Life After–Vlog Series

This vlog series was conceived in early 2018 when I realized that I had a lot to say about what was happening in my life following the passing of my husband after his terminal illness and a devastating house fire in 2017 that ultimately claimed his life. I started recording videos when topics revealed themselves to me. What I didn’t record on video, I wrote about in my journal or in the notes section of my phone. I wasn’t sure if I was gathering material for a book, a vlog, a blog, or all three.

I decided to go ahead to get started posting. After the stroke I suffered a month ago, I realized just how much I can’t afford to hold on to ideas that I conceive until the perfect time to reveal them. The perfect time doesn’t exist. I don’t know what’s going to come of it, but I’m sure if will be a blessing to someone. I can’t promise that every video is be as inspiring as this one because that wouldn’t be real. And I want to provide a very real experience for viewers. The day I recorded this video I was feeling good, glad to be back in my house, and encouraged by a good word at church. I wanted to be encouraging to others. However, there are other recordings when I’ve been sad, angry, depressed, frustrated.

My journey is not over. As long as I’m living, I’ll always be living a life after that fateful night that changed everything.

If you like the video, please subscribe to my channel.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Desperately Seeking Clean–The Beginning #1

How long would it take you to realize that your home had been burglarized.  Sometime in  2006 I was living with my then husband and two children in 3 bedroom bungalow  in a not-so-great neighborhood. When I arrived home from work that day, the house looked pretty much like we had left it. Dishes from the night before were still in the sink. The kitchen table was still top-heavy with mail.

I entered my bedroom next. The bed was unmade.  My pajamas were laid on top of the rumpled covers while my husband clothes and shoes were strewn in various places on the floor. The top of the dresser had it usual stuff on it–earrings, mail,  watches, receipts.

It was finally the mattress that caught me eye. Something was off with them. They had been clearly disturbed. My husband and I had a decent sex life  but we’d never knocked the mattresses of the frame. Our mattresses had been lifted up, in obvious search for money, and dropped  haphazardly onto the frame so that the top mattress hung over the box spring.

That was the only clue we had our home had been burglarized. They were obviously   petty thieves, only stealing my wedding ring, that I’d only taken off because I was mad at my husband, and all of my popular DVD’s movie.

My husband had complained about my housekeeping habits in the past,  but it was at this point that I realized I had a problem. I was so embarrassed when the police came into our home to take the report. Surely they were thinking that the house had been ransacked  when that was how it looked on any given day. I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a better housekeeper, keep a more tidy house. Not for my husband, but for myself.

That incident marked the beginning of my journey for desperately seeking clean! And, oh, what a journey it is! I’ll be posting about the journey because pursuing it is a big part of who I am.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

It is Finished…Summer Class, that is #lifeafter

Thursday, August 1, 2019 marked the culmination of my first year as a graduate student of the Masters of Library Science program at Wayne State University!  Only a special kind of person–or maybe a glutton for punishment–undertakes a graduate program while displaced from their permanent residence due to a house fire, adjusting to life after the passing of their spouse, taking responsibility over a rental home that deceased husband managed, and a host of other things that you’ve probably already read about on my blog. But, I did it! And quite successfully, too, I might add. 4.0 GPA first semester, 3.5 the second, and a 3.0 this current semester.

Although I did well, I put myself through a lot stress at a time in my life when I should have been relaxing as much as possible. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do something, I advised myself.

Now, I don’t regret, at all, the decision to begin this program. I’d been contemplating it for a few years before finally applying. However, it might have been a good idea to start with one class instead of two. It took those first two semesters of talking myself out of quitting a time or two before I came to my senses and only registered for one class this last semester.

Forty-three year old LaCharmine cannot do graduate school the way twenty-five year LaCharmine did it.

Prior to the end of this semester, I told myself it was time for a break.

“Not even one class, LaCharmine,” I said to myself sternly. (I need that kind of talking to sometimes).

I need my evenings and weekends as free as they can be (given my church & sorority commitments).

I need time for writing.

I need time for reading.

I need time for getting my house how I want it.

I need time for dating. (Yes, I said it. Dating!!!)

