4 Ways We Are Surviving Pre-K

I thought I felt my heart actually breaking the weeks and days that led up to my oldest starting Pre-K. I felt sick to my stomach. I was losing sleep. I was having anxiety about following such a strict routine because, let’s face it, I have been a stay at home mom with no real schedule for years. I was crying at the drop of a hat. I was making myself miserable..and I was making my child miserable too. I know all the regulars who have been doing this for years are literally laughing at this right now saying,” Come on Mom, get it together!!” Don’t worry ladies, after about six weeks into this, I have the swing of things down and I want to share some of the things that have made this a fun transition for us.

For starters, let me just say that the first day of school was actual trauma. Seriously, if you go to a dictionary and look up the word ‘trauma’, our first day of school story will be written there in big bold letters. Going back to the part where I said I was making my daughter miserable, I realized that I really hadn’t said much about how much fun she would have or how many friends she would make. I spent our days cuddling her, playing with her and telling her how much I would miss her. Don’t get me wrong, I did tell her should would have fun and she would make friends but there was far more emphasis on how much I loved her and how much I would miss her while she was at school. Looking back now, I realize I should have swallowed my sorrows and built her up more to prepare her for her first day. The truth is, she was only as excited as I was to send her to school, which wasn’t very much.

The Heart.

The second day of school, I knew I had to do better and I had to be better for her. If she was going to go to school and have any kind of fun, I was going to have to instill some form of hope in her. I prayed and prayed the night before for her and for myself so I could be better for her. While I was making her breakfast that morning, suddenly it just hit me. I grabbed a marker out of my craft room and I drew a heart on the inside of her wrist and mine. I told her to look at it every time she missed me and I would look at mine too. A friend of mine on Instagram had mentioned a particular book I needed to order on Amazon to read to her about going to school so I think that might have been what sparked the idea. I, unfortunately, still have not ordered the book. Ally and I still have a matching doodle on the inside of our wrists every day and it is special to us. I know the book is probably the best thing since sliced cheese but to me, this is ours. It’s one of the ways we have survived this transition. Now my youngest likes to have something drawn on the inside of her wrist and occasionally when my husband is home in the morning, he gets a matching drawing on his wrist too.

The Blanket.

Also starting on the second day of school, I did something I remembered my mom doing for me when I was little. The house I grew up in was at least 100 years old and high off the ground. The least bit of a chill in the air would make the house freezing. My mom would put a blanket in the drier or draped in front of our lit fire place to wrap me in to keep me toasty while I ate my breakfast. Typically this was a Winter thing only but considering my house thermostat is set on arctic temperatures at all times, it kind of applies every single morning. My daughter looks forward to her warm blanket in the mornings. And the little girl in me smiles inside because I remember the safe and loved feeling it gave me when my mom would snuggle me up in a fresh warm blanket.

The Cinnamon Rolls.

Several of my mom friends who have children in school already warned me that my kids would be exhausted by Friday afternoon, for us so far, that happens to be by Thursday. When they come home from school, they are whipped. So much that they hit the hay early and have a hard time getting up the next morning for their last day of the week. So, I started getting up even earlier on Friday mornings to pre-heat the oven and bake some fresh cinnamon rolls. Usually the kids hear me stirring around in the kitchen and wake up just before it’s time. But they’re immediately excited because the smell of sugary cinnamon fills the house and they typically stand at the oven watching them back until they’re done cooking and ready to eat. It’s crazy how changing up the breakfast to something a little more exciting gets them a little bit more eager for the day. It’s like a sweet little incentive for making it to Friday!

The Sunday Snack Ritual.

I had been buying tons of snacks at the grocery store every week and before the second or third day, my stash was nearly gone because the kids were going through them so fast between school snacks and after school snacks, then before bed snacks. I mean, this snack issue was a real issue! Coincidentally, I had a box of cake mix that was going out of date if I didn’t bake it soon and clearly, my kids love to watch things bake in the oven so one Sunday evening, we baked mini cupcakes with no icing and it turned into their snack for the week. Making messes seem to be one of the main things that feeds into their joy, so this was actually a really fun little thing for us to do together. And my snack stash didn’t disappear within five seconds that week! I was like..okay…so maybe this could be a thing! So now, we bake on Sundays. Even if its just a tube of nestle cookies, we do it together. It doesn’t matter how messy it is or how un-chef like they look. It’s the gesture itself of simply making them with the girls that makes it fun and the girls just “know” that they’re making their snacks for the week.

I know that I am probably setting my expectations high for the kids and maybe things won’t always be this way. I guess the way I see it is, they’re only little once and soon enough, these things will only be a distant memory and they won’t want their warm blankets, hearts on their wrist or to bake with mama anymore. It does make for a little extra planning and sometimes it makes for a bigger mess than I really feel like dealing with but the laughs and their smiles are so worth it.

I’d also like to add in that sometimes reading things exactly like this make me feel very less than. As if I don’t measure up and I’m not doing enough with my kids. If you’re that mama, please hear me, we are all doing the absolute best we can. Even if it means you could barely roll out of bed in the morning because the baby didn’t sleep last night or all the snacks for the week are store bought. No one is judging you and if they are, they aren’t your friend. You do what’s best for you and your family. There are no rules or guidelines to follow when you’re doing what makes your role in motherhood easier or flow for that matter. Keep your chin up and smiles on those littles faces. You’re doing a great job!

Boltfarm Tree House

If you need a place to completely disconnect from everything and re-center yourself, reconnect with your spouse and get some rest..this read will be such a treat for you! My husband and I visited Boltfarm Tree Houses near Charleston, South Carolina. It’s tucked about 30 minutes away from the city in a secluded area just off of the water. There are so many beautiful oak trees towering over the grounds that you lose count. You truly get lost in how serene it is, which is exactly what my husband and I needed.

Nick and I did the math while sitting on the deck at the treehouse..so between my husband being a Lafayette Firefighter and owning and operating his own Dirt Contracting business, he works roughly 102 hours per week. Guys..there’s 168 hours in a full week! That’s insane right? And as for me..well, I’m a full time mama, blogger, influencer and beauty guide. So if there’s only 168 hours in a week, that basically means I work at least 1,714 hours a week. However, I have the ability to juggle all of my responsibilities but I can always count on there being zero breaks when it comes to the girls. Even when they should be sleeping, they don’t. Long story short, my oldest barely believes in naps anymore and my youngest is the most nocturnal little being I’ve ever known. Not the good kind of non-sleeper either. Moms, you know what I’m talking about. It gets rough sometimes but I manage to find the beauty in between. I like to think she’s the one who will teach me patience. I guess we can call this a “blesson.”

The ability to view a lesson as a blessing..

Needless to say, my husband and I desperately needed a break. We didn’t want the kind of vacation where we were on the go constantly with an itinerary. We wanted to be able to sleep in, relax and essentially do nothing since we are always doing something! I don’t know how the treehouse could have been anymore perfect. Tori and Seth Bolt poured their heart and souls into these treehouses. Every detail was so well thought out and didn’t go unnoticed on our part.

