Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fitness Update #2: 18 pounds gone in 5 weeks!

If you saw this post, you already know the first part of my story: 10 pounds gone in the first 2 weeks of the Robert Brace 28-Day Challenge. And no, I'm not being paid or compensated by him to say this. Maybe I should be, but I'm not, and I'm okay with it.  I'm simply sharing a good thing. It's working for us, and I believe if you work this plan, it will work for you, too.

I watched in awe as the pounds melted away and my body shape-shifted... and I can't stop!  Charles and I are turning the 28-Day Challenge into the 56-Day Challenge. We are in the middle of Week 6 now. So far, I've lost 18 pounds, and Charles lost 17! A few days ago, I posted a middle-of-the-night giddy video. At the end, I accidentally turn my camera sideways, but you can kind of see what I look like now.

I'm learning how small adjustments on a consistent basis lead to huge impact over time, as outlined in the book "The Compound Effect" by Darren Hardy.

The 28-Day Challenge, like so many other fitness/eating plans, emphasizes a simple equation for weight loss:  (healthy eating + working out) * time =  healthy habits = FITNESS. Here are some of the changes I'm seeing:

  • I was wearing Size 16/18, now I'm down to Size 12. This is HUGE change! The last time I was a 12 was about 6 years ago. Even a strict 4-month regimen of Couch-to-5K didn't yield this type of result.
  • My shoes and rings fit better. Maybe this is because of cutting out a lot of salt and pork?
  • I have more energy throughout the day. 
  • I actually look forward to working out. 
  • The change is happening all over. I can see a difference in my face, arms, waist, back, legs, tush -- everything is changing. However, I see the most dramatic change in my legs and face. My tummy chub is holding on for dear life, but I have definitely lost some inches. 
  • My skin clarity improved, I think because of the reduced sugar intake.
  • When I do eat sugary sweets -- my downfall -- it's much for my taste buds, so I can't eat as much of it as I used to. I'm breaking the sugar addiction. Finally.

At some point, I will do before and after pics, but perhaps I'll save it until after the wedding. I did finally try on the bridesmaid dress last week, and I can actually zip it all the way up now.  GLORAAAYYY!! God is awesome.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Fitness Update: 10 pounds gone in 2 weeks!

How did I get so fat?!

Let me just start by saying this -- I had every intention of deleting this picture from my phone and never letting it see the light of day, much less the Internet (read: the whole world). But in the spirit of transparency, here it is. Oh boy...

That's me at Wrightsville Beach, NC, in July 2012, just a couple months ago. Obviously I'm having a good time. What kind of person would I be if I let a little extra wiggle around the middle keep me from having fun?!  But at the same time, I knew I needed to lose some weight. It's funny how if you go awhile without taking a picture, when you finally see yourself head-to-toe, it's like, "Ohhhh, so that's what I really look like."  Hey, the camera isn't lying.

But fear not! I had a plan... sort of. Eat right and exercise!  Duh, everybody knows that. I've done it before and it works... well, it works if I do them simultaneously and consistently. You see, when this picture was taken, we were running 2.5 miles regularly (2-3 times weekly).  But I was also downing a big cup of Blue Bell's Banana Pudding ice cream every night on the couch. That stuff is

Here's my issue: back on beach day, I didn't have a COMMITMENT to a plan because I didn't really even have a plan. So what did Charles and I do immediately after exercising on walking the beach, sand in our shoes and all? We hit up a seafood restaurant near Landfall and ate decadently. This is my point: after years of pretty much eating anything I wanted, whenever I wanted it, I was paying for it in the worst way. I got fat.

Fast forward to early August. I'm gonna be in this wedding, and I we never did measurements for our bridesmaids dresses (it's long story) so when I tried on the dress, I couldn't even zip it up. *Gasp*

NOOoo! Can you say "mortified?" 

Enter the Robert Brace 28-Day Challenge. Chescaleigh did it and had fabulous results!

Her posture improved and she is CUT!  But, as you see from the before shot, she was already fairly slender. We're about the same height, but she started at 141 lbs, ended at 141 lbs, and went from a size 12 to a size 4. Important note: getting fit doesn't always mean losing weight.

However, I know I was at my fittest when I was around 175-180 pounds -- strong, muscular, lean. I topped out at 220 lbs earlier this year and have worn a size 14/16 for several years now. My clothing size doesn't change much with my weight - thank you, Lord. Obviously, Francesca and I are built differently, and that's cool. I've always been bigger in stature than most girls and women, even at my fittest, and I'm thankful to God for giving me this frame. It's just that I loaded way too much onto this frame.

So far, I just finished two weeks of the RB28D program, and I've already lost 10 pounds. I'm down under 210 for the first time in years! YAY, GOD! I probably would have lost even more weight if I hadn't tried a tiny sliver of Christine's lemon pie on Labor Day, but hey -- Rome wasn't built in a day. And I'm sure the Romans paused for lemon pie breaks every now and again. But this is the only sweet I've eaten, and I don't plan to make that indulgence again anytime soon.

I'm going to wait at least until the wedding, which is in October, before doing any "big reveal" before-and-after shots, but I am definitely seeing a change in my body.   I'm eating differently -- no bread, pasta, rice, sweets, pork or beef, and more green veggies and lean meats. This coupled with 4x weekly workouts is leading to a much stronger and leaner body. I'm FINALLY on the right track.

