health · life curation

Amping Up The Self Love

I’m feeling so much more rested today: I’m thankful for good sleep, good friends, and good food LOL! Having a little bit of each of these seems to have really done the trick for me. I’m still a little tired, but such is life when you’re living with fibromyalgia. Some days are much better than others, and when you have good days, you learn to relish them!

I’ve been resting more because I’m feeling affected by a lot of things. Yes, fibromyalgia plays a starring role in my exhaustion, but there was another thing that was bothering me. I noticed that I was starting to feel less than stellar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was causing it. After spending a little time exploring my feelings, I figured out that my tiredness was due to uneasiness.

Upon further reflection, I learned that my uneasiness was rooted in my lacking self love. It’s funny, because I didn’t think about it before, as I usually don’t feel uneasy or unsettled within myself. But I’ve been experiencing these feelings because I’ve occasionally felt frustrated with my progress on my goals, my health, and my changing family dynamics. I didn’t make the connection before, but it’s clear that my frustration with outside circumstances is starting to feel very personal and it started to affect me physically.

My goal recently has been to amp up my self love. This goes beyond manicures and massages: aside from self care, I thought long and hard about how I can affirm my worth and self love. I’ve been doing positive affirmations daily, sleeping with rhodochrosite under my pillow, and asking myself regularly, “How can I make this experience more suitable for me?”, and “What would make my happiest right now?” After asking myself those questions, I take an action that feels better in the moment. Those simple decisions went a long way in affirming that I am an embodiment of love, I radiate peace and love, and I’m deserving of love and all the good things that life has to offer.

I’m still working regularly on my self love, but I’m already seeing a change in my energy levels. Yes, I’m still tired a lot, but the uneasiness has shifted, and I’m feeling more grounded. Things are starting to look up, and I’m thankful for it.

health · life curation · luxury · relaxation

Luxury Is Your Birthright

After spending some time listening to those amazing audiobooks last month (you can see my June book list here), I felt like I was buzzing. It’s been quite some time since I felt limitless and excited about the possibilities that lay before me. Perhaps it’s the thrill of the pandemic easing up and life getting back to some semblance of normal. Or, maybe it’s because my fibromyalgia hasn’t been giving me any major issues recently (yay for being flare-free!). On the other hand, it could be the fact that it’s starting to consistently feel like summertime here in Virginia, and the sunny days and warm temps do wonders for my mood.

Whatever the reason, I was already feeling pretty good. But these books absolutely upleveled my mood from good to great. In addition to general mood-lifting, the audiobooks I enjoyed reminded me of the power of my conscious and subconscious mind, as well as the fact that I am entitled to live a beautiful life, and that can include luxuries that enhance my experience here on earth.

However, listening to these books also made me think about an incident that occurred earlier this year, which I will regale you with in a moment. To preface, a few months ago, I was thinking about living luxuriously and how to create a more opulent home environment, but I was plagued with a lot of guilt. I love nice things, but in the middle of a global health crisis, it felt silly to desire my normal luxury purchases. And, when I did shop, my purchased amounted to nothing more than retail therapy, because I was under a lot of stress and needed pretty, shiny distractions.

The source of my stress was directly connected to my home environment. Two of my elderly relatives started living in my home during the pandemic, and, despite having adequate space, an abundance of food, and all of the electronics needed to keep us occupied, the environment still felt tense and unhappy. The spirit of discontent was heavy in my home, and it was weighing on me.

My relatives were ready to go back to their home. And they were being unpleasant in my home, in order to communicate their desire to leave. However, their home needed several repairs, as well as fumigation and deep cleaning, before they could moved. I was unsure how long it would take until all of those tasks could be accomplished, so I couldn’t provide them with a definite return date. That uncertainty stressed me out even more than the unpleasant behavior that I was witnessing daily.

Now, on to the incident that the books brought to mind: in the midst of this extremely stressful home situation, my good friend Kalifia mentioned to me that I should get away for a couple of days. But, on short notice, I figured that I couldn’t go very far. This part was true – going far wasn’t really an option – but it was only one side of what she proposed. She emphasized to me that, even if I couldn’t go very far away from home, I could still take a few days to get away.

I couldn’t argue with her logic. I needed a break, and it was within my budget. But I felt bad about taking a mini-break: I could have used the money for something else, I could have stayed at home in order to help take care of my elderly family members, I could have used the time to clean up a bit more and catch up on chores, etc.,. The reasons to say “no” were numerous. But there was only one reason to say “yes”, and, fortunately for me, it was louder than all of the “no”s combined. The “yes” simply said,

You need this.

