Life with lupus: the holiday blues

Life with lupus is a weekly column written by Catherine Daniels, a good friend who also has the chronic disease of lupus. It is our hope that through this column, the world can gain a better understanding of life with lupus.

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It’s really hard to stay in the moment when you feel so bad. There is no Christmas joy here. Don’t get me wrong I really appreciate my family and roof over our heads, but this is the first Christmas I just don’t feel it. The fact is that my body is extremely achy. There is no money for gifts, no visits and an extremely brief conversation with my father. I feel so bad that I could not be a better daughter, sister and aunt. Not of my own making but nonetheless upsetting.

“It’s really hard to stay in the moment when you feel so bad.” – Catherine on life with lupus.

I have a new fetish: watching video blogs. It’s like living vicariously through others. I don’t know if its strange or not, but I have a strange attraction to Aussies. I really love Australia. It’s so beautiful, just like the people. The Great Barrier Reef is just gorgeous. Watching videos is one thing that I do to take my mind off the hard things. I could wallow in that the holidays are hard. Or I could watch videos.

There are days when I can’t get out of bed, so I have to find things to do while lying down. I have succumbed to the fetish I call youtubeitist (yes I made that up. Don’t judge!!!). I was reading a blog of this 14-year-old girl in Brisbane Australia. I felt so bad for her. At her young age she had lost one her kidneys. She was so brave; I did not even know her but I felt connected to her. She was video blogging from bed and I was blogging from bed. Sort of like kindred souls connected through common ailments.

So I’m back on YouTube and I cannot stop watching a video blog of a couple. Their names are Jamie and Nikki. They are a really cute young couple. I cannot get enough of them. Maybe I envision my life being like theirs. I think I am drawn to happy couples and maybe I can even vibe their youthful karma. They are on my watch list. I’ve been watching them from their very sweet engagement thru their first pregnancy. They are so young and so together. I envision my Lamar with a wife and life like theirs. He however would be to different. But that’s mom talk!

At the end of the day, yes I have Lupus and yes we are without a permanent home. Most days I’m missing my little chubby (our doggy). Things are bad but not the worst. Life feels grim but there is grimmest. So I will look to a better day tomorrow. Thanks for checking out my blog post and I will see you next week.

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My Christmas re-cap


Christmas is over. Each year in my adult life, Christmas just seems to sneak up on me. Before I know it, it’s Christmas eve. This year things especially seemed to happen that way. Luckily, however, I had my trusty camera with me at several holiday events. Here’s my re-cap.

The Christmas Who-vile party

I’m a notorious friend-stealer. By that, I mean that many of my friendships have been made through mutual friends. Kim is one of said “stolen” friends. She and my best friend Kayleigh met at Wittenberg University when they were members of the same sorority. Then their first year out of undergrad, she moved down to Cincinnati to work on her master’s and we all hung out from time to time. After that, she found a job in Columbus.

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The lovely Kim
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Kim and I in our costumes

Each year, her roommate Nichole has a fun and festive Christmas party. This year made party number nine. Nichole seems to be known for her Christmas party amongst her friends from high school, college, work and wherever else she knows her friends from. Kim invited me last year and I went. The theme was blue and they made these amazing candles.

This year the party took a Grinch theme and they made their own beer. These ladies really out-do themselves every year.

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Nichole with their home-brewed beer

Also, her hair and costume here are simply amazing. Kim decided to dress as a Christmas present. I love her shoes! I just decided to pin my braids to the side of my head like Cindy Lou-who. If you have a Grinch party to go to, it’s like the easiest thing to do. Here are a few more photos from the evening:

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Christmas day with the Boskens

Since I was born and probably even before that, my dad’s side of the family has been gathering together on Christmas day. This year, we all gathered at my aunt’s house. Highlights included a White Elephant gift exchange, a game of Settlers of Catan and Mostaccioli for dinner. I snapped a few photos of family members in dresses.

