Alright, I think most of us have come to accept Prime Day as a thing even if we tried very hard to not indulge in any additional spending (speaking for myself!). As a new homeowner though, I must say that having some inexpensive and nice choices for home furniture has come very much in handy. Below I’ve shared my picks for some of the best items I’ve found for home, office, and general home needs.
An L Shaped Deskfor those of us who have succumbed to the work from home life
For any camera aficionados out there I have two great products. First, a handy camera bagthat has been perfect for my EOS m50 and a really nice tripod that can attach to a camera and has a stand for your phone as well. Also comes with it’s own carry bag so it’s easy to take anywhere.
Finally, for those of you lucky enough to get to stay home and work forever, or who would just like a second computer monitor for the days you’ve got a lot of extracurricular work to do, I highly recommend this one from Acer. The price point is great and the screen quality is fantastic.
A full sized mirror and Jewelry cabinet. Let me tell you, anyone that sees my room IMMEDIATELY loves this
thing (they also have a coupon for $25 off)
A Zinus low profile bed frame. Because let me tell you, if your mattress is sinking in the middle and you think it’s completely the mattress’ fault, chances are your bed frame isn’t doing you anyyy help. This thing is not only easy to put together, it’s incredibly sturdy and LIGHT. I loved it so much for my Mom’s room that I got a second higher profile one for my bed.
This one isn’t exactly furniture, but if you have an older home with an upstairs attic accessible through a pull down stairway, you’re going to need this. In my home, there’s a nice little gap all around the staircase where I’d feel either the warm (in the summer) or cold air (in the winter) slowly creeping in from the attic and I was not about to have it with the high energy bill. This insulation cover is super easy to setup and comes with the tools you’ll need to install it. It’s helped tremendously with stopping any unwanted convection from my attic.
The best vacuum storage bagsfor those of us that don’t have a ton of closet space and need to consolidate our seasonal pieces.
This one might seem random but it’s not. My mom and I’s worst fear is something happening to our home and needing to scramble to find our important documents. To solve that, I bought us a fireproof, water resistant, and portable organizer case that quite frankly, is the bomb.
Is your mother/significant other/roomie, a collector of cleaning utensils? Because, I can relate and I have tripped over a random broom or mop more times than I care to remember. Thiswall holderthing is easily my favorite item in my entire garage. Just get it.
Enjoy the spending shenanigans and while you’re at it, might as well knock out some Christmas presents early so you don’t have to spend all your money in December. Pro tips from the queen of being cheap 🙂
And so approaches the end of another decade of my life, my twenties. I wish I could go back in time and tell teenage me not to assume I’d have everything figured out by 25. I’d tell her that despite any setbacks, I’d reach my 30th year of life in a place I didn’t think was accessible to me, a little brown girl from Sharpstown, years ago.
This decade showed me so much and humbled me in ways I can’t quite put into words, but it also showed me my strength and resilience in tough situations. I wanted to share some of the biggest lessons I learned in case there’s another little brown girl somewhere (or just anyone) that’s about to turn 20 and is looking ahead with unease and uncertainty. I don’t sugar coat things so fair warning, it will be hard. Ultimately though, you’ll blossom into a beautiful thirty year old and realize it was all for the best.
Timelines are Crap.
I said what I said. I have caused myself so much grief over the years by trying to meet imaginary timelines for everything. Graduate by this date, be married by such and such, buy a house before X date. Save up this much money by then, have my Mom set up the way I’d like by Y. Life literally said nope, nope, nope, and nope. And you know what? It’s fine. Actually, it’s better than fine.
I’m currently happier than I had ever been in my younger years and I wouldn’t trade the position I’m in or the experiences I’ve had for the world. Now, I am not saying that you shouldn’t have goals or should just let life happen to you – don’t do that.
Just know that taking more time to achieve your goals is never a bad thing. If there are stumbles on any of the courses your navigating, say graduating takes you a bit longer than you thought, there is likely a very good reason for it. You just can’t, and likely won’t, understand it until your way on the other side of the mountain.
Be strategic without stressing yourself over arbitrary timelines set by society. Our lives don’t begin and end in our twenties. You shouldn’t sacrifice doing things that are true to you or rush anything you know is in your best interest. If you want to take that extra year to graduate or are going to tough out that job because your gaining knowledge, go ahead. The world will not end because you missed your 17-year-old lofty idea that you’d be making six figures by 25.
You’ll Continue Learning How to Build, Navigate, and Fail at Relationships.
Excuse my French, but – this shit got me. My twenties gave way to my first cute teenybopper love and then a couple of years later to my first “grown-up” relationship. I learned how to navigate the ever-changing and often stressful dynamics with friends and family. Let me just tell y’all now – I failed miserably, time and time again. The real ones are still around despite my blunders, and the same will likely happen with you.
For the girls reading this – let’s talk boys real quick and get it out of the way. LADIES, quit it with the all men are trash nonsense. Some suck, yes, but so can we. Your twenties will hopefully be the foundation for you learning how to be self-aware and conscious of the person you are and how your behaviors are relayed to others. I realized I mimicked my mother’s incredibly strong-willed “it’s my way or the highway” way of managing relationships. After a few years of vicious brawls, struggling with depression, and some enlightening therapy sessions, I finally realized that maaayyybbbeee – the same behavior I found intolerable at home would also be unacceptable to someone else. Note: if you constantly find yourself blaming others (especially in relationships) for the same repeated situations/behaviors, just know it’s a great time to take a second and step back. There’s a common denominator in all of that in need of a little lecture (*ehh hem* – you. FYI – this El/La Toxica sh*t is not cool).
