Exploring Wifehood

This month more than any other, my facebook timeline has been filled with congratulatory messages and pictures of wedding days that took place three, four, five years ago. I personally know at least three couples that celebrated anniversaries in the past couple of days.

I include myself in that group as I changed my profile picture and facebook cover on June 11th.

It marked four years that my husband and I would have been married. However, it was the second anniversary that I experienced without him.  

While his early demise spawned me into a space where I push out everything God has placed in me, my desire to ensure wives are better equipped to handle marriage was birthed in 2012 when I was having lunch with a girlfriend who was unhappily married nine months into her union.

Our scheduled lunch date of an hour turned into a four hour cleansing session where we both cried, laughed and questioned what it means to be a good wife.

We talked about love languages, we talked about our individuals quirks and those of our mates. We discussed how different we were from our spouses and the things we loved about them.

You name it and I am certain it came up in our conversation.

As we were preparing to depart, I remember saying to her that we needed a manual to know how to be a wife.

There are tons of books to "parent the right way" and plenty more about marriage.

Where was the book that strictly tells a woman what it means to be a wife? 

The faith community will tell you that the Proverbs 31 woman indeed gives us a picture of who we are to be as wives. However, many of us need some practical examples of what that means on a daily basis.

While it was not impressed upon me to write that manual (not yet anyway), it has been impressed upon me to start the community, Circle of Wives.

Since August 2014, women have come to my home to talk about their joys and challenges of being a wife.

Along the way, we have learned that no one has the answer individually. Coming together allows us to exhale and take off the mask we present to the world.

Each meeting, we uncover what it means for us to be wives.

Share with us.

What does being a wife mean to you?

An Inspiring Woman...

I am so humbled and honored to be considered by my business coach, Monique Caradine as one of the 30 Most Inspiring Women to watch in 2015. The last year of my life has not been easy. Her encouragement and direction has been paramount in propelling me forward as I live out loud! 

For me, it all started at Monique's Overflow Women's Retreat (coming up June 9-12) held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was the rejuvenation I needed at that particular time. Attending the retreat was the first step in uncovering my blueprint for success. While Monique lists me as an inspiration, she has truly been an inspiration in my life. I am blessed to have her devising the plays and positioning me for greatness.

Take a moment to check out all the women listed. You'll be happy that you did.

This is what Monique had to say about me...

"With a long background in non-profit management, program development and staff training, Elle has become a sought after consultant who helps organizations build strong foundations within the communities they serve. Her life’s mission is helping others overcome setbacks but when she suddenly lost her husband due to a rare cardiovascular condition, that mission took on a whole new meaning. Less than a year after her husband’s death, Elle launched her newest initiative called Obstacles to Opportunities, where she helps women face roadblocks head on…and breakthrough them."

My Grief Journey: the 5-step process

I have experienced loss in my life since I was a pre-teen. My great grandparents died within months of each other, during my eighth grade year. My cousin was killed when I was a sophomore in high school. And, there have been several other significant deaths in my life throughout the years. However, nothing prepared me for the unexpected death of my beloved spouse.

In Spring 2014, my life changed in one day, in a way that I could have never imagined. My husband was complaining of leg cramps, after halting his tennis game earlier in the day. He did not share any other complaints and just wanted to rest; believing that he would feel better after a good nights sleep. Unfortunately, he never saw the next day, having died before a new day arrived.

I was not sure how I was going to get through the next few hours, let alone making it through almost eleven months since his transition. As I prepare to launch a virtual grief support group, I want to share with you the five avenues that have helped me on my journey as a widow:

1. Having community- My family, friends, church family, colleagues and a number of others have all showed up in supportive ways and continue to do so. They check on me on a regular basis, some have baby sat my daughter and one couple has invited my daughter and I into their home every Tuesday for dinner. All of these gestures has helped me to hold on to the love that surrounds me and not focus on what I have lost.

2. Therapy- My first therapy appointment was three weeks after my husband's death. I knew that my healing process needed to include professional counseling. It was important for me to have an objective view to discuss my pain, frustrations and fears. If you don't like the first therapist you see, that's okay. You should keep searching until you find the right person for you.

3. Self-care- My personal regiment includes building a stronger relationship with God, getting periodic massages, indulging in quiet time to journal my thoughts and spending time with my family and friends. You must take time for you; nurturing your soul as it heals from major loss.