I'm also finding myself kind of addicted to the workouts, so on our off days I'm antsy to get out of the house and walk, run, throw a frisbee -- something, anything to keep moving. The program is challenging, but I have such a feeling of accomplishment when I finish it in the morning. And although I won't touch on it in this post, it's also improving my will to commit to other things which are important to me.

Have you ever tried a plan like this? If so, how did it work for you?  And if you have any fitness goals to share, no matter how big or small they might seem, please feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to partner in prayer with you about making some real commitments and seeing your plans through to the finish.

Much love,

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Liebster Award

YAY!  My cuz and fellow natural blogger, Roni of The Savvy Housewife, gave me a Liebster Blog Award! 

The Liebster Award is for up-and-coming blogsters -- such as yours truly -- who have less than 200 followers. Small bloggers, unite!

The nerd in me had to go check a German-English translator to verify the meaning.  Liebster is indeed a German word (masculine, noun) which means "sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, etc." Liebste is the feminine version. **nerd moment officially over**

My dear cousin Roni is definitely all of those things. Thanks for thinking of me, hon!

Here's how it works:
  1. Each winner must post 11 random things about him/herself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the tagger set for you.
  3. Choose 11 bloggers who you would like to receive The Liebster Award.
  4. Create 11 questions for the bloggers you tagged to answer.

I'm not sure where the number "11" figures into the liebster concept, but I'll go with it.
So, without further adieu, 11 Random Things about Me:

my latest doodle using Crayola :-)

  1. Jesus is AWESOME!  Period.
  2. I'm a doodler. It helps me focus. (Hmm... based on Roni's response, maybe it runs in the family?) I also enjoy painting and drawing. One summer when I was a kid, all I did was draw hundreds of teddy bears.
  3. Blue Bell Ice Cream is THE BEST. Hands down. And I'm not just saying this because I'm from Texas. If you haven't tried their ice cream yet, get thee to a Walmart immediately!
  4. I like to think I have a green thumb, but I really don't. I can't keep houseplants alive for more than a few weeks. The stuff I plant in the yard is usually either too big for the place I put it, or it dies young. #wompwomp
  5. Way back in the day, I worked as a production assistant for Brian Williams, the current NBC Nightly News Anchor. He's a really nice guy, and his family is so beautiful.
  6. When I go shopping, about half the time it's just to touch the fabrics and materials. Silk... mmmmm. Leather... ohhhhhhh. Soft cotton... ahhhhh.  *blushing* 
  7. I really REALLY like period pieces, such as Downton Abbey, Mad Men, and Pride and Prejudice. It's not just a fad. For me this started back in the 80's with Little House on the Prairie. 
  8. I still drive the Jeep my parents gave me when I graduated high school. Hey, it's paid for and she runs like a champ. Regular oil changes can make all the difference.
  9. In my lifetime, I've had more than 30 pets. Most of those were cats. My favorite pet was our Labrador, Lady. She was so sweet.
  10. I just started the Robert Brace 28-Day Challenge. Today is Day 4. I am officially humbled. 
  11. Baby dolls are kind of creepy to me -- not Barbies but the ones with the big heads with eyes open or closed depending on how you position them. *skeeving*
And here are the questions from Roni to moi:
  1. What's your favorite color? Navy blue.
  2. If you could be any animal, what would you be and why? I would be an elephant, because they are familial and majestic. I would also stomp on things and have loads of fun during bath time.
  3. Who inspired you the most? Jesus. He did for me what no one else in this world could ever do. Who else offers salvation, redemption, intercession and the Holy Spirit as an ever-present comforter! 
  4. If you could go anywhere right now, where would you go and why? Hawaii, because I've heard the sunsets are breathtaking and the beach is so relaxing.
  5. What is your favorite food? Oh, this is a tough question, but I just melt whenever I eat a tender, fall-apart-at-the-fork, BBQ/smoked brisket. My dad makes the best brisket ever.
  6. What was your favorite subject in school? It's a tie between Honors Art and English.
  7. What is your dream job? Philanthropist + world traveler + Christian counselor, giving liberally, seeing this gorgeous planet, and helping people get free. 
  8. What is your favorite season and why? Spring is my favorite season because it's cool, the birds are singing, the earth is blooming and the mosquitoes aren't out yet.
  9. Besides blogging, what is your favorite hobby? Anything I can do creatively with my hands, such as jewelry, sculpting, painting, photography and video editing.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, what are three things you would take with you? My husband, an amazingly comfortable bed, and an unlimited supply of Pandora radio.
  11. What movie would you pick to describe your life and why? Haaa... I have absolutely no idea, but maybe The Goonies? It's a coming-of-age adventure story. Kids find a treasure map, go on an journey not too far from home, knock down the bad guys and show love to other outcasts. One kid gets his first kiss. It's sweet, and it's the first thing I thought of, which is just plain weird.

So I really can't think of 11 small bloggers!  I hope I don't kill the duck by doing this, but I'm going to open this up to ANY small blogger OR vlogger who would like to participate. Once you post, please submit a comment letting me know, and then folks can trek on over to your site to get to know you better.

And now, for you lovelies out there, 11 Questions!