What I will give you a heads up on, is to go ahead and brace yourself to learn these lessons the hard way. I had a very whimsical idea of what growing up would be like in my teens but I can undoubtedly say now, that for every lesson worth learning, I had to be dragged through it. However, these same tribulations will teach you what is most important for your mental and emotional well being. You’ll learn your boundaries and when to be firm versus accommodating, how to be self-accountable. And throughout this course of self discovery I’d also advise you not be so fast at canceling everyone and everything. Most everyone around you are experiencing the same naivety. Give them, and yourself, sufficient grace and empathy.
You Don’t Owe Anyone Sh*t.
Respectfully. This goes for relationships, your career, hell, the neighbors I don’t know. If you feel stressed by them – THAT’S WHO I’M REFERRING TO. If someone/something is constantly robbing you of your joy, your energy, your ability to function correctly – then it’s time to cut that out. Yes, I know I just said give people grace, but don’t do it to the point where you’re over-extending yourself to the max. Everything has a balance and learning when to say no is critical for your self-development. Some of us learn this skill early on, think Naomi Osaka. At 23, she pulled out of the French Open after them throwing a fit because she didn’t want to do a press conference (heavy on the ‘miss me with it’ energy). I’ve only recently learned to have the gumption to put myself first so watching her confidence and strength as she stood her ground has been truly inspiring.
You saying no to some plans you really didn’t want to show up to, or to additional responsibilities way out of your scope won’t, and shouldn’t, be the end of the world. If they are, then it’s time to reevaluate your circumstances.
Do Things That Force You Out of Your Comfort Zone.
Being a certified non-risk taker, I have mastered the craft of staying in my comfort zone. I can think of many ways that hindered me, and if I had to tell myself or you anything – it’d be just that. Don’t be so afraid of the world; book that solo trip, try out that new activity. If you can think of at least a handful of ways that the experience will enrich your life and create memories you’ll look back on fondly, then go for it.
I Still Don’t Know What I’m Doing.
Surprise surprise. This was the most painful lesson of all. I wanted to be the all-knowing Oz by the time I hit 30. I wanted to have answers to everything. I was going to coast through the rest of my life. But whoomp whoomp, if I had everything figured out already, then what the heck would I be doing after 30? It took getting into my late twenties to realize that that would be, for one, painfully boring, and two, what kind of badass would I be if I just stopped growing in my twenties? Oh, that’s right, I wouldn’t be one.
I now don’t mind what’s left to come. I welcome the adventure, the new experiences, the stories I have yet to tell.
Most importantly, I’m thankful for the people that are with me now. The friends that have stuck around through my extraordinary and most disagreeable times. I’m grateful for the wisdom that comes from age and from spending time understanding the generational behaviors passed on within my family. And I’m thankful for surviving the moments that I thought would mentally break me. To the two best friends God gave me – I owe y’all more than you’ll ever know.
I don’t care what you’re going through – DO NOT – I REPEAT – DO NOT CUT YOUR BANGS. Why is this such a thing? I don’t know, but seriously, put the scissors DOWN. And don’t box dye your hair black either. What was I thinking? Lord.
Today’s market for home buying is INSANE! It seems like everyone is really up for taking on this challenge with continuing record low rates. This makes me so happy because it’s giving so many of us in communities of color an opportunity at home ownership! Especially for those buying our families’ first homes, it is something to be incredibly proud of yourself for. I don’t know about most of you, but going on this venture was hands down one of the most stressful, intimidating, and daunting experiences I had ever embarked on.
For those of you in the same boat, I’d like to share some tips on what you’ll want to have prepared and be on the lookout for to be as well prepared as possible for what’s to come. I am starting after your pre-approval just heads up, so if you haven’t yet, find a lender and make sure you know what your budget is before going on a search that may not end up so well.
Find a home inspector, and if you are buying an older home (anything before 2000), a GREAT plumber. Before you rush to Google the ones with top reviews (a good start), let me share a bit on my mistakes. While yes, Google helps, you also want to take the time to ask these vendors some filtering questions so you can be sure that they are a good fit for YOU. Do you have an engineering/construction etc. background and don’t need to have your handheld through the inspection OR are you clueless when it comes to homes and repairs? Will having someone with the patience to explain the issues found in the house be beneficial for you? Before choosing a vendor, ask how they feel about your current situation and the time you think you may need. Once you have those details, then make a decision.
For those searching for an older home, do not, under any circumstances, skip the plumbing inspection. There is plenty of information out there that makes these tests seem too invasive, putting current homeowners on edge. They fear that this may cause damage to their drainage system, but that is simply not the case. A hydrostatic test means merely that the plumbing system will be stopped up, filled with water, and the plumber will wait to see where, if anywhere, the water pressure starts to drop. That will signal to them that there is a leak somewhere in the water lines of the home. Older homes in Houston have galvanized pipes for their water and sewer lines. Knowing if there are any leaks and getting these repaired before closing will save you TONS of headaches and expenses later on.
2. Find your top 3 preferred home insurance companies. I say top 3 because things like overall service, responsiveness during issues, and reputation can all be gauged with or without having a home you’ve submitted an offer on. Once you find the home of your dreams, you can then submit the details to all 3 and pick your best option based off of your budget. Do not make this decision based solely on price. Having a great insurance provider when repairs are needed will be extremely valuable down the line.
3. Have an emergency budget. I think $1000 set aside is reasonable and hopefully, you don’t need it at all. But for those of us purchasing an older home, you can almost be sure that there will be some repairs that you’ll want to do prior to closing on the house. There could also be unexpected emergencies (I closed on my home and 3 weeks later the Winter Storm of 2021 hit Houston) and so on. Having a safety net set aside expressly for home repairs will be a much welcome source of relief.
4. Get your current home as organized as you can. In retrospect, I should’ve left my “do everything myself” mentality aside on this one. I could’ve saved so much time and energy if I had just hired some help. Offering everything from Office, Home, and Apartment moving, as well as Packing and Unpacking Services – the professionals at Gameday Moving Services Houston are the perfect solution to one of the biggest home-buying headaches, and I wish I had known about these long-distance movers in Houston, Texas sooner!