4. Allow yourself to feel- Tears have been cleansing for me; allow them to flow whenever and wherever they come. When I'm angry, I speak it out loud so that I am not bottling my emotions. If I need more time to just lay in the bed, I take it. It is allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel that will often help you get through the tough moments. There is no right or wrong way.

5. Keep moving- I received these instructions early on, ironically, from my husband. He had written a blog about his grief journey in losing his mother. His advice was, in your mourning, "keep moving." So, through the hurt, through the sadness, through the lack of understanding...I move. The action that you take will open new doors of opportunity and help you in your own journey.

These are just a few of the methods that have helped me maintain a positive outlook on life and not get trapped by depression, frustration or anger. I know there are brighter days ahead.

What has helped you deal with loss in your life?

The Unexpected Single Parent

As far back as I could remember, I always wanted a family of my own. I looked forward to the day I could be a wife and a mother.

My daughter turns three in less than a week and she brings me a great deal of joy on so many levels. Motherhood was everything I expected even with its' ups and downs.

I did everything the "right" way; the way I was taught, so that I could raise my daughter with two loving parents.

I did not expect life to unfold in a way that would cause me to continually question why bad things happen to good people. I am learning to live life with new a new perspective and taking nothing for granted. 

I share with you an excerpt from the book collaboration The Apple of His Eye of which I tell a portion of my story about becoming a single parent:

"My husband was very hands-on. He understood that we needed the balance in our home of both of us interacting and caring for our daughter. I don't think I had previously taken him for granted, but I was certain that aside from missing him, I missed being able to share the responsibility of raising a child. I felt very overwhelmed and could not figure out how I was going to cook, clean, work, live out my dreams and care for my daughter on my own. I know that other people continue to conquer this task. I wasn't convinced that I was equipped."

So, when you see my daughter and I, and you notice that I don't have a  wedding ring on my finger, don't assume that I am a part of the typical single-mom statistic who has been knocked up by a fling or some dude that did not love me. 

My story has depth and you don't know my pain until you have walked in my shoes. 

Be the support that a single parent needs!

The Circle of Wives Communication Chronicles: 5 Tips to Ponder

Seven amazing women gathered in my home on a chilly Sunday afternoon to discuss some aspects of what it means to be a happy wife. When I introduced the topic of communication, I could see the uncertainty in the ladies heads as they silently sorted their response to my questions about how they communicate and what their husbands would say about their communication skills.

No one rushed to speak.

However, once the conversation started, it was great to hear the view points on how communication effected different areas of home life, such as: discussing finances, household chores, raising kids, scheduling events and appointments and even pillow talk.

Below are a few of the tips that I wanted to share with you as you navigate communication in your own marriage:

1. Implement monthly budget meetings- A few of the wives present, discussed how they have monthly meetings with their spouses to discuss their finances. This approach helps to eliminate the anxiety that arises for some couples in handling their affairs.

2. Check your tone- Outside of the home, many women find themselves in the role of "boss" and would gladly relinquish that role in the home, but don't always know how to turn it off. One woman present is a teacher and her husband pointed out to her that she often talks to him like he is one of her 6th grade students. It is not her intention to talk "at" her husband, but she is so used to giving instructions that her communication with her husband often sounds condescending. We know that men do not want to be talked "down to," so we have to be mindful of our tone when we are engaging in dialogue at home.

3. Read his non-verbals- Most women are detailed oriented and like to share a lot of information. On the contrary, most men just want the "need to know" information. If you are still talking after about two minutes, chances are your spouse is only listening for trigger words or has tuned you out altogether. Take a breath to ensure, he is still engaged. If not, you may need to try to have that conversation later or ask him for an alternative time when he can be more engaged.

4. Explain your request- On most days, barking orders like, "wash the dishes" is not going to get you the outcome you desire. Instead, taking a different approach like, "babe, I would prefer if you washed the dishes after dinner. When everything is in order when I wake up, I have a better start to my day," can garner the results you want. Take time to change your approach and you may be pleasantly surprised by the response.

5. Time out before telling off- A few of the ladies agreed that when things in their home got heated, they needed to take some time and step away from the situation rather than say something that may be hurtful or that they would regret at a later time.

None of the wives in the circle want to be seen as always "nagging" and they were excited to walk away with these tips to help them become more effective communicators?

I would love to hear how you communicate effectively in your home.