An Open Letter
I was talking to my therapist about how I love teaching and why I’m so committed to it. During that convo, my first grade teacher, Ms. Duke came up and I had nothing but great things to say about her. I always knew I gave Ms. Duke and my class a hard time but she never made me feel less than because of that. She always made me feel like she cared about me despite my choices.
To be clear, she was the ONLY teacher in my grade school experience that made me feel like that (still crazy to me. I’ll save that convo for another day).
So my therapist follows up with a great question - “Have you ever reached out to her to share how you feel about her and that you still remember her warmth 20 years later?” …… I was like…… naw. Lol.
Never thought about that all 😭
but I honestly don’t even know her first name to look her up even if wanted to.
So, an open letter came to mind. Just seemed like a fun way to give her flowers from afar.
With all of that said, here’s the letter:
Hey Ms. Dukeee!
You probably remember me as Sierra Rogers, I’d love to know what’s going through your mind at the thought of me LOL! Despite time and memories, your impact is still doing it’s thing! You have a heart of gold and I'd say you were so thoughtful and intentional like Ms. Honey from Matilda <3
I felt like you needed to know how important you were during my grade school years. My first year at Berry you were my teacher and I can honestly say I never met another like you. Your warmth was felt. Even though I was always running my mouth and making things difficult, you handled me with grace. At the time, I wanted to do better because of you. Our teacher-student relationship was one of my first of many examples of what love can do. So, thank you. You a real one. I feel like I should also let you know I’m now a third grade teacher and in my fifth year of teaching. I know, it's crazy, and I absolutely love it. I pray I help other kids feel something to similar to the way I felt in your classroom. You are greatly appreciated Ms. Duke!
Sierra Johnson (Rogers)
Kids Engagement Tips for Adults
Keeping kids healthily engaged in their experiences with adults truly changes the trajectory of learning. Whether the child is learning how to tie their shoe, multiply or treat folks with respect. Checkout these tips to help ease the journey of learning for the child and the adult.
1. Be patient. Sometimes you’ll realize that in trying to teach a child, you needed to know more about that child before trying to get them to retain new information. If that’s the case, slow things down, let the child’s needs lead the lesson.
2. Give kids and yourself space to make mistakes. The more you model how to make a mistake and learn from it, the more children will respect you. The more they respect you, the better the engagement when it’s time to learn.
3. Provide scenarios where the lesson being taught has been applied OR not applied. Either way, they’ll have a better grasp of what’s being taught once they can envision the scenario.
4. Allow them to ask questions and be inquisitive. Let’s normalize kids asking “why”. If they understood, they wouldn’t be asking why.
5. Tell them to restate in their own words. Once you feel you’ve taught the lesson, whether it be how to separate their laundry into piles or 10x10 or how to properly do a workout, tell them to explain it to you in their own words. As they’re explaining, guide them through. Make corrections to grammar, pronunciation, tone, etc.
6. Do everything with love. If the child feels things are forced and shady, they will respond that way. Give children the adult you needed when you were a child.
I hope these tips help a parent, teacher, coach or any adult that spends a lot time with children. Because if the whole child is not engaged in their experience with you, it creates a power struggle. Nobody has time for that! Lol!
Y’all be easy ❤️
Iverson’s Birth Story
On August 11th @ 1 pm, I was three days past my due date and went for my check up at my OB. I was going yet again, hopeful for there to be progress with my dilation... but there wasn’t. 0 inches. My Dr said “well the good thing is that you could literally go from 0 to 100 at this point”. So once I left that appointment I told myself I was going to sit on the yoga ball when I got home until Iverson came. So that’s exactly what I did. I was not playing because I was OVER it and REALLY wanted him earth side. I bounced on the ball for the rest of the day, drank lots of water and even ate a date (I hate dates so I was clearly desperate). I began to feel Braxton hick type contractions so I knew something major was coming and decided to lay down and let my body rest.
