How My Friends Taught Me to Be Flaky as F*(! … and I LOVE It!

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flaky

I opened my first email account when I was a freshman in college and didn’t start texting until nearly a decade later. I grew up in a rural town so no one used RSVPs – you just stopped by, showed up, or gave your word. I share these things because I learned much of my etiquette around corresponding via email or text messages and the value of RSVPs: 1) much later in my life; and 2) mostly in the professional arena. This timing shaped how I view email, including the form in which I send emails. It shaped what, how and with whom I send text messages. And it absolutely shaped the value I placed on giving my word, verbally or via an RSVP. However, it didn’t take long for me to learn that the same value I placed on these things was not shared by others. I’ve received numerous emails with no greeting or salutation at all – simply a question or statement. I’ve had colleagues who I have a strictly professional relationship with text me late at night or on the weekends. And I’ve more than my share of experience with folks saying they will attend an event and showing up significantly later than the start time or not showing up at all. Naturally, this used to upset me and sometimes it still does, especially when someone’s RSVP requires me spending money to reserve a spot for them. But this last year has taught me get comfortable with being flaky as f*(!.

My new lease on life is in no way an excuse for me to disregard others’ time or my commitment to complete a task. Instead, it has forced me to separate business commitments from personal commitments. No, I can’t wake up and just randomly decide to take a week off from work. But I can decide that a social event I previously committed to attending no longer fits my schedule and respectfully inform the host of the change. On a very minute, but important level this change also allows me to ignore the need to reply to every personal email, text message, or phone call I receive – which is not a practice I exercise as freely in the professional arena. I have friends who reply to text messages weeks later or not at all; family and friends who never check email, much more take a moment to respond to them. The ironic thing is many of these very same people will obsessively text and/or call me if I do not respond to a message from them within what they consider to be a reasonable timeframe. BUT I’ve opted to stick with my new leaf and do as I need, when I need to – especially as I am working earnestly to balance all that comes with finishing graduate school. *Note to all: We are ALL busy juggling multiple things so your level of busyness is not an excuse to dismiss the commitments others have as well*

So thank you to all my flaky friends 🙂 – I’ve learned a lot from you. You’ve taught me that changing my mind, disconnecting from my phone, and engaging with the social world when desired is an act of radical self-care. Thank you!

Seasons Change

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seasons-change

This week I welcomed fall with open arms! After an adventurous, active, and somewhat rejuvenating summer, the end of one calendar season and beginning of the next seemed to bring with it much chaos and shifting in all areas of my life. New arrivals, deaths, sickness, and a whole host of other events happening in my family, friendship circle, and across the globe escorted summer to a frenzied end. And all the same, the new season brings with it opportunities to embrace change, new beginnings, and reasons to celebrate. While I don’t long in any way for a replay of the not so pleasant happenings of the last three months, I am reminded that there were many reasons to smile AND of the beauty in recreating. So here I am here and here we are just a week away from October. Ongoing dissertation stuff, a long awaited weekend retreat, a professional development conference and presentation, in addition to a wonderful group of students who I get to share space with twice a week all linger just around the corner. I’ve been spending more time journaling … a lot more time engaged in leisure reading and quiet time … more nights spent reflecting, reprocessing and rebuilding. I am taking more steps to embrace the new and carefully pack away what is no longer.

Hello Fall! Hello New Beginnings! Hello Opportunity to Recreate, Rediscover, Reinvent, Re-purpose, Renew … Rewrite another chapter of my life’s story. Hello World!

#allsummer16

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All summer 16

This summer has been an incredible one for me! After an intense four years of course work; a year of teaching again; more pounds added on than I care to share; comprehensive exams; getting going with my dissertation; and all sorts of other life events in between, I was exhausted at the start of the summer. However I knew I needed to make some changes for my mental, physical and spiritual health. This post of dedicated to what I did to get my life back this summer ~ enjoy!!!

