Holiday Thoughts

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This is my most favorite time of year and I’m excited about it. After Halloween tomorrow, it’s full speed ahead – Thanksgiving, my born day season, Jesus’ born day, then a new year! 😄

I don’t know where I will spend Thanksgiving this year. I don’t foresee a road trip home because long car rides are too uncomfortable for me right now. Also, when traveling for Thanksgiving, I usually leave Tuesday night or dark o’ thirty Wednesday morning. But my 6 week post-op appointment is the day before Thanksgiving. So even if I wanted to travel, the late morning appointment will place me in the thick of traffic. No thank you. 😖

My born day is up next and I’ll be turning 40!! 🎉 I was going to plan a big party to celebrate, mainly because that’s what people expected me to do for my BIG 4-0. As I started going through the motions, I realized big parties are not really my thing so I nixed the idea. Instead, I decided to stay true to myself and celebrate by doing what makes ME happy – TRAVEL!

Although there will be no official party, at least one weekend of my “born day season” will involve a pretty dress, pink heels, and girls night out. But to kick off my season, I’m taking another vacation! For my 40th, I’m traveling to the land of opulence – UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi). Can you say EXCITED! 😝

Doc said she will advise if I should take the trip after my 6 week post-op exam. I hope she approves and I continue to heal properly. If so, this will be my 4th vacation to celebrate my 40th year – 2 within the states and 2 international. I like the idea of taking a vacation each quarter because I’m a wanderlust and always look forward to the next one. Hmm…think I’ll keep the trend going in 2015.

Did you know Christmas is in exactly 8 weeks? EIGHT WEEKS! 😳 Aaaack! I haven’t started my Christmas shopping yet, but I’ve created a list and checked it twice. I’m using this free app called Santa’s Bag to keep track of my recipient list, gift ideas, and budget. It’s so cute…love it!

Now that my Christmas list is complete, I can get started. I may be a member of the sick and shut in crew, but I have access to plastic and plenty of time on my hands. Wait…I don’t know if that’s good or bad. 😒 Hmph, either way, I plan to (online) shop ’til I drop and buy as much as my little $500 budget will allow. Balling! What…I’m sick, not crazy! 😂

Smart finances are always a priority, especially during the holidays when consumerism is at its peak. I’m a loyal member of TeamNoDebt and I’d never spend money I don’t have to buy “stuff” that won’t matter in a year. I create a holiday budget, buy thoughtful gifts that I can afford, and enjoy the quality time with my extended family and friends. 💞

I plan to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the praise and worship house, as my grandma used to call it. LOL! I’m so blessed and so thankful for all that He has done for me this year. I’ve had some happy times and more not so happy times, but I’ve grown the most spiritually than any other year of my life. And for that, I’m truly thankful. 🙏

I don’t know what 2015 has in store for me, but a girl can dream while waiting. 😊

*Are you excited about the holidays?
*Do you cook for Thanksgiving?
*How do you celebrate milestone birthdays?
*Have you started Christmas shopping yet?
*Are you TeamNoDebt or TeamBallOutOfControl?
*Are you looking forward to 2015?

Post-Surgery: Recovery and Progress

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The way to a woman’s heart – pretty things and food. :-)

I’ve never had surgery in my life (other than natural childbirth) so I was very anxious while awaiting my surgery date. It came and went, the surgery was successful with no complications, my medical team was amazing, the hospital staff was very compassionate during my stay, and my family and closest friends have been my rock ever since. Despite a few minor issues, I couldn’t imagine a better experience and I’m feeling much better than expected.

Sometimes I can’t believe I had a major surgery because I feel no major pain, only some discomfort during certain situations. In a way, it gives me a false sense of normalcy, but I know my body still needs to heal on the inside. Doc said if I try to do too much too soon, I could risk internal bleeding. I’m ready to get back to my everyday life, but I’m not crazy. I plan to follow doctor’s orders and take it easy for the entire recovery period.

Without insurance, the total cost of my surgery was over $32,000. O_O Holy moly! But my out of pocket expenses were only ~$450. I thank God for awesome insurance coverage!