  1. What's the best thing that's happened to you so far in 2012?
  2. If you could be any kind of vehicle -- motorized (like a car) or non-motorized (like a skateboard), which would you be and why? 
  3. What's your favorite comfort food?
  4. What motivated you to start blogging/vlogging?
  5. How would you describe your personal style in three words?
  6. Who is your hero and why?
  7. What are the first five songs which show up in your music player (e.g. iTunes, mp3)?
  8. What color dominates your clothing closet?
  9. Which precious stone best represents you?
  10. Which room in your house is your favorite and why?
  11. What types of movies do you most enjoy?
Much love, and have fun!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Natural Afro Hairpieces

Me w/Power-Puffs, circa 1980

Weaves, wigs and hair pieces are a completely different world for me. I've never worn braids or extensions of any kind. I'm not knocking anyone who does. I just never explored or considered it for my personal use.

As a little girl, I had goo-gobs of hair and the same is true today. Today, I can almost duplicate the puffs in the baby pool pic (above), though it's doubtful you'll see me in a green checkered bikini, lol.  Eight months ago, it only took me 45 minutes to turn my afro into a full head of two-strand twists.  Now that same process takes about two hours. Wowsers!  Despite the increased amount of time and product required by the length, I'm so thankful to God for my hair, and I'm really happy it grew back so fast.

So the idea of adding more hair to my current situation makes me want to sit on the porch with some lemonade and fan myself! Then I saw this afro pony puff piece video by eturner820:

If I saw her on the street, I would NEVER have thought she was wearing a puff piece! It looks so chunky, soft and natural. After seeing her video, for the first time, I could see myself wearing an afro pony piece... and as the weather cools I'm even more likely to try it. In the meantime, here are a few more pieces I found online which I would wear, and all cost less than $20 as of the date of this post. If you don't find a fro you like on a particular site, search for the piece by name again. At least one of these has been reviewed by YouTubers and you can find them through multiple distributors. Note: I am not a paid advertiser/endorser for any of the following sites/brands, but just want to share what's out there!  

Noir Everytime Drawstring Ponytail Afro Sexy (photo source)

Magic Collections Ponytail AfroClip Large (photo source)

New Born Free Synthetic Drawstring Ponytail Effy (photo source)
Have you ever worn an afro piece?  Please school me.  


Monday, August 20, 2012

DIY Pinterest-Inspired Dresser Makeover

I finally did it -- my first furniture makeover project inspired by this Pinterest pin about a lovely coral-toned dresser. It's a great feeling to take something you've admired online and actually bring it to fruition.

Check out this video about my little dresser makeover, including before-and-after pics at the end. And just in case you want to skip all my hemming-and-hawing, I'll cut to the chase with a few "before" and "after" pics.

Measurements of dresser: 48" x 31" x "16
Glossy laminate/pressed wood

a grainy pic of the six drawers with gold hardware
And now the "after" pics. I'm am officially smitten with Annie Sloan Chalkboard Paint.

I used two coats of a shade called Greek Blue. The result was this matte, velvety finish, smooth to the touch. The paint had little to no scent. My brushes cleaned up easily with mild soap and water. Perhaps best of all, this project required no primer and only two thin coats of paint. So easy.

At around $38/can, it's not cheap, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. I only used a third of the one-liter can.

Yeah, you read that right. ONE-THIRD of a tiny little can covered the mirror frame AND the dresser.

It's butters, I tell you. Butters!  It can't be normal to like paint this much...

Have you ever used this brand before? If so, I'd love to see your project. Feel free to link to it in the comments section below.

Until next time, much love, and praise God,

Friday, August 17, 2012

Changing the way you *think* about your hair

How does going natural change the way you think about your hair?  

For me it meant adopting a completely different aesthetic, one by which I now value height and volume over hang. It didn't happen overnight though.

I've been natural since around 1997, but I took the pic above about a year ago. At the time I was really excited (as you can see by my cheesy smile) about having my hair blown out and flat-ironed by a pro. It was nice and cool outside, the sun was shining, and my hair was flowin! But within a few days, I grew weary of this look. I kept it in for two weeks only because... well, because I paid money to get it done and didn't want to "waste" the style. When he saw it, my husband was like "Meh." I was natural with a TWA when he met me, and my hair is one of the things which attracted him in the first place. Thank God for a natural-appreciative man.

Trust me -- the Canada side really is better!
TWA! Me and my dear Charles <3 td="td">

Picked-out fro, July 2012

Twist-out crown, pinned up in the back
close up of a twist-out, June 2011

It took me a while to see the beauty in hair which stands up and away from my face, hair with tight coils, frizzy hair, BIG hair. In fact, I don't think I really began to embrace frizz until the past year or so. Well-defined curls don't matter much when wearing natural hair in an intricate updo, a face-framing flat twist style, or a chunky unpicked fro. Curl definition is less of a rule to me; now it's just another option.  I still appreciate being able to achieve it when I want to, but I don't HAVE to see my curls poppin' all the time to be happy with my hair. I'm thankful for this changed mindset, this new aesthetic.

one of my first chunky twist-out afros

I'm also thankful that my lifestyle, job, etc. allows for me to do this without retribution or penalty. I understand not everyone feels they have quite as much leeway (though sometimes we really can get away with more than we think). Not everyone can do a faux-hawk at work without getting a side-eye from the boss. That's a whole 'nother post... but really, that's not the point. It's less about how "they" (whoever "they" are) regard your hair and beauty, and more about how you regard your hair and beauty.


So whether you're going from bone-straight relaxed to a TWA, a big afro to long locs, or a well-defined twist-out to blown-out (or what I like to call "exploded") curls, it may take a real paradigm shift before it registers in your mind as a good thing, a beautiful thing. But this is your hair -- your God-given mane!

And this is my hair. Unique. Puffy. Healthy. Sometimes crazy and unpredictable, but always beautiful.


