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If you have been following me for quite a while, attending Single Mom Chat on Thursday nights over on Instagram Live and/or listening to the podcast, you know that I’ve been talking about finding a therapist for a while. I don’t know why it has taken me this long but I’ve finally made the decision and scheduled my very first session. Eeek. I announced that I found a therapist on my InstaStory and so many of you wanted me to document my journey, so here we are. At this point, I feel like an open book. I wanted to share my main reasons for seeking therapy, so here we go.

Dealing with childhood trauma

I don’t know if it’s called trauma but I’m going to call it that. I have this deep desire to find out if the way I was raised has impacted the way I act and do things. As a child, my mom was diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia. I still have yet to find out if this was heredity or if some event or thing trigged the onset of these things. Every one has their own story and if I’m honest, I’ll just say that I haven’t been the most comfortable asking my mom about her mental health. She takes medication daily and if she doesn’t, she is not a normal functioning human. I remember my grandmother mentioning that she had not taken it once and going outside in the garage to find her talking to herself as if someone was there. You may or may not be able to imagine what that was like as a kid. I would like to think that at that point my mom became handicapped because of the lack of knowledge of mental health in our home. She stopped working and doing the things that she’d do normally. She was hospitalized a couple times and we were never told any details about her situation, only that she wasn’t working anymore, had to take medication everyday, see the doctor (psychiatrist), and attend group sessions (therapy). It’s 2019 and my family and I have barely scratched the surface of having a conversation about mental health. When I was in school, kids in the community would pick on me and say my mom was crazy because I guess that was all they could find to pick on me about. My grandmother ended up raising my brother and I so I didn’t have a lot of parental involvement as a kid. My dad was in and out of our lives, mostly out with excuses. He blames my grandmother for a lot of it but every one has their side of the story. I still believe that my grandmother did the best she could to raise us, considering the circumstances. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the Lord, his grace, and her grace. So yeah I knew my dad growing up but after a while, I didn’t care whether he was in or out of my life due to all of his broken promises to show up and spend time with my brother and me. After I graduated college, he claimed he wanted to help out since he hadn’t been there for me and recommended that I move and that’s another whole story. We then tried rebuilding our relationship but it failed for various reasons and we equally decided that we’d no longer communicate. He even told me I was beginning to act like my mom since I had began to isolate myself and even though I didn’t believe that, it has stuck with me. However, I am constantly being told that I should contact him and give him another chance and I do not feel that I should. It’s my way of protecting my peace and energy. My hope is that I can work through this stuff, gain clarity, and be done with feeling a certain type of way because of the decisions that I’ve made.

Being impatient as a mom

I have a huge desire to be the best parent I can be but if I’m going to be honest, I am not the most patient and I am still working on my effective listening skills when it comes down to hearing my daughter talk 24/8. I have came a LONG way though. Let’s be real. When my daughter was going through the stage of being two or three years old, I had the least amount of patience. It seemed like everything she did was a test and I found myself using some of the parenting skills I observed from my grandmother as a kid i.e. hollering and spanking occasionally. Now, I’ve gotten so much better and understand more of child development but there are little things that still push my button and they shouldn’t. I haven’t spanked her in years although I’ve threatened her numerous time and I have learned to use a calm voice way more. I think she has a fear of spankings now and when I holler, she jumps a little. *Sigh* My daughter is also super sensitive and gets frustrated easily. Sometimes I literally have to drag things out of her and I want her to feel more comfortable with telling me things instead of feeling like I might get mad at her. I feel like a therapist would be able to recommend some communication and coping mechanisms that I haven’t tried to help me out in these areas. I am also going to explore play therapy for my daughter or see if the therapist recommends it because I want her to be expressive and be in the best shape she can possibly be mentally as a kid and work through growing up in a single parent home, so she doesn’t have to do the work later on in life. I believe this age is a crucial time in her childhood development, especially with teaching her how to identify and articulate her feelings.

Feelings of guilt

Being a working mom is tough (no matter if you work from home or in a corporate setting). The weekdays are filled with work, homework, extracurricular activities, working a side hustle or business, and trying to squeeze in time for yourself and the kid. The weekends are for cleaning, getting caught up on rest, carving out time to spend with the little ones, and going harder on your projects. Sometimes, I wonder am I really spending enough time with my daughter specially since time can never be replaced or purchased again. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Recently, my daughter was sick and didn’t feel good, saying her stomach hurted. I had to make the choice between using the rest of my PTO and allowing my daughter to go to school. I ended up giving her Tylenol and sending her to school since there were no other symptoms I could see. Situations like this make me feel a little guilty (because here I am in this city with no one to call because everyone I know is working too) but I have to realize that it’s just me doing the job of two parents, with the exception of providing financially because her dad does do his part in that area. My grandmother likes to remind me that it was my decision to move away from the help I had, which does not make the situation better, and can be very irritating. Then on the other hand, I wonder if I ever get enough alone time even though I try to make sure I get some alone time in the morning and on some nights. I’ve become so selfish with my time that I’ve had to make time for connecting with other moms and people to have some face-to-face adult interaction.

Lack of understanding

Whenever I first relocated to Houston, I believe I became isolated in a sense. I didn’t talk to anyone as much because I didn’t feel that they would understand. I seemed to only meet people that were either single or married. I mainly focused on work and saving money, working two jobs. I’ve found that it is hard to talk to people about single motherhood that’s never been through it. Majority of us have an issue of finding other single moms who get it and are trying to do better, which is why I have created this online community, Single Black Motherhood. Although it is helpful and I’ve learned a lot from other moms, it’s not the same as having a single mom community offline that’s able to help out and this year, I am really working on building a community offline. Until then, I’d prefer to share my thoughts and business with a therapist who will offer an unbiased opinion due to previous experiences or due to experience with clients and testing. I’ve also learned to not unload my baggage on my friends before checking in with them to see how they are feeling mentally or if I feel like it’s too much. I feel that I will be able to just unloaded everything on the therapist’s couch.

There is a ton of research that shows the effects on improved mental health. I love to talk anyways so why not talk to get help? I’ll keep you all posted on the journey.

If you are considering therapy, here are some ways to get started:

  1. Figure out your why. I’ve found that this helps when you’re searching but I’ve also heard therapists can help you when you don’t know.

  2. Ask for recommendations from family, co-workers, or friends (this includes Facebook groups and your social media friends).

  3. Search directories: Therapy for Black Girls, Melanin Mental Health, and Psychology Today are the ones I used - Make sure to check their specialties and what they are passionate about

  4. Log on to your insurance’s site and search their provider directory or give them a call and they can direct you to the appropriate place. I was able to search and filter by African American female, 10 miles of my zip code.