As soon as we arrived, we drove up on the most beautiful iron gate in the shape of all of the oak trees you see covering the entire treehouse farm. We drove up to The Honeymoon Treehouse and were greeted by Jared who is the General Manager of Boltfarm Treehouses. He gave us a quick tour of the treehouse we were staying in, explained all there was to do and encouraged us to unplug and enjoy each other and our time there. Afterwards, we swung on the hanging chairs on the balcony of our treehouse and just marveled the beautiful grounds and all that the treehouse had to offer.

The Honeymoon Treehouse featured a copper bathtub on a platform in the main room. The back wall in front of the bed was covered top to bottom with charming antique mirrors. The bed was probably one of the most comfortable beds we have ever slept on. When it comes time for us to replace our own mattress, we will probably be ordering the same Sleepy mattress with a pillow top like they used. On the side was the kitchen area. It was finished with an above counter copper sink, a miniature retro style refrigerator hidden behind the stained wood cabinetry and a dining area for two complete with an antique China set. Let’s not forget the old style record player complete with a basket full of old records to play, adult coloring books, pillows to sit for meditation and prayer, a legit picnic basket filled with everything an outside picnic would ever need and a little fireplace. Sounds like a dream right? That’s just inside the treehouse, that’s not counting the amenities outdoors!

Outside there was a gorgeous view of the water with oak trees giving the perfect amount of shade. Double bicycles, outside grill, pizza oven, jacuzzi, fire pit fit for snuggles and s’mores, outdoor shower and screened in room with a swinging bed complete with a screen and projector to play movies. Don’t all of these things just sound like heaven?

Every single thing I named made the Treehouse every bit of the experience we were promised. But every ounce of alone time, relaxation, peace and quiet with my husband was the best part of all. It was exactly what we needed in our 10th season of marriage. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:18,

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.

I felt this verse fit perfectly for everything I wanted to end with. Everything was serene and absolutely perfect at the tree house and we are literally chomping at the bit to plan our next stay. But it wasn’t just beautiful scenery that we enjoyed, it wasn’t just the quiet time we needed and it wasn’t just the opportunity to be the big kids we know we are at heart; it was the unseen that sparked magic because of the seen. Does that resonate? I think we can all agree that life happens every single day and we all fall short in allowing it to get in the way of the things that mean the most to us. Making time for your partner and the things that matter most to you will be one of the greatest investments you can make in your relationship. God and each other. I think the best love story is to be able to fall in love with the same person over and over again.

Being able to be with my husband where he was only my husband for a few days was bliss. I’m sure he would agree the opposite for me. We could just be our true selves for a few days with zero responsibilities except pouring ourselves into each other and reconnecting on a level that we haven’t been able to in years. It’s truly amazing how doing nothing is absolutely everything you could possibly need. We swung outside and enjoyed the views, took naps on the swinging bed outside, we showered outside during the daytime and nighttime under the moon and starts, we listened to Calming Guitar Playlist on Pandora; I highly recommend that soothing playlist by the way. I have listened to it every day since we have returned. It almost as if I was able to bring the tree house experience home with me. Not to mention, growing up as a musicians daughter, my father was always playing his acoustic guitar at random times throughout the day. It was an enjoyable part of my childhood. This kind of music is medicine for the soul. We also made our own pizza, we roasted s’mores, rode the double bicycles, drank wine, walked down the lane full of oak trees and got to see lightening bugs for the first time since each of us were children. That may seem like nothing but it was truly a magical moment for me, at least. We took the time to visit Charleston one afternoon and had lunch at a tavern that was downtown. Which was incredible by the way.

Writing all of these things and telling you how insanely mind blowing it all was just brings me back. Even though it was just a few short weeks ago, the thought of being there and what it did for my heart and soul has stuck with me. Like the unseen I mentioned before, it wasn’t just an experience, it was purifying and healing. I will never forget what that trip did for me and I cannot wait till we go back. Matter of fact, if you’d like to mention that I recommended BoltFarm Treehouses to you when you book your stay, you will be upgraded to a complimentary VIP experience..and We will be too upon our next stay!

www.boltfarmtreehouse.com

This content is not sponsored by BoltFarm Treehouse or by Seth & Tori Bolt.

The Barn.

My husband and I just celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. Holy macaroni, you read right, TEN WHOLE YEARS. How time passed so quickly, I don’t think I will ever know but as our anniversary date approached we started planning and trying to figure out what the best trip would be. We knew we didn’t want anything in a big city..or city at all really. We knew we didn’t want to be busy the whole time. We knew we didn’t want there to be a lot of people or really any people for that matter. We wanted simple, we wanted to be secluded, we wanted total peace and quiet. Which is what led us to our first stop on our vacation. The Barn.

The Barn was a lucky find on Airbnb. I say lucky because I searched for what felt like weeks for a good hideaway and it was hard finding a place that could accommodate us on such short notice. I wanted something that wouldn’t be too far off of our main route to the Boltfarm Treehouse, which I will be blogging about next. My first few searches were in some small towns in Alabama. There was a really cute Caboose…yes, a train car, an actual caboose that was completely converted into an adorable tiny living space. Then there was this house thirty plus miles from the nearest anything but the views were gorgeous. Lastly, there was a Yurt we found on a campground overlooking a lake. All of them were beautiful and different, just like we wanted but none of them seemed like the perfect fit so, I continued to look. I found myself looking just south of Atlanta along our route, which led me to The Barn.

As soon as I saw it, I knew this was it. I immediately showed pictures to Nick and he was like YES!! It’s basically everything that Pinterest, Rae Dunn and Farmhouse dreams are made of. The owners put every little detail into thought when they created this space. From the beautifully landscaped grounds, the outdoor grill area, to the screened in game room, the pool and hot tub to all the homey details of the inside of the barn. I was definitely taking notes for our new home in Breaux Bridge! As we told friends one of our stays was at a Barn, the looks we got were hilarious. They were like,” …..you’re staying in a what?” It made me laugh, they just didn’t know how good this was going to be.

The whole space is incredibly dreamy. The Barn is actually situated in the owners backyard but it’s off set and there’s a lot of privacy. It’s not in a big town but it is about 40 minutes south of Atlanta. I say it’s not a big town, it’s much bigger than what I’m used to over here. The Chick-Fila and Burger King look like five star restaurants (seriously) compared to how they’re constructed down here in Louisiana! The town has a lot of places to shop, restaurants and antique stores. To be honest, even though the town has all of those amenities, it has a lot of country to it too which is what we were mostly interested in. With a short drive, you can easily get to a lot of beautiful hiking trails that have lovely sights and waterfalls. We went to Chochran Mill Park which was about 20 minutes away from The Barn and it was amazing! We only hiked one of the trails but one of the first sights was a gorgeous waterfall.

Back to barn though, when we arrived, we were greeted by a deer in the driveway. Which totally reminds me of going home. Back where I grew up, it was nothing to drive up and see them in the driveway or in the yard somewhere. Sounds cliché but this was definitely a home away from home experience. What made the experience even more personal was a little letter board in the hall welcoming us to their Barn and the owners wishing us a happy anniversary. This is the part where you say ” aweee!”

