5 Lessons Learned in 2016


I’ve read AND heard a lot of chatter about 2016 these past couple of months.  Let’s face it; the latter half of 2016 was a bit of a shocker.  Lots of unexpected events for sure!  That said, I wouldn’t say that 2016 was all bad.  Personally, 2016 has proven to be…pretty awesome!

Each year, I find that I grow in ways never before imagined, and I also learn more about myself than ever before.  5 things I’ve learned about myself this year:

  1. If I put my mind to it, I will achieve it.  Career-wise, my goal for 2016 get 15 publications.  I managed 11.  Which is the same number I published last year.  This past week, I was immensely disappointed that I didn’t make my goal, but you know what?  I also managed to get a big grant funded, another that may get funded, and collaborated on a center grant and R01.  On top of that, I prepped for two courses in winter/spring of 2017, and spent three weeks in SF intensely training in implementation science.  Now that I put that all down in writing, I feel quite productive, actually!  Blog-wise, my goal for 2016 was to appear in a magazine.  A small mention in a magazine was my goal.  Well, I’m so excited to say I blew that one out of the water!  I cannot believe I managed to get on the cover of Redbook Magazine!!! The fact that it happened still boggles my mind.  FB_IMG_1471044495614
  2. I am strong of mind.  I’ve always sort of known that.  My willpower is pretty amazing. Sadly I’ve learned that this often means my strength of mind will sometimes result in a weakness of body and health.  This past week, I ended up in the ER with symptoms of stroke!!  I’d had headaches for two weeks (rare for someone who rarely gets headaches) and suddenly, the left side of my tongue was numb and tingly.  It was the scariest *ish I’ve experienced in a while. 😦  Docs think the headaches were stress/anxiety induced.  Imagine that!  I didn’t even know I was stressed!!  I did know I was feeling a little overwhelmed, but didn’t realize the toll it was taking on my body.  For months, I was working 7 days a week, especially while writing grants, and even after while trying to catch up with manuscripts.  Sigh.  So, I’m taking this to heart and hoping I remember this episode as I progress into 2017 so that history does not repeat itself! quickmemo_2016-01-04-23-56-58-1.png.png
  3. My family means everything.  When you feel like you are on the verge of a major health event, things often come into perspective.  When I was at the ER I thought to myself, what if something bad is happening to me???  Are my finances in order?  Is my home organized?  Have I prepared the kids for life without a mom?  So many questions!!  It’s really made me appreciate the fact that I’ve prioritized my kids over my work and the blog.  Hubby will disagree, haha, as he always feels like he’s at the bottom of my totem pole, but I’ve also tried to prioritize him as well.  In my own, small ways.  As a result, we have enjoyed some very special moments this year, including a quick getaway to SF this past summer while I was there for work! He may think that he is at the bottom of my totem pole, but the bottom is the foundation – the stronghold – of the totem pole, and that he is.  He is my biggest fan, my biggest source of support, and ultimately my rock!  I love my family!13697280_10209960428432157_2833473835229620693_n.jpg
  4. Clutter stresses me out.  My life is SOOOOOOO crazy busy these days, that organization is an absolute must to get through hectic days efficiently.  I learned this lesson the hard way this year.  Holiday breaks are often a time for me to get organized, so I took advantage this week and called America’s Thrift Store to come pick up a huge load of stuff that was simply non-essential.  I also managed to sell some things to a local consignment store, but otherwise, I donated it all without looking back.  It actually feels really good!!  My goal for 2016 was to declutter, so it looks like so far so good!  I even managed to declutter the kids’ today and was also able to implement an organization system for their toys. At work, I think about categorizing data; at home, I think about categorizing toys, lol! 1229162046_hdr.jpg
  5. I NEED alone/down time.  Usually a few days, actually.  Every year, hubby takes the boys to visit his family out of state.  I usually take the first 2-3 days to completely decompress.  I see 0 people for several days.  I eat occasionally, nap a lot, and watch the TV shows I want to watch.  Not just PJ Masks and Disney movies because that’s what the boys want to watch, lol.  This year I didn’t get that week because we had our kitchen under construction.  Yes, I know our kitchen is under construction now, but that story is way too long to get into here.  So, just know that our kitchen was under construction and I got very little time to decompress.  So, I was exhausted when the fall semester began!  I didn’t get organized, my house was a mess, and therefore, so felt my life.  Although I haven’t necessarily gotten much alone time this holiday break (impossible with two VERY energetic boys under 7), I did get lots of down time and I feel like myself again!  I feel mostly prepared for 2017, and really that is all I can ask for given my circumstances. 🙂  Here’s a great article about the importance of alone time, if you have some time to read it! Of course, sometimes, when given alone time, I often end up at the stores shopping….soooooo, maybe it’s a good thing I don’t get alone time TOO often, haha!20161203_172109.jpg