Later around 1 am, in my sleep, I felt a pop.. and knew that meant my water broke. So I went to the bathroom to avoid wetting the bed and indeed lost fluids. I called my mom to come over to get Ivan, then called my doula and she reminded me to try to labor home as long as possible, so I did that. I labored are home for about 4 hours. I was chillin for the first 3 hours because I could feel contractions but they weren’t painful and were pretty spaced out. So I sat on the ball some more and watched Black Is King, I needed something to fuel my spirit! Lol. Contractions didn’t become intense and less than a minute apart until the 4th hour (about 4 am). So at that point we headed to the hospital. I had my lil playlist on in the car and was still very under control mentally/emotionally/physically. Just so excited and eager to meet my baby.
When we arrived to AAMC, the contractions were more intense, however I was still walking and functioning fine. I just took deep breaths through each contraction and kept affirming that my body was built for child birth.
Once we got in the hospital room they hooked me up to the monitor and the nurse said “have you had trouble previously with baby’s heart rate?” In my head I’m like “omfg what is about happen.....”, but I remained calm and said “no. Why?” She explains that his heart rate is decelerating. But I just brushed it off, like naw we ain’t going out like this. Nurse then checks my cervix and I just KNEW I would have a few inches of dilation...still NONE. The nurse couldn’t even reach my cervix, it was closed shut! In my head I’m thinking “howwww is 0 dilation possible with these intense contractions?!” Yet still, I’m keeping my cool and breathing through my contractions.
My doc comes in, a Black woman, who definitely was in favor of my natural delivery plan, basically says - it’s not looking good with the combo of zero dilation and baby’s heart decelerating and suggests the c section. She also expresses that she knew how bad I wanted this and she wanted it for me but we don’t want to risk baby’s life or my life trying to deliver vaginally when we KNOW we can get us both out of here safe with a c-section. However, my contractions are so intense that my doc says that it wouldn’t be a crazy idea to wait it out and see if I end up jumping to a few inches of dilation in the next hour or so. But I had a feeling that wasn’t realistic and began to prepare mentally for a c-section.
That mental prep wasn’t doing so good lol, bc I’m starting to get nervous and as I’m breathing through my contraction, I hang my head and start crying. My husband, still pro-the vaginal birth plan for no reason other than, he knew how bad I wanted it, is checking the monitor and trying to figure out how we can make a natural birth work. I also have my doula on FT trying to do as much as she could from a distance. So I ask my doctor for a minute to talk with my husband and doula in private.
After chatting, it was very hard to face but my ultimate feel was this - I don’t want to risk my life or Iverson’s. So I said “I guess it’s going to be c-section.” I’m still in tears and my husband and doula are both asking if I’m positive I want to do it, trying to ensure that his heart rate is still decelerating on the screen, and it is. Which made the c-section a no brainer with the information we had in front of us WHILE I’m still experiencing these crazy contractions with zero meds.
We give the doc the green light for cesarean, they get me ready for surgery and wheel me down to the operation room. At that point I feel like I’m moving away from a safe space because my baby’s birth is completely out of my hands and I’m about to get cut open, AGAIN. I get in the room and they give me anesthesia in my spine to numb me for surgery. They also ask Josh to step out while they do so, for whatever reason. Mind you, I’m STILL experiencing extreme contractions. They are PAIN-FULLL, I’m extremely nervous and my husband and doctor aren’t in the room at this moment. Just the medical staff prepping me for surgery. The anesthesia requires a needle to numb my body through my spine and because I have scoliosis, they keep missing my spine and stabbing the left and right sides of my back (scoliosis means my spine is not centered). So now I’m going through it - I’m mourning the natural birth experience, I’m in pain because of my contractions AND I’m in pain because of this numbing experience gone wrong. I end up telling the anesthesiologist that I have scoliosis (I initially assumed she knew) and have to guide her blindly to my spine. Finally, I start feeling numb, this means the meds have successfully entered my body.
Because this is my second c-section, I’m expecting the surgery to be quick like it was with Ivan. NAW. They are tugging and pulling to get Iverson out for at least 20 minutes. Though I’m numb, I can still feel my body being worked on (not painful though because I’m numb from the waist down). After those LONG 20 minutes of surgery, I heard his sweet little cry. Immediately, all of the pain and negative emotions went away.
He was born August 12th @ 8:01 am, 8 pounds, 6 ounces, 20.5 inches.