I’m also very thankful for my support system. My mom and daughter, 2 closest girlfriends, and Mr. EC have seen the good, bad, and ugly in me over the past few weeks but continue to love and support me through it all. They have lifted me up when I couldn’t stand on my own (literally), wiped my tears, prepared or bought my meals, encouraged me to be strong, and made me laugh when I needed it. My extended family, friends in the DMV, and buddies from afar check on me often via phone calls or texts and show their love in various ways. And the one thing that I appreciate the most – they all pray for me. <3

I had my 2 week post-op appointment yesterday. Doc said everything is looking good and healing well. Also, the pathology report showed no surprises. I feel about 60% of my normal self, which I think is pretty good for only 2 weeks out. I’m on the mend and look forward to an improved quality of life. :-)

I thank you and sincerely appreciate all of your support and well wishes! #PrayerWorks

Top 10 Things I Loved About South Africa

How can I describe my vacation to South Africa? Other than SIMPLY AMAZING, my words alone can’t do it any justice. But I can show you better than I can tell you…

10. Table Mountain

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Designated as 1 of the 7 wonders of nature, Table Mountain is completely flat across the top and has absolutely stunning views of Cape Town. We rode a cable car that slowly rotated 360 degrees while going up and down the mountain. At the top, we walked the trails and I was completely mesmerized by the panoramic views of God’s creations. Just…WOW!

9. Beautiful Homes and Historical Neighborhoods

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Touring Bo-Kaap made me feel so happy because…PINK HOUSES! Duh! We learned that this neighborhood is one of the few (or was it the only?) that maintained its roots during and after apartheid, despite most residents being slave descendants and predominantly Muslim.

8. Authentic African Food

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When on vacation, my motto for food is “I’ll try anything once.” Well…I can say I tried at least 15 new things on this vacation – more so for the experience because, honestly, none of the dishes were particularly memorable to me. The one thing I enjoyed was ostrich (not pictured) and the one thing I wanted to try but didn’t was sheep’s head (pictured in #7).

7. Townships and Local Culture

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When I think of South Africa, I immediately think of apartheid – an undeniably disgusting and inhumane part of history. Although it ended in the 90s, seeing the aftermath and how it continues to affect black Africans is heart-wrenching (video on FB).

Hearing a first-hand account of their personal experiences brought tears to my eyes. Learning about how they were forced from their homes in the city to live in shacks on the outskirts (bottom pictures); how they had to carry a dompas (literal translation: dumb pass) to be allowed in certain parts of “white” South Africa or be arrested; how brown people were further divided between “colored” and “black” with the latter being treated vastly differently as third class citizens; and how government leaders visited Mississippi to “learn” how to better implement segregation. O_O Surprisingly though, South Africans are resilient and have a positive opinion of their government so this makes me believe things are (slowly but surely) getting better.

SIDE NOTE: Some of what I learned while touring was very disturbing and some actually pissed me off. Example 1: our tour guide was describing the separation of races, so I asked him to elaborate on the differences and the basis of separation. When he referred to Malaysians (lighter skin) as the “good looking” slaves, I may or may not have snatched his wig. Example 2: this is also when I learned that “colored” is an acceptable and frequently used term that refers to light skin or mixed race people, but I cringed every time I heard it. Example 3: another tour guide (mixed race) said she never knew her (white) father because there were laws against mixing races and her mother would have been jailed or killed. Then she said “but thanks to my father, I have a pretty skin tone.” O_O I wanted to karate chop her in the neck! But I settled for a mean side eye because I was already batting zero with the guides and it was only Day 2. I probably should have apologized to both of them, but I didn’t because I was all in my feelings. After that tour, I was emotional for the rest of the day.

6. Robben Island

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Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela served 18 of 27 years in prison. 27 years!?!?!?! 27 years for being anti-apartheid. Man! And then emerged as South Africa’s first black president. *bow down* Visiting the prison was a memorable experience – seeing his tiny prison cell, walking around the garden where he hid the manuscript and foundation for his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom,” and listening to stories from ex-prisoners – you can’t learn that type of history by reading a book or sitting in a classroom. As they say, travel is the best education.

5. Wine Tasting

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I couldn’t possibly visit a country with world renowned wineries and not visit a few. We tasted about 10-12 wines paired with various cheeses and meats. It was my first time eating springbok and kudu, so I wasn’t sure how my body would respond to mixing strange meats with delicious wine. At first I hesitated, then thought what the heck, alcohol cures everything! We sipped and laughed, toured the wine cellar, bought a few bottles, and left a little tipsy. Perfect!