Inspect the home yourself. You’d be surprised, but the best person to inspect every nook and cranny of the house is you! Go real old school and grab a pen and paper, make sure your phone is charged, and check every little thing in the home. Turn on faucets on both cold and hot water. Take as much of a ‘walk’ as possible through the attic and check your AC. What kind of freon does it need? Make sure it’s the kind that’s still avaliable (yeepp lol that’s a thing). Check the insulation; is it super worn out and will you likely want to get another layer added or is it at the point of no return and you’ll want to clean it all out and start fresh? See if there are signs of water damage under the water lines running through the attic and inside of any kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Check the corners of your home and all walls; see any funny cracks anywhere? Same with the brick on the outside of the house. Open and close all your windows and doors and make sure these move with ease.
You can never be too prepared to buy your first home. Hopefully, these tips help any of you that are on this journey so you feel even more prepared to cross the finish line of closing on your property! And no matter what, remember that although stressful, this is a blessing! What an incredible time for yourself and your family! Enjoy the process as much as possible and rest assured that things will turn out great in the end.
I went to heaven on earth and didn’t want to come home. I feel like that’s basically the whole post?
Now first things first, I am not condoning mass travel during COVID. Up until this trip I had not left my home for much of anything (March to November) and did a lot of inquiring with folks that had traveled to see what their experience was. We also chose a not-peak travel week to avoid all the holiday crowds etc. All this to say, if you are going to travel, at this point just go ahead and wait until after the holidays, COVID TEST COVID TEST COVID TEST and stay home until it’s time to leave.
Now, let us start with what we did. There are plenty different islands in TCI (I am now, in my mind, a native, so I will refer to all these by their local lingo LOL).
We stayed in Providenciales since this is where the airport is and Grace Bay, the area with all the resorts/touristy things/restaurants looked like our best bet for things to do. Provo (again, I am now an island gyal) has an array of different beaches but every. single. one. of them has the most strikingly light blue waters that you have ever since in your L I F E. I will fight anyone that tries to tell me otherwise because this place is pure magic – especially if you’re a fellow ocean lover.
Here are my main recommendations:
For a place to stay, Pina and Simon’s property is beautiful and super accessible to the rest of the island.https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/12636600?source_impression_id=p3_1607027857_aVcb73z3dcfJ5e2v&guests=1&adults=1 Everything is max a 25 minute drive, the property itself is amazing and has everything you need for a long stay. My preference is always an Air BnB over any sort of resort, especially in a year like this, but the resorts all looked gorgeous so you can’t go wrong with those either. My only suggestion is you stay in or as near as possible to the Grace Bay area as you can.
The birthday girl wanted to go on a clear kayak tour, and I am so glad she did because – what a blast! I booked this excursion through My Time Tours (https://www.mytimetours.com/) and they were great from start to finish. We met at Blue Haven Marina and the tour guide will take you across the canal to kayak through the large mangrove that is TCI’s pride and joy. Trust me, the clear kayak makes a big difference when you’re able to see the turtles and fish swimming around underneath you while surrounded by all of nature’s gifts to this little corner of the world.
If you do nothing else, take a boat tour. And book it with https://islandvibestours.com/. Period. First and foremost – let me tell you. WHAT A TURNUP! Just thinking about it makes me want to be back on vacation *cries*. But, we booked the half day tour which includes about a 45ish minute stop to snorkel around one of the reefs, another hourish long stop at Iguana Island (this may have been THE prettiest beach we saw) and then a chill ride back to your resort/pick up spot while you sip rum punch and munch on your lunch. See what I did there? But truly, great experience and for the price, I could not have been happier.
Places to eat (in no particular order): Omar’s! I had the Curried Lobster and oh my Jesus. I dreamt about it the entire rest of the trip. Sweet Tea’s – cheap (considering food on the island is very much not cheap) and yummy chicken. Cocovan – I got the beef tacos and whewww – bomb. The ocean front bar at the Seven Stars is a great place to hang out and have drinks, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the food but the view is 100% worth it. And The Terrace in Grace Bay also has incredible food and a great vibe in the evenings if you’re looking for a place that is going to jam music while you eat. Finally, one of the few places that had anything going on (we went while there was still a curfew), Danny Buoy’s, has pretty decent food, nothing I’d write home about BUT they have a fun karaoke night so again, great place for drinks.
Visit the shipwreck and take a jump! Major adrenaline rush for those of you who are into that kind of thing. I am not but I felt like Casper’s cousin was walking behind me as I made my way through the ship so I jumped because I wasn’t about to walk back down LOL.
And of course there are plenty of water sports you can do. We went tubing since our friends offered to take us but there are plenty beaches with jet ski rentals, paddle boarding, kite surfing, etc. So just do all the things if you have enough time 😊
100% get a rental car. There’s no public transportation on the island and if you’re staying at an Air BnB, none of the tours and such will come pick you up. We used Grace Bay Rentals since they were the cheapest at the time. Also, enjoy learning how to drive on the left side to my fellow American’s. That was definitely an experience and I clicked my windshield wiper instead of my turn signal for a week after coming back home. Like I said, I basically belong there or whatever.
A few Highlights
Turks and Caicos, like much of the Caribbean, was firstly inhabited by the Taino and Lucayan natives. The most interesting detail about this chain of islands is how its “independence” has been sort of, not a thing? Britain retained the island officially in 1776 as part of the Treaty of Versailles, following a couple quick stints of Spanish and French rule. Britain grouped the TC islands as part of the Bahamas, and they were considered such all the way through the late 1800’s. Fast forward to today, and Turks and Caicos remains a British Crown Colony and has grown into the popular beach destination we all know. One thing that fascinated me was getting to learn how many of their woes with immigration and the systems built around this are so much like what we see in the U.S. Given that the islands have seen an increase in commerce due to tourism, they have become a haven by those living in the surrounding areas with not as much economic growth. Crazy how, no matter where we are in the world, we still see the repeating problem of mass migration and how, once you throw the continual problem of climate change, a rapidly changing global economic landscape, and now COVID into the mix – and you’ve got yourself a hell of a headache as you simmer how we take care of these coastal regions and their populations moving forward.