  5. Schedule a phone consult or email them with your questions. I personally like to chat to her their tone and sort of feel them out. Discuss availability, length of time in the field, previous experience with your issues, their approach to therapy, whether they have been to therapy or not (this matters), whether your insurance is accepted (if you didn’t check the provider directory on you insurance’s site), co-pays, late fees, etc.

I hope this helps someone who has been thinking about finding a therapist. It literally took me a little over a year to get my crap together and do the research. Let me know below if you are in therapy (and how it’s helped you) or if you have been thinking about it. I do understand that very few moms have said it did not help them but you have to choose your therapists like your doctors. If one doesn’t work/fit, find another one. You cannot give up that easily.

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If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I am always asking what you mamas want to hear about in Single Mom Chat or on the podcast. One of the moms said that she needed tips for getting involved in her child’s education. I thought, wow! This is such a good topic! I need to take this a bit further and write a post and do a podcast on this (live on Thursday!) So many of us are working moms and do not feel like we have the time to get involved and some of us think that involvement only happens at school. I want to share some ways in which you are able to get involved in your child’s education. Please note: This may require some sacrifice. Your child should not only learn in the classroom, but also outside of the classroom. Learning starts at home. You are your child’s first teacher. How can you teach your child to value their education if you don’t?

Review your child’s curriculum.

Before my daughter started talking, I started thinking about her education. I never used baby talk with her and always spoke to her with correct words. I purchased little board books so that we could begin to form her vocabulary. Between the ages of two and three, I knew that I wanted her to attend a daycare or learning center that had the Abeka curriculum because it’s what my cousin used at the homeschool academy she had. I used to volunteer during my summers in New Orleans as a kid and her students in the same grade as me would always know so much more. Some daycares did not have curriculums for kids that were younger than four which made me think that they were literally a babysitting service. They claimed to teach your kid but had no concrete information and that bothered me. It really helps if you get involved in your child’s age at an early age to help you remain consistent throughout the years. Now that my daughter is in public school, I don’t have much control over choosing a type of curriculum that I’d like. Before the year or new semester begins, I always like to review the curriculum to see where my daughter is at and review the school’s policies. I believe it helps to know what will be covered and how you can help out, especially if your child will be learning new things. If your child is going to be in a public school where he or she may be already familiar with a lot of the topics, you can incorporate some things at home to stimulate their brain. You can also help at home by reinforcing what is taught at school. It is helpful to communicate your expectations of the teacher at the very beginning of the school year and develop a relationship with them, which brings me to my next tip.

Develop a relationship with your child’s teacher.

As a single mom, it’s so important to understand that you and your child’s teacher are partners, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to attend meetings and be present. You are your child’s advocate! If you do not advocate for them, who will? No one. I believe that as the kids approach middle school, you teach them how to advocate for themselves but also continue to assist them along the way. I also believe that you should let the teacher know that you value your child’s education and you are committed to helping them become successful. What I have learned is that all teachers are not created equal. Some will only do the bare minimum and these are the ones that you have to stay on top of. They may not let you know how your kid is doing until an issue or problem happens so I encourage you to check in biweekly, at least. I normally send my daughter’s teacher an email to see if there is anything I can work on with her at home since she is in Kindergarten and they don’t have homework, which was frustrating originally because she had homework in Pre-K at the private program she was attending previously. So even if you feel like the child’s teacher is crappy and does the bare minimum, don’t voice it to your child. They are always listening and you influence their thoughts. So if you have an attitude when it comes to helping them with their work or discussing school behavior, they will have one too.

Attend the parent teacher conferences.

I believe it’s more effective for you to show up in person at the parent teacher conferences. Conference calls are just not the same as talking to them face to face, letting them know that you mean business. I know that a lot of us don’t like to use our PTO unless it’s for emergencies, sick time, or vacation time. This is where communication with leadership is important. Let them know that you want to be involved with your child’s education. I know what you are thinking. Not all leadership will understand but you can at least try. If you work for a company that allows you to make up time, you can simply take off an hour or two to go to the conference. You will thank yourself later for doing this. This is a part of the sacrifice as a mom. If you are not able to make it during the time that is allotted for that day, ask the teacher if you can come before or after school another. Most times they are flexible. Let the teacher know that you want to know about issues, whether behavioral or academic. It does not matter if they think the issue is small or not, you want to know. Small issues lead to big issues. If your child is having an issue, ask the teacher how the two of you can work together to solve it. Write down your questions and bring them with you to the conference. This is a great time for you to ask about a certain skill if you are not knowledgeable and know that your child is struggling with it. I always get great tips from asking questions.  Parent teacher conferences do not have to only be scheduled by the teacher, you can schedule them too. Try your best to be an active listener during this time. I know sometimes we are frustrated before we get there but we have to learn how to be calm so that we can understand what’s happening in the classroom. We have to model behavior for our children. The teacher spends more time with your child than you do on the weekdays. I believe the teacher values you as a parent more when they know that they have your support at home. If for some reason the teacher is not effective, follow the chain of command and do not be afraid to use your voice to let them know that and have your reasons why, including examples of your attempts to reach out and work on various issues.

Show your face at the school.

Many schools have opportunities to volunteer. I believe every school has a PTA. I am a part of the PTA for my daughter’s school but the meetings are always at 9AM which sucks for working moms so I haven’t made time to attend the them. However, I may make an effort to attend during the spring. When the kids have field trips, the teachers normally want parents to attend to chaperone. I had the privilege of doing this for my daughter’s first Kindergarten trip and I took off work with no problem. Chaperoning allowed me to see who was in my daughter’s class, interact with the students, meet some other moms, and connect with the teacher a little more. There are also opportunities for parents to read to the class on Friday mornings, which I haven’t done yet but it is a goal of mine. My daughter has asked countless times. Sigh. Even if you want to sit in the class for a day, you can. There are also several other opportunities to get involved so I encourage you to take time to visit your child’s school website to see what’s available for you to get involved. Again, I just believe you are taken more serious when you SHOW UP.

Be available to assist your child with their homework

The kids need to know they have your support. Those who are in elementary have not fully mastered doing homework on their own so they may need a little help but you can still encourage working independently and build their confidence. Remember to be patience as their little attention spans are short. Be there to help them when they get stuck but do not complete the work for them. I know that is tough after a long day but as much as you think you are helping them, you are hurting them.  In middle and high school, they become self sufficient and don’t really need your help unless they can’t figure out how to do something. After they have completed the work, I believe it is okay for you to check for completeness and make sure they understand what they are doing. If you find that you do not know how to help them, ask them if they have an example of the problem from class or try researching Google and YouTube. There are tons of supplemental resources out there. Be sure to give your child positive feedback as well. You can also set aside 10-15 minutes and let your them read aloud to you and you can read to them at bedtime. Are you aware of some of the benefits of reading? The more the child reads, the better their reading skills become. Reading also improves their vocabulary and general knowledge.