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The baby shower

The day after Christmas, I got together with my dad’s side of the family at a different aunt’s house. One of my cousins is going to have a baby in a few weeks, so we had a shower. It was too fun.

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Congrats to Margie! I’m so very excited to have a new member of the family!

Well, that’s a wrap! Now onto New Year’s!

PS. Have you checked out our Pinterest?

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My vintage Christmas dress

Vintage Christmas

This is my vintage Christmas dress. Today I had a lazy morning. It was the first morning in several weeks that I could sleep in. It felt great. So when I was finally ready to venture out for some last-minute shopping, I decided to wear something in holiday colors. I’ll admit that this year I’ve been less in the Christmas spirit than before. Without going into too much detail, my mother has been in the hospital since the beginning of August. She suffered a brain aneurysm and has been in the hospital or nursing homes ever since. I am thankful that she is alive. Her recovery has been slow with a few setbacks. This will be my first Christmas without her in the house. My first without her watching me open presents and all the other things. It has been hard.

But I know my mom would want me to still enjoy the holidays. So I will. I decided that my vintage Christmas dress would be a good option. Several summers ago, I attended the Whispering Beard Folk Festival. It was an amazing weekend with music and all sorts of vendors. One of them was a vintage shop and this is where I found this dress. I love the pattern and fabric. Also the neck lace area is unique too. I love my vintage Christmas dress.

Vintage Christmas

I hardly ever wear bracelets, but these just seemed to go. These are three green bangles that I bought on Devon St. in Chicago about six years or so ago. Devon St. is an area of the city with lots of Indian restaurants and shops. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in Chicago.

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Vintage Christmas

My vintage Christmas dress this Dressember

Also happy day 24 of Dressember. For those who are unaware, I’ve been wearing a dress every day this month to raise awareness about the global issue of human trafficking. Proceeds raised go to International Justice Mission and A21. You can read more here.

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My Closet: Becki’s adorable dresses

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Becki Griswold has been a good friend for a little over seven years now. It’s crazy how time flies. Back in 2008, the two of us met through attending the same church. I had felt led to work with homeless people for some reason and Becki would go take food to homeless people Sunday afternoons with a group of friends. It was almost a little too perfect. So every Sunday for about a year or so, I’d go do this with her. While our group no longer does this (kids, marriage, moving away, life, etc.), I’d most definitely say this was one of the things that shaped my world view, prompted my passion for social justice and led me to work in the non-profit sector. I currently work with Latino immigrants at Su Casa Hispanic Center and absolutely love it. So thanks Becki!

Today, though, we take a look at her personal style. She has always had the cutest dresses!

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Becki
Dress: vintage from Nvision

Becki now resides in Walnut Hills with her husband Jeremiah their family. Their home is a beautiful three-story building they bought to run their small business out of. Jeremiah is a tattoo artist and so their business is called White Whale Tattoo. The first floor is the tattoo space, the second floor are several apartments for rent and the third is where they live. These photos were taken in and around this beautiful space.

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Becki

Becki’s proposal dress

This is a significant and special dress for Becki. Her wedding proposal happened in New York City in Central Park. Jeremiah and her were on a trip there and walking through the park when he decided to pop the question. One of her friends was also apparently hiding in the bushes taking pictures. This dress, she said, she bought that same day at Anthropologie. I remember that she also wore it to their engagement party at Neons, a fun local establishment with a nice upper room for parties.

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Becki
Dress: Anthropologie; Shoes: Urban Outfitters

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Becki
Dress: Forever 21; Shoes: Urban Outfitters; Hat: Target

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Becki

Liza Minnelli meets the club

That is what she said this dress feels like. It’s vintage.

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Dress: vintage; Shoes: Urban Outfitters

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Becki
Dress: from her friend Betsy; Shoes: Urban Outfitters
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Dress: H&M
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Dress: H&M; Hat: Target; Shoes: Steve Madden

The tattoo parlor

Then we decided to venture out of the cold for some shots inside the tattoo shop. If you are in the market for a tattoo in Cincinnati, White Wale is the place to go. Their simple and clean layout makes you feel right at home. Also Jeremiah is an amazing artist. He does amazing custom-designed work.

