Words Sitting Beside Us

This post is bound to be more or less all over the place, so I apologize for the mess of words it may very well result in. Lately, I’ve been contemplating countless hours about the words some us don’t, won’t or feel we cannot say. They never really go away, even if they are no longer at the forefront of our minds. Or, they may appear or emerge in other ways, like a nervous tic, foot tapping, biting our lips or cheeks, and beyond. Sometimes, we ruminate about them, mulling over what could or will happen if these words and feelings are verbalized or written to someone or something. Therefore, many of us repress them, stuffing them deep inside of us, tucked away into an area that feels raw and unaddressed. It never leaves though; it sits and sits, and sometimes, when it becomes too much to bear, the words spill out in ways we never intended, or not in the way we hoped.

For me, the words I don’t say sit beside me each day. They follow me from place to place, like a piece of lint of dust that simply won’t disappear until it is properly addressed. Other times, when I HAVE spoken up, a sense of relief washes over me and I am amazed by how fulfilling and cleansing it was to finally release the emotions and words building inside of me. In some instances, I’ve been shocked to learn others have harbored nearly identical sentiments to me, wondering why I waited so long to speak the words I felt couldn’t. So many times, unnecessarily, I’ve walked around berating myself for feeling as I do, thinking as I do and for my inability to speak the truth, words that very well could set me free from emotional duress. The words I often choose to not speak sometimes become my shadow; I can always see or feel it lingering in the background and even when I focus all my efforts in ignoring it, it never ceases to escape.

Instead of focusing on how my thoughts and words will be received, my goal for the impending year is to focus on speaking the truth in ways that are respectful, truthful, and accountable. I’ve found from past experiences that when we focus so much on how our feelings and words will be received by others, the words we do end up sharing are the furthest from what we intended and thereby, we are left feeling unheard and the pain/unspoken truths still sit beside us. Thoughts and sentiments can eat away at us, bit by bit until we reduced to silence or whispers. It pains me each day I see others doing to this to themselves, because I know, firsthand, how deeply painful it is. Ignoring or repressing it doesn’t make it disappear, or even numb it, despite what we might think. Those little jabs at our loved ones, self-defeating judgments of ourselves when we look in the mirror  and beyond – all of them, I truly believe, are the those unspoken thoughts and feelings rearing their vicious heads.

So, if I can say one thing as we make our way into the holidays and the New Year, it is to speak your truth. Speak it loud and speak it clear, because others can only hear you if you take the risk and remember, no matter how hard we may try, others opinions of us cannot be controlled by us. We have no power over someone’s thoughts of us, we only have power over how we present ourselves, the words we say and the choices we make. My hope is that you’ll make the choice to make your voice heard, speak the truth and speak it clear.

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Bouncing Back: A Tale of Resilience

Happy National Iced Tea Day and good morning! I hope your week has been a pleasant one, thus far. Today’s post was slated to be vastly different than this actual one, but somehow, I managed to completely delete the post which was literally minutes from completion. Needless to say, I was devastated, overwhelmed and felt like giving up. I was instantly returned many years prior to a day when I was pressed for time and crafting an essay for school. The entire essay was nearly completed and thoroughly researched, when suddenly, it was gone. When I say it was gone, I truly mean it. I tried everything to retrieve it, asked for help, but nothing I did could bring it back.

Courage quote

My first instinct after it happened, was to run my room and hurl myself onto my bed, sobbing for what it felt like hours. I remember back then, my mom walked into my room and told me I had two choices: I could choose to continue sobbing and feeling sorry for myself, or I could get back onto the computer, start crafting a new, even BETTER essay and save my words as I go along. Everything happens for a reason and maybe the first draft of my essay wasn’t all that great, similar to with the blog post I was nearly finished writing. Sure, it introduced some new products I was excited about, but more so than that, it taught me a lesson; a lesson that I need to get back up and write something else. What have I learned today? I’ve learned to save my drafts as I go along and maybe even write my blog posts in Microsoft Word and then transfer it to my blog and add photos and other little touches. So, I’ll think of this occurrence as a teachable moment, in a sense, one I can learn from and share with others. Like years ago, I could choose to feel sorry for myself, moan and whine about the deleted post, or take a deep breath and write something else. Maybe other people can relate to this or maybe not, but I figured I should share it.

