health

Fibro Fridays – My FluRona Experience

Happy Fibro Friday! A few weeks ago, I published two videos over on my YouTube channel, discussing how I had both flu and COVID simultaneously, and all of the shenanigans involved with that experience. I figured I’d share the videos over here, because you all may have missed my story.

So, let me tell you all how it started. I fell ill right after New Year’s Day, and it took several days for me to get tested (there was a huge demand for COVID testing post-holidays), and I couldn’t get examined for nearly a week after I first started showing symptoms. When I was finally able to get tested, it was confirmed that yes, I had COVID, but I also had the flu (yay me). More about that story, as well as my symptoms are in the video below.

A couple of weeks later, I went back to the doctor’s office to make sure that I was not contagious. I received a rapid test and a flu test, which confirmed that I was no longer sick with COVID, BUT I was still showing as positive for the flu. I was so confused: I should have been done with both viruses at this point. But, the fact that I was still showing as flu-positive opened the door to considering some additional things that were specific to fibromyalgia. Here’s the video discussing that, and I have a few takeaways that I’m going to mentioned after the break.

Here’s the thing: having any chronic health condition means that all of our internal systems are compromised, even on a minute level. But, as we all know, small leaks sink ships. Little “glitches” in our bodies, such as being in a slightly immunocompromised state, often mean that we get unusual results when we’re sick. Unusual outcomes include extended illness, unexpected side effects/symptoms, and biological/physiological damage that cannot be reasonably explained. Sadly, a lack of compassion when sharing our experiences with others is also something that we have to face when we’re recovering from sickness.

So, that’s the sum of my FluRona experience. I’m glad that I’m *finally* over it and feeling great. And I’m really happy that I get to share my experiences and, hopefully, give a little insight to someone else.

That’s it for today: I hope you all are doing great! Have a great weekend.

life curation · luxury · style

Major Home Changes Ahead . . .

Hey friends! I hope you all are staying safe, warm, and happy. As you all know, this blog is more than just art, beauty, food, and creativity. I’m also committed to sharing other aspects of my life that matters to me and that I hope can help you all.

Recently, I came to the realization that some of the stagnation I’d experienced in certain areas of my life are a reflection of my physical space. Back in 2019, I purchased my dream home. I spent the majority of 2020, and a good portion of 2021, sharing my most sacred space with my grandmother and her sister which was a beautiful experience but also stressful for a multitude of reasons. After my beloved relatives returned to their home, I had to restore the sanctity of my space. The presence of other people, who have drastically different perspectives, opinions, and needs, can “contaminate” the energy of a home. So, I’ve been committed to bringing the energy back to what I prefer.

I thought this could be done with small, cosmetic things, like new furniture, or adding some wreaths to the doors. But a recent clogged pipe, significant water damage, and a denied insurance claim, clarified for me that my floor needed to be replaced and I’ll be responsible for paying for it myself. I looked at my once beautiful hardwood floor, and made peace with the fact that it would be different, but still beautiful, once the repairs are done.

This isn’t the way that I wanted it to happen, but I can see that this is leading me in the direction that I need to go. I started looking at the other things that need to be repaired, tweaked or changed completely. My home doesn’t feel sacred anymore, but I can change things to make sure that I have a sanctified space that reflects all of my aesthetic desires. I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m up for the challenge. I’ll keep you all posted as I make changes.

That’s it for today. I’ve interspersed some pictures of inspirational home decor that I’ve collected from here and there. Who knows: maybe I’ll recreate some of these looks in the months to come!

art

A Trip to the Dirty South

After many months of staying inside and avoiding gathering in public places, I finally ventured out and visited my beloved local museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). The museum reopened a while ago but it’s been well over a year since I’ve visited. It was a little eerie to return to the museum: it took me a moment to reacquaint myself with the layout. But once I started walking around a bit, it all came back to me.

For anyone that has not visited VMFA before, let me tell you, it is a gorgeous museum with incredible permanent and visiting exhibitions. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth checking out. And, if you’re visiting anytime before September 6, 2021, you can view a very special exhibition that highlights Southern artistry and creativity. The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse gives visitors a peak into the energy and dynamism of 20th century Southern Black American culture and artistry. According to VMFA’s website, the exhibition, “[…] chronicles the pervasive sonic and visual parallels that have served to shape the contemporary landscape, and looks deeply into the frameworks of landscape, religion, and the Black body—deep meditative repositories of thought and expression.” This fascinating exhibition combines both visual and audio art, to create a truly immerse creative experience.