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Dress: vintage

Becki

Thanks Becki! And happy Christmas eve to all!

Also, today I’m linking up with some of my blogger pals and their Christmas posts. I have recently started following Jersey Girl, Texan Heart. See what other style bloggers are posting here.

 

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Sister Circle: the women of Winton Terrace

Meet Sister Circle: some of the women who live in Winton Terrace. As an outsider, it could be easy to get the wrong idea of Winton Terrace from a quick drive through the neighborhood. A low-income housing community or “the projects,” as some like to call it (not me) is located in this neighborhood. There are only a few businesses … a couple liquor and corner stores. Other than a school, a few churches and a recreation center, there is not much else in the neighborhood. However Sister Circle brings a whole new definition to Brick City, a well-known nickname for their neighborhood.

However the story the women from Sister Circle tell is one of hope and empowerment. Their unity and shared experiences is their strength. The group was started seven years ago by LaMonica Sherman, the Site Supervisor for the St. Vincent DePaul satellite office in Winton Hills. She found that at least 60% of the households in the community were led by single mothers, something she felt she could identify with. She herself is a single mother of two adult children.

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(left to right) Majoretta Gallaher, Sylvia Brown and Diana Blasingame

“I saw myself in them,” said Sister Circle Founder LaMonica Sherman.

When she started the group, there was really nothing for the women in the neighborhood. Now the group meets on a monthly basis. The ages of the women range from 16-87. The group has started to perform around the community. I actually first discovered them in the community at the Contemporary Dance Theatre’s PTA show about a month or so ago (Not your mom’s PTA). Their show is called “I’m From” and it’s a mixture of story-telling, song and dance. It was amazing.

I decided to approach them about writing about them at the show. They were excited to work with me, so this is how we have ended up here! I must say that they too have been a pleasure to work with. I have laughed and learned a lot. Last Friday, I had the pleasure of seeing them perform “I’m From” again at their holiday gathering. It was quite a treat.

Clad in the same long-sleeved purple shirts, the women started their performance holding hands in a circle. I love how symbolic that is. The strength of the group comes from their unity. That unity is transparent on stage. They share with each other, empower each other and lift each other up. It is truly beautiful.

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Majoretta Gallaher singing

Throughout the performance, the women spoke about what where they’re from means to them. For some, it’s foster homes. For others, it’s a TV that never turns off or fried everything. The women took turns in the spotlight each telling their story. Majoretta Gallaher spoke about what it meant to be an unwed mother in the 1960’s, wearing single motherhood as a badge of honor and her determination to get her GED. Her part was so very moving and full of emotion. LaQuita Brown, who at 16 is the youngest in the group, said that it’s hard to get away with anything being surrounded by all these mothers. And while at times that’s frustrating, she’s glad that she knows she’s loved. She also shared that she plans to be the first person in her family to get a four-year degree … unless her mother, who is also in the group, gets her’s first. It sounds like she has many amazing role models in her life.

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LaQuita Brown (left) with Nakia Feagin (right)

These women derive their strength from each other. And as they build each other up, they can in-turn make the world a better place. LaMonica remarked at how 98% or so of the women are involved in their community in some way. Some serve on their neighborhood councils, others in their church and others in other community organizations. LaMonica truly believes Sister Circle is a place that creates leaders.

I hung out with these ladies twice this week. Wednesday evening each lady wore her favorite dress and we took some photos. Friday, of course, I saw their wonderful performance. You can view many of the photos here:

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Christmas party outfit

Christmas is almost here! Last Friday, I had three Christmas parties to attend in one night. I suppose it’s just that time of year. I also worked a casino gig for the Cincinnati Circus Company (my super fun side gig). So I needed a good outfit that would work for all the things. Friday also marked day 18 of Dressember. So I thought I’d make this an outfit and a story post.

