Fortyhood: Biopsies and Babies?!?!

Standard

images“Triple Knee”….”Over the top”….”Reverse Turn”. On this particular Saturday morning, I was finding it difficult to keep up mentally AND physically in my favorite class, one that I have been taking for over 16 years. This usually only happens under one condition. No, surely that’s not what it is. I had a wacky cycle last month; 2 in one month, 11 days apart. Surely I was headed towards the big M. That’s what I had decided was the reason for my late cycle.

“If you just listen to the beat”, someone in the class, seeing my confusion, offered, in an attempt to help me. In my bewilderment, I tell a complete stranger, “I think I’m pregnant!” I’m sure it caught her off guard, lol! She tells me maybe it’s just my period about to start, and I struggle through the rest of class.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

I originally started this blog post on 5/26 and today is 9/28. I honestly don’t even have the mental space to make this post the literary masterpiece I wanted it to be, lol! Yes, I was indeed pregnant and 2 days after confirming the pregnancy, my mammogram came back abnormal. Talk about stressed and anxious?!?!? I had a biopsy and thankfully the mass was benign, and unfortunately, the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, my 3rd in a row.

Sharing such personal stories, open you up for so much judgement; “How old is she?”, “Don’t they know what causes that?”, “Don’t they already have FOUR children?!?!?”, but I have decided in spite of what others think, (and yes, I’m totally aware and informed of the ‘risks’ that come with ‘advanced maternal age’) we travel the road less traveled, thus ‘Offdachain and Outtadabox’.

When faced with breast cancer and a baby, you start to realize that some things are totally out of your control. I have decided that there are far worse things than being judged for my lack of birth control, like death!

I was inspired to complete this post after being invited to a couple’s party last night who had never met us,but read the blog. We had a wonderful time, rapping all the old school hip-hop songs, lol! They kept commenting on how much they enjoyed the blog. It has been forever since we posted, and as you will soon see, so much has been going in our lives. I’m never ashamed or embarrassed to share our lows, because I know it’s not our final destination.

I hope that my transparency will help someone to stop allowing the culture to dictate your choices and maybe stop someone from judging someone else’s (I’m a work in progress on this one).

More to come.

ODB

 

Celebrating 1 year in DC!!

Standard

WOW!

It just seemed like yesterday.  However, it was March 2013 and I was boarding an airplane, on my way to Washington, DC and leaving my family behind.  I knew I had a new career ahead but did not even know when I would be able to bring my family to the area that I now alone was going to call HOME.

I’m not ashamed to admit how relieving it was to see the seat next to me on the plane remain empty.  The flight time was used entirely for crying.  Not all in a bad way because the feeling that God had heard me and answered with exactly my request for employment was an awesome feeling.

The next time I will not only pray for a new career opportunity back in Washington, DC but also the financial ability to take my family with me. (sometimes we are in such a rush to eat after we finish praying that we forget such small details)

Again, I want to thank the family willing to not only take me in as a homeless person (new age homeless) and provide me with a car to drive as well.  (I pray that they reap 50 fold) But this was the hardest time of my life.

Today, I am able to report that my first position ended with my department being closed down.  This closing found me as the only person in the department to be kept by the management team.  This closing also allowed me to spend several months learning many new skills that have enhanced my resume and Linkedin profile.  During this time, I was also able to somehow impress upon the government agency and the managerial staff that there existed some abilities to bring employees together for a positive outcome and these landed me an appointment as the lead for a division retreat in addition to the lead of the communications committee for the entire agency retreat….AT THE SAME TIME!

WHEW!

Thanks again God for canceling the smaller retreat….but only after I had done most of the leg work and obtained the experience that only helped to prepare me for the BIG GAME DAY.

While we are currently in the midst of the agency wide retreat and leading over 500 government employees on a COALESCE MISSION that is set to last from March until August of this year and are creating an atmosphere of bonding and relationships that will elevate this agency to heights it has not seen in some time.

