Always Giving Thanks

This year has been full of lessons for us all. My prayer is that we will become stronger because of it. I know that I have. I’ve learned to slow down, be in the moment and never, ever take loved ones for granted. The pandemic painted a perfect picture of what can wait and what can‘t. Spending time with family is something I am no longer willing to push to the side. With that, my grateful list on today is short and sweet. I am grateful to be alive, healthy and loved.

It was important for me to show my gratitude this year in an extravagant way. It may seem silly to go about a lot of fuss for a party of three (myself, son and brother), but life is too short. I’m no longer waiting for that special moment to bring out the “good dishes” or wear that “special outfit”. Everyday should be a fancy occasion.
I may have gone a bit overboard with decorating the backyard patio!

A Letter To Society

Comparison is the thief of joy. This also goes for when others compare you to the norm. For so long, I questioned why I wasn’t more a certain way. The answer is simple: life isn’t meant to be lived in a box.

Dear Society,

You can keep your box.

For so long I questioned why I didn’t enjoy the monotone, barely there, beige is the new black-modern, minimalist decor aka be like the Kim Kardashian’s of the world. Fact is, I’m more of a Drew Barrymore. A wild flower that doesn’t want to be picked. The things I love most have a story to tell. That rug. Found buried under boxes at a garage sale. That lamp. Found at a thrift shop-surprised it actually works. That couch. Found sitting in a driveway and when it was too big to fit in my car, the owners loaded it in their vehicle and delivered it for free!

If everything is too new, too perfect, too perfectly placed, the space itself loses its soul. Treasured finds are constantly in rotation, drifting from room to room in search of the perfect home. And when I no longer feel a connection, I store them for a later inspiration or release them back into the universe. From thrift it came, to thrift it return.

This also reflects my philosophy on life. My closest friends are those who were drawn to me, where the bond was instant. When I feel a shift in energy, I pause to give it a chance to autocorrect and, if not, I give myself permission to walk away. I am incapable of making decisions too far in advance. I leave things up to chance and honor how I feel at the moment. I embrace small doses of chaos and the unknown, if everything is too perfectly still and predictable the normalcy drives my crazy.

I’ve learned to accept my oddities. Move that rug for the hundredth time unapologetically. Avoid accidents as I swerve across multiple lanes to follow an estate sale sign. I’ve learned to be more of ME and love every indecisive, need to get a grip, so what if this doesn’t match I’m wearing it, unrelenting, wild child minute. And although I may look back from time to time and wish I was more like the rest, I know no matter how hard I try, the box will never fit.

Moroccan Connections

On August 4, 2017, my family and I welcomed an exchange student from Casablanca, Morocco into our home!

Arriving in America marked Zineb’s first trip out of the country without family and friends. Neither of us knew what to expect. In the first few days we learned about each other. As time passed, we learned from each other.

Here’s our story…

May 2017– Within days of filling out a host family application, I was told there was a possible match. We were swept in the world wind of meeting other exchange host families and parents and undergoing the screening process, all while frantically removing the piled junk in our spare bedroom that we had been using for storage.
Although, we knew Zineb was our match, we couldn’t contact her for at least a month until she received official notice and approval in her home country. Oh, the anticipation!

July 2017– We received official notification of Zineb’s arrival date and we placed our very first call! I actually dialed the number in Morocco not even thinking about international call fees. We eventually figured out that talking through social media was…well much more practical! One more month and she will be here!

August 2017– I knew there was no turning back as my son and I stood at the airport with welcome signs and balloons in our hand, searching the sea of faces for Zineb. It took for-ev-errr but there she was! Suddenly it hit me…I have a teenager! What do you do with those?! I would soon find out!

Zineb shared gifts she brought from her home-a boys Moroccan outfit for my son and a traditional Moroccan dress/Kaftan for me with matching shoes. So cute watching her get settled in!