Even though we did go hiking and out to dinner one night at a local Sushi restaurant, we spent all of our time soaking up the barn and each other. My husband and I are both entrepreneurs and are both always incredibly busy. He is also a Firefighter meaning, even when he is sleeping, he is working. I am a stay at home mom, raising our two sweet girls ages 4 and 2. While that is a lot in general, I am also a Director and Certified Mentor for LimeLife by Alcone and I blog. All of it makes us super happy but just like anything else, sometimes you need a break. The Barn was perfect for this. I like to think we are simple people and simple things make us very happy and that’s what The Barn delivered for us. An opportunity to slow down, get some rest, reconnect with each other and enjoy each other which is something I think every modern day couple can definitely appreciate these days.

We sat in the hot tub, we played pool, we laughed, we played the large sized Jenga, we napped on the outdoor swing, we laughed some more, we caught up on some of our favorite Netflix shows, we hiked and it was the most fun My husband and I been able to have in a while together. I think my husband would agree. We basically got to be the big kids we are and have fun! Having kids and hustling to have thriving businesses are definitely some of the best blessings life can offer but it was so nice to disconnect for a minute and just be. Just enjoy time and each other. Jesus says in the book of Mark 6:31,

Come away with me to a quiet place and rest awhile.

And that’s exactly what we did. We both loved our stay and highly recommend The Barn in Newnan, GA. It’s such a fantastic getaway! I’m just glad I gave AirBNB a try before booking a hotel room somewhere along the way because there is absolutely no way any hotel, five star or not, could ever top our experience here. I don’t know when our next trip would be but if I can help it, The Barn will definitely be a part of our stay any time we travel on that side of the country. This AirBNB is perfect for a one night stay, a weekend stay or even a week long stay for any occasion. Thanks again to Mona and Brent for allowing us to come and experience your little piece of heaven!! We will be back!

Check out the link to The Barn here: https://abnb.me/6WHs3w3T5W

 

Aging Gracefully

They say diamonds are a girls best friend..and then Botox and Juvederm happened.

I can finally say that I am the proud owner of a smoother forehead and some full, even lips. If you know me personally and you’re like everyone else who already knows..yes, I got injections. Yes, I know I didn’t need it but I wanted it. I’ll dissect that a little bit by telling you that in High School, I was the back spot on the cheer leading squad. One day when the flyer was doing a liberty, she lost balance, fell and I got kicked in the lip..since then, I have had a lot of scar tissue on the left side of my bottom lip. With that said, my lip appeared much plumper on the bottom left while the rest of my lips were thin, uneven and less full. My forehead and crow’s feet..that’s just the result of sun exposure, age, collagen breakdown and more than likely, hormones.  Here are a couple of before photos so you can see what I was working with.

It really isn’t that bad but let’s be honest, we are all our own worst critics and it was definitely something that bothered me! So, I went in for a consultation at  Dr. Duplechain’s office next to Laser Skin Care of Louisiana. We talked about my skin and my concerns. I will not lie to you for one minute, I was so nervous. He will more than likely remember me as the lady who has sweaty palms because I was literally sweating bullets when I first arrived. There is no one in the world more afraid of needles than I am. He and his staff made me feel incredibly comfortable and confident about the procedure.  We began by taking a few different photos of my face in different positions. I scrunched my forehead, opened my eyes and lifted my eyebrows as high as I could, smiled and frowned. Ultimately, the idea behind doing this was to monitor the changes in my skin and to see where majority of my existing expression lines and wrinkles were. We decided that we would do a few units of Botox in my forehead and a some of a syringe of Juvederm into my lips to even them out. So the next step after that was to numb my face in preparation for those needles..que the sweaty palms again.

The Nurse then applied topical anesthetic to my forehead, between my hairline and my eyes and my lips for about 10 minutes. It was a really interesting sensation! Dr. Duplechain returned and he further explained the structure of the face, what muscles did what and what he recommended for the characteristics of my face, which were to ultimately smooth my forehead, smooth out my crows feet and even out my lips. My main fear that I expressed that I didn’t want to end up on Botched or look too plastic. Dr. Duplechain was incredible at calming my nerves and assuring me that he would address my concerns without over doing it. One of the things he prides himself in, is his work. One of the things he said to me was that he would never allow me or any of his clients to leave the office looking unnatural, that’s not his goal.

The first injections were done on my forehead and on the temple area with Botox. To be honest, I could tell he was poking me but I felt zero pain. Which is crazy because I am a total pansy when it comes to pain. Not to mention, the needle is super small but he worked quickly, efficiently and even gave me a few breaks in between to breathe. The concept behind Botox is actually quite intriguing. It works by temporarily relaxing the muscles that contribute to fine lines and wrinkles. By keeping those muscles relaxed, wrinkles do not form. This was important to me because my fine lines were beginning to bother me in general, not to mention, it doesn’t matter what brand of makeup I wear or what steps I take to eliminate the problem..it always settles into the creases.

Next up was lips. Now, before I dive into this..anyone else a cheek biter? No..just me? It’s a horrible habit I have had..honestly for as long as I can remember. So, with that said, I have smile lines leading from my nose to the outside corners of my mouth, the left side being a little more superficial than the right. The goal wasn’t to eliminate the line but to just smooth it out some.  This was definitely the most painful part of the entire procedure. I wouldn’t call it downright pain but I did have to take more breaks and breathe through it. What’s great about Juvederm is that it actually has a numbing agent in it. So not only are your lips numb from the outside, but the product being injected numbs as it goes inside. I only had one injection site that I thought I might actually levitate from the chair but I braved it out. Juvederm is perfect for filling lines and wrinkles on the face, adding volume to the cheeks, chin and under-eye area, adding fullness or shape to the lips or correcting your nasolabial folds( laugh lines or in my case, those “cheek chewing” lines.)

I felt so rejuvenated after my appointment. I’ve never had injections before so this was something completely foreign to me. Just looking in the mirror after we finished to see my lips even literally choked me up. The Botox would take up to five days to relax the muscles in my forehead, by day four, I was already starting to see it! Just compare the top collage to this one, it’s insane just how much change I have seen in my face in just a week!

Dr. Duplechain’s office is located by Lafayette Surgical Specialty Hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana. He is one hundred percent committed to his patients satisfaction. Not only does he have decades of experience but he is also a part of the National Education Faculty for Allergan injectables, including Botox and Juvederm, and he frequently lectures nationally and internationally. If you’ve had injections on the brain, you should definitely give Laser Skincare a call at (337) 456-3282.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the office of Dr. J. Kevin Duplechain

 

Why You Need A Girls Night

Raise your hand if you are a wife, mother or a full on career woman who often finds herself just needing a break? Heck, what if you are all three! Charting patients, changing diapers, washing the mounds of laundry and dishes, kid’s practices, grocery shopping, meeting deadlines and everything else on that never ending to-do list. Life, while it’s amazing and fulfilling has tendencies to take a ghastly toll and while we may not realize it, a girls night is just the ticket to refuel your soul. Where you can go and simply have fun, spend time with other women you adore, have a glass of wine, laugh until you cry..or pee your pants and flat out, enjoy yourself or refill that cup that we always pour so freely from.

Who can honestly say that they make time for themselves now a days? I can honestly say that I did not make time for that until this year. I always talked about it but I never actually followed through with a plan. My excuse was pretty much always related to Mom Guilt, which by definition is the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiousness or uncertainty experienced by mothers when they worry they’re failing or falling short of expectations in some way. My mom guilt was always a version surrounding the concept of letting someone else, even my husband..yes..my own husband, my children’s father take care of them. Not that he couldn’t take care of them, I just couldn’t let go of full responsibility. Even hiring a sitter was out of the question for the longest time. In my mind, my children were my responsibility, day and night. While they are, what I didn’t quite see was that I was beginning to slowly drown myself in motherhood.

