Trial and Error

Newsflash: kids don’t come with an instruction manual.

How many times have we heard this? And despite understanding this, nothing makes that statement more real than having a newborn. I’ve been second mommy to two wonderful girls for the past 6 years. They’re now 10 and almost 17 (gasp), and I’ve been “figuring it out” every step of the way. They have very different personalities, and I’ve been able to learn them and what does and doesn’t work for each over that time. So why does life with Itsy feel so different?

Well, Itsy can’t talk yet. She makes sounds (which are adorable), but there aren’t yet words for her to communicate what she is thinking or feeling. When I met the girls, they were already able to do that. So now, I really do just have to “figure it out.”

Today marks 8 weeks on this mommy journey with Itsy. (Side note, I can’t wait until she turns two months next week and I can stop expressing her age in weeks). Each day, I’ve learned something new about Itsy. For example, she’s a loud sleeper. She grunts and moves in her sleep, and I used to think she was waking up, but no, she’s just a busy, loud sleeper. I’m guessing that will make her a wild sleeper later, but we shall see. She also likes to see everything and can mimic some things I do. I was showing her the sign for milk yesterday, and it seemed like she was imitating me, only she was hitting herself in the chin in the process. It was funny.

But sometimes the figuring it out gets hard. Like when she’s crying and we can’t figure out why. Or how all the books/experts/parents tell you you will learn your child’s cry, and they still sounded the same to me. Are you hungry? Wet? In pain? I dunno, they all sound the same. But then, over the past week or so, they did start to sound different. And now I’m starting to get the needed responses right. It’s all just a matter of trial and error.

Isn’t our life like that? Try things out, and figure if it works for you, or not. That requires going out of your comfort zone, sometimes feeling helpless and lost. But in those moments of discomfort, you find what can become familiarity, and ultimately discover your real purpose, your true path. Hmmm, I hadn’t really thought about it that way before. Maybe there are some “trial and error” things I need to explore in other parts of my life. How about you?


Reflections of Another Year

November 21, 2011

10:15 pm

As I sit here, the last hours of my 33rd year on this Earth are winding down.  2 hours from now will mark the moment that my mother began going into labor with me, and 5 hours and 35 minutes from now will mark the exact time that I was born.  Yes, I know the time, and it will be the exact day, too, Tuesday, November 22, 1977 at 3:50 am, a star was born.  That’s what my birth announcement says, I didn’t make that up!  Alas, I digress.

When I turned 33, I had a moment; an epiphany, if you would.  I thought to myself, “When Jesus was 33, He had fulfilled His purpose on this Earth and was crucified on the cross for our sins.  What in the world am I doing with my life?”  It’s not that I felt I’d wasted 32 years of my life.  In fact, I feel like I am on a continual path to fully understand and discover my purpose.  As part of that journey, I’ve had some hiccups and some moments where I wavered, but I was never too far from the path that God ordained from before I was ever even born.  The thought, though, was more about pushing myself to the next level.  So, I embarked on that journey this year.

Welcome to my world of reflection.  Here’s what I am proud of from this past year:

