I've established a bit of a tradition. For the past couple of years I've gifted Mr. Handsome a piece from Giles and Brother. Typically in the form of a bracelet. Not sure when or how I discovered this line but the aesthetic compliments my husbands style completely. Sturdy, classic with a twist, unique. This year is no different. The best part is that I'm able to incorporate my husbands obsession with fishing in a way that is stylish and tasteful and not kitschy. Now I just have to decide if I keep dressing his wrist or do I graduate to the neck?
'Tis the season to publish a gift guide. All this week I will post my recommendations on what to gift yourself and the one's you love this holiday season.
Up first, for those of you who want to purchase lingerie I suggest taking an alternative approach this year. As a woman of color I could never buy "flesh colored" underwear until now. Thanks to companies like Buff You and Nubian Skin women have options and I could not be more excited. There are now nudes for every skin tone. Imagine the look of surprise and appreciation as you watch her open such a thoughtful gift.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Awareness, education, and funding are key to identifying, diagnosing and fighting this disease. I don't know many people who have not been affected either directly or indirectly by breast cancer. Myself included. This is my story.
I try to be diligent in my self care routine. This includes self examinations. If I'm really being honest most times I ask my husband to do it for me. He does not object! One month I felt something that was a little off. I asked the hubby to feel and he remarked that it didn't feel like anything to be concerned about but if I was worried I should follow up with my doctor. Now I should have prefaced this by saying my breast are generally lumpy and at this stage in life I'm familiar and know whats normal for me and what's not. I brushed it off and let another month go by. Once again during my monthly self examination I felt the lump only this time it was a little larger. The husband confirmed and no coaxing was needed. The next morning I was on the phone with my GYN booking an appointment to get me in as soon as possible. I learned that lumps are not taken lightly and every effort is made to get you in with either a physician or a PA as quickly as the schedule will allow. A few days later the PA confirmed that there was a mass but said that the size and shape did not fit the norm. Before I could protest this declaration of "normal" and push for testing beyond her fingers, i.e., a mammogram she then says "BUT we take any and every confirmation of a mass seriously which means an automatic diagnostic mammogram. And I will write an order for an ultrasound during the same visit should the mammogram results call for it". A couple of weeks after that I went in for my mammogram which consisted of several images of my breast from various angles. The mass was confirmed and I was whisked away to another room for an ultrasound. The results? Abnormal with the recommendation of an ultrasound core biopsy. I want to say I was scared. I want to say I was nervous. Truth is I was that and more. Some emotions I can't even recall. But it was a very unsettling time in my life. I will not bore you with the remaining details but the results of my biopsy were normal and the mass was found to be another one of my normal lumps. But one that I had to have rechecked 6 months later and will be closely watched year after year during my annual mammograms.
I'm thankful that my story has a happy ending but there are too many women who's stories take a much different turn. Women like my mother-in-law and my friend Nicole and my friend Lisa's mom. Women who've had to fight this horrible assault against their bodies. Women who've had to tap into unknown reserves of will power and strength and determination to triumph over breast cancer. Women who are still fighting and women who may have lost their battle but knew that the war will be won. For those women I share in hopes that this story encourages one more woman to take a few minutes each month getting to know their bodies. To follow-up with their doctors and not let a month or two pass thinking "it's probably nothing". (I took a gamble doing that. Please don't play the fool like I did.) To donate to cancer research. To join the fight so eventually there are no longer any stories to share.
When it comes to budgeting I like to keep it simple. No complicated spreadsheets itemized by category or charts and graphs. On the rare occasion I need those kinds of bells and whistles I turn to my financial institutions and simply hit the download button. Back when checks and cash were main staples for me I was queen of using that ledger in my check book to actually keep my check book balanced. I was anal about it. To the point that you would think I would be sitting on piles of money and always very responsible with my finances. Umm not so much! I am human after all.