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Dress: Target; Shoes: Target; Jacket: H&M; Hair piece: Global Village in Dubai

I absolutely LOVE this jacket! When I was last at H&M, they had this jacket in roughly 8-10 colors. Furthermore, the original price was only $39.99. I, however, bought it on a sweet black Friday deal for $26! My hair is pulled back by a piece I bought in Dubai’s Global Village last Spring. This past year, I was so very blessed to have the opportunity to visit four new countries. The United Arab Emirates was one of them. One of my best friends from college is a Dubai native. So when I visited, she took me to the Global Village. Basically for several months out of the year, Dubai invites people from all over the world to set up shops in the village with things from their culture. I found these amazing coasters from the Africa section. I want to say it was from Kenya, but I unfortunately cannot remember the specific African country. This headpiece was from the China section. If you ever have the chance to go to Dubai, go! It’s most definitely worth a week or more of your life. It was on said trip that I decided camels are like the coolest animals ever.

The Christmas dress

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My latest Target dress

I am just obsessed with this dress. I knew it was all over when I went on a Target trip and saw all the dresses. If you need a good and affordable party dress for Christmas or New Year’s, Target is an excellent place to look. I tried on four, texted my best friend pictures of the two I was deciding between and then picked this one. It was her favorite too.

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Christmas dress

A positive trafficking story

The story I’m sharing is quite a positive one. India is one of the most populated countries in the world. Thus, it also has a large problem with human trafficking. International Justice Mission, one of the organizations Dressember fundraising efforts go to, has an office in Mumbai. Mumbai has a red light district that is over 200 years old. Many young girls are heartbreakingly trafficked there. The Mumbai IJM office just completed trainings for 10,000 police officers, social workers and prosecutors. Quite a milestone. In this story you can listen to an interview with IJM Mumbai’s Field Office Director Sanjay Macwan. His goal is to rescue every minor girl from trafficking in the red light district. You can read the full story here.

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Mis zapatos

We only have about a week left of Dressember. I really hope you’ll consider contributing towards my goal. You can learn more here.

 

 

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LaMonica: the strong servant in Winton Terrace

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Last Monday, I ventured down to Winton Terrace to interview LaMonica Sherman, the Program Manager of St. Vincent DePaul’s satellite office in Winton Terrace. A low-income housing community that has a reputation for being dangerous is who she and her office serves each day. Yet the several times I’ve visited, I’ve felt nothing but welcome from everyone. I initially met LaMonica with her friends from Sister Circle, a women’s support group that she facilities. Their group performed a show of a mixture of song and story-telling. I loved how empowering the group is, so I just had to speak with them and LaMonica. LaMonica is someone who has been right where her clients have been. She herself is a single mother who has experienced poverty. On Monday, we discussed poverty and the mindset that people in poverty are in, amongst other things.

Name: LaMonica Sherman
Age: 44
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Where are you in life right now? I know you work as the Program Manager for the St. Vincent DePaul Winton Hills satellite office. What does life look like right now for LaMonica?

I am going through the Cincinnati Chamber’s We Lead program this year. I graduate from that June next year. Part of the program is to really help you get to whatever your next is. So what life look like for LaMonica right now is things that I always desired to do that I was gifted to do, to be able to explore those things. Like just before this month ends, I have four songs that I have written patented. So I’m looking to put that on a CD. Also I’ve been with St. Vincent DePaul for 16 years, so I’m really trying to … its been a lot of transitional changes here and I’m trying to really get clarity of what my next is.

Wow, sixteen years. How did you get connected with St. Vincent DePaul sixteen years ago?

