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This is not a sponsored post though it was inspired by a recent hosted trip

This past week I had the privilege of being invited to a conference in Ohio for a brand called Cacique (pronounced Cah-seek). I wasn’t very familiar with the brand but I’d seen it in its sister store when I went into Lane Bryant (typically shopping with friends or buying a gift). Lane Bryant is a plus sized clothing store for those not familiar. I would see the pretty intimate wear but never spent much time thinking about it, as they didn’t carry my size.

When they reached out and asked me to attend a brand event I took a second look. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they now carried sizes 0-28 and cup sizes A-K. I couldn’t wait to learn more.

Walking into their headquarters I was so excited to see the beautiful women of all shapes, shades, and ages staring back at me. This is what body positivity looks like I thought to myself. We often see that hashtag attached to a particular body shape. An effort to say me too. I matter as well. But, the reality is everybody should be using that hashtag. No one group owns body positivity. If you have a body celebrate it positively!

Growing up there weren’t very many other girls who looked like me living on my Air Force base in Northern California. There were some, but we were definitely in the minority. I didn’t grow up in a community where I saw myself reflected everywhere I went. For me this was a double edged sword- on one hand my differences became normal so I don’t typically feel out of place no matter where I am. I learned to be comfortable in my skin. But I also know that part of what helped me feel that way was seeing myself represented in media and marketing.

I was fortunate to grow up in an era where Oprah Winfrey looked back at me from the television every day and Naomi Campbell glared at me from magazine covers. I saw Ola Ray play the love interest in what’s still arguably the greatest music video ever, and Diana Ross winked at me from a huge glass (yes, glass-it was the 80’s you guys) photo that hung in our den. I was able to see the beauty that looked like me pretty much every day.

I thank goodness for that beauty bubble I came of age in, but I don’t think as a society we’ve been consistent with our beauty messages. We’ve had periods of time where differences were celebrated or In Vogue but they were always short lived.

Many companies are starting to embrace and push back on the one size fits all body, color and age standard that we’ve allowed to permeate our culture in a way that I haven’t seen before.  I’d dare say, that it’s important to champion this whether you fit into the standard mold or not because more opportunities to create images that all little girls can see themselves in means we’ll have more confident women in our communities.

And if we’re being honest, this isn’t just about our girls. I believe the reason that influencers are taking over the marketing world is that people want to see themselves. We want to feel represented. Whether you’re 14 or 74 you want to see images that reflect the stage of life you’re in. I know I am always looking for inspiration and it feels so much better when I can relate- be it to a woman’s personality, shade, shape or age. We are all just looking to feel a part of something bigger, but similar to ourselves.

I’m excited about this shift and I am going to continue to champion it because…inclusivity matters! I want to see more tables where all people are welcomed and represented. Where “you CAN sit with us” is the norm.

And, If you’re looking for beauty inspiration on the gram or anywhere else make sure that some of the women you follow speak to you. Whether it’s their sunny disposition, their dry sense of humor, their body shape, shade or age make sure you see a little bit of you in them too!

I’d love to hear what you think about beauty inclusivity.

Until Next Post!

xo, Tonya Parker

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With Valentine’s day knocking on the door I can’t help but think about love in all of it’s glorious and sometimes messy forms. The family kind, the romantic kind, the kind we have for pets (which probably falls under the family kind if your house is anything like mine) and finally the kind we have or should have for ourselves. Self-love is a tricky thing for most of us. If some of us struggle with feeling that self-care is selfish, self-love might be even harder to grasp.

I think there are two opposite schools of thought on the self-love spectrum. There are those who don’t want to embrace the idea because they are flooded with images of staring at their reflection in the mirror doomed to the same fate at Narcissus- you know the one-the greek God who fell in love with his own reflection.

And then there are our sisters on the other side that find it easy to bestow love on others but can’t muster those same feelings for themselves. This is often based on stories they have been told (or those they’ve told themselves) about who they are and who they are not. They find it difficult to see anything good while staring into that mirror.

However most of us fall more in the middle. We realize there is a need for it. We have some level of self-love but we want to embrace it a little more, in a healthy way. Here are three ways to practice a little more self-love and not just on Valentine’s day.

