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Speak Out

by Aubrie Owens

*Quick commentary from Olaolu: I created Parent-Child-Connect to provide resources for parents, teachers, and mentors to connect with their children. I believe a large part of that mission is to use my platform to encourage and spread hope! With that in mind, I am excited to share the virtual stage with a great friend who has been like family to us since we started active duty service in 2013! Meet, Aubrie Owens aka my wife’s bestie. She is excited to start sharing a small portion of her story to encourage, educate, and empower you! Like, share, comment, enjoy!*

Kyle and Aubrie Owens

I have been contemplating writing this. Social media tends to highlight happy moments, but in truth, it’s not all happiness. I have been struggling with endometriosis for many years now. For those who don’t know, endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is “a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus” (source: mayoclinic.org).  They say one in every ten women struggle with this condition. It has caused me infertility and pain for many years, and I have had countless miscarriages and heartbreak because of it. It hasn’t all been heartbreak though. My husband Kyle and I have also had many joys giving birth to a beautiful daughter named Yuri and watching Ava be a wonderful big sister. I have also been fortunate to have amazing doctors and family/friend support. 

How it started: 

Around 2013, I went to the ER with abdominal pain. The doctors discovered a cyst the size of a softball near my ovary, and they determined surgery was the best option. During the surgery, they identified that I had severe endometriosis. They advised me to immediately start consulting a fertility doctor if I would like to have children in the future. This led us to visit multiple doctors which, in turn, led them to prescribe me multiple medications. Numerous Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and In vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments resulted in many miscarriages. Finally, in 2016 (our last IVF attempt), I became pregnant with Yuri. 

After months of heartbreak and disappointment, we finally conceived a child! However, I wasn’t out of the woods yet. In 2017 I almost lost my life, and we almost lost Yuri. I had appendicitis that resulted in sepsis, and Yuri and I would spend months in the hospital trying to recover. 

The journey continues: 

I have accepted the hard truth; it is time for a full hysterectomy. I am thankful I was able to conceive my two children, but I do not want to continue to live with the pain. I do not write this for sympathy but in hopes I can reach another woman who is going through a struggling time. Whether you have had to endure a chronic illness or disorder, a miscarriage, or pain that led to infertility, I am here. We as women must choose what is best for us and never let others dictate how we feel. 

Today, I ask for good vibes and prayers as I go in for surgery. I’m going to be straight with all of you, I am scared. The last time I went in for surgery I almost lost my life and my child. But I am thankful for the support of my family, friends, and wonderful doctors. I am appreciative of my husband who has supported me throughout many trying times. He held me as I cried over the children we lost. He spent countless hours with me in the hospital when I was ill, and stayed most nights with Yuri in the NICU.  

As silly as it sounds, part of me feels like I am losing my ability to be a woman. I will never be able to carry another child. It is especially painful because people often ask, “are you going to try again for a boy?” I’ve decided my health and my body means more to me than bringing another life into this world. Getting to spend time with my family pain free will be the most rewarding joy. 

I write this today as an encouragement to you all. Speak out! Do what you feel is best for YOU. In a world of uncertainty, your happiness and your health is the number one priority.

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How to shift your perspective and live a better life TODAY!

I have said it a million times; The Lion King is one of the greatest movies ever! One of my favorite scenes is when Rafiki smacks Simba on the head with a stick. In my younger days, I loved that scene solely because I thought it was hilarious. Well… I still think it is hilarious, but now I have a more profound understanding of why Rafiki smacked Simba. Rafiki was challenging Simba to adjust his perspective.

Source: The Lion King

Let’s begin with this quote:

Life is like a weight room: full of things that can either crush you or make you stronger. It all depends on your perspective. -Olaolu Ogunyemi

So how do we transition from being crushed to building strength? Easy(ish)! We must adjust our PERSPECTIVE in the following areas:

Pressures of life. Let’s deal with the word “pressure” really quickly. Pressure is defined as a “continuous physical force exerted on or against an object.” When we describe the “pressures of life,” we often think of a continuous crushing feeling that breaks us down or holds us back. However, as a person who spends a fair amount of time working out, I think of the word “resistance” when I read that definition. For years, we have acknowledged and enjoyed the benefits of resistance training (i.e. we build muscle strength as our body adapts to the continuous force against it). I challenge you to view the pressures of life through this lens. The pressures of life are opportunities for you to grow, develop, and get stronger and wiser than you were before!

Energy. When it comes to positive energy, I have said in the past, “you are what you think.” This merely scratches the surface and gives the illusion that positive energy is derived from simply maintaining happy thoughts. Let’s develop a deeper perspective. In addition to “happy thoughts,” we must live a life of hope and anticipation to create sustained positive energy. The key is to always remember that everything will work out just fine no matter how heavy the resistance is.

Relationships. It is so easy to develop transactional relationships in this life we often refer to as a “rat race.” Quick exercise: look at your current network (contacts, business/social media connections, etc.). Make a ball park assessment of how many people you have added to your network for transactional purposes. If you are anything like me, that number is pretty alarming. Does this mean we are evil for wanting to build our network to grow our businesses or platforms? Absolutely not! The focus here is to transition current and future contacts from transactional relationships to genuine relationships. (Hint: there is a reason the vast majority of effective leaders are people oriented). I challenge you to be true to and transparent with your personality, characteristics, and values. That way you attract people who connect to you for those reasons. In turn, I implore you to connect to people for the same reasons.

