An Ode to Grandpa - How to Embrace the Middle

Hello Lovely,

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“Ahhh!” As I breathed in the clean, cool Grand Bahama air on a Sunday afternoon in September, I instantly began to feel more at ease.  During the days leading up to the funeral, we mourned the loss of my grandfather: a great man of joy, harsh truths and hard work.  Grandpa will have you welding in the rain, protective gear and all; anything to get the job done!

As I stared out of the rain-stained window, betwixt the coconut trees, I took a long, deep breath and exhaled.  Eyes closed, chest lifted and mind cleared in seconds.  Memories of my grandfather flashed in my mind; fading in and out.  When we laid him to rest the day before it was indeed a heartfelt loss.  His funeral was short and fitting, with a harmonious music and fond memories.

I found myself lost in thought; reflecting, rethinking and analyzing the steps that led me to this point in my life. Was I following my passion? Have I made my mark on the world? Am I presenting my best self? Will I be remembered for the kindness of my heart and the thoughtfulness of my actions?

A loss often puts life in perspective. When a family member has passed, we lose a piece of ourselves and no matter how minute that may be, sadness and possible detachment are felt.  At times this may cause people to feel gratitude, inspiration, the reality of life's shortness  or its fragility.

Although I felt the heaviness of his absence, it did encourage me to make my life momentous and to be remembered as my true self; to share myself in all facets, with the world.  It was a reminder that we are all on a journey in life, one that ultimately comes to an end. We may not be able to choose that ending or even our beginning, but we do have power over the middle. Unlike the other stages, the middle doesn’t offer the excitement of new beginnings or the joy we sometimes find in endings. The middle is full of reality checkpoints where we realise the journey we had envisioned is unlike the journey we’ve actually experienced. As I reflected, I learnt a few life lessons. Here's how to better understand the middle stage of your journey:

  • Be passionate NOW! - No matter how old or experienced you are, passion is instinctive in us and shines through when we act on what is natural to us.  If it's public speaking, carpentry, singing, writing, art, photography, cooking: just do it. Your life will thank you.

  • Losing a loved one doesn't mean letting go - It means you've suffered a loss and now have the memories to hold dear. This doesn’t signify your end nor does it mean your life should be on indefinite hold. It isn't easy, it takes time, you may feel detached from the world and it will be emotional; but remember that these are normal.  Healing is normal.

  • Be remembered for the true you and not who you're expected to be  - My grandfather was jovial, selective and made nor took any excuses when it came to working and providing. He was small in stature but strong and wise in character. He will be remembered for these things, but mostly for his heart.  He was kind and mentored those whom he saw potential in.  Through welding, he taught others and changed lives.

  • Life is Fragile - My grandfather was preparing for recovery and family members were preparing to provide as much comfort and assistance as possible.  We were hopeful.  As with life, no one knows tomorrow and we did not have a chance to spend more time with him.  Knowing this: be wise, live in today, make the decisions that leave your minds at ease.  Time moves silently and quickly, ensure that it doesn't leave you.

My grandfather had a strong character and was remembered quite fondly by his church family and those whose lives he had changed and inspired.  He left big footprints to follow and truly no one can walk in his shadow.  The best part is he wouldn't want any of his relatives in his shadow, but more so paving their own path and adding value to their lives and the lives of others along the way.

Mark 13:32-33New Living Translation (NLT)

32 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. 33 And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!”

What life moment has had you rethink your perspective on life? What life lessons have you learnt lately? How will you take charge of your middle stage to find your happy ending?

XoX,
Mechelle

 

VIVA 2016 Women's Conference

Hello lovely,

I’m back from my mini vacation. I know you didn’t even have a chance to miss me! You’re probably wondering where I’m coming back from. If you haven’t kept up with us last week, you may have missed my announcement that I went to Miami for the Viva Women’s Conference. This year’s theme was She Rises. I was all over this theme especially because it came with a floral-tea-party-garden-vibe! It’s Fall, but I still got to wear a floral headband; I had fun incorporating muted floral prints with my Fall wardrobe. But even more, I had a blast at the conference!

This year, a group of at least 20 women from The Bahamas travelled for the conference. We had Diamond Lounge tickets, which are pricey, but totally worth it. We were served gourmet food (in small portions so I am not ashamed to say I made a midnight McDonald’s run with my boyfriend) massages, makeup and hair braiding. The singing was concert-worthy, the décor was breath-taking and we even had a photo booth with instant printouts. The commute from South Miami to Cooper City was killer but I made it.