Oh, I forgot one small detail.  Exactly 1 month ago today I was promoted into my third position in only this first year.

This last year has been pretty productive and the tears today are because of my gratefulness that I now have my family in DC to enjoy every minute.

But my kids are SO LOUD. (how did my wife do it all by herself?????  Thanks Dear!!!  You get weekends off for the next two years!!

ODC;

Shaun T vs Sagdrina J

Standard

Image

VS

Image

I recently had an argument “heated fellowship” with ODC about how selfish I am when it comes to my workouts. Many of his points were valid, and I really do want to be a great wife, but fitness is MY THING!! I research, I plan, and I execute. I never wake up and ‘wonder’ what I am going to do in the gym on any given day. I only bring up our…discussion, to highlight the fact that fitness is MY THING! So, why after 16+ years of ‘My Thing’ was I feeling like I have been running on a hamster wheel! Enter Insanity!

You know those informercials, the ones for Insanity. I love a challenge and looking at the results of the participants was enough to spark my curiosity to see what it would do for me. I faithfully followed the 60 day program (I did have to do a few make-up workouts during our move from Georgia to DC) and I would say that my results were decent. I didn’t really depend on the scale for feedback (too emotionally connected to the numbers) but I could tell that I did lose some weight and did experience gains in my cardiovascular abilities. There was still something missing. There is no way that I could do Insanity AND teach Spinning but still not have the lean, athletic, physique I was trying to achieve. In all fairness to the effectiveness of Insanity, I did not follow any particular eating plan. I mean, I didn’t eat crazy, but let’s just say that my eating was not as disciplined as my workouts.

I am always looking for my ‘Next Big Workout’ but when Sagdrina J offered a 8 week Fall Fitness Challenge I realized it was time that I refocus some of my energy on where I would get the most impact; how I ate. In a very well designed format, with the help of Sagdrina and her team of experts, I had an individualized plan with the added benefit of a group component. Using a very gradual and manageable design, over the span of 8 weeks, I was able to remove from my diet all beverages except for water, fast foods, processed foods, white stuff, and at one point grains (for a limited time period). More importantly, I added daily green smoothies, kale, beets, squash, cabbage, parsnips (these were very good!) to my repertoire. I do not necessarily enjoy cooking, but the challenge inspired me to try a few new recipes, like butternut squash soup and a cabbage and chirozo soup (even G1 liked it!). The 8 weeks also helped me to uncover some of my emotional attachments to some of my food choices and I made an intentional decision to decrease processed foods for my entire household and focus on whole foods. The challenge also provided specific guidance and support in terms of exercise, I actually added Yoga to my workouts (big accomplishment for a recovering ‘Cardio Snob’.)

I completed the challenge and I consider it as a ‘jump start’ to a lifetime of more conscious, mindful, and healthy eating. Sagdrina referred to the ‘sweet spot’ as the place where you can workout out and eat healthy without being super restrictive and still reach your fitness goals. I am still uncovering my ‘sweet spot’ while using what I learned in the challenge as my foundation and building on it. Sagdrina is a huge advocate for heavy lifting for women, and I have started to challenge myself with heavier weights during my strength training (3-4 days per week). Even as a fitness professional, my experience with Sagdrina J was what delivered the most impact to my approach to fitness. Those calories I burned with Insanity are long gone, but the Sagdrina J methodology is still providing sustainable benefits. My problem area (my tummy) is noticeably more toned and my legs no longer have a layer of cellulite on my hamstrings (YAY!!!).

Now it’s your turn! Start the New Year with a 21 Day Detox at an unbelievably low price! Register today for the Early Bird Special discount! I am a huge fan of Sagdrina and what she brings to the table in terms of nutrition and exercise education. I will be detoxing too, so let’s start 2014 clean, from the inside out. I will be posting each week during the 21 days, so let’s support one another!

Here’s to a Healthy, Happy, and Clean Eating 2014!

