2015


I haven't been writing much lately.  I've actually been in my own little corner doing my own little thing.  This week I'm entering into a reflection mode as we prepare for the new year, so I wanted to share a bit of those reflections as they come to me.

Last December I created this map for areas concerning my financial goals.  When I saw this post in my "On This Day" review, I paused to express gratitude that God is often working on our prayers and making things happen even if we don't realize it.

1. Give - I wanted 2015 to be a year of giving.  I was so excited and grateful to be able to participate in our church's building campaign (not that kind of building fund) to build a new auditorium for our children's ministry.  By the grace of God I was able to stretch and give more and see the new auditorium actually be built.

2. Debt free- Debt sucks. So I sat out this year to get busy busting it.  I paid off more debt in 2015 than I could have imagined. Seriously, I'm not sure how I did it. All I can say is the Dave Ramsey debt snowball really does work.

3. Buy the new house - check.  An answered prayer all in my prayer journal.

4. Save - I saved this year, then bought a new house, so I'm setting to save out even more in 2016.

5. Be - just be.  I have everything I need. Life is beautiful. I am at peace.  2015 was a great year of no expectations and full of the opportunity to just be.



Around LA - Bottega Louie



You should already know how much I love Bottega Louie. If not see here. A trip to LA is not complete without visiting this place of amazingness. I only went twice this trip.




 Seriously. Being in this space. With this amazing food. Makes my soul happy. I believe in doing things that make my soul happy. 



This trip I had friends to share it with. My how far we've come in two years! 








August Planning in Review



 
I finally got it together and posted the video on the planner I've been using for 2015.  For the first half of the year I've been on again off again using it to the fullest because you know...life gets busy and full. I think as with anything, in order to get the full benefit of a beautiful planner like this you have to be intentional about using it so you can maximize it. 
 
So that is exactly what I've been trying to do. Be intentional about using my planner to the fullest.
 
The things I love about the KIT Life planner are the daily gratitude boxes, the daily quotes at the bottom, and the all around feel good vibe the journal has.  (I'm highly stimulated by beautiful, bright colors).  Some of the things I found challenging are that I'm usually a monthly/weekly planner person and the KIT Life has daily pages.  That makes it more difficult to see your full week laid out and also makes it quite a bit thicker.  The monthly layout was also rather condensed on one page and the daily squares were a bit small to write in. 
 
So as I started learning more about the fabulous planner community that exists out there on Instagram and Youtube, I learned a few tricks and decided to try something new.  I'm really trying to embrace the daily pages although I still struggle not having a weekly view.   I've decided to use the monthly spread as a reflective tool to chronicle my month in review so we can see what was so great about that month!  Almost like a scrapbook.
 
The new Kit Life 2016 planner was just released on September 1st for preorder.  I'm 95% committed that will be the planner I use next year although I may also introduce one that is a bit easier to carry in my purse.  I'm feeling some anxiety over this decision!
 
What planners are you using and what do you love about each?  I like to try not to go with what everyone is doing which I think is my resistance to trying an EC.  I'm thinking of getting the KIT Life Crown Edition and then perhaps the Happy Life Planner for daily stuff.  Oh my...so many decisions.  I also keep a separate paper calendar just for work!
 
 

Unbreakable Family Week 1

 
 
Last week we started a new sermon series at my church called Unbreakable Family.  I can't tell you personally all the reasons the timing of this series are perfect for me and my family but it is.
 
 
I hadn't intended to write about the series but several friends in my social spaces have asked for me to share the notes.  So I'm glad to have a reason to review my own notes and dig a little deeper.
 
 
The first week was about values and Pastor Galen asked us what kind of values do you live by in your home?  One of the things I valued so much about this message is that it aligned so well with what I teach parents on a weekly basis.  The idea that we are the temperature gauge in our homes. We as the parents set the tone. We are the ones who direct the way our family goes.  So many times I meet parents who want us to "fix" their kids and what I always hear is "help me grow up."  The question "what kind of values do you live by in your home" is one we all need to ask ourselves.  If we can't definitively answer that question, how can we expect our kids to know what values to live by?