Our guest speakers were on fire! We heard from Charlotte Gambill, Hosanna Poetry, Pat Smith and lead pastor Steph Gramling. On the first night Charlotte spoke to us about setting up our women to win. It was a powerful speech about how she was actually booed at her first Bible Study, and from that moment on, decided to build up women every chance she got. Her speech taught me that standing up can make other people stand up to shut you up, but if every single person in your world was committed to cheering you on, how big would your dreams be? I was reminded that when you have nothing to offer, that’s when you find out who your true friends are. And when you set one another up to win, her win is your win. You can read the story of Ruth and Naomi for more on this topic. During Charlotte’s speech, I was reminded of a friendship I had, that ended terribly. We went months without speaking. I stopped holding onto my feelings towards it months ago, but also did not want anything to do with her because the trust was broken. After the alter call, she actually came up to me and apologised. I’m glad to put it all behind me. I don’t think that we can ever be friends again, but I see no reason we can’t be cordial as Christian women. It was a great healing moment.

My favourite speaker from the conference was Hosanna Poetry. She started with her poem Tsunami. It was a very touching piece that brought many people around me to tears. I loved her use of metaphors and the way she brought everyone together at the end for prayer was truly moving. I left feeling inspired about my own goals in life, learned to accept my deeds as contributions to the bigger picture and that without these, the bigger picture simply isn’t possible. As Hosanna said, “Someone had to preach to Billy Graham, before he could preach to others.” But don’t just take my word for it, check out this video below of all of the amazing must-see action from this years’ VIVA Women’s Conference.

Hope to see you next year!

XOX,

Motivational Monday: 3 Things to Remember When You Feel Like a Failure in Your Twenties

Motivational Monday: 3 Things to Remember When You Feel Like a Failure in Your Twenties

Failure is a part of life but it doesn't have to define us. Maybe it's time we redefine how we look at success instead. So here are 3 things to remember whenever you begin to feel like a failure in your twenties."Failure is unavoidable in our lives. But if I can learn something from it every time, the chance of success will only increase."

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How a Trip to the Salon Nearly Ruined My Life

Hello Lovely,

It's funny how one day before I was supposed to do something to cheer up my soon-to-be step-sister, I was in desperate need of cheering up myself. Wait, what? You're probably wondering what happened and who this soon-to-be-step-sister is. Calm down! Let's back-track shall we?

So I work in a school as a secretary. Not glamorous but it pays the bills. My dad's girlfriend, now fiance, has two daughters who both go to this school. They're only a little over a year apart with the youngest daughter being 13. Ouch! I know! Very difficult years to navigate! Well on Friday the youngest came into the office to call her mum because she had a bad day. After she hung up, I pulled her to the side to talk. Now I know it would be very easy to ignore this situation as we are nothing to each other. But I'm the bigger (older) person and I have to set the tone for how our 'relationship' will be, i.e. whether or not we'll even have one. I should mention that before this, we had never spoken. Even during the photo shoot, I just took their pictures and communicated through my dad. I didn't expect her to say much of anything to me (she's a teen, they're tough to talk to). But as soon as we were alone, she immediately opened up and began crying. Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm awkward around tears (despite also being an MFT Intern). I either start crying too, or completely ignore you. I listened to her, shared some of my own relevant experience and in a last minute effort to win her over, I offered to come by on Sunday after church to do some craft projects with her. This really got her excited and we even hugged on it!

I was really proud of myself for answering God's call to lend a helping hand to someone in need. But this joy didn't last long. On Saturday, I went to my mum's hairdresser for a wash and TRIM. I emphasize the word trim, because it seemed simple enough, yet I walked out of there with more than three inches less, than what I walked in with. As angry as I was with her, I was angrier with myself. I knew that she tends to cut instead of trim, but I still went to her because the service was being paid for by my mum. I had a feeling that she was cutting off more than she should have, but I didn't stop her. I didn't demand that she turn me around so that I could see in the mirror exactly how much she was cutting off. I didn't speak up.

And trust me, I have watched enough episodes of Law and Order SVU and read enough textbooks to know that the victim always blames herself even though it's never the victims fault, but I couldn't help it. I cried all night. Even when I thought I was over it, I cried again. My mother, dad, brother, boyfriend, best friends, even my boss (when I ran into her after the incident) tried to console me and shared in my anger. I think what made this even more difficult was that back in 2009, after getting my heart broken by my first real boyfriend, one of my best friends helped me to dye my hair at home, and then like an idiot only one month later, tried to perm it at home. You're probably thinking it couldn't have been that bad, could it? Oh it was bad trust me! The bottom right side of my head was bald and the rest of my hair was thinning out. I had no choice but to cut it in one of the ugliest haircuts I have ever seen (a little on the top, practically nothing at the back). That was definitely in my top 5 traumatic experiences ever! So when my hair got cut again, it definitely brought back flashbacks and major PTSD. I was ready to skip out on Church and the crafts on Sunday, but I made a promise to her and at her age, broken promises make you good as dead to them.

