5 Things About Budgeting: as Taught by WIC (Women Infant and Children Federal program)

Children on the Playground

These 5 Tips Apply Beyond WIC

WIC is a government assistance program in the United States and more information can be found here: https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/about-wic-glance.

My experiences with WIC fortunately or unfortunately are related to both of my two pregnancies.  I was in transition before the birth of each of my children.  The first pregnancy was announced to me as I was still in start-up phases for my first business and also while I was considering moving to Dallas, TX.  Pregnancy changed those plans and impacted my finances as I even paid out-of-pocket for my first ultra-sound.  My second pregnancy was not long after I had moved to Wisconsin for a new corporate position and then faced family court in the state of IL after my co-parent reversed his decision in supporting my move and peititioned against me before I met the 6 month residency requirement to officially make Wisconsin my home state.  He waited until I was in month 5 which created an uphill battle in the IL family court all while in a new job and pregnant. As a result, I was released from the new job I had secured in my new home state and had to enroll in WIC yet again even though I did find a new corporate position while in my eighth month of pregnancy.  My financial prowess has always been in many ways more substantial than the average person due to my upbringing.  Also, I had held a FINRA series 7 and 63 which are regulated financial licenses from working in the investment banking industry upon exiting the pharmaceutical industry. Still, I found that I consistently had to get increasingly creative as I faced the challenges of becoming a single parent with limited resources.  Needless to say these 5 tips grew out of those various experiences navigating my new chapters of this journey we call life. 

1. Budgeting is even more essential as parent.

From newborns to college, you will find that the costs associated with your amazing, cute child will never cease.  It truly gives you a better appreciation for all that your parents were able to provide to you.  Also, you realize that many things you enjoyed pre-children were far from necessary hence budgeting becoming essential as you utilize WIC and/or lean on family and friends.

2. It’s ok to explore new food groups normally out the budget

While WIC does specify certain items which are known to be nutritious for you as your pregnancy progresses or as your child grow, there is some ability to choose foods you like.  Make sure to leverage this as an opportunity to expose not just yourself but also your family to new foods.  When you have a diverse background like myself, you will naturally want to explore the international foods aisle.  As a person of proud mixed heritage; namely, Asian and African-American, being able to eat food normal to my diet was important to me and should be to you too.

3. You must get creative – diversify

Creativity is born out of strife in many cases so diversify your sources of income becomes essential. Let’s face it, WIC will only take you so far.  You have to be willing and open to considering opportunities you may not have otherwise considered if you did not have children or a growing family to support.  The fact of the matter is direct marketing, e-commerce, and multi-level marketing are not going anywhere.  Also, historically, all businesses started off as direct marketing to friends and family who each had a need that could be fulfilled by a product or service.  And, in these modern times, with not just the internet but the proliferation of smartphones and apps there are many options available so don’t be deterred by the concept of competition.  Competition makes us all better.

4. Maximize your network and resources

If there is one thing a person learns quickly, it’s that you must be willing to accept or even ask for help.  For a type A person for me, that was a difficult adjustment.  However, what makes it easier is that the large majority of people do not want nor like to see children suffer.  So, in many cases, it’s easy to maximize your network and resources simply by asking questions.  There are also so many non-profits that will provide you with relevant information especially if you are feeling overwhelmed by parenthood, financial burdents, family strain, or simply tired.

5. Your budget will change and grow even beyond what WIC provides

Children and their families need more than just good.  WIC ensures that you are eating and receiving nourishment; yet, it may not address your need for basics such as clothing or money to pay rent.  So economizing or even improving your recycling skills can allow you to keep a small budget for a short time. Still, your family needs will continue to grow especially as children get bigger so you, again, have to expand beyond the thought that you must maintain the limits of what WIC and other government resources provide forever.  You can change your situation which also means you can change your budget.  So, plan accordingly and you will get excel in your growing season to bigger and better things.

newborn
WIC is a government program which helps you grow in so many ways

Wanderlust as a Parent

Your ticket anywhere…

It’s 2022, and the Coronavirus now renamed COVID-19 virus rages on. People have collectively sheltered-in-place, experienced curfews, and learned how to connect with each other digitally. The last one, the last one is what resonates. While individuals, families, and even seniors or the well-seasoned as I like to call them become accustomed to Zoom meetings, Microsoft Teams for work calls or other business, Kahoot! for Kids in Hybrid or e-learning, and some older community members finally learned how to use FaceTime or Google Duo. We know how to do all these new things; yet, we miss the old way of life. We as a collective can’t wait for the pandemic to end. Some of us have even resumed travelling. That wanderlust is felt by us all.