We as parents must be engaged in our children's lives now more than every.  We must be active.  We must be full force parents.    The scripture reference was from Deuteronomy 6.  The Lord says "you and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God."  We are talking about generational legacies here.


So here are the key points of last week's sermon:


1. Parents must learn to live right.  You can't lead where you've never been.


We as parents are the leaders of our homes.  We have practice what we preach.  This is what I tell parents in my parenting class who just want us to fix their children.  I ask them what their child's behavior is asking them about themselves?  We can't lead where we've never been. We can't preach what we don't practice. We can't resolve what is unresolved in us.


2.  Parents must learn to love right (Deut 6:4-5).


The House of God must be a value in your life.  We are molded by the Word of God. We must show our children how much we love God and foster their love of God.


3. Parents must learn right (Deut 6:6-9).


The Word of God set us free.  The Word of God and the values that come from it lead our children to success.  Do your children know what you stand for?  Deuteronomy instructs us to talk with our children about the Word and the values in the Word, day and night. 


We have the greatest opportunities to invest in our kids now, while they are in our homes.  Let's not let it pass us by. 


Pastor Galen closed by asking "do your kids look at you and say mom and dad are who they say they are?"  That is a poignant question that should challenge each of us.


I loved this message because it was confirmation for me as a mother to be better and also a confirmation of what I know and believe and the role I step into weekly to teach other parents how to lovingly raise and connect with their children.   We must "see" our children. We need to set down our iphones, turn the tv off, and be present in the room with our kids.  It is when we see our children that they felt seen.  This is how our children know they are incredibly valued in our sight.  It starts small but has a huge impact.


I hope you have a beautiful week building your unbreakable family.

Watch week 1 here and I hope to see you at service today!


Happy Sunday!


An open letter to the Albuquerque Public School Board



As the mother of a child in the Albuquerque Public School system, I'm appalled and infuriated that someone facing four counts of child sexual abuse would be hired by our school district, let alone be placed in one of the highest positions in the district, and allowed to begin work and collect on his handsome salary without a background check. 


It's frightening really.  It makes me ask the question who else could have possibly passed through the APS background check loophole and could potentially be working in my son's school?  How do I have confidence that every employee and volunteer in the APS has a cleared background check when one of its highest officials was out on pretrial release for very serious child sexual abuse allegations?  Do you see how that would lend to us parents having zero confidence in you?


The start of the school year is one of the most exciting times for our children and for us as parents.  The day before school we arrived at the school only to learn my son's assigned teacher would be on maternity leave until January and that a long-term substitute would be in the class until then.  A bummer for sure but we rolled with it because we support our school.  The next day, on the first day of 2nd grade, complete chaos ensued once the bell rang.  All the new teachers were lining up all the eager new students into lines with their classes.  My son's class had no teacher.  The parents all walked our children down the hall into the classroom to meet a man with a "guest" pass on standing in the room.  I introduced myself and asked if he had a plan for the day.  He told me "not really, I was just called in this morning."  I was devastated.  My son's first day of 2nd grade was going to be spent with someone who had no plans for the day or any clue what he was expected to be doing.  I spoke with several parents in the hall and we all agreed we would speak with the administration about our concern.  By the end of the day, the principal called me and informed me the long-term substitute that we had been told would be in the room would start the next day.


Meanwhile, APS was paying $160,000 to a man facing child sexual abuse charges and neglected to conduct a background check before his official hire. We don't have licensed teachers in our kid's classrooms.  APS could use such substantial resources to pay for 4 additional teachers with that salary.  Imagine that.


Now we are being asked to blindly support a Superintendent and board that has done absolutely nothing to gain our trust.  When I send my son to school everyday, I am trusting you.  I'm trusting you and every person you hire with my kid and his wellbeing.


I have heard the argument in the media that Valentino should not be fired because he did not know about the pending charges Jason Martinez was facing.  I disagree.