So on Sunday, I wrapped my head in a scarf, ready to hide my shame, gathered my craft supplies and headed out the door for church. I wasn't crying any more over the haircut, but a dark cloud still loomed over me. But get this. When I stepped outside, I noticed that the Hibiscus tree was in bloom. And so were my mother's Lilies. Fresh flowers that weren't there the day before! It was a miracle. I knew instantly that, that was God's way of smiling down on me and letting me know that everything would be okay. Imagine. While my world was in chaos, the outside world was still functioning and better yet, BLOOMING! My mother's lilies hadn't been in bloom in about a year. I was struggling with my outer beauty, when there was so much beauty around me.

Sure I still had an anxiety attack at church and practically ran out of the room before crying again, but that was the last of it. Having dinner with my step-family and bonding over painting mugs and bowls was really therapeutic as it allowed me to get to know them better and create something beautiful. 

Now I am not an expert artist. Painting is not my forte. Nor my step-sisters. But we had a blast fudging our way through it. I think my mug turned out pretty decent and I'm proud I was able to produce a bowl to match. Sure the bowl looks a little tribal, while the mug is more like a cow skipping through an asymmetrical garden. But everyone loved the design and I think my grandmother will love it as a Mother's Day present! (I was originally going to give it to my mother but she reads my blog so that would totally ruin the surprise).

This is the beauty of healing through art therapy. In art therapy, words are not always necessary. A mere lump of clay or a blank canvas can be far less threatening than giving voice to painful feelings, words, or images. The simple act of a scribble on paper can likely bring light to darkness, ignite conversation, or be a release for a depressing thought. I leave you with this verse to encourage you throughout your week:

Isaiah 41:10

10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Spring Into Action: How to Ask For What You Want

When I got my first real job out of college, I was an Administrative Assistant in a financial company with only 5 staff members. I knew nothing about finances, but having worked there a previous summer, it didn’t take me too long to catch on. In my interview, my soon to be boss told me that I would be making $1000 per month. Now we all know that is not a lot of money. Especially for a person with a lot of hobbies like myself. Made worse, I planned on enrolling in an online university to pursue my Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and knew that would not be enough. But I didn’t want to get greedy. After all, I only had a Bachelor’s degree and no work experience. So I looked him in the eye and said, “Could I be paid $50 more?” It was so simple but that little question I asked made all the difference. The fact that I even dared to ask for more money made my boss respect me so much more. Ever since then, I’ve had a way of asking for things that almost guaranteed approval.

Whether it’s a raise, a boost in responsibilities, or even just a little time off, asking for what you want in the workplace can be one of the most difficult tasks on your to-do list. Now, I’m no Martha Stewart, but I have picked up a few tips and tricks that I can share with you today to help you go for it—and ask for what you want. After all, asking the tough questions, standing up for yourself, and being your own advocate is crucial for long-term success, happiness, and overall satisfaction at work. And, there’s no one in this world who knows what you want (and sometimes need) better than you do.  Now, let’s get into it…

Remember Your Value. If you don’t truly believe that you deserve that big promotion, no one else will. Remind yourself of all of your accomplishments, and run through a list of all of your positive assets. A little confidence boost can change the tone of any workplace conversation, and will allow you to voice your request in an assertive and poised manner. Think about what you’re asking for, and go over all of the reasons why you deserve it. Just like in my job interview, I was able to ask for more money because I knew I deserved it. When my boss could see that I was genuine and not backing down, he thought nothing of it to grant my request.

Body Language. Did you know that altering your body language even the tiniest bit can make you feel more powerful, confident and optimistic? Not only does your body language affect how others perceive you, but it can actually change the way that you think and feel about yourself. Be cautious of how you carry yourself. You want to be assertive but not so assertive that you put off the person you’re speaking to. So look your boss straight in the eye, sit a little taller, and use your body language to your advantage.

Be Gracious. This one is super important. Being gracious and asking for what you want in a calm, confident, and POSITIVE tone can make or break it. Most of the time, it’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say it. When asking for that well-deserved raise, make sure to acknowledge how grateful you are for the job you have, the opportunities it has provided you and the experience that you have gained. Even if my boss did not grant my request for a bigger salary, I would have been gracious and accepted the job any way.