I don’t even have the words to describe how relieving it felt to hear him and see him. He wasn’t born the way I imagined but God certainly answered my prayer to deliver a healthy baby boy. It was worth every moment.
This day, Jan 2nd 2020, seems like just yesterday. This was our first sonogram for baby #2 - Iverson. It seemed like I waited so long to be a mom of two. My OB visit prior to Jan 2nd, I went to find out if we were experiencing infertility issues. I left in uncontrollable tears, which means I truly cracked because I am not a crier. I was super frustrated and feeling hopeless because it seemed like we just couldn’t conceive again. I kept thinking back to the doctor who told me at 17 that “the chances of my reproductive system performing properly were low”...she worded it one way or another but that was what I understood. Because I trusted that doctor at the time and was so young, I thought I couldn’t get pregnant. Believed it so much that my boyfriend (who is now my husband/baby daddy) and I, were seriously considering adoption. Then Ivan came out the clear blue sky. Hence his name choice - meaning gracious gift from God.
I knew Ivan was a miracle baby but the process to confirming baby #2 had me feeling like miracles only happen once in a lifetime. I started to think I wasn’t fit to be a mom of multiples. (silly me, I’m built for this) I started to think something was wrong with my body. (silly me, I’m functioning just fine) It just didn’t make sense to me because I knew my husband and I were so deserving of another child. I knew our son was so deserving of the sibling he begged for. As soon as I let go, let God and just truly settled with the fact that what’s meant to be, will be, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
When I say I was taking pregnancy tests monthly, I mean that. I kept buying pregnancy tests at the beginning of every month because my cycle was never consistent, so weirdly, that kept me hopeful...just to be let down..month after month. The whole situation had me stressed! (which I know probably impacted my cycle, etc) Finally, after trying for a whole year (felt like forever), it happened - a positive pregnancy test. Even then, I was still uncertain. I ended up picking up a hefty hospital bill because I was pressed to hear from a doctor "You're pregnant". So I went to the ER to get blood work done the day after I took the test because my OB couldn't bring me in as quickly as I wanted them to. (btw, the hospital visit was very unsuccessful and I should've just been patient lol) A few days later, I got my blood work done with my OB and it confirmed that I was about 4 weeks pregnant. That brought me so much peace but it wasn’t until I saw lil baby on the screen and heard that heartbeat that I was able to truly breathe and smile.
Hindsight is 20/20 and now everything makes sense. I understand why the pregnancy didn’t happen when I thought it should happen. First of all, I am clearly impatient and still working on that. Second of all, ain’t no way my mental could handle delivering during this Rona pandemic. Most importantly, my husband and I had to go through some tests of faith to show God that we were truly down for Him - we clearly passed. If I never understood that God’s timing is perfect, I certainly do now. Grateful ain’t even the word. If y’all only knew.
I wanted to share this to inspire someone who feels like they are in a difficult place...with a locked door...and not a key in sight. I know how you feel and trust me, the light is coming and a key will find its way to you. BUT, you have to trust that God's plan far outweighs what you have planned for yourself. The best part about God's tests, is that even when He's testing us, checking on our faithfulness to Him, He'll still help us through because ultimately, He wants us to pass. He wants us closer to Him. So keep your faith strong ladies and gents, lean into Him, stay prayed up and focused on your own journey. God gotchu, I promise you that!
I know I'm not the only one who gets completely overwhelmed with life from time to time. Which in turn, can distract us from what keeps us lifted. So I wanted to share three tips that help me keep my spirits up and productive juices flowing.
"We either make ourselves miserable or strong. The amount of work is the same."
I feel like I've shared bits and pieces of my story in one way or another, so it's only right to share the entire thing. It's gonna be a long one so get comfortable. Lol
I started my college career at CalU of PA in Fall 2010, immediately after high school as an early education major on an athletic scholarship for track. That was my first time being that far away from home and having to be in a place where I didn't know a single soul. My only reason for going was because of the scholarship and the coaching staff at Cal was said to be really good. That was major considering track and field means a lot to me. So I spent three years there and ended up meeting my now husband and some of my most genuine friends. Despite that, I was going through a really rough patch in my life simply because I was still figuring myself out. I learned so much about myself during my time spent at Cal, from how to deal with my natural hair and awkward personality to my interests outside of track and field. After about a year and half on the track team as a jumper (triple/long jump) the jumps coach took another position as a head coach at a different school. This hit me HARD because he meant a lot to me and made a big difference during my experience at Cal.