Despite my guilt and hesitance, I decided to book a room at a lovely hotel about 20 minutes from my home. I checked in a few days later, and I laid around in the room and enjoyed the silence. The following day, I shopped at an upscale mall near the hotel, then I returned back to my room. I ordered food delivery each day, and I ate whatever I wanted. It felt ridiculous, self-indulgent, and positively unnecessary. Except, I needed every moment of it. Those days away from home restored me. It was a luxury, but it was crucial to helping me feel like myself again.

Do you ever feel that you don’t deserve the best that life has to offer? Does it ever feel like you need to EARN the luxurious parts of life? Do you feel foolish whenever you reach out for luxury? If you have, then let me assure you: luxury is your right. Actually, it’s your birthright: when you were born, you came entitled to the best that life has to offer. You are entitled to live a life that feels good to you, leaving you with beautiful, satisfying memories to comfort you as you age and eventually expire.

It took me reaching the end of my rope before I reconnected to my entitlement to happiness, peace, joy, and, yes, luxury. The beautiful thing about luxury is that we get to define it for ourselves. My definition doesn’t have to fit anyone else’s, and that’s fine. What isn’t fine is forgetting that I’m always entitled to feeling luxurious based on my definition.

I’m thankful for remembering who I am and what I deserve. I’m even more thankful that I can use my birthright to inform the decisions that I make, and I am determined to consistently make choices that honor this.

How do you define luxury? I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

life curation · writing

Writers Wednesdays – When The Last Chapter Is Elusive . . .

I don’t know if this has happened to any of my fellow authors out there, but I seem to have a dilemma every time I write. It doesn’t matter whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, short story or novel, lengthy instructions or a brief booklet.

The problem is this: I usually don’t know how to end things.

Yes, I’ll write, and write, and write, and write, happily breezing through the middle portion of a work-in-progress. I may have a little challenge with the opening chapters, but at some point, a brilliant (or so I think) way of introducing my book comes to me. Sometimes, I’ll even write something “out of order”, just so that I can capture the ideas that are already in my mind, bypassing all of the stuff that needs more time. It all sounds great when I’m in the “flow”. But then, I get to the end of the book, and I have a hard time wrapping things up.

You can probably even see my difficulty with “ending things” here on the blog. I enjoy sharing my world and telling you all about what I’m loving at the moment. So when I get to the end of the post, I often don’t know what to say. How do you bring proper “closure” to anything when you aren’t really ready to say goodbye? (On a side note, this is a recurring theme in my life, so the deep dive into this is necessary on multiple levels. Back to the conversation at hand . . . )

I think my reluctance to write the last chapter of any of my works in progress comes down to the inability to say goodbye easily. I never want the fun to end, or to part ways with something that I enjoy. So, ending a book – especially books where I absolutely adore the main and supporting characters – is like losing a good friend. Yes, I can always allow the characters to have more adventures by writing secondary books, but something about that first work with a set of characters is just . . . special. It’s as beautiful as a first kiss, or seeing the sunrise for the first time. Nothing compares to it.

I long to freeze those beautiful moments and never let them go. But alas, the only constant in life is change, and even the best works-in-progress do me no good if I don’t eventually write a suitable end for them, so that those books can eventually be read and loved by others. So, my challenge is to learn to let go and to give my books the beautiful endings that they deserve.

I have my work cut out for me in the next few weeks. For the works-in-progress that I have now, I’m concentrating on just writing the endings, even if I hate what I’ve written. The goal isn’t to make the ending perfect, but to just GET IT DONE, so that I can edit it later and make it better. The children’s books are easy: they’re formulaic, so the same ending is used repeatedly but just tweaked a bit here and there. But the novels and self-help/personal development books I’m working on definitely need an ending that is befitting. However, I won’t get to those perfect endings until I write imperfect endings first.

For future works, maybe I should try writing the endings first. I recall that there was a story (told second- or third-hand) about a person visiting actor Will Smith, who had the plot for a movie written out onto a bunch of index cards that he arranged on a storyboard. According to the person telling the story, Smith said that the easiest part of the story was the end, because he always started there, and basically reverse-engineered the story until he had the middle and beginning parts.

I think that writing the ending of a book before writing anything else would be a good exercise for me, even though I’ve traditionally disliked writing this part. Perhaps my comfort with endings will grow if I focus on making those as special and beautiful as the rest of the story will be . . . Hmm, it’s a thought.

Have you ever had a difficult time coming up with the ending of a book you’ve written, or in any other written work? I’d love to hear how you grew past that challenge in the comments below!

beauty · hollywood glamour · life curation · luxury · relaxation

Review: The Harlem Candle Company

Happy Tuesday!