Don’t Let a ‘No’ Bring You Down. This might be the most important piece of advice that I have to give you. Don’t let a ‘no’ determine your value, or veer you off your desired path. Every single one of us will hear the word ‘no’ more than once in our lifetime. It doesn’t mean that you should give up, or that you don’t deserve what you asked for. We need to think of as ‘no’ as incentive to keep up the hard work and continue to challenge yourself. You’ll get there eventually. Also, I’ve found that the most personal and professional growth has come from situations where I don’t get what I want, and I have to figure out creative ways to make things work.

Now, most of these tips and tricks not only apply to asking for what you want in the workplace, but also in your personal life. I’ve found that the most meaningful lessons that I’ve learned at work also translate to my everyday life.

Do you have any tried and true tips on how to ask for what you want in the workplace? Share them in the comments!

XoX,

Motivational Mondays: How to Create a Work-Life Balance

Yesterday on Facebook, my profile asked me to write an introduction about myself. I had no idea what to write. It’s weird how difficult it is to describe yourself, especially when you’re trying to sell yourself. And you know what I wrote on? I wrote about my career(s). I talked about being a therapist and blogger. It’s interesting that I chose my career(s) as the defining feature of who I am, and what makes me, me. But a lot of us do this! We often get so consumed with our careers and it’s not hard to do. We spend half of our week at work, and if you’ve got kids, or if you’re in school and working full time like me, it can be hard to find time for yourself. Finding a work-personal life balance isn’t easy, and often takes tough decision making, but it is possible. So today I’m going to tell you how I’ve learned to achieve this balance through my own experiences.

As a therapist, I can’t bring my client’s problems home with me. This is made easier by confidentiality issues so I can’t even talk about any of it with anyone. Knowing that I ethically cannot take their issues home with me makes it much easier to leave everything at the door. It prevents burnout and I never feel overloaded. At work, I have learned the power of not responding at all. Sometimes a co-worker will intentionally do or say something to you to antagonise you or get you into trouble, but getting riled up pushing back could actually make the situation worse, especially if you’re not good at compartmentalising your emotions. Then there are times when I have to say no, even if it comes off as mean and insensitive. It’s not easy, but if you have the kind of co-workers or boss that understands, if you can just take the time to explain your needs, it should be easier. For me, I ask that no one even speak to me if I’m eating, because of my health-related issues and I don’t attend extra-curricular events that infringe on my personal time away from work. It’s all about creating boundaries and making it known.

This is why the key to creating a healthy work-life balance is living intentionally. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of work, home, sleep, repeat. Living robotically will never bring you happiness; and waiting around for happiness to find you isn’t the best game plan either. You must intentionally seek your own happiness, through an activity you really enjoy. The best activities are the ones that get you out of the house, excite you and teach you something new. Attending church regularly has really helped me to wind down and prepare my head for a new week in the office. The praise and worship, teachings and enlightening conversations with my friends all help to keep me feeling positive and refreshed. I have even declared a Sabbath so that I have one, do-nothing day per week. Maybe there’s something you need to cut-out, or something positive you need to add. When you know what your life is supposed to look like, it’s easy to decide what doesn’t belong.

A simple practice of intentionality: before you do the next action online or at work, pause a moment, close your eyes and mentally say your intention. Why are you doing this? Is it out of compassion for others, or yourself? Is it to make someone happier? To improve the world? Out of gratitude for the work and kindness of others?

And then as you do the action, be mindful of your intention. This is a small step, but in those few moments you will be living an intentional life.

Ephesians 5:15 NIV “Be very careful, then how you live – not as unwise but wise, making the most of every opportunity…”

How do you achieve the right work-life balance for you?

Everyone is different, so you all might have some different tips than the ones I just shared. Leave yours in the comments below—I’d love to read them.

XOX,

 

10 Morning Mood Boosters That Guarantee a Better Day

Hello Lovely,

I don't need much to get me in a good mood today because today I shall be reunited with my beau, whom I haven't seen since New Years! Long distance relationships can be tough, but we're definitely making it work. One of my favourite things to do with him when we're together, is simply rolling over in bed and saying good morning! That makes mornings so much better!

Start your a.m. off right with these easy tricks.

Have you ever noticed that what happens during the morning hours often sets the tone for the rest of the day? When things go smoothly, you tend to feel more relaxed and ready to face whatever the day may bring. However, when things get bumpy before you've even managed to get dressed, you're more likely to remain grumpy until bedtime. While some hassles can't be avoided, you can make mood-enhancing decisions during the a.m. hours that will set the stage for the next 16 or so. There are at least 10 "pick-me-ups" that will have your mood rising like the morning sun. Try one (or all!) of them for a happier and healthier you. 