All this to say, my bestie is now 30. For further context, this is the same girl that has been my best friend since we were 8 years old. Fast forward over 20 years and here we are, still riding around the world sharing life’s most memorable moments together. I found myself reminiscing on what we’ve both accomplished and grown through so far and the most notable thought for me always came down to the fact that, had Crystal not been there for me through my highs and lows, I’d be in a much different place today. I hope you feel the same way boo! She’s the friend that pushes me to do risky stuff. The friend that pushes me period. The friend who loves me despite my grumpy, I haven’t eaten and want to kill someone or haven’t had enough sleep and still want to kill someone, times. The friend who’ll just pop up after our little tiffs and move on like nothing. All things which I will always love her for and why I will always be right by her side even if it means venturing out into a crowded airport mid-COVID (I was panicking internally lol). To Karime, Yesi, and our newest friends, Waldy and Richard – thank you all so much for making this trip everything it was. This week away after a particularly testy and trying year was everything my heart needed. You guys are the best and I am lowkey already scoping out flights for round 2 because – I didn’t want to come home. 😀
I’ll end with this – life is fleeting and especially in a year like 2020, we have seen firsthand how fragile, short, and delicate it all is. If you’ve been waiting to do something, plan it out and execute. Be mindful of who is in your immediate circle because your tribe = your entire vibe. Most importantly, do the work now to learn what it is going to take from you to not only put yourself first, but to understand what your priorities are and why.
The past few weeks as I’ve been going thru well, life, I’ve had some opportunities to talk to some of my fellow first gen’s about some difficulties I’ve been having. All a mix of growing pains and self-inflicted pressure. I realized that we were all going through some version of these same situations silently and so I thought I’d write about them. Maybe this is helpful to one of you reading this and you’ll find comfort in knowing you aren’t the only one feeling what you’re feeling.
Okay. First things first. Who here is the child of immigrant parents and has felt this immeasurable sense of needing to be the best thing since sliced bread? That, or face mass judgement by the best of your family members and eternal sneak disses by that one auntie.
I’m currently imagining a mass of hands going up (praying a lot of people read this post to amount to a mass of hands to begin with LOL) and heads nodding feverishly like “Yassss girl I FEEL that!”
To make things worse, you feel like you’re disrespecting the hardship your parents might’ve gone through to get to the U.S. because of your “failures” and you’ve got yourself quite the predicament.
For some of you, I know this fuels your fire like nothing else and you head out into the world and become the Cesar Milan’s/Uzo Aduba’s/Michelle Kwan’s that we celebrate. The awareness of the opportunities you’ve been given and the example of such hard-working, relentless families surrounding you propel you forward to accomplish the greatest of heights. Hats off to you my friends, because you’re pushing the boundaries of what can be accomplished no matter the circumstances every single day.
But that isn’t all of us, and it’s not me. Personally, I have always had a hard time with this pressure. It’s often been debilitating, difficult, and overwhelming to try to navigate life as a young adult while also trying to live up to my mom and dads’ expectations of what I should be. Heidi you should do this, Heidi you’ve got so much opportunity just go that way. The subtle hints of “we came here with nothing and have given you everything we can, so make something of it,” suck. As you grow up with the usual stresses of school, trying to figure out the kind of person you’re going to become, and maturing, you also consider the high expectations you have to live up to. And I know a lot of you will read this and think, okay well boohoo that’s every child, right?
I beg to differ.
For those of you non first-gen folks, you have a pretty big advantage. Your families are more ingrained with American culture and you taking your time to figure out what path your life will take doesn’t feel like a make or break decision. You’ve hopefully got a little more wiggle room and freedom to enjoy and explore life while you consider what it is will be your choice to go full steam ahead with your future. A lot of first generation kids don’t have that. Many become the sole revenue streams for their families early on, and any change in their paths comes with a lot of consideration as to how it affects one or more individuals they are responsible for.
Some of you might have dreams of being something totally different than what your family has molded for you. You may not have any dreams at all and are trying to figure out your passions. Asking for patience and respect and kindness in these incredibly personal times can be awkward and risky. Our loved ones unrelenting desire to see us succeed often manifests itself as them constantly pushing us to be our “best.” The consideration of whether we are genuinely happy often gets lost in the chaos.
I don’t know about most of you, but just the thought of having a relationship and telling my parents makes me cringe. Sorry but if you aren’t a doctor/genius/part time attorney/pioneering politician/and weekend astronaunt – good luck. Okay, I’m exaggerating but I know for many of us first gen’s, bringing home someone “worthy enough” is a MAJOR deal.
I remember growing up I’d watch all these shows where the kids bring their dates home and it’s no big deal, everyone giggles and welcomes whoever in like it’s just another day. HA! Cute.
Not our case. I’ve literally made a rule for myself that unless I think or see potential of myself marrying the individual, no one’s coming home. Why you might ask, is this such a big deal?
In my case, my mom like so many others, did not have the best of relationships. Abusive, controlling, toxic, relationships are incredibly common in a lot of our cultures and our parents (I’m looking at you my beautiful immigrant Momma’s) go into the world with a paralyzing fear that we might end up in the same situation as them. Therefore, they do everything in their power to make sure that doesn’t happen. For others, marriage could be considered a golden opportunity for you to move up in the world. And for some of you it may even be both!
Regardless, dating is no easy feat and often our choices and caution are misunderstood by others who haven’t had an experience quite like ours.
The quotation marks are on purpose.
