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. 🙂

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…

 

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…:)

 

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 

 

My Why

So…one of the things I absolutely love to do is listen to positive, uplifting messages. I heard it said by Les Brown that when you are working toward being successful and living your best life, you must know your why.  What are you working toward?  What makes you want to get up in the morning and strive for your goals? Why are you doing what your are doing?

This past week I had the great fortune of spending six blessed and exciting days in North Carolina with my son and three year old grandson.  Each day was an adventure.  We visited local parks, chased waterfalls, hiked, had lunch at Lake Lure where Dirty Dancing was filmed and spent hours exploring small towns.  For me, of course, the days went by too fast and my time spent with them was too short.  However, to say that I am grateful for my vacation is the understatement of the year.

 

My boys are amazing!  My son is still the best kid I know.  He’s always been kind and loving.  Such a tender-hearted young man.  My grandson, well he is much like his father at that age.  I don’t think I’ve seen that kid walk.  He loves to run and explore. His favorite place to go is the park because he already understands that at the park he can run himself until he can no longer feel his legs.

I don’t think there is anything I wouldn’t do to help either of those boys to succeed in life.  My hope is that I was able to give my son the best parts of me so that he is able to give that and more to my grandson.  They give me life.  They give me air.  They help me to remember what’s important in life.  They are my “why”.  Anything that I will ever accomplish in life will be because of them, the future I wish to give them and the legacy I wish to leave them.  Because of them I will never stop driving, I will never stop pushing and I will never give up.

 

Living my best life…:)