Set healthy boundaries-I posted an Oprah quote to IG the other day about how when you say yes when you mean no, you are being a slave to someone else’s desires and not your own. It resonated with so many women on my page. Apparently, I am not the only one who struggles in this area. If you read my book you know that I had what I refer to as a Year Of No. I was so overextended in my commitments that I was physically suffering. I  had no choice but to say no until I was able to get my health back on track. I found out the hard way that it is impossible to be all things to all people and ultimately the one who really suffers from your let downs is you.

Now I believe in creating healthy boundaries. I do say yes to a lot of things that really add value to my life and to the lives of those I love but there’s no all or nothing thinking for me anymore. I’m getting more comfortable with being able to discern when to say no. And I certainly don’t voluntarily commit to anything that takes away from my inner peace. Honoring your true feelings when it comes to others by saying no or leaving relationships that are causing you stress is a part of your self-love practice.

Speaking of relationships, it’s also so important to make sure that you stack your deck of positive and supportive friends. All of them don’t need to be singing your praises all the time, but they should be the kind of people you believe have your best interest in mind- the kind that will offer you a positive word, a gentle dose of truth and clap when you win. If you have longterm relationships with people who aren’t on team You Go Girl, I’m not saying you should end those friendships or that they don’t have any value. That’s for you to decide. But what I am saying is make sure they aren’t the majority of your friendship team. That quote about you being the sum of the people you spend the most time with is true. Make sure your friends are filling your cup more than they are taking from it. When you see people in your corner sharing positive things about you it helps you to see the positives in you too.

Be Intentional about your self-care-I can’t stress this enough. A lot of the advice I give about fashion or beauty isn’t because I am some high-end fashionista doling out what’s hot or not. I’m really just coming from a place of wanting to try things that make me look and feel my best and then share that with other women. I’m a true believer that when you look good you feel a little better and vice versa. It is so easy to put yourself on the bottom of your to-do list. If you make sure you are intentional about the kind of things you do that make you feel and look good you are telling yourself that you are important and worthy of the same love you give to everyone else.

Those are my three tips for fostering self-love. I’d love to hear what you do to foster self-love too!

Until Next Post,

xo Tonya Parker

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I have shared several times on social media that I love jeans. This probably isn’t a life-shattering confession as I know that a lot of people feel that way, but my day to day style is pretty classic and feminine. I am known for wearing dresses. A few months ago a co-worker told me he was tired of seeing me in dresses.  “I’d like to see you in pants. You always wear dresses,” he said with an exasperated sigh. And while that might be true at work,  I’m telling you I live for a jeans day.

Now my grandmother was a very well-dressed woman. So much so that you know that go to line people always say about how no one will stand up at your funeral and talk about your clothes and shoes? Well, plenty of people did just that. One guy shared that as kids he and his friends would ride their bikes to the park across the street from my grandmother’s house and when she stepped out of the car they would all look up to see what she was wearing that day. “She always wore the prettiest dress suits and the fanciest hats. Mrs. Riddick was the best-dressed woman we knew,” he said. Now to be fair, that wasn’t her only claim to fame. She was also a voting rights activist, an active member of her church, a wonderful mother, wife, and friend and she had the social graces of Jackie O. But I never saw her wear a pair of blue jeans in my entire life.

She passed away a year and a half ago, but she definitely grew up in a time where there was no such thing as Casual Jean Fridays at work. Now that’s very much a thing. A lot of us really enjoy this little perk and I see so many people doing it well. But, I often hear from people who are struggling with how to wear them well in the work environment.  If you’re looking to take your jeans a step further and still look chic on jeans day here are a few things to do:

Wear them with a statement t-shirt underneath a classic blazer- cute tee shirts are still fun to wear with jeans even in the professional environment but make sure the tee fits-no oversized boyfriend tees. Throwing a blazer on over top of it gives you the chic model off duty look that still works for work.

Go dressier on top-treat your denim like you would a pair of black slacks. If you aren’t used to wearing jeans in a dressy way start with a classic white shirt or your favorite silk blouse.