You can do whatever you’d like with your life, absolutely. But for a lot of us, that means keeping in mind the ten other items that go along with making sure that as you age, so is your family. You’ve got to plan your retirement aspirations as well as your parents, your grandparents’, maybe even aunts and uncles. Immigrant families are close knit groups and the love and lifestyle that you enjoy because of the proximity is amazing. It also however, lends itself to carrying a lot of responsibility for us first gen-er’s. Our decision making is intricate and multi-faceted because so much of what we choose to do and act upon can greatly influence the lives of those closest to us. A lot of us end up maturing developing empathetic sensibilities quickly because we understand from young ages that our choices affect those closest to us.
So, what now?
So, my fellow first generationer’s, now what? What do we do with all these chips being seemingly stacked on our plate from jump, while we try to also balance having our own freedom’s and experiences? The biggest crutch for me are my friends. Expand your outlook. Get to know others and learn what they grew up like. Explore the cultures of those around you and you’ll quickly find similarities, especially if you happen to be the children of immigrant parents. I almost never have the answers, but after lengthy consultations with the girls who I know understand me the most, I often walk away with more clarity and peace than I would’ve ever had trying to figure things out on my own.
In addition to forming those fundamental bonds, learn to understand and empathize with yourself. The pressure of so many responsibilities is heavy and can overwhelm even those with the strongest of mindsets.
Give yourself space and find something that allows you to spend some time being truly selfish. Go to an arcade, spend an afternoon at a beach or lake. Find your equilibrium and allow yourself to remember that this is YOUR life to live no matter what. We’ll always yearn to do the best for those around us but, disregarding yourself and your mental well being is the quickest way to fail everyone, not just yourself.
Try not to let the fear of making mistakes paralyze you. You’re going to let people down every now and then. It’s a natural process in life. Don’t avoid things because you’re scared of what your loved ones will say or do. If they dislike it, oh well. If they gossip about it, oh well. It’s your life to live and they’ll get over it, eventually.
And finally, don’t be so hard on them. Whether it’s your parents, grandparents, extended family, whomever. They all have varying reasons for having come to this country and most of the time those aren’t positive. They’ve often lived through hardships that we can’t even fathom and through the years have done their best to raise the children they’ve brought into this world. They’ve often spent the bulk of their lifetimes in countries with much different views on parenting and relationships and it will take them years of continual growth to understand that your expectations are going to be different that what they expected from their families.
They won’t ever be perfect and more than likely the sheltering and protectiveness is a result of them wanting to protect you from the evils they’ve seen can occur in the world we live in.
Embrace who you are and where you come from. As first generationer’s we get to add to the kaleidoscope of cultures that make this nation so great and your story is valuable. Hold your head up high, quirky family and all. Trust me, there’s plenty of people that understand exactly what you’re going through.
And to @bosefina, preach girl. That tweet spoke to me for sure.
June 2017. Houston Pride Parade. I’ll never forget that night. I had gone out to enjoy the festivities with a group of my closest friends and had a blast. Dancing, screaming at the awesome parade cars, drinking (a little more than my usual although I didn’t notice it at first), and spending time with my girls. It was all great.
By the time 1 AM rolled around, I found myself sprawled on the bathroom floor weeping incessantly and being cradled by my friend Mearaph like a baby. Was I a little too inebriated? Sure. Was there so much more than what at a surface level looked like a bad night of drinking? Absolutely. Had I been purposely drinking to drown out the demons in my mind? No doubt.
I had never totally acknowledged the lingering feeling I had of hitting rock bottom until that night. The weight of everything that held me down finally threw me off balance strongly enough to get me to stumble. My roller coaster relationship with my mom, my own insecurities about myself and the progression of my career, my spiraling relationship; all of it lodged itself in my throat as the biggest knot that after a few drinks of whiskey and months of self denial was completely unraveled.
That night I quietly accepted what I had been trying so hard to block out and what would become my invisible carry-on luggage for the next 8 months: I was extremely depressed.
On the outside, everything seemed so picture perfect. I had a good job, a boyfriend, amazing girlfriends. I was always the happy one, care-free, unapologetically myself and proud of it. A deeper look on the inside showed an entirely different person. I was afraid of everything, I was self-conscious and self-critical of myself in ways you couldn’t imagine, I felt lonely and misunderstood, I was consistently angry.
Getting up every day? Forget it. For months it was a mashup between waking up and still feeling exhausted (after 10+ hours of sleep), crying like, as soon as I woke up, or just laying there for another 30 minutes not moving and hating my life. Social events? I was probably mad I had to go or crying about feeling ugly right before showing up with a dazzling smile. Arguments with friends/family? Forget it. I was a combination of Cardi B/Eminem when they’re angry on steroids.
It took everything in my power to survive, and a lot of internal conflict to keep me from doing anything drastic. I also realized that cycle had become almost normal in my life.
I can trace back to middle school the up and down trends of my emotions and the battles with becoming overwhelmed with life as it is, and losing control of my mental stability. As the year rolled forward, my behavior worsened. I lost friends, my relationship ended, and I lost myself.
Although on the outside I was thriving and seeming to live a happy and exciting life, by the time the holidays rolled around I felt useless.
So what did I do? We always hear about the really big things folks tackle to manage their mental illness, but for my personal experience, it was the following tiny, daily changes that made the biggest impact.
1)I reached out!
This one is huge, but if you’re dealing with depression TELL YOUR CIRCLE (s/o to my best friends). If you’re scared, then find your one person and let them help you. If you don’t think you have that someone, call one of the many free resources out there! Betterhelp.com, the Suicide Prevention Hotline (1 800 273 8255), call your insurance provider and see what therapists are in your area. Then make sure you GO. You don’t have to go through this alone. Having direction and clarity with what to do with your feelings is the foundation for healing.
2)I forgave myself.