I love candles. I’ve never reviewed candles here on this blog, but I have quite a collection. It’s funny: something that is such a BIG part of my daily relaxation routine has never been featured here before. But, then again, I didn’t have any candles that completely resonated with my essence.

Until now. Recently, I came across some candles on the page of one of my Facebook friends. I’d intended to invest in more luxury candles, but other than Diptyque and The Clean Candle Company (I did a review of their candles here), I was stumped over which candle to purchase next. I’d planned to try Trudon’s Josephine candle, but the company has consistently sold out of the size I wanted to purchase. And so it goes: fate conspired to make me amenable to other suggestions.

Enter the Harlem Candle Company.

This company crafts candles themed after literary and cultural figures from the Harlem Renaissance period. And the candle that most intrigued me was Josephine, named after the bronzed goddess herself, Ms. Josephine Baker. I also purchased two other candles – Speakeasy and Ellington – in both the regular and travel sizes (respectively).

These candles are lush, complex and timelessly elegant. I love the fragrances that the company offers, as well as the charming backstories that explain the inspiration behind the scents. The company also ships their products quickly: it took me only a few days after purchasing to have my candles in hand. I enjoyed these candles so well that I made a YouTube video about it! Please check out the video, and give it a thumbs up if you enjoy it.

That’s all for today. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Take care!

goals · life curation

Preparing For The Next Six Months

As I look back over the last six months, I realize that I’ve made great progress towards my goals. For that, I am thankful. That being said, I still want to make sure that I stay on target and have as many tools at my disposal as are necessary. I want to make sure that the next six months are even more productive and rewarding.

For those that are unaware, I enjoy listening to the vlogs of other writers and learning about how they are managing their writing careers. One of the writers that I really like watching on YouTube is JeSuisJusteMoi. The channel creator, Dr. Andrea, has a PhD in English and is a published author. Along with being extremely accomplished, Dr. Andrea is also a fellow fibro warrior, and seeing her manage her career and health is nothing short of inspirational. One of her recent videos included a great tool that I knew I needed to share over here.

Here’s the video:

And here’s a link to the worksheet that she mentions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-XwUWo9mbQQP73nrcvKn0oFZS_UoU7W27ujoqLZuHbU/edit?usp=sharing

I share the link to the worksheet but I feel that you will get the most benefit by watching the video. Dr. Andrea does a great job of showing how she created the goals that she has for the remainder of 2021. I will be going through this worksheet this week, so that I can hit the ground running in July!

Do you have any tools that you enjoy using for goal setting, or recalibrating your life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

goals · health · life curation

June Goal Updates

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I accidentally posted this last week (before I finished collecting my thoughts), so I had to pull the post and reschedule it. It was one of those weeks, folks . . . Anyhoo, here’s my June goal update post.

As a quick recap, here are the goals I have for 2021:

  • Publish 5 books
  • Lose 15 lbs
  • Manifest 3 international trips
  • Earn 6 figures in my businesses
  • Read 100+ books
  • Luxury purchases – Hermes, Christian Louboutin, Sophia Webster, Ralph & Russo
  • Cure my fibromyalgia

The Wednesday and Thursday posts will cover the first two points (weight loss discussion on Thursday, and publishing post on Writers’ Wednesdays, as normal). I’m really excited to discuss the (unorthodox) way I utilized to lose weight. I may even do a video on it (I’m still undecided about whether I’ll publish and attach a video related to the topic). Along with that, my Wednesday post will cover how I published 3 books in the past 6 months, and how I intend to publish 3 more before the end of the summer.

Onto the next point. . . While I very much desire to take 3 international trips (and I also intend to manifest the money to make those trips happen!), I haven’t been putting a lot of my energy toward that goal. To be honest, I have only decided on one international trip for sure, to happen at the end of December. I haven’t the faintest where else I want to go, or when I want to go there. I have a couple of ideas of how that can unfold for me, but for now, a lot of this is still undecided. I’m okay with the uncertainty: I don’t have to micromanage the details. So long as the perfect trips for ME come my way, I’m pleased.

So, I’m nowhere near my 6-figure business income goal. However, I’ve completely withdrawn my energy from my businesses in the past few months, so that doesn’t surprise me. Now, if I want to reach that goal, I’ll have to amp up the activity during this second half of the year. This actually works perfect for me, as I’ve built quite a bit of momentum over the past few months (by publishing my books at a comfortable pace, learning more about herbs and oils, nurturing my body so that I have more energy, etc.,). With the energy I’ve conserved, I have a lot more time available to pour into my businesses, so that I can see a drastic increase in my sales and so that I can knock out my goal of 6 figures in 2021!

