Posted in Encouragement, Lifestyle, writing

Wellness Wednesday (Mind)-Living Unashamed

In a random moment on the last day of the Fortify Writer’s Retreat that I attended this past weekend I confessed something funny and unexpected to two women I’d only met two days before. We were discussing how spent we were from our full weekend of reflection, creative energy, and giving so openly of ourselves. We were pooped. All of us. One woman, who I’ll call “V” was saying how she couldn’t wait to take a nap. That was the first thing she was doing when she got home. Me, on the other hand, I needed to do laundry, so much so that I was wearing my only pair of swimsuit bottoms in place of underwear! And I shared as much.

Her eyes popped in surprise before she bent over with laughter. I did too. Another lady, who I’ll call, “S” had joined our circle of laughter. When I explained why we were laughing, she laughed too.

Normally I’d have only shared such information with my best friend via text message. In fact, that was my intent moments before this opportunity to share appeared. Rather than do my norm of keeping my thoughts to myself or only sharing with someone who’s known me practically my entire life, I took a chance on opening up to others. Unashamed.

freedom

Sharing of myself with these two women—the little detail that it was—is just the beginning of being less inhibited, more revealing of myself. The makings of some great writing.

Posted in Death&Dying, Grief, Inspiration

Anytime, Any Place: Journeying Through Grief

I drove a familiar route to my eyebrow touch up appointment this afternoon, passing two special places. IHOP and Bucharest Grill.

Neither are my favorite places to dine–well, IHOP used to be–but after November 2017 they will forever be in my heart. That was the weekend Kevin and I attended our first Weekend to Remember hosted by Family Life Today Ministry. I can hardly put into words how excited I was to be there, how perfectly God aligned everything so that we could attend. That’s a story for another post.

Nevertheless, the event was in the Renaissance Center, downtown Detroit, which is full of dining options. There was no reason for us to have to leave the venue to get something to eat. But that was #myKevin. He always did things “his” way.

Having a limited supply of portable oxygen with us for the weekend was of no concern to him. He wanted to get out of the hotel, into his truck, and into the streets so that’s what he did. Here’s what was involved: filling up 4-5 portable tanks, me pushing him in a wheelchair through the hotel down to the valet to retrieve the car, then driving to wherever, getting back into the car, back to valet, wheelchair ride for him (drive for me) back to our room. The words on the page don’t do it justice how tiring this was. It was totally against what I had in mind for our weekend. I expected the most walking we would do would be from our hotel room to the workshop sessions, just a floor below. I figured whatever food we wanted we could grab in between sessions or have delivered to our room via room service. I was willing to pay that cost for us to have relaxing weekend.

Relaxing? Hmph. Kevin wasn’t having it! But I was always the one accused of not being able to sit still. Anyway, we left the hotel 3-4 times over that weekend. It was ridiculous! I was furious in the pit of my belly but I said nothing. We were going to have a good weekend. I was determined.

Back to the restaurants.

IHOP was our first stop on day one. Bucharest Grill is where we went for lunch on the second day after the morning sessions. Regardless of how irritated I was–and boy was I–there was peaceable joy in my heart being in any time and space with him. As life does, I had no idea that would be the last time I’d go to those particular places with him. Now that time is forever etched in my mind. Not the irritation of it but the memory of sitting across from him enjoying a meal. The memory of him connecting with our IHOP waiter over a mutual interest they shared. The memory of watching him walk out of Bucharest Grill with our food in hand as I waited outside in the truck, probably praying that we weren’t late getting back for the afternoon session. Lol.

I know there are memories all over this city awaiting their time to fall upon me. Anytime, any place. I’m ready for them, my box of tissue just a reach away.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Caregiving, Fitness, Goals, Health, Lifestyle

Wellness Wednesday—Little Victories Count or Do They

Meal planning or prepping is all the rave these days. My daughter became a champ during her last year in college. Now she’s home helping me out. This past week she prepped two meals per day for the five day work week and we did our own breakfast meals. I bagged up 5 one serving of grits and scrambled one egg for my breakfast and a 4oz bags of mixed fruit. If you ask me I did great for someone who’s never tried to follow a meal prep plan. I only veered away from my meal twice–for pizza and salad at our family grief support meeting and Friday night dinner with friends. Considering those two events were planned, that’s actually not too bad. However, the graham crackers I ate 3 or 4 days of the week after 5 p.m. (okay, 8 p.m.) and the one piece of birthday cake offered to me at work for a coworkers birthday definitely were bad.

