Lesson #2: Don't Internalize Other People's Crap!

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In life people are going to give you advice, tell you what you should worry about, stay away from, and even what they think you should not pursue.  For the most part, people mean well, and they really are coming from a good place, BUT you have to make sure that you are critical of the advice that you are receiving and that you aren't internalizing or accepting beliefs that are based out of fear, pain and/ or insecurities.  A perfect example is what my father shared with me at a young age.  

 My father loved to talk, which is where I get it from...lol, and he loved sharing his experiences as well as his wisdom.  We were sitting across from each other in the living room having a deep conversation about life, and he warned me that my life was going to be rough because of who I was.  He said, "Kayra, things will not be easy for you: you are Black, you are Latina, and you are a woman."  

Now, let me give you some background on who my father was...

My father came to the United States in pursuit of the American dream, he joined the American military in Panama, which he had access to because of the Panama canal.   Then, he became a mailman (he hated that job), and then he decided to attend a trade school to become a pipe fitter/ steam fitter.  My father has a unique look and I believe he struggled with a lot of the same issues of not necessarily fitting in a stereotypical box as it relates to race/ ethnic background.  You have to picture an Indian-looking man who spoke English with a thick Latino accent.  He would come home complaining that the men at his job were always making fun of him and how he consistently felt discrimination at the work place. Also, he felt that he was  always the first to be laid off, and he was never considered for promotions or opportunities of advancement.   My father carried a lot of emotional pain from his childhood, issues that related to who he was, and who was his biological father.  It's not something that was commonly discussed, but in one of our deep talks, he shared that there was a rumor in his town that his father may not be his biological father.  And this may be the reason why he looked different and had a darker complexion in comparison to the rest of his siblings.  I don’t know everything that happened to my father in his childhood, but I do know that he carried deep wounds.  I do believe that he was someone that could have been served by therapy, but he never received that type of help, and that pain continued to compound into adulthood.  Unfortunately for my mother, my siblings and I, we had to experience his inability to cope with his pain, and he had to deal with him taking his frustrations out on us. 

There were many times I was hit for something simple or ridiculous like losing my keys and being locked out of the house.  Because his temper was outrageous, I knew his anger came from a deeper space of, “I’m sad and depressed and I’m going to take this out on you.” 

 Now, let's go back to what he told me in that living room.  I don't remember how old i was when he said this, but I was definitely in my early teens.  I remember thinking to myself, "there is no way I can accept this as truth...and if I’m all three of these things, doesn’t that make me special?  Doesn’t that make me unique?  Doesn’t that make me connected to so much more and allow me to understand the world around me even better?"  So, at that moment my mind drifted, the room went silent while his mouth continued to move, and I made a commitment to myself that I would not internalize what he had just shared because I knew it was from coming from his locus source of pain.

I do believe he meant well, and it actually came from a loving place.  He wanted me to know that everyone we meet doesn't have good intentions and that I could run into situations where I may feel discrimination or feel mistreated because of my race, cultural background and gender.  I get it. There is sufficient evidence, data, and historical legacies that support the injustice and unfair treatment women, African Americans and Hispanics have experienced in the United States.  We have to acknowledge that there is a problem, but we can't internalize these systemic and societal issues as truths about who we are and what we will experience in life.  We have to counter this narrative with an empowered mental model that walks around with the conviction that our differences add value, that we are in control of our lives, and that our uniqueness is the most beautiful gift in the world. 

Lesson #2: “Do not internalize other people’s crap!”

Outfit Time: I LOVE this sweater dress!  This is my first sweater dress of this length and I find it absolutely adorable.   I love the mermaid hem!   This is a sweater dress that I can wear all winter with different shoes, but since its the holidays I paired it with these glittery holiday shoes.  Happy Saturday, and hopefully you get some time this weekend to relax and do something that rejuvenates you!  

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Lesson #1: Be You And Nothing Else!

