Reflections

New Year’s resolutions you can feel good about

New Year’s resolutions you can feel good about

New Year’s resolutions you can feel good about

The season of the New Year’s resolution is here! During the week between Christmas and the first of January, we tend to make a bunch of promises to ourselves that include everything from losing weight to starting a business to finding true love.

If you ask me, this is the most wonderful time of the year. Everyone is so full of hope. There’s so much optimism. We can accomplish any and everything. We are unstoppable. And, it feels really good!

For so many of us – myself included – the feeling is usually fleeting.

Maybe the weight doesn’t fall off as quickly as you’d hoped. Or starting that new business is more complicated than you’d anticipated. And even Prince Charming is taking his sweet time finding you.

When we don’t get the results we want, in the timeframe we want them, we get discouraged. Once we start to feel discouragement, we become resigned to the idea that it really wasn’t for us, or our timing was off. Finally, hopelessness settles in and we simply give up. Sound familiar?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that we all have choices. We can choose to give up or we can choose to go on. Typically, we tend to get off track when we overcomplicate things. At least, that’s been the case for me. So, I’ve made a choice to simplify my wants.

Year after year, I’ve made a resolution to lose weight. And, year after year, I’ve disappointed myself. I’m not sure why weight loss has been so hard for me. Maybe it’s because the idea of losing weight feels so inflexible to me? It’s almost as if I don’t drop 20 pounds by the end of the year, I’m a complete failure. Forget about the fact that I managed to lose 15. It’s the last five that I didn’t lose that makes me feel inferior; like I didn’t meet my goal and therefore don’t deserve to celebrate what I have accomplished.

I know it sounds crazy, right? But that’s what we ladies tend to do to ourselves. We focus on the negative rather than the positive. We beat ourselves up for no good reason at all. But, this year, I’ve decided that I’m going to do things differently.

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  • This year, I choose to be unapologetic about my likes and dislikes.
  • This year, I choose not to make excuses.
  • This year, I choose not to put myself in a box.
  • This year, I choose to be good to myself.

There’s nothing complicated about any of the choices I’m making and they’re all completely doable. And, the best part is, I’m the only person who gets to decide what each of them means to me. I’ve found that once you simplify things, life becomes better almost instantly.

So what about you? What choices will you be making to become a happier and healthier version of you in 2017? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections from San Francisco

Reflections from San Francisco

Reflections from San Francisco

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been back from my vacation in San Francisco, and I can’t stop thinking about the great time I had. It was unlike any other city I’ve ever visited. I’ve never been any place where I’ve awakened in a valley, was in the forest by noon and on the pier for dinner.

When I tell you there’s something for everyone there, it’s not an exaggeration. I remember thinking that the diversity of the city’s people, its culture and activities, even the climate, was nothing short of astounding.  It is just about impossible to have an average day.

One of my favorite parts of the entire trip was our stop at the de Young Museum at Golden Gate Park. “Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective” was the featured exhibit, with about 130 of his most celebrated ensembles.

I’ll admit that going in, my knowledge of Mr. de la Renta — who passed away in 2014 — was fairly limited. I knew that he was a fashion icon responsible for some of the most infamous looks of our time. And, I knew that he was a go-to fashion designer for actress Sara Jessica Parker, a fashion icon in her own right. Simply put, I knew he was a genius.

But, that’s not all Oscar was. After walking through the amazing exhibit and soaking in all the beauty I could possibly stand, I learned that he was a dedicated philanthropist, a doting father, a savvy businessman and a loyal friend.

The exhibit was so inspiring! So of course, I took lots of photos and I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you. Take a look at some of Oscar de la Renta’s  most famous creations and let me know in the comments if you’re as inspired by them as I was.

Enjoy!

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Perfectly flawed

Perfectly flawed

Perfectly flawed

After taking a few blog photos for me recently, my husband looked at me and said, “Considering where you were a couple years ago, I never would have imagined you’d be doing the things you’re doing now.”

I looked at him and smiled. “That makes two of us.”

Anyone who knows me even marginally well knows that I had major anxiety about having my photo taken. I often found it difficult, when I saw photos of myself, to refrain from emphasizing each and every flaw – whether real or perceived.

Some (not all) people – even those claiming to be friends – can be cruel. And, over the years, I’ve had some pretty rude comments hurled my way. So, self-deprecation became my go-to for subconsciously soothing the sting. Years later, l would come to realize that this behavior was a way for me to protect myself from criticism. I mean, if I were my own harshest critic, then nothing anyone else said could possibly hurt me, right?

It took a while for me get here, but today, I am my own biggest cheerleader (although hubby might take exception to that).  Now, when I see my photos, I still tend to focus on all my flaws. But, instead of being embarrassed or fearful, I’m proud.

