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…:)

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…:)

 

Summer of Me Tour

Well, this summer I had nothing but time on my hands.  After about a week of resting and being lazy, I thought it best that I start on some of the many things I’d planned to get done this summer.  I cleaned out closets, scrubbed floors and shower walls, and organized my never ending pile of paperwork.  I even started on the garage.  The operative word in that sentence is ‘started’, because finishing is a completely different word!

Then the fun really started!  I had plans to, at some point in the summer, meet my new grandson and spend some time with my older one.  Somehow, this little trip turned into a mini excursion as I thought about all the friends I’d love to see and spend time with.  I have met and built so many positive friendships throughout the years.  Many continue to live in states where I’ve lived and some have moved.  I miss my friends.  I miss hanging out with them and so I thought, why not?  Since I’d decided that I would drive to North Carolina, I figured it would be just as easy to drive to Atlanta and South Carolina as well.  Mapping out my trip, I began to get excited.  Could I really do this?  Of course, I could!

Leaving my home on June 24th, I stopped in Atlanta, Georgia.  My friend, Lissahn lives there.  She and met about twenty years ago when both of our boys were in Kindergarten.  She is an amazing, fun, and loving person.  I truly enjoy her friendship.  Also while in Atlanta, I had lunch and dinner with my friends Renee and JD.  While we do stay in touch, I honestly can’t remember the last time I’d seen them so it was a great opportunity for us to catch up.

From Atlanta, I headed over to North Carolina.  I knew this stop was going to be a challenge for me.  I miss having my son close to home.  I am definitely grateful that he is not more than five hundred miles away but it would sure be nice to have him and my grandsons here in the Tampa area.  The bulk of my trip was spent with them.  I spent eleven days watching my three year old grandson run through parks, chase butterflies and explore waterfalls.  He is definitely a child that requires outdoor play everyday.  Meeting my one month old grandson for the first time was a true blessing.  I had to tell myself often to lay him down.  Leaving North Carolina was very hard.  I would have loved to have packed them all in the car and brought them home with me.

In North Carolina, I had also planned to see my niece and my friends, Katie and Simone.  Unfortunately, scheduling didn’t permit.  Katie and Simone are friends I met in Atlanta.  Shortly after I moved to Florida, they moved to North Carolina.  The three of us spent a lot of time together and we ate a lot of pizza, which is Simone’s favorite.  My hope and prayer is that I can plan a weekend trip soon just to see them.

My next and final stop was in Beaufort, South Carolina to see my friend and mentor, Denise.  This lady, I met here in Tampa.  After a few moves with her job, she retired and settled back in her hometown.  She and I keep in touch quite often.  Once roommates, we learned that we are similar in so many ways which makes hanging out and finding things to do that interest us both very easy.  In South Carolina, we fed my soul with history tours about West African slaves and their journey to freedom in the Beaufort and Hilton Head areas.  Hours upon hours of conversation brought me back to myself and gave me the clarity I needed to focus on my goals and dreams.

As of today, I have been back home for four days.  I missed my family but I also realize how important it is for me to take time for myself, to do things I enjoy and to be pushed out of my comfort zone.  It is true what they say, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Grateful for my journey…:)

Be Kind

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the following:

Kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate

Generous: showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected.

Considerate: careful not to cause inconvenience or hurt to others.

Fake: not genuine; counterfeit

Genuine: truly what something is said to be; authentic

I’ve been having a hard time with understanding why simply being kind in a situation is so difficult for many people.  In a conversation recently, a friend said to me that she feels that by being kind in a situation with someone she doesn’t really care for makes her fake.  So, to not be fake she, in turn, is just flat out rude or “reading” the person by letting them know she doesn’t care for them.  Personally, I don’t get it. I believe there is a way to say all things in a way that is kind and I don’t think that is being fake.

If you know who you are as a person and you find yourself sharing space with someone you may not particularly care for, what’s the harm in simply excusing yourself and going about your business?

I don’t know.  I certainly do not have all of the answers but it just seems to me that as an educator my work in some ways is counterproductive.  I spend all day teaching my students to accept and respect the differences of others, to hold the door for the person behind them, to keep negative or nasty comments to themselves and to find a positive way to tell a classmate that he or she is getting on their nerves.  Yet, our society, in many ways, seems to be doing the exact opposite of what I’m attempting to teach.

It really bothers me when people tell me I’m too nice.  I don’t think there is a such thing.  When I wake up in the morning I get to make the decision about how my day is going to be.  It is my attitude that will determine how I project into the world around me.  I can choose to be happy.  I can choose to be sad and depressed or I can choose to take each person as they come with an attitude of seek first to understand, then to be understood.  I think if we all practiced a small level of kindness throughout our day, we’d be truly suprised by the positive effect it will not only have on us but also on those around us.

 

John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you 

 

Lend Your Voice

I love this scripture…

Exodus 34:6-7 – And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

I love this scripture because it makes me think. It helps me to understand situations in my life when they don’t always make sense. Exodus 34 starts with Moses being visited by God on Mt. Sinai on the day God wanted Moses to create the Ten Commandments on stone tablets.

Personally, I do not believe that God sits around counting up all of the things we do wrong and then figuring out ways to punish us for them. I believe God loves each and everyone of us and wants the best for us. I also believe that even though God loves us, we have to make our own choice to love him. I believe that sometimes, its our own choices that can cause us misery and pain. Not to say that when we choose to love and respect God that we won’t feel some pain, sadness or discomfort because we will. I just believe that it is not at the same level of intensity.

Choosing a life with God gives us an opportunity to see and handle life’s challenges in a different way. When we learn to handle situations in a different way we can create a life that we love and enjoy. We can be set free. The part of this scripture that grabs me is…”by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” When we choose to do life on our own, I believe we block our opportunity to live the life God wants us to have and that choice can impact the lives of our children and our children’s children.

My mom had some challenges in her life. She didn’t always want to face them or find a way to deal with them in a positive way. She loved going to church and being around people, however, she never personally dealt with her fears, the things that held her mind captive and was the source of her overwhelming sadness. My mom didn’t talk about those things. As with most men and women in her era, my mom learned to be silent, to deal with her hurts and pain in silence.

My mom taught me that same strategy. Now that I know better, I don’t blame my mom for teaching me to deal with my difficulties in silence. She taught me what she was taught and what she knew. I don’t believe for one second that she knew or understood the ultimate toll living in silence would have on my overall being. Yet, once I found my voice, I found my power. Once I learned and understood that the power of my voice would help me to stop the guilty and iniquity of the fathers (and mothers) from visiting my children and my children’s children.

I have the power to stop generational negativity and curses from continuing to run rampant through my family.  By using my voice, I can empower my children. By listening, I can learn how to do things differently and in a more positive way so that my children don’t have to carry the silent, negative burdens of those who came before him.

Silent no more…:)