My brother and sister-in-law probably don’t realize but they were honestly the ones who inspired me the most to make this a priority in my life. They take turns every few weeks and have a guys night/girls night. I always just looked at this rewarding night as if it was a major goal but something definitely out of my reach. Not that it wasn’t deserved or much needed but I saw it as something that I would just be able to enjoy some day.

So what was the paradigm shift? What made me decide that it was time to start treating myself? I can proudly say that the motivation came from listening to a lot of personal development, Jesus, podcasts, blogs and books. When I started grasping that life is in session..a light bulb went off and I started thinking to myself that I truly deserved some down time. My cup is always pouring into everyone and everything and yet I am the one riding on the back row of the struggle bus. I needed a time where I could relax and re-charge with a few friends, eat a dinner that I didn’t prepare, where I could eat with both of my hands( if you’re a mom, you totally feel this..) and not have to constantly argue with a tiny army that I created to sit down, be quiet, eat their food and wipe ketchup off their face. I do have a few adult friends who get a little messy but on nights like this, you are on your own, sister! I kid, I kid…maybe.

What’s even better about committing to this girls night? Your husband will have a new found respect and appreciation for you. He will see, ten fold, what you do on the daily. This speaks heights for all of my stay at home mama’s out there. He will see first hand all of the things that you put up with, all of the things that you do, are and how gracefully swift you rock this motherhood gig. Even though on even the best of days, it probably doesn’t feel like that. Let’s be real for a sec, motherhood, while it is so undeniably fulfilling in every facet of itself, it can be so overwhelming and exhausting.

So now, I prioritize this night. Sometimes it’s super last minute and other times, I plan days or weeks in advance. The first month, we decided to go eat boiled crawfish because, well..I’m a swamp queen and that’s what us swamp queens do. The next month, we decided about two hours in advance to meet at a bar and have a few drinks to unwind. And this month, I decided to host a movie night featuring the one and only, Rachel Hollis with her new movie, Made for More. Because, let’s face it ladies, WE WERE MADE FOR MORE!!!

Every girls night is different and different women are there every time but that’s the beauty of it. No hard feelings, no strings attached..just an evening for everyone to unwind and refill their cup so we can continue to give so freely like we all always do. I think the hardest concept I’ve had to work through is that it’s okay for me to do this. It’s okay to refuel. It’s okay to refresh yourself and remember who you were before you became a mommy. But since I’ve started, I have had a much easier time doing all the things. I can wife better, mom better, work my business better, friend better and even sweep my dang floors with a little pep in my step.

We as moms deserve this time. Make an effort to make it a priority. You won’t regret it.

When I grow up…

The one huge question that probably resonates with everyone is the almighty ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I don’t really know if I had a solid answer for this growing up, I just knew I wanted to be happy and confident.

When I think about my childhood, I think about a lot of genuinely good times. Some of my favorites include my best friend and I playing in the woods until the sun was almost gone, making things in my dads wood shop with him, winning handstand competitions at Bela Karolyi’s gymnastic summer camps, talking on the air at my grandfathers radio station, riding around with my brother and his friends listening to “Gangsters Paradise” so loud my ear drums would vibrate long after we got out of the car and playing “chase” at church with my friends. Those are just a few of my favorites..I can continue writing this list for days.

Although I have an incredibly long list of amazingly happy memories..not all of my childhood was sunshine and rainbows. Just like any kid, I’m sure, we all start school and things change. Not all children are nice and all I can pray is that I instill a kind heart in my children so that they never inflict anyone with the kind of hurt that I had in school. Although, I know that at some point I will have to mend a broken heart or two.

I remember when I was in kindergarten, I used to take the bus to school. I was the first one on and the last one off. I would go back to sleep when I got on the bus and wake up when we got to school. One morning, I guess one of the older kids on the bus thought it would be funny to stick gum in my hair. I didn’t know until I got to school and I cried. The school ended up calling my mother to come try to get it out in the bathroom with toothpaste and peanut butter…and I still cried. That day, I earned the title as a cry baby and that name followed me until the day I graduated. I say I earned it because I cried…a lot.

Leading up to 3rd grade, I started wearing glasses and I spent the entire summer with my mom at my grandfathers house in South Louisiana and I basically ate REALLY GOOD the whole time I was there. Let’s just say that my glasses and my weight gain added to my really awesome cry baby resumé. Let’s not forget that the genes ran super strong for me to start a uni-brow very early in life. Que the facepalm.

I remember every year being incredibly trying but my 6th grade year really opened up my world for how awful kids can really be and also how school systems do not always do what they should do for their students. My mother picked me up at school that afternoon and immediately wanted to know what was wrong and what happened. This was the one time(besides the bubble gum incident) that I physically couldn’t hide what was wrong. I had scratches all over the sides of my face, some of them having broken the skin. I remember just wishing I could close my eyes and disappear because I just didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted it to go away. But, this wouldn’t go away and my persistent mother had to know what happened. And once again, I cried like a baby when I told her that several girls held me down in a bathroom while another used a toilet brush to scrub my face.

I would love to tell you that as a cheerleader, a top band student, a starter on the softball team, being a top student and having a popular football playing boyfriend that I had the perfect time and perfect life in High School. I will never tell you that my adolescence was perfect but I won’t tell you that it was absolutely horrible either. I tried really, really hard to deal with the hard times and I most definitely made the most of the good times. But..just as I did when I was five years old..I cried, a lot.

I didn’t tell you any of my stories so you would feel sorry for me or to get a rise out of you. I told you so that perhaps you could relate and understand that even though it appears like someone has it all or everything is so good..that’s sometimes very far from the truth. I want you to know where my heart sits with my life, my family and my children.

I wanted to be several things when I grew up but ultimately, I just knew I wanted to be happy. I wanted to overcome all of the things that I believed shaped me into who I was. I wanted more. I wanted better. What I didn’t know is that my mind is more powerful than I thought it was.

 “It hurts but that’s all it does. The most difficult part of the training is training your mind.  You build calluses on your feet to endure the road. You built calluses on your mind to endure the pain. There’s only one way to do that. You have to get out there and run.” -David Goggins

Take Action.

It wasn’t until very recently that I truly grasped that I was in charge and that no one was going to do this for me. I don’t know exactly what I had pictured but I guess I thought if I prayed enough that one day I would just wake up and I would just be happy. That’s NOT how it works. You don’t just wake up and everything is hunky dory. It requires a lot of daily effort and more than just praying. If you pray for something, you have to act on that prayer. God will open doors for you but unless you take a step towards entering that door then the door will just continue to be open and you’ll just be standing there..or maybe it will close before you decide to act.

Your life is on you. Just like my life is on me. I will not pretend like my life is perfect now, because that is so far from the truth, I am giggling as I type this. But I can tell you that my self discovery, self love and personal development journey has been the most invigorating and life altering experience I have ever had in my entire life. I know that a lot of the things that have happened in my life could absolutely break a person and I can’t count how many people have told me this. I know that a lot of my childhood and High School experiences were not all that great but they also helped shape me into who I am today. There’s something very powerful about being able to use what most people would use an excuse as fuel for your fire.