As the leader of an organization, I have made it clear to my Board that they need to regularly have the staff's voice represented in their evaluation about me.  The wellbeing of our organization is not about me it is about all of the sum parts that make up the organization.  I can believe I am the greatest director but if staff morale is low and people are fleeing our organization because the policies and practices in place under my leadership have made them lose confidence, the Board should consider the whole of the organization.  After all, it is the staff that makes our organization what it is. Not me.


I have heard from numerous teachers they feel so low in their jobs now.  They have no trust or confidence in Valentino or the school board.  They don't trust you.  This is not about Valentino.  This is about the greater good of our school system.  If we don't have teachers we don't have a school system.  It is your time to consider the whole of the school district that you have been elected to represent.


An editorial today suggested we all need to just calm down because once again the board has gotten themselves into a position where contractually they may not be able to afford terminating another Superintendent.   That should not be on us as parents, our kids, or the teachers.  That is on you.


The teachers who educate our children in our classrooms and the constituents you are supposed to represent have zero confidence in Valentino's ability to lead our schools.  Your lack of his swift removal  makes us question our confidence in you as well.




First day of school jitters

 
"Hi, I am David's mother.  What's your name?  Do you have a plan?"
 
That was my introduction to the teacher standing in my son's 2nd grade classroom on the first day of school.  The teacher with the guest badge hanging around his neck who was obviously confused as to what the day was going to hold.  Who didn't know he was supposed to meet the class on the playground because no one knew the drill yet.  Not the most exciting way to leave your eager 7 year old on the first day.

Regardless of my mommy panic, Munchkin was still very excited.  I bottled up the concern I'm certain was written all over my face in order to send him off in good spirits and spoke to several parents outside the classroom. We all agreed we were going to speak with the administration because they owed us an explanation.
 

I called and left the principal a voicemail on my drive to work.  I learned later in the day that his assigned teacher had been on maternity leave since April.  So why on August 13th did we not have this figured out?  Why on the first day of school was a substitute guest teacher who had just been called in that morning there to greet my son?  I don't send my second grader to daycare and for a warm body to man the room. I send him there to learn.
 
Albuquerque Public Schools is facing a teacher shortage.  The state of New Mexico is facing a teacher shortage.  Many of my teacher friends assert it is because of the failed policies of the current administration.  When does policy take precedent over learning? How could our schools have reached such a crisis state that our kids are being greeted in the classroom on one of the most important days of their lives by an unprepared substitute? A warm body.
 
The principal called me around 5:45 and informed me the long-term substitute would be there tomorrow and reassured me they had a plan.  I met the substitute the next day and she told me the administration had given her a start date that was still two weeks away.  I made sure she knew I'm here to offer support in any way she needs it.
 
Public school advocacy is not an area of my expertise but I'm ready to rally around whatever needs to be done to improve our schools. I'm a believer in public education. I'm also a single mom who doesn't believe I should have to pay property taxes and private school tuition.  This is Albuquerque for goodness sake. If I wanted to do that I would move back to Baltimore (no shade).
 
So what is the answer? I need someone to lead me.  The voices I hear on one end seem to be filled with so much opposition to the current administration that their message doesn't get heard. The school board that tried to take a stand ended up caving.  Who is leading the conversation?  Who is offering solutions?    Who can teach me?

Single moms vacay club

This is the story of what happens when you text your good good girlfriend and say "hey, let's go on family vacay together," and her immediate response is "ok!"


One day I just thought to myself "self, it'd be so cool for you and some of your single mom friends to plan family vacations together so that our kids can have fun with their friends." So our recent trip to Denver was a test on that idea and it proved to be a great idea ( thank you, thank you very much). 

I know my little guy was so excited! All day he kept asking when are we going on vacation. I think the anticipation and excitement wore him out! 



Of course two single mamas traveling with kiddos need lots of God's protection and maybe a good luck charm.  Shae found it in a rest stop bathroom and washed it and everything! 



The boys could not wait to get to the pool when we arrived at the hotel. We must have looked like we had been trying to tame lions rolling into the lobby because the woman at the concierge desk gave us free drink tickets for the rooftop lounge (mommy score)!