Hmm…will I listen to myself and take a break from school? How will my first date go after 10 years out of the game? Will I accomplish the goal of completing novel #3 by end of 2019? Follow my blog for more #lifeafter posts.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

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L.A. The Future Librarian

As you read in my previous post (I hope you’re a subscriber!), part of the reason for my hiatus from blogging is that I started a graduate program in library science in the fall of last year. Since I published my first book in 2007, I have considered many career opportunities/fields. Accounting, education, communication, and librarianship. Over this time, I would get so frustrated with the internal debate of what course I should take. My biggest fear was that in considering these other career options that I was somehow doubting my ability to gain success with my writing.

The truth is that doubt is a creative persons silent partner.

However, the reality of being a writer, even an eventual successful one, is that the bills have to be paid in the meantime. And there’s life to live and enjoy until I write the book or meet the person who catapults me to the success I long for. Timing is everything.

I have no doubt that I will enjoy working in a library. I love libraries, specifically public libraries. I don’t frequent them nearly enough–well, I didn’t until I started school. But, for me, walking through the doors of my local library is like a kid walking into a candy store.  Pure delightful.

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I imagine drawing inspiration for my own writing being surrounded by the writing of our literary greats. I am anxiously anticipating planning readings and book signing events for local and national authors. I look forward to planning activities that the community will benefit from. I look forward to servicing patrons who recognize the continued relevance of library services.

To date, I have completed one full semester of classes toward my degree with one or two more to go. I made the mistake of taking two classes the first two semesters, under estimating how demanding these courses were going to be. Like most people probably think, It’s library school. How hard can it be?

Let me tell you. It’s not so much hard but time consuming and demanding like any other graduate program. Also, although the program states that a prospective student does not have to prior library experience to enroll in the program, it’s kind of taught as though you do. Or you’re going to spend a considerable amount of time in one during the program.

After having to talk myself off the ledge of quitting a few times when things got tough, I finally got smart and told myself, “Uhh, who told you that you have to take two classes at a time? This program is not a race.” And I must say this spring/summer semester has been much more manageable with one class. It’s a keeper going forward. I actually have a little wiggle room to fit in some committed time to work on my current novel, which ranks above the. I still have my December 2019 goal to have that work completed.

Needless to say I’m excited about what the future holds. My future as a librarian and my life as a national bestselling author!

What are you excited about for your future? I’d love to hear.librarypic

Naturally L.A. is Back

I hope you all are enjoying your summer as much as I have been. I knew it had been a while since I posted on this site but I hadn’t realize it had been that long. Over a year!

So much happened during that time.

My daughter got engaged!

My best friend and I joined the newly engaged couple on a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas.

I took my son on my 25th high school reunion cruise, his first cruise, the next month. Both of these trips were equally desired, deserved and needed after everything we endured at the end of 2017. Plus I figured we might as well enjoy some time away as we awaited the repair of our home. All in all we had a blast. It was surely the highlight of our summer.

If the stress of grieving the loss of my husband and dealing with contractors with the repair of my home, I decided to apply to a graduate program in Library in Information Science so that I could–obviously–work as a librarian. Classes started in August. And I wouldn’t be my over achieving self if I didn’t jump feet first and take two classes the first semester.

Needless to say I was swamped with fitting lectures, research papers, and group projects into my already full schedule. So blogging found its way at the bottom of my to-do list. But I missed it. So as of this post…I’m back!

I have so much to tell you fill you in on. From grieving through year two, surviving the contractor from hell, adventures with my new dog, dating (if you can call it that)! Be on the lookout for my next post!

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

P.S. Forgot to mention, I also had surgery on my left-hand in the middle of the semester, putting me in a cast for 5 weeks! SMH!

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.

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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.

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.

Wellness Wednesday–Move Week

I have learned first hand over the last several days that healthy eating and moving don’t mix. If you follow my blog, you know that I closed on my new house at the end of September, approximately a month after the initial closing date was schedule. Although I started packing up and cleaning out the apartment in early August, there was still much to done as the movers arrived this past weekend!

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After the movers dropped our belongings off at the new house, there was now work to be done at both locations. With no vacations left for the year, that leaves me to do all of this in between full-time work hours, school drop off and pick up for my son. So needless to say, there has been no time to cook.

Thank God for the bag of apples I bought on my last trip to the grocery store!

Between Pizza Hut on Sunday, KFC on Monday, and  McDonalds on Tuesday I have eaten the most consecutively unhealthy than I have in a long time. An apple a day and a serving of greens to go with the chicken and mashed potatoes (with gravy)  from KFC has been the only healthy things to grace my stomach. Hopefully carrying boxes from the apartment to my truck to the house has worked off some of those calories.