Let your shoes shine-I’ve seen people do jeans day with tennis shoes but if you want to look chic in jeans and not like you’re running errands swap out the tennis shoe for a cute pair of flats. If you really want to dress them up, throw on a pair of heels. I like to wear heels with my boot cut jeans but I’ve thrown them on with skinnies too. Just be sure to balance your heels with a blazer or flowy top for work. Boots, booties, and loafers work too.

Amp up the accessories– I think a great way to dress up your jeans is with a statement pair of earrings or a statement necklace. The key to throwing on a pair of jeans and still looking chic is NOT looking like you threw on a pair of jeans but that you were thoughtful in putting together your jeans day look.

Now here are the three pair of jeans that I usually wear on jeans day. Of course, nothing too tight or distressed should be worn unless your work environment is creative and uber casual.

My favorite type of jeans for work is a dark washed blue jean like these from Joes Jeans.

I also love these comfortable ankle skinnies from Chicos. They are in constant closet rotation for me. They are a fun wash and they feel as comfortable as leggings but look much more chic.

Hudson has been my go-to brand of jeans for years and they make a great boyfriend jean that paired with a fitted blazer would still look work chic.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on making your jeans work for work!

Until next post,

xo, Tonya Parker

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I often post about a product I’ve tried and when I talk about how it worked for me no matter what the verdict is I always get a DM or two that says “but what did you really think?” Now, I really don’t mind DM’s, as a matter of fact I love answering individual questions, but Listen Linda…This is the Real Chic life for a reason. I really only post things I like (I’ve tried things that I didn’t like and I didn’t post about them) and I only work with companies that I feel are doing something that resonates with me. I know it’s easy to get lost in the world of online reviews and content creators but I and a lot of the people I know say No a lot. Typically I am good with that. Sometimes I will see a project come to fruition that I passed on and feel a little regret that I’m not posting about some brand that a bunch of my friends said yes to when I said no, but I have to be true to me and to you. In that same vein, I hope you like all the same things that I do but you may not and that’s okay too. But, please know that if I say I like it I really do!

Now, back to beauty, I was telling someone the other day about how much I love the trio Match Stix by Fenty Beauty. “Why don’t you post about those?” she said. You should post the beauty stuff you really use all the time and love, not just the stuff you try. Okay I said, so while I think there is a lot of value in trying new products (I just did a great skin reset that I wouldn’t have even known about if StriVectin hadn’t asked to partner with me) I do realize there is also value in sharing things that are tried and true-meaning I use them all the time. So I am going to share the 6 things that I have to have in my beauty bag.

Fenty Beauty Foundation-If you have been around awhile you have heard me write about foundation before. Typically it has been my quest to find the perfect one. Finding a good match is tough for most women, and it can be even harder for women with brown skin as not all companies have a good range in darker colors. Two maybe three shades of brown are typical. The fairer shades might have 5-7 choices. We all know that isn’t nearly enough to get a true match no matter what end of the spectrum you are on. So along comes Fenty with 40 shade ranges from Nicole Kidman to Grace Jones. When I say I love this stuff I am not even exaggerating. It provides medium coverage, doesn’t transfer and doesn’t break me out, and I don’t have to make myself fit into a shade. My shade fits me perfectly. I am 410 for reference. Speaking of reference hold on to that last line because at the end I am going to show you another cool thing you can do with your Fenty shade.

The Match Stix Trio-this is my favorite thing for making up a face. I could honestly skip foundation altogether and only use this trio if I really had to. It includes a concealer, a highlighter, and a contour stick. I love that in the premade kits it comes ready to go and takes the guesswork out of knowing which colors you need in those three items. The other good thing is if you are familiar with concealing, highlighting and contouring you can customize your trio. Concealing, contouring and highlighting seem a little scary or odd if you haven’t tried it but there are some great videos on the site that show you how it’s done. I had no idea what I was doing until I watched the videos but now I  can do all three in under 5 minutes. I don’t do this every day but I know a lot of people do-Rachel Hollis author of Girl Wash Your Face shared her everyday makeup look which included contouring but I don’t really see a need for that as my life isn’t quite as glamorous as hers. I do use it whenever I am going out or shooting pictures.