ODB

When “Best Man Holiday” Hits Home

Standard

Image

Sixty plus degrees..less than a week from Christmas… in DC? There was something distinctly surreal about that day. As I walked to the church (that fact that we lived so close, struck me as a bit odd) the warmth of the day and the bright sun in December, made each step forward even more unbelievable.

Our friendship was not born out of the fun of college experiences like the blockbuster hit, Best Man Holiday, but through navigating our new lives as young families. I was on maternity leave after having G1 and my esthetician/friend Germaine, told me about Mocha Moms. I attended my first meeting when G1 was 3 months old and 12+ years later, I am still a member and credit my early years with Mocha Moms for giving me my ‘Mommy Roots’. At the anchor of these roots is the Utsey family.

As a young, African American, professional, married woman, I had never been exposed to a group of people of color who were so…different. From discipline, to diet, I learned how to be open minded and explore ideas that were not necessarily the ‘norm’ in our culture. Monica Utsey, the Vice-President of the first chapter I belonged to, and then (and still) President of the second chapter I helped to charter (my first introduction to the term ‘crunchy granola’, lol!) led the way with many of the ‘unconventional’ approaches to family life.  Normal duration breastfeeding, attachment parenting, co-sleeping, alternative/natural remedies, stay-at-home moms, marriage support groups, my on and off again vegetarian eating🙂, homeschooling, natural/non-medicated births, natural hair, the importance of knowing more than Martin Luther King Jr. as it pertains to African history, and self-employment/entrepreneurism, were all values that were either supported by or in some cases introduced by the Utsey family. I would always say that we were a subculture of our community; it is where the concept  of ‘Off Da Chain and Outta Da Box’ was birthed.

When you live ‘against the grain’, it takes a special kind of man to have the confidence to respond to the critics and live life on your family’s terms. “Everyday I’m Hustling”, was the song that reminded the Pastor of Eric, Monica’s husband. Eric was time enough for anyone who wanted to challenge his family’s choices. He did what he had to do to support his family and provided the much needed ‘comic relief’ when he was around. Our marriage group was always live and poppin’ with the Utseys in attendance, lol! We all shared our stories with transparency and a deep desire to make our marriages work, but Monica and Eric always seemed to bring humor, even to the serious stuff.

It had been almost 6 years since Eric experienced a severe stroke. We were living in Georgia at the time and over the years, we stayed connected to the Utsey family and even visited Eric when he was in rehab (he was still able to tell me exactly how to get from NW DC to Potomac, MD lol!). Since returning to Georgia a few months ago, we had the honor of seeing Eric a few times, he had some physical limitations, but we all just knew that the worst was behind him and although it was a seemingly slow process, he was recovering. So it was shocking to me to get a call from a fellow Mocha Mom to tell me about his sudden passing, at the age of 47. Three days prior, Monica and I were planning to get together for a Yoga class and breakfast because I had reached out to her to share some of the challenges I was experiencing in relation to the loss of my mother (see previous post), something I knew she could relate to after recently losing her mom, grandmother, and grandfather, within months of each other. The weather was bad that day, so we decided to reschedule. After getting the call, almost immediately my own challenges took a back seat, and I set out to go see her.

As I sat in the church and remembered the little, rambuctious toddler and watched him basically officiate his father’s funeral with such maturity (he’s now 13) the tears wouldn’t stop (although there were some hilarious stories shared that did make me laugh…a lot, including all the Philly references, something Eric and I had in common.) I glanced around and saw mama after mama, some couples from our marriage group, and of course, the once babies, now big children that I was connected to primarily because of the Utsey family and the importance of them in my life just magnified. It wasn’t under the best circumstances, but it was a reunion none the less. The pastor (who was good friends with Eric) shared during the eulogy that Eric felt deserted after he had the stroke. Some friends didn’t come around anymore. We were reminded of Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times….” and challenged not to allow another friend to go through something without supporting them when they needed it most. ODC has done an awesome job of garnering financial support for the Utseys, and as a major beneficiary of their investment in community, I was compelled to share our connection. Over the past few years Monica has had more than her ‘fair share’ of challenges; the pre-mature delivery of her son Ayinde, Eric’s stroke, Zion’s car accident, the loss of her mother, grandmother and grandfather, and now this. I know that God will give her the strength to move her family forward, but as we approach Christmas Day, thank you to all who gave, and if you haven’t, would you please consider a gift to her as she now faces life as a widow with 2 young sons? Payments can be made via PayPal to motherjegna@msn.com. May Christ be lifted up during this time of year and the gift of hope and peace be given to the Utsey Family and us all.