Naturally, I took pictures while I was at the museum though, for this visit, I focused more on savoring the fact that I was finally visiting this beautiful space after a long year. Here’s a little bit of the Dirty South experience:

Cadillac in the museum atrium that greets visitors
Southern Landscape (1941) by Richmond’s own Eldzier Cortor (1916-2015)
House Sun Tree (Landscape with Sun Setting, SC) (nd) by William H. Johnson (1901-1970)
Saint Expedite I (1971) by Joe Overstreet (1933-2019)
Khemestry (2017) by Sanford Biggers (born 1970)
Gamin (1940) by Augusta Savage (1892-1962)
From Asterisks in Dockery (2012) by Rodney McMillan (born in 1969)

I hope you all enjoyed the photographs! And if you have a chance to visit the exhibition, I highly recommend that you check it out: it’s worth a visit, for sure!

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!

culture · international · life curation

Embracing The Year of the Ox

We recently saw the beginning of a brand new Lunar Year on February 12th. Somehow, I was a bit late this year, and I didn’t realize that the Lunar New Year occurred until two days after.

What can I say? It’s been a challenging year for all of us, and if I miss a couple of holidays, it’s only because this year has done a number on most of us.

Anyway, back to the Lunar New Year. I thought of the significance of this year’s animal, the ox. I reflected back on the last lunar year, the year of the rat. I think of mice and rats, and how these animals, while indicative of abundance (they are always in places with adequate food supply), can overconsume and leave desolation where abundance used to reside. I think the year of the rat, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, was a collective wake-up call. We are abundant, but, as a society, we have taken too much from nature, and balance must be restored.

Enter the year of the ox. This hardworking beast of burden only consumes what it needs to sustain itself, and it’s purpose for existing is to produce through manual efforts. Unlike rats, whose body waste is toxic and often spreads disease, oxen are useful all the way down to their fecal matter, which can fertilize and restore balance to the soil. The ox is sturdy, reliable, and work-oriented. It is the animal that’s most representative of the attitude we need in these times.

I think this year will be a year of restoration and balance. Life will get back to normal, more or less, but what is considered baseline normal has changed. We’ve had roughly one year to stay close to home, spend more time doing domestic activities, and to closely examine what matters to us. Now, we have our work to do.

It’s time for us to produce. We’ve been incubating our skills and talents during lockdowns and quarantines: now is the time to put out into the world what we’ve been creating during our downtime. And yes, I understand that many of us were too stressed and otherwise limited to “create” in the traditional sense. But, our creations need not be tangible: they can be our musings, creative nudges or even inklings of necessary change in our personal lives or in society. We have all created “something” in the past year: now it’s time to unleash it.

May the year of the ox give you great favor and lead you closer to a wonderful existence.

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

health · life curation · relaxation

NOW is the Time to Make Self Care a Priority

In light of current events, I have more free time and energy to devote to this blog. And now, more than ever, I’ve been called to resume my posting and offer encouragement and advice.

Our world has changed drastically in the past five months. I recall tutoring ESL students from China and they mentioned the effects of COVID-19 in its infancy. In a way, I was aware of the virus earlier than many of my family and friends, due to my students that provided me an inside view of what life in quarantine is like.

In the US, many of us are experiencing quarantines and mandatory shelter-in-place while we brace ourselves for the impact of the virus. This is a drastic change from life as we knew it, and the store shortages, sudden school closures, economic instability and unexpected loss of employment are devastating for many.

Untitled design

I cannot emphasize enough that NOW is the time to invest more in your self care. If you are able to read this post, you’re likely more fortunate and privileged than you realized. Investing in taking care of yourself in small (or significant) ways can do wonders for reducing your stress levels (stress negatively impacts the immune system, which you need to be at peak performance during this time). It also helps you to relax so that you can come up with solutions to your problems or, at least, to simply appreciate the good things that are already present in your life.

I don’t write this to sound dismissive and flippant: certainly plugging “self care” when people are suffering around the world may not come across as the most politically correct position to take at this time. However, I’m an advocate for self care in its minutest forms: that can mean doing some deep breathing to help calm your nerves, or stretches in the morning to loosen the tension that your body is holding, or even reminding yourself to drink more water (hydration is important).

Please continue to take care of yourselves, and I look forward to sharing more with you all tomorrow. Goodbye for now!