For my life now, given the ease of swipes, bill pay direct from my bank, and land of stored account info, I use a simple excel spreadsheet that I update each month. In it I’ve outlined my fixed expenses - groceries, mortgage, utilities, personal bills (cell, credit cards, gas for my car, car note), and kid related expenses; my savings allocation, my discretionary spending money, and if there are any one-offs they go on this list as well. This could include medical insurance deductibles stemming from a recent office visit, unforeseen traffic tickets (speed cameras are everywhere!), etc. I like knowing where my money is supposed to go even if sometimes it goes places I didn’t plan for. One too many meals out, a cute pair of shoes, a kid related request that I can’t say no too, the oil change I forgot I needed. There’s a point in here somewhere I promise. . . Oh yeah it sounds fancy but trust me it's like 10 rows with the expense, the amount due, a tally and then a remaining balance for me to roll over for the use in the next month.
I say all of this to say that during my last monthly budgeting session I took the time to really assess my finances and look for ways to be smarter with my money. I went to bed thinking about additional ways to save aside from the obvious – don’t shop frivolously, cook at home. Because really it’s the small overlooked stuff that even when you cut out the big stuff still adds up. And then it hit me. Suddenly I heard the voices of all of those financial advisors from television, radio, in magazines. The ones that dish out the quick tips on how to easily save $100 without even trying. Most of those tips never apply to me. No daily latte addiction here. No standing mani/pedi/facials/blow-out appointments to cancel. INSTEAD I thought about this joint money market account that my husband and I first opened when we got engaged and were saving for our wedding. The one that is charging me a ridiculous monthly fee because it’s no longer our primary savings account therefore we never meet the minimum balance to quality for no fees. My husband has long stopped contributing to it and I have a nominal monthly amount that is automatically allocated from my paycheck each time I get paid. DUH! If I just cancel that account and have that deduction routed to the main savings account you guys I’m embarrassed to tellyou how much of a savings that would mean each year. Even more embarrassed that it has taken me this long to figure that out. Throwing money out the window for no reason what so ever! Expensive lesson learned.
What in your face, easy to get rid of expense are you missing?
Sometimes I don’t try. . . at life that is. Some days I don’t want to put forth the effort. Drowning in a sea of “I can’t even’s”. Overwhelmed by it all. There are days when even the bare minimum exhausts me. On those days I fail miserably as a parent, as a wife, as a friend, as Mrs. Jones. The funny thing is that one of the aforementioned is typically the catalyst for that downward spiral. Cranky, over stimulated kids who, being children, test and push me to my limits, egging me on towards an epic parent versus child battle of the wills and rules. Like a fool I always take the bait. Most times I’m the victor but losing sucks! In those moments when I can’t raise my voice any higher, when I can’t tolerate one more eye-roll, or under-the-breath smart ass retort, or deflect another “but why??”, or remove another screen, or send them to their rooms, when it’s clear that I’m all out of steam, I close my eyes and let the shutdown begin. Battle Mom is replaced by Nonchalant Mom.
Case in point, my daughter recently fractured her left forearm. This set back has limited her wardrobe choices as the act of getting in and out of shirts is challenging. In full on Mommy mode I picked out a loose top for her that required a little cami underneath and attempted to help her put it on. Wrong move on my part. She wasn’t crazy about the choice and coupled with frustration she lashed out at me. Done with it all Nonchalant Mom took over and let her know that whatever shirt she decided to wear was ok by me. And with that I walked out of the room. Stunned she just looked at me and said “I don’t get it.” Exactly baby girl. Exactly.
There are days when I just don’t have the fighting power. I’m weary. A simple “what’s for dinner?” or that knowing look from my husband is enough to render me to tears. On those days butter pasta with a side of fruit is all I can manage. No effort, no thinking. Bed time routines are rushed so that I can retire to my room and force myself to sleep without having to directly say no to sex. I drift off while beating myself up for everything I just did wrong but wake the next day slighter more refreshed and better after claiming a few moments just for me. So yeah, sometimes I don’t try. . . at life that is. But it’s in the not trying that the real magic happens. I save me so that I can live for them.