A plum, red and nude lipstick-my favorites are MAC Rebel-I wear this color every day for work, MAC Ruby Woo-This is my favorite-I wear this color every time I go somewhere special or shoot pictures, and Tom Ford Deep-I wear this color during times in between work and special nights out.  I collect lipsticks so I have quite a few but I always say that I really only really need three. Interestingly enough I just saw an ad by Maybelline where they have come up with 7 lipsticks- a variation of a red, a plum and a mauve that they say works on 50 different skin tones. It’s called Made For All where one shade of each of those colors works on everyone. I haven’t tried that yet but the ad looks pretty impressive.

Nars blush-I wear blush every day. I love how it brightens up my face. I like how the colors Orgasm and Outlaw give me a healthy glow. They even work with a no-makeup look because they look so natural.  Nars is known as the blush authority and I think they have earned that reputation. What I really love is that their colors really do flatter many different skin tones. If you haven’t already picked up on it I love beauty inclusivity.

The other two items might not actually be beauty items but I think they make you feel beautiful and that ultimately is the whole point right?

A nice scent that works for day or night-I love an all-purpose perfume. One that works well for day and night. I love Sage and Sea Salt by Jo Malone- it’s described as a fresh aquatic scent and I was gifted Scent of a Woman by Prai Beauty and love the way it smells even more than the gorgeous crystal bottle that it comes in. It’s a romantic blend of bergamont and organge blossom and said to give your mood a confidence boost. These two are my go-to’s; although I have several fancy high- priced scents I don’t find them to be as universally wearable.

Hoop earrings-I am a diamond studs kind of girl. I don’t like having to think too much about jewelry, but throwing on a pair of hoops suddenly ups the feel-good look good factor. I think every woman should own a good pair of silver or gold hoops. This pair from Chicos works with everything!

Okay, now back to that Fenty shade I was telling you about.  Nubian Skin has nude shoes that actually match your Fenty Foundation shade so you can find your Fenty number and it will translate that into which shoe is a perfect nude for your skin type. How cool is that?

So, that completes my must-have items (the nude shoe things is just a bonus). I’d love to hear what you really have in your beauty bag.

Until Next Post,

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The other day I saw the cutest meme on social media. It was a classroom assignment where  the kid had been asked to name one of his/her heros.  The young student replied “ I am one of my own hero. First I am kind to myself and Second I do things I want.” I can’t even tell you how much that resonated with me. It might not be grammatically correct but it hit the nail on the head! “Why can’t we all be that kid?” I thought to myself. I immediately threw it into my IG story encouraging my friends to think about it too but I couldn’t get it out of my head. As, a matter of fact my daughter and I quote the kid all the time now. Doing or not doing something for our own good is “I’m being my own hero!” We say it in jest but the truth is we all need to do a little more of this! So here are three things we can all do to make that meme a reality.

Reframe our dialogue-It’s easy to say “Be kind to yourself” but what exactly does that mean? I believe it has to do with the way we talk to ourselves (internal dialogue) and the way we talk about ourselves to others (external dialogue). It is easy to focus on our mistakes or shortcomings because those are the things that we pick up on the most. We often forget all of the wins and focus on the one loss. Instead of saying “I am not good at”…or “I always forget, mess up or miss…” reframe your words so that they are honest and supportive. “I am working towards being better at…”or “I missed my mark but I did accomplish ______ and next time I will make my goal with a little more_________.” It really boils down to being compassionate to yourself. If your daughter or best friend said something overtly negative about themselves you would likely not jump on the bashing bandwagon (unless you’re the Regina George type) you would reframe it just like or similar to, the examples I used above. Be THAT friend and not a frenemy to yourself.

Don’t play the comparison game– We’ve seen tons of memes and messages on the web about this one. You know why there are so many of those circulating on social media? Because we all do it. It isn’t just happening on social media either. We compare our lives, our jobs, our marriages and our children. We are all looking for confirmation that we are doing what we care about well. Seeing what others are doing helps us (or so we think) evaluate where we stand. We use the comparison game as some misguided litmus test. But the reality is that no two: situations, friendships, marriages, children (I could go on with the list forever) are going to be the same and you couldn’t possibly compare your real life to a glimpse you get from someone else’s. Everyone is dealing with some kind of mini or macro trauma-life is full of suffering. And you know what it is also full of-joy! I believe that if you focus less on what others are doing you can enjoy the the joy in your own journey instead of being a spectator in someone else’s. Every time you start to compare yourself (employ the Marie Kondo philosophy) ask yourself “Is this bringing me joy?” If it isn’t click off of the page, end the conversation or change the channel.