ODB

Missing Mothers and Matriarchs

Standard

Image

“It’s the most wonderful time…of the year.” Well, not for everyone. I had always heard that the holidays weren’t happy for some people, but I thought that only applied to lonely people, you know the one’s without any family.  I have a wonderful husband, 4 exceptionally precious little girls, a compassionate father, a fun loving sister, a brother and sister-in-love I’m so proud of, adorable nieces, nephews, and a huge network of extended, loving family and friends. I am not lonely by any stretch of the imagination, but I continue to struggle through the holidays since the death of my mother five years ago.

I have the honor and privilege of having nothing but fun loving memories of my mother.  She smiled and laughed…a lot!!!

Sometimes I think that maybe if our relationship wasn’t so great, I wouldn’t hurt so bad, but I know that’s not the case.  I know of people who had relationships with their mothers that weren’t necessarily positive, but the loss they feel still leaves an empty place in their hearts. There has to be an extreme spiritual significance of the person who gives you life.

I lost my mom to breast cancer.  After being in remission for almost 5 years, the cancer returned and she succumbed to the disease 14 months after the reoccurrence. As much as the experience involved so much sadness, I cannot deny the existence of God. I had the opportunity to share my mom’s last 14 months of life with my immediate family as she lived with us in Georgia.  The day that my mother passed away, she was surrounded by all her children, her best friends, and even her ex-husband! (I owe my dad’s wife many thanks for this).

As I cling to my faith as a follower of Christ, I am grateful for His faithfulness and all the private, secret prayers He has answered. I think about the tragic losses of children and parents that have been experienced by some of my friends and I know that their pain and grief is unimaginable. I think of the little girls who were in my daughter’s CLIMB (Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery) group and other children who will not have their mother’s at their high school graduation, wedding, or birth of their children. I had my mom for all these milestones and more, but it still feels like it wasn’t enough. I was 38 when my mom died, and she was 59. It was 2 weeks before my birthday and about 3 weeks before Thanksgiving. I have traveled for some of the Thanksgivings since her passing, I was pregnant one year, had a newborn the next, spent two with my Dad, but this year was extremely bittersweet.

This year my brother and his wife did a fabulous job hosting Thanksgiving! ODC had to work, so the Gs and I split up and rode to Delaware with my dad and my sister. My mom lived there until the second cancer diagnosis after which she came to GA. I lived in DC for about 9 years before moving to Georgia and made several trips across the Bay Bridge to see her. She worked as a CNA and constantly juggled her patients and runs to Target with me. Now that we are back in DC, the reality that she is no longer 90 miles away is sobering and going back to Delaware flooded my mind with melancholy thoughts. The house was filled with love and the laughter of children, but I still found myself fighting back tears during the day and secretly crying myself to sleep Thanksgiving night. My goodness, how can I ever pull it together to host Thanksgiving if even the sight of a can of cranberry sauce makes me tear up🙂

I have so many wonderful memories of the holidays. I incredibly miss my grandparents and my mother, but I don’t want to remain in a place that I can’t make new memories with my family. It starts with my birthday; I fall into a funk and don’t really start feeling better until the winter is over. I don’t want to be a total Scrooge, and I want to be present for my family. As I scroll through my social media feeds and see so many happy people during this time of the year, especially the one’s with people and their mothers, I try to choose happiness, but sadness just keeps winning. I have so much to be thankful for, but my mind keeps falling back to what I’ve lost.