Resilience Quote

Yesterday, while watching Kathie Lee & Hoda on NBC in the morning, they mentioned that people who voice their thoughts (even the whiny, negative, complaints) are often happier in life and feel more connected to others. I’d never really thought of it in this way, as I often will publicize my complaints, whines, worries and happiness with my mom and sister, but not many others, anymore. So this is me, today, being brave and bold, sharing my complaint and upset, about my deleted post and also sharing a bit of lighthearted happiness on a day that has me feeling a bit under the weather: free Iced Tea! It’s an easy way to cheer me up when I’ve been battling a cold and a quick pick-me-up from this unfortunate snafu with my deleted post.

So, if you’re craving some free refreshment today, like me, here are some quick tips for you:

National Iced Tea Day Freebies:

Iced Tea

  • *FREE* bottle of Snapple Iced Tea: visit http://sipyoursummer.com/ as quickly as you can to print a coupon! Prints are typically limited and the value is $1.25, so it should make for a free bottle! Keep in mind, the coupon is valid ONLY TODAY (June 10)! Yum! Happy Sipping!
  • *FREE* 16oz cup of Teavana’s new Pineapple Berry Blue Iced Tea at participating Teavana stores, nationwide! To find out where your nearest Teavana Retail location is, visit (teavana.com/retail)
  • *FREE* coupon for a bottle of Inko’s Iced Tea: simply visit https://www.inkostea.com/contact-us and enter your full mailing address and voila, your coupon will be on its way!

Friendly Signs: Don’t Wait for it, Show it

Good Monday morning, to you, wherever you might be today! I hope your weekend was a pleasant one, though my heart reaches out to those who are affected by the severe weather our country encountered yesterday. Sometimes, weather like this catches us all off guard and definitely makes me appreciative for all I have, the roof over my head, and my familiar community. Today, I’m keeping those affected communities close to my heart, wishing for a speedy recovery.

That said, thoughts and mantras, in general seemed to be a recurrent theme this weekend, again, as it was the preceding weekend, not that I mind, of course. On Saturday afternoon, I was in quite a sour mood, feeling sorry for myself, lamenting in all I wish I had and how I yearned for a different lifestyle. Instead of being grateful for my surroundings and family, I spent much of the morning and early afternoon groaning and complaining, failing to savor the uncharacteristically warm weather and laid-back atmosphere. Running errands, my mom and I quickly scurried into Lowe’s to utilize my gift card for some items we needed. The store was busy and difficult to navigate, but soon we arrived at the checkout line and were greeted by a friendly, welcoming cashier. She was gentle in her demeanor, smiled a genuine, pleasant smile, and thanked us numerous times for visiting and our patronage, urging us to return again soon. At her positive nature, I was surprisingly taken aback and overwhelmed with joy. My mom and I both left the store smiling and in shock at her kindness. As a frequent viewer of the CBS Television Series, “Undercover Boss“, I find myself even more attuned to the behaviors and customer service provided by store associates and to be honest, this Lowe’s employee exemplified true customer service and kindness. She truly made me feel as though she valued our business and presence.

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After our encounter at Lowe’s, my mood began to soften and continued to improve as we headed home down the familiar roadways. Stopped at a traffic light, my mom and I suddenly took note of a line on the billboard outside of a church which read, “Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them.” Wow, I thought to myself, how fitting was that quote. So often, I find myself waiting for others to appropriate me, or be kind to me, whereas this quote reminds me, we don’t have to wait, we can show others how accommodating  and friendly we can be. Just because someone else may be stand-offish or in a bad mood, does not mean we have to reciprocate. In fact, we have the ability to perhaps improve their day or mood, simply by a pleasant hello, kind word, or inquiry after them. It reminds me of another quote I am quite fond of, in the words of American author Leo Buscaglia, ““Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Since first reading this quote, I’ve always believed it to be true, as it has been proven to me numerous times.