October 2017– The first month was rough! From juggling early morning drop offs and afterschool pickups, to buying halal foods and cooking dinner every night, to explaining things I’ve never thought to explain before! Although Zineb speaks nearly-perfect English and has quickly adapted to our culture, I know the transition is difficult for her. Through all the excitement, I can still see the sadness from missing her family and friends.

November 2017– Zineb turns 16! We celebrated with a huge “Sweet Sixteen” party! Every day gets a bit easier…

My cousin visited for Thanksgiving and we cooked a feast! Zineb made Moroccan treats from scratch. As we all sat around the table and shared our blessings, I felt whole – as if Z’ was part of our family all along.

December 2017– This month marks Zineb’s very first Christmas. I never laughed so hard from trying to explain Christmas traditions, like why we leave out milk and cookies for Santa. I wasn’t laughing however when Zineb opened a UPS package of presents for under the Christmas tree (spoiler alert!). I’m quite sure my son had something to do with reassuring her it was okay to open them!

This month also marks our first family trip! We went sledding on the dunes at White Sands National Monument, an incredible experience. The sand really does look like snow. Then, we spent the night in El Paso, TX ( one hour drive away) and visited the shops and sights near the Mexico border the next morning. Driving back on Christmas Eve with hidden presents to wrap (what the kids hadn’t opened already) made for a very long night! Yet, nothing compared to watching my son and Zineb’s excitement on Christmas morning.

January 2018– I never imagined I would feel so fulfilled as a host mom. Since her arrival, Zineb has been patient with us as she shared her culture and traditions. We are still learning to be mindful of her prayer times and respectful of the foods she can not eat. This month also marks the halfway/mid year point.

February 2018– Viva Las Vegas! When your best friend is moving to Las Vegas, NV and invites your family along you DO it! Although much of our time was spent unpacking boxes than shopping and sightseeing, we had a ton of fun!

March 2018– Denver here we come! This time it was all work for me, having to attend a conference. I managed to skip a few sessions to explore downtown Denver with the kids. We made the most of the trip spending nearly 4 hours in IKEA and visiting my cousin and his family in Colorado Springs.

Spring Break– Zineb travelled to California to visit a fellow Moroccan exchange student living there with his host mom. So glad to have the support of other host families near and far!


April 2018– Prom anyone?!? Oh the reminders of a having an instant teenager! It was an all-day affair from hair appointments to doing her makeup. Zineb was absolutely stunning! I was a bit nervous as any mom would be on prom night. All’s well that ends well.

May 2018– Where did the time go? Last day of school is May 23rd. The exchange program’s pre-return orientation is May 26th. Everyone is a bit somber, trying not to think about the inevitable. My grandmother visiting us is a great distraction. Zineb told me she reminder her of her own grandmother-a gift to us all.

June 2018- 10 months gone-just. like. that. We survived something new and unfamiliar, yet we became so close that it was hard to let go. Zineb from Morocco had become “Z” my Moroccan daughter. I felt relieved (that I survived with minimal damage) and sad (because her presence felt so organic) at the same time.

On June 5th, we were back in the same airport, with the same signs. This time, or hearts and smiles were different. They both grew.

Today, Zineb is 17 and on track to graduate high school in Morocco by 2020. She plans on returning to the US to pursue college.

Zineb came to study in the U.S. through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Abroad Program, hosted through AFS.

To learn more about YES, go to https://exchanges.state.gov/us/program/kennedy-lugar-youth-exchange-study-yes-abroad

If interested in becoming a host parent, please visit https://www.afsusa.org


Backhanded Compliment

It’s the attempted delivery of a compliment but once received we don’t quite know where to put the Thank You! You know, the ones that start with “I love your shirt!” 🙂 but ends with “But I would NEVER wear that color!” 😦 

Yeah…that moment

Sometimes a back handed compliment is simply when a person opens their mouth and inserts foot- on accident. Most times its on purpose. Be mindful of a bitter person trying to steal your joy. Never be afraid to live bold, take a chance and take the unbeaten path. 