Seasons. Just as the four seasons are associated with a change in climate, life’s seasons change based upon the world around us. We must be aware of and adapt to these many changes. Do not mistake this for changing who you are and/or abandoning your values. Instead, develop creative methods to serve others in ways that align with the season. For example, if you enjoy social media and your passion is teaching others to dance (for the record: Definitely not me. You don’t want to see my uncoordinated dance moves), why not combine the two during this season when social media continues to thrive? Gladly welcome change and thrive in every season!

Patience. Fellas, if you want to spark WWIII, look your wife in the eyes and say, “I prayed for patience, and God gave me you!” Ok, I’m sorry. Back to business. Growing patience requires action. I believe we are naturally inclined to want immediate results. That is why inventions like the microwave have been successful for decades! I love how dictionary.com defines patience, “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” We will discuss the emotional control aspect a little later, but let’s first discuss the “capacity” portion of this definition. We expand our capacity each time we learn to delay gratification. This is where hope and anticipation comes into play. Our belief that everything will work out just fine drives our hope and anticipation which expands our capacity to accept delay without negative emotions. Let’s normalize waiting with anticipation.

Endurance. Earlier, we discussed how the pressures of life aka “resistance” helps us build strength. Consistently building strength over time creates endurance. Fun fact: When you exercise consistently, your body continually adapts and strengthens which requires you to increase resistance to continue to get stronger. You see where I’m going with this yet?! As goes life. You are stronger today than you were yesterday! So keep building that strength! Keep working hard! Keep pushing! You are strong and resilient, and you have the endurance to continue growing from the pressures of life! In the words of my old basketball coach, Nick Brown, “if that does it motivate you, you don’t have a pulse.”

Chance. Life is full of risks. Even driving to work exposes you to danger. Today I want to encourage you to believe in yourself and take a chance! I found an excellent article on therapychanges.com that describes the psychological benefits of risk taking. Here are the 9 benefits the author (psychologist, Rochelle Perper, Ph.D) describes: 1.  Unforeseen opportunities may arise; 2. Build confidence and develop new skills; 3. Develop sense of pride and accomplishment; 4. Learn things you might not otherwise; 5. The chance to actively pursue success; 6. Spurs creativity; 7. Opportunity to create change in your life; 8. Develop emotional resilience; 9. Feel more engaged and happy.

Time. I view time as one of the most precious nonrenewable resources we have. In other words, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Firstly, that is great news because we should not dwell on our past failures. Like Rafiki said, “It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!” My buddies in the Marine Corps would say, “that round is down range, and it ain’t comin’ back.” Those failures of past times are gone… so let them go! Secondly, we have to budget our time the same way we budget our money in that we should be intentional about how we spend it. I’m not encouraging you to obsess over time; rather, I want you to avoid wondering, “where did the time go” at the end of the day. Develop priorities and be intentional about who and what you spend time on.

Inspiration. Sometimes it gets tough to maintain that hope and anticipation we’ve mentioned a couple of times. So how do you continue to push? What drives you? What is your “why?” Your inspiration is the wind beneath your wings during thriving times and the force that drives you through valleys during low times. This is your purpose, conviction, and mission in life. Three quick questions to ask yourself: 1. What activities, thoughts, or passions energize me? 2. What are my greatest strengths? 3. What value do I bring to those around me (hint: we all bring value to those around us)? The intersection of these answers will reveal your inspiration.

Victories. Celebrate wins! I don’t care how “small” they may seem. For example, I typically workout 6 mornings a week. Although this may seem routine and mundane to others, I absolutely love working out first thing in the morning, so I celebrate every day. No matter how challenging the workout, I complete it! This victory sets the tone for my entire day, which sets the tone for my week, which sets the tone for my month, and so on until it sets the tone for my life. I won! I defeated the urge to roll over in my bed that somehow feels the most comfortable when my alarm sounds. The daily victories reinforce the fact that I am a victorious person (one who consistently wins), and so are you! What victories do you need to start celebrating?

Emotions. Around 4th grade, I learned that humans are also called “homo sapiens” and we are in the Mammalia class. It was so fascinating to learn about our connection with animals. These lessons encouraged me to explore my primitive behaviors and actions (especially in sports as I yelled, “I’m an animal!“). When I entered Junior High, we began to discuss how we differ from animals by introducing key terms like “cerebral cortex.” I then became fascinated with how our mind is capable of processing complex thoughts, languages, memories, and emotions! The older I get, the more I admire our minds’ complexity. This admiration caused me to shift how I view our emotional responses. We have complete control of how respond or react to a given circumstance. This emotional control is fed by all of the previously mentioned tenets and like the others, takes practice. Food for thought: How will you respond? Will you use your admirable complex mind, or will you revert to a primitive response to adversity? You have the power to choose!

Life throws so many things at us. The weight of the world often makes us feel as if we are unable to cope. This is your encouragement: you can make it! The resistance is making you stronger! You have what it takes! Let’s adjust our PERSPECTIVE and live a better life!