Foster learning through activities

Education should not be happening only in the classroom. Children can learn through play! Did you know that? There are countless opportunities to teach your child. On the weekends, take your child to the local museums. There are always learning opportunities there.  When you are going to the grocery store let the child count the money, learn the names of vegetables and fruits, and read the shopping list. My daughter loves to read signs and labels. Even when we are driving and we pass different stores, I ask her to read the signs. There are even lessons that can be learned at the park or playing board games. Find out what activities your child likes and get them involved! Learning should be fun! We want our children to be involved in things that stimulate their mind.

I know that becoming involved will require time and commitment but YOU CAN DO IT, even if this means that you cannot volunteer at the school but you are making a conscious effort to be active at home. I don’t want you to be that parent that is just too busy to where you won’t show up for your own child. What are you currently doing to be involved in your child’s education or will you be trying any of the things I mentioned? Let me know in the comments below.

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Happy New Year!! I’m so grateful to be here another year with the opportunity to share my knowledge and do life with you! Often times we focus on setting resolutions and goals for the new year and we forget about the simple, yet impactful things. I want to encourage you to do ten things this year that will improve your life.

  1. Practice gratitude daily. It is so easy to get caught up in what you don’t have or what could be. Practicing gratitude daily allows you to focus more on the things that you do have and what’s happening around you. I really want us to complain less and become more grateful as a community. There is always someone out there in a worse situation than you. If you don’t have a journal, get a notebook and write down three things that you are grateful for each day, whether it is before bed or first thing in the morning. This practice can change your life, especially if you’re one who complains a lot.

  2. Create a budget. As single moms, finances is one of the number one issues. How can you fix the issue if you don’t know where your money is going? Make this the year you stop spending without knowing where your money is going. I am currently trying zero-based budgeting. It is simply where you take your income and subtract everything that you have on your budget from it and get zero. If you do not have a budget at this time, I encourage you to create one. Figure out what type of budget works best for you. You may want to first spend some time tracking your spending over a month by just writing it down. Then, develop the budget. In the zero-based budgeting method, everything is accounted for from bills down to savings. If you try zero-based budgeting and the budget doesn’t equal zero right now, it’s okay. It is a process. Figure out how to get to zero whether it means decreasing expenses or increasing income.

  3. Get a side hustle. I constantly hear every single mom should have a side hustle and I now understand why. I also understand that everyone is not able to start their own business and become a mompreneur but everyone is able to get a side hustle. Our 9-5 full-time income is good but what happens if you get fired or your salary gets cut due to budgeting? You will have to figure it out but if you have a side hustle, you at least have some income flowing outside of your primary income. You should never be solely dependent on one source of income and I’m talking to myself too. I had a side hustle but I was not consistent last yea. I will do better this year. Having a side hustle also helps you not depend on child support. What happens when the child support doesn’t come or it gets decreased? I know that you can list it as a source of income but this year, I want you to make it a goal to not have to rely on child support as a source of income. What do I mean when I say this? You are actually able to pay all of your bills without it (and put money aside). Who knows? Your side-hustle may just become your full-time gig one day! Here are some side hustle ideas to get you started: babysitting, blogging, baking, podcasting, planning events, tutoring, housecleaning, delivering groceries (Shipt, Postmatets, or Instacart), driving people around (Uber or Lyft), mystery shopping, photography, odd jobs (Taskrabbit), coaching, and direct sales (usually requires little money to start).

  4. Put you at the top of your to do list. Another thing I hear often is “I don’t have time for myself.” I’m too busy. If you have been following me for quite some time, you know that I get up an hour or two before my daughter to have some “me” time and if I want to take it a step further, I will stay up an hour or so after her bedtime. This allows me to make time to do things for myself. You can do it to. Instead of laying in bed and mindlessly scrolling on social media when you wake or or before you go to bed, figure out what things make you happy and begin to incorporate them into your schedule. It may seem impossible when you’re thinking about it, but I promise you can do it. Start off with 15 minutes and gradually increase it over time.

  5. Learn to manage your time. I always hear “I don’t have enough time” or “I’m too busy.” I know. Life is tough. You are trying to juggle so much between your life and the life of your kids all on your own, whether co-parenting or not. I want you all to evaluate your daily schedule and see where your time is going. If you are not where you want to be, I do not think you should ever be too busy to work on things that will benefit you. I like to plan out my week on Saturday or Sunday morning then block off my time on Google calendar and sync it with iCal. It allows me to receive notifications right before it’s time to start my next task. Scheduling everything allows you to see where your time is going and holds you accountable.

  6. Spend quality time with your kids. This is something that I am going to do a better job of. I asked a question in Single Mom Chat (on Instagram Live each and every Thursday at 7:30PM CST) about how moms are spending time with their kids. There were some really good ideas such as date night during the week on days that kids eat free, carving out time on the weekend to go to the park, or simply having a movie night. Doing these things while eliminating distractions sounded great! I’m going to incorporate one of them. I have grown to understand that time is the one thing you cannot get back and kids grow so fast that if you blink you might miss a major milestone!

  7. Invest in your personal development. How will you grow if your mindset is messed up? After learning how to manage your time, evaluate your morning routine. Are you feeding your brain? I suggest listening to podcasts, reading books and/or e-books, taking advantage of free courses, or even educational or motivational videos on YouTube at least once daily. It may seem like a lot but it’s not. You can do this in the morning when you get up before the kids or at night after the kids go to sleep. This does not cost you anything and doesn’t have to take up much time. I encourage you to take it a step further and attend a conference or consider joining a local community or organization with like-minded women. See if there are local single mom communities in your area. Google, Facebook, MeetUp, and Instagram are great places to start searching.

  8. Deal with the stuff you have been carrying. Mental health is very important. I recently found an interest in Child Psychology and learned that a lot of the things that affected us in our childhood later affects us in adulthood. We carry baggage and become bitter about what happened to us. Begin to journal, talk to a trusted friend or family member, or seek therapy if neither of those work. I hear that a lot of you are still holding on to things that your child’s father did two and three years ago. It is time to let that stuff go. How can we operate in excellence if our focus is back in 2016? We have to learn how to move forward. You can’t heal what you don’t reveal. I have some questions about my childhood that may be the cause for some of my actions. I want an unbiased opinion so I am in the process of finding a therapist for that reason. I will be sharing the journey. Stay tuned for that.