At least according to my daughter and her trainer.

Mr. J.C. Jones, the trainer, says no eating any processed foods, no salt, no dairy, no artificial sweeteners, etc. Blah, blah, blah.

First of all, I get it. Sure, processed foods are terrible for us BUT they’re pretty darn convenient. Isn’t it much easier to throw some pre-cut French fries from a bag in the oven after work as opposed to coming home, peeling the potatoes, and then cutting them up, and then cooking them??? Of course, it is!

Second, if a person has developed all of these bad eating habits over 20+ years, I think it’s a disservice for someone to expect that person to make drastic changes overnight. So the fact that that particular week, I didn’t stop at any fast food restaurants–not even for coffee– I consider that a success. Even with eating the crackers–I could have eaten crackers every single day but I only slipped up 3 times. And that was partially because I didn’t have enough meals (or healthy snacks) prepped for the week. Shoot! I was hungry!

 

Now because my daughter stuck to her meal prep 100% and I did more like 85%, she lost more weight than I did. But I was still proud of myself. You see, as I stated above, this was not her first ride on the meal prep/planning rodeo show. She’s had time to practice doing this. And like I have to always remind her, “You didn’t start out a pro with this stuff.”

It takes time to get things right. Until I get it “right”, which for me is disciplined eating and consistent exercise, I’m going to congratulate myself on the small victories and encourage myself to keep going when I mess up. My girl Josie of YumYucky.com is more my speed. Check out this video.

What’s your method for changing certain habits? Do you celebrate the little victories or beat yourself up when you experience a hiccup? Share in the comments below.

Posted in Uncategorized

My Journey Through Grief: The Ring

One night I took my wedding ring off along with the other jewelry I wear everyday. The next morning it was the only thing I didn’t put back on.

Why?

I can’t really say why I didn’t put it on. I can say it has nothing to do with symbolizing being ready to move on. Three short months since Kevin’s passing, I’m far from that.

For me, though, wearing my wedding ring kept me in a place of confusion. I was always wondering;

“How long do I wear this?”

“What does it symbolize now that my husband is gone? My marriage or the loss of my husband?”

“Do family and friends expect to see it for a certain period of time, as a symbol of my grief?”

“How do I know when to take it off?”

It was too much to consider on top of everything else that weighs on my mind .

While I’m not wearing my wedding ring, I do wear these

everyday in remembrance of my husband.

The Pandora bracelet is the one he bought me for our anniversary last year. It was our 5th anniversary, hence the #5 charm. I added the deep purple charm in place of a keepsake for his ashes. Purple was his favorite color, representing his beloved fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. Unlike my other Pandora bracelets, the charms on this bracelet were chosen by my husband or for him. I consider it complete.

The Superman ring was a ring he purchased on our first and only cruise together. He wore it everyday since. Superman was one of his favorite childhood superheroes and he was my Superman. Wearing this ring and bracelet everyday, there are no questions or confusing thoughts. Just comfort.

Posted in Death&Dying, Faith, Grief, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Comfort in the Midst of Grief

It’s Saturday night. Ten o’clock but my clock is set for eleven in preparation for daylight savings time. I’m laying on the right side of the bed–my side of the bed–with a cup of warm lemon ginger tea on the nightstand in the special cup given to me by a dear friend in my first days of settling into my family’s temporary home.