Sometimes, I find I get so trapped and lost within my own mind, but the kindness of others and realizing how we can truly CHOOSE to be happy each day, changes it around and thought it may take awhile some days to realize this, it never ceases to improve my mood and present frame of mind.

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QUESTION: Have you ever encountered something similar?

Hidden Battles From Within

Each morning I rise, my routine is relatively the same with minor adjustments here and there. As I sit down to breakfast, with my coffee and cereal at hand, I also simultaneously watch my local ABC News, then Good Morning America and thoroughly read two local newspapers: The Bucks County Courier Times & The Philadelphia Inquirer. This morning, my reading of the Philadelphia Inquirer left me speechless. Nearing the end of my reading, I turned to the Magazine section of the newspaper, where the Celebrity News column called to me, as it so often does. Often when reading the Celebrity News column, it provides me with news I’ve either already heard, or is seemingly insignificant. Today, however, this was not in fact, the case at all.

Midway through the Celebrity News column, I stopped in my tracks, gasping at the name glaring back at me in the column, coupled with the words, “Rehab for Alcohol Dependence.” As an active ABC News watcher and follower of respective ABC News anchors, the name Elizabeth Vargas is synonymous to me, with 20/20 and her frequent “fill-ins” for several Good Morning America anchors. To me, she was poised, confident and secure in her persona and ability to provide individuals the news, as a seasoned journalist. Most times, I would look at her with either envy or awe, apart of me desperately wishing for the career she upheld. Sometimes, regrettably, I even perceived her as “proud, or stuffy, believing she felt she was above others.” Though, little did I know the private battles she waged. Hearing her struggles, I began to soften, as a sense of realism wavered over me. It is always my goal in life to be less judgmental and more understanding of people, trying to understand that people deal with their own issues in different, unique ways and may publicly present themselves as quite different than they actually are, deep down, in their private lives.

Elizabeth Vargas

Seeing her on air, I perceived her as nearly “ideal,” or “perfect,” failing to recognize, that she, too, is human, just like me and that no matter her profession, it does not make her immune to the battles people can encounter each day, such as alcoholism. Hearing her publicly accept and profess her alcohol dependence and decision to enter treatment, I look to her with understanding and empathic eyes. To admit an addiction, especially publicly, is brave and courageous, especially for the profession she is in. As a journalist, she is expected to promote the news and provide it to individuals in a respected, confident, honest manner, so it only makes sense she would do this in revealing her private demons. Still, I had tears in my eyes as I read her issued statement on CNN.com, “Like so many people, I am dealing with addiction,” Vargas said in a statement to CNN Wednesday. “I realized I was becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol. I am in treatment and am so thankful for the love and support of my family, friends and colleagues at ABC News.” She also stated her hope that it will it give others “the courage to seek help.”

While before I looked at her as someone who might have been smug and overly-confident, today I look at her as someone who is human, honest and candid about her personal struggles and someone who I admire. She is proof to me, that people are simply human, no matter their income, education level, career, family, appearance, or anything else we check off on a demographic survey. She is who she is – a woman, a journalist, a mother, a friend, a wife, a colleague, perhaps an aunt, a cousin, a homeowner and to me, she is also strong and courageous. I couldn’t applaud her more for her bravery and honesty and today, I am keeping her close in my thoughts and hoping with all my heart for her recovery and path to wellness and health. I hope that in the coming hours, days, weeks and months, she will be able to live her life free of the battles living within her with the ability to enjoy her life to the fullest, returning to ABC News as the passionate journalist she is, inspiring other each day with her craft of the spoken and written word.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your honesty and bravery and for showing others that there is never a “wrong” or inconvenient time to accept help and to take a chance on overcoming the pain within us.