It sounds weirdly simple but until I was able to do this, genuinely, I kept failing at trying to get out of my hole. Remember all that self-hate and self-doubt? Everyone goes through even small amounts of that. It’s a normal part of being human. The waking up late and constant crying? It’s okay! Treat yourself the way you would treat someone you loved who you knew was living through a difficult time. Forget about beating yourself up for every mistake and every negative thought. Allow yourself to be imperfect. Accept yourself with all of your flaws.
3)I was honest about my feelings.
It is SO easy to pretend to others and even yourself that you’re fine. Don’t do that. If you’re sad, be sad. If you’re mad, be mad. If you’re happy, be happy! Don’t lie to yourself and don’t suppress your feelings. It only makes healing harder and creates additional unnecessary tension.
4)I did what I loved.
Again, sounds simple enough but I seemed to forget this during my dark days. I always loved dance, and I always loved going to church. Somehow I lost that in the span of that year. I had so little to really look forward to and it affected me greatly. Once I was able to finally bring those back into my life routinely, it helped me stay motivated to keep going. I wanted to feel well enough to make it to Wednesday service. I wanted to have my energy for my dance lessons on the weekends. I wanted to show up to each of those and actually enjoy them.
Taking every single one of these fundamental steps created a change in me that I wouldn’t have imagined was ever possible. Through MightyHeidi, I will continue to share my perspective and the steps that helped me continue on a path of emotional growth. Let’s help each other be stronger one conversation at a time.
– Be Mighty
Update – If any of you would like to begin counseling with an amazing therapist in the Galleria area I highly recommend: https://www.kbtcounseling.com/
It kind of ended out with perfect timing, but my January read for 2019 was the masterpiece that is Michelle Obama’s Becoming. If you haven’t yet read it, I highly suggest you do. Especially if you happen to be a woman and a minority – most, if not all of it, will hit home.
I hope in sharing some of the pieces that most impacted me I can spike your curiosity to devour this gem even more. As Michelle says in the closing, “there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”
In the first few chapters of Becoming, Michelle speaks about her upbringing on Chicago’s South Side. The quaint home that her family shared with her aunt on Euclid Avenue. Her mother and father’s humble backgrounds but keen focus on her and her brothers’ education. Hearing her describe her childhood reminded me so much of mine and enveloped me more and more into her story. Growing up in a lower class family with a single mom who’s entire life revolved around myself and ensuring I’d have a better future than she did, I empathized deeply with the sense Michelle felt of needing to succeed.
Her relationship with her stern, no time for nonsense, mother was extremely heartfelt for me as well. I’ve struggled for a long time with how my mom was growing up. Never much for emotions but the first to offer constructive (brutal) advice on the things I was not doing while I waste time complaining. I’ve often caught myself wondering if I’m the only one in this pickle?! “Advice, when she offered it, tended to be of the hard-boiled and pragmatic variety.” I laughed reading that and gained immediate relief. If she’s molding me to be even half of a version of Michelle Obama, then I guess it’ll all be for the best!
LAWD! First and foremost, Barack… do you have a cousin or something you can send a girls way because SHEESH!!! I will not spoil this for you all because you their love story is so much more beautiful heard from Michelle’s view. The following were my major takeaways:
1) If Barack Obama (who didn’t like making phone calls) can find the time to call his girlfriend at the time because this was her preferred mode of communication then guess what folks??? Y’all better move on from that buster that leaves you on read. (Repeats to self 500 times)
2) If you stumble upon a man/woman in your life who’s sense of purpose seems clear, focused, and ever present compared to yours – don’t stray away from them because you’re intimidated. Michelle recounts how at one point she starts a journal because Barack’s clarity of what he wanted to become was overwhelming to her (Yea, Princeton/Harvard grad and all, she sometimes had her moments. Be kind to yourself sis). She had realized by this point in her life that much of what she had done was because she felt it was “right” and she had never considered what it was she was passionate about. Instead of shying away from the relationship however, she made it a focus to then find these passions for herself. With a partner by her side that encouraged her to be everything she wanted to be and much more, she was able to do so. If the person you happen to be in a relationship with happens to both inspire you, and also awaken doubts about yourself, take that as an opportunity to learn and develop. That person might’ve been placed in your life for you to become something you haven’t yet discovered.
3) Even the Obama’s went to couple’s counseling. Drops mic and exits left. – All jokes aside though, I will rave about the benefits of counseling forever just because it’s helped me so much personally and I can only imagine how powerful it is for a relationship. Get to it.
Giving Back is the Only Way to Continue Empowering Our Communities
Once she becomes First Lady, Michelle has to navigate how she’ll be able to be effective in a role which historically, no one really expected much of other than smiles and graceful appearances at grand events. That wasn’t on Michelle’s radar, and her dedication to get through Princeton and Harvard to later create an incredible career for herself was not about to allow her to sit on the back burner while Barack thrived as Commander in Chief.
Through the programs she built like Lets Move! and Reach Higher, she created spaces in communities which were otherwise forgotten. Her work focused on helping children whether it was through nutrition or education, because she realized that had it not been for the many lucky opportunities that she was afforded growing up, her future could have looked totally different.
This is one of my biggest goals for this next year. I’ve come to realize how lucky I’ve been and how so many people around me have helped me to be where I am now. So, if you catch me posting about volunteering events around the city don’t be surprised at all. If I can help even one chica from the block to grow into something she never dreamed of becoming one day, then I’ll know I’ve made a mark on the world around me.
Obama, Michelle. Becoming. Viking, an Imprint of Penguin Books, 2018.
So a couple weekends ago I booked a flight to Portland on a slightly last minute whim because I needed a weekend away from Houston. I also had to cancel another trip I was supposed to take so I said screw it, let me finally go see my beautiful friend Judy.
I get there and the whole time I’m sending my mom pictures of all the beautiful scenery and just feeling so guilty that I’m out seeing all of this, without her. Does this happen to anyone else? Because literally every trip I take, or any big event I go to that I feel like she’d enjoy, that guilt kicks in QUICK.
