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Monthly Heroines

family life & style blog

Filtering by Tag: dallas blogger

Empowered Women Empowering Women -- My Akola Visit

Debora Manusama

Empowering women both in Dallas and Uganda, Akola project builds infrastructures and provides a way for women to make reliable income through premium jewelry line. I visited their facility not too long ago and learned a lot from them. 

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The One Who Empowers Women By Sewing Hope

Debora Manusama

Happy World Refugee Day! My heroine this month is a mother and an entrepreneur who helps refugee women in Dallas to make an honest living by sewing little girls' clothes. No matter who you are and where you are, you can make a difference! 

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The One Who's In The Business of Thinking Tenderly About People, Things, and Words.

Debora Manusama

"If sarcasm would have helped us, it would have helped us already. We need more tenderness." - Janielle Kastner. Read more about why this artist/playwright gives out 'Free Blessings' at an event. Handwritten printable blessings are included just for you!

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The One Who Transforms Others Through Jewelries

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

She's a military wife who started making jewelries at home in England, where her hubby was stationed a few years ago. Read how the Loren Hope brand is slaying the industry now, what she's learned, and tips to start your own business.

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The One Who Time Travels Through Stories

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

I'm super excited about this month's heroine. She is a dear friend of mine who seems to know just the right thing to say at the right time. She founded this community called Openseat, press play and watch the video before you read this article :) https://youtu.be/EVF9wkmzj54

She is a queen in the her own right, a storyteller, a speaker, and most of all she is a wife and a mom. This is Queen K. Smith :)

You describe yourself as a story teller. How did you get into it? Why are you so passionate about it?

I grew up in a very community centered culture in Cameroon, West Africa. We must have coined the phrase, "it takes a village to raise a child,'' lol! One of my fondest memories was when the whole family, 18+ of us (yep you read that correctly!), would gather around the fireside and listen to stories from the elders. My father was an incredible story teller; I guess you can say like father like daughter. I remember being captivated by stories at a young age. Those stories allowed me to time travel, and every time a story was told I felt something different. It didn't matter if I had heard the story before. I pulled courage and inspiration from the moments shared.

During some of the stories I held my breath during the conflict and exhaled when hope was about to break through! Now as an adult nothing has changed. I still marvel at people and their stories and I still love eating with people I meet. I want to know where they have been/where are they now/ and where they are going. As a story teller I get to take you on a journey (without paying for airfare lol).

A lot of people write stories, but not many are good in telling them. What makes the two so different?

I know some amazing story tellers, I honestly think everyone I encounter is a story teller. When I do I share, I do so with intention to build and not to destroy. A good story in the wrong environment does not accomplish anything. A great story teller paints a visual picture that will not appear if he/she is disconnected from their audience and merely just sharing an experience.

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Do you personally feel like stories could make an impact in people's lives? How has it helped you personally?

Girl yes! Stories are up there with chicken tacos with avocado! Stories help encourage, reveal, teach, to pass knowledge and they help us other understand others. I have personally learned from other people's story to avoid mistakes. I have personally helped others uncover their story and their core. Stories often times bring clarity and wisdom. 4

 To you personally, what makes a good story?

Truth and Authenticity makes a great story. The key is to not make your story look like someone else's.

 

 You are a mom. Have you always wanted to be one? 

Always!! I come from a huge family and I have dreamed about having a football team as well, jk. We have a beautiful 2 year daughter that I prayed for. I think she looks like me, that’s my story and I am sticking to it lol. Everyone thinks that she looks like her dad. I love my family.

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Do you tell stories to your daughter? If yes, what's her favorite story?

I sure do and I go all out.  She is two and I can already see in her eyes that she thinks I am dramatic. She has the beginner's bible with stories about Jesus for children; we thought that was perfect for her to learn about Jesus, the ultimate story teller.

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The cool thing is that most of the stories are the miracles Jesus performed, I want her to dream big. She loves all those stories.

 If people want to listen to your stories, where should they go?