The jump squad spent a small amount of time with no coach which also blew me but I still managed to become a conference qualifier and finalist every year that I was at Cal and ended up breaking the triple jump school record. So I was on an up for a while! Shortly after that, there was news that the university president had been taking funds from the athletic program and those on scholarship, on select teams, the track team being one of them, would no longer be able to receive aid. Being that out of state tuition is ridiculous, I decided to transfer. Even though later on I found out that in one way or another, people were able keep their scholarships. I was still firm in my decision to transfer because I felt that God was giving me a sign to take on new beginnings.
I applied to UMBC, which is an honors university, so I felt like it was a stretch to apply but I did anyway and got accepted!! So I started at UMBC in 2013 but switched my major to psych with a concentration in child and developmental studies. Changing my major, coming from a smaller school and having a few untransferable classes caused me to backtrack and pretty much start over as a sophomore when I would have been a senior had I stayed at Cal. Also because I transferred in, I had to establish a year of residency before competing under UMBC's track team. However I was still able to practice with the team and compete unattached, so that's what I did. After about a year, I started to really lose my motivation in my classes and my grades were a joke. My grades honestly were a joke during a good amount of my college career causing me to have to repeat 3 classes but after my second semester at UMBC, they were the absolute worst - so bad that the school placed me on academic probation. There really was no solid reason for that outside of the fact that I just was tired of being in school at that point. Right after that semester, around winter break - February 2015, I found out I was pregnant and my boyfriend proposed to me at his senior night basketball game in front of the whole school during his "recognition" speech! The guy over the monitor said "Now Josh Johnson has something to say to his favorite teammate" Talk about STUCK! Lol. I was literally speechless. We ended up making his school's athletic homepage. Lol.
Of course I said yes because we already knew we were getting married. So we didn't take long to officially tie the knot because we wanted everything to be perfect and in order once our baby made his grand entrance. We got married in June 2015.
I still went back to school after getting married and during my first trimester, which surprisingly ended up being my strongest semester academically. I was due to have my son early Fall so I ended up taking off the entire Fall 2015 semester. This was bittersweet bc I had my baby boy that I always wanted, my college sweetheart as my husband BUT in the back of my mind I knew how close I was to graduating and though I worked out during my entire pregnancy, I hated not being able to be on the track team. When I had my son I ended up having an emergency C section and the doctors told me it would take months for me to get back to my regular health and regular life because of the surgery. But me being me, I started walking (baby steps) a few hours after the surgery because I determined to be the best mom I could be to my baby and finish my degree.
I ended up going back to school in Spring 2016 and had to take a Summer class to ensure graduating Fall 2016. Now here I am, a Fall 2016 graduate AND training for triple jump with Tiombe Hurd - whom has the American world record in the Triple Jump. GOD is the only reason I am here today. Of all of the things I've been through and experienced, my collegiate journey has been the MOST trying. But giving up was never an option. College was something I felt like I needed to do because it was instilled in me to get a college education but I have never enjoyed school, ever. Lol. However completing something that I start and putting myself in the best possible position to be successful is something that I will always yearn to do. If it weren't for college I wouldn't have had the pleasure of meeting my husband at the tender age of 17 and in turn would not have had my SONshine. God works in mysterious ways and I know that completing my undergrad career has been the ultimate test of faith for me - I'm so very proud that I have passed.
I hope that this story inspires someone to finish anything that they feel is too late to complete or get back to and helps people to understand that there is no "set" way of life. Live your life the best way you can, stay focused on your goals and I promise you will recieve the benefits.
I often find myself checking myself. Like are you doing/giving enough? I'm a wife, a mother, a student, juggling two businesses, and working with children with disabilities daily - there are more than enough times when I have to step back and make sure that I am evenly distributing myself in every category. My son and I have a symbiotic relationship where I am both the teacher and the student. He is constantly teaching me how to be more selfless, loving, considerate and most importantly, caring for myself in order to better provide him with the parenting he needs. In turn being a win-win for me.