Be patient. Look at your features and don't automatically see the frizz as something to fight. Instead, it is an aspect of your beauty to embrace and enjoy.

*climbing down off my soapbox, headin' on back inside the house*


Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Pippy Takedown and Rodeo Day

Someone just read the title and thought, "Is this still a hair blog?!" Yes it is, my friend. Well, sort of.

One day soon, I'm going to make a natural hair video using a different accent. You just keep watching. I'm gonna do it. The Texan in me is just BEGGING to be set free. In fact, I've been feeling very nostalgic for Texas lately.  I want to run through a field of bluebonnets. I want to thrown on some cowboy boots with Wrangler jeans and ride a horse on Rodeo Day. Yes, in Texas, we celebrate Rodeo Day. Not sure if they still do this, but we even got the day off from school!  I also still love to sing Texas songs, like The Yellow Rose of Texas and Deep in the Heart of Texas. You may remember the latter from Pee Wee's Big Adventure if you're around my age.

"The stars at night, are big and bright *clap, clap, clap, clap* <-- you get cool points if you can finish the line, and triple points if you know the whole song.

In the meantime, please check out my latest video. I took down my Pippy pigtails, which I used as a stretching method, and then *bam* turned it into a twist updo. I think this is my first styling tutorial. Oooooo...

I know. It's monumental.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Wash Day and The Pippy Method

I just posted a new video to my YouTube channel. I have fun making these videos, but oh my Betsy... why does it take so long to upload to YT? Is it just me?  This five-minute video took more than an hour to post.  I put it into queue last night, prayed for the best, and went to sleeeeeeeep.

I hope you enjoy my video, my little creative outlet.  If you like what you see, please show your support by subscribing to my channel. And for the record, peace is most definitely NOT corny; I just don't like saying it at the end of my videos. But on that note...

PEACE is not the absence of conflict.
PEACE is the presence of God.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shh... there's a squirrel outside.

Just watch. Watch, I tell you!! This should satisfy your cuteness quota for today.
This made me LOL, fo-weal:

Random thoughts

I look sleepy in the pic on my blog header. Why didn't anyone (um, hello... husband!) tell me?

Check out Alisa Burke's post on sketching supplies and process, which is perfect for artist newbies or people like me who want to get back into sketching.

Feeding ducks at Shelley Lake is fun, but I feel bad because I can't feed them all. And what about the poor turtles? The geese just step on their heads. Maybe if I had a bread bazooka, I could blast a loaf to all of them at once... but then they would probably fly away. #overanalyzing

Steamed red cabbage with olive oil, salt and pepper is so good!  Yes, all by itself, no meat. That's what I had for lunch today. Plus a bowl of fresh cherries.

Mama Natural posted my profile on her blog. Yay! She's so gorgeous, and her YT channel is on my list of faves. I luuuv to show love for other smaller-scale bloggers. *virtual hugs*

For now, that is all. Have a blessed and productive day.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sound off! Your thoughts re: blog/vlog comments

So this question rolls through my mind every now and again, and I want to put it out there to anyone who's reading:

If you're a blog/YT channel content producer, what's your personal "policy" on comments? As a subscriber, does your opinion change about a blogger/vlogger based on whether they respond to comments (or is it really a non-issue)? 

To be fair, I'll chime in first. Lately, I'm a little bit put off by bloggers/vloggers who don't interact in any way with the little people (yeah, that's me, and you, and ery-body).

Mmmmm hm. That's right.

Personally, for this blog and for my YT channel, I appreciate it when folks take the time to give me feedback -- not flaming and griping (because, honestly, who wants that!), but useful feedback, or encouragement, or sharing and building upon ideas, etc.

I read somewhere (that's so vague) writers should make it their business to respond to every comment.  But I also wonder how someone with 10,000 subscribers might ever be able to do it.  It kind of helps if they put something on their site saying, "I love your comments, but I might not be able to respond to them all because I have a husband, I work 60 hours a week, plus I've got five kids and a 3-legged dog, but I just love, love, love ya'll!" You know... something like that.

But when I write comments, ask questions about the topic, check the little box that says "subscribe to follow-up comments," and I do this for years (yes, literally years) and they NEVER write back, well honestly... I start to second-guess my subscription. Because this thing is not just for us to showcase ourselves and live in a vacuum. There's a whole world of people out there, some of whom want to hear something in response. They want to know SOMEBODY CARES. *stepping down off my soapbox, pickin' up my box, and headin' on back to the house*

That's my take on it. What say you?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stretching my hair, Stretching myself

I'm so swamped. It's not even funny. Ever had one of those days? Yeah. For me the day is today. All week, actually. Well, the past two weeks. Ever since I got back from vacation. There are conferences to plan, training sessions to complete for my new job, letters to write, contracts to sign... and I still have action items for the foster care-related stuff like doctor's appointments and fire inspections.

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, 
and he shall strengthen thine heart: 
wait, I say, on the LORD.
Psalm 27:14

I need His strength. 

On days like this, I feel guilty. I don't think guilt is what the Lord wants me to feel, though it comes easily to me. It's become a bad habit, a sin -- this self-condemnation. And I know there is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ. Intellectually I know it, but in this area I still struggle. Argh.