I get to do Story Telling at our Open Seat Community and different conferences/events. One upcoming event in particular will be at the Miss Africa Texas Pageant this Saturday in Plano, TX. I also have a YouTube channel under the name, Queen K Smith. I have some upcoming stuff that I am going to doing specifically geared towards stories. Be on the lookout, you may visit my website and subscribe for upcoming activities and events.

The One Who Keeps Learning & Never Settles

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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Although I enjoy writing about my life and the fun things I do with my family, I miss writing about other people. After a thoughtful consideration and a little survey that I did with my readers, I have decided to revamp this section on my blog that has inspired many people since I first started it : Monthly Heroines! I don't know about you but I think our generation craves for the right people to look up to. So when I thought of who to feature on my 'comeback' edition, I thought of this girlboss that I've admired for a while, Kari Crowe, the owner of Melt Ice Creams and Motor Sisters Ice Cream. 

Read it, be inspired, share it, and happy national ice cream month!

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You are not a chef, you didn't have any experience in running your own ice cream parlors before, so what got you into opening Melt?

I had a passion for the food industry! I had been freelancing and photographing chefs, restaurants and food for a few years and when I started looking for a career change I really wanted an opportunity to add value to our community. Ice cream seemed the perfect fit for my community, it met my desire to stay creative and my excitement to build a business. The hot weather season that is so significantly long in Texas definitely creates opportunities for adding value with frozen treats.

Why ice cream (a seasonal business), and not a coffeeshop (people drink coffee year-round, at anytime of the day now) or anything of that nature? Watch the video to find out (and don't forget to subscribe! :)

https://youtu.be/IU34KpopNY8

After opening Melt, have you ever thought, "This was not a good idea"? What kept you going?

Opening a food business is no small feat, in my opinion it gets romanticized a little too often.  It’s hard grueling hours, and there’s no magic formula to make it successful.  I think as a business owner you always work through trying times and difficult seasons but how you respond, adapt and improve is what really matters.  We make mistakes, our employees make mistakes but the value for us is taking those mistakes and turning them into opportunities to learn to be better, smarter and stronger for our customers and the future of our business.  

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I think what keeps me going is learning to let go of things out of my control and improving the things that are in my control.  Building a culture and a team that understands our vision and the future of the company keeps everyone moving forward!

I read on your blog, that your husband quit his job last year. As a wife,were you panicked at all? What encouraged you guys to stick with Melt and go all in for this business together?

It was a very calculated decision that we planned for and he kept great relationships with his industry peers.  Mark coming on board brought a wave of leadership and dedication to push the organization to new strategic growth.  We have such different strengths that we can play off of and I’m so grateful for that.  

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What is the biggest lesson you've learned about opening/running your own business so far?

I don’t know if I can narrow it down to one. There are so many small things we learn every day and every week about business.  I would probably say...

the most impactful thing I’ve learned is to always keep learning, never settle.

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Any advice for my readers who might want to open their own business in the near future?

Dive into researching and understanding your market, your customer, and your product.  The more knowledge you have up front, the less surprise you’ll have when you launch!

Anything exciting coming up for Melt and Motor Sisters that you'd like to share? 

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Moving MELT was a big feat and our grand re-opening last weekend was amazing, our team and our customers rallied support. It was beautiful to be a part of! The new shop (1201 W Magnolia Ave #115, Fort Worth, TX, opens Tue-Thurs & Sun 12 pm – 10 pm and Fri-Sun 12 pm – 11 pm) allows us more production space, a larger patio and a larger parking lot as well as extended summer hours! We now have additional permanent flavors, seasonal cone pairings and seasonal sundaes! Coming up, we have Christmas in July, one our most beloved days of the year. We will celebrate this mid-year holiday with all things Christmas-related on July 23, you don’t want to miss it!

I’m proud of Motor Sisters in Dallas because the brand embodies women empowerment and  the ice cream offerings are fun and funky! Have you had the Amelia Earhart? It’s a combo of salty and sweet, crushed pretzels, crunchy peanuts and lots of nutella sauce! The Truck Yard is such a fun and eclectic place to be a part of!

 

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What are your all-time favorite ice cream flavors?

This is a tough question! I have loved a lot of our non-dairy options like Coconut Curry and the Velvet Vegan! But currently the summer sundae is my favorite!!!

