Women on the Rise

Growing up, most of the people I hung out with were guys.  It wasn’t that I was boy crazy.  I just felt that guys were easier to get along with.  I didn’t have to have conversations about who liked who, what I was going to wear to a party or what shade of lipstick I’d wear to the mall.  With the guys, life was simple.  When it was time to go, we went.  When we got hungry, we ate pizza and when one of us go it trouble, we could always on each other for an alibi.

I always felt comfortable and I always felt that I could be myself.  I think it came from the fact that I literally had a gang of male cousins.  When it came to girls in my immediate family, there was me, my sister, my aunt’s two daughter’s and my great-aunt’s daughter.  So whenever there was a family get together, it was the five girls and like ten boys.  Of course the boys dominated everything we did.  So being around boys as a young girl was easy.  To my benefit, I did attend an all-girls Catholic high school and I got along well with them but at home, in the neighborhood, it was the guys I ran with.

When I was eight or nine I met my lifelong best friend.  She and I are still close and over the years I have met a few girls/women who would grow to hold a special place in my life.  One such person is my friend, Lissahn.  Lissahn and I met when I lived in Atlanta for a few years in the late 90’s, early 2000’s.  My son’s elementary school was hosting a program one Saturday.  I think it was about health or services in the community to help parents.  It was something like that.  Either way, I ended up sitting at a table with Lissahn.  Both of our boys were in Kindergarten at the time.  We started talking.  I remember giving her a ride home that day.

Lissahn DeVance
Owner & Designer of Enraptured Events

Today, she is one of the most important people in my life.  She is a beautiful soul.  Although, we definitely don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like, we are always there to support each other.  Over the past ten years or so, she has built an amazing event designing business.  These days she is often busy with designing and planning events all over the country.  So when I set about planning my the book signing for my debut novel, I didn’t think for a second to invite her.  After all, she still lives in Atlanta and I am currently in Florida.  I would have simply been grateful that she’d purchased a copy.

During one of our phone calls, I shared with her my plans for the book signing.  She asked what day it was on.  When I told her, she said that she may be able to come.  I laughed and told her that wouldn’t be necessary.  In my mind I was adding up the cost of a plane ticket and hotel fees for something that, even though it was a big deal to me, was not worth her spending that kind of money.  We ended the phone call and I didn’t give it another thought.  Two days later she called to say she’d purchased her plane ticket and would see me in a few weeks.

I didn’t know what having her at my book signing would mean to me until I looked up at the crowd during my talk and saw her face.  The fact that she thought enough of me and this moment in my life to physically be there to celebrate with me was so powerful.  Her friend took this picture of us and captioned it, Women on the Rise.  It was the perfect caption as it reminded me of all that we’d both shared and struggled with to make our dreams come true.  Our friendship has spanned twenty-plus years.  In that time we’ve seen each other at our best and cried with each other during our worst.  All the while we were encouraging each other not to give up on our dreams and goals.  It is important to have friends like this in your life.  I am so blessed to have her in mine.

 

Don’t stop the momentum…:)

 

 

 

 

Make Your Bed

The Twin Tornadoes

Currently, I have three children in my home.  My twins who are sixteen and my grandson who is four.  Since my twins are older and soon to be out of the house, what I try to instill in them most right now is self-discipline.  As I listen to them talk about their goals and dreams for the future, I think about all of the challenges they will face simply making an attempt to reach those goals and dreams.  When those challenges come, without self-discipline, they may quit before they even get started good.

During one of our conversations about their future, I again brought up developing self-discipline.  As I was explaining that self-discipline was going to be an important aspect of being successful later on in life, my son, the funny one, said, “I’m good.  I know how to control myself.”  My boy, he’s got ears but they do not listen.

So I challenged him and his sister with a simple task…make your bed every day, without fail, for thirty days.  My son pipes up again, “that’s easy.  I can do that!”  “Great!” I replied and went on to explain that self-discipline is the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses and, most importantly for me, the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.