  1. I started the summer out by changing my eating habits. I knew I needed to get back to meal planning and meal prepping so the start of summer break was a great time to do so. You can read more about my final resolutions here.
  2. I got back to a regular exercise routine. Although I started slow, by the middle of the summer I was working out twice a day two to three times a week. The goal was to retrain my mind and body to crave physical activity and make it my go-to during times of stress versus emotional eating.
  3. I continued my therapy sessions. I have seen a therapist off and on for a number of years now. I believe that therapy is one of the most underutilized resources we have access to. Therapy has done wonders for me during seasons of turmoil, uncertainly of stress, and confusion; this summer was no exception.
  4. I paced myself. I had a long list of things I wanted to do this summer, but I knew I couldn’t do it all! I started small and kept going. Each week I added and adjusted my goals – sometimes I wrote more, sometimes I wrote less; sometimes I exercised more and other times I exercised less. Regardless of where I fell along the spectrum, I kept going.
  5. I made an email adjustment! Up until this summer, I checked email chronically. I receive emails about school, about work, from students, in relation the Board I am president of, and everything in between. Opening my email and seeing 50 emails stresses me out, but I realized that checking email so frequently was also stressing me out so I removed my work email from my phone. Best decision ever!
  6. I learned to tune out. In addition to email, I am usually checking and responding to text messages, looking for updates on social media, and just doing too much. This summer was about me learning to turn my phone OFF, check social media less frequently, and just enjoy some quiet time.
  7. I checked my relationships! Second only to getting my physical, mental, and spiritual health in check was checking my relationships. I realize more and more than I tend to keep in touch with a lot of folks from previous seasons in my life: undergrad, Peace Corps, grad school etc. While some of these relationships have proven to be invaluable, others have continued solely on the strength of memories. This summer – by force – I allowed a few people to become permanent fixtures in my past. Had a series of events never happened, I really don’t think I would have had the courage to separate myself from these people. But thankfully the universe intervened so there you go.
  8. I checked the negativity. Related to #7, I learned that I have to constantly and consciously choose to separate myself from negativity – even from people who I consider to be friends. This summer I chose to honor my peace and take as much space as needed from folks who weren’t doing the same.
  9. I danced!!!!! I love dancing and one of the things I have hated most about my school and work schedules has been not having a lot of time to dance. This summer I took as many dance workshops as I could. I have a FABULOUS time and it felt so good to be doing something else I love doing so much.
  10. While I was checking friendships and checking negativity, I also embraced my friendships that truly are treasures. I spent time with my friends – much needed, long overdue, quality time. I made time for lunches, dinners, and other social outings. It was wonderful to have time to spend time with my friends. It did my soul good.
  11. I learned to honor me. I am who I am. It has taken me a LONG time to accept who I am as I am. I honor that I am a hard worker. I honor that I see MYSELF as my greatest competition. I honor that I don’t give up. I honor the hustle in me. I appreciate how and the extent to which I honor my word. I have learned to not make apologies for any of the aforementioned. This is me and this summer was all about honoring me.
  12. I accepted who I am ~ see # 11 :-).
  13. In relation to numbers 11 & 12, I also spoke up for me! In more than enough instances I could have chosen silence when I felt others had wronged me. But this summer I truly embraced speaking up and advocating for ME!
  14. I made a financial investment in my health. This summer I attended workshops, retreats, seminars, and webinars. I purchased books and whatever else I thought I needed to get my life together. I invested in me.
  15. And finally, I LIVED! School has really taken over my life in more ways than I imagined. Now that my course work is done, I am looking forward to having more time to make my summer practices a regular part of my life. My goal for this summer was to focus on me in such a way that these practices become my new norm. I know it’s a daily choice, but summer allowed me to get a taste of how fulfilling my life can be – even with multiple responsibilities.

My summer ‘16 has been all that I needed and more. Unfortunately it’s over – classes resumed on Thursday and I am back with a new group of eager students <3. Let’s see if I can carry a little bit of my summer along for the ride :-).

It’s My Birthday … and What Happened at the Party!!!

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BIRTHDAY

I met a few friends out this weekend to celebrate my birthday. When I arrived at the venue I noticed that the event was being held in two separate rooms, which I assumed were adjoining. As I walked the corridor following a slew of people, I heard one of the hosts tell a guest in front of me that a particular entrance was only for VIP guests. I kept walking until I approached another open door. Once I walked in, I saw several people dancing, could spot the DJ, and found a place to stand where I could easily move between the dance floor and a resting spot. Once my friends arrived, we began texting back and forth about where to meet. After several failed attempts to locate each other inside the room where I was, I suggested that we meet in the hallway. Once I walked into the hall, I spotted one of my friends coming from a completely different area. I asked her where she was coming from and she asked me the same! Without even taking a look in the room I’d just exited she instructed me to follow her. We walked to a completely different section – near one of the doors I’d passed before – and she opened the door! This room was about 4 times the size of the room I just left with just as many occupants. Oh. My. Gosh. What had I been doing all this time? I danced in the other room and had a good time, but it was no comparison to the room where my friends were! Clearly I was missing out. Here were all my friends in the REAL party room and I was merely experiencing the overflow … at best.

How many times do we do this in life? How many times do we pass a door that is not open to us in the immediate future, only to never return again and see what is on the other side? How often do we settle for overflow or what is good and never made it to the real deal or what is GREAT? This was a lesson for me as I celebrate the blessings of this past year and look forward to another wonderful year of life. In honor of my birthday, I am sharing my affirmations for this year.

  1. I will not be held hostage by myself or anyone else by who I used to be and what I used to do! I reserve the freedom to change gears at any time, acknowledge when my actions don’t match the highest version of myself and change course without any explanations.
  2. I will be selective of who I spend my time with and what I spend my time on, including family, friends and everyone/everything in between.
  3. I will put my health FIRST!
  4. I will live my life as my authentic self ~ no apologies.
  5. I will honor seasons in all things: places, relationships and practices.
  6. I will dance. I will laugh. I will love. I will celebrate. I will teach. I will learn. I will write. I WILL LIVE!
  7. I will practice ongoing acts of kindness and gratitude through service, prayer, giving, meditation and periods of solitude.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME 🙂

Post Hawaii Reflection: These Things I Know for Sure

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HawaiiII

It is just shy of a week since I left Hawaii and I am working hard to maintain the same sense of calm, intention and peace that I felt while I was there. As this semester nears this becomes more challenging so I am taking a few moments to share the gentle reminders I received in Hawaii and what I know for sure at the start of a New Year & season.

