As a single mom with a 2-year-old, life was stressful. I‘m 27 and my son, Jayden, was born prematurely at 23 weeks. He weighed just over one pound and had a 50-50 chance of surviving. He’s doing well now, but he has a G-tube to ensure he gets adequate nutrition because he has a hard time swallowing. He also has a shunt draining extra fluid from his brain, and a leg brace to help him walk. When I’m at work, he goes to a medical daycare. The only support I have is from my ex’s mother, Tamika, Jayden’s grandma. Jayden is a ball of joy, but it was hard juggling everything and I was just going through the motions of life. I was eating junk food — McDonald’s was my best friend! I was living paycheck-to-paycheck because I was spending so much on candy and clothes to try to ease the pain.

Starting the Challenge helped me get through the day when I felt like giving up. 

I started meal prepping so I have great dinners for the whole week, like shrimp and rice, or fish and broccoli. My favorite recipe: chicken alfredo. Instead of candy, I love strawberries and mangoes.

I cut back on spending; any extra cash goes into envelopes and it adds up.  

I write down all my expenses for the month and it makes me more accountable to see where my money’s going. Occasionally, I’ll pamper myself with a treat, like a pedicure or breakfast with a friend once a month. But I don’t overspend.  

I saved enough to put a down payment on a house. 

I never dreamed I’d be able to buy a house. I can’t even describe how I felt when we stepped through the front door. The house echoed with Jayden’s screams of delight as he ran around. We’re so happy. 

Instead of sitting in front of the T.V., we play kickball and catch in the backyard. I love dancing  in my living room to upbeat music you can jump around to, like anything by Drake or Beyoncé’s song “Countdown.”

Before work, I sit on the floor and do breathing exercises to relax.

It eases my mind and gives me energy for the day ahead. And at the end of the day, when Jayden’s in bed, I write in a journal about what I did and how I feel, which helps me to wind down.    

I’m enjoying motherhood and my bond with Jayden is closer than ever. 

I’m more present and enthusiastic about life. I’m really grateful that I have my son because he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m smiling more at work, which makes a big difference to me and my co-workers. I’m much more enthusiastic about life and I’ve learned that to share love with others, you have to love yourself. And I can finally say that I do love myself.

—Tia Williams-Flax, Distribution Center #8905; Davenport, FL; $5K Winner

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