I haven’t come up with goals for 2017 yet.  I often come up with them the first week of the year, and often after having analyzed outcomes of 2016.  That is, what worked, what didn’t, what I haven’t tried, etc.  In preparation, I have pinned some graphics on Pinterest that I think will help.  Find them here, here, and here.  So with that, I leave you, friends! Last post of 2016, and geared up for some exciting content in 2017.  Hope you will come along for the ride!  Thanks for all your support thus far and for continuing to enable my sartorial and other adventures!!

I wish you all a Happy New Year and an amazingly productive, healthy, loving, successful 2017!!! xo

Until next time!  Stay ‘Chic’!


This post is a collaboration with The College Board, however, all opinions expressed are my own.



Once upon a time, I was young and getting ready to graduate high school.  As a first generation high school graduate, college was something my parents and extended family knew little to nothing about.  I’m grateful for counselors, teachers, and others who helped guide me.  I did not get a full-ride to college; that is, I didn’t get a scholarship that covered 100% of my tuition and expenses.  Thus, I relied on federal aid, financial assistance and other scholarships to get me through.


Cue, the FAFSA.  FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  It is a form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.  Here are a few facts about the FAFSA that you might want to consider:

  • To learn more about paying for college, including finding scholarships,visit  BigFuture or download the CollegeGo app. Students can use BigFuture to search for and compare collegesfind scholarships, understand financial aid, navigate the college application process from start to finish, and receive personalized deadline reminders, tips, and guidance along the way. The CollegeGo mobile app guides students through the essential steps in the college application process with an interactive interface that uses game, video, and search features to help students plan their college journeys. Perfectly efficient and user friendly!!
  • Completing and submitting the FAFSA®is free and quick, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.  In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.
  • If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you could be missing out on a lot of financial aid! We’ve heard a number of reasons students think they shouldn’t complete the FAFSA. Here are a few:
    • “I (or my parents) make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
    • “Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
    • “The FAFSA is too hard to fill out.”
    • “I’m too old to qualify for financial aid.”
  • If you think any of these statements apply to you, then you should read Myths About Financial Aid. The reality is, EVERYONE who’s getting ready to go to college or career school should fill out the FAFSA!
  • The 2017–18 FAFSA has been available since Oct. 1, 2016. There are different deadlines for different programs though, so make sure to check the website for more information: https://fafsa.ed.gov/deadlines.htm
  • There are several ways to file:
    • Online at fafsa.gov is faster and easier than using paper.
    • If you need a paper FAFSA, you can
      • download a PDF FAFSA or
      • order a print-out of the PDF FAFSA by calling 1-877-4-ED-PUBS (1-877-433-7827).
    • Ask the financial aid office at your college or career school if you can file it there. Some schools will use special software to submit your FAFSA for you.
  • Applying isn’t the last step; your FAFSA has to be processed, and then you get Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA data you submitted. . Find out more about what happens after you fill out the FAFSA, including how aid is calculated and when and how your aid will be paid out.


Some people are very loan-averse.  As a daughter or two Mexican immigrants, convincing my parents that getting financial aid was a good idea was a hard thing to do.  In fact, it took the admissions officer at Stanford University to get on the phone with my dad and convince him that between the aid the school would give me and little bit that I would borrow, that I would actually be okay!  Granted, it took years to pay that money back.  BUT, I wouldn’t trade my education for the world, and truly believe that I am better for having received that aid than not having attended Stanford for college.

I filled out a second FAFSA when I applied for graduate school, and some years later, I am a PhD, MPH, and have a bachelors from one of the US’s most elite schools.


If you’re like me or know someone like me, share this information with them.  Also, to learn more about paying for college, including finding scholarships visit the College Board or download the  BigFuture app.   The College Board has also created Spanish language resources for parents and families to help their children plan for college.

Finally, if you have any questions that you can’t find on the website, or simple want a third party to discuss your situation with, feel free to email me!  I’m always happy to help rising academic superstars reach their full potential.  Remember, money should not be the main obstacle keeping you from realizing your academic dreams.  There is always a way to make it work.