- Step 1: DON'T day dream about spending four days at a wellness retreat. Yes, the thought of sunrise yoga, followed by a spread of nuts and berries, afternoons lounging by the pool, multiple spa treatments, hiking, and nights consuming entire bottles of pinot noir sounds divine UNTIL reality slaps you in the face when you discover the price of such luxury at your ideal location. Damn Miraval it's like that???
- Step 2: DON'T spend a week researching alternative, yet equally expensive, options. Either increase your budget or adjust your expectations. Five star accommodations at one star rates just does not happen. . . Unless it does??? Where is that deal?!
- Step 3: Once you've come back to your senses and have chosen a respectable second option it is finally time to get serious. This DOES NOT mean that you should run to the extreme left. Trying to Groupon your entire trip from airfare and accommodations to meals and activities will lead to discovering some rather unpleasant and disturbing reviews. You get what you pay for now come back to reality.
- Step 4: Speaking of reviews YOU DO NOT need to read all 4,678 of them. The deeper you go the more you begin to wonder why you even want to leave your safe, warm, quiet (after the kids are in bed), bug free, clean house.
- Step 5: DO ask yourself where your bestie is in all of this and why you are going crazy alone?
Stay tuned for my tips on HOW TO plan a mommy's gone wild weekend jaunt the right way.
Serial put podcasts back on the map. I resisted the urge for as long as I could. With every turn someone else was talking about the series. Finally after being subjected to daily discussions from two co-workers I grabbed my headphones out of my drawer and dove in head first. I was instantly smitten. Over the course of a week I binged listened as much as I could at work and every evening during my commute home. I was hooked!
I was already a fan of talk radio making me easy prey. On Saturday's I would do a happy dance whenever I found myself in the car at the start of the 11:00 hour which signaled the beginning of NPR's "Wait, wait. . . don't tell me". With podcasts I no longer have to wait until a specific time of day. I simply subscribe and gain instant access whenever I want. My list of favs include the following:
- Wait, Wait. . . don't tell me: Current events, panel style, laced with comedy as the panelist answer questions about the past week in news. I attended a taping recently and the show is even better live.
- Aferbuzz TV: It's like calling your besties and discussing the show you just watched. Recaps of the latest episode of some of your favorite shows. I'm currently obsessed with all things Power. Sad that the season just ended and I have to wait until 2016. Ghost I love you!
- The Brilliant Idiots: I have a new found respect for Charlamagne Tha God. The show's title is a very accurate description. Rated R for language and some subject matter but really listen to what is being said.
- WTF with Marc Maron: He interviewed President Obama and it was epic.
- Bevy Says: She has some great guests and great topics. All about empowering women. I'm energized after every episode.
- Mystery Show: The third series from Gimlet Media (more on them later). The host solves a new mystery every week. Not the cloak and dagger kind yet I'm still on the edge of my seat.
- Reply All: The second series from Gimlet Media (I promise I'm getting to them). I agree with the description: a show about the internet. But the interesting parts. Not the stuffy, technical, how-does-it work stuff.
- StoryCorps: Short recordings of people who are sharing snippets of their lives.
- The Loh Down on Science: For science geeks and people like me who sometimes just wants the headlines. Sandra Loh provides fun, educational, 2 minutes long science classes.
- The Loh Life: Sandra again. This time it's her life in 2 minutes or less.
- Pop Culture Happy Hour: A panel discussion on the latest in pop culture. It really is a happy hour.
- Fresh Air: In my opinion this is a more serious version of #11.
- Another Round: Love, love, LOVE the hosts of this show. This is a BuzzFeed production and Heben and Tracy (the hosts) are literally drinking during the show which leads to some hilarious and thought provoking discussions. I really want to share my thoughts on squirrels with them.
- StartUp: Finally I get to the story of Gimlet Media. StartUp was the first podcast I listened to after I finished Serial. The first season documented the journey to launching Gimlet Media, a start up dedicated to producing podcasts (hence #6 and #7). The second season just wrapped which followed another company going thru their start up phase.