The One Who Juggles Motherhood and Online Business

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

I can't remember how I found her instagram account, but I remember getting interested at this momma's profile picture. I was almost certain that she was a fellow mom-blogger. But she turned out to be an Etsy shop owner! "Whoa, does she also stay at home with her kid?," I wondered, "How does anyone manage to do this?"  

I've heard a number of other mothers who really want to do their own thing, starting up a blog or a business or something, because they know that they have the passion, the talent, and the education to support them. But, they're either too scared or too lazy to do it. It seems so hard, right? Building something from scratch? Maintaining it, pouring your all to it. But then, isn't it all worth it? Isn't having a flexible schedule that allows you to spend more time with your child while doing what you love worth the hard work?

Yes, I know, it's easier said than done. But this woman right here seems to be doing it pretty well! Ready to learn from her? :)

Meet Jacki Brown.

 

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Have you always wanted to be a mother? 

Yes!  Recently my mom found an old essay I wrote when I was about 10 about what I wanted to be when I grew up. The first thing on the list of things I wanted was to be a mom. I've always wanted to be a mom and have a big family and lots of babies, 1 down hopefully lots more babies to go.

I was a full time college student before becoming a mom, so I worked jobs here and there, including a tutoring job, alongside school but I never entered the real workforce per say. I graduated with my BA in Psychology at UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio) 20 days before I gave birth to Eli! So I went from full time student to full time mom just like that.

 

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Motherhood in 3 words for you

Hard, funny and awesome.

 

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I think it ultimately started with a desire for both Zac and I to work from home for ourselves or to free up time to be able to travel and road trip! Little Native was started last November by me as a way to do something I really like and make some extra income then we finally decided together that we wanted to start a leather and woodworking business called Arrow & Board this past August. Of course our dream of working full time at home for ourselves (or in an airstream on the road into the middle of Montana or something ;) is still far off but maybe someday! Today though my husband just started a new job and I am enjoying life at home with my babe all while running our businesses!

 

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What does your husband think about all this?

Zac is very supportive of anything I do and is my main go-to guy for questions about either business. He's a numbers guy and I'm a creative so we work well together (most of the time ;) and support each other.

 

Any mommy-entrepreneur that inspires you?

My aunt! She started and runs love41.com it's a for-profit company that gives all their proceeds to orphans, widows and street kids in Rwanda!

 

What's the biggest challenge in balancing business & family life?

Time! When Eli is awake during the day I try to not work on filling orders etc. I try to spend my time more intentionally focused on him. Same thing with my husband, we always try to at least eat dinner together in the evening and try to go to bed at the same time ( these two things sound so easy and maybe most people have them down but they can be hard for us to do).

 

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Obviously some days I can't achieve all the things I mentioned, some days I just have too much to do (today is one of those days) but having the mindset of intentionally spending time with my boys helps. Plus I work my butt off during naptime.

 

It takes time. Don't get discouraged, starting Little Native was slooooow gooooing but I kept going and it paid off. Stay inspired, keep on keeping on, for me that was continuing on making designs for shirts or creating bags and having fun with it. You'll get there, keep up the good work.

 

Where did you get the idea to start Little Native shop?

It honestly came out of a want to have Eli dressed really cute without having to pay a whole lot of money but it's turned into something more! We are part Comanche Indian so the Native American Indian inspired designs seemed fitting and with the idea that every kid is a "Little Native" to somewhere I thought it was a great name for my brand!

 

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I started looking into hand screen printing and found out that it was easier than it looked so I tried it and loved it! I've got a lot to learn still but I'm getting there and looking to the future with new ideas for Little Native.

 

 

How do you find inspiration for your new designs?

I stick to Native American inspired designs! It's part of my heritage and family so I take those classic designs and draw them out myself into my own style of design and then make them into screens for tees.

  With Arrow & Board, how involved are you in the whole process (production, marketing, etc)?

My husband does most of the woodworking part but for the leather working I am very involved, I know how to make all of our products by hand and am frequently the one who is filling orders on a day to day basis. Other than handcrafting products I am the social media and photography girl! I'm learning more about SEO and how to get our company out there and seen by people. I'm excited about the future of Arrow & Board!

