Monday, May 23, 2016

The Secret to Achieving Your Dreams

We all have significant dreams and desires in life. Whether we achieve them or not, oftentimes it’s the very act of striving toward heartfelt goals that keeps us moving through the somewhat monotonous routine of daily living. “It’s all about the journey” is a clich├ęd phrase that we see often lately, but I do agree there’s truth in it. Those 13+ years that I saved up for my house—living in my beat-up apartment—kept me determined and hopeful because my mind was set on the destination. Having something to strive for sparked my motivation to persevere through tough times. After I moved into my house, on the other hand, I didn’t know what to do with myself next and spent a few years bumbling around feeling discombobulated since I had arrived at the end of the journey. As a result, I realized that having goals keeps me motivated, focused, and uplifted, so they are an important part of my life’s journey.
How about you? What are your goals, hopes, and dreams? If you don’t know, take a wee bit of time to get in touch with them, even if you’re a busy mother on the go. As little as 10 to 15 minutes can produce more results than you think when you schedule a time-out for yourself. Grab your favorite cup of coffee or tea, take out your journal or a notepad, and write about the following questions to get you started:
  1. What activities are you most passionate about?
  2. What would you do even if you didn’t get paid for it?
  3. What gives you energy and gets you in your zone of happiness?

The very act of writing down your goals is a powerful step in achieving them. Numerous studies show you are more likely to fulfill your dreams once you put them in writing, even if you set aside the list and forget about what you've written. The point is, once you set the intention in writing, you begin moving towards your goals even on a subconscious level. So, what’s stopping you? Ladies, let’s get going in the direction of our dreams! 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Business of Motherhood

Every year prior to Mother’s Day with the school year winding down, my daughter’s stress levels rise to flood zones, and she winds up sick. In fact, two years ago on Mother’s Day, she worked herself into pneumonia, so we celebrated with an at-home movie fest. Yes, it is true that the movies Kill Bill I & II shattered all my preconceived expectations about Mother’s Day and taught me the true meaning of motherhood. A gem emerged from the chaos that year which evolved into a beloved Quinton Tarantino Mother's Day tradition. This year, the variation on the theme to the tune of our plans going out the window is the same as ever (I should have known!). Just add to the harmony my mom’s little visit to E.R. last night, and you have the full musical repertoire of our weekend.

The reoccurring pattern is finally clear to me: Apparently, it is required that I earn my Mother’s Day badge each year because once the holiday finally makes itself around, I’m pooped out and would rather stay in bed, covers over my head. Ya hear me, ladies? On the other hand, I’ve discovered some beautiful truths about mommyhood along the way that have transformed me into a better person.

My eye twitching slightly as I write this from the bizarre situations I’ve adjusted myself to this week, I can confidently state my first truth: THE BUSINESS OF MOTHERHOOD INVOLVES ADJUSTING TO UNPREDICTABILITY. Parents of teenagers find themselves in some strange situations. For instance, the other morning, I took off my own shoes and handed them over to my daughter prior to dropping her off at school when she forgot to bring shoes. (I just hope nobody noticed as I walked down the hill to my office in my socks, but thank the Lord I had my walking shoes waiting for me under my desk).

At week’s end, when we finally settled down to a nice bowl of Pho after several giggles over a ha,ha,ha very funny teenage joke of “Do you want to go to Pho Q or Pho King?,” I had to ask myself  if I entered Saigon Noodles or the Twilight Zone. As we took our first bites of din din, I received the call about Mom being in E.R. Within minutes, Reina declared herself full, pushed her ¾ bowl of lovely beef Pho to the center of the table, announced she was feeling sick, and promptly walked out the door where she began to black out for the second time this week. When I called to try to schedule an urgent care appointment, my phone went wacky, apps ping ponging all over the place.

Luckily, I’d discovered my second truth about motherhood some time ago: THE BUSINESS OF MOTHERHOOD INVOLVES PLAYING MULTIPLE ROLES. You learn quickly that the job requires you to wear many hats, but you learn to be flexible in turn. For an OCD person like me—one who is married to her Plan for the Day—it’s a good thing I learned to go with the flow of motherhood. Here’s a partial list of the jobs I’ve acquired as I’ve learned to be flexible on a daily basis, but I could go on and on...

taxi cab driver, nurse, short-order cook, school teacher, fashion designer, editor, accountant, event organizer, manager, cheerleader, counselor, driver trainer, police office, mediator, etc., etc., etc.  