I feel guilty when I write because the "hobby" feels like a time-waster when I have so much else to do. Then I feel guilty when I don't write because this is an outlet for me, a way to keep doing this thing I love to do since I was a wee-gal. Strange how lately I prefer the term "wee-gal" over "little girl." I have ideas about paintings I want to do, projects on Pinterest I want to execute, bracelets to weave. I still have a wall in my living room just CRYING for a large scale art project.  My big gray behemoth. I have to make time for these things AND complete projects. And they're all important to me, but they won't all get done today.

Plan, prioritize, focus, execute! Repeat. I just had to get this out.

*sigh* So I originally came to write about stretching my hair. Lately, I'm doing one very simple thing which is making my hair existence SO much easier -- one low ponytail/puff, brushed down and braided at the end.

It stretches my hair out, like this... I can wear it for weeks in a whole variety of ways. Last time I did it, I got about two weeks out of the stretch because I kept wearing it in updos which kept it stretched out, like this one:

Of course, there are many ways to stretch your fro -- banding, braiding, twisting, etc. --  which leads to a myriad of loose hair and updo styling options. To me the low ponytail braided on damp hair is the absolute easiest. It's not tight, so my edges are protected from stress. I'm so thankful it's long enough to do this...

And this method suits me, being such a busy bee these days. Less tangling, no worrying about maintaining curl definition, no pineappling. I don't even wrap my hair at night. I make a few big twists, braid the ends so they'll stay, and fall faaaast asleep on a satin pillowcase. Bam-a-Lam-a!  Done dealie.

And with that, hi-ho-hi-ho... it's back to work I go. *whistling, and whistling* Hi-ho, hi-ho...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Juxtapose curvy-kinky-coily hair with angular, geometric accessories.

By Etsy creative Racquel Dwomoh | QuellyRue Designs:  

Me in my new Zuberi earrings

I'm trying to add some larger-scale earrings into my wardrobe since most of what I wear is on the small side. Get your own Zuberi earrings here, or...

Run your own Etsy search for "geometric jewelry."  Take a gander at the following goodies (prices good as of July 23, 2012):

Adda tassle earrings. VintageRoyalty on $5. 

Chunky wooden bangle (other colors available). Furbish. $16. 
Yellow chevron burlap bag. Made by Nanna. $63.

Looking for something a little easier on your wallet?  Make your own!  For a quick and easy DIY triangular earring, check out Nik's tutorial (LongHairDontCareLLC):

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm a poser.

Coming clean: I am a wanna-be design nerd. 

My mom is to blame. She's 5'5" and somehow manages to move huge pieces of furniture like it's nothing.  She also paints rooms, pulls up carpet and changes color schemes like a straight-up pro, yall. I think sometimes it drives Dad nutso, but he's gotten used to it. And now I do the same thing at our house and drive Charles nutso. He'll get used to it, too. heh-heh-heeeeeeeeh

So I'm checking out one of my fave design blogs -- D*S -- and what doth mine eyes behold?  A ceramics company based in NC. Enter Haand.  My grammar is really bad on this post. Oh well.  Whenever I come across something based from one of my home states (TX, NC), my interest is piqued, and there are lots of ceramics in NC. So why am I posting? Check out this description of their studio -- my friend, is this not the coolest place to throw some clay?!  I want to go-ooooooo (in my best 6-yr-old whiny voice).

Who would not want an ice cream bowl? It's made for easier scooping as the ice cream melts. Clever, Haands. Very clever.

Source: via Shoni on Pinterest

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My first attempt at a friendship bracelet in 80 years.

Okay, the title isn't accurate. I'm not 80 yet.

But here's my first attempt at making a friendship bracelet since I was a wee-little gal. Also, it's really hard to take a picture with one hand using this Droid 3 phone... which, unlike the 1st gen Droid, has no physical button -- only a touch screen. Maybe it's time for me to invest in a regular camera?

Wow my arm looks much hairier in pics than it does IRL.

Really this was supposed to be my version of a DIY armband for the cheap watch I bought on the cruise. The poor strap fell apart in less than a week. But my little suede rope creation just didn't look right with the watch face. #FAIL

So voila -- my new bracelet!  I have a feeling I'll be at the craft store this weekend buying embroidery floss. I forgot how much fun it is to zone out making a Chevron pattern. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Exploring My Roots: A Trip to Alabama

A slice of sweet life...

Last year, Charles and I drove from NC to Alabama to visit my grandmother. My mom took us on a tour of the property and shared some history with us as well. It's a slice of life we don't hear often, and such a refreshing reminder of my heritage. 

On the video below, she describes growing up in the country, including how family and neighbors lived off the land, how she learned to drive at age 13, and the little store her parents used to run right in front of the house. AND I finally got to see a real salt lick... as opposed to the Salt Lick BBQ restaurant, which you simply must visit if you're in Central Texas. 

Want to know more about this trip? Read more, right after the jump...

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's our anniversary :-)

Should I feel guilty about not blogging for the last three weeks?  Absolutely not!

I really need to stop beating myself up about not writing as much as I want. Life is MOVING and I'm enjoying it, so blogging about it takes a backseat to... well, to living it.

At port in Grand Cayman
with our ship, Carnival Freedom, in the background

So over the past few weeks, a lot of wonderful things transpired. Charles and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary -- YAAAAAY!  We boarded a big 'ol fancy Carnival cruise ship with some good friends of ours and sailed the Western Caribbean -- Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. It was so beautiful! I captured moments from our trip and whittled them down into a 14-minute video, which you can view right here:

What are some things I've learned after being married for ten years?