My journey on the road to self-love has been a long one, indeed. But now that I’m on it, I can’t wait to see where it leads.

PHOTOS: Stacy Pierce Photography

MAKEUP: Ebony Stephens

STYLING: LaQuinda Brewington

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Time to get organized!

Time to get organized!

Time to get organized!

A cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind.

A former coworker said that to me more than 20 years ago, and it’s something I’ve never forgotten. To this day, I still take extreme pride in keeping my desk neat and tidy. After all, nothing says polished and professional like a clean, organized work space.

For the longest time, I put off applying that same standard at home. I’d managed to convince myself that I was always too busy, too stressed or too tired. And, I paid for it dearly. No less than three times a week (and, my husband can attest to this), I would end up rifling through my closet and my chest drawers desperately hunting for that one item that I could have sworn I just saw last week!

It was a vicious, maddening cycle. Not to mention a huge waste of time. That’s why I was so happy when I recently discovered that January is National Get Organized Month! It’s  just the motivation I needed to get my house in order. Literally.

Once I made the choice to throw away all of my excuses, I got to work. Instead of doing a complete home makeover, I decided to start small, with just a single room. Otherwise, it would have been too overwhelming. And, I wanted to be totally honest with myself. I know personal style far better than I know interior design, so I swallowed my pride and reached out for help.

That’s when I found Kathy Greene, a visual coordinator over at The Balanced Room. She helped transform one of our favorite rooms in the house from blah to ta-dah! Using pieces we already had, Kathy was able to create a space that’s just as inviting as it is organized.

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BEFORE

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AFTER

It’s been a few weeks since the room was completed and as crazy as it might sound, it really has helped bring some order to my chaotic world; removing both the physical and mental clutter I’d been living with for far too long.

In many ways, my eyes have been opened to possibilities that, ironically, were always in front of me, but I never had the vision to truly see. What an awesome feeling that is!

What do you think about the room refresh? Are you as amazed by the change as I am? Tell me what you think in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s my blogoversary!

It’s my blogoversary!

It’s my blogoversary!

I can hardly believe it, but this month marks the one year anniversary of SisterLadyGirl.com! I’m so incredibly thankful to each and every one of you who has read what I’ve written, posted an encouraging comment or simply had something nice to say. Truly, it’s what keeps me going.

Over the course of these past 12 months, I’ve had lots of stops and starts. Some were self-imposed, but many were not. If I’m being honest, I started my blog on a complete whim and my vision for it didn’t extend much further beyond the initial launch.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and I now know that if I had it to do all over again, I would have done a few things (well … a lot of things) much differently.

Where many bloggers mark this very special milestone with a cool giveaway to followers, I’m not one of those bloggers. I believe knowledge is far more valuable than “stuff” so, instead of offering merchandise, I’ve decided to share information in the form of some lessons I’ve learned about how to build a better, more engaging blog.

So pull up a chair as I spill the tea on my short list of things I “should have” done when I launched my blog:

  • I “should have” given more thought to the brand: The purpose of any blog is expression and being able to share your viewpoint. But, everyone has an opinion, so why should people care about what you have to say? This wasn’t a question that I fully considered when I first started, so my content was a little unfocused and believe me, some people were not exactly shy about telling me so. People who read blogs are looking for something. No matter if you’re blogging for fun or you’re hoping to make it a full-time career, if you want to hold their attention for the long haul, you’ve got to give them something they can’t get anywhere else. My vision for SisterLadyGirl became much clearer when I asked myself a few key questions like what was important to me, the objective for the blog, who I thought my ideal reader was, and what they’d be most interested in reading about. Once I did that, the light came on and I realized that I wanted SisterLadyGirl to be a resource for sensible style inspiration aimed at grown, classy and sassy women just like me.
  • I “should have” taken my time: Part of my blurred vision for SisterLadyGirl was as a result of my fondness for reading other blogs. For every one I read, I came away with two to three ideas I wanted to try on my blog. What I didn’t understand at the time was that I had started to compare my beginning to everyone else’s middle. Many of those blogs were much older than mine. They were established brands with loyal followers. They were everything SisterLadyGirl wasn’t. After a while, all that content and all those ideas got really hard to keep up with. There was so much information swirling around in my brain that it got confusing and the content I was posting was a direct reflection of that. It took a while, but SisterLadyGirl finally started coming into its own once I took the time to understand what content was most interesting to my readers. I did this by installing Google Analytics, which gave me the insight I needed to narrow my focus.
  • I “should have” only posted things that inspired me: Just because it’s pretty, cool, irreverent or edgy doesn’t mean it will work well for your blog. The best (and possibly worst) thing about social media is the instant feedback. If people don’t connect with something I’ve written or a photo I’ve posted, the numbers will tell me. Remember those Google Analytics I mentioned earlier? Seeing only a handful of people click on a post and even fewer comment can be sobering. Early on, it made me question why the heck I was even doing this because it didn’t seem that many people were interested in what I had to say. This wasn’t the case at all. SisterLadyGirls are women just like me. And, like me, they want to see content that’s reflective of being confident in their own skin. The moment I started consistently providing the type of content my readers wanted, I saw the blog’s numbers start to grow.
  • I “should have” reached out for advice sooner: Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And, very few people achieve it without help from someone else. When I discovered a few bloggers who I really admired, I decided to reach out and ask questions. More often than not, they were happy to share their knowledge and point me in the direction of resources they thought would be helpful for a fledgling blogger like me.