  • Do What You Say You Will Do.  I started my husband’s annual 120 Day Challenge, and am well on my way to completing it; on time.  The 120 Day Challenge is reading the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in 120 days.  I got behind several times, and am currently behind, but I have a plan to finish on time, and am actually ahead of that plan.  So on November 30th, I’ll be done.  At the beginning of the challenge, I purposed that I would finish on time, and I am doing just that.
  • Be Disciplined.  Okay, this hasn’t been my best year for discipline, but I’ve made my way down a path to doing so.  As you’ll recall from some previous posts, I had to let go of some activities in my life so I could take care of basics.  I had to shift my schedule around so I could work some things out.  And I’ve done that.  I have a regular workout routine (with makeup sessions when I need them), I have a schedule for cleaning the house that I generally stick to.  I feel like I’m finally getting into a groove, even if it did take most of the year to get there.
  • Give of Yourself.  I’m hard.  I’m hard on me, I’m hard on others.  I’m even hard on my kids.  But I am aware of it, so I work on it.  This year, I especially gave more to my youngest daughter, who I am the hardest on.  That has played out in our relationship.  Over the year, I’ve gone from being “Rasheeda” (the step-mommy) to “Momma” (because she’s determined she has two mommies, her mom whom she sees most days and who  loves her dearly, and her “other” mom who loves her dearly as well).  You have to understand that, as a step-parent, having one of your inherited children choose, on their own, to call you Mom or Momma is one of the most precious, giving and rewarding feelings you can ever have.  So, as I’ve given her more of me, just hanging out, having fun, learning about each other, I’ve gotten so much more, though I expected nothing.  And that has been worth it’s weight in gold.
  • Discover Yourself.  I’m always on a journey of self discovery.  This year has been no different.  I’ve had the privilege of participating in a coaching program that has allowed me to learn more about my work self and my personal self.  Through what I’ve learned in that program, I’ve defined more what my goals, plans, and steps to get there are.  It has made me more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and I believe I am truly on the path God has set out for me.  I am walking this life out.
  • Enjoy the Moments.  I’m a planner by nature.  I plan the route I’m going to take when I take errands, working to maximize the number of right turns I make (YES, I do that).  My husband, by contrast, is a “go with the flow” type of guy.  He likes to take things as they happen, which often makes me batty.  But I’ve been learning to go with the flow.  Okay, let’s just chill.  Yes, it’s okay that we don’t have plans.  Let’s just enjoy the company of who’s around us or enjoy the peaceful solitude.  You don’t always have to be going somewhere or doing something.

Thirty-three has been good to me. I am excited about 34, and know it will be even better.  I’m not intimidated that I’m entering the mid-thirties.  After all, you’re only as old as you act and, well, in that case, I’m really 14.  So I thank God for this year, and I thank Him for every moment that I will get to live out my purpose on this earth.  I pray that I used every moment well and, where I missed it, let me not repeat the mistake twice.

Happy Birthday, Rasheeda Niambi!

A Change is Gonna Come

About a year and a half ago, I bought some wall decals for my youngest daughter’s room (Miss Lady).  She was five at the time, and very into the Disney Princesses and Tinkerbell.  So one day, while strolling through Target, I saw both Fairy wall decals and Princess wall decals on sale, and picked them up.  The next time she came over for her weekend with us, I showed her the decals and she selected the fairies to put on the wall.

You have to understand, Miss Lady is a girl’s girl.  She loves pink, princesses, dresses and dolls.  Her room is “Bunny Nose Pink” (gotta love those fancy paint color names), and, while she has it setup with all her toys and photos, it was missing that special touch that told us all it was her room.  Clearly the pink wasn’t enough of a statement for me.  When she saw the wall decals, she was elated and immediately selected the Disney fairy decals.  There were like 50 stickers in this packet (I should’ve read it more carefully), some small, some large.  We literally spent an hour placing each and every sticker, no matter how big or small, around her room.  Admittedly, when it was done, it was just what she needed to complete the look of her room.  She thought it was, “Awesome!”

Now, Miss Lady turned 7 last month (I know, she’s growing up before my very eyes).  I’ve been trying for the past few months to get her to take down the fairy decals and put up the princesses.  But whenever I asked (and I didn’t ask very often), she would say, “No, I’m not ready yet, Momma.  Maybe when I’m 8.”  So I let it go.  The last time I asked was in May after we returned from Disney.  After all that time with the Princesses, I just knew she would be ready for the fairy decals to come down.  But, no, she wanted to wait until she was 8.