Speaking of changing the channel, that brings me to my final point…

Realize that it is okay to choose again-we should all be doing things we like to do but sometimes we don’t know what those things are until we try them. I am the kind of person who when I say yes to something I feel an overwhelming need to see it through even if I realize I am no longer enjoying it. Sometimes that works out, for example all through my new Barre class I kept asking myself “Why in the world am I torturing myself? But then after I felt really proud for pushing through, but there are other times I have attended an event or worked on a project that I didn’t really want to because I didn’t want to let someone down, only to feel miserable the entire time and wish I could get those hours of my life back! But the reality is we can’t and your time is precious. So, say YES when something stirs your soul. Say NO when it doesn’t and realize that it is okay to change your mind and choose again. It’s your life! What you owe the people who you care about is the happiest and most whole version of yourself.

So, those are my tips on how to be your own hero. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Until Next Post,

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The other day I was talking to someone who mentioned that they wanted to overhaul their entire wardrobe. They sent me photos from a fancy boutique that is very popular on the gram. They specialize in beautifully crafted staple items with interesting details and whimsical prints. Think JCrew meets Anthropologie.

Now, most of you know that I love clothing. I also think that each season gives us an opportunity to refresh and renew many areas of our lives and fashion is no exception. But, what I don’t believe in is buying a ton of new clothes. I like to incorporate a few pieces into a workable wardrobe. I am sure there are instances where someone might want to drop thousands of dollars revamping their entire wardrobe but I honestly can’t think of any. Even major life changes might call for a few new items but not a complete overhaul, in my opinion.

In my book, I talked about creating a capsule wardrobe and slowly swapping out items for higher quality staples. I did this a lot as a single mom, and now that my kids are adults and I’m married my family income is very different but it’s still the way I recommend shopping for new items no matter what your budget looks like. And if you really want to see the most bang for your buck here are a few items that you should upgrade or invest in that will have you looking chic in the New Year. Not only will these items last-provided you don’t go too trendy-I’m looking at you cute teddy bear coat- they will transition from winter right into early spring.

A great coat- There are so many new and  interesting styles out there like the aforementioned teddy bear coat which I have and enjoy wearing for fun, but if we are talking staples I like a classic lady coat or trench.  I’m a pretty practical person and like something that looks as good with jeans as it does with an LBD. While this sounds a little like a no brainer there are tons of people who do not have a nice coat. I have seen people show up to fancy events with their puffy, shovel-the-snow winter coat atop a long gown with the thought that they will coat check it anyway. While that might be true, getting to your event, standing in line for coat check and leaving the event are all times when your coat is on center stage. Not only are we talking about your first impressions when you meet someone in said coat check line but I also believe that we will feel better and more confident when you look completely pulled together. Start with outerwear. No one can tell the difference between a $200 fancy boutique striped shirt and a $50 one from the mall, but they can spot a nice coat a mile away. If you are going to invest do it here.

Boots-it is said that people subconsciously notice your shoes before anything else. I am not sure if that is true or not but I can say that I do believe that shoes elevate your outfit and they can break it too. We might not start there but we certainly end there. For winter and early spring, a boot really is a no-brainer. So if you’re going to invest in a boot I love the idea of a bootie. They are easier for most people to pull off and look great with dresses, pants, and jeans, again Practical Patty here at your service. They also don’t steal the show the way a knee-high boot does making it easier to wear them more often with different looks.

Sunglasses-We often think of sunglasses as a summer item, but I find myself throwing them on when going out just as much during the winter as during the warmer months. The sun’s still shining even when there’s snow on the ground in most places and while you’re out and about only a few things actually stand out when your outfit is covered by a coat anyway. Sunglasses are a wonderful way to add a little glamour or personality to your look. I am a quality over quantity person so I believe in a nice simple pair (Raybans are my go to) that will look chic with anything but if you like variety this is an area where you can go a little crazy and not break the bank. There are tons of great styles and you don’t have to buy high end. I have a pair from Chico’s like the pair pictured above that I wear quite a bit as well.