Making their beds is the one thing I have to constantly get on to them about.  Growing up, my mom would always say, “if you can’t do something as simple as make your bed everyday, how can you expect to be successful at the larger things in life?”  Of course, I had no idea what that meant at the time.  Like my kids, I thought it was just a trick to get me to clean my room.  Here I am some thirty years later, still making my bed every morning.  For me, my day isn’t going to go well if I don’t make my bed.  If I could discipline myself to do something as simple as make my bed every day, then I could meet and overcome other challenges I faced, those that I cared deeply about and those I could careless about.  However, no matter the challenge, a little self-discipline would help me along the way.

How did the challenge go, you ask?  Well, I posed the challenge to them about three months ago and my daughter was able to hang in there a bit longer than my son.  Upon coming home from school everyday, she said she liked coming into a clean room.  It made her feel better after a long day.  She still puts forth an effort to keep her space cleaner and make her bed daily.  There are days when she is running late and doesn’t do it but overall it is much better than it was before the challenge.  Now, my son on the other hand, well he got frustrated with the whole thing about a week in.  He said he really didn’t understand how making his bed would help him be successful later on in life.  He went on to explain that he was going to play in the NFL and rich people had people to make their beds for them.

My boy had a point.  Maybe people with money had people to make their beds for them.  My advice to him was something else my mother used to say, “don’t let nobody else do for you what you can do for yourself.  Train yourself and receive your own rewards.”  I explained to him what I have always gathered from this little statement is that I should be building myself up in all areas of my life and not waiting on some else to do it for me.

As always, my hope is that my words and actions will lead and guide my kids.  As grandma used to say, “you can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make him drink.”

One more for the road…

 Psalm 19:14 ~ May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. 🙂

Home Again

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit my hometown of San Francisco, California for a very good reason, two of my best friends got married!  It has actually been a long time since I’ve been able to visit California. The last time I was out there my mother passed away. After returning to Florida, visiting Cali was no longer the same.  So, I decided to take a break.  Turns out, four years have passed.

When I was younger, I met my best friend Laila at a church my family attended. At the time Laila and I were around eight or nine years old. Through the years life has changed for us both but the bond between us never has.

Not long after I met Laila, I met her neighbor across the street named Ken. The three of us would run up and down the neighborhood without a care in the world. Between Laila’s house and Ken’s house we ate until our little hearts were content and played like there was no tomorrow.

When I moved to Florida, I tried to get back to California as often as I could. When I was able to visit I always stay at Laila’s house. She wouldn’t have it any other way. Laila continued to live in the house we grew up in and Ken still lived in the neighborhood too. On my visits, the three of us would always get together and hang out like old times eating way too much pizza, salami, and Cool Ranch Doritos.  In the past few years, understanding my struggle with visiting California, my two best friends decided to come visit me in Florida.

Even when we were kids I knew there was an undeniable chemistry between Laila and Ken. This weekend I got to witness that chemistry in full bloom as they said their vows and pledged a lifetime of love to each other.  It was an amazing time and I am so glad I was able to be there for them.

I am already planning my next trip to California.  I am looking forward to growing old with these two.

 

Friends for life…:)

It’s My Birthday

Recently, I was watching James Corden interview Mr. Billy Porter. I love both of these men and watching their friendship and banter always puts a smile on my face. In the interview James wished Billy a Happy Birthday and asked how he felt about his birthday. Billy’s reply was absolutely perfect! Billy stated that he was a member of the 50’s club and that it is true what his friends had been telling him for years, ‘when you turn 50, you no longer give two flips (Billy didn’t say flips so feel free to  insert any word you think fits) about what people think or say about you.

Reflecting on my life today as I turn forty-six years old, I think Billy’s words are beginning to take root in me.  I am growing in ways I could have only dreamed of years ago.  Spiritually, mentally and physically, life is being good to me.  I am learning that people’s thoughts and opinions of me are none of my business.  It allows me to simply be myself and live my best life on my terms.  I am not hindered by someone else’s dark cloud.  That in itself is an amazing feeling.

Sometimes when you see people living life the way you’ve hoped, wished and dreamed you would, you forget that behind the scenes, they’ve worked hard too.  All we see is the end results, we don’t see all that was done leading up to them being successful.  What I’ve learned most recently is that time is the answer.  The way I see it, no one wakes up successful and living their dreams.  It takes hard work, time and diligence.  I am coming to understand that now.  Everyone’s obstacles and challenges are not the same.  We all start at different places in our lives.  The key is to not quit.  Yes, days, months and years may go by and it will seem as if nothing is happening.  But, if you keep pushing, attacking your goal a little at a time everyday, success will happen for you too.