Now that the first year is under my belt and I’ve learned a few things I didn’t know before, I’m excited about what the future holds for SisterLadyGirl. Going forward, you’ll see a lot more diverse content. But, never fear, I’ll always be committed to providing sensible style inspiration for the grown, classy and sassy woman.

Thanks again for hanging in there with me! Xoxo

3 rules for a successful marriage that should be broken immediately

3 rules for a successful marriage that should be broken immediately

3 rules for a successful marriage that should be broken immediately

When I read other blog posts about the lessons people have learned after being married for some period of time, I’m always struck by two things: The advice being given is more often than not disappointingly similar and it’s coming from someone with fewer than two years of matrimony under their belt.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if I think newly married couples don’t experience their fair share of ups and downs. Of course they do. But, are all these marrieds going through the exact same things at the exact same time? Of course they aren’t.

As the hubby and I prepare to celebrate 21 years of marriage in November, I started to think about all the advice I’d either heard or been given in my first few years of marriage and how glad I am that I didn’t follow a single piece of it.

I believe that all marriages are unique and there’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” solution to the problems that so many people highlight as being common for married couples.  I try very hard never to discount the opinions of people who say marriage is hard, though.  As one of my favorite books, The Secret says, “thoughts are things.”  And, if you believe in something long and hard enough – whether it’s good or bad – eventually, that “something” will manifest itself in your life. Essentially, if you think married life is difficult, the odds are greater that you’ll eventually fall victim to that idea.

There are many very valuable lessons about marriage that I’ve learned over time. But, first I had to stumble and fall over a few commonly-held notions – like the ones below – about how to maintain a successful relationship.

  • Compromise is the key: This isn’t always the case. Especially if it means compromising your principles to make your partner comfortable. If they truly love you, they wouldn’t want you to do that either. There’s a reason why your partner was attracted to you in the first place. Maybe it was your drive, your zest for life, your compassion? Remember the “why”. Then hold onto it as if your marriage depends on it. Because, truthfully, it does. If I could, I would amend this piece of advice to say that “cooperation” or “negotiation” is the key. In all of our relationships, we are responsible for “teaching” people how to deal with us. If you stand for nothing, but lie down for anything, just know that you’re in affect helping your partner learn how to treat you. If that’s not the lesson you want to teach, then some course correction is in order. If you remember nothing else, take this to heart: the way you start your relationship will be the way it ultimately finishes.
  • Never go to bed angry: Hogwash. The phrase, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all,” wasn’t expressed for nothing. Sometimes, talking doesn’t solve it. In fact, when I’m angry, it may even aggravate the situation. Walking away and giving yourself time to calm down isn’t a bad thing. With a new day comes a new perspective. So, if it means going to neutral corners – or in this case – separate rooms for the night, so be it.
  • Marriage is a partnership: There are varying degrees of partnership. There are silent partners, limited partners, and sole partners. I know, I know, this makes marriage sound like a business, right? But think about it. For any business to be successful, the roles of the workers have to be clearly defined. How else will you know that the work being performed is actually yielding results? The same can be said of a marriage. My hubby and I consult about EVERYTHING concerning our household. In that way, we do have a true partnership. But, make no mistake he is the absolute head – or in this scenario, the CEO – of the BrewCrew. He is responsible for making decisions for our family’s overall emotional, financial and spiritual stability. My role is to provide him with the input he needs to make good decisions. Let’s face it, individuals have their own opinions. If you’re performing the exact same role as your mate, I can guarantee that there will be confusion.  I believe this is the reason that the bible refers to the wife as a “helpmate,” which is a role I take very seriously.

Again, everything ain’t for everybody. If certain advice standards don’t work for your relationship, then stop trying to make fetch happen! At the end of the day, it’s about what’s going to make your home a happy one. And, even though it’s good to hear advice from others, you don’t have to follow it. Your path to success is exactly that … YOURS!

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety

As the countdown to my daughter’s departure for college continued at an alarmingly fast rate, there was one question that my family, coworkers and friends all seemed to ask on an almost daily basis: “How are you going to feel when your daughter leaves?”