Today, I gave my words of wisdom, and as I am sitting here thinking about what I should blog about, I decided to share the words of wisdom I prepared for my students.  I gave them 9 lessons, so I figured I would make a blog out of each lesson.  

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My first big lesson in life was trying to understand where I fit in the world. I grew up in  a Hispanic home and English was my family’s second language.   All we spoke at home was Spanish, and I only spoke English at school or with friends.  Anytime I stepped into new spaces where I spoke Spanish and I met Hispanics who didn’t know my family or my hispanic background they would ask me, “How did you learn Spanish?”  So of course I would respond, “ I’m from Panama”. then they would say, "oh, I would have never guessed that.”

This was an obnoxious question because I am Latina, so it was a part of my upbringing.  But due to people's lack of exposure or plain ignorance about the diversity of Latinos, it was a common question I had to endure and unfortunately, I still have to deal with now.  As a teenager I grew up with not feeling Latina enough because of the color of my skin.  And there were times I resented the top Spanish-speaking TV networks for not appropriately showcasing enough women and men of color,  and that is a large part why I don't watch Novelas today. 

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In my youth, particularly in high school, there were times where I also didn't feel like I was Black enough. I recall attending a Historically Black college tour and while I was talking on the bus to a peer, a Black girl turned around and said to me, "Why do you sound like that?  You sound like a white girl!"  All that to say, I hated these stereotypical boxes that society built for Latinos and Blacks.  And due to not feeling like I was Latina enough or Black enough, I decided that all I wanted to be was myself.  And so at a young age I decided that I had to love who I was, the sound of my voice, the color of my skin, and embrace all of the unique characteristics that made me Kayra.   Because being me was enough. 

Our society is filled with labels and beliefs about how we are supposed to behave and act because of our heritage, race, religious practices, gender, etc.  The moral of this lesson is that all you need to focus on is singing the song in your spirit.  Loving yourself and enjoying the ride.  Laugh and smile along the way and bask in that you are not here for the game of what other's believe you should be.  

Lesson #1: Be You and Nothing Else

Outfit Time: I thought this skirt would be a great piece to have for the holidays.  I paired it with a gray turtle neck and an old vest that I had in my closet.   I thought the vest would be an opportunity to incorporate the trend of wearing dresses or tank tops over t-shirts or other tops.  Happy Friday!!  

Mommy, are you Santa?

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I always remember as a child wishing I could get a ride on Santa's sleigh.  I envied the characters in the holiday movies, that showed the children sitting in the sleigh, flying over houses, and gliding over clouds,  It was all so dreamy, and since I knew it was far-fetched that I would get a personal sleigh ride with Santa, I looked forward to the gifts that he would leave by the tree on Christmas.  

I remember that I believed in Santa until my sister ruined it for me.  She assumed that I didn't believe in Santa anymore, and was talking to my other older sister in front of me about how our mother was waiting for my little brother to go to sleep, so she could put the gifts under the tree.  I remember feeling crushed, but I had to pretend like I was in the know, so I just stayed quiet about this new heart-wrenching piece of information.  I thought to myself, "No Santa??!!...ughhhhh."  I was pretty bummed, but I quickly saw how cute my mother was for not taking any of the credit and making us believe it was this magical character who delivered our gifts.   

All that to say, my mother was the real Santa, a woman who turned our basement into a food pantry for the less fortunate.  The church I grew up in, wanted to ensure that local low-income families had access to enough food, so my mother decided to lead this effort.  I remember she had to collect large amounts of foods from local food centers, and then in our basements, we would help her fill baskets with milk, fruits, veggies, rice, canned goods, beans, and treats. 

This is only one example of the many charitable things that she did, and I'm lucky to have had her as a mother.  I consistently witnessed a woman who was thoughtful, loving, and represented the ultimate giver. 

She is my favorite version of Santa.

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Switching topics to this velvety number!  My navy blue velvet outfit is a perfect holiday look, and I love how it looks different than most holiday outfits.  I love to look different from most of the people in a room, and I think this look absolutely does that.   