I'm always on the look out for new shows so I'd love to receive recommendations.
I'm having a hat moment which is a problem because I have an extra large head. To the naked eye my head seems normal. Definitely proportionate to the rest of my body. However, the moment I try to don my dome with a chic fedora or wide brim straw hat disappointment sets in. Women's hats just don't fit my head. I always head to the men's department or default to a cute baseball cap. But I will not give up. There must be a milliner out there designing with us big headed women in mind. Right??? In the meantime I have my eyes set on these beauties. I'm itching to take the plunge and order one or two in the largest size possible to test my luck.
As I hit playback to listen I can hear the hesitation in my voice. The fear and uncertainty. I'm vulnerable, exposed, scared. For some reason my voice is a whisper. I thought about re-recording but then I asked myself "why?". What I am presenting is a real, honest moment. It is not supposed to be perfect or eloquent. It's just me. It is what it is.
This is an old post from my previous blog. I wanted to re-share here in this revamped space as I was proud of how well I expressed my feelings during that time. Plus I feel like it is relevant to someone out there going thru a marital blip.
August 22, 2012
It’s a title I’ve held for 11 years now. And yes I use the word as both a noun and a verb. Because seriously being a wife requires action. Constant forward movement. It’s a job. A full time job with no paid overtime. Just like being a mother. (I’ll touch on that topic in another post.) And I gotta be honest with you. I’m exhausted. Tired. Mentally and physically drained. Surprised? Shocked? Appalled by my statements? If so then you missed the title of my blog. “It's not always pretty but it’s always REAL”. And this is real talk ya’ll.
11 years and 2 kids in not to mention the years spent courting one another have caught up with me. I miss my freedom. I miss being carefree. I miss being courted. I miss courting. I miss the surprise factor. Peeling back the layers and discovering the depth of this man over and over again. I miss not being taken for granted. I miss being slightly uncomfortable in that butterfly in the pit of your stomach way. There are times when I day dream about purchasing a little pied-a-terre where I can escape to when needed. Yes visions of me playing the role of Carrie and going back to my apartment for a few days for some time away from Big aka Mr. Jones. But life as we know it friends is not a movie and I’m not reading from a script. When it’s good it’s great and when it’s bad I cry.
Now my marriage is not 100% filled with doom and gloom. We are not headed towards divorce court. We love each other and are committed to this relationship. Making our best efforts to honor our vows. Which in our defense the preacher switched up. Like he only gave positive affirmations “In health, not sickness. In good times, not bad”. His purpose was to bless us not curse us. I thrive in the security of the familiar. I love that I have a partner who has my back. Who can read my looks and respond to my needs accordingly. Who watched my body transform from svelte to pregnant with life only to then deflate like a balloon and yet he still wants to touch me. To work with me, for me. To build with me. To dream with me. To love me.
This post was obviously a moment for me to ramble. Lying in bed unable to sleep because we got in to a row over something stupid. A blip in the marriage matrix that throws you off balance for moment. But we recover and move on. Unconsciously seek each other under the covers as we sleep. Toes and elbows touching as we snuggle closer for warmth and security. I wife. He husbands. It’s what we do.
I shared my thoughts about my son but I failed to mention that I'm just as protective of my daughter. Black lives matter. All lives matter. My children's lives matter more.
Her smile is contagious. She is musically gifted. She excels at any instrument because she understands the notes. She sings. She dances. She loves to cook. There are days she drives me crazy! She lights up the hearts of both her dad and her brother. She is determined and inquisitive and bright and social and active and sensitive and kind and SHE.IS.MINE.
As her mother I have high expectations. I want her to live a happy and fulfilled life. The key word in that statement being LIVE. I worry as all parents do but because of the melanin in her skin my worry is next level. As I watch the Sandra Bland video and as I read the transcript I'm rendered uncomfortable. I squirm in my seat. I look around as if I am watching a forbidden scene and that somehow I will get in trouble if caught. I feel helpless and hopeless, sad, uncomfortable. I think about how the burden of witnessing the events of the last few years were evident in her "tone" and "attitude". How she refused to be victimized and treated as less than simply because of who she was. How she could have just been having a bad day and was in no mood for something as small as a traffic ticket because let's be real we've all been there. I think about how she was "off-script". I'm not going to define what that means because those who know, know. And then I get angry.