Believe Quote

Family Redefined: Meet “THE FOSTERS”

Good Thursday Morning, to you! Almost the weekend, any exciting plans on your part? Is it just me, or does this week seem to have gone by relatively quickly? Of course, I could be imagining things! Anyhow, as I mentioned yesterday, over the past month and half (almost two, at this point), I’ve become particularly taken and enthralled with the new ABC Family TV series, “The Fosters.” It is one of the most intelligent, honest and real television programs I’ve seen in awhile, plus the acting in my opinion, is top-knotch. However, before I delve into my perspective on the show, I’d like to share with you my breakfast picks this AM; it’s one I am particularly excited to share with you!

Breakfast (Thursday, July 25, 2013):

1 container Yoplait Light White Chocolate Strawberry (Initially, when I purchased this flavor of yogurt, I was excited because of the name of the yogurt flavor, but didn’t really expect it to taste as it sounded. Well, I’m proud to report after consuming it, it definitely held true to it’s flavor name! I couldn’t believe how much it actually tasted like white chocolate mixed with strawberry! The flavor wasn’t overpowering, but it was satisfying and creamy. I highly recommend it, if you haven’t tried it yet.)

1 cup Barbara’s Bakery Peanut Butter/Chocolate Puffins (NEW FLAVOR! Yes, this flavor has been on the market for about a year or so, or maybe slightly more, but never have I purchased it, until a couple weeks ago! Today, I tried it for the first time and was pleased! The chocolate Puffins taste reminiscent of a dark chocolate and combines well with the peanut butter Puffins scattered throughout. It’s a satisfying balance of both flavors and one I thoroughly enjoyed, mixed with the yogurt. It can be challenging to find this flavor of Puffins in the grocery store, but if you have difficulty, I encourage you, don’t give up! I was able to find these on the shelves at Wegmans, but if you don’t have a Wegmans by you, keep looking, I think you’ll find it!)

1 cup Special K Red Berries (This morning, I polished off the box and it didn’t quite fill the cup, so I topped it off with a little Special K Multigrain Flakes; Special K love all around!)

1 Banana (It seems I’m having a good week with the bananas. Today, I maintained my good banana fortune, as this one followed suit and was ideally sweet and flavorful!)

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Back to today’s musing: ABC Family’s “The Fosters.” Before I share with you my perspective and take on the program, I figured I would fill you in on some of the overall basics (i.e. air time, network, cast/crew, etc), so that you are familiar with what and who I’ll be discussing, if you aren’t already familiar:

Premiere Date: Monday, June 3, 2013

TV Network: ABC Family

Date and Time: Mondays at 9pm, EST

Created By: Jennifer Lopez and Simon Fields as Co-Executive Producers; Lopez’s Production Company – Nuyorican Productions; Peter Paige and Brad Bredeweg as Co-Creators and Writers.

Main Characters (there are several recurring supporting characters which I have not listed below):

  • Callie Jacob (Maia Mitchell): Older sister to Jude Jacob, newest addition to the Foster family with Jude.
  • Mariana Foster (Cierra Ramirez): Formerly of ABC Family’s, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,sister to Jesus Foster.
  • Jesus Foster (Jake T. Austin): Brother to Mariana Foster.
  • Brandon Foster (David Lambert): Son of divorced couple Stef Foster and Mike Foster.
  • Stef Foster (Teri Polo): Formerly of the “Meet the Parents” fame (Ben Stiller’s wife); Police Officer; biological mother of Brandon, ex-wife of Mike Foster, romantic partner to Lena Adams, foster/adoptive mother to Jesus, Mariana, Callie and Jude.
  • Lena Adams (Sherri Saum): Charter school principal; Foster/adoptive parent of Jesus, Mariana, Callie, Jude and Brandon; romantic partner to Stef Foster.
  • Mike Foster (Danny Nucci): A Police Officer, Stef’s ex-husband, biological father of Brandon Foster.