I had to put my book-reading goals on hold during the month of May, since I was completing my Cornell University program. However, I resumed the reading challenge this month, and I’m excited to share which books I read during the month of June (also, I finally hit my monthly goal of 10+ books, which puts me on target for reaching 100+ before the end of the year!) The reading goal post will be available sometime next week.

I haven’t made any more luxury purchases in the past few months. I look forward to adding more goodies from luxury retailers sometime during August (my birthday month). I’m sure I’ll be eager to give myself a “treat” by then.

Finally, I’m still working on reversing my fibromyalgia. I think I’m getting close to a permanent solution, but I’m still testing a few things. Of course, you can simply peruse any of my Fibro Friday posts to see what I’m learning and trying on this journey.

Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing an amazing tool that I think will help tremendously with accomplishing my remaining goals. I can’t wait to share it with you! Until then, take care, and I’ll talk to you all soon!

life curation · relaxation

The Latest Garden Blooms

I haven’t posted any new garden pictures this year, due to my hectic schedule (no time to plant as many flowers as I intended) and the intense heat that we had. Sadly, my peony blooms have all fallen off, and my roses are budding more slowly. But this is the natural evolution of things, no? Spring comes, the blooms arrive, the blooms fall, and then the summer blooms take over. It’s a lovely natural process that I can appreciate. Here are some of the pictures that I took right before we got the rain that gave us some relief (LOL!) and a few from the days right after the rain. Enjoy!

The first rose of the season
My azaleas showed off this year! So gorgeous.
I love my peonies. They never stay long enough.
This is the first year that my dogwood bloomed!
A closeup of my dogwood blooms.
A new crepe myrtle that my father gifted me for Mother’s Day: I haven’t transplanted it to my garden yet.

life curation

Classes are DONE!

Hey y’all: happy Monday! I’m back and I’m now a proud graduate of Cornell University’s Women in Entrepreneurship program.

I’m happy to have the program completed, and now I can focus on the many things that I’ve left unattended over the past couple of months, like my reading list, my overall 2021 goals, and a few other things I had on the docket (LOL!) I’m kind of playing catchup right now, so I may be a little slow with the posts. Bear with me: I’m getting back into the routine.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with you all! Have a great day, and I’ll chat with you all tomorrow.

career · life curation

Minor Disappointments and Setups for Greatness

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you all are enjoying a great day wherever you are, and I hope your weekend was fantastic!

Recently, I applied for a part-time position with an online tutoring company. I liked that the position was flexible (that is crucial, given my current schedule) and I figured that it would help me transition into more freelance work. After completing the second round of the interview process, I was informed that I did not get the position. As you can imagine, I was disappointed. I thought I was the perfect candidate, and I felt like I should have made it to the “short list”. However, the company felt otherwise, and they advised me that they would like to keep my application on file, in case they expand and have more openings.

This experience reminded me of something that my mother told me years ago. She said, “If it’s meant for you, nothing and no one will be able to get in the way of you having it”. This little disappointment was just a clear sign that this position was not meant for me. And, upon further consideration, I realized that I actually didn’t want the position.

Yes, you read that right: I didn’t even want that job, if I’m being perfectly honest. I intended that I earn money in a more passive way this year, and this job was quite the opposite of “passive”. It would require a certain number of hours every week, and I wouldn’t be able to delegate these tasks to someone else. Also, this job would involve me occupying a role that doesn’t enhance my future career prospects. In fact, it’s a bit regressive, in a way: I would have to downplay my knowledge and participate in some mind-numbing tasks in that role.

Yes, the role would have brought in more income, but it goes against the intentions that I set. Any action that goes against your intentions is bound to become uncomfortable and unsustainable at some point. Also, perhaps it’s because I’m older, or maybe because I’ve had enough disappointments that turned out to be blessings in disguise, I’m not taking this rejection personally. I’m not right for the job, but that is no reflection on my value as a person. I’ve experienced disappointment as well as incredible successes, and I have seen enough to know that everything works out in my favor in the end.

So, I’m taking this minor disappointment and counting it as a setup for future success. I believe that this position was denied to me because it is not right for me and what I’m creating for my future. It doesn’t fit in my grand scheme, and that’s okay. Additionally, by not clamoring to find some other position to validate my worth as an employee, I’m leaving space for the opportunities that are worthy of my time and attention.