  Any future plans for the brands and the family?

Currently some of Arrow & Board products include Apple Watch Bands, iPhone 6 Wallet Sleeve and a bohemian style fringe bag but we are working on a simple wallet, a field notes case and a couple other things. Arrow & Board is fun and I feel like it has lots of potential to do really well! Little Native has had the same designs for quite a while so I've got plans to get some new designs out (I really want to do a thunderbird print!) before Christmas. Plus I've started making personalized hand stamped leather bracelets, that was inspired by all the leatherworking involved in Arrow & Board.

 

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As for our family, we are moving to Austin in the next couple of months, my husband just started a new job there! We're in the process of putting our house on the market and house hunting for a new place. We are going to miss our family and our church home and friends here in San Antonio but know and trust that this move is part of the plan that God has for our lives. We can't wait to see what He has in store for our businesses and our lives there in Austin! Oh and yes, babies, I want more and we're ready, so whenever it happens it happens!

***

At the time of this interview, Jacki hadn't find out about the fact that she's actually having another baby. Show love and congratulate her on instagram here :)

 

 

 

The One Who Keeps It Real

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

It's been almost a year since the last time I did an article on inspiring mothers. With the sickness (back in June) and everything that happened in between, I just haven't been able to do interviews and photoshoots in the past few months. But I've realized that "Heroines & Badasses" is one of my favourite article to write because I am not writing about me, I am writng about other people! Now with the rise of "#momsoninstagram", it's not easy to find someone who is real let alone relatable. Some are too staged with their photos on instagram, some are too 'up there and unapproachable', and many just don't even try (I'm sorry, I know we all have struggles, but I needed someone who has the right balance between being stylish and being real for this article, although not all mothers whom I've interviewed for this section is a blogger). So I was excited when I found a fellow Dallas mom-blogger, Camille Elena.

  

You know, when you see someone and you go, "I think I can get along with her." Yeah, that's how I felt looking at her photos on instagram. Not because we are so alike, in fact we're not. But because she seemed stylish without trying too hard, very casual, and relatable as a mother. She's not like one of those fashion bloggers who are just 'up there' you know. So yeah, I decided to reach out a few weeks ago and we ended up having coffee together last week. And, she brought little Zara with her!

     There was no attitude, she did not try to overcomplicate her answers, she turned out to be exactly how I thought she would be.

Motherhood in 3 words for you : Learning, stretching, and moving.

 

Have you always wanted to be a mother? Why? Not necessarily. The thought of having kids horrified me, especially since I was trying to finish up my degree at the time. My plan was to have kids at 30, or none at all. That is, until I met Robert.  

 

Why did you decide to become a stay-at-home mom? I worked part-time at ISP Studios as a production assistant and book-keeper while I was in college. Soon after having Zara, I graduated and tried working while being a new mom, but it was hard taking a newborn along. So I stopped for a while and decided that being a stay-at-home mom was best for the time being. She won’t be this little forever.

 

The best part about being Zara's mom?  Having a stand-in cuddle buddy when Robert is at work.

 

  

  

How would you describe your style? Clean, classic, chic but with hints of however I’m feeling that day thrown into my outfits. I like to add elements of bohemia, the 70’s, and edge. I also love neutral colors, but I’m not opposed to color either.

 

How do you make the time to dress up nicely and do your make up with a kiddo running around? (I honestly need some tips on this haha) One thing motherhood has taught me is the art of distraction. Most of the time Zara just simply wants to be with me, so whether I’m taking a shower or putting on makeup, I’ll usually let her hop in with me (clothes and all) or let her play in my makeup bag so she can feel as if she’s participating. It takes twice as long, but it makes her happy!  

  

As Zara continues to grow, how would you teach her about balancing between loving fashion, and having an inner-beauty? How do you do it with yourself so far? Well, the first thing I want to instill in her is to be confident in who she is and that inner-beauty is what matters the most. I also want to teach her that being herself in her love for fashion is also important and not to get too wrapped up in trying to be/dress like everyone else. Being different is what’s beautiful!