However, the wanderlust resonates a little differently for all parents whether married, newly divorced, co-parenting, parallel parenting, or single. We all budget (yes, even rich folks). So, how do you budget for travel or even moving (see our last blog post) when you have kids and want to travel either domestically or internationally or even better you want to do both. There are many amazing tools and sites that make it far easier to satiate your travel desires or as some people are doing completely moving to new states or countries.

So, here are a few tips based on my own personal experiences:

  • Create a System
  • Hire Help
  • Live in the Moment

Create a System

As a parent, a single one at that, I live and breathe by systems to keep my life balanced. Systems for our morning routine, school being in session, summer camps, and even for our trips which is what we are focused on here. Before the pandemic, I travelled with my infant son and toddler daughter to the Bahamas for their Godmother’s wedding. We made it successfully due to my systems for the essential lightweight stroller, the ever-present baby bag, our arrived-in-time passports, multiple pieces of luggage, the carry-on, etc. Those early days of travel as a parent prepared me for the older years. Yet, we still operate with a system. For example, we recently did somewhat of a staycation and visited Starved Rock in Utica, IL. My kids are always advised to pack their own bags so that they take some ownership and it also ensures they bring things they like for the car ride. While they took care of their bags, I packed our snack bag and made sure all their technology (iPads, Amazon Fire Tablet, Nintendo Switch, etcetera) were all charged. It is simply part of my system. Now, our most recent goal was to travel to London and Paris this year…and the pandemic just will not let us be great just yet. I jest but the fact is the constant monitoring of school requirements for testing does make planning ahead for travel a bit harder. So, let’s move on…

Hire Help

Sometimes, I wish I had been more willing to hire people to help us which leads me to my next point and recommendation. For this recommendation, I have two phenomenal links for the same company which is Chicago based. Simply put: Hire Help. You can have professionals help with labor packing in Chicago: www.jcmovers.com/labor-only/ and let you handle the rest yourself. Think back to when your Mom would pack your travel bag for you as a kid and then when the family arrived at the airport, Mom and/or Dad would hire the bag porter to take care of your bag from there. It is worth the investment, hire help. You can even hire sitters while you travel. Do not make excuses, quench your thirst for travel. It may even inspire you to make even bigger moves. Hence, my next suggestion…

Live in the Moment

While you begin your journey, be present with your family and yourself. The pandemic taught us that we are so uncomfortable with sitting still for long periods of time and we adjusted. Some people loved living in the moment so much and that the the coronavirus, or COVID-19 if you prefer, made it easier for us to work remotely and explore the world that they decided to move across the country or even internationally. The link I’m including her for J.C. Movers does not cover international travel but it does cover domestic long-distance moves so check them out on the web at www.jcmovers.com. As a kid my own family, moved several times and the experience of moving to a whole new state was exciting. It is what created my own ongoing wanderlust.

So, as a parent or simply a human being, do not let anything stand in your way. Travel to your hearts content. And, hopefully, these tips will help get you there.

July Reflections of an American Expat  

Passports

By Jessica Thien Wood

Picture it: Zürich, Switzerland February 8th, 2020, my family arrived after a very long flight from San Francisco, California ready to start our new life in Switzerland! Is this the picture you were imagining? This was our reality after 4 weeks of living in Switzerland. The picture is from my daughter’s 8th birthday, celebrated in March 2020 with no furniture (aside from foldable chairs we picked up at the Swiss version of a Home Depot) and store-bought cupcakes because I hadn’t yet figured out how to work the oven.

Now that we have lived here for over 2 years and have passed the point of surviving (i.e. yes, we have furniture, can work the appliances, communicate in basic daily German, and are fortunate to have several good friends…) – I can reflect on my experience of being an American abroad. Living abroad has made me connect with Americans from all different political and geographical locations and on a different, more meaningful level. I could list several things I miss about the US (Amazon, big refrigerators…), but here are the shared values I miss the most:

Opportunities and Optimism. I can almost hear the eye-rolls of readers. Yes, America is not perfect and there are inequities, but it does seem to be easier to switch careers in the US than in Switzerland and there’s an undercurrent of hope. I moved here from the San Francisco Bay Area, the land of startups, where failure is almost a rite of passage. From my understanding and talking with local friends here, your career path is decided relatively young and once you start a career it can be difficult to switch as switching can mean a substantial amount of time and resources. However, in Switzerland, the depth of knowledge in each profession from car mechanic to teacher runs far deeper than in the US and all professions are well-respected, which is really incredible.