  • Being righteous is more important than being right.
  • As a Christian wife, I am ordained to help my husband meet God. This means I need to always speak the truth to him in love and not out of hurt, fear, insecurity, tit-for-tat, etc., to help him mature and be the man God called him to be.
  • Stay rooted and grounded in God. When our marriage was on the rocks, God was the only thing on which we could agree, and I fully believe this is the reason why we're still together today. Also, get Christian, biblically-based counseling when you need it, and don't wait until you're at your wit's end. Find a counselor who will challenge you to grow up.
  • Smile at each other, show affection, and be kind and gentle. Be a refuge for your spouse, a safe place to land.
  • Have fun together! Go on dates, take trips, try new things -- keeping it clean, of course. Celebrate your romance as often as you can.
  • Pray together by the leading of the Holy Spirit and pray for each other. It's less about having a ritual, and more about having a real, intimate relationship with God and with each other.
  • See your spouse through God's eyes.

Love and peace,

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Notes to Self

Dear Shoni,

1) Please stop painting your nails just before it's time to do your hair. Even when the bottle says "Quick Dry," your nails are just not going to dry that fast. Pfft.

2) A clean and uncluttered work space encourages greater productivity and creativity. You worked hard to finally make it look like this. Keep yo' desk clean, gal!

3) Ahhh... take time to stop and smell the roses, but not the ones crawling with Japanese beetles. *dry heave* 

That is all.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Do I really want long hair?

Sometimes, I'm just so over it. But then I get all excited when I'm able to do a bun. #thesagacontinues

The "long hair" topic is pretty popular in natural hair circles. Some ladies simply want to prove they can grow a long healthy head of natural afro-textured hair. Let me start by saying, it's definitely been proven... many times over.  The drive for long hair may be an even more fervent effort for anyone who struggled with length retention in general. When I first went big chopped waaaaaay back in the 90s (okay, back then it was just called a haircut), it seemed like being natural either meant sporting a very short afro or having locs. If there was something else, I didn't know about it. Hey, this was in Texas, the land of big hair and multi-colored extensions.

Back then, folks told me I looked like Dionne Farris, that fabulous vocal solo on Arrested Development's hit song of the era, Tennessee. Do you see a resemblance?
I think the top of her head is a little more square than mine, but we both have MASSIVE foreheads.

Some just like the look or the versatility that length provides. I fall into this latter category. I never had issues with growing my hair out when it was relaxed. Breakage wasn't an issue, but scalp burns and irritation were.

I am currently in what I call, the in-between length. My hair is long enough for twists, but just barely long enough to put into a bun or a ponytail holder. I can easily do side puffs, but then I look like a 30-year-old trying to pass for a middle school kid. NOT COOL.

I look at bloggers such as Newly Natural and Glamazini, and videos such as this one hour blow-dry by Apriluv7779 and anything by Longhairdontcare2011 and am enthralled.  They are just a few of many chronicling their natural hair journeys and providing great info to those of us who are interested in growing long, healthy natural hair. But sometimes, I consider my lifestyle and wonder if it's really for me. Will I spend hours fretting over styling? Seriously, I don't have HOURS upon end to spend doing hair, and that's part of the reason why I wanted to go natural in the first place -- too avoid spending a ton of time on it. In retrospect, I realize that concept was misguided. I believe no matter how you wear your hair, if you want it to thrive you will likely spend a certain amount time and a concerted effort to take good care of it.

Protective styling is OK, but I much prefer to wear my hair out, which according to some is not the way to grow long natural hair (though many do just fine without a ton of protective styles). BTW, if my livelihood depended on my ability to do cornrows, I would be in big trouble. I get this funky halo effect with any style which lays flat on my head.  Because my hair is fine and soft, it slides out of these types of styles easily and looks fuzzy by around Day 3.

Thankfully, I was reminded today by some blog or vlog that I should enjoy where I am in the natural hair journey at every moment, keeping in mind the various styles and joys we can experience at any given length. It's about having the right attitude. I needed to see that today. So for now, I'm pressing on.  Hmm, poor choice of words. I'm not pressing my actual hair. Haaaaa....

Wanna see what my hair looks like as of this week? Check out this recent video from my little YT channel:

...and here are a couple pics from tonight, including my huge regal forehead, plus my husband hovering over me, just DOUBLE-DOG DARING me to talk about cutting my hair. Don't worry, Mr. Chuckie, I'm not going to do it... today. Bah-haha-haaaa!

scary picture!

crazy lazy twist updo (strictly for around the house!)

Until next time, darlings, grace and peace...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

My Infertility Crisis

"Be excited beyond disappointment."

Our spiritual dad and pastor gently spoke these words into our spirits a few years ago. At the time, I really didn't get it.

It was 2009. Charles and I were in the midst of yet another fertility treatment, trying to conceive. It's an expensive process, not just financially but also emotionally and physically. Hormones are blazing. Anticipation is high. I was popping pills and injecting myself with drugs, which in and of itself was quite a feat!  Needles make me queasy. And of course, there's never a guarantee of success... just the prayer, the hope that maybe -- just maybe -- it will work. Maybe this time God will give us the desires of our hearts.

This time. Time creeps as the wait begins. It started with waiting in a softly lit room, resting face up on the procedure table with my knees bent. The nurse just left. My husband is holding my hand and we're praying. We exit the doctor's office, passing parenting magazines and pictures of success stories -- happy babies, multiples, cards and letters of thanks. We go home to live "normally," and wait for the miracle to manifest. I think I feel flutters inside, and of course it could just be my imagination or too much ice cream... but maybe it's not!  Days go by as we wait for the call. My cell phone is basically glued to my hand.