I have to take a step back and dig deep down and think of why I feel this way. The older I get it seems like the harder it is for me to enjoy myself without this thought constantly lingering in the back of my mind.
So there’s always one event specifically etched in my memory and that makes the heaviness of all this so much worse. Not long ago my mom told me a story of a random Friday night when I was about 7 years old. We were home, just chilling and watching TV together. Home at that time was the little apartment we lived in in the hood (still is ‘cause this come up is taking your girl a longggg time). Our home was empty except for the small hand me down TV we had from my aunt (I think? Someone gave it to us) and the pile of blankets we had in the bedroom as our makeshift bed. Yup, times were that hard.
My mom loved this place, she still does. It was the first place she could call home. Ever since she had gotten to Houston from El Salvador she had never had a whole apartment on her own. She lived with my uncle and aunt for some time, then my dad (which more often than not was hell), then my aunts again when we left his home. We were wanderers in the world and every time we always felt like a burden to our family.
Here we were on this Friday night and apparently, I got this undying craving for a pizza. Sounds normal right? Well little did I know that this was a nearly impossible luxury at the time. My mom was a single mom but on top of that, an undocumented single mom. She’d cleaned houses my whole life, but she also refused to live a life where she sacrificed being home with me after school in order to afford more “things.” We never had much, but I always had my mom.
Years later in a spurt of consciousness she told me that one of those nights when she caved to her little girls’ cravings, she was spending the last twenty dollars she had to her name.
So fast track to present day. It usually hits me when I’m sitting on a plane, about to take off to the next destination. Now, you can imagine how much I love going on adventures if darn pizzas were a luxury growing up. I love walking through an airport with my luggage, feeling so proud that I not only can afford to be there, but that I am familiar with the environment. The airiness gets to my head a little bit once I zip through the TSA line because, obvs, your girl has pre check *insert sassy hand emoji* and I’m not about to wait in line.
All that leads to those few minutes of waiting in my seat as everyone settles down before takeoff. My mind invariably jumps to my mom and that darn pizza. For one, I always wish she was coming with me, but she never really wants to. Two, I always feel so bad that this is what I’m spending my money on. What if there’s an emergency later on and I should’ve been saving? What if my mom needs me and instead of being home every second of every day like she was, I’m out enjoying myself and “living my best life.” And every time, I quietly choke up a little bit, partly because I’m always crying, partly because I feel so guilty.
Now my moms not sitting at home wishing she was doing all these things either. She’s happy where she’s at, with life as it’s unfolded. And we do plenty of things, just not as often as I’d like to. This tension I feel is more so a battle with myself. I always want more for her. I always want to shower her with everything she hasn’t been able to have. I’m always troubled because financially I haven’t been able to provide for us like I’ve always wanted to.
Then usually, after a few minutes of bringing my woes and fears to a slow simmer, I catch my breath right when the pilot tells us to make sure we’re buckled up for takeoff. During one of my therapy sessions a while back, I described this feeling to my therapist and she made an observation which I’ll never forget.
I am wanting my mom to live a life based off of what I perceive as “good” and “happiness” for her. But I’ve realized throughout the years that my mom is mostly just happy spending time with myself and our family. She enjoys being surrounded by the people she loves and taking care of them. The glitz and glam of jumping from one plane to the next isn’t even on her radar, but getting everyone together for Thanksgiving dinner? Now we’re talking.
That’s not to say that every now and then she wants to explore the world, of course she does. But it isn’t something that I should use to beat myself up about, which I think a lot of us First Gen-er’s tend to do.
Whether it’s our parents, or our siblings, or loved ones around us, take the time to consider if some of the pressure you put on yourself is actually real, or if it’s a reality you’ve concocted because you have a preconceived notion about what life should look like for the people around you.
Remember what matters most to yourself, and what matters most to your loved ones. As long as you’re meeting those goals, then don’t bog yourself down about what society tries to tell you you should be doing. I struggle with this still, but when I genuinely take the time to remember how blessed I am, it always makes a huge difference on my perspective of where I am in life.
Most of us could take an educated guess I’m sure, but after reading Chris Wipple’s The Gatekeepers, I learned a lot about the power and influence a chief holds. Wipple’s book gracefully describes the tenures of everyone from H. R Haldeman to Reince Priebus and opens the door to the lives and experiences that these men faced while serving their presidents.
Appointed directly by the residing president, chiefs of staff have involvement in everything from the presidents’ speeches, his/her scheduled meetings, and act as a daily advisor on most of the issues the president makes decisions on. The chief of staff must have a superior ability to organize and prioritize the president’s time so that they can use their best efforts on the issues that hold the biggest importance.
Most importantly – the chief of staff has to be bold enough to be the “no” guy. They are the source of reason that a president can turn to when they are unsure of what to do in any given situation, the guiding spirit in tough times. Imagine the boldness required to tell a president “Yea no fam, that is an awful idea and you should consider these consequences.”
They are basically the Mike Ross to our country’s elected Harvey Specter.
Except, although I love Harvey, I don’t know about making him president so let’s not go there.
Below are a few of my favorite tidbits from each of them and some of the monumental changes that shaped their tenures within their respective administrations.
H.R Haldeman –Chief of Staff to Richard Nixon
Haldeman was brutally loyal and his lying and cover-up of Nixon’s actions led to his eventual incarceration after the Watergate scandal. Haldeman never figured out a way to control his president; he was too weak to stop him when he needed to be, and more than willing to help him when he wanted something done.
Unfortunately for Haldeman, we all know how that presidency ended.
Donald Rumsfield- Chief of Staff to Gerald Ford
Don Rumsfield, Dick Cheney – does that combo sound familiar? YUP! Who knew their relationship started wayyy prior to the George W. presidency? Not I said the bee.
The Cheney/Rumsfield duo helped Ford create a presidency that tempered the storms it faced, and came incredibly close to re-election despite the dismal retreat in Southeast Asia.