The blazer and the pants are extremely comfy, to the point that they feel like sleepwear.  The shoes are so pretty, that they serve as the perfect holiday shoe to wear with a number of outfits.  

Happy Monday and have fun dressing up for the holidays!!!!

Click on the links below for more details on this outfit. 

  

 

Thanksgiving & Some Cute Outfits

First, I want to THANK you for checking out my blog, and I do hope that you find my stories and/or outfits as a source of inspiration, encouragement and positivity.  

This thanksgiving, I am grateful for family members and friends, and I have a soft spot for those that have travelled to St. Louis to visit us in our new home.  I am grateful for my husband who is supportive of my career as well as my blogging.  I am thankful for my daughter who is so sweet you could literally eat her for dessert.  She is such a sweetie that sometimes she acts like an 80 year old great grandma trapped in a 4 year old body.   She says things like, "Mommy, before you leave, I want a hug and a kissy."  I know...isn't she the most adorable little thing??

I am grateful for my job.  It's one of the few places that has excelled in making me feel respected as a professional and encourages my growth.  

I am grateful for my neighborhood, which is filled with neighbors straight out of a feel-good suburban movie.  I have the type of neighbors that like to engage in block parties at the end of our street, drop off vegetables on my front door from their gardens, and help me prepare for birthday parties without my request for support.  

And lastly, I am truly and honestly thankful for you.  I am thankful for anyone that has ever liked any of my instagram posts, made a comment, read my blog, and the special ones who have even decided to buy the clothes that I share on these posts.  Your support and encouragement fills me to the brim and gives me so much joy.  

I am excited to be hosting thanksgiving this year, my sister and family will be staying with us, and I am looking forward to having a good time with them.   I'm not quite sure what I will wear, but I have three cute outfits (pics to the right) that look like fall and would be festive enough for the day.  

I hope that you have an amazing Thanksgiving filled with yummy food, laughter that makes your tummy hurt, hugs and kisses that warm your heart, and memories to last a lifetime.  

Click below to find the details of these outfits.  

 

 

1st option: The mustard color turtle neck is so comfortable and adorable.  It has these cute gold buttons on the wrists.  I paired it with flared olive green high waisted pants and rose gold shoes.  The pants have gold buttons paneled on the waist line, and I thought it worked well with the top as they both had buttons.  It may be button overload, but I thought it was cute!

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2nd Option: The polk-a-dot blouse, orange corduroy skirt with gold buttons, and beige knee-high boots. 

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3rd Option:  The plaid brown and mustard body-con dress with beige boots.  This dress is comfy and soft.  

Make Sound

I have been contemplating for weeks whether or not I should write a blog about Michael today.  I was wondering if it shows that I haven't made progress, or that I am still stuck in his absence.  But I woke up about an hour ago with the clear conviction that i had to write and make sure Michael's legacy, name, and spirit continues to live, and particularly, it deserved its space on this website.   The title of this post is, "Make Sound" because he would say it all the time, which ultimately means: make your mark, push beyond your comfort zone, live passionately, and put it all on the table.  He was known for being a leader, a visionary, and for pursuing his dreams.  He wasn't perfect, but his passion, zest for life, commitment to community, and winning smile made him one of the most beautiful people you would ever meet.

Sending you lots of love Michael, you inspire me every day to be bolder, better, and to hustle my way into my dreams.  