  9. Invest in your professional development. If you are not were you want to be in your career, this is necessary. Commit to growth this year! Similar to personal development, you should attend a conference or join a local organization. I cannot tell you how networking has opened so many doors. Don’t be afraid to discuss your professional goals with your leaders. The company may have funds allocated for professional development. You won’t know until you ask. Also, find a mentor or someone in the company or field that is where you want to be and reach out to them. Most people love to talk about their journeys and how they got where they are. If you are a work at home mom and you are looking to grow, there are also conferences that you can attend, Facebook groups, and organizations that you can join. You can also look for other work at home moms to see how they are doing it. I want us to become more resourceful. We often discount our abilities simply because of the lack of financial resources. Learn to use Google and YouTube. It is life changing! If you do have the financial means and do not prefer to do the research, take this thing a step further and invest in a coach. The coach has already done the research and is able to help you get to the next level. Be sure to research the coach and read reviews, if there are any. In this age of social media and coaching, it is easy to be fooled.

  10. Make relationship building a priority. In 2018, my goal was to make connections. This year I am focusing on relationship building. It’s important that I make time to build my tribe here in Houston. I’ve been living here for three years now and I have made connections with moms but haven’t built one relationship. I know that I could do a whole lot more with a support system. Parenting alone can be isolating. By having a support system of moms, I could help them and they could help me, whether babysitting or a simple moms night out to vent and share advice. It’s easy for me to connect with moms on social but so hard to connect off social due to scheduling and the lack of time. I’ve connected with some young ladies off social who were not moms and they have been so helpful but they don’t understand a lot of the struggles that I go through.  It’s just something about being able to talk to people who are going through similar issues and get it. I’m honestly not sure how I have made it this far without knowing any other moms that are local. We have to make time to make this happen. Houston moms, lookout for more meetups this year!

Let me know below what you are working on and if you find any of these things helpful!

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Oh my gosh!! I finally went on my very first INTERNATIONAL SOLO TRIP. This is something I’ve always wanted to do but I just never put forth the effort. Just so you know, I have traveled around the US quite a bit alone but I have never ventured outside of the country. Typically, I plan a girls’ trip each year but this time my friends could not go for various reasons. I decided to still move forward with planning a trip, leaving my laptop and daughter behind. When you travel with a group, you have to be mindful that things are much cheaper because you can split the cost. However, I did not let this deter me as I needed the break. I simply decided that I would travel for as less as possible.

If you have never traveled solo before, start with a weekend trip in the US. I encourage everyone to try it at least once! It forces you out of your comfort done especially if you are not a social person.

How I chose my destination

I used Skyscanner.com and searched for the cheapest destinations in November leaving from MSY, since it is the closest airport to my grandma’s house, where my daughter would be staying. I wanted to go somewhere warm that had a beach so Mexico and Colombia were at the top of the list for cheap international destinations. I never pay over $500 for an international flight. Just FYI. I went to Tulum, Mexico last year so I decided I would give Colombia a shot. I chose Cartagena since people spent most of their time there and Medellin since it was high on the list of cities to visit in Colombia. I started to compare flights for the dates I wanted with various travel sites such as Kayak, Google Flights, and TravelZoo to name a few.

Click here to listen to the podcast episode about traveling on a budget

What airlines I used for the flights

Spirit Airlines is typically my go-to because of the bare fare. For a while, I wouldn’t give them a shot because of the reputation but I gave them a shot in February of this year and been flying with them every since. The flight was $373 leaving from MSY and arriving in CTG. However, there was an overnight layover in FLL on Saturday, which required me to stay there and a four hour layover on the way back. I had no issues with the flights and they all arrived on time, if not earlier. I only traveled with a personal item so I did not have to pay for a carry-on and I also checked-in online each time so I did not pay for my boarding pass or have issues with any other fees.

Click here to read about my first experience with Spirit

In Colombia, I used Latham & Avianca airlines. Both of these airlines were fine as well. If you don’t speak Spanish, you will have a hard time knowing what the announcements are but it will be fine. Avianca even have tv’s on their plane.

Where I stayed

In Fort Lauderdale, I reserved a private room on AirBnB. It was my very first time reserving a private room so I was kind of afraid but it worked out. The host was very accommodating. The latest check-in was at 11PM and he was kind enough to allow me to check-in at 11:30PM. I stayed in a three-bedroom house and two of the rooms were on AirBnB and we had to share the guest bathroom.

For my first two nights in Cartagena, I stayed at the Oz Hotel. My stay there was fine for two nights. It was a four-star hotel but I think they should pay more attention to the maintenance there. If you are just looking for a place to lay your head and you know you won’t be there long, this is great for less than $100 a night. The shower was hot and the bed was nice. That was all that mattered to me. The receptionist did not speak much English so beware of that.

For my two nights in Medellin, I stayed at a cute little studio apartment. The check-in time was 3PM and they would not allow me to check in early. Ugh. However, they did allow me to drop off my luggage. They also had a 24-hour security guard so that was great but he couldn’t speak any English and he’s the one that does check-in. This AirBnB had all of the essentials: water, an iron (thank God!), towels, an extra blanket, and soap. The only issue I had was that after a period of time, the shower’s water would get cool and later would go back to hot. It was annoying but I just learned that I needed to stop trying to take extra long showers there and I was fine.

Save $40 on your stay with AirBnB over $75

For my last night in Cartagena, I stayed at the Conrad. I loved my room! It is a five-star hotel so I was definitely expecting a great experience when I got there even thought I find a deal at $105 per night. Talk about a STEAL! I arrived before check-in and they allowed me to check-in early. However, I had to settle for two queen beds instead of the king sized bed I requested. The view was amazing. The hotel had a beach club that you can go to that’s included and you can get there via a golf cart. I relaxed there for the rest of the day. Beware. The hotel is far (30 mins or so) from the Walled City and they charge $55,000COP (around $17.50 USD) for their taxi to take you there. I didn’t realize this when I booked it so I decided that I would just hang out there once I got there.

What I did and how much I paid for each activity

It’s easier to share my itinerary. So here it is:

11/17 :

Park at Park N Fly New Orleans for seven days - $90.98

Arrive in Fort Lauderdale via Spirit Airlines: $373.91 roundtrip

Uber to the AirBnb: $16.39

Private room cost: $48.71

11/18:

Uber to the Airport: $13.39

Breakfast - $6.64

Taxi to hotel - $4.25 (Only because I met another solo traveler)

Arrive at hotel - $125.07 for two nights

Eat dinner at Jeno’s Pizza - $9.87 (Don’t judge me - I was tired of walking and finding everything in Spanish. Hahaha)

Stop at the supermarket for some snacks - $2

11/19:

Taxi to the Walled City - $2.47

Breakfast at Epocoa - $15 (I had an omelet and ORGANIC mimosas :) - they had a special that was 3 mimosas for the price of 2)

Free Tour - $6 tip

Arepa on the street/Water - $2

Arepa - $2

Drinks - $3

Castle - $6

Water - $1

Taxi to hotel - $3

Taxi back to the Walled City - $1.50

Margarita at a Bar - $6

Their mangoes are green and they sprinkle salt & Pepper on top

Dinner - $10

Taxi - $1.50 (split)