A statement bag-handbags always have a special place in my heart but during the winter and early spring they really stand out. Again, the idea is that one-most often you’re running around with a coat on anyway, and two- you are probably attending a few events and having a nice handbag elevates your look. When choosing a statement bag think quality (a nice handbag will last forever) and wearability. Again, you want something that stands out-I’m not a big fan of black unless the hardware is very interesting, but you don’t want it to be too distinct where you can’t wear it with almost anything. If you wear a lot of colors think of the other neutrals-grey, taupe, camel or mahogany, and if you wear neutrals a red, green, burgundy or another jewel-toned bag will make your outfit pop. I am crushing on the one above from Gucci but you can find a quality bag at a much lower price point.

So, that’s my take. Instead of buying a bunch of clothes during those winter sales going on now look at investing in some of the staple items featured above to truly chic up your look.

Until Next Post,

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The number one question I get whenever I talk about goal setting, list making or New Years Resolutions is How In The World Do You Stick With Them? Many people share stories of being tired of making that Resolution List every year only to look back months later and realize they haven’t achieved anything on them. “It’s useless!” I’ve heard more times than I would like to admit. Or “looking at that list actually makes me feel like a failure.” That’s probably the one that saddens me the most. So while I write about how to make resolutions and goal set often, in this post I want to address those points of contention specifically.

First let me explain that to me New Year Resolutions are more of a draft. A work in progress if you will. They are simply ideas on things I would like to do or stop doing that will improve the quality of my life. I don’t believe they are meant to be hard and fast. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a good idea to look at your list and update or revise it often. It’s the same philosophy behind taking good notes in school. You aren’t meant to take them and only use them to cram the night before the test and expect good results. Even if you are a person with good short-term memory, you still just memorize and dump so the information doesn’t stick with you. I actually used this method a lot during undergrad, but with grad school,  I realized that I needed to hold on to what I learned to ensure that I would really do well in my chosen profession. So I began to use my notes in a different way. I began to interact with them and not just the night before a big test. I began reading them, rewriting them, highlighting and underlining them often. Letting it all soak in. This is how I believe resolutions are meant to be done.

Here is my formula for approaching your resolutions in a more interactive way, ensuring that you’re more likely to make them stick!

Start with the big picture goal. What is it that you want to achieve. What is your why? If I wanted to lose weight it might not be as simple as losing a few lbs. It would be my why for wanting to do that? I’d ask myself what do I really want to do?  Have more energy? Live a healthier lifestyle? Feel better in my own skin? Whatever that why might be for you write that down.

Break it down into actionable steps. This is actually where the magic happens because the smaller steps are actually the joy in the journey. So joining a gym, or deciding to take a brisk walk daily might be the actionable steps that lead you to have more energy, leading a happier healthier lifestyle and feeling better about yourself even if you don’t lose the magic number of poundage.

Check in on your goals-do this monthly or quarterly. How are you doing? Did you keep up with the walks? Did you join the gym and find that you hated it? That’s okay. If that isn’t working for you what else would you be willing to try? Add to your actionable steps. Let your list evolve. Remember the big picture is the goal. The things you try to get there can be a work in progress. The more actions you are taking in making progress towards your goals the more likely you will achieve them. Don’t just write a list, tuck it away and expect a miracle. Work on it. Revise it. And keep letting it unfold. And remember to enjoy trying new things without the pressure because the thing you try isn’t really the goal.

And most importantly- Be kind to yourself-When I come up with my big picture goal, break it into bite-size actionable steps and then check in regularly I am so much more likely to stick with those resolutions. But the most important thing I do with my resolutions is I give myself permission to let it be a rolling list. I’m kind to myself when it comes to the list. I don’t berate myself for not meeting a goal. I just let it roll into the following year if it’s still important to me. For the example-The the first year we moved to a new city I really wanted more couple friends. My husband and I both had a good set of our own friends but I wanted the couple’s parties and meetups with people we both loved spending time with (not the obligatory spouse tag along). I wrote that down for a few years before it became a reality. And you know what? Acheiving that goal a few years later felt just as satisfying as when I met the other goals within the year. Don’t give up on your goals and more importantly don’t give up on YOU!