 

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(I read the following eulogy on the day of his funeral)

Michael was always larger than life, even as a child.  At the age of three years old he was sent to Panama to be with Abuela for the summer.  In that Panamanian neighborhood he became “king.”  All of the little girls and boys wanted to play with him.  Abuela would find him playing at the basket-ball court with kids much older than him, or riding his motorized go-kart down the street with all of the neighborhood children trailing after him.  These were the first stories of Michael’s bold and magnetic personality.  Athletically, he was very competitive so he would spend countless hours practicing his favorite sports.    I can still see him dribbling up and down the court practicing how to fake out his opponent.   He was also an amazing soccer player, being able to score multiple goals at every single game.  I loved watching him play these sports, as he made us all proud because when he played, he held nothing back. He was pure intensity. I proudly would take him everywhere as a teenager.  We were best friends who found each other’s jokes insanely funny.  We would confide in each other about our school drama, and I would even seek his advice on guys.   What was I thinking??? Although, he was younger than me, his opinion mattered to me, he was MY little brother.    He was my playmate, my confidant, and my personal comedian.  As the years went by, we maintained a strong sibling connection.  I always leaned on him if I needed to vent or a boost of confidence.  He knew how to motivate me and make me feel like a million bucks.   

            His work ethic brought him to accomplish major achievements, and even though he would fall off his course, he had no problem shaking it off, and getting back on the road towards his dreams.  He has left us with numerous pictures that capture his smile and uplifting spirit.  His music is another gift to us that channels his voice and his wisdom.  Michael’s life was cut short from being able to truly realize his dreams.  He would consistently inform me about how he was strategizing and working to accomplish his goals in the music industry.    He was on his way and making strides with every move.  But knowing Michael, even though he is gone, he would want his life story to serve as a symbol of persistence, drive, and hard work.  He would want each and every one of us to pursue our goals, think big, and achieve our dreams.  He is now immortalized as a resource of strength and love.  Whenever we may feel like we are too tired, frustrated, or unhappy with our conditions, we must be grateful and press forward, as Michael would say, “sleep is overrated…we gotta go get it.”  His hunger for success will live within each and every one of us.  

            Michael, we will miss you for the beautiful spirit that you blessed us with while you were on earth.  We look forward to making you proud by not taking any day for granted, expressing our gratitude to God, appreciating and caring for our loved ones.  You will help us to be better, to re-evaluate our relationships and friendships by giving more and expecting less.  You had the ability to fill a room with smiles, humor, and joy.  Your playful nature will never be forgotten as you have given us plenty of memories of silly comments, jokes, stories, and dancing.  You had a way of making people feel like they were special because you had the capacity to listen, engage in deep conversation, and communicate your appreciation and love.      We will use today for tomorrow, and leave yesterday in the past.  We will move forward with you while we walk on mic ave. 
 

 

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I will post more pics and details of this particular outfit later this week.  I really wanted to make sure this post was solely about Michael. 

Is it Hot or Cold Today??

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Since I have moved to St. Louis the weather has been pretty moderate.  The locals have a tendency of stressing that they have harsh winters and that their summers are terrible, but too be quite honest, it's not that bad.   Now, let me fix that, this past summer there were temperatures that were unbearable.  But the winters really do not compare at all to what I have experienced in Maryland. 

There were several Blizzards growing up, that broke records, and completely shut down the DC metropolitan area for about a week.  I even have a scar under my lip that reminds me of Blizzard of '96, which dumped 17 inches across the metro area.  In my neighborhood, the snow plows would push the snow into large hills, and we would play with them as if they were large slides.  Well, in one of those attempts to slide down this snow hill, I slid and my face fell into the snow.  All that to say, I still have a curved scar under my lip because I never went to the doctors for stitches.  

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I also remember trekking to the grocery store by foot, and even though the snow was knee deep-high, I stomped my way through for about a mile to get to the store.  It was like getting ready for war: we layered up with several socks, pants, and sweaters under our coats.  We thought we were prepared for the cold with all the layers of warm clothing, but in our route I recall feeling like I was developing frostbite. I do not miss that! I remember running into the warmth of our house, and thanking God for giving me heat!!

   

In St. Louis, it has been shocking to see how fall and spring-like weather last longer, and winter feels more brief in comparison to MD.  I will not complain because I hate being cold and every time it's unexpectedly warm in this area, I enjoy it like a gift.  