11/20:

Taxi to airport - $6

Breakfast - $1.50

Travel to Medellin w/Latham Airlines - $53.42

Arrive at AirBnB for two nights - $108.06

Taxi to AirBnB - $15.50 (split with another solo traveler - reg. $23)

Taxi to Pergamino - $2.50

Pergamino coffee/cookie - $2

Lunch/Drink at Hooter’s - $16.66 (Don’t judge. Both my phone and battery pack were dying - I needed somewhere to charge it and I spotted an outlet from passing by)

Uber to the AirBnb - $2.20

Uber to dinner - $3.03

Dinner/Drink at Gato’s - $19

Cab - $2.50

11/21:

Uber to Parque el Poblado - $3

Guatape Tour - $26.03

Fee to climb El Pinol - $6

Coffee/Cookie - $3

Dinner at OCI.MDE - $17.78

Uber to AirBnB - $3.50

11/22:

Uber to Airport - $25

Breakfast at Burger King - $2.16

Travel back to Cartagena w/Avianca Airlines - $75.22

Stay at the Conrad - $105.07

Lunch/Drinks at the Beach Club - $30

11/23:

Taxi to Walled City - $17.21

Photoshoot via AirBnb Experiences: $55.03 (Yes! AirBnB has experiences)

Choco Museum - FREE entry

Souvenir shopping - $90 ($25 was spent at the Choco Museum on Cocoa Butter and Chocolate - The rest was spent on coffee, magnets, a shot glass, and tees)

Lunch at the airport - $7

Dinner at the airport - $12.97

Recap of the costs

Flight to/from CTG (Cartagena): $373.91

Flight to/from MDE (Medellin): $128.64

Accommodations: $386.91

Approximate total trip cost including all flights, accommodations, activities, and spending: $1436.55 excluding gas from driving to and from Houston

Final thoughts

Overall, I enjoyed this trip but I believe I should’ve just done one city (Cartagena) because of the time lost during the flights. I’m glad I didn’t let the travel advisory or other’s bad experiences to influence my decision. I met other solo travelers at the airports and on the tours and I didn’t feel that my safety was being compromised at any time! It’s just like being aware of your surroundings when you are anywhere else! Google Translate, Google Maps, and Waze saved me. Very few people speak English and I had to know where I was going. I had lots of time for self-care (sitting in silence, reading, and reflecting). I’m sad I did not get to go to Rosario Islands, Playa Blanca, or any of the beautiful beaches I read about. I simply ran out of time. Sigh. Wi-fi is not available everywhere so I ended up getting an International Pay-as-you Go Plan through AT&T, my cellphone carrier, at $10 per day that included unlimited calling, texting, and use of your data plan. It was definitely worth it for those places that did not have wi-fi. A lot of solo travelers did not worry about their phones but they could also speak some Spanish. I was struggling with basic Spanish. I heard that there was also an option to purchase a SIM card and get a plan there. As for photos, I asked the other solo travelers I met or the tour guides.

The taxi drivers will try and rip you off because there is no meter in Cartagena so be aware of that. Also, ask the cost of the ride before you hop in. I had a slight issue with a taxi driver because of this. In Medellin, the taxis are metered and it’s easier to use Uber there. However, they say Uber is illegal so it’s best that you sit in the front seat if you decide to use it. Also, Uber charges a few cents for their foreign transaction fee and you have to deal with surges in price. There’s also an app that useful in Medellin called EasyTaxi. I used it as well. Wi-Fi is at most places in Medellin. It seems to resemble the US more than Cartagena.

If you are wondering how I afford a trip as such, each year I typically take $1000 out of my income tax and put it in a savings account (I call it my travel fund) and I figure out how much more I need and save that per check. So in this case, I needed $436.55. Saving $50 a check or $100 a month allowed me to save up the rest. Just save how much you can until you have enough to book your flight (especially if you find a good deal because prices can fluctuate hourly), your hotel, and activities.

Click here to listen to the podcast about saving for travel

Right now, Chase Bank is giving you up to $350 to open a new savings or checking account!!

Click here to open your account and get some free coins

You know you could use them for the holidays or to put towards your solo trip!

I hope this helps you with your solo trip planning! Let me know below if you are thinking about taking a solo trip, or if you have done one let me know where you have been and where you want to go! Also, be on the lookout for the podcast where I will actually talk about my experience more in depth.

Click here to sign up and get $40 off your AirBnb over $75 or $15 off an experience that’s $50 or more

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Many of you have been messaging me saying you really want to be able to go on the Single Moms Cruise but you do not have $100 to spare at this time.  Well, worry no more. Here are ten ways you can make $100 pretty quickly:

1. Sell Unused Items. Look around and figure out what you are not using or wearing. You can take your clothes and kids clothes to a local consignment shop. You can also post them and your unused items to local Facebook groups. You can also sell your unused items on Ebay, Amazon, or even your local pawn shop.

2. Download and use apps such as TaskRabbit and Gigwalk. These apps have jobs that you can choose from to earn a few coins. We are living in a time where we are able to use our smartphones to make money.

3. Babysit for your family and friends. Everyone is always looking for a babysitter on Friday and Saturday nights and they'd much rather pay family or friends a little than to pay a total stranger a lot. Even if you only charged them $25 for them to go out for a few hours and you kept two kids, that's $50 for one night.

4. Open an account with a new bank that's offering a bonus. Chase is currently offering a $200 bonus for all new checking accounts. When I signed up with them a few months ago, I got a $300 bonus and was too happy! You simply have to change your direct deposit over to Chase, even if it's just a percentage of your check that equals the minimum amount they require.

5. Deliver food or groceries with Shipt, Instacart, Postmates, Amazon Flex, Door Dash, or UberEats. I've seen Moniqua work for Shipt with her baby and I know these are doable. If you have family nearby, you can totally ask them to babysit your kid(s) for a couple of hours while you do one of these as well. 

6. Donate plasma or platelets. You will be surprised at how much you can earn! Sometimes, it's around $50 or so and you can go back in a few weeks and donate again.

7. Do surveys and mystery shopping. These can be time consuming but can be well worth it. A few sites to get you started are Survey Junkie, MySurvey, & Inbox Dollars.

8. Sign up for Ebates. You get $10 just for signing up and it allows you to earn cash back on online and in-store purchases, especially since it's back to school season. I love Ebates!

9. If you are a working mom, find out if you can work overtime. Even if it's for a hour or two a day, it can be worth sacrificing the time. 

10. Cut back on some things that are unnecessary. I am talking about cable, getting manicures and pedicures, eating out, going to bars, etc. This will help you to save. You can also call around to see about lowering the cost of your internet, cable, insurance, etc. 