I had a conversation with our oldest son not too long ago and he was very much feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with some challenges he was facing.  I asked him a question a wise person once asked me.  “How do you eat an elephant?”  Of course, his reply was, “huh?”  When I said, “you eat an elephant one bite at a time.”  His reply was, “oh, now that makes sense.”  At that point we were able to talk about what he needed to do and how he could organize those things into smaller, ‘bite sized pieces’.  While all of the things needed to get done, they didn’t all have to get done at the same time.

Talking to my kids is always a great reminder to me of all the wisdom I’ve come to know and understand.  I can now pass these nuggets on to them and while I am encouraging them, I am encouraging myself as well.  So, as I am celebrate my birthday today, I am thinking of all I am blessed with, all that God has blessed me to give to others and all that I still have to look forward to.

 

May God continue to bless all of you…:)

Excitement Not Contained

At this very moment, I am sitting in a dental office with our sixteen year old twins.  It is just after 9 am and I have been up since about 5:15 am getting our three-year old grandson ready for his day at school.  From here, I am heading to work where I have a full schedule for which I am grateful to have an intern to cover much of my instruction, and a meeting right after dismissal.  After that, I’m making a stop at the mall to pick up race packets for my friend and myself so that we can participate in a 5K on Saturday, picking up the grandbaby and then straight home to pack up for our son’s football game that is an hour away.

As I am typing this post, I am going back and forth into the treatment area to speak with the dentist about what’s happen with my kids’ dental health.  Of course, these trips are doubled since I have twins back there!  And then there are the text messages between their Dad and me as I do my best to keep him up to date on what’s happening here.

A few nights ago, I sat talking with the twins about my upcoming book signing event.  Our son asked, “when did you have time to write a book?”  I had to laugh and the only thing I could say is, “while you guys are sleeping, I’m up working.”  For the most part this is true.  I do work a lot at night after everyone has gone to bed but I also use moments like this one, where I am forced to be sitting and waiting.  Any moment of still and quiet I can get, I try to take advantage of it.

Using my time wisely is a top priority.  Working two jobs, raising our last two kids plus now our grandson and maintaining a positive, respectful relationship with my life partner takes up much of my time.  My goal is to never short change myself, my work or my family relationships so managing time is important.

With that being said, accomplishing my goal of becoming an author has been so rewarding because it took a while to get here.  I am proud of myself for not giving up when times got hard and it looked like this goal wouldn’t happen.  Yesterday, my publisher/agent called to let me know that my books had been delivered.  I had planned to go home after work to take a short nap so that I’d have a bit more energy prior to picking up my grandson from preschool but when she called I headed straight to her office after work.

Opening that box and seeing my books, I could not contain my excitement.  Wow!  I was actually holding in my hands what I’d been carrying around in my heart and mind for over twenty years.  With the many detours, challenges and unexpected events that have happened in my life it has truly taken me by surprise that I can finally cross this item off my goal list.  The crazy thing is that while I’d always hoped this would happen, this is not the goal I had been putting most of my energy into over the past two year.  I had been working on starting my own business and somehow, in that, the opportunity to publish my book came to light.  Funny how God works.

Over the next few days, weeks and months I will be promoting my book and planning my book launch event.  I am planning to enjoy this ride!  As I sit here think again about my son’s question, I am reminded of how one eats an elephant…one bite (moment) at a time.

 

Dreaming big dreams…

 

Unexpected Change

Well, my life has not been what many people would call normal.  For much of my adult life I was raised in a two parent household.  Both my parents worked, made a good living and provided well for my siblings and I.  We didn’t want for much and we had every thing we needed.  I grew up in a quiet area just outside San Francisco.  We were surrounded by family.  I can remember sharing many birthdays, holidays and get togethers with my family.  There was always food, plenty of deserts, music, card games, domino games and wall to wall people.  My cousins and I ran in and around the house until our little hearts were content or until one of the adults yelled at us to sit our behinds down somewhere.  Yep, growing up with my family had been lots of fun.  Much of that changed when my parents decided to divorce.  My mom would still take us to visit family but It wasn’t the same.