Spontaneity and Creativity. I miss the creativity and having more spontaneity that life allows for in the US. In Switzerland, where everything is clean and “runs like a Swiss clock”, it should come as no surprise the Swiss value punctuality and perfection. This is ingrained at an early age, where if an assignment is done incorrectly, students will often be asked to redo it (at least in the German part where I live). It reinforces the need for perfection but also ensures the student truly understood the assignment. As a parent to school-age children, I can say they are getting a wonderful albeit different education than they would be getting in the US. Also, if you have ever taken public transportation in Switzerland, you can see the difference…trains run on time and everything is clean. So while I do miss the creativity and spontaneity, I truly appreciate the Swiss way of life. 

Emotions are not worn on your sleeve in Switzerland. Laughing too loudly will surely get you a stare, as will crying, or outwardly showing too much emotion. You will not be offered a tissue or a hug, you will be stared at or ignored. They are not being rude, they are a private group and are respecting your privacy.

I hope Americans are able to start seeing each other as this Expat does, as neighbors and friends who have more in common than their differences. If you are reading this in the US, I hope you had a good belly laugh picturing this emotional sponge of a woman trying to keep herself together in the place she currently calls home. If you are reading this in Switzerland, happy to schedule a spontaneous Apéro.

Zurich, Switzerland where Jessica moved with her family. Image from: https://unsplash.com/photos/XxAR3uzYiZY?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink


Pandemic Thoughts & Frustrations from a Woman.

Our banking system is entirely too antiquated. My alderwoman just got testy with me and keeps wanting to tell me all the ways she can’t help me. Begging and groveling for assistance is so passe when will our leaders realize this is what frustrates people to k(no)w end. This is why rioting occurred early on in the pandemic. This is why the exhaustion that those of us who work in or worked in essential services show as a sign of the constant fatigue remains a critical indicator. It is a critical indicator that we, the people, all feel and loathe if not despise the complete disregard for all of our humanity across the world. That we still see America and American leadership both in the business and government sector continue to capitalize on the backs of the working folk first; then, second address the more humanitarian aspects as an afterthought and still a means to make money; and lastly, they truly don’t have compassion for the people and our plight as they continue to bicker and allow outdates notions to prevail.

Signed,

A tired woman, mother, and taxpayer.LikeCommentShare

TeMeka C. Williams
TeMeka C. Williams

An opinionated woman of worth who only speaks love, inspiration, and truth so that we may evolve. Sometime that love or truth may hurt; yet, it is required to evolve.

How many changes will you make for happiness?

There has been a more conscious movement towards mindfulness to adjust to all the changes the pandemic has sparked and continues to create. Meditation and prayer time is critical for some people but not all of us who are continually navigating change. In fact, we all make many changes throughout each day of our lives whether pandemic times or not. I personally have made a lot of changes in several critical areas of my life: finances, relationships, wellness, and, equally important, spirituality. For me and many of us especially when it comes to the relationships in our lives, these have been profound changes which in turn impacts the circle of influence surrounding us. We should all be proud of these necessary changes, adjustments, and pivots of our lives because they have taught us critical and sometimes life-altering lessons. All lessons which teach us that happiness I’d a choice we make as life continues to give us lessons.

Ask youself what you accomplished in spite of all the painful moments. Remember that ultimately you made it to the other side of those critical yet temporary moments. I know I am unapologetically proud of myself for going from surviving to thriving in spite of all the people – both men, women, and immature folks (call them children if you will) – who have mistreated me and helped me to feel worthless. Can you relate to that feeling? Sometimes it felt like surviving unending pain but then it finally passed.

Remind yourself that, seriously, it is okay to cry and you must remember – release the pain – because it provides not just a release but also refreshment that will bring you joy and happiness in the one life you have to live. Find what inspires you whether it is spirituality, education, art, friendships, romance, etc. As Marie Kondo asks: “what sparks your joy?” Personally, I have always been protected by my faith. So, with that said, will you join me in my passion for helping others and creating a safe space community within the LITE? And, by that, I mean let us spread Love freely, Inspire one another, Teach ourselves and loved ones so that we may Evolve.