These are all legit ways to make $100. Some of them may need to be combined. Either I have tried them or other single moms have recommended them to me and I've decided to share them with you. Have you made $100 quick in the past? Let me know what you did in the comments. I want to hear from you!

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If you have been following me recently, you know that I was searching for an apartment for a certain price in Katy, TX.  Apartment searches can be so overwhelming but I am here to ease the burden a little and share what I have learned. Here are 10 steps to an effective apartment search:

These beautiful silk sunflowers pictured were sent to me by the sweet people at CSI Wall Panels. I can't wait to get a vase to use them in my new apartment!

1. Determine why you want to move and figure out if it necessary. Is it the school system? Can you negotiate your current rent? Can you switch units? Have you saved enough? Be sure to ask yourself the necessary questions before deciding to move.

2. Set a budget. Do you want to continue paying the same amount of rent elsewhere? Can you afford to pay a little more to live in a nice suburban area versus living in an urban area? Can you pay for a month or two in advance to have your rent lowered? If you are forced to relocate, can you make time for an at home side hustle? When I moved into my first apartment here in Houston, I worked for Arise and that helped me pay the rent until I was able to find a permanent full-time job.

3. Figure out where you actually want to live. If you have multiple options, make a list. Google Maps is helpful for seeing what is near the complex. If you are a working mom that has to commute, figure out the distance from your job to the areas you want to live in. Visit the them at night, if you are able to do so. This will allow you to see if there is any suspicious activity going on. You want to make sure that you are moving into a safe place as possible for you and your child.

4. Research the market rent in the area you want to live in. You can do this by doing a simple Google search for market rent in the city where you are moving to. Is the rent in the area fixed or does it have the ability to fluctuate? In Jackson, Mississippi where I lived, rent was pretty much fixed but here in Houston, Texas, rent can fluctuate daily until you sign the lease which was so crazy to me! If the rent has the ability to fluctuate, the best time to search is towards the end of the month after the 15th but closer to the 20th, if you have that flexibility. I found that the rent can decrease $50-$100 because they want to lease those vacant units. That is a $600-1200 savings per year. I'm not sure if this will work in the summer but it just worked for me and I signed my lease two weeks ago.

5. Consider contacting an apartment locator if the area you are interested in has numerous apartments and you don't have the time to do your own research. As single moms, our time is very valuable and we don't always have time to do research like we want. The apartment locator will want to know your budget, how many bedrooms & bathrooms you want, what areas you are considering, and what features you are not willing to do without. For example: I wanted a two bedroom, two bathrooms (because one bathroom just got old), without carpet in the living room and dining area because it's much easier for clean up. Who wants to scrub stains for carpet?? Not me! Just in case you are wondering, using an apartment locator is FREE. They get paid when you list them as a referral. Sometimes, they are able to find you deals with a free month of rent, no deposit, etc. All apartments will not pay referrals and your apartment locator will normally let you know. If you don't end up going with the apartments they recommend, don't feel bad. It happens! Just try to ask if the apartment complex that you are interested in does referrals for apartment locators and at least you will have done your due diligence.

6. If you have the time to search apartment sites and drive around to look at apartments, begin to make a list of apartments that you are interested in. I love Google Sheets or Excel for making comparison lists! You are able to make headings such as apartment name, rent amount, bedroom and bathroom numbers, square footage, notes, and so on. When I went to tour the first set of apartments, I happened to find more apartments riding down the street of a few apartments I was initially interested in. I quickly entered them in my notes app on my iPhone and when I got home, I looked them up and added them to my spreadsheet. Read reviews on Google, Apartment Ratings, Apartments.com, and other apartment sites that are trustworthy. You can also do this if you are using an apartment locator.

7. Narrow your list down to the top five and schedule apartment tours. When you meet with the leasing agents, be sure to ask necessary questions such as what is included in the rent, what amenities are included, how they handle pests, what security features do they have, and any other necessary questions you might have. If you think it, ask it. It is the only way you will find out. If you happen to come across some residents before or after touring the property, ask them about their experience. I happened to come across an older couple and they were happy to share their experience during my last move.

8. Choose the best apartment based on your needs and budget. Some apartments will allow you to negotiate if they are really trying to meet their quota by the end of the month, especially if they are a smaller complex. I was able to negotiate savings of $15 a month by moving into an apartment that was vacant for some time. It never hurts to try. You are probably thinking $15 is not a lot of money and it's not but if you multiply 15 by 12, you too will see the savings for a year.

9. Sign your lease and read over it carefully. Make sure you become familiar with all the fees so there will not be any surprises.

10. Prepare for move-in at least two weeks in advance. This will allow you to pack a little each day. I know. You are probably thinking that you do not want to pay pro-rated rent before actually moving in but it is so worth it! I have given myself seven days to move. If you do not have family or friends near, check with your new apartment complex. They may have a promo code for movers! If you do have someone available, consider renting a U-Haul and having someone else to drive it so that you can also drive. If you are moving across states and the drive is over eight or nine hours, you may want to look into shipping your items in boxes. Amtrak, Greyhound, and FedEx are the most popular. You may also want to consider if selling your big items is a better choice than shipping them. You may also want more time to move.

BONUS TIP: If you have someone that can watch the kid (s) while you move, I'd totally recommend that! If I would've had my daughter while moving, it would take much longer!

What tips do you have for an apartment search?? Share them below. Also, let me know if you found these tips helpful!

P.S. I shared my story about relocating to another state on the podcast. Click here to check it out

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I did a poll a while back to ask for feedback on Spirit Airlines before booking and many people did not recommend them.  However, I thought I'd take a chance on a $67 flight from Houston to Orlando. If you are anything like me, you love saving your coins when you can! From the people who were kind enough to share their experiences, here's what I was able to gather:

  • Don't pick the latest flight.
  • Don't have a layover or connecting flight.
  • Your flight should not be anymore than two to three hours, since the seats are not comfortable.
  • Don't expect any exceptional customer service.
  • There are no free snacks or water.
  • Carry-on bags should be paid for at the time of booking.
  • Be on time, because they are strict about their boarding times.
  • You can save on ticket prices by buying your ticket at the airport. (I didn't try this one but I'm very interested to know if anyone else has tried it with Spirit or any other airlines.)

 *Affiliate links are used in this post. Check out my disclosure.