Angry that there is even a script to follow. Angry that a family has to bury this woman. Angry that lies are being told. Angry that conversations and protest don't mean a damn thing at this very moment. Angry because these events are truly insane! The same shit keeps happening and we expect the outcome to be different. Angry because I don't have the answers. Angry because I have high hopes for an unknown future. Angry because the fight will never be fair.
#sayhername Better yet leave her the fuck alone to begin with.
This year Lady Jones and Sir Little Jones' school decided to change up the school portraits. Instead of hiring one of those standard, mass producing studios to come in and take cookie cutter pics the administration instead hired a parent who is also a photographer. Bev runs
. I love how crisp and clean her images are and most importantly I love how she captures the essence of her subjects. Just check out the eyes of the individuals in every picture she has posted. What also made me happy is that in addition to the class photo and individual student photo she also offered the option of doing sibling sessions. This is great for those parents like me that have more than one child at the same school. This is an opportunity to sneak in a mini family session. Bonus! Signed up Lady and Sir Little Jones' for that immediately.
Now while this was a blessing I also started to curse it because pics for the lower school (PK-3rd) were being taken on a Tuesday while the upper school (4-6) were happening the next day. And you guessed it my kiddies are split. UGH! Lady Jones is older so I could trust her stay camera ready two days in a row. Sir Little Jones is only 5 and a boy so no chance that would happen with him. Therefore I scheduled the sibling session for day 1. Problem one solved. My second issue was that I would need to coordinate outfits for day 1 AND pick an outfit for day 2 for the little miss. I set three criteria for myself. 1. I needed to re-purpose existing items from their closets. No buying a special outfit just for picture day as I typically do. 2. Because I was not buying new clothes that meant I would not fall victim to matchy matchy but I did want complimentary. I have long been inspired by this
from Gabrielle of Design Mom. I loved how she styled her family for this shoot. Not matchy but definitely coordinated. And I was especially drawn to her use of color and pattern. I zeroed in on the blue and green and went from there. 3. I wanted a laid back casual vibe but still cute and fun. I made sure Lady Jones was glam and girly for her solo pics the next day - tights, skirt, hearts, glitter. The works!
Here is the end result:
Sir Little Jones: top is the Nordstrom line for kids. I scored this on sale for $12.99 at Nordstrom Rack. The pants are Gap Kids chinos currently on sale for $17.99.
Lady Jones: top shown is similar to the one she wore. This one is from Old Navy but her version is from Target. Same with the pants. These are Old Navy but she wore a pair from Cherokee. I added a fun pink polka dot head band to infuse some additional color and keep the style uniquely her.
- There should be something for everyone invited. Make sure that styles and tastes are comparable and admired to ensure that your guest can all participate. If you are a group of plaid only lovers then that one devoted strip lover will not unload nor stock up at this event. No one should leave the event feeling like there was nothing for them.
- Don’t show up empty handed! Swap parties are about give and take. You must donate in order to participate. (Rhymes are free ya’ll!). Also don't bring one item and try to leave with 10. Greedy is not cute!
- Quality over quantity. Edit your goods before you arrive. Carefully consider what you want to donate. Gently worn not old and ratty. If you don't where it because it's worn or torn don't try to pass it off to someone else. Which leads me to . . .
- While you may not want to part with your most classic or current pieces definitely make sure the items that do make the cut are timely and versatile. Not dated and stale
|I helped my sister clean out her closet. These are the 22 pairs that made the cut. There were more. Many, many more!|
Love, Mrs. Jones
P.S. How genius is this business model? Snobswap.com
|Image via Essence.com|
|Random thoughts as I take selfies of my OOTD|
|MNG by Mango - purchased at JCPenney, currently sold out|