If Kevin were still with me, I’d probably still be in bed or laying on the couch, in for the night. Even before sickness invaded our lives, we weren’t a couple that engaged in too much night life. Though he was the life of any party he went to, he was really a homebody, where he could be himself. So sitting up in my bed, binge watching the Murder She Wrote marathon on the Hallmark Channel is not out of the ordinary for me on a Saturday night. However, tonight  the volume on the T.V. is turned down low as I sing along with some of my favorite R&B jams playing on the Whitney Houston station on Pandora radio.

Kevin loved to listen to me sing.

“Girl, I love to hear you sing,” he’d said since the first time I sang with him in my car. I was singing Tamia’s song, Last First Kiss. He said that was the day he knew I was a keeper.

It was no accident that I was listening to that song when Kevin got in the car. We’d been seeing each other for a couple of months by that time and I had fallen so hard for him. It’d been quite some time since I’d felt so strongly about a man.

No lyrics ever rang so true as those did for how I felt about him then and throughout our relationship:

“When it comes to you I wouldn’t change a thing…I wouldn’t even change the things I could change. ‘Cause babe you’re perfect, perfect to me, simply means that you’re perfect for me…”

I never mistook Kevin’s feelings about my singing. He said he loved to hear me sing, not  necessarily that I could sing particularly well. The love he had for me made my singing  music to his ears. He was the one with the real singing talent.

Now, alone in my bedroom, turning pages of photo album filled with pictures of us, I’m singing my heart out, comforted that Kevin is resting well. Comforted by the love that we shared, the love that will always be in my heart.

Posted in Christianity, Death&Dying, Family, Husbands, Marriage, People, Relationships, Uncategorized, widow, Wives, Women

My Grief Journey—45 Days In

What does 45 days of being a widow look like? At the same time that everything has changed, so much is the same. The very next day after my husband passed, I had to get up to take my son to school. Crazy, right? Well, it made perfect sense to me at the time. It was semester finals, only 2 hours over 3 days, and then he’d be out for the two week Christmas break. The first day and week was spent with phone calls from family, friends, expressing condolences and investigators from the fire department and insurance company asking me the same questions over and over again. That was annoying but obviously necessary. I was glad when it came to an end.

Thanks to all those phone calls and the pressing need to shop for all of the necessities we’d lost, the days were busy but not long enough. It was the early morning hours and late nights when my grief wouldn’t let me avoid her. It was then I had no choice but to acknowledge that Kevin was gone. Now that I’m in my temporary rental home, away from the full home of my sister and her family, thus having more time to myself, those moments are more frequent yet sporadic. I’ll been browsing the cable guide and become sad, my eyes are filling with tears as I see the programs that he enjoyed—namely MSNBC and Supernatural, and Young & the Restless. He was a All My Children guy until I decided started back watching Y&R a couple years ago. Then in true Kevin fashion, it took over. I’d just get the highlights from him. Now I watch hearing his commentary in my head.

My news junkie is gone. Now I have to force myself to watch more news since I don’t fall asleep and awake to MSNBC.

The first couple of trips to the grocery store were tear jerkers. Whether at his favorite spot, Meijer, or mine, Kroger, all I can think about is stuff I don’t have to buy or think about cooking because based on his needs and wants. Will I ever buy tuna again or Crystal Light packets?

It hasn’t been all sadness over these first 30 days. The journey of mourning the loss of a loved has also included joyful laughs and some guilt along the way. The week he passed I went bowling with my daughter, her boyfriend, and my son. I felt ashamed and guilty for having fun, though I could hear Kevin saying, “You better live Char! You know I’m just chilling up here with the Lord and my boy Job.” That same day, we ate dinner at me and Kevin’s anniversary spot, Cheesecake Factory, ironically, seared at the same table as Kevin and I did on our last visit. Rather than request to be moved, I recalled fondly our time there on our 5th anniversary last March. On the flip side, the kids and I have shared genuine laughs recalling our favorite “Kevin” moments and sayings. One of mine is, “You don’t think fat meat is greasy.” My son’s should be, “Going to see a man about a dog,” Kevin’s reply whenever Nate asked where he was going.

As I prepare for the rebuilding of our home I feel guilty for looking forward to having virtually a new home. When the word “widow” fills my mind, I feel stuck in quicksand, unable to move. Kevin thought telling me frequently about his imminent death that he could prepare me for this time.