1. Pick one "spoil-me" task to do.

This one's a no-brainer. When you wake up, give yourself 30 seconds to think of at least one nice thing you can do for yourself that day…and then do it. It may be as simple as fixing your favourite meal, wearing your favourite dress or visiting a local farmers market. Do something nice for yourself!

2. Eat a well-balanced meal.

Start your morning with a nutritious mix of complex carbohydrates and proteins that will last you until lunch, such as oatmeal or toast with peanut butter (include a sprinkle of cinnamon, which one study linked to improved mood and alertness, for an extra boost). Other research found that a moderate amount of caffeine (200 mg, or the amount in about two cups of coffee) elevated mood and mental sharpness, so enjoy some joe or black tea with your breakfast. Looks like I have that second cup of coffee after all!

3. Get some fresh air.

Head out for some "green exercise"-physical activity performed in an outdoor setting-even if you only have a few minutes to spare. Sometimes at work, I'll walk around to the teachers to deliver messages or collect registers just for a chance to get outside. A change of scenery does wonders for my mood! Researchers found that people experienced an enhanced mood and higher self-esteem after just five minutes of various types of green exercise, including walking and gardening. The study also found that exercising near water amplified the effects, so if you live near a lake, river or waterfall, even better. 

4. Listen to the sounds of nature.

Capture the benefits of the great outdoors, even if you can't get outside, by listening to recorded nature sounds. In a recent study, participants recovered from a stressful situation more quickly when they listened to a recorded combination of running water and bird sounds. I used to have one of those spa CDs, that I listened to on repeat for several months, before I lent it out and never got it back. It was so soothing, so I know this works. Open your window in the morning so you can hear Mother Nature's music as you get ready, or invest in an alarm clock that eases you awake with nature sounds. 

5. Focus on feeling good.

Right after waking up, Robyn McKay, PhD, a psychologist based in Tempe, Arizona, and founder of the Smart Girl-Modern Goddess coaching program, recommends taking five deep breaths and making the decision to feel good for the day. "Imagine that, even when you encounter frustrations and surprises, you will remember to breathe and respond mindfully-rather than react mindlessly-to your circumstances," she says. Dr. McKay also suggests that, throughout the day, you "take five deep, intentional breaths and remind yourself of your decision to feel good." 

6. Drink hot chocolate.

We all know that cocoa is good (it's right there underneath coffee for favourite morning beverage for me), but a recent study found that sipping a drink containing cocoa flavonols improved participants' moods and levels of alertness-even as they worked on a series of challenging maths problems. So go ahead and savour some hot cocoa made with low fat or skim milk and dark chocolate (or Bailey's, I'm not judging). The protein and carbs in the milk will help keep your blood sugar levels stable until lunch, which will help you hold on to your mood momentum. 

7. Take a moment to assess yourself.

Don't jump out of bed right when you open your eyes in the morning. Instead, take five minutes to pay attention to your body and notice if you feel any stiffness, then do some light stretching while breathing deeply, suggests Lynn Louise Wonders, LPC, RPT-S, RYT, a psychotherapist and yoga teacher in Marietta, Georgia. She notes, "Before racing off to the hundred things on the day's to-do list, it can be tremendously beneficial to claim these five minutes to tune in to your body and your breath. You'll find that you are more 'present' and better equipped to deal with the busyness of the day ahead." 

8. Envision the negative.

You've probably heard that gratitude is a mood elevator, but here's a surprising twist to that tactic: Think about a positive event from your life-how you got your dream job or met your ideal partner, for instance-and then imagine what your life would be like if the event hadn't happened. Though it seems like this would have the opposite effect, it actually improved the mood of one study's participants more so than simply thinking of the positive event itself. Sometimes I think about how my life would be had I not met someone or had I not started blogging, just to remind myself of why I do it in the first place.

9. Breathe in some mint.

Researchers found that sniffing peppermint enhanced mood and attention while also fighting fatigue. Try keeping a bottle of peppermint essential oil or bag of peppermint tea on your nightstand so you can inhale the positive scents right as you wake up. Another happiness helper is chewing gum, which elevated the moods, alertness and attention spans of another study's participants. Pop a piece of peppermint gum after breakfast for a double-duty perk-up. I also found that any leafy green with an herbal scent, like rosemary or thyme could perk me up if I don't have any mint.

10. Smile.

There's one thing you can do just about anywhere: Smile. "Remember," says Dr. McKay, "smiling is a simple way to change your mood-and the mood of those around you, too." So spread your good-mood wealth by baring those pearly whites as often as possible in the morning as well as throughout the day.