Just a few thoughts about Maid from Netflix

By TeMeka C. Williams

I just watched Maid on Netflix. It is well worth the time investment when you are in the mood for something that resembles reality with hope mixed in to keep you going. It even l inspired to write and use my voice in spite of feeling like I need to share differently in this daunting social media dominated world we live in. And as a person who is blogging – albeit inconsistently – that is significant and telling statement. It also points to the impact of the story and its authors from a film and written standpoint.  Yet, the overarching theme in Maid about overcoming her domestic violence situation relevant, there is also the theme of finding your voice and writing your own story. We can overcome adversity and today’s pandemic puts a modern twist to this general idea. Even if we are binging on Netflix we can find inspiration in the stories being told to us and this lead me to do a little digger seeping after watching the series.

This lead me to discover this article: I Left Poverty After Writing Maid by the author of the book that Netflix series tapped into. It touched me for a few personal reasons. The Time article takes the relativity of the series a step further by also discussing the transition in her situation from poverty to success. Anyone who has experienced both can most likely relate. Also, money comes and goes as any one with an entrepreneurial spirit can easily tell you. The simple truth she mentions about how to help at the end of the article specifically touched me because it’s that moment so many of us have been through but don’t want to talk about or admit whether it was while in college, grad school, part of childhood, or becoming a single parent most likely not by choice. I always think: “I hope some day I can help people the same way people helped me when I was at my lowest.” There is so much truth in her closing quote below.

“When people ask me how to help, I tell them to ask people what they need. I’m betting the answers are things like tampons and diapers and $10 for gas, because life is so small and short-sighted when you’re that hungry that you can’t demand affordable housing and a living wage. That’s for all of us who have means to fight for.”

-All of us who have means to fight for – that’s everyone, right? The pandemic forced us all to consider how we socialize, connect, and communicate. We still need to share and connect especially the single parents if I had to choose a specific group. To me this group most especially has something to fight for that I can relate to me and also fits the focus of LITE.

Exercise made easy

We have all learned so much about how we can adapt. Adjusting to improve our lives may not have felt it seemed easy at first but we all did it when the seriousness of the pandemic became clear. We have always known that exercise is more than just helpful to our lives but necessary. So we welcome this amazing video from Dr. Wes Bailey which highlights some misconceptions and provides great tips on how to continue to overcome today’s both common and unique challenges.

The Ability to Say No

So many things in our lives shape us. A lot of it has to do with the people in our environment whether you were raised mostly by family or by the kindness of those who adopted you into their own family. Still, we have to overcome our fears especially during these covid-19 pandemic times. The pandemic will eventually be a temporary moment in history. For now we are living it. It forces us to all examine the things we know.

For me, I have learned that we are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. And, the thought keeps popping up in my mind that we have to remember our ability to say no. We have to remember our ability to say no to fear, doubt, and uncertainty. We have to own that we are both powerful and intelligent. Yet, so many of us have heard the word “no” more frequently than we heard the word yes. NO – you can’t touch that. Or, NO – you can’t try that. Or, NO – you can’t do that. As a result we have lost the ability to decipher when we should say yes or no.

When I became a parent, I made the conscious decision that I did not want ‘no’ to be the first word for either one of my children. This forced me to choose my words carefully. At the time I didn’t realize how often I had heard the word no. And, I know that it had the opposite effect for me as I started to grow and find my own voice. I wanted to say yes to everything. I wanted to try everything. I wanted to ensure that I didn’t miss out. So, as I start several new business ventures, I’ve had to empower myself with the ability to say “no.” Although I cannot remember the author at this time, I can certainly remember that there is a quote that should resonate with all of us. You cannot do all things but not everything. The gist of this was more or less to say that we can’t do all things at once. So that means it’s imperative that we hone our ability to say no and trust our instincts to guide us on the appropriate timing to say yes. The hardest part is to re teach your brain to distinguish the difference. The hardest part is to trust yourself and your own innate ability to know what is best for yourself. So, with that I encourage you to exercise your ability to say no but never limit yourself from saying yes when it resonates deeply within your soul.

Writer’s hurdle

I usually love writing. This is actually why starting a blog initially appealed to me when I was examining ways to improve my income largely to account for anticipated family court attorney expenses. Still, I think – no – as a matter of fact I know that 2020 threw us all for a huge shock. We are well past the halfway mark for 2020 and I personally set a goal for myself financially that is definitely a huge stretch; yet, I believe it is entirely feasible.  This is how faith in yourself works. You must believe without a single doubt in spite of being stalled on writing for weeks. Even, if your belief in yourself starts as small as the size of a mustard seed for any particular day or moment.  The belief will undoubtedly grow.