Understand, I didn’t ask about the decals because I was tired of looking at them.  That really is her room and her space, so, unless she is there, I don’t spend much time in her room (our girls don’t live with us, for those who are looking confused right now).  But I knew that she had outgrown the fairies and moved on to the next thing, as evidenced in the things she chose to play with and liked to do.  So I wanted to support that in her living environment as well.  Growth is good.  At the same time, you have to know when to use a gentle nudge, and when to step back.  So after I nudged, I stepped back.  And a funny thing happened.

I was coming out of my bedroom on Saturday, and was met at the door by Miss Lady.  “Momma,” she said to me, with that look that told me she wanted something.  “Miss Lady,” was my reply.  “Momma, I want to take down my fairies and put up my princess stickers.”  I smiled to her and said, “But I thought you wanted to wait until you were 8.”  “Yes, but I changed my mind.  I’m ready now.”  I just smiled and said okay, and off we went to her room to work on our new project:  taking down the old stickers and putting up the new ones.

An hour later, all of our work was done (and the paint on the walls remained perfectly in tact . .. those decals are GREAT!).  As I walked out of Miss Lady’s room, I looked back at her.  She was staring at the walls and spinning and laughing, which is what she does when she’s REALLY happy. The next day, I asked Miss Lady about her “new” room, and if she liked it.  Her response?  “I love it, it’s awesome, but I kinda miss my old stickers too.”

I thought about the process of her changing her mind about the stickers.   I gave her a gentle nudge, but didn’t push hard when she felt she wasn’t ready.  And yet, she was ready, which I knew all along, and when she finally realized it, the change was made.   But even after the change was made, she still missed, just a little bit, what she’d left behind.  How often does God, through the Holy Spirit, give us a gentle nudge to make a change or adjustment?  And how often do we push back on it, feeling that we’re not quite ready, even though we know inherently that He knows all and is doing what is best for us.  But eventually, God works on our hearts, and we walk the path we’re supposed to be on.  And even then, we may look back longingly at the past, but we must realize that the past is behind us, and we have to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling (Philippians 3:14).

What lies ahead of you?  Has God been speaking to you about doing something that makes you nervous or apprehensive; feeling that you aren’t quite ready?  Why are you waiting?  Just as parents do with their children, He knows best, and we must trust God and walk the path that He has set before us.  So step out of your comfort zone, there are better things ahead of you.

Train Up a Child


Growing up, whenever my brother or I would get in trouble (usually him), Daddy would sit us down and go over his 3 rules.  I always remembered 2 of the 3; that third rule would elude me every time, which just irritated my dad.  The three rules were simple:

  1. Don’t lie to me.
  2. Don’t play games.
  3. Be responsible

That “Be responsible” rule and I just didn’t like each other.  I couldn’t remember it at all, and never really got the whole thing.  At least, not until I got older.  Now, as an adult, I find myself reciting Daddy’s 3 rules.  Funny thing is, I don’t recite them to my children very often.  I recite them at work.  They’re pretty basic guidelines for any interaction.  “Don’t lie to me.”  It shows a lack of integrity and character, and tells me that you can’t be trusted.  “Don’t play games.” Nobody has time for foolishness.  Be straight with me, and I’ll be straight with you.  In my opinion, playing games puts you on the borderline of lying to me, and puts you in the category of someone I have to watch, because playing games puts you too close to lying.  “Be responsible.”  Do what you say you’re going to do.  If you can’t, acknowledge it, own up to your mistakes.  Man (or woman) up.

I’m sure there were points in my childhood that my dad wondered if I understood the three rules.  I mean, outside of the times in trouble and the subsequent lectures and spankings, I don’t remember hearing the rules all of the time.  And considering I had a hard time remembering “Be responsible,” I wouldn’t blame him for wondering if I was “getting it.”  Yet, here I am, at 33, not only remembering the 3 rules, but reciting them and applying them in my own life.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6.  Whether you are a Christian or not, Bible reader or not, you’ve heard this scripture.  Our job as parents is to teach and train our children.  Sometimes, we question whether they get it.  And yet, you have to trust that they do, either then or later on.  And at some point in the future, be it tomorrow, next week, next month or next decade, they will go right back to the foundation that we give them.  The question is, “WHAT are you training your child?”  Are you training them to be responsible adults contributing to the world around them, or are you training them to be manipulative?  Are you teaching them according to the Word of God, or are you teaching them to rebel against the Word?  What you teach them today will be seen again in the future.  let’s make sure they can return to those teachings and use them to make themselves and those around them better.