4. Picturesque Views

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are 6,000. Simply beautiful!

3. African Music and Dance

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Whether we were strolling a touristy area, shopping or dining, we were bound to hear drums and singing. Each and every time, I was drawn to the sound and felt my body moving to the rhythm. I loved it! We were also treated to private performances after dinner at Gold Restaurant (highly recommended!!) and after a braai (South African outdoors BBQ). One thing I learned and found very interesting, it is part of South African’s culture to sing to guests after a meal as a way of saying “thank you for dining with us.” They are such gracious hosts.

2. Wild Animals

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After spending several hours on 4 different safari game drives, we were able to spot 3 of the Big Five – elephant, rhinoceros, and lion. I guess the buffalo and leopard didn’t feel like being bothered. Hmph. It’s all good though because capturing 2 lions roar (video on FB) trumped it all.

1. Nelson Mandela

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I stood in the exact location where South Africans protested for Nelson Mandela to be released from prison, where they witnessed and celebrated his Presidential inauguration, where they mourned his death, and where they memorialized him forever with a 30 foot bronze statue. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt at that very moment. *tears of joy*

I love to travel and I thank God for the opportunity, resources, and traveling mercy to enjoy it. On this trip, I had the pleasure of visiting Cape Town, Robben Island, Johannesburg, Entabeni, and Pretoria. Seeing the land, meeting the people, watching the animals in their natural habitat, and learning a tiny bit more about South Africa’s history was personal, emotional, educational, fascinating, and entertaining. The entire experience will forever be etched in my memory bank and it placed South Africa at the top of my list as the best vacation ever! :-)

A Look Back, Then Forward: September and October 2014

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The month of September was pretty low key. If I wasn’t working, I was resting and preparing to go back to work. I logged close to 250 hours this month and ya girl is beat. TI-YAD! But we’ve just entered the last quarter and my favorite season of the year – fall, my birthday, and holidays. Prayerfully, the rest of 2014 will bring nothing but joy and blessings.

A Look Back: September 2014

THE HIGHS :-)

  • Babysat my friend’s 9 month old twins for the first time. I had them for less than 8 hours, but maaaan, it was hard work. Shout out and much respect to moms of multiples!
  • Had a fun day at the trampoline park with my family.
  • Saw the movie No Good Deed. I thought it was corny, but I love Taraji and Idris together.
  • Spent 5 hours at the salon getting kinky twists. Ugh! Being able to spend the next 6-8 weeks with little to no hair care maintenance made it worth every minute.
  • My net worth for Q3 increased, only by 2.5% but I’ll take it.

THE LOWS :-(

  • Work, work, and more work with no overtime pay. The joy of being a salaried employee.
  • Had my pre-op appointment and pre-surgical testing. Without a doubt, I trust that everything is securely in God’s hands.

A Look Forward: October 2014

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  • By the time this post is published, I will be on a dream vacation to the Motherland.
  • Immediately after I return, I will undergo major surgery.
  • Because of those two, I will be off work for the entire month of October.

All prayers and positive thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Totsiens!

Similar Posts: January February March April May June July August 

Summer Wrap Up

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Summer has officially ended. *sad face* For the first time in years, I didn’t have any summer vacation plans, but that’s ok because it was still a pretty good one. Back in early June, I made a commitment to spend the summer exploring my city and jotted down a few things that I thought would be fun. Here’s the original list and a quick recap of what actually happened.

Note: I was supposed to add pics but I’m lazy. Most of them were already blogged, tweeted, or on FB.