Finally, and this is the most important, most challenging, and perhaps most painful truth about being a mom for me, THE BUSINESS OF MOTHERHOOD INVOLVES MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS. My near seventeen-year old is almost launched. I’ve done the best I could with what I have while seeking God’s will on my knees along the way. Like the rest of us, I’ve made many mistakes as I’ve bumbled along, but I’m proud and tickled with the results—a young adult who is emerging and blossoming into her own. Today, I can actually let go and let God, knowing I “started [her] on the way [she] should go,” (Proverbs 22:6) but it is truly God's job to guide the path He has for her life. As I enter the next phase of motherhood, I’m learning to mind the business of motherhood by making way for the real important business at hand—for God’s Business in my daughter’s life—chaos, comedy, contentment, and all!  

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Brazen Enough {to be YOU!}

While the title is intriguing enough in itself, Leeana Tankersley’s new book, Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding, had me on page two when I was instructed to create a “legal bribe” (a.k.a. reward) for completing a creative exercise at the end of each chapter involving a brazen vision board. Hello?! Permission to carve out a comfy cozy space in my house to make collages? I’m in! From there, I found inspiration woven into every page—from imaginative poetry and literature to creative spiritual practices—giving me the audacity to take God’s hand, dig deeper into myself, and discover that authentic woman trying to emerge. But what I love so much about Brazen is how well-read Tankersley is and how this book is her own version of a collage, except her words create a story board guide for how you can find your way back to yourself. Challenging her reader, Tankersley proclaims, “You can’t tiptoe into your voice. Whether you are whispering or you’re shouting, you use it or you don’t . . . Not to make a spectacle for the sake of a spectacle but because one of our spiritual obligations in this world is to be a voice for the voiceless, even if the voiceless is the little girl locked inside of us.” Perfect for your own springtime renewal and spiritual makeover, Brazen will give you the courage to receive your identity, reclaim your voice, and recover your soul. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

An Artist is Born

At four-years-old, Reina stood her ground as an artist the day she demanded the whole package of paper. Rather than accepting her grim lot of being doled out a single sheet of paper at a time, my little artist took her stand, knuckles on hips and all, by giving in to no less than the entire ream of blank paper. With both awe and admiration, I handed over the ream and knew then that I gave birth to an artist.

Ever since she could hold a pencil in her hand, she delighted in drawing sketches of people, animals, and objects. In 7th grade, new opportunities for art classes in middle school propelled her gift forward and she began to win contests. In high school, her dad and I committed to driving her 30 miles to a private art class once or twice a week. Finally, last Sunday, she made her debut as an artist at an open house art show. And starting now, she is taking commissions. This has been in the works a long time, but the accolades and family support she received from the art show this week motivated her to take the plunge into making money with her art.

My girl has blossomed and mama’s so proud. And inspired. 

She's been planning this for a year, but the art show gave her
the boost to take action by launching her commissions. I'm
excited to report that she's already made some $ from her art this week!

The whole family came out to show their support.
That meant so much to her. Love you guys!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Building Rest and Renewal into Your Busy Life this Spring

For the last 4 years since I bought my house and became a first time homeowner, I’ve been going, going, going. So wrapped up in a whirlwind of to-do items, I honestly did not even think about this day coming, but I finally pooped myself out and finally faced my own limitations. Think of a car engine that you keep revving but fail to tune up. Eventually, the car will go kaput and collapse. That’s what my body started doing a few years after I became a homeowner with the endless outdoor and indoor chores that go along with it, not to mention raising a teenager, managing a pet for the first
time, and staying on top of the increasing demands of my full time job.

My first stressed-related issue occurred practically to the very day of my turning 40. Acid reflux. Yep, I had to give up coffee, Italian, Mexican, and even chocolate as well as cease eating by 7 p.m. every night to give my body enough time to properly digest my dinner. Thank God I can still have my favorite (Indian cuisine) as long as I eat it early enough in the day. Thankfully, I discovered 3 miracle remedies along that way that save my life and preserve my sanity.


While I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on with my digestive track, I kept hearing from various folks about the healing powers of meditation and knew God was trying to get my attention. One friend kept insisting that it helped her, then a coworker echoed that advice, and finally my eyes kept fixating on the benefits of meditation every time I so much as glanced at a magazine cover or online article. Clearly, the Universe was giving me the green light to travel down the meditation path.
But I was scared.