The Experience

The boarding time is early. Listening to the advice I had been given, I chose the first flight non-stop.. It was departing at 8AM but boarding started at 7:15. We got to the airport with about 30 minutes to spare. They made an announcement about checking car seats, strollers, and wheelchairs at the gate. I was carrying my daughter's booster seat so I was able to get a tag for it at no cost. We boarded the plane on time but had to wait about 25-30 mins, due to a brief delay regarding the weight of the plane. No one questioned me about my carry-on. The flight attendants were nice. The seats were not the most comfortable and there was not a lot of leg room. You do have the option to pay for a "Big Seat" or pay to choose your seat. However, it was okay for me since I am short. We made it in to Orlando safely but had to wait on the booster seat. Sigh. For the departure flight, we left on time and arrived early. This time I was told that I did not have to check my daughter's booster seat at the gate and was able to take it on the plane. Win! Overall, I do not have any complaints and will probably try Spirit again for weekend trips that are less than three hours! I'm glad I took the chance and tried them for myself.

My Packing/Preparation Tips

  • Plan out your outfits. Our trip was Saturday through Monday so we only needed to pack for two days, with an extra outfit.
  • To save on the cost of a carry-on or checked bag, bring a personal item only. Since I paid for two tickets, I was able to bring two personal items. I used the Adidas Diablo Small Duffel Bag with Packing Cubes and my Coach Reversible Tote (I have the one below in tan).

 

 

 

 

 

Whichever bag you use, make sure you check the dimensions and it matches up with the requirements that Spirit has. I wouldn't want them to catch you slipping and make you pay for those bags at the airport. In my packing cube, I was able to pack two pairs of leggings, two t-shirts, underwear, pajamas, a pair of pants and a blouse. In my daughter's packing cube, I was able to pack two pairs of leggings, two t-shirts, an extra shirt, underwear, & pajamas. These went in the duffel bag along with a pair of heels, a pair of booties for my daughter, a ziplock bag with liquids, and two cosmetic bags (one for makeup and one for non-liquid toiletries). In the tote, I had my laptop in its sleeve, a coloring book, crayons, a wallet, a book, snacks, and chargers for my phone and laptop. Both of these fit perfectly under the seat.

  • If you are bringing a carry-on or checking a bag, pay for it in advance. It is much more expensive to pay for the bag at check-in or at the gate. Also, check the total price (flight + bag) and compare it with other airlines if you are going this route to make sure you are getting the best deal.
  • Pack snacks and an empty water bottle, if you are traveling with kids. Spirit does not give free snacks, water, or anything! You can use the bottle to get water at the airport. If you don't bring snacks, the kids will see other people with them and ask why they are not able to get any. My daughter did this even though we packed snacks.
  • Check in 24 hours before your flight and print out your boarding passes and send a copy to your phone. If Spirit has to print them, they will charge.

What are your thoughts on Sprit Airlines?? Have you used them, had a bad experience, or gotten charged with extra fees? Leave me a comment and let me know! I'm interested to hear about your experience!

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My daughter turned five at the beginning of this month and I just wanted to take a moment and reflect on the biggest lessons I have learned in five years as a mother.

1. Take care of me first. I was always trying to do everything I could for my daughter but not really stopping to take time to have "me time" or some self-care. I would often feel burned out and irritated.  I quickly learned that in order to have me time, I would need to either get up early or stay up later.  To me, having "me time" meant being able to do simple things for me such as reading a few chapters of a book in silence, having a long bubble bath, being able to paint my nails without worrying about her picking up the polish and dropping it (yes - this happened), etc. People are quick to say your child comes first and that's what I thought until I learned! If I do not take care of me, who else will? I cannot pour into my daughter if I'm feeling empty. Remember, self-care doesn't always have to require you spending money at the nail shop, spa, or retail stores.

2. Do what I feel is best. Often times, people try to tell you what you need to do for your child and that's okay. People love to give their opinions without being asked. They will even go as far to tell you that you are not being the best you can be.  I actually like hearing the advice of others. However, each child is different and what worked for your child 5-10 years ago may or may not work for my child. Who deemed you the child expert anyways because you have a child or  multiple children?  It is totally okay for me to go through trial and error and figure out what works and what doesn't. With each day comes a new lesson.. 

3. My daughter values my time and presence. At first, I used to be so caught up in working two jobs to make sure bills were paid, I was able to get nice things, and go where I wanted to go. People would say, do it now while your child is young. I thought it was okay until my daughter used to start whining when I had to go to my night job and it really bothered me. I was only trying to work to make extra cash. I soon found out that no money compares to the happiness of my child and she really values the time we spend together. As my daughter grows older, she is becoming more aware. She had began to realize that I am always working and we rarely have time together.  I remember my last time working two hourly jobs. I would literally work my day job, run in the house to warm up her food or just take out the fast food I had purchased on the way home, and log in to start work again for my night job before I would give her a bath and put her to bed, then finish up the night's shift. I did that same routine for nearly six months. It was terrible and I knew it couldn't be life. A few months ago, she asked me if being a mom was hard because I'm always working and don't have a lot of free time. I was thinking what does this child know about free time... It was in that moment that I knew I had to become more present at home. This meant putting down my phone when we eat, talk, play games, or even when we watched her favorite YouTube videos. This is still a struggle since time is so limited in the evenings. I want to get things done but I also know I have to make mommy and daughter time a priority.

4. Consistency is key in terms of parenting.  Your child will only do what you allow. Sticking to routines and rules will help with consistency. Your child won't have to wonder what to do in the morning or at night. This is also true with discipline because they will test you! Two things I am struggling with is limiting screen time and making sure she's in bed on time every night.  Sometimes I allow my daughter to have her iPad whenever because it allows me to get things done. My tasks vary from day to day so she may or may not be in bed at the same time.  I figure I need to just stop what I am doing and make sure that she's staying on schedule. If you don't have a routine, I highly encourage it. You can also check out my morning routine for inspiration! I'm still working on the night time routine but I will definitely share when I have it together!

5. Being a single mom is okay. Sometimes, people act like it's the worst thing ever! It gets very difficult sometimes, but it's not the worst thing ever. I am sure we could list many pros. Personally, I have learned many lessons and gained many skills that I probably wouldn't have if I wasn't a single mom. Throughout this journey, I have learned that women become single moms for many reasons such as divorce, breakups, death, in vitro, and the list goes on. 

6. It's okay to ask for help. This is probably my greatest struggle! My mom was a single parent and I knew how hard it was for her, especially having to end up getting raised by my grandmother due to my mom's mental illness but that's another story!  I got a working permit at 15 and had my first official job at 16. Did I have to work? No. We were blessed to have the necessities. I realized that if I wanted anything extra, I would have to work for it and I have been working every since! When I went off to college, I didn't have anyone to depend on financially and I also didn't feel like most of my immediately family really understood the college struggle since they had not been. I never wanted to ask anyone for anything and tried to figure things out on my own.  It took some wonderful ladies taking me under their wings for me to realize that it was okay to ask for help in college. I am truly thankful for them to this day!! Now that I'm an adult with a kid, I felt like I was going through the same process of not wanting to ask for help, whether it's financially or just to ask someone to babysit. I don't feel like it's their responsibility so I don't like asking, especially being in a place where my immediately family does not exist. Even when it comes down to asking my daughter's father for things, I struggle. A lot of you may be like it's his responsibility just like it's yours, so why should you even have to ask? Don't think about it, just do it. I can't tell you why. It's just a struggle. However, I have found that there are a lot of people who are willing to help. It is just a matter of asking or bringing up the topic!