It also gave birth to a tenant followed by almost all presidents to follow: “beware the spokes of the wheel.” In order to lead a successful and organized White House, the president had to have a chief that acted as his linebacker – defending him from the hundreds of people that want to put their priorities at the top of the presidents to do list.
Hamilton Jordan – Chief of Staff to Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter made two mistakes very early on in his presidency that deeply weakened him. He began his presidency by having, as Cheney and Rumsfield so adamantly opposed, a multiple chief approach. When he finally decided to choose one sole chief, he chose the wrong man.
A buddy from his campaign trail, Ham Jordan created tensions and disorganization for Carter’s administration despite being him being an incredibly bright president. Although the Carter White House saw success with the Panama Canal and energy policies, his too little too late decision of appointing Jack Watson as chief during the last months of his term weren’t enough to win him re-election.
James Baker III – Chief of Staff to Ronald Reagan
Baker was my favorite to read about because well – he is a smart, loyal, Texan. No shame.
His time with Reagan was very personally burdensome. Surrounded by Ronald’s loyal team of Californian’s – he was not welcomed by most of the staff. That still did not deter him from completing the task at hand.
He made the record for longest serving chief and set a precedent for how the role should be executed for generations to come.
Don Regan and Ken Duberstein – Second term Chiefs of Staff to Ronald Reagan
While Baker had just set forth the best example of what to do in this role – Regan took it upon himself to do the COMPLETE opposite. His mishandling of information and self-absorbed decision making before, during, and after the Iran-Contra scandal made him extremely disliked within the Reagan administration.
Regan failed to understand the crucial responsibility of a successful chief; he had to be selfless in the pursuit of achieving not his own, but his presidents’ agenda.
Towards the end of Reagan’s second term, Ken Duberstein was appointed as chief eventually helping Reagan’s administration reach the pinnacle address to the Soviet Union where he stated the famous line “tear down this wall!”
John Sununu and James Baker III – Chiefs of Staff to George H. W. Bush
Sununu, rough around the edges and with a no tolerance for nonsense approach, worked incredibly well with the diplomatic Bush. Together they brought about changes such as the Clean Air and Civil Right Acts and despite their reluctance towards it, were wise enough to let up Bush’s promise of not raising taxes in an effort to control spending. Unfortunately, as so often happens to people in positions of power, Sununu led to his own demise and the Bush administration ended its tenure with Jim Baker back in the Chief of Staff driver’s seat.
Bush and Baker, longtime friends, completed their invasion of Iraq to obliterate Hussain’s army and together saw the end of the Soviet Union.
Thomas McLarty and Leon Panetta – Chiefs of Staff to Bill Clinton
Despite having chosen Thomas McLarty as chief, Clinton’s early days proved to be chaotic. A longtime friend of Clinton’s, McLarty found it difficult to manage the president and eventually resigned his position to Leon Panetta.
Panetta immediately asked for the President’s (and First Lady’s) trust, clearance to make changes as needed, and freedom to tell him exactly when he thought he was wrong. Committed to his goals, Panetta stayed in his role for two years leading the way for Clinton’s last chief, Erskine Bowles, to take the position.
Plagued by scandal, Bowles time as chief was short but his help to the Clinton administration during the impeachment trials was critical and even more so, his appointment of John Podesta as his deputy opened the door of opportunity for John to become Clinton’s final chief. Podesta and Clinton brought in many initiatives using the presidents’ Executive Order powers- a method that continued in popularity thru today.
Andrew Card – Chief of Staff to George W. Bush
George W. Bush’s presidency led way to some of the most critical changes in our foreign policy, surveillance measures, and overall security. Despite Andrew Card’s attempt to start his role on the correct intention of having full honestly and acting as a singular chief to the president, Cheney’s interference and butting in on any and every foreign policy issue led to disaster.
Card was unable to control the clash of ego’s within the Bush administration and the chaos resulted in mass casualties and gross mishandling of the war in Iraq.
Joshua Bolten, Bush’s second chief, saw the end of the Bush administration. Despite their best attempt to fare the 2008 economic crisis as smoothly as possible, the Bush legacy will forever be tainted with the history of why and how the turmoil in Iraq was started.
Rahm Emmanuel, Denis McDonough – Chiefs of Staff to Barack Obama
Rahm Emmanuel, the kind bully who would after 2 years leave Obama to become Chicago’s mayor, worked diligently in helping the president pass Obamacare. A grueling, all democratic win, the Affordable Care Act continues intact.
Denis McDonough became the 4th and final chief in the Obama administration. Despite his mistake of not ensuring the healthcare.gov website would work flawlessly upon the Affordable Care Act’s launch, he did eventually recover from this mistake and was crucial in helping the president use Executive Orders to fulfill the Iran Nuclear Deal and Cuba among other resolutions since bipartisan votes became fictitious by the end of the Obama White House.
Reince Priebus- Chief of Staff to Donald Trump
As if it was an omen of things to come, the briefs the Obama administration left behind for the Trump team to review were all left untouched. Preibus, forced to be an equal to Steve Bannon, was afraid to leave Trump alone from the very early days of his election.
Despite his willingness to submit to embarrassment, Preibus ended up being ousted from his role, which is currently still occupied by John Kelly.
Throughout the book, the importance of having integrity and authority in the role of Chief of Staff are glaring. Only time will tell how John Kelly’s tenure in the position will fare, especially with a president that is so determined to do things in whatever way he sees fit.
I’d highly recommend reading thru this amazing recount of the lives of these men as it so vividly describes another snippet of how each role within the White House is so important and how, if we aren’t careful, malignant forces can persuade our Commander in Chief
Wipple, Chris. (2017) The Gatekeepers. New York. Broadway Books.
Cover design by Christopher Brand
Cover Photographs: (top) David Hume Kennerly/Hulton Archive/Getty Images;
(center) Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library; (bottom) The White House/Handout/Getty Images