*Blank stare*

Suddenly, the answer to a seemingly simple question had become very complex. I mean … how the heck should I know? I’ve never had a child leave for college before.

I knew I would feel some level of sadness. What loving parent wouldn’t, right? But, when the inevitable happened a few days ago, I could never have guessed that it would feel quite like this.

Even though I’m a writer, the words to adequately describe my stifling sense of loss is proving to be a bit evasive. So far, all I’ve been able to come up with is: This really sucks!

Don’t get me wrong. I want nothing more for my daughter than for her to have the best, brightest future possible. And, I know that will only happen through a quality education. But, have I mentioned that this sucks?

Time heals all things. In theory, I know this. But the reality is that her absence has left a void.  One that I, her little sister and her father will have to work through. Not only for our sake, but hers as well.

Until the separation starts to suck a little less, I will take comfort in knowing that she’s got a great head on her shoulders and she’s excited about becoming a voice in this world.

God be with you and protect you, my dear, sweet Chelsea-Bear! Mommy loves you to the moon and back! Xoxo

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With little sis Sydney by her side, there’s nothing this girl can’t handle!

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Finally … she’s all moved in! Whew!

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Now, it’s time to eat with the rest of the FAMUly.

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Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women.

 

 

The story of SisterLadyGirl

The story of SisterLadyGirl

The story of SisterLadyGirl

Maybe you’ve had one of those moments? You know what I’m talking about. The instant when you realize that someone you’ve long admired and look up to thinks you’re pretty cool, too?

Mine came recently when my friend, writing mentor and fellow blogger Carol Cassara reached out to ask if she could do a profile about SisterLadyGirl.

Umm, what? Are you kidding? Of course, I said yes!

Admittedly, when I started my blog a few months ago, I didn’t have much of a plan in place. All I knew was that there never seemed to be a shortage of people who had questions about my hair: “How do you make it curl that way?” “What do you put in it?” “Are there specific products you use?” My goal was to offer content that gave them the answers they wanted in an open and (hopefully) helpful way.

Truthfully, I didn’t think many people would keep reading the blog after a couple months. I mean, how much can you say about hair?! But, the exact opposite happened. The questions I received about my hair began to evolve into questions about my personal style. And, I’ve been diving into my closet ever since, mixing and matching and pulling out some of my “oldies but goodies” to create chic, yet affordable styles that look great on anyone.

I’m glad I didn’t allow my initial anxiety to keep me from writing because the blog eventually caught Carol’s eye and she wrote this absolutely AHH-mazing post about how SisterLadyGirl got its start here: http://carolcassara.com/style-blogs/.

Once you’ve had a chance to check me out, I’d encourage you to visit Carol’s incredibly insightful blog, CarolCassara.com. She offers “daily inspiration for creating our best lives.”

Well, it doesn’t get any better than that, does it? That’s why I follow her and hope you will too.

My good fortune doesn’t end here

My good fortune doesn’t end here

My good fortune doesn’t end here

Legend has it that if a ladybug lands on you, good fortune will follow. Now that mine is getting ready to take flight, I can’t help but wonder: What happens to me now?

In a little more than two months, my oldest child will be leaving for college. I am simultaneously excited and anxious. And, even though she’ll always have a place in my home, I’m slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact that her days as a full-time inhabitant between these four walls are quickly coming to a close.

Her father and I have done our best to train her up in the way we want her to go. So, on an inate level, I know she’ll be fine. But during those quiet moments, when I think about a future that doesn’t include having her physically here with me every day, I wonder if I will be.

We’ve never spent more than a single week apart since the day she took her first breath over 18 years ago. When she leaves, it truly will be a different world for us. Will I cry? Will I miss her? Will I pray for her? The answer is a resounding yes, yes and absolutely yes!

More than anything though, I will support her in her future endeavors because I’m her mom and that’s what I do. And, I’ll hold close to my heart all the great memories we’ve made together, like this photo shoot with the fabulous Stacy Pierce of Stacy Pierce Photography.

I thank God for the privilege of helping my little ladybug spread her wings. I feel fortunate indeed.

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My hometown getaway

My hometown getaway

My hometown getaway

Between the sometimes stifling demands of work and home, finding that precious pearl called balance has only been slightly less difficult than capturing a unicorn. This past weekend, though, the hubby and I decided it was time to take a “woo-sah” moment, so we booked a room at the Epicurean Hotel in South Tampa and got busy with our little hometown getaway. I’m not exaggerating at all when I say it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had. This hotel is simply fantastic! With a great location in the heart of one of Tampa’s trendiest neighborhoods, a rooftop bar and an upscale spa, it’s an absolute jewel. And, the best part? It’s only a 20 minute drive from my house, which makes the idea of a repeat visit very easy to consider.

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