I’d love to hear your thoughts are on New Years Resolutions or goal setting in general.

Until Next Post,

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Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays! Thank you to everyone who entered my Sephora gift card giveaway. I loved reading all of your comments about what you were looking forward to during or after the holidays.

I selected a winner randomly, and the winner of the $100 Sephora gift card is….

Heather Z!


Heather please send me an email at hello.smchic@gmail.com to claim your prize.

Thanks again everyone! Look out for more giveaways in the near future.

Until next post,

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Last night after a day spent shopping with my mother and youngest daughter, my daughter and I were riding home and listening to the radio (which I honestly only do at Christmas time). I’m a pretty loyal XM Satellite listener now but I love the local Christmas stations. After playing one upbeat song after another the Christmas Shoes song came on. The mood shifted quickly as we listened to a little boy plead with a stranger for help to buy a pair of shoes for his sick mother “in case momma meets Jesus tonight..” That somber sounding line rang through the chorus. The song is both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.  Which is exactly how many of us who have experienced a big loss feel about the holiday season.

After the song ended, my daughter who is actually a pretty big country music fan said she’d never heard that song and never wanted to hear it again! We had just left my mother’s house, which for as long as I could remember served as a mini wonderland at Christmas time. My parents went overboard with the decor! They were definitely “go big or go home” kind of people, which I think led to me embracing minimalism the way I do, but I digress. They always had the largest tree ever, decorated to the hilt, and a fancy moving train that wrapped around it that kept my nephew intrigued for hours. But my mother had shared that she decided to forgo Christmas decorating again this year. It was her (and our) second Christmas without my father who had always hailed it as his favorite holiday. It occurred to me that Christmas had shifted for me and for my family. It’s still a wonderful time of the year.  Our family was growing with grandchildren and new nieces and nephews being added to our tribe, but it was also shrinking at the same time. We’d lost my grandmother the matriarch, and my father the patriarch in the same year and if I am being honest it would probably never feel quite the same.

The morning after the sad shoe song and my mother’s No Decorations Declaration, I woke up to a blog post by my friend over at Life Less Young where she wrote about how Christmas was actually not always a happy time for those who have lost loved ones. She suggested we do something in their honor during the holiday like make their favorite recipe. It made me think that one of my go-to grief strategies is to actually do something with the grief. Take some sort of action. I had already decided to embrace Christmas more this year because it was my dad’s favorite. I personally have always been more of a Thanksgiving kind of girl but the idea of embracing Christmas seemed a little more abstract than making a favorite dish, which seemed more purposeful. I loved that idea and decided to think of what else we could do to make the holidays easier for those of us to have experienced a big loss.

Here are two other things you can do to bring yourself a little peace and joy:

Do something kind for others– One way we decided to honor my father was to make a large donation in his honor to a charity that would have meant something to him. We chose a cancer research foundation. But your something doesn’t have to be a large donation. It can be as small as a random act of kindness. My father always paid the toll for me whenever we traveled and I happened to be following behind him. I realize that many people now use EZ passes but there’s still a pay lane. Paying the toll for the car behind me is a small way I can honor that memory of him. Find some way to do something kind for others in honor of your loved one. My grandmother gave the best and most sincere compliments. I also find joy in making someone’s day that way, so I always try to do that too!

Do something kind for yourself-on my father’s birthday (which is during the holidays) my family planned to visit his gravesite, which felt necessary but a little morbid on a day meant to celebrate life. So, after I got off work that afternoon, I decided that instead of rushing over to meet up with my family I was going to take some time just for me. I went to a nice Indian Restaraunt in the beautiful Town Center across from my job and treated myself to a very satisfying lunch. It gave me time to get centered and to be alone with my thoughts and to celebrate his life. It lifted my spirits the way a good meal always does-hence my love of Thanksgiving. We decided as a family that each year moving forward that we’d all do that together. Your me time doesn’t have to be a big celebratory meal it can be as simple as Pj’s all day kind of day where you take a break and just do whatever you love: books, puzzles, binge-watching your favorite series. Whatever brings you a little bit of joy- do that!