Memories are powerful and finding the joy in the holidays is not easy for everyone. Praying for God’s peace and love to restore my heart and the hearts of those who may be experiencing similar emotions during this time of year.

If you have struggled with grief during the holidays, what specific steps have you taken to manage it?

ODB

The Biggest UNTOLD Story in our ‘Viral’ Skype Family Videos

Standard

community-manager

 

 

 

 

On November 11, 2013 three (3) videos of my family, The Covins, were released for the entire world  and allows everyone all over the planet the ability to have a look into our private lives.

The videos, which can be viewed on Skype TV or YouTube as part of the “Moving Forward” campaign, introduce you to my homeschooling family who has a beautiful, yoga pant wearing wife, helping the entire community mommy, 4 young aspiring actresses, beautiful, doing each others’ hair daughters, who are all led by a social media husband, but turn the cable TV off dad.

The taping took 5 days and the actual footage that was used was a total of 7 minutes long. So of course the videos don’t have time to allow you into all areas of our lives, because the purpose was to show you a very important aspect of our lives during a 5-6 month timeframe that my family was living apart and how Skype helped us to navigate that process.

The distance between my family and myself was over 500 miles.

Sounds crazy and WAS!!

It was the hardest time of my life and yes SKYPE made it totally doable. I am really grateful to SKYPE and the creators for being available, at this time in our lives.

I almost want to cry thinking of the nights that I experienced anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. I felt like I was having a heart attack, but found it was due to the separation.

And God worked it out through a mentor of mine named James Andrews.

James is the Digital Evangelist and Partner at StudioGood and called me to tell me about the Skype casting for a family in transition and I thank him for making that call and Joyce from my church for calling to tell me while I was on a Skype call with Dan Bell Casting already. (That is how you know it was really your family they were looking for or God really stepped in and said it was time)

But the Biggest UNTOLD Story is where and how I was able to live during this time of separation.

When I really think about it, I was homeless.

But God showed me favor in the form of a family that allowed me to stay in the basement of their nice town home in Woodbridge, Virginia.  THIS is the AMAZING part of the story.  The family was not unfamiliar to me but were not blood relatives or anything.  The family consisted of a husband, wife and 2 children (boy and girl both under the age of 10).

The husband and I were roommates before I was married and God spoke to him and his wonderful wife about them allowing a man to invade their privacy for 5-6 months and be around their children.

WHO DOES THAT?

During this time where we needed community to step up, to experience it actually happening is mind-blowing.

I was able to give them the ability to have a regularly scheduled “Thursday Date Night” where the wife was able to discover the husband had a passion for playing pool that she had never known about.

During this time, I also had an amazing weekend where the couple was able to travel out of town, without the children, and I was able to run the children around to activities like bowling and swimming.  This weekend running totally reminded me of time with my girls.

The question I have is….

WHO DOES THIS?

Who actually trusts God enough to follow His word and do something for ‘the least of these’ in these times of…

IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.

I am so grateful.

There are 3 videos and the first one currently has just under 600k views in only 4 days and don’t worry I’m not famous because 400k of those views came from me.

And I cry then entire time.

I cry because I know the UNTOLD story. I know that if that family doesn’t bless mine by allowing me a place to stay and the ability to use a 3rd car….

WE NEVER MEET ON THE VIDEO.

So THANK YOU!

Thank you to the wife for being flexible!

Thank you to their son for talking to me when you didn’t always want to because you are not a talker and I am and sometimes I just need some boy energy! (And thanks for finally getting me to Saturday morning Flag Football)

Thanks to their hug-a-thon sweety, daughter for hugging me so tight that with Skype I thought I was at home hugging my own daughters.  (I have not forgotten you.  Once we get our truck situation straight you will be my 5th daughter)

And thanks to God for speaking to the husband and asking his family to be open to helping mine.

We are forever grateful, because without your family, mine doesn’t grow and elevate during this time.

We LOVE you guys and are forever grateful.

ODC

p.s. Let us know when you want a ‘Thursday Date Night’ or a weekend off…WE GOT YOU!