My dad taught me the 3 rules, among many other things.  They remind me to walk with integrity, to have good character, and give me a baseline with which to interact with others.  I share them with friends, with co-workers, and even my direct reports, so they understand my basic needs and expectations.  The 3 rules, which I learned 20+ years ago, continue to carry me, and I am thankful for the foundation my Daddy gave me, as it has helped me grow into a woman of integrity and character.  I pray that, as we continue to instill lessons into our girls, my husband and I pay it forward to them.

Clean Your Closet

This past weekend, I cleaned my closet.  Now, I know, that sounds like something uneventful.  Perhaps for some, but not for me.  It took me a total of 8 hours to clean the closet.  I went through every article of clothing, every purse, every item hiding in the closet until I had purged it fully.  I left no stone (or item) unturned in that closet.  And, in the midst of my 8 hour cleaning spree, I had a revelation.

I realized that I had been allowing others to define things for me, without defining them for myself.  Take my closet, for example.  It was full of clothes that were given to me by other people, or things others thought looked cute on me but I had never really been quite sure.  In my closet were items I was holding onto for nostalgia sake, and waaaay too many t-shirts.  I had several “I’m going to fit into these again one day” dresses, suits, etc.  And as I kept working, I wondered where the clothes were that expressed who Rasheeda really is.

Well, 8 hours later, the results were in.  Here were the clothes that represented me

And this is all that I purged, or rather, donated to Goodwill:

Now, this may all seem silly to you, but it was a pretty significant moment for me. I’ve been going through a lot of growth and changes this year, and particularly in the recent months.  I took everything over to Goodwill immediately (well, the next day), because I didn’t want to change my mind on anything.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take some time to figure out what I like, what I really like, and rebuild my closet with those things.

For me, it really was my closet that needed the purging.  But for someone else, it could be anything:  your career, your spiritual life, your love life.  Take some time, hours, days, whatever it takes, to do a very thorough inventory, clean out the things that you need to, and purge them for your life.  The “closet” may seem empty, but that emptiness can be the most fulfilling emotion you’ll ever experience.

Spring Cleaning

I like to think I’m a fairly self-aware person.  My desire is to be aware of my feelings, my surroundings and my life balance.  Over the years, I’ve really gotten the hang of this self-awareness thing.  When I’m out of whack, it usually reflects in my daily life:  eating habits, my house (how clean it is reflects what’s going on inside of me), and my attitude towards others.  When I start getting snippy and lack patience, eating greasy junk food constantly and my house looks like it hasn’t seen a broom or vacuum in a while, it’s time for some re-evaluation.

Re-evaluation for me comes in the form of “spring” (or summer, winter or fall) cleaning.  It’s a very simple assessment for me.  I make a list of the things I think I’m supposed to be focusing my attention on.  I try to be very prayerful about it, and genuinely seek God on the items on the list.  It changes every time I do this exercise, because my focus this year may not be where I need to put my attention next.  I then make a list of everything that I am currently doing that takes my attention.  (It can get long.)  Then the real work begins.  I look at the list of everything I’m doing against the list of priorities, and scratch off anything on the “what I’m doing” list that doesn’t help me reach one of the priorities.

That usually means I have to step down or away from an organization or activity I’m involved in.  And, 9 times out of 10, it’s something that I enjoy, which makes it a very difficult exercise.  The decision to make the change is easy, it’s a matter of scratching things off my list.  But the execution; well, that’s the hard part, because I don’t like to disappoint people and, unfortunately, I still do some things because of others’ expectations of me, and not because of my own or, more importantly, what I believe are God’s expectations for me.