When the call finally comes, my heart leaps into the air, suspended and motionless. I'm listening intently, hoping to hear threads of excitement in the doctor's voice preceding a boisterous "Congratulations!" But each time I get the call and hear the cordial greeting followed by the barely audible sigh, I know what's coming next and my heart drops back into my gut. For some reason, I always got the call while I was at work, which meant the rest of work day was going to be...just sad. Keep it professional for four more hours, and then you can cry. 

After three cycles of this, we just couldn't do it anymore.

In other news... the world is still spinning on its axis and life continues. It's funny how you notice pregnancies a lot more often when you're trying to get pregnant (guess this is true whenever you want something -- marriage, a new car, long natural hair). People are having babies like they just went on clearance at Costco. Friends, family members, coworkers, married people, single people, young people, older people. People who were going through similar treatments were getting pregnant, and people who definitely weren't trying at all were getting pregnant, too. There came a time when I could barely walk through the kid's clothing section in Target without my cheeks getting hot and my eyes watering.

In the midst of all this, I'm supposed to be excited beyond disappointment

Okay, so this means I should pick myself up, dust myself off and assume the happy stance, right? So I did. I put on my imaginary cape and super-Christian-fairy dust sprinkles, but I didn't feel excited. I felt disappointed. Crushing disappointment. Heartbreak. It was hard. Sometimes I was strong, but my spiritual knees were trembling under the weight of all this emotion, and the why, and the wondering.

Thankfully, yes, I (we) were standing on a sure foundation. We were given a measure of faith, and somewhere deep down on the inside I remembered His promises. I remembered times before when I thought He wouldn't pull through, but He did, and often in ways I never would have guessed. God is in control. God is still on the throne. After all, that's what the wife on Facing the Giants said just before she found out she was pregnant.  But few things could ease that ache deep down in places where no one, not even my husband sometimes, could go.

I felt alone and I felt lonely. It's one of those subjects people don't talk about very often over dinner. Perhaps for this same reason, people don't know what to say. At the time, people who knew we were trying to have a baby made attempts to encourage us or make us feel better.  I often heard, "It's going to happen one day. Don't give up!" Others said, " I know someone who went through the same thing, and they have five kids now." That's great, but you wouldn't believe how often I heard that... sorry, it just got old.

Some even essentially prophesied (?) when we would get pregnant (this happened several times, in fact). I don't take for granted that people cared. It's just that sometimes people say stuff they shouldn't say, because they don't know what to say. Sometimes, it's better to just pray.

One day, faith kicked in. It started kind of like an old-school gas-powered, eco-angry lawn mower. I pulled the thingy the first time and it huffed a little bit. On the second pull, my biceps got a little stronger and I fixed my face. On the third try, it cranked and revved full-throttle. Okay, enough with the lawnmower reference, but in all seriousness, rather than waxing cold my faith increased. This is more than just thinking positive. This is bigger than just bucking up and holding my little chin up high. God's faithfulness abounded and touched me where all the encouragement in the world could not. I'm still here. I still love Him. More importantly, He still loves me. He created me for a purpose. There is a call on my life to mother, and I'm going to operate in that call even with children who are not my own... I realize how that could sound stalker-ish, but it's really not. Our lives are full of kids who need encouragement, wisdom and love, and I today I am fully-excited about being Miss Shoni and Aunt Shoni. In the end, no one's kids are really "theirs" anyway. They belong to God. We should treat them as precious, and raise them up according to His standards, because He created them and they are His.

The next steps for us are foster care and adoption. This doesn't mean we've given up on God or on the miracle of natural childbirth taking place in our marriage, but I do know something about the spirit of adoption from having been adopted by God Himself. We believe our kids are already here and we will foster and adopt for them, not for ourselves. It's a huge commitment and we've learned SO MUCH about... too much for this post. I'll write about it at some point later.

There's so much more I could say right now, but I don't want the post to be 10 pages long, so I'll stop here.  I'm writing this post because I personally have found it challenging to find people like me -- young-ish, black, Christian, who've been through this. I'm not discounting other ages, races or people of other faiths who've been through the same thing, but my God... sometimes you just want to know that someone understands. My husband and I know that God gets us, even when no one else does (even the people closest to us). Maybe you're reading this, realizing on some level, "She understands what it's like. I'm really not alone in feeling this way." At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I say, "This post is for you, dear sister."

To anyone reading, I just thank you for taking the time to read it. I'm so grateful for how God has moved in my life, for all He's done, and for His great and wondrous plans which are perfect.

For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 
- Jeremiah 29:11

Faith takes me where God wants me to go, and it leads me, rather than me leading it.
Crises are faith journeys. Be still. Hush. Wait on the Lord.
- excerpts from Apostle JH, spiritual dad, June 1, 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blog Lovin!

The Waterboy (1998) Photo Source
(the photo will make sense by the end of the post)

So during this last corporate Pentecost Fast (see Acts 2), I purposefully spent a whole lot less time online looking at blogs and especially YouTube videos. I found myself so absorbed in other people's lives and really just zoning out when I needed to reconnect with God and be more focused on things He would have me do, as well as things I enjoy... like reading actual books. Paper and glue books. There's something lovely about flipping a physical page.

I used to read all the time when I was a kid, and then gave it up as other stuff took priority. Right now I'm about halfway through Kim Cash Tate's Christian fiction novel, Heavenly Places. It's soooo good. I hate that I can relate so much to the main character, but it's helping me [see myself] through a unique lens.