  • Watch a movie and have a cocktail at an over 21 theater – this was first on my list, but I still didn’t make it. The closest theater shows indie movies so I really want to check it out.
  • Visit one of the water parks – I’m bummed this didn’t happen; maybe next summer.
  • Visit one of the trampoline parks – this was on my “big kid” bucket list for a long time and I was so excited. My family and I arrived at the facility as soon as it opened. For 2.5 hours, we jumped, played dodge ball and basketball, and tumbled in the ball pit. By lunchtime, we were all exhausted and starving. I think I had more fun than the kids. LOL!
  • Pig out at a Food Truck Festival – this was one of the first things I did this summer. I love the DC food truck scene. My favorite grub is vegetable samosas from an Indian truck, bulgogi from a Korean truck, beef empanadas from a Spanish truck, and red velvet cupcakes from the pink cupcake truck. My inner outer fat girl was a happy camper.
  • Watch a movie outdoors at the National Harbor - I’ve done this many times. It’s nice to sit near the water, catch a cool breeze, and watch a classic movie on a jumbo screen.
  • Attend an outdoors concert at the Capitol Riverfront – I forgot about this one. Oops.
  • Tour the White House – I submitted the request early, but the date they approved conflicted with other plans so we couldn’t do the full tour. I took my family to the White House visitor’s center and other DC monuments, so it wasn’t a complete bust.
  • Go to an Asian Spa and get naked in the bade pool – I did this a few years ago and it was different but not as awkward as expected, so my friends and I decided to go for a Girl’s Day Out. But after seeing this, we canceled our reservations and I will never go again.
  • Go to Jazz in the Garden on Friday night - we were lucky enough to choose a Friday that was not too hot. A cool evening, decent spot on the lawn, snacks and drizzanks, great friends, and a free concert. Can’t beat that with a bat.
  • Explore DC on a sightseeing bus tour – I bought tickets but couldn’t coordinate with my mom’s schedule. We’ll probably do it when she visits next month.
  • Shop at the Eastern Market and Union Market - EM is very eclectic, both indoors and outdoors, has a variety of local farmers/small business vendors, and a large selection from fresh produce to jewelry and art. We casually strolled the entire area, bought a few items, sampled everything, and I OD’d on wallamelon…of course. UM is smaller, indoors only, a few local farmers, vendor booths from DC restaurants, and a wine bar where we had an impromptu wine tasting. UM has more of a yuppy vibe, but I prefer the variety at EM.
  • Dinner and private karaoke at Korean restaurant – this was my first time doing private karaoke (noraebang?) and I had a ball with a few local friends and twitter buddies that were visiting for the weekend. We sang and laughed ’til it hurt. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t Diana Ross or Beyonce. Hmph. A good time was had by all.
  • Dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant – tried it, never again. Did. Not. Like. The memory makes me think of pureed Puppy Chow. Yuck!
  • Attend the DC Jazz Festival – I forgot all about this one, too. Dang!
  • Attend a Food & Wine Festival – this has become an annual tradition for me. I can never go a full summer without attending at least one wine festival. Unfortunately, I was disappointed this year. The wine was great, food was ok, but the crowd and entertainment left something to be desired. I need to find a new watering wine hole.
  • Visit the Newseum and Interactive Spy Museums – I love museums and could probably spend all day exploring this one. Unfortunately, we didn’t arrive until almost 2pm and they closed at 5pm. *sad face* With only a few hours, we explored the 9/11, Civil Rights, and Pulitzer exhibits, watched tribute videos and a 4D movie. We barely scratched the surface though. There’s so much more to see and I want to will go back again.
  • Go to the Beyonce/Jay-Z concert – YAAAASSSSSSSSS!! :-D
  • See the Lion King stage play at the Kennedy Center – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is my favorite-EST Disney movie and I loved seeing the stage play again. The visual recreation of each scene was on point and the performances were phenomenal. I was singing along for the entire 3+ hour show. It was worth every penny.
  • Visit one of the state parks with a mini beach – we had a mini reunion/family fun day at Gunpowder State Park in MD. I didn’t even know this park existed until we started searching for a location and it was perfect. It had a covered pavilion, gas grills, play area for the kids, and a beach. Best of all, it was FREE! My family came in from NY, NJ, CA, NC, MD, and VA, and we had fun at the park from 8am until sunset. Then the party continued at my cousin’s house until 2am. But once the spades hit the table, it was a wrap. My people + liquor + spades = DANGER. I can confirm that no one suffered bodily harm, but I can’t say the same for bruised egos. Good times man, good times. Ha!
  • Step out of my comfort zone and get an edgy hair cut and color – I haven’t bit the bullet yet, but I’m definitely going to do it before this year is out. Maybe for my birthday.
  • Read 2 books: Anxious for Nothing: God’s Cure for the Cares of Your Soul by John MacArthur and Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges – both of these books were great supplements to my regular bible reading. I began reading them and taking notes in my journal around June. A month or so later, I began to experience an unfortunate series of events and understood their purpose. He’s always on time.
  • Binge watch Orange is the New Black Season 2 - I finished season 2 in about a week and thought it was ok. The story line for the main characters, Piper and Alex, is boring and I’d quit watching if it were just them. But I enjoyed getting to know the other characters and learning more about their background, especially Taystee and Crazy Eyes. Love them! I did not like Ms. Vee at all and she got what she deserved at the end. Witch! I usually lose interest in a show after season 3, so we’ll see what happens next.