I’m in the middle of spring cleaning.  My list has been made, items have been crossed off, and now it’s time for execution.  Admittedly, I’m a little nervous about the execution.  There are some people who will be disappointed.  But, ultimately, I know it is the right thing to do.  Every time I’ve done this exercise it has opened up doors that would not have been available if I hadn’t been obedient.  So I understand the greater purpose, but it doesn’t make the process any easier.  Just necessary.

I believe we all need to “spring clean” our lives.  Maybe it’s our list of friends and associates (Facebook is a great start), or the activities we are involved with.  Or perhaps it’s simply habits that you have.  Take some time to re-prioritize and take inventory.  You may be surprised with not only what you find, but also what space you create for the next chapter in your life when you do this one simple exercise.

Happy Cleaning!

Up in the Air

Last week, we went on vacation with friends.  We took a great trip to Orlando, Florida, home of the place where dreams come true.  Yep, Walt Disney World!  (SN:  I’m a big kid and TOTALLY geeked out on this trip).  But, that’s not the purpose of today’s blog.

My 6-year-old daughter joined us for the this trip, and it was her first time on a plane.  Now, I have traveled quite a bit, and have a routine down for the airport.  I have a travel wallet (a nice, leather one, not one of those vinyl, zip up wallets) in which I carry every frequent traveler card (yes, I am a member of them all), my trip itinerary, rental car reservation, boarding pass, passport (for photo id), etc.  I keep it in a strategic location in my carry on so that I don’t have to fumble for it.  I also have a specific location for my quart sized bag, which is not a Ziploc bag, but a durable, plastic like one that I bought from Target.  I know exactly where everything is in my carry on, and I even pack my luggage in a very specific way to ensure that I remain under the 50 lb weight limit.  I don’t get in security lines where I see a lot of small children or people who look like they’ve never traveled before.  By the time I get to the line, I know exactly how many containers I need to place my shoes, laptop, purse, quart sized bag and other items that go on the conveyor belt.  I am, by my own standards, a professional traveler.

Well, clearly on this trip, I had to learn to give up my professional traveler status for my daughter.  Now, I had everything organized and packed properly.  I had both my ID and my husband’s ID paired with our boarding passes, and my daughter’s boarding pass ready to go for the TSA agent.  Her carry on bag was her doll baby carrier/backpack that carried her doll, the doll’s change of clothes (3 outfits), a small stuffed animal and her headphones for the tv on the plane (yay for JetBlue).  So I was ready.

Once we got cleanly through security, though, her excitement boiled over.  She couldn’t wait to see the plane, and was very proud of her wings, given to her by the gate agent.  I’d shown her a video of the plane a couple of weeks before, so she knew what to expect.  But as she sat on the plane behind us, with her buddy, Jalen, I smiled as I listened to her excitement about everything.  They were trying to find Nickelodeon on the tv, trying to look out the window, and were amazed at how it was storming on the ground but sunny when we got above the clouds.  They were fascinated to see the moon and the sun and wanted to know when snacks would come.

Their excitement reminded me to, once again, take time to smell the roses.  As a business traveler, it is easy to settle into your routine; to get to your seat as quickly as possible and turn on the tv or, in my case most days, nod off.  You know the polite things to say to the flight attendants, to thank them when you deplane, to stick to your space and not spread into your seatmate’s space.  But how often do we look out of the window in excitement or amazement at the true miracle of being able to fly through the air on a HEAVY plane?  How often do we appreciate that is around us?

I always learn so much from my baby girl, and this time was no different.  When I get on another plane in a few weeks, I will remember to enjoy the experience, and I smile as I remember how much she enjoyed her first plane ride.  In her words, “It was AWE-SOME!!!”