Nope, epic fail.

It’s just one day at a time kind of thing. But each of those is filled with missing various aspects of him….us.

This is my grief journey.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

(C)2018 LaCharmine (L.A.) Jefferson

Posted in Christianity, Faith, Inspiration

Spiritually Speaking–No Title Necessary

I almost didn’t make it to church today. It was my plan to attend service and assist the Trustees, the ministry I serve on, with our first dinner sale of the year. I was up early enough to bake the last pan of chicken that I was making for the dinners. Then I decided to do some Yoga. Before I started the video on demand I decided to take an anti-anxiety medication recently prescribed by my doctor. I’d noticed the last couple of days my mind was all over the place preventing me from going to sleep. However, before I made it to the second Yoga position in the video, I could hardly hold myself while on my hands and knees. I didn’t get it. One minute I was fine, the next I felt like I was going to throw up or fall out. When I went back into my bedroom, I realized I’d made a terrible mistake. I’d taken a strong sleep-aid medication!

Barely able to sit up straight on my Yoga mat, there was no way I could drive to church or stay awake long enough watch the chicken in the oven. I called my daughter, explained everything and she, of course, agreed to step in and take the chicken to the church. I was disappointed but safety first. After setting the timer on the stove and my phone for extra coverage, I laid down on the couch, falling in and out of sleep until the both the timers sounded.

By the time my daughter arrived home, I was up and drinking a cup of coffee. She was more than relieved when I told her that I was good to go. She didn’t need to make the church run for me. Win-win.

I made it to church in time to assist my ministry team with setting everything up and participate in communion, our first Sunday of the month tradition. On the way to the sanctuary, a young man walked through the doors of the fellowship hall. He was grumbling, clearly upset. With earphones around his ears I figured he was talking on the phone but his conversation was disturbing.

“I can’t stand these church people. They’re so fake. They always have something to say.”  He was fighting back tears. The other trustee and myself couldn’t help but stop and try to determine if he was talking to us or someone else, or if he needed help. When the other trustee probed, the young man pretty much repeated himself. She told him to come on back in the church. As the three of us got closer to the door he said something like every time he tries to get closer to God that these people always talking stuff to him, being hypocrites.

Considering this church has been my church home since I was a teenager. I wanted to know who had said something to offend this young man, and what, but this was not a time for nosey inquiries.  Instead of asking questions, I found my voice to speak the truth that was swirling around in my head as he was complaining.

“Honey,” I said like he was my son. “Every time you move closer to God, trying to live the way God wants you to, this is exactly what satan does. He uses, most times those closest to you or those who you’d least expect, to push all of your buttons and run you in the opposite direction of God. When that happens, just ask God to help and bless the offending person and go on about your day.” The young man appeared to feel some relief. He thanked me, then opened the door for myself and the other trustee–like a perfect gentleman–and the three of us made our way into the sanctuary.

Over the years there have been plenty of situations when I’ve been in the company of people expressing challenging life situations. But unlike today I remained silent not feeling it was my place to say anything. However, as a Christian, speaking up, is exactly what we are called to do. Notice I didn’t say as a Minister, Evangelist, or Deacon. Titles have nothing to do with spreading the word of God.

Believe me, I understand the fear and apprehension of speaking up in those situations. You’re likely to think that you don’t know enough, that your understanding is not deep enough, you don’t know the book, chapter, or verse of scripture of any verse to reference what you want to say. That’s how I was and still am more often that I care to admit.

What’s changed, though, is my desire for God to use me in the way He desires to. In recent years, I’ve been praying for understanding of His word and asking Him to use me to be a blessing to others as He sees fit. That’s a good place to start.

I didn’t wake up this morning planning to encourage anyone in the Lord. In hindsight, though, I have to wonder if my mistakenly taking that sleeping-aid medication was a plan of satan to keep me home, thus preventing me from encountering that young man today. Well…not today devil.

Let the church say Amen!

Naturally Your,

L.A.