BONUS: I went sky diving and it was the highlight of my entire summer. I’ve watched my video over and over in pure shock because I still can’t believe I jumped out of an airplane while laughing. Aaaaack! The experience was scary AND fun…at the same dang time! My adrenaline was on 1,000+ from beginning to end. I was so hype! Once my feet were back on solid ground and my brain returned to normal, I kept saying to myself “I can’t believe you did that!” Then I went home, crashed, and slept for the rest of the day. Ha!

How was your summer?

Just Rambling…

My work internet connection has been sporadic all day. It’s 10am, I have 8 emails sitting in my outbox and a growing to do list, but can’t do any of it. IT said they’re aware of the issue and working on it. Oh well. *shrug* To pass the time, I started this random blog. I’ll hit publish when my work internet is back running or I give up for the day.

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I received a hand written thank you note from a twitter buddy and the little note is from her son. How cute! This made me so happy. :-)

My pre-op appointment and surgery have been scheduled. Just a few weeks ago, I was afraid and crying about the situation. Now I’m looking forward to getting it done and putting it all behind me. God has a way of changing our hearts.

Insurance company said my out of pocket costs will be 10%. That sounds reasonable, but the PF side of me was like…10% OF WHAT?! With the ridiculous cost of healthcare, I expect my savings account and I will be in recovery for a while.

My mom is coming up to stay with me for a month. We haven’t lived under the same roof in over 20 years. My daughter will be here for a little while too. This should be interesting.

September is an expensive month for me because the property taxes for my home and car are due. At the same dang time. Ouch. Thankfully, I have no major plans or responsibilities this month because my pockets are full of lint.

Amex gives me $10 every time I pay my cell phone bill with my Blue card. Cool.

My internet bill increased from $39.99 to $74.99 because the 12 month promotion expired. O_O For $75/month, the internet should read my mind and translate my thoughts across the web at lightening speed. I called to see if there was another promotion available, but the rep said no and tried to push an upgrade for a more expensive bundle deal. Uh…negative. I don’t watch TV or use a home phone so I declined and told him to cancel my account. He transferred me to another department, then the second rep offered a faster internet speed at $29.99/month for 2 more years. *blink* I’ll take it!

My neighbor’s lease is ending soon and she told me her rent renewal rate was close to $3k/month. *faint* Needless to say, she’s moving. My lease ends next June and I will move too before I pay $3k/month in rent. No way.

I’ve been thinking about moving back into my house anyway. The main reason I moved in 2007 is because I wanted my daughter in a better school and it significantly reduced my commuting time. Well, my daughter finished school years ago, my job allows me to work from home now, and my mortgage is half my current rent. Should be a no-brainer, right?

Got money on my mind. Hmm, what else is going on…

My neighbor just text me “Your car is slanted again. LOL” Man, I can’t park straight to save my life. I don’t mean parallel parking either. I mean pulling straight into a regular parking spot. The car “feels” straight but when I get out, it’s always crooked. People make fun of me and I laugh it off, but I can’t help it. I even stand crooked. I had a spinal issue as a kid. With treatment, it never fully corrected itself, and mom said surgery wasn’t worth the risk.

Talenti gelato, caramel cookie crunch flavor, is my new favorite snack. Yum!

If the Lord is willing, I’ll be taking a dream vacation this year.

Six of my friends have birthdays this month and 4 are within the same week. I don’t know why, but that’s funny to me. I guess December was cuffing season back in the day. *giggles*

Wait… *looks at clock* It’s after 5pm. My work internet is finally back up. Should I call it quits or keep working? Decisions… *deuces*