So the next time someone backhand slaps you with a few uncouth words…Protect Your Joy. Live in Your Truth, Mistakes and Discoveries. Smile. Show The World That Happiness Looks Good On You!


Life Lessons

For the past 6 months I’ve been completing what should have been a 5-day inspirational plan titled How Do I Find My Calling? This plan helped me to dig deep and reach the surface of my insecurities. A much needed soul cleansing. I’ve decided to share the plan and a few of my responses.

Question: If you could do anything you wanted to do, you had unlimited time to get further training, unlimited money, and you could not fail, what would you do?

My Response:

  • Be a writer/journalist
  • Own a consignment/vintage/thrift store

Task/Assignment: When discerning your calling, it is helpful to give a thoughtful examination of your life. Note what you have enjoyed doing and feel like you have done well. List at least three illustrations in each period of your life: grade school, junior high, high school, college, post-college.

  • What kinds of challenges trigger your motivations.
  • How and why you are motivated to learn.

MY RESPONSE: I realized a common denominator throughout my entire life is CREATIVITY and more importantly using CREATIVITY TO EXPRESS MYSELF when going thru personal challenges. When work and life is overwhelmingly stressful (my trigger) I cope by immersing myself in a CREATIVE project (my motivations).

My BUSINESS side is what keeps me motivated to learn. It’s my strong side; my “get her done”. It’s the side of me that excels in the workplace and walks confidently in a boardroom. She is relentless and goes after whatever she wants. Unfortunately, there 
comes a point where I become tired, bored or not challenged enough, or even afraid of my own strength (my trigger) which motivates me to switch to creative projects (my motivations).


Final Conclusion: So often I feel torn between my CREATIVE and BUSINESS side. My feelings are if I’m in creative mode, then I’m not focused on business (work/real-life responsibilities). As of now this blog represents my creative side. After  my uncle passed away I found the motivation to begin my blog, but truthfully the idea long existed. Dealing with loss gave me the courage to follow a dream. It was the push I needed. I’m still working on establishing a business from my creative talents. I’ve been dreaming about it, mentally developing a business plan, secretly researching ideas and opportunities. I just need another push to bring both worlds together-for good.


I challenge you to answer these questions for yourself. What have you learned about your own triggers?


Motivated By Death

As I travel to say my goodbyes to my dear uncle who suddenly passed away from pancreatic cancer, I can’t help but notice all the empty promises I have made, the to-do list I never finished and the dreams I half accomplished.

At this moment, life has never felt shorter. As the scripture resonates within my soul, no one knows the day or hour.  By acknowledging death we are truly able to live for today. It is when we overlook and underestimate time that it catches us off guard and desperately unprepared. I know that one day we must all leave this earth, so from this moment on I choose to be motivated by the present. For it is what we do in the present that dictates our life after death.


Bloggin’ Ain’t Easy

Pimpin’ ain’t easy and neither is Bloggin’

When I decided to live true to my creative self, I thought that setting up a blog would be nice and easy.  Fast forward a few months later and I haven’t done much… besides posting this blog… on me not having done much!

Every so often I have to remind myself that there is no competition. I’m in my own lane, more like the slow, right lane versus the left. Creative processes take time and I’ve got plenty of it. So whether I post every week or once a year… it doesn’t matter as long as I make myself proud.

Here’s a sticker to anyone else who needs to be reminded to breathe, take your time and make YOUrself proud.

Ungracefully Leaping

“Life remains unchanged till a leap of faith runs towards heaven”  

Life is about taking chances. It is through these leaps of faith that we uncover our strong and successful selves. Moving from South Carolina to New Mexico was definitely not as graceful as I would’ve hoped. Leaving my loved ones to live in an unfamiliar place felt more like a crash-landing. I didn’t have a clue of the true happiness and adventures that awaited me. What once was a strange land has blossomed into a home away from home.  Through EllaBea, I am excited to share my moments of truth.