However, we’re still not done. But I am not feeling good about these high calorie food selections I’ve been making. Wish I had been stocking up on healthy grab & go foods while I was stocking up on boxes to pack our stuff in.

Not that I’ll be moving any time soon, but if you have any cost-effective, healthy food ideas to get me through the rest of this week, please share them in the comments below. My waistline will appreciate it 🙂

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Wellness Wednesday: Marathon Anyone???

Who in the world would want to run a 26 mile race? Quite a few people, judging from all the participants on my FB timeline with #freepmarathon in their posts. This past weekend, my birthday weekend, was the annual Detroit Free Press Marathon event.

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The first time I saw this event with my own eyes was on my birthday about 5 or 6 years ago. My husband had gotten me room at the Holiday Inn to enjoy a quiet night of writing. On check out day is when I saw the crowd of people and learned what was going on.

It wasn’t that day that I considered participating. That day came when I came across women in my personal circle, people at or near my fitness level making the decision to do it and training for the big day. A few of them accomplished their goal this year!

My father participated in a marathon once.  He trained hard for it. As a little girl watching him jump rope in our backyard and complete his Saturday morning with an impressive backward jog down our street, I didn’t know that’s what he was preparing for. Matter of fact, I don’t even know when he actually did it. He wasn’t the kind of dad that shared stuff like that with his kids. What I do remember him telling me years later was that one time was all he needed. Just to say he did it.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to train that hard to do something only one time. Then again, I could never fathom running 26 miles. Interestingly,  I have since learned that the event consists of more than 26 mile race. There are events for everyone at all fitness levels: full marathon, marathon relay (a team of 2-4 complete designated sections of the race), 1/2 marathon, 5K, and a Family Fun Run. There’s even a race for people with disabilities.

Now that’s something I can put on my bucket-list. What about you? Do you want to run a marathon (or some other race event)? What’s your plan to make it happen?

You know…you must have a plan, right?

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

No Time Like the Present

My longtime girlfriend has been living in Dallas, TX for at least 7 years. She relocated there after accepting a promotion with the company she’d been working for in our hometown.  Once down there, she met her current husband and they’ve since started a family. Dallas is clearly her home now. As most of her family is here in Michigan, she comes to visit once or twice a year. However, her time is usually consumed with family so I never get to spend much time with her.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me to go visit her. Actually…I do.

Before I started visiting my husband on weekends he was out of town for work or attending a conference for my sorority, I was not really into traveling. The only trips that I took my children on was 5 hrs away to Chicago and across the bridge to Canada to enjoy an indoor waterpark. Traveling was not something I fit into my vacation or financial planning.

This past summer a friend invited my son to go on a trip to Disney World with her family. I didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunity but I was hesitant. First, he’d never been on a plane before. Second, he expressed fear about getting on a plane. So I decided that his first flight needed to be with me. Around this same time, I was on the brink of caregiver burnout and didn’t see a way to give myself a real break.

Lo and behold, the company I work for hosts an annual conference in Dallas that I always say that I’d like to attend. Why hadn’t? There was no good reason. So this year I took the opportunity to kill three birds with one stone: attend the conference, visit my friend, and take my son on his first flight.

Everything was awesome. That Dallas September heat was no joke but it was so good to be away from home. To be a guest in my friend’s home. To wake up on Saturday morning and not have to think about what I was going to cook for breakfast for myself or anyone else! My friend and her husband took good care of us.

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My son in the co-pilot seat

 

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A round of miniature golf in the hot Dallas son with my friend’s family

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Go-Kart racing

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Partial group family pic…my friend’s husband was MIA

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Taking a break from the conf. Enjoying a book in the pool

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My son getting his swim on

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Mom & Son chilling at the pool

The question that repeated through my head was, “Why’d it take you so long to do this?”

I have another girlfriend who’s been living in Atlanta for the last 7 yrs. Besides going down for her wedding five years ago, I haven’t been there for a real visit. After I visit family in Tennessee next year, Atlanta will be my next stop.

It’s funny how, in theory, we know that tomorrow is not promised. Still, we tend to live our lives like we have all the time in the world. My husband’s diagnosis with a life-threatening illness changed my perspective. Although  supporting him through this illness doesn’t allow me to a lot of time to do as much as I’d like, I still make a point to do as much as I can.

Is there anything you’re putting off for tomorrow that you need to be doing today? Share in the comments  below.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.