Sometimes I feel like I am an awesome mom & wife but my businesses are next to shit. Sometimes I feel like I'm an awesome business owner but I'm not holding my end of the stick in the household. But truth be told, I'll probably always feel like I'm failing in one way or another simply because I'm not perfect. Sometimes I think we put too much pressure on ourselves, especially as a parent. Parents can sometimes fear that they are not giving enough in one way or another. But if we really assess the situation, we're doing great (as long as you know you are giving it all you have) and that really goes for anyone who is juggling many things at once. You have so much weighing on you and to add the "extraness" life throws at us, it can feel like an overload at times. But despite all that is on your plate, we have to keep our sanity in check and stay on top of self care.
We have to be sure to find time to address our needs as we constantly pour ourselves into so many other things. You can never honestly give yourself to another human or thing if you aren't honestly taking care of yourself. So I'm going to give you 5 ways to help increase your daily self care.
1. Wake up with enough time to start your day with peace.
We all know how hectic mornings can be. Between getting ourselves and for some the babies ready as well, thinking about the traffic we have to endure or thinking about the many things we have to tackle for the day - it can be a lot to take in BUT if you give yourself time to address your personal needs before the day begins, it will make a huge difference. Getting up earlier may be easier said than done but once you get yourself in a new and more healthy routine, your internal clock will eventually get used to it and you'll be thanking yourself. It gives you quiet time to catch up on anything that makes me you feel whole. Whether that be reading, cleaning, blogging, working out etc. You may need a little coffee or green tea later on but I promise it will be worth it and eventually you won't need the caffeine. That early morning peace will be all the rush you need (debatable) lol
2. Be sure to follow people on your social media sites that motivate or inspire you.
We all know how addicting Instagram, Facebook and all of the other social media sites can be. So why not try to take control over what you are feeding yourself with when you are scrolling? I personally love scrolling down my feed because I follow nothing but positive people which in turn motivates me to be better due to my choice of following. If that means you have to unfollow some "friends" or colleagues who drain you, then so be it. If you need help finding the right people to follow, hit the contact link and I'll help you out.
3. Set phone alarms throughout the day with positive affirmations.
Doing this not only can give you the positive tip you need but you can also personalize that positive tip being that you created the alarm. Only you know exactly what you need to work on and move towards. So setting those alarms can be as stern or as calm as you need them to be.
4. *This one is strictly for the parents* Try to keep your kiddos on a schedule where you leave yourself enough time to unwind at night.
Doing this may take some time but you have to start somewhere. Better late than never. Giving yourself that quality time at night allows you to rest peacefully. Maybe have a glass of wine before bed, whatever your thing is, do it.
5. WRITE down goals.
Whether it be short term, like what needs to be done for the day or long term, like what your goals are for the next year - month by month. There's something magical about writing goals down with pen and paper. A lot of us get so accustomed to the convenience of storing thoughts, ideas and goals in our phones but writing it down is so different. The moment I began to write my goals on paper, I saw results! I kid you not. Writing it down almost gives your mind confirmation that what is written is truly something you are trying to attain.
We too often downplay the significance of taking care of ourselves when there's so many others things that have become priorities in our lives. But honestly, we should be the first priority. So let's act like it.
Energy + Motherhood
As I approach my son's first birthday, I can't help but smile. To know that I am the mother of this amazing little human is honestly breathtaking.
My baby is officially walking, trying to talk and he only continues to bring joy and light to my life. As I have expressed before, motherhood has always been on the top of my list of beautiful journeys that I wanted to embark on - but never in a million years would I have thought I would so blessed with such a great kid (I could be biased but I doubt it. lol)
Now that I am about a year into motherhood, the way I go about life and my relationships with people has drastically changed and I believe it all stems from being a mother. God is so funny with his timing, the way he molds our lives and the people he places in our lives. Lately I have been put into situations that have really tested my faith and have only continued to show me that I am in such a great place in my life. I don't feel this way because everything has been peaches and cream but because when everything is not peaches and cream, I am able to recognize it quick, block the negative energy and handle what needs to be handled.