And finally, if you’re really struggling remember it’s okay to say you’re not okay. Let a friend or family member know how you feel and don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help if needed.

Wishing you love, light, and joy this holiday season!

Until Next post,

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As the new year approaches, I am all ready to begin setting my intentions, cutting out pictures for my vision board and making my list of new goals. But let me tell you why I am not starting there for 2019.

First, I have to acknowledge that I am a list maker and a goal setter through and through. I am one of those people who always has the next thing in mind. In the past, as soon as I’d meet a goal I’d be off and racing to the next thing. No grass grew under my feet. I chalked it up to always looking for ways to expand and grow but recently it occurred to me that growth isn’t just about forward movement. Growth is also about looking back, taking it in and savoring those celebratory moments. It is also about recognizing those times where things didn’t go as planned in a way that allows you to look for the growth in the challenge.  That reflection piece is integral in your ability to move forward.

Another important part of that reflection is your willingness to be open. It is great to have big audacious goals but what about your destiny? Have you ever thought about what you are actually being called to do versus what you think you’re supposed to be doing? If we are wearing horse blinders and only looking forward, we aren’t able to see all of the signs popping up around us that might actually be leading us to where we are meant to go. Taking the time to look back and around us, helps us to reach our true destiny.

When I sit back and think of some of the things I have accomplished recently, I know that there is something greater at work here because I didn’t dream these things. I just set a goal, focused on doing my best work in whatever space I was in and then the next little dream presented itself to me. Instead of looking like a straight trajectory, it started to move in lots of different directions, but there was an amazing unfolding at hand. And those different directions were eerily connected.  I was suddenly on a journey better than I could have planned out on paper. So, in order to keep allowing that to happen, I have begun to approach my goals in a different way. Here are three things I do now to help shape my goals and I’m hoping they’ll help you too.

Celebrate successes– I’ve always had a don’t get too comfortable mentality when it came to my goals. There is always the next thing I’d tell myself. And while that might have something to do with growing up as a military kid and moving every three years, there was something to that mantra. It kept me from becoming complacent but I also realized it didn’t allow me to live in the present the way I should have, or allow me to celebrate the triumphs of my past. Sometimes we get so caught up in where we think we should be that we fail to acknowledge how far we have come. Before you start making your New Years resolutions take the time to make a list of all of your accomplishments this year. Place that list somewhere where you can see it. Let celebrating what you’ve done shape where you are going. That amazing thing you did a few months back might be the off-road that takes you to where you’re supposed to be. Take the time to acknowledge it.

Look for grows-don’t let the record of what’s gone wrong play on repeat in your head. We all make mistakes. Instead of beating yourself up over what went astray this year think of what you can learn from that mistake. Every time something has gone wrong for me-like that time I did poorly on the Law School Admission Test because I didn’t even study and thought that my rational mind would take care of it (a very irrational thought by the way)-it allowed me to reflect. That reflection allowed me to realize that I didn’t even want to go to law school. I was just doing what everyone else wanted for me. I could have just taken the test again, or even worse given up completely. Instead, I paused and reflected. When  I was able to look at my “failure” from a more positive perspective I was able to get real and figure out what I really wanted to do.  Not doing well on that test was one of the best things that happened to me. I chose grad school instead of law school. I love being a school counselor and I met my husband in a school-wide meeting. My failure led me to where I was supposed to be. Reexamine yours and look for the growth opportunity.

And finally, be sure to cheer for others-Don’t play the comparison game. We have no idea what obstacles someone has overcome to get where they are. Never wish to be in someone else’s shoes when you have no idea what path they’ve walked to get there. Instead of comparing yourself to those you perceive as more successful employ another C word. Start connecting! Connecting with others who are doing what you want to do well, not only gives you something to aspire to but it will also illuminate your path. Simply watch, learn and cheer! If you do those three things well it won’t be long before you are walking right along with those people you admire!

So, that’s the plan for approaching the new year. Now of course after I make sure I’m checking all of those boxes I will dive right into my goals and intentions for 2019, but i’ll also continue to allow these three things to be my driving force all year long. I’d love to hear your thoughts and learn more about how you approach reflection and goal setting!

Until Next Post,

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