Dining in was about all we had left in us.



Of course food must always remain a main attraction when traveling and in life.



And we discovered a way to day drink (disguised as milkshakes for the kids and mudslides for the adults).



Denver has these really neat painted pianos all along the 16th Street mall. They lend themselves to the opportunity for interesting conversations. 





Boys love baseball.




And momies deserve a wind down.





Because mama always said....



They may be friends forever just like their moms are. 



















Book Review: God Help the Child


"What you do to children matters. And they might never forget."

I recently read Toni Morrison's contemporary book God Help the Child and the above quote stuck out for me.  Published on April 21, 2015, this is Ms. Morrison's first book to be set in modern times.  What I loved most about the book is that until I logged in to Goodreads to review the book, I had forgotten that it was meant to be set in modern times.  That is a quality and virtue of Ms. Morrison's writing that I enjoy.

Bride, the main character at the center of the story, is a picture of resilience and the complication that comes from longing to be wanted as a child and becoming in adulthood.  The journey of love, longing, and searching for what will last.

God Help the Child was a very quick read and left me wanting more. I wanted to get to know Bride more, I wanted to know Booker, Bride's lover, more, especially at the end of the story.  I would have loved for this book to have taken me longer to read and to get to know the characters on a more intimate level.

For those who love Ms. Morrison's previous works, you may feel like this one doesn't quite match your love.  Still, in Toni Morrison fashion, she gives us a look at the intersection of race and colorism in a realist way.

I would love to hear your thoughts on God Help the Child after you have the chance to pick up the book here.



A picture


It was just a year ago when I took this picture. Munchkin and I were visiting Baltimore for Spring Break and Dave and I took him to Washington DC.  It was while taking this picture that I learned a valuable lesson.

I was taking this picture when a woman asked me if I wanted her to take a picture of the three of us. Without hesitation I replied "no, that's ok." 

We spent the rest of the day sightseeing and getting completely poured on by torrential rains. When we got back to the car and on the road to Baltimore I made a comment that I should have let the woman take a picture of us. I regretted that without even processing it I  immediately dismissed the idea of a taking a family photo. David told me he noticed and wanted to say something but didn't want to cause a "Niecy turn-up." Whatever that means.

I silently vowed to myself that day that I would never deny my son the opportunity to see his parents together. My son deserved photos with both his parents too.

As this journey would have it, Dave and I go through seasons.  We always find a way to come together for our son, but to be honest there are times I'd rather just not talk to him let alone take a picture with him. So vowing to make sure we do those small family things is a commitment. I say this because I want you to know this doesn't come easy. It takes grace, love, and work.

We happen to be in a good season where it's coming easier, so when Munchkin became obsessed with the idea of throwing a party for his dad's birthday this year, I called his dad and asked him how we could make that happen. Plus, it would be his last weekend of basketball and he deserves to have his dad at his games just like other kids. Thankfully, we made it happen. 

So last weekend, as I said I would do, we took a family picture on the way to church. Munchkin was acting shy to take a picture - I actually think he has alterior motives - but according to the response on social media, people were happy to see this side of us. I was so entertained by the numerous calls and texts I got asking if we were reuniting. Someone asked me if we were getting close again because they saw Dave open my door.   I just love ya'll.  You've been my greatest cheerleaders.

Here's what I have to say. My son deserves to see his parents happy together - whether we are married or just friends. My son deserves to see his mother respected and his father respected. My son deserves to learn from his father how to open doors for ladies and be kind. We can do this for each other and for him without being married. 

I'm not sure I would have taken this approach had I not regretted saying no to that picture last year in DC. I may have been too concerned about what others may think or the fact that in a few months Dave and I may be out of season again. 

I'm glad I learned the lesson.

While everyone is hash tagging their life, we will hashtag ours too! #theoriginalteamlunn

Be happy...be merry. Be.



Crazy in love versus certain in love


I've been on one this week.  I stepped high onto my pulpit.  My heart is burdened with the desire to spread God's love to make sure women understand their full worth and don't settle, by any means necessary, for less than God's best.  It's turning into one of my greatest missions.