Paying attention to energy has always been major to me but now that I am raising my son, I pay attention x10. Energy can come in many different forms - sometimes you can literally feel it in the room and/or it can come from the people in our lives. People can be so manipulative and appear to be supportive and loving but deep down, don't honestly want what is best for you. You have to be conscious of the energy you are feeding into and dishing out, ESPECIALLY as a mother. Children pick up on energy better than we think and the last thing you want is for your child to end up picking up on negative energy due to the atmospheres that you have created.
In summation, we as people have to watch the atmospheres we create and insert ourselves into, especially as mothers. Protecting you and your child's energy should always be a priority.
Let me just start off by saying thank you to each and every one of you! I appreciate everything from encouraging words to purchasing tickets to my exhibit to trusting me to style and care for your tresses. You all continue to keep me motivated and focused. Balancing the roles of mommy, wifey, student, autistic therapist and entrepreneur is not easy. But when I check my email, messages or social media and see genuine support, it gives me the extra push I need, especially on days when I truly need it.
As a special thank you, all photo-shoots booked during the first two weeks of August will be a flat rate of $100, all protective styles will be $80 and all prints will be $15. These rates will go on from August 1st - August 15th, so please take do not hesitate to take advantage because slots will fill quick! In order to receive the discount, when filling out the contact form, be sure to include "bigthx" in the comment section along with your message. Click the link below to be directed to the contact form.
Once again, THANK YOU for all for your love and support - it is so greatly appreciated! XOXO
Summer Tips for Naturals
I think we all can agree that the summer is not the most cooperative season for naturalistas! Between the humidity, frequent pool/beach visits, traveling, rain, etc. natural hair will always try to do it's best to fail us. So I'm going to list 4 tips that can help keep natural hair tamed and poppin during the summer months.
1. Twist outs/Braid Outs Instead of Wash and Go's
If you are someone who loves to wear your hair out year round, doing a braid out or twist out in the summer is going to show a BIG difference in the amount of moisture your hair is retaining daily.
A wash and go is awesome because I myself prefer a wash and go over any other style (I mean it is my hair at its most natural state, I'm proud of these tresses! Lol) BUT when you apply your product to your hair while it is soaking wet and then proceed to twist or braid your hair (don't have to be small, they can be chunky) your hair will absorb the water and product ten times better than it would with just washing, detangling, applying product and air drying (wash and go). Twisting or braiding gives the moisture more time to work its magic.
2. Conditioning Under the Sun
If you know you have a long beach or pool day ahead and all you know you'll be doing is tanning - take advantage of that sun and deep condition. When you're getting ready for your tanning session, dampen your hair, get your favorite conditioner (make sure it's organic) and apply it to your entire head from root to end and put your hair in a high bun. Sitting under the sun with conditioner is as natural as the deep conditioning process can come. When you go home to rinse your hair out, it should feel soft and rejuvenated.
3. Protecting Your Hair From Beach/Pool Water
If you are someone who loves to swim and be in the water all summer long, this one is for you! Before leaving for the beach or pool, give your hair three layers of protection. The first is a no brainier - water! Make sure you have soaked your hair from root to end before starting anything. This prevents your hair from having to go from dry to submerged in chlorine or salt water - ultimately causing a frizz ball. After you've soaked your strands, apply a generous amount of 100% avocado oil and finish off with just a dime size, if that, of conditioner. These three layers will keep your hair protected and when it is time to rinse it out, your hair will be so soft and luxurious.
4. Protective Styles!
A protective style gives your hair time to relax because of the low manipulation and if your protective style is done right, you will have a more lasting "twist out" or "braid out" like I mentioned in the first tip. Protective styles serve a simple purpose - to protect your hair (hence the name) You won't have to worry about dealing with tip 2 or 3 if you have a protective style in. Protective styles always allow you to stay true to your personal style or preference with hair styles because there are so many options. Faux locs, box braids, Marley twists, goddess braids, Senegalese and more. They take a good amount of time to install but it is so worth it in the end. All protective styles require of you is a scarf at night and daily/weekly moisturizing of the scalp.
If interested in booking an appointment for a protective style, please click the button below to be navigated to the contact page. For simply reading this blog post, you will recieve a discount on your protective style as a thank you for your support! :)