on TV while my mom prepared the turkey. For me, Thanksgiving has always been about one thing—family.

This is the time of year where our boisterous worlds quiet down a bit and life slows its pace. Hallmark movies and Christmas music start to make their entrance, and baking cookies and treats becomes a common pastime.

As the years go by, and my brothers and my sister get older, we begin to lead our separate lives. This sometimes creates a disconnect between the feelings of closeness we shared in our younger years. The holidays provide my heart with a chance to recover, not just from the stresses of everyday life, but from the emotions created by the slow, natural separation of family. When everyone is together again, it’s as if things never changed. I cling tightly to those feelings of warmth and familiarity, because as we age, the opportunity to experience them grows scarce.

The beauty of this holiday is in its simplicity. Most of us focus only on one thing—relishing our time with the ones we love most. Even when I was a teenager working in retail, I would make it a priority to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family. The following day (the much-dreaded Black Friday), I would be called to duty, but the holiday itself was always about old-fashioned enjoyment—having dinner and watching movies with my mom, my grandma, and my siblings, while sharing laughter and memories. Until my dad passed away in 2000, spending quality time with him was also a significant part of our holidays.

My mom always put a clever Latvian twist on her dishes, but for the most part dinner would consist of the usual Thanksgiving staples—a perfectly juicy, seasoned turkey (and sometimes ham), potatoes, gravy, stuffing, corn pudding, vegetables, and desserts like pumpkin pie and cobbler. The scents—spicy, sweet, savory—would swirl in perfect harmony and waft throughout the kitchen and living space while the kids helped set the table. Then, we would all come together, our mouths watering in anticipation for the meal sitting in front of us.

I look forward to this time of year because I get to take a mental breather and focus on the present, enjoying the company of the people I hold closest to my heart. I can sit on the couch and talk to my grandma for hours about random stories of her childhood, I can catch up with my siblings and see what is going on in their lives, and I can spend time with my mom, who is my best friend in so many wonderful ways. Not every family has the blessing of being so close for the holidays, so I always keep in mind that this is a time of gratitude—for everything and everyone we hold dear.

To our readers, I wish you a happy, safe, and beautiful Thanksgiving.


My Holiday!

Nicole Parker

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I find these are the most joyous times of the year. The majority of the year is spent in a daze because of personal endeavors. The demands of this life continuously draw us away from the things and people who are most important. We’re forever in motion – racing, trudging towards the intangible notion of success to the point that we have little time for fellowship with family. Thankfully, this holiday has become a tradition where families come together. I know for my own family, each year it’s a miniature reunion that is usually held at my Aunt’s in Sacramento, California. Family from across the U.S. comes to her home and we revel in what has essentially turned into a homecoming of sorts.

The women usually share in the task of cooking the Thanksgiving meal while the men handle the laborious odds and ends. We each play our specific roles – be it baking a cake, basting the turkey, grabbing last minute items from the grocery store, cleaning, or setting up the rented tables and chairs, it all comes together through collaborated efforts. A house filled with people, the aroma of an assortment of soul foods, and the combination of laughter and holiday music put a stamp of peace on my heart this same time every year. Rejoining with distant cousins, aunts, nieces, nephews and even old friends who’ve become family is what makes Thanksgiving a day of jubilation. Card and domino games, dance contests, delectable desserts, and photos with our grandparents that forever capture a moment in time with their lineage make all the efforts put into making Thanksgiving happen worth it.

As the holiday approaches, I wish ALL of you a Happy Thanksgiving and pray that you all find time to spend it with the ones you love!