I've been sitting back doing a lot of observing lately.  Putting the puzzle pieces together to make sense of it.  Make sense of why I had to walk through some things myself to be able to deliver this message.  Why I had to walk through heartbreak, confusion, and less than God's best to understand that I will no longer settle for anything less than God's best for me. In fact, I won't even entertain it.

So I've been watching.  You know what I've been noticing?  When we settle for less, we get less. When we compromise, there's no limit on how much we will excuse.  We'll deal with the less, because we bargained a starting point that was less than God's desire for us to begin with.

On my heart lately has been the reality that often times we enter into committed relationships under less than ideal circumstances.  Life's situations cause us to desire more from a relationship or make us feel we are making the situation right by doing the right thing.  I know it because I did it.  On October 31, 2007, I found out I was pregnant.  On November 24, 2007, D and I got engaged, and on January 12, 2008 we were married.  D and I had been dating for the past three years starting in undergrad, and called off an engagement in 2006 because I had learned he was cheating on me, and he had just returned back from play professional basketball in Denmark for a year when we reconnected in Fall of 2007.  We were kinda sorta in a relationship and then when we found out we were having a child, decided the right thing to do would be to get married.  Not ideal. Not committed. Not sure. Simply put, not God's best.

I see this all the time now.  Whether the gift of a baby on the way or a heart conviction that you're not going to continue in a relationship without the certainty that you are the only one, for whatever reason when we decide we deserve the commitment, it can feel forced. It can feel uncertain. It feels unsure.

I stepped on my pulpit this week on instagram and said you deserve to be with someone who doesn't have to break someone else's heart just to be with you.  You do.  You deserve to be the one. The only. No questions. No reservations. A steady gaze. All eyes on you.  I believe it.  I believe your worth is so grand in the eye of God that that is what you deserve. I believe when God chooses to introduce you to your prepared one, there will be no question. No misconception. No gray areas. God is not a God of confusion. He is certain.

I see your eyes rolling and you thinking "yeah...yeah" under your breath.  I get it.  I'm not sure I've ever been in a relationship where I haven't settled.  Even after waiting 4 years after my separation to even consider dating again, I still settled for less than God's best.  The only reason this message is implanted in my heart is because it is my message.  

Here's what is on my heart and in my spirit.  You, me, we, deserve a love that is certain.  Don't give me someone who is out talking to everybody.  Who is playing the field to see what the best option for him is.  No.  I'm not an option.  I know people think I'm crazy when I say I don't date, I wait, but I'm serious.  Dating is not for me.  Being an option to see if this thing is going to work out is not for me.  I rather live and be content with all that I have and all that God is preparing me for and wait for the one He is preparing for me to be ready, fully baked.  What do I look like out trying to find the one God should be preparing for me and preempting God and trying to move things too quickly? Ya'll know I don't want a half-baked blessing.    

I'm reading Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom right now and the passage above left  me nodding my head saying "yes yes" in my head.  He asked the rabbi about marriage and the rabbi told the above story.  He knew when he saw his wife that he had found a good thing. There weren't questions. There was no putting her on a shelf.  He knew she was the one and he chose her.  Just as he asked her to remain single for him, he didn't go out entertaining other options,  risking his choice, while he asked her to wait.  That's the love I want. The one that is certain. Sure. That chooses me.

We also deserve a love that is prepared for us.  I truly believe that just as God is preparing us for all He has created us to be, He is preparing our potential mate for all He created him to be.  He can can't choose us and know when God is presenting him His prepared one if he's busy entertaining other options.  I don't want someone who has to break someone else's heart to be with me.  That's not certain love. That's not ready love.  No one wins.  

So what's the answer then?  Wait.  As Dr. Myles Munroe wrote in his book Single, Married, Separated, and Life After Divorce, "unmarried Christians should be so consumed by God and His will, so preoccupied and committed to finding out who they are in Him, that they are not distracted by the search for other people.  You can spend so much time looking for who you want that you have no time to be who you are."