Well sixteen years ago, my kids was very young. I have a 20-year-old and a 24-year-old. So my daughter was four and my son was eight, and I was still receiving assistance from Hamilton County. At that time I was working for Winton Hills Neighborhood House. I was the secretary at their East End site. I did holiday programs. I did the emergency food pantry and secretarial work. So I was only making seven dollars and 50 cent an hour, and I was looking for a way to make more money and get off of Hamilton County assistance. So I saw this job opening and I applied for it, and I was chosen for it. So since I’ve been here, I’ve been promoted twice. I started off as the supervisor downtown and then I started out here about nine years ago as the program manager. This is their first satellite office. So when I started at St. Vincent DePaul, of course my supervisor put me over all the holiday programs. When I first started here, the Adopt a Family program, it was not even 100 families getting adopted. I did that for 12 years and the last year I did that, it was over 500 families that I was able to get adopted. Plus out of that program came the Shop with the Bengals program.

Oh yeah, Shop with the Bengals! I saw that actually on your Facebook! So you get Bengals players to shop with children for Christmas?

Yes they spend $300 on each child. So this year, they did 50 kids.

Then the rest of the Adopt a Family program, does that come from different donors?

Different donors and sponsors. I grew a real good relationship with my sponsors and so they would just share with family, friends, people they work with and every year I would get more and more families. Our Angel Toy program … we have about six Christmas programs that we do. One of them, they do downtown. The Angel Toy  Program. I was the pioneer for that program. Sacred Hart. So a lot of the holiday programs that we do, the Lord blessed me to lay the foundation where they still run today.

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A closer look at her outfit

Very cool. I was reading in your WCPO story that you’re someone who has been there. You’ve been right there where a lot of the people you work with are. Being a single parent and having been low-income in the past. How do you feel like having that experience impacts your work?

It impacts because I’m able to relate and really understand. Not just understand what a person is going through, but I’m able to understand some of the root causes; some of the strongholds that people that are single parents and even guys, that people face that live in poverty.

What do you think are some of the biggest root causes or strongholds? What are some things too that people who haven’t experienced this don’t see or are their misconceptions?

This is one of my favorite quotes: when people know better, they do better. A lot of times when you are poverty, certain things you’re not exposed to. You’re not exposed to budgeting your money because there’s really no money. You look at it like you don’t have any money to budget. And if it’s been from generations. If you have families or parents that live from paycheck to paycheck. Because not everybody have been on assistance, but some people are in poverty, they just have a generation where people just had jobs where it was just living from paycheck to paycheck. Nobody was taught how to budget. Nobody was taught how to save; how to invest. I just found this out from one of my classmates in We Lead. She shared how for her niece and nephew for their birthday, she don’t do anything for them. She gives them $25 on a money CD. I never was exposed to that and most people in poverty are not exposed to investing because you live in the now. You live in survival mode. You’re not looking towards the future. You’re looking to now. What do I got to do right now? How am I to pay this bill right now? How am I gonna get my rent paid right now?

And then when you do have some extra, you’re excited. You’re going to spend it.

And you know you get your tax income check, most people in poverty the first thing they talk about is getting a car, getting furniture and stuff like that. It’s still living in the now, you know. And then buying a cute outfit, you know! Especially for women, you know. Me, I’ve always worked even when I was a teenager, so I always loved to dress.

Yeah, me too. So what are some of the other strongholds that keep people in poverty?

Strongholds is like a lot of people in poverty sometimes the people that they are connected to is more toxic than supportive than encouraging and pushing. You have people who have the same type of mindset. And if somebody is trying to do something different, then you have a lot of people instead of encouraging talk more negative. Like that’s not gonna happen. I think it was Tasha that said in the performance, “you’re never gonna amount to nothing. That ain’t gonna work.”

Do you find that that’s a mixture of jealousy a little bit and also just like it hasn’t happened for them, so why would it happen for anyone else?

Yes! And sometimes in poverty unless you’re in a good … what helped me was that I was blessed to get in a good, solid church. When I got exposed to a relationship with God and got exposed to what faith is. Faith is the things hoped for but yet not seen. So when I griped hold of faith in God, that’s when my imagination of what I could do, where I could be and that things are not always going to be like this. That’s when it happened.