Stop making excuses. For yourself and for other people.

Learning to stop making excuses will empower you more than you could ever realize. A lot of the times we say,” Well, this happened so this is why I am the way I am” and that’s the end of it. We don’t move forward passed that point because we decide that there’s a period at the end of the sentence instead of a comma.. We decide that there is this permanent barrier there that we aren’t supposed to cross..but it’s so far from the truth. The comeback can be so powerful if you stop drowning yourself in the excuses you keep making. If it is important to you then you will find a way to make it happen, if it’s not, then you’ll make excuses. And don’t make excuses for the people in your life either, worry about yourself and how you want to be treated. Leave other people to deal with themselves. And if those people are in your way of your ambitions, do them and yourself a favor..boot them.

You are worth so much more.

It all begins and ends in your mind. When you decide that you are worth so much more than the setbacks you have been given, the shift happens. You begin to take control of your life situations when you put your well being first. I think as a mom, this particular nugget was incredibly difficult for me to process. As a wife, mother and homemaker, my whole world revolves around being a caregiver for my husband, children and home. And while that is still my role as a stay at home mother, I’ve learned to create healthy boundaries with it along with my relationships outside of my home. It’s been trying at times but so empowering. When you realize just how in control you can be, a lot of things change and for the better. Life stops happening to you, it starts happening for you. And when curve balls get thrown in your way, your mind set is well equipped to handle the play. And not only that, when you start living with your best self present, everything else has a way of being easier to handle. The pressure is off by trying to please everyone all the time. You see, I live for my family, no doubt..however one of my main struggles has been pouring from an undeniably empty cup. When I decided I wanted more for myself, I began shifting things that filled my cup. Such as girls nights once a month, gym time or even trips every few weeks to get my nails done to give a few examples. Little things like that that help me refuel. I can better take care of my family and do all the things once I am taken care of.

The truth is, I never felt popular or like I fit in growing up even though I tried with ever fiber of my being. I had this idea in my head that if I fit in with the in crowd then my problems would stop. If my name had a space on the roster where all of the popular kids names were, I would suddenly just find peace and happiness. It never happened like that. When it came time for me to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up, sure, a few things that I loved came to mind and I pursued them..but none of them are as fulfilling as learning how to become who I am today. If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have cared about fitting in or any of that. I would have focused on living my absolute best life.

I think about my girls and how I felt when I was in school. I’ve continued to see myself as the same timid little girl who’s anxiety level was through the roof. And ultimately, who thought that all of those things just broke her as a human being. I want my girls to know that they can be strong and do better than I did. And in order for them to learn it, they have to see it. They have to see a strong mama. I have to be strong for them..and myself. It’s a learned behavior and I want them to know from the beginning just how enough they are. I want them to know that experiences they have in their life, don’t have to define who they are. Unlike their mama, they don’t have to be a cry baby.

 

Laser SkinCare of Louisiana

It’s no secret that I am a thirty something year old mama. I’ve literally been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for the last five years, even though it feels like it’s been longer than that. Before that, my youth consisted of basically getting all of the sleep and sun-kissed skin that I am certainly missing out on now. Did you even live in the 2000’s if you didn’t pay monthly fees to live in the tanning beds? Were you even doing it right if you didn’t have the little kissy lips , heart or a playboy bunny tan line along your panty line? Let’s not forget about all of those tanning accelerators that made you feel like your skin was going to explode at any moment. I can’t count how many times I nearly baked myself to death in a tanning bed or laying pool side. Being tan was in and what can I say..I was with the times.

Being a mama to two little angels who have each nursed for almost two years each and also hate sleep, being 30 and only in the last few years taken up on a good skincare routine have all caught up with me. While I am happy with my skin and over all appearance, I sometimes find myself looking like I feel. Tired and worn out…kinda like the perfect baseball glove but not exactly the look I’m going for or at all really.

Some of you may know this but you are super limited to the things you are allowed to do while pregnant or breastfeeding. I’ve been restricted on what all I could do, use and take for forever..until a few weeks ago when I finally got my two year old to stop nursing. Que the hallelujah choir! To celebrate not breastfeeding anymore, I contacted an old friend of mine who works at Laser SkinCare of Louisiana. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do or what my skin really needed so I sent her a few pictures of my skin and let her decide what I could benefit from the most.

We landed on a procedure called an IPL which is Intense Pulsed Light or also known as a photo-facial. It’s a type of light therapy that’s used for treating and tightening wrinkles or fine lines, sun damage, skin pigmentation, freckles, birth marks, varicose veins and age spots. With each pulse, a bright light passes through the uppermost layer of skin called the epidermis. It draws out the pigment producing cells and disperses the uneven pigment. This procedure can be done anywhere on the body but is most popularly done on the face. It’s gentle yet effective and a long-lasting solution with zero down time.

I was SO excited to try this procedure. Like I said, I’ve developed a lot of freckling over the years from sun damage and least we forget that being pregnant can sometimes lead to developing hyper-pigmentation or “pregnancy mask.” And then Jessica introduced me to this little machine called a Visia. It captures multi-spectral photos of your face. It examines your complexion for enlarged pores, fine lines, wrinkles, rough texture, evidence of bacteria, UV spots from overexposure to the sun and pigment changes in the skin. This sorcery completely blew my mind!

I set my face inside of the Visia, it rotated around my face and began taking photos. When I looked at the screen on the side I was in complete awe at the amount of damage I have on my skin! But sadly, I believed it. Like I said, I knew I didn’t take the best care of my skin for the longest time.

From this point, we moved to the treatment room where I’d be doing the IPL. The treatment bed was super comfortable, I think they actually call it the “Cadillac.” Jessica began by cleansing my skin and prepping it with ultrasound gel for the procedure. I was actually pretty nervous that this was going to hurt but it honestly wasn’t bad at all. No worse than being lightly popped with a rubber band and even that’s over exaggerating.

We focused on my more prominent freckles for my first appointment. Sometimes it only takes 1-2 treatments and other times it needs more than that to eliminate all of the damage. It really just depends on your skin and the frequency used on the machine.

Over the past week I have watched a few places on my face develop into darker spots and begin to simply flake off. Some spots are still a little dark after seven days but I’m confident they’ll be following suit in the days to come. I’ve also noticed that my complexion is brighter and more even in general!

Photo on the left is the first morning after the procedure. Photo on the right is seven days after procedure.

Laser SkinCare of Louisiana offers a variety of procedures and treatments. Dr. Duplechain and his amazing staff are driven towards providing you with only the best of services and helping you fall in love with the skin you’re in. Call today(337-237-1116) to get started and ask about the special of the month that I received or upcoming specials!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the office of Dr. J. Kevin Duplechain

 

March Favorites: Skincare, Makeup & Haircare.

I am a product junkie.

There, I said it. The first step is admitting it right? For those of you that know me really well, you know that I am a true product junkie. You name it, more than likely I have used it at some point or another. I even held a VIB Rouge status once upon a time at Sephora. Am I proud of that? I don’t know..maybe; I’ll never tell. While I have been a Beauty Guide for LimeLife by Alcone for a little over two years now, I still have a few other brands that carry items that I like to call “must-haves” and I will be sharing those as well as my favorite LimeLife products. Don’t use skincare or makeup? Don’t click off of here too soon, this isn’t just about those two things. I’m going to tell you about what products I love, what they do and where you can find them.