Good luck!!

Until next time!  Stay ‘Chic’!

Prepping for Thanksgiving


For the record, I am still alive.  I have been busy writing grants and trying to keep my head above water, but finally seeming to tread water again and swimming towards the shore!  Yay for surviving!

The last grant I was helping with went in today, so I am celebrating with a post on the blog.  I’ve missed blogging, but as you know, I only really blog when time permits.  For daily updates, make sure to check out my Instagram and Facebook accounts.  You’ll find me there daily. 🙂

Anywho…  I am finally coming up for air and realize, Thanksgiving is next week!!! Goodness! How time flies!  I’m a little OCD about plans, so I thought, “I bet my blog friends would love a ‘to-do’ list for the holidays”.  So, I got to it.  Here are a few of the things I am planning for the week:

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There are probably other things I left off the list, BUT, these were the ones I thought were most important! Big picture things, if you know what I mean.  The checklist is probably THE most important thing to make since it will guide the rest of your activities the coming week.

In terms of your meal, you’ve probably got a plan in place, but if you are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time ever, the checklist and my Pinterest board might help you prep!  My family and I, for the first time ever, are considering dining out for Thanksgiving. If you live in the Birmingham area, here are some places that are open Thanksgiving Day:

  • The Bright Star
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Fleming’s Prime Steak House & Wine Bar
  • Galley and Garden
  • Hyatt Regency Birmingham – The Wynfrey Hotel
  • Irondale Cafe
  • Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa
  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House
  • Seasons 52

The full list and details about their menus and prices can be found here.

I’ve also pinned a ton of decor, food, and other ideas for Thanksgiving and other holidays on my ‘Holiday’ Pinterest board if you are interested in checking them out!  Not sure that I’ll actually do or use any of them since we may not be spending Thanksgiving at home this year, BUT, hopefully they will be useful for you.  Check out my Pinterest board here!

Also,  photos and Christmas cards.  This year, I am considering Paper Source at The Summit for Christmas cards.  Have you been in there?  IT IS AH-MAZING. OMG.  Gird your wallets because you may walk in there with a Christmas Card order in mind, but leave with one of everything in the store, including the pair of Santa glasses with beard attached! Dying, lol!

With regard to activities, I have found that kids are insanely bored during the time I am prepping for guests – particularly the day of.  So, this year I made sure to buy some games and plan activities to entertain them!  Actually, and if you know of any good ones, please feel free to share them with me below.

Finally, outfits!  I have yet to decide what I will wear for Thanksgiving, much less what the kids will wear.  I will say that often, I like to opt for clothes that allow me to EAT! Nom, nom!  Loose fitting tops over leggings, or oversized flowy dresses work well.  Here are a couple examples that I love when seeking to be fashionable, yet comfortable…

wp-1473781205550.jpgCamel bag, http://instagram.com/chic_in_academiawp-1448733451434.jpg

Finally, as part of my holiday prep, I’m planning to attend a number of events at The Summit in the coming weeks. The first, an event called “Light’s Up”.  Details for the event can be found on their Facebook event page, here.  My friend Heather of My Life Well Loved and I were at The Summit this weekend and walked around a bit at dusk.  The Summit had begun to put a few of the lights up, as seen below.

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Photos by Jennifer Hagler Photography

We are so excited to be back on Friday for the actual event!!  I hope you will join us!  Feel free to check out their Facebook event, or email me for details: chicinacademia@gmail.com.  I’d love to hang with you there!  Btw, I plan to take the kiddies, so know that it’s also VERY kid-friendly!

From the Facebook event page:

“The event is sponsored by Swoozie’s. Stop by Swoozies from 4:30-5:30 PM or 7:30-8:30 PM for Photobooth fun with Santa. Magic 96.5 will be broadcasting live and will have a Children’s Christmas Craft Area on the Kendra Scott Terrace Patio.

We’ll be sitting with friends and family watching the parade and ending the evening with The Summit all lit up for the holidays! The parade ends with Santa’s arrival and an amazing fireworks show. Stick around for the Lights Up After Party, featuring your favorite holiday tunes from local artist, Jackson Capps. Arrive early, stay late and enjoy all the holiday festivities!”

I cannot wait!  Hope to see you there, otherwise, happy Thanksgiving prepping!!

Until next time!  Stay ‘Chic’!