So you were talking about the toxic environments. Now you’ve started Sister Circle. How long has that been around?

Sister Circle has been around for seven years now.

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LaMonica singing with Sister Circle

So yeah tell me about starting it and what it is today.

When I first started Sister Circle, of course free food is always the key to get people out no matter who they are. And so I made a flyer about a women’s support group. So when I first started, it was between 12-13 women who came. The first session we had, I wrote words down. Some words was like friendship. Some was like foregiveness. Some hope, love. Some was prosperity, faith. I can’t remember all of them, but everyone had to pick a word. Each person when they picked their word explained to us what that word means to you or where you at in your life with that word. This when I knew this group was going to be so impactful to me and each other. One of the ladies, the word she picked was friends. When she picked friends, she started crying and she started saying her mom was her best friend. Her mom had, it had not been a whole year since her mom passed away. So she expressed what she was going through. The another person in the group shared her testimony with her about how her momma had died about three years ago and she know what she’s going through. Sister Circle, the age start at 16 on up to 87. So then there was a senior in the group who poured into her. So everyone just wanted to encourage her. So stopped in that moment, she was the center focus and we all just started encouraging her. So after everyone encouraged her in the group, I went and hugged her and prayed for her.

So that’s how it started in the beginning. What Sister Circle is now is a group of women that comes together and we’re still supporting. St. Vincent DePaul, we support the people in the group but the group support each other … When I started Sister Circle, it was probably one or two people that was volunteering in the community. 98% of the group now is community involved.

I feel like what the group has become is a place of a making of a leader. I see leaders in the group now. They’re leading, whether they’re leading something in the community, they’re leading something at church. It has birthed and reproduced I would say I was able to duplicate what I was able to do in the women and now they’re duplicating into other people. So it’s just continuing duplication of leadership.

So you talked about using your gifts. What do you think your strongest gifts are?

Well my strongest gift is prayer. My second gift is serving people. I love serving.

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And you do that all day here. What does your day to day look like here?

Well we help people with rent and utilities during the week. During the week, we help with vouchers to go to our store, birth certificates. So I do all our emergency assistance. I’m always seeking ways to grow professionally. Not only am I taking classes through We Lead, but I’m doing national seminars, webinars and live workshops here in the city. So I continue to educate myself so I can go to whatever that next level is.

What does being a woman mean to you?

Being a woman to me, number one, means being pritzy. Keeping your hair done. Looking cute like a princess and being able to have that spirit of nurturing. I think women, we naturally have a nurturing spirit and we’re more sensitive, most of the time, to situations than men is. It is what is is. That’s how God created us. Men are get to the point people. Women are “I want to understand. I want to listen and I want to show you that I care.” So being a woman is, not that men don’t care, but I think we show another side of us. We bring another definition of caring, another definition of nurturing and another definition of God.

Anything you want to add?

I believe God has created us all with God-given gifts. And whatever gift we have is not just for us. It’s to edify one another. When people begin to understand that more, I think we’ll have less people being jealous, less people criticizing and less people trying to sabatoge or pull someone else down. We’re all on the road of life. We all make mistakes. We all have challenges. We all have battles … If I was to encourage somebody, I’d say no matter where you are in your life, no matter what challenges you face, keep moving. Keep moving because the race is not given to the swift or the strong, but to those who endure til the end. And anybody that has any successful life will tell you that they experienced failure. That’s how they learned success. So I would just encourage people to live your dreams, know you can live them and that with God, all things are possible.

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Malinda, one half of CincyClean

Yesterday I had the pleasure chatting with Malinda Williams, one half of the two women behind Cincy Clean. You know you’ve hit it off with someone when you feel like you could talk with them forever about everything from business to blogging to organization, etc. That is exactly what happened when we met up at the Coffee Emporium Friday. Malinda is one of Faith’s best friends (Small Business Saturday: Faith and the mobile spray tan and Coffee with Faith: local entrepreneur and comedian) and her business partner in Cincy Clean. Faith Mueller is someone I’ve featured several times on the blog. She runs two businesses: Cincy Clean and Cincy Spray Tan. Malinda’s role is mostly in customer service and social media management.