This is in no way sponsered or organized by Sephora, LimeLife by Alcone, Jentry Kelley Cosmetics, Wella, Peter Thomas Roth, Kristen Ess or Target. This is just a short list of some of my favorites and my reviews; ENJOY!
If you would like to try any LimeLife By Alcone products you can reach me via the Get In Touch button at the top of the page or get in touch with your favorite beauty guide to start learning about all of the amazing products!

But first, skin care.

It’s going to be hard not to name every single product I love so I will try to keep this short and sweet.

One of the first products that I absolutely cannot live without is the Peter Thomas Roth FIRMX Peeling Gel. This is a Sephora find from years ago. It’s good for all skin types; it removes and sweeps away the dead skin on your face. You can literally feel the dead skin lifting from your face as you manually exfoliate. I typically use this once or twice a month because I still like to use Bamboo Renew or Skin Polish by LimeLife in between. And least we forget, I like to shave my face too. Between all of this, my face is smoother than my kids booties.

My next skincare favorite is without at doubt, One Drop Wonder by LimeLife by Alcone. It’s made from 100% cold pressed pomifera oil and is exclusive to LimeLife as a skincare product.  It’s chemical free, UV protective, high in anti-oxidants and Omega-6. This product is good for so many things:

Anti-bacterial, Anti-fungal, Anti-microbial and Anti-viral

Helps with skin ailments such as eczema, rosacea, acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, spider veins, varicose veins, bruising, stretch marks, blisters, cold sores, staph, shingles, ulcers, bug bites, cuts, burns, diaper rash, scars, sun spots and more.

Not only do I love it for my skin but I love it for the girls too. My oldest daughter is super sensitive to mosquito bites and this is the only product that actually works in healing them and quickly. Add Forty Cure Cream to the mix and you’ve got a magical concoction.

The last set of products I will list here are from the new Midnight Oil Collection. It’s a cleanser and a serum by LimeLife as well and its antioxidant-rich with Marula Oil and Millet Seed extract (yes, I know; I’m rattling your head off about LimeLife…but it’s SO GOOD y’all!) These two products work together to heal and improve your skins radiance and illuminate your complexion while you sleep.

I was super skeptical of, specifically, the cleanser at first when I started using these. I’ve always used a cleanser that’s sudsy my entire life so there was definitely a mental barrier there telling me this just wasn’t going to do the job. What I really should have done was take some before, during and after photos of my skin to monitor changes because within a few short weeks of using this collection along with my other skincare routine, I started getting compliments everywhere I turned! People were telling me that my skin was glowing and my complexion looked so good! Best part? I didn’t have makeup on. My own opinion of myself without make up is that I look somewhere between the Crypt Keeper and a Billy Goat so this has been a huge confidence boost that all these people were giving me. And this set of products were my only change up!

Let your hair do the talking.

I have quite a few hair favorites and to be honest, I’m not really sure where to begin! Perhaps I should start off with my hair type because, obviously, I don’t want you to run straight to the store or the world wide web and start shopping for the same things I love if they’re not going to work for your hair type. My hair is crazy curly, wavy and has frizz ball tendencies. I have a medium type hair texture, which means it’s not fine but it’s not coarse either. It’s riiiight in between the two. It’s relatively healthy also. While I still color it, I don’t bleach very often, I’ve kind of grown fond of my dark roots.

One of my favorite hair products is the Wella Elements Leave In Conditioning Spray. Not only does it smell amazing but its basically formulated with the same milk and honey that flows in the Heavens. Directly from the Wella website, it’s a paraben free leave in dual-phase spray that cares and protects hair from day to day stress and delivers a gentle hold. I LOVE this product because it smooths my hair out and makes it super easy to de-tangle mine and my girls crazy curly hair. It’s not heavy either! Win/Win! You can find this on Amazon or you can probably ask you hairstylist to order some for you!

Next, I love the Kristen Ess line from Target. My hairstylist friends are now rolling their eyes at me, I can feel it. Specifically, I love the Reviving Dry Shampoo and the Dry Finish Working Texture Spray. The Dry Shampoo features a translucent powder base and is infused with vitamin c. It’s not overly heavy but it definitely does the job and is not a bad price point either. The texture spray is exactly that but it’s not the kind that gives a hard or sticky hold. It’s very light but effective! I always use the texture spray after I curl my hair and without fail, it always looks amazing! One of the other reasons why I like this line, it’s very affordable when your budget is tight! Even the shampoo and conditioner work really well!

Makeup is art. Beauty is spirit.

This is probably my favorite part of this entire write up. Makeup is my life y’all. People think it’s just because I’m girly and I like girly things. What they don’t know is that makeup is an outlet for me. For years, it’s been a way to hide how I really felt inside. If nobody could see in, if I could cover up my past and my insecurities and raw emotions with a little concealer and lipstick, if I could avoid people asking me if I was okay or feeling well..then my makeup did it’s job for the day. I used makeup as an art source to conceal all of my deepest and darkest feelings.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have worked through my troubles and I don’t actually wear makeup everyday anymore. It’s been a long process of self development and learning how to love myself and my life that has truly transformed me. I’m not afraid to let people see the real me, flaws and all. The other way was just as exhausting as depression was so I encourage you, if you are on the same road as I was, please..please work on yourself.  You won’t regret it. Makeup is a beautiful tool to conceal those inner and outer flaws but if you can tackle and concur those things, your beauty will be more than just a mask.

One of the first products I want to go over is foundation. If it’s on the market, I have probably used it. Powders, cremes, liquids, sticks, cc’s & bb’s as well as tinted moisturizers. All brands, from drug stores to high end department stores. There are several out there that are really, really good. But the true test of it all was in the hot summer heat in Louisiana. If you’re from here or have been here you know that the kind of hot we have doesn’t just stop at temperature. You know that the kind of heat we have is the kind where as soon as you walk outside, you are immediately pitting and sweating from every God given surface and crease of your body. It’s not a dry hot, it’s a wet hot. Have you ever been in a steam room? That’s Louisiana. You MELT. So despite all of these foundations being good or high end, they would melt too! By lunch(actually before..), I would look like a fresh bowl of queso at my favorite restaurant. And the same would apply to my models or clients who had to be out in the heat too, despite primers or setting powders or sprays. I’m one particular companies only trusted hair and makeup artist and every summer, we do shoots in New Orleans.  Every single year, I was constantly touching up the models makeup because she would literally be dripping all over The Big Easy. It was super frustrating. I like to think that I can do amazing work but its hard to showcase it when your tools don’t perform as they promise in weather conditions hotter than hades. When I decided to join LimeLife, it had everything to do with the foundation. It’s a wax based, paraben free and highly pigmented foundation and truly sets and stays in place with the help of the primer and setting products. The following year for that photo shoot, I told the owner I was switching up my entire makeup line and using all LimeLife. I think he was super skeptical and nervous just because it’s a change and obviously, the makeup REALLY matters. But y’all, my models makeup never melted. She sweated but her makeup never moved. We were in abandoned warehouses with no air conditioning in the middle of the summer and the only time I had to touch up the makeup was when we changed lip colors. If that doesn’t speak heights, I don’t know what does.