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To start, “The Fosters” can be described as a controversial television program replacing the also controversial, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” a staple on the ABC Family network for a number of years, airing Mondays at 9pm EST (season finale – August 5). The new TV series features a lesbian couple, together for 10 years (i.e. Lena Adams, Charter School Principal and Stef Foster, a Police Officer who works alongside her ex-husband, whom she had a teenage son with). The show offers a sense of realism and a genuine quality, which I feel many people today, can relate to, on certain levels. The topics are often raw and exposed; issues are confronted and addressed, many of which typically are not, especially on a television network such as ABC Family. However, through the years, first with “Greek,” then with “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” and now, with “The Fosters,” the ABC Family Network is without question or contemplation holding true to its tagline – “A new kind of family.

When I think about it, “The Fosters,” is truly an accurate depiction of what a modern family might actually be, today. It depicting an alternative to what one might label as a “traditional family,” with two parents – a mother (female) and a father (male) and children. This television program raises the bar and proudly depicts two women as long-term romantic partners, establishing a family and lifestyle, with children, both biological (for Stef) and adopted (or fostered) for both. The mothers, Lena and Stef, are affectionate and loving not only with each other, but their children, as they frequently maintain open lines of communication and hold conversations with each child/teenager, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it may initially be. The topics on the program are as controversial and unique as the composition of the family, but to me, all of the above is quite refreshing and eye-opening to see. It’s not always easy or desired to see a “traditional” family on-screen, as all around us the world is consistently changing, evolving and adapting. Family is no longer a word, phrase or relationship prompting one to conjure an image solely of a male/female partners and their children. Rather, family is now a figurative term, or at least to me it is. A family can be a group of friends, or partners, no matter their gender. To me, what defines a family are the connections they establish and whether they feel they can trust, rely on, and support one another.

This television program exposes and airs out the issues and topics other shows and television networks appear fearful of discussing and airing. They are issues that often might cause people to turn away or turn a blind eye, out of discomfort or fear. However, “The Fosters,” is truly raising the bar and in turn, making people talk. It poses questions and reveals truths that are far beyond what other television programs have done in the past. If you’re not familiar with the program, or have never seen an episode, you might be wondering what types of “issues” or situations,” I am referring to. These issues include: rape, homosexuality, illegal immigration, racism, and a host of others. They are not “tip-toed” around, rather they are discussed in their plain, shear form; there are no “band-aids” placed over these instances or words.

Of course, “The Fosters,may not be for everyone; this is a truth I’ve come to realize. It is truly a show of “the changing times,” to say the least and plainly put. Some show situations/topics are heavy, emotionally-charged and can be difficult or uncomfortable to watch, or perhaps for some individuals they simply don’t want to have watch what they might have personally experienced. In my opinion, television can often be used as a form of escapism, a chance for people to indulge in lives and experiences dissimilar from theirs, or a chance for them to watch something on-screen which they know is completely unrealistic. If that is the type of television one might be searching for, then naturally, this may not be the television program for them and that’s okay.  In saying this, I felt it was important for me to at least comment on my thoughts on “The Fosters,” in that I often resort to television both for escapism and for my mind to be stimulated, or at least to have generated thoughts within my mind. Looking at “The Fosters,” it is evident that television as we know it is changing. Sometime soon, all I am speaking of may appear fairly commonplace. Perhaps the “traditional family,image we conjure will no longer be so traditional after all. The new traditional may be that which is truly anyone (gender-irrelevant, blood-related, adopted, foster-parented or not).

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For me, personally, I have to applaud executive producer Jennifer Lopez and the team at ABC Family for having the bravery, courage and moxie to air and write a show as intelligent and honest as, “The Fosters.” It is a breath of fresh air and quite honestly, about time someone and something has stepped forward to televise a program such as this.

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QUESTION: Have you ever watched “The Fosters?” What is your personal definition of “family?”