While we were still teenagers ourselves, my sister and I moved into our own apartment.  Crazy to think about it now that we were actually able to do that and Child Protective Services didn’t come along and snatch us up.  So to say that I grew up fast after my parents’ divorce is an understatement.  Even living on our own, I still went to school everyday and graduated with my high school diploma.  I was determined to go to college even though I had no clue how to go about doing that at the time. Eventually, I enrolled at San Francisco State University and was on my way to a degree in business.

After about a year, I became pregnant with my son.  Although graduating from college was an important goal for me, raising my son was my top priority.  Throughout the years, I’ve worked many jobs, started and stopped school more times than I can count, and lived in more apartments than anyone I know.  Eventually, I made it through college, found a stable job and watched my boy graduate from high school as well.  I had done my job as a mom, achieved some of my own dreams along the way and was all set to have a pretty easy going life.  After all,  one of the upsides to having a kid so young was that I was still pretty young after he was grown and gone.

As always, life has a funny way of changing your plans!  However, I truly can’t be upset about this unexpected change because I get to be a part of my grandson’s life in such a special way.  Now, I never pictured myself as a grandparent that would be raising a grandchild but here I am.  While my son and his son’s mother try to work and get their young lives sorted out, they asked if I could help by taking care of my grandson.  Truth be told, my first thought was to say, “absolutely not!”  But then I remembered all of the times my parents, sister and brother-in-law helped me out when I was raising my son.  It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child and my boy needed his village.

So…here I am, being the village and grateful that God has blessed me to be in a position to be able to help, and to be able to have this time with my grandson.  While, it might seem like fun, I have no idea how someone in their late thirties to mid-forties or later could have children.  This has been a major adjustment for me.  I don’t think I knew what tired was until I had a full time three-year-old in my house.  Things that used to take me five minutes to do now take an extra thirty minutes!  I had forgotten how much energy it takes to raise a child.  I am, however, grateful that I don’t have to do this as a single grandparent and that my love is here to help out as well.  As I sit here writing this at 11:46pm, my love is asleep on the couch.  I am wide awake because he took over grandparent duty this afternoon so that I could take a nap.  What was supposed to be an hour-long cat nap, became a two and a half hour sleep session because “you looked exhausted, babe”, he said.

Finding our new normal…:)

Becoming Unstuck

Reading an article today that was poised to encourage women. the writer stated that she feels that if more women weren’t crippled by fear  but had the courage and audacity to pursue their dreams or believed in themselves they could change the world.  While the writer made some great points about women being passionate and driven beings who could accomplish anything they put their minds to, that initial line about courage, audacity and fear made me pause.

I volunteer with a service organization in my community, Soroptimist International of Tampa, that focuses on improving the lives of women and girls.  During the ten or so years I have been apart of this organization I have met and spent time with many women and girls.  These women and girls have come from all walks of life and socio-economic status.  I have learned and grown so much by simply being in their presence.  I am grateful for the opportunity because it opens my eyes and my thoughts to life outside my own experiences.

I have learned and personally believe that women are fearless beings.  Women are intelligent, driven, courageous, passionate and best of all, loving.  All of these things are what makes us great thinkers, business owners, contributors to our communities, mothers, wives, partners and friends.  Women have to endure, change, grow and overcome.  We are strong and resilient.

In response to that article, I would like to respectfully disagree.  I do not believe that women give up on their dreams out of fear or lack of courage.  In my experience, and I think it happens for many women, circumstances and situations change our dreams but I don’t believe we lose or give up on them.  As life happens, many of our dreams take on a different trajectory.  Over time and through experience we find that one thing that has meaning to us.  Often that may not happen until our children are out of the house, we’ve finally completed that degree, or overcome a hardship.  We come into the plan God has for our lives at the moment we are supposed to.

We have the courage and the audacity.  Often what we lack to reach our dreams is resources, guidance or financial means.  All of those things take time.  As long as we are chipping away at it every day, asking the questions and gaining the experience, our dreams will begin to take shape and become a reality.  I want to take this opportunity to tell any woman who is fighting for her dreams, “I know it may be hard and sometimes it seems as if the challenges never stop coming but I believe in you!  You can and you will.  You were made to win!”

Just a thought…:)