LimeLife’s Foundation is the bees knees, hands down. It’s waxed based, highly pigmented and paraben free. It’s build-able also. You can use a little and get light coverage and you can build on top of that to achieve full coverage. You can even mix it with some Dew Date or Skin Therapy moisturizers and transform it into a tinted moisturizer or bb cream. Pair the foundation with their Primer, Translucent Powder and Setting Spray and your base face is bullet proof!

One of my next favorites is by Jentry Kelley Cosmetics. I had the opportunity to meet her once a few years ago. She is so beautiful, inspiring and hilarious. She’s out of Houston, Texas so if you ever find yourself needing a makeover while you’re in the area, be sure to reach out to her office to schedule an appointment. She and her team of gorgeous women will get you set up. You won’t be disappointed! She has formulated and created a full line of some of the highest quality makeup and skin care products also! One product in particular that I love from her line is the Brow Lift-Light. I love this stuff because it highlights matte under the brow to give off a natural look. It will really help illuminate if you want to use a light shimmery eye shadow as well. This product is to be applied to the outer 2/3 of the underside of the brow area to give the illusion of a brow lift. I love this stuff! Not to mention, a little goes a long way so this little product lasts forever. Side note- if you ever decide to check out her book, Hooker to Looker, you will find a photo of me in there that I submitted as a makeup fail before I really knew what I was doing…facepalm. We all start somewhere!

Lastly, the holy grail of lipsticks..the Enduring Lip Colors. I’ve used multiple brand name dry matte lipsticks and none of them stay as good as these. The color pay off is unreal and they don’t make your lips appear or feel chapped. I know you know what I mean when I say that. They apply buttery and cure into a matte finish. If you want to speed up the process you can dust some translucent powder on top of them and voila, it’s cured! I used to be all about a moisturizing lipstick that felt like a chap-stick on my lips but I guess turning into a mama of two, I don’t have all the time in the world to keep re-touching my lips all day so running to one of the Enduring Lip Colors or Liners has turned into my new jam. After all, I love easy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways to Be Your Best Self

I’m going to get a little deep again this week. I find myself working even harder on myself whenever I am having some incredibly trying days and I would like to share what helps to get me through them.

Whenever we’re in our teens, I think it’s safe to say that we are all so confused with who we are, who and what we want to be when we grow up. All we worry about is what’s in front of us and that’s simply fitting in. Even into our 20’s we care so much about what other people think of us, that it can sometimes consume us and form ourselves. Like pudding or jello we just mold around what our family, friends or society thinks and tells us we should be.

Do you know what’s so sad about that? I don’t have statistics for any of this but I am willing to bet that probably over half of us(maybe even more) just conform instead of blossom. Even later on in age, we have grown so comfortable with this picture perfect image of who are supposed to be that we just don’t know any other way to be.

I can tell you without any hesitation at all that I fell into that category of someone who just tried to fit in. I was okay with being in the shadows because anytime I ever tried to speak my mind or be myself, I was heavily judged and it was easier to just take my place in line and my number never being called.

As easy as it was though, it was so incredibly frustrating. My mother always encouraged me to just be myself but she never quite understood the part where I didn’t feel like I was good enough or the person I was would ever be accepted.

So, by now you’re probably wondering where I am going with this exactly. I can’t tell you the exact moment in which I told myself I had enough but I can tell you that the inner voice was always screaming at me until I finally freaking did it. I can tell you that as things happened to me in my life, the voice only screamed louder.

I think I can pinpoint some things that can possibly help to guide you in this journey.

Find your tribe.

“Surround yourself with people who add value to your life. Who challenge you to be greater than you were yesterday. Who sprinkle magic into your existence, just like you do to theirs. Life isn’t meant to be done alone. Find your tribe and journey freely and loyally together.”   -Alex Elle

If we were all flowers instead of people and the sun never shined or it never rained, we would never, ever grow. Finding people who value you as much as you value them can change your life. The power in being able to be yourself, your true, honest, weird, quirky, silly self and people accepting and loving you as you are is a big deal. If you have that, you are blessed. Tell yourself that, right now. There are people right now who don’t have that and would love nothing more than the luxury of feeling like they belong.

Simply having this circle of people in your life can relieve so many different avenues of your life. I never really understood the gravity of having a tribe until recently. Don’t get me wrong, I have had a circle of friends and family for a while but I don’t think I actually gave them as much credit as they deserved. Not because I didn’t value them enough but I started learning and understanding how important I was in this crazy equation too. I already knew how important they were to me but I don’t think I ever thought about how much I meant to them. Maybe I’m crazy for even making this a part of this entry but part of what fuels me is knowing that I’m worth something to someone. Feeling important and needed is one of my love languages and getting that affirmation from my tribe has just resonated with me deeply.

Finding your tribe enables you to not only be a better person but grow into a better person too. These people have your back. They will help you when you’re struggling, they’ll tell you when you’re being ridiculous, they’ll cry with you when all the things are hard, they’ll push you when you don’t have it in you to push yourself, they’ll celebrate all things with you whether it’s big or small and they will love you with so much force that it only comes natural to offer these things back to them. These people will not belittle you, talk about you behind your back, make you feel unimportant or small; Real situations will expose these people to you. Choose your tribe wisely.

Faith it till you make it.

I’ll be incredibly forward with you, this is hard. When things happen that are beyond my understanding, sometimes I really have to talk myself into trusting Gods plan, whatever it may be. Other times, I’m not worried at all because I know the big man upstairs is in control and He’s already taken care of it, I only need be still.

The times that truly test my faith, I have to pray and I have to talk myself into trusting Gods plan. This requires effort. Effort that I sometimes cry through because I simply cannot see how on earth I will ever get that thorn out of my side..or in some cases, the knife out of my back.

I find myself being lost in true moments of despair where I only think about what’s going wrong and what I don’t have versus what I am so incredibly blessed with. I have to focus on humbling myself otherwise I get tossed around in the chaos in my head that makes me feel like I have nothing and no one and it will never get better. While my moments are genuinely chaotic for me, I have to remind myself that things could always be worse. There are people out there who probably beg God daily for the difficulties we face.

Practice pausing when you feel overwhelmed, pause when you feel angry, pause when you are exhausted, pause when you are hurt, pause when you feel anxiety, pause when you feel like you might explode or overreact and when you pause…you pray. In order to faith it till you make it, you have to believe there is something better coming.

Know your outlets.

This is going to be different for everyone. We all have different things that aid in filling our cups. I personally love sleep..lots of sleep that I never really get, working out, shopping, trips to the nail salon, spending time with my kids and family, a glass of wine, Sunday morning services, reading, podcasts, date nights with my husband…I could keep going, blogging is now one of my favorite outlets! I would say camping but after living in the camper for four months…I’m pretty confident I never want to see the inside of a camper again.

Whatever your outlet is for you, do it. Only if its good for you! Don’t get it twisted where you start doing things make you happy in the moment but are actually bad for you. Like stress eating for example…okay everyone loves cake except your pants. How many times have we all over done it and regretted it the minute we tried to button our favorite pair of jeans?