Truthfully, I thought when I stopped my busyness to finally meet with God in prayer, I’d get spiritually whacked for not showing up sooner—or not doing it perfectly the first time. Nothing could have been further from truth given the beautiful experiences I’ve experienced on my meditation journey since then. As a result, my heart opened up to evenings with my front door wide open to pink cotton candy sunsets and morning breakfasts on my sunny porch accompanied by deep breathing to my favorite meditation mantra, “Let God” (breathe in) and “Let Go” (breathe out).

Yes, I’ve meet with God and not only survived, but felt His love and acceptance embrace me as He spoke to my heart, reassuring me my loved ones and I are on the right track. That I’m exactly where I am supposed to be in life and everything is not only okay, but good.

And remember . . . all you have to do to meditate is breathe. Slowly. Then learn to clear your mind.


Since I carry stress in my shoulders, which is quite symbolic considering I feel the weight of the world is literally on my shoulders at times, I also signed up for a monthly massage program. Rather than allow the stress to build up into a migraine, I chose to splurge a little on regular massages—and they really help with stress management, so the nominal monthly fee is well worth it. Besides, massage is a must for single moms because gentle touch is so relaxing. And let’s be real—some of us aren’t getting much of that! During a massage, you can escape from the chaos to clear your mind and get those tight areas unblocked. I purposely found a massage place just a few miles from my home. That way, when I drive home after my massage, feeling like a spaghetti noodle, I don’t have to go far and can jump straight into a hot bath and then right to bed. Amen.

"Me Time"

“Me time” is now one of my favorite aspects of the week’s end because I get to engage in fun, solitary activities that re-energize me, something I used to feel guilty about. My inner dialogue used to always go like this, “Nicole, you can have fun IF you get all the work done.” (Who did I think I was, Cinderella’s step mom, or what?) Besides, the work is never done when you are a homeowner. Fortunately, my house taught me I have limitations, and I’ve learned to let go of the nonessentials, so I can do things I enjoy that make me happy. Take, for instance, Art Journaling (oh, yes!). . . that really gets me into the zone. To make it easier to fit a little art journaling time into my busy life, I gathered my necessary supplies into a clear box with an attached lid that snaps so I can pull it out after the dinner dishes are washed and the lunches are packed, even if I only get to do it for 10 or 15 minutes that day. If you are serious about sneaking in some “me time” to work on your craft or hobby, figure out a way to make it portable, so it actually becomes doable. Of course, "me time" can also take the blessed form of a quick manicure and some sales shopping . . . 

Now that I’ve shared an all new meaning to 3M (Meditation, Massage, and "Me Time"), take what you like and explore what works for you. Building rest and renewal into your life is essential in order to function at your full potential. Remember, you are worth a daily investment in yourself, so start making it happen today! 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Perfect Coloring Book {yes, for adults!}

Adult coloring books are the ideal way to wind down after a stressful workday and add some playtime into your life. Reverie: A Coloring Retreat, by Mysha Denson, includes uplifting themes about FAITH, LOVE, and PRESSING FORWARD that will surely sooth your tired soul. Picture this at the end of your hectic day: walking in the door and signing with relief as you spot the coloring book and markers (left on the couch) calling you to a relaxing 10 minute retreat. Recharge your spirit this spring by taking some "me time" to enter the world of adult coloring. Yes, you have permission to invite your kiddos to join you, too, even though coloring isn't just for kids anymore!

Easy Handmade Watercolor Cards

Love how the instructor
taught us to make a
card holder, too! 
While watercolor is not an easy medium for me, I decided to sign up for another Michaels class this month in the spirit of learning something new. Even better, this papercraft card class was absolutely FREE, so I came away with 4 beautiful greeting cards and a holder to keep them in. What a nice gift this would make . . . except I want to use the cards for birthdays and other occasions this year--spread out the joy, you know? Being creative is such a fulfilling escape from all the chaos and hectic demands of my single mom life. No matter how the project turns out, just the very act of attempting it pushes me out of perfectionism and into a peaceful zone. 
Adding a little sparkle with glitter glue, I wrote "courage" on one card.
Using ribbons on cards is another creative idea I stole from the class.

Why, yes, let's add a touch of pink!

The demo cards from the class are in the background, but
I wanted to be free to do my own thing.  

Linking to: Katherine's Corner Thursday Favorite ThingsMoonlight & Mason Jar Link Party


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