Those are my Monday musings. I’ll have another Writer’s Wednesday post in a couple of days, as well as some other chat during this week. Talk to you all tomorrow!

business · career · life curation

Women and Money: Problems and Solutions

Some of you may not realize this, but April is National Financial Literacy Month. As a woman, I’m fascinated by how finances factor into the lives of women. I feel that most women “know” about money, but there’s a disconnect between knowledge and application. As a financial professional (enrolled agent), I understand many of the pitfalls that women experience as regards wealth-building and debt reduction. What I intend to do with this post is offer solutions and workarounds for the most common issues that exist when it comes to women and money.

  • In most fields, women tend to earn less that their male counterparts doing the same work.

Yes, the gender pay gap is real. It doesn’t apply 100% of the time (for example, women that work in food preparation services and fast food tend to earn more than males in the same job). For most women, changing their gender just to earn more money isn’t a reasonable solution. Most women aren’t clear about how they can minimize or eliminate the pay gap that they are experiencing.

Women would do well to try to eliminate the pay gap that they experience personally. This can be done by learning what the current wage expectations are in a particular field, then comparing this to the woman’s experience, education, and location. After that, it’s a good idea to research the ways to negotiate for a pay raise, and practice the negotiation conversation with a trusted friend, mentor or advisor. If the gap is too large to be successfully negotiated, then it’s worthwhile to research and apply to different employers. Additionally, gaining additional skills can give women an advantage, making it easier to command higher wages (this can be done easily through free online education providers like ALISON, Coursera, Saylor and CPA Academy)

  • Women save money more but invest less than men.

Saving money is great, but the interest rates for savings accounts (of all sorts) is too low to keep up with the rate of inflation. As long as the money sits in savings, it’s missing an opportunity to work harder and generate a higher return. To that point, women are also less inclined to invest than men. Many women have been conditioned to see investing as “too risky”, and thus they prefer safer ways to store money (such as savings accounts).

The solution for this is to focus on investments that feel safer, and building your confidence until you are comfortable enough to take bigger risks. A good way to start investing is to purchase just one inexpensive stock, and start regularly reading about that stock’s performance. Then, invest in more stocks, adding a little more money to invest at each time. Websites like Acorns, Earnin and even Cash App are making it easier than ever to invest small amounts and to observe how the investments are performing.

  • Women have more student loan debt overall.

Education is necessary to earn a solid living, but it’s hard to move forward in life post-college when you have significant student loan debt. Due to the pandemic, many loan companies have opted to provide forbearance to loan recipients, so these recipients don’t have to pay on the student loans while trying to adjust to possible income and lifestyle changes.

There are two approaches that I recommend for studnet debt. If possible, avoid student debt by taking equivalency tests so that certain credits can be awarded without having to pay costly tuition (I wrote a book all about this, titled Degree Hacking: How to Save Money and Get College Credits in Record Time). However, if the loan debt has already been incurred, then I recommend that women research whether their employers offer student loan repayment. If not, seek an employer that does offer this benefit. Also, if the student loan rates are higher than, say, the cost of a line of credit or a home equity loan, then opt for one of these, and use that money to pay off the student loan. Yes, that does mean trading in one debt for another, but at least utilize these other funding sources can save money in the long run.

  • Women are more likely to live in poverty during their old age.

This is heartbreaking but true. Living to advanced age should automatically mean comfortable golden years, but this is not always how it works out. The best defense against lives of poverty is cultivating authentic friendships and support groups before reaching advanced age. It’s invariably more difficult to create relations when these are “needed”, so it’s best to start creating these connections before health declined occur.

Once a person is retirement age, it can be very challenging to make new friends. But websites that encourage meeting up (like Meetup), neighborhood town hall meetings, special interest groups and charities are a great way to connect with like minds and meet new friends. After creating these connections, it offers a little bit of a buffer against hard time. People are more likely to support their friends during hard time, but the key is to create mutual benefit. No one wants to feel “used”, so it’s crucial to create a relationship where both parties feel appreciated and enjoy one another’s company.

  • On the whole, women are less financially literate than men.

I recommend that all women take time to read books on finance, as well as take advantage of free webinars and workshops offered by financial institutions (such as banks, credit unions, and government and other oversight agencies, such as FINRA). Below, I provide a few links to books and articles that I find to be wonderful for learning about money.

Important Facts About Women and Money

Women & Money: 10 Facts We Should All Know

Money and Women: Myths and Facts

60+ Stats About Women and Money

Commercial Bank Regulation

MyCreditUnion Financial Literacy Resources

National Credit Union Association Financial Literacy Resources

My finance and tax-related blog (new posts starting in May 2021)

Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach

I hope you all find these tips helpful, and if you need clarity on anything else, let me know in the comments!