 

Who inspires you to be a fashion/mom-blogger? My mom of course! I sincerely believe if it weren’t for her, my sense of fashion wouldn’t be as keen as it is today. She is such a fashionable woman who has always dressed smart and appropriate for her age. And to be honest, she has always been more fashion-forward than me. She has always told me to wear what I want, because when I’m old I won’t be able. I am also inspired by other moms who are going through similar situations as me. In a sense, it’s as if we’re going through it together when we share stories and when we connect.

  

 

I've seen a lot of blogger post about the struggle to stay sane in this social media-crazed world, because as you know, we often find ourselves comparing ourselves with the other bloggers. Honestly, I feel that way too every now and then. What do you do when you feel that way? Any words of encouragement or tips? I try not to compare myself to others simply because I wasn’t taught to compare myself with anyone growing up. Instead of comparing, I like to see what I can learn from other bloggers on how they style their outfits or engage with their followers. I also keep in mind that they’re people just like me who are not perfect and who are just trying to put their best foot forward. So my word of encouragement to anyone reading is this: No one will ever be as good at being you than YOU.

 

How is your Mr. doing so far in terms of supporting your passion for fashion and blogging, what does he think of it? I think at first he was a bit skeptical and annoyed when I would ask him to take pictures, but he’s coming around to it. He’s not into social media at all, so he doesn’t quite understand why I have to take so many pictures, but he does understand that I enjoy doing it. I balance it out by blogging at night before I go to bed or while Zara naps, so it doesn’t interfere with family time. Now, I don’t think he minds it so much.

 

Fall is coming soon, any must-have fashion item for fall? Because I am a lover of shoes, the item that I am lusting over is the cut-out leather bootie! I recently purchased some Dolce Vita brand booties and I just can’t get enough and I certainly can’t wait to incorporate them into all my summer outfits, because let’s face it, the summer heat isn’t going anywhere for a while in Texas. And I am a firm believer that getting a new pair of shoes is like getting a whole new wardrobe, so the possibilities are endless!

 

She also encourages us mothers to know what we can and cannot pull off in terms of wearing fashion items and trends. "Lady Gaga can pull off just about anything because she's Lady Gaga, but what she got on might not look good on us! So make sure you know what works best for you, find your own style," she said.

Since we brought our kids that day, the chit-chat and photoshoot surely didn't go as smoothly as they might seem in the photos. I had to bring an iPad, a spare car key, and some blackberries to calm J down. Camille had to nurse Zara in between shoots, Zara bumped her head in my car when I hit the brake (because I thought the traffic light went green when it actually went red), I mean it was crazy! But it was real. And that's what I love about meeting up with real mothers.

  

   

When asked about the message she wants to convey through social media and blogging, Camille simply answered, "Be relatable."

Well said, mama.

The One Who Does Her Part

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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I'm not sure of when did the phenomenon that Anthony Bourdain once described as the Hipster Apocalypse officially started, but in the last 7 years, I have seen more and more of hipsters or their wannabe's walking around the planet, even in third-world countries. Who are they and what do they look like? In a nutshell, the males usually have this long beard (if not hair) and tattoos. They wear skinny jeans and round-rim hats. The females are usually dressed in some boho-vintage-inspired outfit (probably bought at Urban Outfitters or American Apparel). They  are into arts, vintage vinyl, vintage camera (and polaroids). They drink craft beer (and even the gluten-free ones). And they are usually into bands that nobody's ever heard before as well as indie movies that nobody really gets.

infograph by MIchael Mahaffey

 

Yeah, the infograph above has pretty much summed it up. Hipsters are basically the 'anti-mainstream' people, which I think is pretty ironic since being a hipster is almost as mainstream as being gay in America these days.

They usually live in Denver, Austin, or Brooklyn (or aspire to do so). Many of them are vegan or vegetarian (or paleo or whatever), they shop organic and certified fair-trade products, do yoga, and yet smoke on regular basis at the same time. Yeah more irony right there.