What are some things that you have learned on this single motherhood journey?? Please share. I love reading and learning from you all!

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In honor of Cervical Cancer Awareness month, I thought it would be beneficial to share these steps.  There are several benefits to getting your yearly checkups.  Your OBGYN can perform exams that are specifically for women.  You want to make sure that you are staying healthy as possible, not only for you but also for your child.  If you don't take care of you, who will? THIS IS SERIOUS. Your yearly screenings can help prevent Cervical Cancer, find out if you have any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other beneficial information. If you are unfamiliar with Cervical Cancer, one of the leading causes is by the Human Pappilomavirus, also known as HPV.  HPV can be detected from your yearly Pap and now there is an actual HPV test. Hasn't technology come a long way?? If you have children age 9 and older (boys and girls), they can get the HPV vaccination.  HPV is so popular today that there are claims that every one that is sexually active will have it at some point.  If this is your first time hearing of HPV, take some time to do a quick Google search to read more about it and find out whether it's curable. You can also discuss it with your OBGYN or your child's pediatrician. I encourage you to ask questions any time you have the opportunity. It's very important that you become educated about your health and your child's health. I first heard of this when I was a teenager and found out a lot of us are clueless about it since it's not really talked about in the black community. I even had a discussion with a cousin of mine two months ago and she had never heard of it.  Her daughter is 12 and I encouraged her to discuss it with her daughter's pediatrician.  Most of the times the guys don't know they have HPV. They can give it to the girls but they won't know either, unless the virus is active because it can lie dormant for some time. Today, I will be sharing the steps I used to find the best OBGYN for me when I moved.  I have also realized that just because one OBGYN is good for someone else doesn't mean they are good for me. So, choose wisely.

1. Decide whether you want a male or female, or if the sex of the physician actually matters.

2. Decide if you want to have a woman or male of color.  I personally feel that women of color are more likely to be able to relate.

3. Ask friends, family, or colleagues for referrals.  If you do not have anyone that you trust to get a referral from, start with a Google search.

4. Make a list based upon reviews. Google Sheets are my fav.  Yes, I am the one who has a spreadsheet for everything. Pay special attention to wait times and whether the physician was able to make the patient feel like they had a chance to talk, or if they felt rushed during their appointment.  I prefer someone who is willing to listen and break things down, if necessary.  If you are pregnant, you may want to check and see if the OBGYN delivers at the hospital you are interested in delivering at.  You can normally find this information on their website or by simply calling the office and asking.

5. Narrow the list down to the top five.

6. Visit the state's medical board site. To do this, go to google and type in "your state" medical board and the website should appear.  You can see if the physician has had any board orders (this shows if he or she has had an legal issues) plus find out where they completed their training, how long it took, and whether they are board certified.

7. Enter the physician's first & last name in the search fields.

8. Review education.  Here are some questions I like to ask myself while reviewing the license information.  Was there a switch in specialty? If so, was it something extremely off? (Example: General Surgery to Family Medicine) Did the physician get board certified? This means the physician went above and beyond the minimum requirements.  Otherwise, a medical degree just means they met the minimum requirements to graduate.  How long have they been practicing? I personally prefer someone who has at least five years of experience and no more than 35 years of experience. This means they are usually between the ages of 35 and 60. (If you are wondering how I know this, this is related to my day job and I just want to help others become aware of information that is public.)

9. Narrow the list down some more and contact the physician's office that you are most interested in.

10. Make your appointment!! During my initial appointment, I always like asking the physicians how long they have been in practice and for them to tell me the thing they love most about practicing medicine.

These are steps that I've tried in helping me find a wonderful black female OBGYN when I moved.  Have you tried any of these steps? Let me know below and don't hesitate to ask questions if you have them. Also let me know if you try the steps. I won't know if the information is beneficial if you don't tell me :)

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If you are anything like me, you have been procrastinating about getting professional photos (outside of the commercial studios like Walmart, Sears, Portrait Innovations, etc.) done of you and your child.  My daughter is almost five and I realized that we didn't have any professional photos of us together or any to start the site with.  I should be ashamed!! I decided to make it happen this year before Christmas, without breaking the bank.  When I initially began my search, all quotes were between $125 and $250.  I knew I couldn't afford this for a photo session.  So I begin to gather my coins and search Groupon. The session was ONLY $55 and my daughter had tons of fun doing it!  Here's how I did it and you can do it too:

 *Affiliate links are used in this post. Check out my disclosure.

1. Search using keywords: photography session.

2. Make sure what you want is included i.e. 1-hr shoot, digital images, & editing.

3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and view the photographer's website. If they don't have a website where you can view their work, I don't recommend purchasing from them.

4. Google the photographer's company to see if there are any reviews.

5. Make a list of all the photographers you are interested in.

6. Email them with the dates you have in mind and let them know you are interested in scheduling a shoot for the Groupon they have advertised.  Also ask any questions that you may have that were not answered on their Groupon page.

6. After the photographer has confirmed the date you're interested in, log on to Ebates, which will allow you to receive cashback.

7. Search for Groupon and be redirected back to Groupon through Ebates.  It allows you to earn cash back.  At this time, they are offering double cash back for Groupon!!

8. Find the photographer that you are interested in booking with and purchase their Groupon.

9. You are all set and ready to begin planning for the shoot.

If you don't have money to spend, you can find matching colors that you already have at home. For outdoor shoots, you can have DIY hair, makeup, and nails.  Personally, I didn't spend much time on hair. I simply took down some cornrows that I had been wearing for weeks.  I ran out of time and could not paint my nails. Sigh. I know you can probably relate to the time thing.  At first, I was worried that they may not turn out good because I literally did not spend anything other than the cost of the Groupon. To my surprise, we got the photos back within 24 hours and the photos were of great quality!! I was really amazed at the turnaround time. I will definitely be using the photographer again. I also decided that we will do a Mommy & Me Shoot every December!!

Are you a mom that has been wanting professional, non-traditional photos?? Did you keep putting it off due to the thought of the cost of the shoot and the cost of getting new things for the shoot?? Have you ever thought of using Groupon for photos?? Let me know below.

P.S. If you are not signed up for Ebates, you are missing out on tons of savings if you shop online.  You can earn cashback from simply shopping at stores that you had already planned to shop with such as Amazon, Ebay, and Wal-mart to name a few.  To sign up and get cash back for purchases that you are already going to make, click here.

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