So, what is the true reason for my writer’s block or, as I prefer to frame it, writer’s hurdle. The true reason is because I enjoy being social. Social media has never daunted me because I have never been afraid to speak my mind. It’s been easier to post and create a 2-5 minute video off the top of my head than to plan a structured article. Speaking my mind has always been a preference for me whether virtual or in person. Now there are times when I was taught to dim my light and not share the words that I felt would help her others. So, wouldn’t a blog be the perfect place for that overcoming that limitation?

The fact is everyone emphasizes your audience. We all need help and the truth is we’re going to resonate with those (that pesky audience) who understand us best. The funny thing about that is those who understand you best may not necessarily be your family and sometimes not even your closest friends. The reason for this is that we all change daily. Some changes are small and others are huge.  Being social has changed and become more virtual than in person. Yet, we all crave that in-person a.k.a LIVE connection. Live interaction is necessary to our health and wellness. So, choose carefully who you connect with and make a choice to adapt and embrace your daily changes.

Taken at a local Cakery in Chicago called Eméché

This leads me to the buzzword for those who are on the front lines of dealing with COVID-19 and appearing as leaders is pivot. What does pivot really mean to those of us who have always adapted to change? Pivoting is nothing new. Pivoting simply means you adjust to your surroundings. Yes, you may have a signature style or signature talk that you display at the ready within the confines of a virtual world. However, the definition of who you are changes daily at times in huge ways and at times in small almost invisible manifestations so that signature adapts as well, via whatever medium you feel most comfortable delivering it on. Music is the method for composers, musicians, DJs. Books are the method for authors, academics, or even new entrepreneurs.

So, as I write my first blog post in what for me is far too long – I give myself a break on getting the writing done to my idea of perfection because evolving or going through this daily change.  There is no need for me to bring you scientific research right now. For some of us that evidence is important. The fact remains science has its place and life experience has its own too.  Experience teaches us that each person and moment serves a certain and specific purpose.

One of my constant affirmations is: “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.” So, this has simply been a writer’s hurdle that I’m clearly overcoming as we all adjust to the uncertainty created by a super-virus and racial unrest.  This worldwide pandemic has changed us all as well as our environments. Still, what remains most amazing is that we are still here to share our light with the world. Remember that no one has the right to take away your happiness or your peace of mind. And I write this simply to encourage us all. I hope it resonated with you.  LITE your path and I’ll cheer you on.

Big smiles from my little guy and I to spread good cheer and positive vibes only ?

Pivot, Transform, and Thrive

TeMeka supporting a Black Owned Business in Chicago Kimbark Beverage shop which was ravaged by looting in June 2020

2020 is well past the halfway mark and what a year it has been thus far! This has certainly been a year defined by TRANSFORMATION and so full of surprises. Let us really just also own that it has been entirely unpredictable forcing individuals, government, and businesses to constantly pivot. And, the truth of this impact is that there have actually been far more pros than cons in spite of the 2020 Corona pandemic still going on.

Namely, in the realm of personal development, we have been finding Love multiplied in so many amazing communities and, professionally, it’s primarily been from customers and a prior corporate team. Still, “change remains the only constant” even if it is a common quote that is less endearing to those tired of or resistant to change. In this age of instant gratification and moving at the speed of light, we all still prefer and seek authenticity especially when it comes to love. I for one crave consistency and know that I am not alone in a strong desire for it especially given how unpredictable the state of the world has been for months now. Consistency comes from many efforts – the most important among these being hard work.

The truth is work never ends – pandemic or not; childless or a parent; young or old; etc. Even when our bodies are at supposed “rest” our mind, body, and spirit continue doing work for us in a subconscious level. So if the truth is we are constantly working even while at rest, how do we get everything done without completely falling apart? There is an element of teamwork to this balancing act that occurs in our lives to ensure all of our needs are met. And the consistency we crave also benefits and nearly requires this type of teamwork.

Many communities, specifically in Chicago have found themselves in predicaments where the only option left was teamwork particularly after Chicago was ravaged by looting. Even parents or couples while faced with work from home coupled with unexpected home schooling have had limited options ultimately leading them to utilize teamwork to find a new method to function in today’s uncertainty. We are all resilient. Our resilience has come from this ability to pivot and transform; yet underlying all of this has been love, consistency, hard work, and teamwork. As we are a;; finding balance among all of these important and deep concepts we continue to thrive gloriously.