Okay why am I talking about them, again? Oh yeah, I am writing a prologue of my friend Karen's inspiring story, because she kinda reminds me of those hipsters I saw at Williamsburg, Brooklyn where my friend Kathy used to take me back in summer 2011. Not because Karen hangs a dreamcatcher on her walls or wears flower crowns in the summer, but because she is just a 'normal' person who lives in Dallas, not into weed nor Bon Iver but is actually abiding by the natural and organic lifestyle in its truest form.

You shop in an all-organic grocer? She volunteers in a co-op and gets produce, meat, eggs, and even yoghurt delivered to a pick-up point straight from the farm. You use eco-friendly diapers? She uses cloth diapers. You drink kombucha? She grows it herself at her own kitchen! Seriously, how hippie can a person be? Haha...

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I find the fact that she is a very normal yet very 'earth-loving' person to be fascinating. "I'm an undercover hippie", she joked to me once. Whatever you call these people who choose a more natural lifestyle like Karen these days, I think we ought to learn from her. Cause everyone has a story of why they do things the way they do,

and the following is hers.

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I have always been passionate about health and well-being. Having volunteered in associations like the Amigos Sin Fronteras, I knew from a very young age, that helping other people especially with their health was something that I wanted to do for a living. So I went on to study stomatology in BUAP (Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla) for almost 5 years before studying dental hygiene for another 3 years in Houston, Texas. Throughout these years spent learning and working in medical field, I was exposed to so many different aspects of the industry that were quite traumatizing, including witnessing  a woman in labor and c-section surgeries. "I wouldn't want to see all this when I give birth one day. I want to get anesthetized and sleep through the whole process," I said to myself.

While still studying, around year 2008, I started to experience many symptoms that lead to confusion. It took the doctors 9 months to diagnose me with hyperthyroidism. I had to take so many medication, my blood pressure sky-rocketed, and if I was to follow their advice I would have to take the medication forever -- which can't be good, right? Moreover, they told me that it would be hard for me to conceive a child. And if I ever got pregnant, it would be a high-risk pregnancy, since I would have to take some hormonal meds (that I was allergic of). Lastly, they told me that it was better for me to have my thyroid removed.

On top of it all, my liver was intoxicated and I couldn't handle the medication anymore. And then in 2011, my sister, who'd just given birth naturally at home, suggested me to look for alternative treatments. I then stopped taking the medication at the beginning of 2012 and started consulting my health with a chiropractor, who taught me that healing and health start with the right diet. I thought I was healthy, I mean I used to give nutritional consultation back then. But I discovered that what I Iearned in school was largely influenced by the food industry (for example : they used to say that coconut oil is bad for you because of the fat, but the truth is, it is actually good for your heart, read more here. whereas the popular canola and corn oil are more suspicious because most of them got GMO's).

So I started to do an intense detoxification diet : no wheat, soy, canola, corn, and dairy.

I know that God gives us miracles, but I also realize that it is our responsibility to take care of our own body. We ask Him to do His part all the time, without realizing that we need to do our part and give thanks

My healing started when I realized that I was already healed. That all I needed to survive and to be healthy was already there. I stopped asking for healing and started to give thanks for it, while doing my best to keep my health. I even gave thanks for a baby that I did not have yet.

I felt at peace and my whole attitude changed when I started to be grateful and to take that step of faith.

And in less than 2 months, I got pregnant.

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Now I knew that if I'd gone to the regular ob-gyns, they would've treated me as if I had a high-risk pregnancy. So I went to a midwife, who could tell my baby's position just by touching and feeling my belly and not by conducting an ultrasonography observation all the time. I did everything naturally, my thyroid level was normal, and my whole pregnancy was easy (I didn't even experience morning sickness). Finally on March 2013, I gave birth to my precious Benjamin through water birth.

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Even during labor, I embraced the natural pain that I felt. I knew that it was there to give me a sign that Ben was going to be born soon. It was a moment like no other, and it got us, my husband and I, closer than ever before.

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I believe that our part as human is also to consume things the way God has created them to be consumed, or in other words naturally. That's why I still breastfeed my little one and eat healthy. And that's why I question everything now regarding my child's well-being, like the benefits of immunization and even the school system.

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Not everything is bad as bad as you think and not everything is as good as you think. The key is to ask the right people and do your own research.