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Faith (left) and Malinda (right)

The business was started a little over a year ago. Faith had hired a house cleaner and had a great experience. She felt like a cleaning business would be a successful idea she could get behind. Furthermore, several of Faith’s family members clean houses, so she was familiar with house cleaning. So she wrote up her business plan, which included a business partner. She and Malinda had been best friends since high school, so she offered the partnership. At the time, Malinda was between jobs. While the idea of starting her own business was scary, she just decided to go for it.

Cincy Clean is basically a user-friendly cleaning service. A person could book a cleaning from their phone or laptop directly on the Cincy Clean website. Malinda said that busy people are who they target. They want to be able to provide a service to make people’s lives easier. They hope that through technology, they can reach a new group of people who might not have hired cleaners in the past.

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“We want people to go online, order a service and before they know it, their house is clean and they didn’t have to do anything other than click a few buttons,” she said. “Why wouldn’t people want to do that?”

The prices are reasonable. She compared it to paying a phone bill. A clean house is a necessity that people should want to pay for each month. The rates are based on how many bedrooms a house has and they also offer green cleaning at no extra charge.

“People always ask about the green cleaning. It’s very popular,” said Malinda.

Currently they have about 10 part-time house cleaners working for the business. They get as many as 80 bookings a month. Their goal in this next year is to double that number.

Overall, Malinda enjoys the flexibility that owning her own business gives her. She has a three-year-old son who she has 50/50 shared parenting of with his father. So during the times he is with his father, she works as much as she can. During the times when she has him, she can either choose not to work or work on things from home.

“I can fix my schedule to make my life revolve around him,” she said.

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Malinda, in a dress, with her son

She said it feels both great and scary to be a female entrepreneur. She enjoys running a service-oriented business because initially, there was not a lot of start-up capital involved. She also feels like it’s important to offer people the best cleaning service possible.

To learn more about Cincy Clean, visit their website here. Also, you should check them out on Facebook here.

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My first H54F (High Five for Friday)

I love the world of blogging. I love surfing around and discovering new blogs. I’m such a fan of empowering other women, so supporting other bloggers in my niche (which is mostly women) is such a great way to empower each other. About a week ago, I stumbled upon Bright on a Budget, a blog about Lexington-based mom, attorney and bargain-hunter Tif. She and three other bloggers (Caitlin from Coffee with Caitlin, Della from Della Devoted and Katie from Cup of Tea) host High Five for Friday, a weekly re-cap of their weeks where they write about five particular things that were awesome. I can get behind some weekly praise! So here are five things that rocked about this week.

1. One of my best friends from college drove up to Cincinnati from Lexington to see me perform improv comedy. Some of you may not know this, but I’m in an improv comedy group called Highly Improvable. Last Friday, we had a show with Gloria San Miguel, a local folk musician, to benefit Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. Sara has always had interest in seeing one of my shows, but since they’re always up in the Cincinnati area, it’s hard to find the time for a roadtrip. On my lunch break she messaged me to tell me she was coming! It was oh so good to have her in the audience! In April, I will stand beside Sara as one of her bridesmaids (I wrote about that here). I’m so excited! After the show, we went out for a beer or two and caught up on life. It was so good!

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2. Sister Circle (pictured above)! I met these ladies about a month ago when I wrote about the Contemporary Dance Theater’s Performance and Time Arts Show. Their piece in the show was part spoken word and part song. Clad in purple shirts with yellow flowers in their hair, they exuded self-love and empowerment. I simply had to write about them. I love all things women’s empowerment. So I did exactly what I do to find most of the women I interview: walk up to them and say “Hi, I’m Nina and I blog about women! Could I write about you?” 99.99% of people I ask say yes. I mean, who doesn’t love having the spotlight on them?