Now that the temperatures are getting cooler, in this fall season, I bought this cute coat to wear when I go out.  I love the gray color, and because it's a neutral color I can wear it with everything.   I actually wore it out to dinner for my birthday, over the pink outfit, and I was pleasantly surprised at how warm it kept me.   

Click the link below for more details on this coat.   You know I will be walking around town in my over-sized gray coat!  

Another Birthday in the Books

This is a blog that shares some of my past, where I am now, and who I would like to be.  

I receive my birthday with so much joy and excitement.  I will be celebrating all of the good and the bad that I have experienced, which has contributed to the woman that I am today.   I am not sharing to gain any pity, but to truly share how much I recognize that these difficult experiences have shaped me, strengthened me, and allow me to appreciate the good times that much more.  

In my childhood and adolescence there's a lot that I endured: the loss of my mother to cancer at 12 years old, domestic violence and physical abuse from my father, moving out of my house at 16 years old to move in with my sister because I couldn't deal with the combative relationship with my father, growing up feeling like I wasn't ever Black enough or Latina enough, and overall --- like I was going through the motions and not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. 

There was a grace period where I was able to step away from a series of difficult experiences and just enjoy life.  I would consider this period to be when I went to college, meeting my husband, and enjoying early adulthood and all of the new experiences associated with independence, love, and the optimism of all the opportunities and possibilities that were available to me as a new adult.  

Four years ago I was struck with another unfortunate circumstance --- my brother was murdered.  My brother was my best friend, a soul mate, and one of the few people in my life who I felt understood me in every way.  He was my cheerleader, my confidant, and my personal comedian.  He was only 25 years old, so this was news that I did not handle well at all.  But I had just given birth to my daughter a few months prior to his death, so I was able to cope and find strength in the love and connection that motherhood provides.  

A year after his death,  I began to recover and since I was about to graduate with my PhD (that took 5 years of hard work), I was beginning to feel like I was heading in the right direction, and opportunities that I have wanted for years in my career were opening up for me in the MD/DC area.  I wanted to leave the classroom, and work in teacher education, curriculum design or support a large district with data analysis and  systematic improvement.   As I was getting excited about different job offers in the career space I just described, I was hit with another unexpected surprise.   My husband was offered a job promotion in St. Louis, and now we would have to move in a few months.  This shook me in every way, as I had worked for years on these goals, and now that I was beginning to see the fruits of my labor, I was going to have to turn down these opportunities and move to the midwest.  It was painful, and technically I could have just applied to similar jobs in St. Louis, but these types of jobs tend to take 6-12 months to obtain.  

  It was hard moving to St. Louis, I didn't have a network, I didn't even know where I could find a hairdresser.  I didn't have family members to help me out with Milan, and to add to my discomfort, St. Louis doesn't feel or look anything like Maryland or DC.  I kind of felt like I was an alien in new territory, and I remember feeling self conscious and out of place.   

Because I didn't want to stay at home and fall into a depressed state, I knew that I had to keep busy, and the only job I knew that I could get quickly was a teaching job, so I applied to the few high school Spanish teaching jobs that were available.  It wasn't what I intended to do after my PhD, but I knew that it would help me connect with the area, and keep my mind off of feeling so disconnected and uncomfortable.  

I was hired by the only school in the St. Louis area that had a full-time Spanish teaching job in mid-July, and it was and continues to be the biggest blessing. I work in an amazing school district, where excellence and commitment to quality is expressed in every facet.  Honestly, it should truly be considered teacher heaven.  I have a lot of love for my students, who I didn't expect to give me so much joy.  Because they knew I was new to the area, many took on nurturing roles: connecting me with other colleagues at work, sharing their gratitude for my work as a teacher, and expressing their care and concern when they could tell I wasn't feeling my best.  

A few months ago I started blogging, which has been one of my goals for a looooong time, but I would always put it aside, and I would tell myself that I would start at a later date.  Finally, I took the initiative to start at the end of August, and it has really made me feel more like myself.  It has served as my opportunity to reveal my authentic self, to allow my creativity to flow, and to share my passion for fashion. 