Who are you as a person living fully for God? Who are you living fully on purpose for who God created you to be? Who are you just being by yourself?  Do you even know?  How will you ever know if your view is so clouded by earthly distractions disguised as dates?

I want more for you.  I want more for me.  I want all that God has for me. Fully packaged and prepared just for me.

I'm choosing to wait.

Don't excite love, don't stir it up, until the time is ripe - and you're ready.  
                                                                               Song of Soloman 2:7



How I wear a crop top


I love a good crop top ensemble. This style has been gracing the streets for nearly two years now and it's definitely heating up. I remember the first time I was walking through the mall after work and saw a woman wearing a crop top. I was like oh. In the middle of the day? Just like that? Haha. I wasn't even comfortable with it.

I love to embrace the latest styles but the truth is I spend more time in the office and church than out at places and events I'd feel comfortable wearing a crop top.  Plus as a mommy, I'm conscious of how much skin I show on any given day because I don't just represent me. So I was excited when I found one of the greatest life hacks on Pinterest. 

The tip for my look above is to take a plain black sheath dress and layer a crop too over it. Voila! 


How have you worked out wearing your crop tops?

The reward

An acquaintance and I have been talking the past few months about relationships.  For the entire time I've known him he has warred between wanting the stability of a committed relationship and all that brings and being faithfully unfaithful to any woman he's ever dated.  A womanizer of sorts.

One night we were talking about women's expectations.  He was telling me that all he can do is be honest with people....women.  He seemed confused that even when he is honest with them, they still desire more from him.  I told him there's a difference between being honest and being right.  Just because you are being honest doesn't mean you're right.  I also told him that some women easily fall in love with the illusion of who he is.  He's a charmer. Attractive.  That's what they see.  Even though he's out with other women and is telling them so, they are still holding on to the illusion of who they believe he can be. 

We have these kind of conversations. He and I.

Fast forward a few months and I came across a picture of him obviously intoxicated grabbing a woman's behind.  It wasn't cute by any means.  I texted him the picture and told him he should be embarrassed...we're simply too old for this.  In case you didn't know, that's what you get when you deal with Niecy....honesty.  This recent conversation caused a falling out of sorts. He said he was being vulnerable with me and I used it against him  I told him I simply see right as right and wrong as wrong and I don't believe in sugarcoating the truth.  He told me he thought maybe I was jealous. I was nothing of the sorts. I just felt bad for him.

Once we finally got over the hurt feelings of me being honest with him,  I told him he really needs to check his character.  He told me he's honest about everything he is doing with everyone involved and that's the best he can do.  I told him he was wrong.  It doesn't matter the things we see it matters who you are. Period.

As the conversation progressed and I asked him why he doesn't just take a break from it all and do the work to be ok with himself, he told me that his current girlfriend has stuck it out with him, knows he's not ready to commit to just her, and for that he was going to reward her in 2015.  I laughed. Literally. Out loud.

I've talked about this before and if you've read my blog for anytime you know I have a BIG issue with this thought process.  How, after cheating on a woman and doing everything but committing and honoring her while you're dating, does putting a ring on it become her great reward?  How are you a reward if everyone in town has slept with you?

I was bothered.

I told him so.

Let me tell you. 

Fellas - you are NOT the reward. 

She is.

Proverbs 18:22

Now to my point of it all.  This thinking is damaging.  That all women want is to be married.  That we have lost the sense of our worth so much that we will settle for the man who instead of pursuing us and honoring us, will cheat and tell us so then put a ring on it as our reward.  I know...we as women have allowed this.  Have become the ride or die who will stick by these men until they are ready.  Where are the kings who understand that when they find a wife, she is good, and they receive favor from the Lord?  Where are the queens who understand finding you is a good thing?  If he won't honor you, respect you, and do right by you when ya'll are dating, guess what, the messiness doesn't just stop when he puts a ring on it.  I've worn that t-shirt.

When those words came out of his mouth I was shocked.  I still am as I write this.  Where did this thinking come from? What can we do to change it?  We have to know our worth, ladies and fellas, you have to understand that you are not the reward, she is.

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