This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with LaMonica (pictured top second from the right in the checkered dress + red sweater), the woman who started Sister Circle. The women all live in Winton Terrace, a low-income housing community in Cincinnati. LaMonica is the Supervisor of the St. Vincent DePaul office located in Winton Terrace. Winton Terrace has a high percentage of single mothers, so LaMonica felt like a women’s support group was needed. So once a month these women of all ages get together around food to talk about life, laugh, sing and most importantly, support each other.

Wednesday evening, I got together with the ladies, each in their favorite dress. We had such a blast! Everyone loved having me take their photos. Right after I snapped this one above, they sporadically broke out into song. It was just so neat to see them in their element like that. This Sunday I’m featuring LaMonica on my weekly Q&A. Her story is so very powerful, so I’m excited to post it. I’m also going to write a post about Sister Circle early next week. My hope is that through both of these stories, people will look at single mothers and the issue of poverty just a little bit differently.

3. Amigas del trabajo. On Monday night, I got to know some of my co-workers outside of the office. I work at Su Casa Hispanic Center and one of my co-workers started a Groupme. For those of you who may not know, Groupme is an app that allows you to have group chats. We entitled our group chat “Amigas del trabajo” (ladies from work). Throughout the day if we think of something witty or important, we can message everyone from the comfort of our cubicle.

Monday night, though, we decided to have some face-to-face interaction a Low Spark, a new bar in Over-the-Rhine. We bonded and shared stories. Then my co-worker Lindsey invited us to her adorable apartment, which is right around the corner. I had intended to just have a drink or two and leave in time for weekly improv practice at 7:30 p.m. Instead, I skipped improv and hung out with them until 10:30 p.m. You know you’re having a good time when you start playing hookey from your weekly commitments.

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4. Dress rental. Much like the library, there are places where you can check out clothing. Gwynniebee is one of them! I stumbled upon Gwynniebee through an online advertisement. Your first month of the subscription is free, so there’s really nothing to loose. It was only after I had made a commitment did I realize that their focus is on plus-sized women. Dresses start at size 10. I’m normally a 6-8 in clothing, so there’s not a ton of options for me. Depending on the brand, though, they do have some mediums, which I wear. However I’m not upset. I’m sure plus-sized women feel this way all the time when they stumble upon brands that don’t carry their size. Their stuff is so cute, though. I’ve heard plus-sized women complain before that when brands make plus-sized stuff, it’s often not as cute as things made in smaller sizes. That can be frustrating when you walk in a store and a dress only carried in smaller sizes catches your eye. Basically, I think it’s neat that their focus is on sizes 10-32.

The process is easy. You browse their clothing and put items you like in your online “closet.” Once you have at least six, they look at what you’ve selected and send you a package. You have three options: one, two or three items at a time. I picked two. So based on I selected and what they had available, they sent me two dresses. This black one with flowers pictured above was one of the two. While I got many compliments on it, I decided to send it back. It was just about a size or two too big.

So now I’ve sent both dresses back and I await my next package! I’ll be sure to blog these next two dresses when they arrive.

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5. My photoshoot with Meghan! Meghan (Q&A with Meghan) is a new co-worker and old acquaintance. I’ve actually known her for the past four years. She used to work at a non-profit I volunteered with from time to time. However we were never really friends; just casual acquaintances who would run into each other at things because of our like-mindedness.

This past fall, we both found ourselves working at the same non-profit. Su Casa is a part of Catholic Charities. Meghan also works for Catholic Charities, just with our Refugee Resettlement program. I interviewed her on the blog last Sunday, which you can read here. I needed photos for said post, so I ventured over to her apartment Saturday. Her dog Sunny (pictured above) was there too. She’s such a cutiepie! Here are several favorites of Meghan from the shoot.

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So yeah! Those were five things that rocked this week! What rocked about your week?

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