 

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I look forward to twirling and dancing into November 11th. I have learned that when I embrace things with positivity and joy, my outcomes exceed my expectations.  Moving to St. Louis pulled the rug under me and made me feel unbalanced and disoriented, but once I learned to submit to God's plans that are beyond my comprehension, I began to enjoy everything around me.  As I move into this new year in my life, I look forward to working on becoming more of who I have always wanted to be in my soul and in my heart: reflecting more love, serving a purpose larger than myself, and fulfilling dreams and goals that I have neglected and ignored for years. 

 One student asked me as a joke this week, "what do you want to be when you grow up?", and I didn't know how to respond, but after thinking about it I should have said, "I just want to be me...an authentic version of myself."

 

Below you will find the links to the beret hat, bodysuit, pleated skirt, and rose gold shoes from DSW.  Since I love pink, and since it is a trendy color this season, I thought it was more than appropriate to wear all pink for my birthday!! 

Enjoy your weekend!!

 

 

I think I need eyeglasses!

Since i was a little girl, I used to think that glasses were super cute and cool.  Anytime I was at a store, I played around with eyeglasses, and pictured myself walking around looking smart.  Three years ago while I was working on my dissertation, I used to spend 12-18 hours in front of my computer, and I was confident that my eyesight was deteriorating with the amount of screen time my eyes were getting.  Even though, I wasn't happy about the screen time exposure, I was secretly excited about the possibility of having to wear eyeglasses in the future.  I know that it is trendy to wear eyeglasses, even if you don't need them, but I wanted my eyeglasses to be legitimate...lol!  

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I made an appointment with an optometrist, and went through the eye exam thinking that i had nailed it, I couldn't see some of the letters....I was going to walk out with prescription eye glasses!  Well, to my surprise, the optometrist shared that my vision was normal and that I didn't need eye glasses.  I asked him, "are you sure?"  He said, "yes, there's nothing wrong with your vision."   At that moment, my legitimate prescription eyeglasses dream poofed right in front of me.  He led me to the store area, and told me that I could still purchase glasses since he could tell I was let down, and that no one would know they weren't prescription.

I looked at a few glasses, and sadly walked out of the door.  As I opened my car, I laughed at myself for my ridiculous wish and how I should be happy that my vision was still in tact. 

Last week, while I was surfing on amazon, I found these cute eyeglasses that had great reviews and for a great price.  I decided to buy them 'cause deep down I still think back to how close I was to becoming an official eyeglass wearer.  This is my first pair of fake eyeglasses!  Even though i'm not official, I enjoyed them!

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I also found the dress on Amazon, and it was another great find!  This dress is comfortable, affordable, and I could easily wear it to church, a conference, sorority/ business event.   Below, you can click on the link to find more details on the eyeglasses and this cute dress!  Enjoy the rest of your work week!!

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Love a Fringe Skirt!

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I am one of those people who knows what they like as soon as they see it.  I can scan a store pretty quickly,  and I will only fall for particular items. But because I LOVE to shop, sometimes, I want to purchase things that I kind-of-like.   I have learned to tell myself, that if I don't love it, it is not for me.  

This fringe skirt is an item that I felt an immediate connection and love (yes, I become connected to pieces of clothing...lol). 

Last week, I walked into Forever 21 to see if I could find any good pieces to add to my wardrobe.  Although, I am much older than their target age group, I can still find some great pieces.  I was walking through the store pretty quickly, and this skirt called my name and said, "Kayra take me home!"  

Not only is this skirt affordable, it's comfortable, and i was so happy to get it since I didn't have anything like it in my closet.  I wore it with a black bodysuit, which made it into a dinner/ party outfit,  but I could also see myself wearing it to a concert with a cute slogan t-shirt.  

Lastly, this fringe skirt has a lot of personality, and I am confident it will easily be a conversation piece.