An outlet needs to be a good and happy stress reliever. Things that keep us on top of our A game and make us feel good about ourselves. It’s imperative that we take a time out as often as we can to keep our heads on straight. You cannot continuously give and give all the time when you have nothing left to offer. You’ve got to give yourself the opportunity to recharge. Things get messy when you are down to the bottom of  your spool. Wind up and start over.

Work on yourself.

This is where you will get uncomfortable. This is where you need to be raw and real with yourself. What are your likes and dislikes about yourself? I can’t answer this for you. What I can tell you is that this requires so much effort and even remembering in those little moments of opportunity to stand up and be courageous for yourself…or literally, just be YOU and not who you think everyone wants you to be.

When you break down what you like and dislike about yourself, be real about it. Are these really things you like or dislike about yourself or are these things that someone you value built you up to believe was a worthy quality? Because this isn’t about what Susie and Sally have to say about your character. This boils down to you being about to enjoy and live your best life and stop putting on a show for these people who don’t really like you to begin with! Worry about yourself and the person God made you out to be.  You’re the one who has to live with yourself anyways so why not save the soap opera for television and start living your days with your best self intact.

While we are being real about this, my whole ideology behind this is, is that you have to want to put the work in. No one can make you do anything you don’t want to do but if you feel it speaking to you, you need to do something about it. You are in control of your reality. Choose to be real over perfect. Choose to be happy over just existing. We have one life…how unsettling would it be to look back and realized that you lived someone else’s life because you were too afraid to live yours?

Trust the process.

” If everything in life made perfect sense, trust would hold little value. Accept each season as the uncomfortable and necessary process of growth.” -B.Oakman

Owning every part of your life can be life altering. Being able to accept your faults,  be patient and embracing uncertainty gives you the grace to trust the beautiful process of becoming. Nothing will happen overnight or in a week. Decide what it is you want out of yourself and your life, after that, do not settle.

How To Make A Gumbo. South Louisiana Style.

PSA: If you like tomatoes or hot dogs in your gumbo, this post is not for you.

I’d like to start off by telling you that I have lived in south Louisiana for just shy of fifteen years now but I grew up in a small town in North Louisiana. My grandparents lived down here and we visited more times than I can count.  I know good cookin’. Clearly…seen my physic lately? Unfortunately I didn’t know how to cook really well until a few years into being married. North Louisiana cookin’ and South Louisiana cookin’ are both good but the way these Cajun folks down here do things are entirely different and I like it.

Apparently, one of the main ways to make anything delicious around here is to burn it first.

No, seriously. It’s what any true Cajun will tell you. Ask and you’ll see. I’ve watched my mama cook my entire life but I don’t think I actually learned how to really cook until I started watching my husbands cousins wife(aka, Karyn, my bff!). She knows how to cook! Little does she know, I have watched and learned more from her over the years and if anyone thinks my food is good, it’s because I learned from her. You can thank her, not me! And if it’s not good, then it’s probably my fault because I hate following directions. I just like to stir stuff.

Gumbo is a classic dish in these parts. Doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. It could be a thousand degrees outside with a humidity level hotter than the inside of satan’s mouth and I guarantee somebody’s eating gumbo somewhere. But you best believe if the temperature drops below 50, every family across the south has pulled out their gumbo pots and the smell of fresh roux fills the crisp, cool air.

I’m going to share my recipe and cooking methods for gumbo. Just know that this is probably different from probably everybody else and their mama. They’d probably tell you there’s more than one way to skin a rabbit…and they’d be right.

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo:

•pack of fresh or smoked sausage. (This particular recipe I used fresh.)

•pack of chicken breasts or bone in chicken thighs/drumsticks. (Bone in is my favorite but I used breasts for this recipe.)

•Three packs of Tasso.

•Three large containers of chicken stock.

•Rice

•Minced Garlic.

•Holy Trinity, I like to use Guidry’s fresh cuts. Fast and easy. ( yellow onion, bell pepper and green onion.)

•Jar of Roux. Powder or Oil Base. (I used Oil based.) Unless you know how to make your own roux, in which case, you might have to come over and school me.

•Seasoning. (Tony’s, Salt, Pepper.)

This recipe can be altered and changed depending how much or how little you’d like to make.

I start off by putting my sausage and minced garlic into the gumbo pot and begin “burning” it. Basically, it means browning it so don’t get your panties in a bunch over this. Burning it means you’re creating a grismies or grah-doo at the bottom of the pot to create a rich gravy base for later. This step takes the longest so don’t rush this, this is probably the most important step! You stir the pot frequently with your heat high enough to burn or brown your meat but not to the point that the grismise starts to turn black or where it smells like there’s obviously something on fire. The longer you do this, the darker and tastier your gravy base will be. This whole process is simply burning, stirring and scraping until your meat is cooked and you have a nice gravy base to work with.I will add small amounts of water off and on during this process to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot too much. (Side note: my sausage kinda busted open, the goal is for that to not happen.. but ya know, life.)

Then, I remove the sausage and put it in a bowl to cool. I’ll add my diced up Tasso in the pot and repeat that same process. Once my sausage is cool, I will slice it up and add it back to the pot along with the Holy Trinity. The vegetables will have a little bit of water that cook out of them so they help continue the burning down process. Once those vegetables are cooked down, I will start adding all of my chicken stock. After I empty my first carton of stock, I will start scraping all of that grismies off the bottom of the pot and mixing it with the stock. Make sure you remove all of the grismies because you don’t want it to end up burning later! I empty the other two cartons of stock into the pot. This will usually fill up at least half of the pot. I will use water to fill the pot to about 3/4 of the way to the top. You don’t want to over fill because you need room for this puppy to boil!

At this point, I will add in seasoning. There really is no rhyme or reason on how to season. Some like it bland, some like it hot and sometimes your meats contain just enough seasoning that your dish might need a little,a lot or none at all. Now is the time where you can pretty much take your first break with your dish. I wait until the water is boiling to add my roux. Depending how well you did at burning your meat, you might not need very much roux at all or you may need a good bit. It also depends how dark and thick you would like your gumbo to be too. If I remember correctly, I think I only added two VERY full tablespoons of roux to this particular pot. Now you need to stir continuously until all of your roux balls disappear. Speaking of which, have you ever ate a roux ball? I don’t advise it. When in doubt, stir dat pot.

From now until about an hour or an hour and a half until you’re ready to serve, you’ll basically let your gumbo boil and simmer all those savory flavors together. Taste test your gumbo to make sure the flavor you’re wanting is there. Once you know you’re at about that 1-1.5 hour from serving mark, you’ll want to go ahead and add your chicken. For this recipe I used breast and cut them up into bite size pieces. Typically, my go to would be thighs or legs because something about bones really just amp up the flavor. But since this was for my daughters birthday party, I didn’t want any small children choking or having to pick bones out of their food. Side note, please be sure to taste test before you put your raw chicken in there..last thing anyone needs is to catch salmonella and die making gumbo. After you have added your chicken, you can go ahead and fire up that rice pot sha.

My gumbo takes a minimum of about three hours to cook but the longer you can cook, the better. You will never regret letting your gumbo cook longer, promise! Once your rice is done, you are ready to serve. If you’re feeling extra bougie you can serve some potato salad along side of this or even add some okra in the gumbo and your guests will undoubtedly love it. Or if you’re boring like me, you get garlic bread or crackers.

Bon appétit and laissez les bon temps rouler!