This season we each chose at least two things: one thing/habit to sacrifice (things hindering our walk with God), and one thing to give as an offering to God. A few weeks in, one of my pastors asked, "So when the fast ends, does that mean we should resume all those activities we sacrificed? In the word of God, do people take back their sacrifice?" And I had to admit, from everything I've read and studied... nope.  You don't get it back. Once it's gone, it's gone for good.

Interestingly, it's been almost a week now since the fast ended and I still haven't been back on YouTube. I really haven't even felt much of a pull to watch. Yes, there are certain bloggers I want to catch up on eventually, but it hasn't been as pressing as connecting in-real-life with sisters and brothers in my immediate space.  I'll probably hop on this weekend, just because I need to submit another product review, but it won't be the same as before.


Well, in the process of being sort-of away from the online community, I didn't realize fellow blogger Dark Yet Lovely gave me this adorable award a few weeks ago:

So sweet of her!  It's one of those gifts which keeps on giving. 
Here's how it works...

Thank and link to the person who awarded you.
Award this to 15 bloggers.
List 7 random facts about yourself.

First of all, thank you, Dark Yet Lovely (Jennifer)!  

I award this to the following bloggers 
(who I hope read my blog?... errr-uhh).  If nothing else, here's a list of blogs I'm frequenting as of late and you might even find a new one to like and follow!

1. Glynnis Whitwer - Discovering peace and beauty one moment at a time
2. Savvy Brown - One woman's journey to a greener, healthier life... on a budget!
3. Her Best Hair - Hairstyles, Hair Talk, Hair Care (and more)
4. Mocha Dad - Fatherhood Lessons for Modern Men
5. Making It Lovely - Living a stylish life and transforming the so-so
6. CIAAfrique - Fashion-Beauty-Style
7. Glamazini - Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Nappyness
8. Adventures in Neverland - Sara (enough said!)
9. Life in Grace - kicking it old school
10. The 36th Avenue - Decor - Crafts - Recipes - Tutorials
11. AlisaBurke - Redefine Creativity
12. One Good Thing by Jillee - (please read her about me section... just, wow.)
13. Christian Women Blogging - (the title says it all.)
14. Surprised by Life - Brooke McGlothlin (she gets me every time!)
15. Sip-n-Wear - Joyce, wife and mom

Whew! That list took longer than I expected. It's hard to whittle it down to only 15. 
And now...

 Seven Random Things about Me:

1. Lately, I've noticed God is making me whole in a completely different way.
Just one persona, not a bunch of versions or masks of me for different sets of people to see, or a different me online than you'll meet in person. Just one.

2. My favorite dessert, hands down, is ice cream
Especially Blue Bell, which they just started selling, like, EVERYWHERE across the state of  North Carolina (finally).

3. I love living in North Carolina.
I always thought I'd end up back in Texas -- and of course, that could still happen -- but I really, really enjoy living in NC. 

4. When I paint my fingernails, the main reason is to avoid biting them!
It's a disgusting childhood habit. At least my nails look cute now.

5. Thunderstorms excite me.
I love to watch lightning and see the clouds swirling, but I still jump when I hear the thunder and close my eyes when it seems too close.

6. I tend to remember TV commercial jingles.
Do you remember the jingle for the 1980's My Buddy doll?
I know only one other person who knows the whole thing by heart. It's uncanny... and perhaps a bit strange.

7. The best (and longest) date I ever experienced was with the man who is now my husband.
We met in NYC's West Village, at Jamaican food, went window shopping, played pool, saw the movie Waterboy in the theatre on opening weekend, and met up with friends before going out dancing.  It was eight-hours of fun and we've been best friends ever since. :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Past Few Weeks in Pics

You know how people say "time flies when you're having fun?" 
I'm at warp speed again!

My past few weeks in pictures:

My hydrangeas are finally blooming. Apparently they are pink (vs. blue) because I don't have a lot of aluminum in my soil. Is this a good thing? If you have a green thumb, please tell me.

For Mother's Day weekend, my husband surprised me with a two-day trip to Charlotte to see Esperanza Spalding!  She and her band are FANTASTIC live in concert. We sat on the second row. Her level of talent astounds me -- and all from such a tiny package! I snapped a couple of pictures of her during her encore, but I think they're on my husband's phone. Note: No kids yet, but we still honor one another as mother and father to-be, as well as to honor our relationships with all the children whose lives we are blessed to be a part of at church, extended family, etc.

While in the Queen City, we visited the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, which is where you see the pic of that cool mirrored statue. There's plenty of art to see and touch downtown. After the museum run, we went to Mert's Heart & Soul for lunch. You can check out my review on Yelp.

My godson, P, decided he wanted to be baptized, so I drove out to see him and his family. Praise the Lord! 

We're still juicing almost every day about a month after seeing Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. If you haven't seen that movie yet, please go watch it on Hulu or Netflix. The accounts of the two men featured in the documentary -- and in particular, Phil's turnaround! -- was mind-blowing. See that little heart shaped apple? Happened by chance as I was cutting up fruit for fresh juice.

My friend and sister-in-Christ, M, graduated from UNC with her doctorate. Go Dr. M!!

I didn't take pics of the books I'm reading, because that's kind of ehhh, but another good sister-friend gave me some books to read by Kim Cash Tate -- Heavenly Places, Faithful, and Cherished. [Can't. Put. Them. Down!]