  1. I am a late comer to Mike Dooley, but am now a fan of his work and the daily #tut emails. I now know that taking a few moments each day to be inspired is invaluable. A simple email, an affirmation, a meditation or a prayer all go a long way in sustaining my sense of purpose.
  1. For the last few days I have been binging on podcasts by Myleik Teele of #Curlbox. I am usually reading, watching or listening to folks much older than me and attempting to apply their wisdom and insight to my current situations. It has been incredibly inspiring to hear someone my exact age talk about success, goal setting, overcoming challenges and continuing to grow. I now know that I need more of this. Thanks Myleik!
  2. Related to numbers two and three, I now know that I have to indulge in finding new sources of inspiration and encouragement on a regular basis, not just during a break or vacation. I now know that three months is too long for me to carve out time to simply be inspired!
  3. I have to exercise! This is a no-brainer to most, but when my schedule gets hectic my exercise regimen is usually the first to go. Like many of you, I feel so much better and less stressed when I am active. I now know (more than ever) that exercise is a necessity not a luxury.
  4. Alongside regular exercise, I now know that there is absolutely no excuse that is ever sufficient enough to justify eating poorly on a continuous basis. I know better – it is time for me to do better … consistently.
  5. After such a hectic semester last fall, I toyed with the idea of not renewing my license for Crazy Sexy Wellness (CSW). I now know that this is absolutely foolish! CSW is not where I thought it would be when I worked with a marketing professional 7 months ago; I haven’t done nearly what I imagined I would considering my schedule last fall, but it is still my venture. Slow and steady is where we are right now and I am okay with that.
  6. I now know more than ever that my life is purposed and intentional in every way and this is how my time must be spent. I now know that it is okay to honor my feelings about my aspirations in life; there is no need to try to fit in – in places I don’t belong. I now know that honoring me is critical for my mental health and well-being.
  7. In the midst of all this “soul searching” I also have some very tangible and relevant deadlines – finishing my dissertation being one of them :-). I’ve read countless articles and even a few books on the necessity of creating a daily writing practice. I now know that this is: 1) much harder than it sounds and 2) necessary for my success. I’ve created my schedule and am on day six of writing (or reading) for a minimum of 15 minutes each day on something related to my dissertation.
  8. While all of this (#’s 1-8) can be a bit much to stomach on a daily basis, I also now know that I have to remain flexible. Goals change, schedules bend and aspirations are re-imagined. I will be working to remind myself of this.
  9. And finally, I now know for sure – without a shadow of a doubt – that there is no one on this Earth like my friends and I am grateful for this! I was in Hawaii vacationing and visiting a very good friend of mine who I met while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer. We have grown and experienced so much through the years, but she has remained a constant reminder of the beauty of life, how important our decisions are and that dreams do come true. It was a complete honor to be in Hawaii with her for such an extended time and during a new season in my life. I know for sure that I must honor these friendships … nurture them with care.

Monday is the big day! I am back to both teaching and taking class. While I am a little anxious, this last week of vacation has given me time to resettle, create a semblance of a schedule and realign myself in preparation for the semester. I also downloaded Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes to listen to during the commute. I am excited about this moment, tomorrow, next week, next month, next quarter … this year! This I know for sure.

[Repost] Are You “Ghana” Follow Me

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PeaceCorps

My lovely friend who I affectionately call my little sister leaves for Peace Corps in just a few days. Here is the text from her very first newsletter: 

How it all started …

While attending Emory University, I met many individuals who are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. I looked up the organization, reviewed the application and moved on no longer thinking about ever applying! One day at my West African dance class I met my classmate, Sabrina. I asked her why she decided to take the dance class and she said it reminded her of when she lived in West Africa. Sabrina is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and my “cousin.” I gave her the title “cousin.” My friend DeeDe moved to Atlanta, GA, and joined a cultural Meetup group. The organizer of the group, Leslie, is a recruiter for Peace Corps. My Atlanta Grandpa (my classmate Kristie’s father) is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer! I applied November 2013; interviewed Feb. 2014; invited October 2014 & Jan 2014, I received the official acceptance letter!

The beginning …

On February 1, 2015, I will arrive in Philadelphia, PA.  (There are currently blizzard warnings)! Yikes! On this day I will meet the others in my cohort who will also take the journey to Ghana. On Feb. 2, we will drive to JFK and fly on a direct flight (10 hours) from New York City to Ghana, West Africa.  I have packed 2 suitcases to the max (50lbs), one carry-on and my personal item will be a book bag that I will negotiate as being my purse. (I hope that works)! I’ve packed my favorite spices and a 2lb bag of grits. Oh, how I wanted that 5lb bag to go with me! I’ve reduced my clothes down to about 5 skirts, 3 dresses, 2 pair of pants and 8 shirts. Whenever I weighed my suitcase and something had to go, I would take out clothes! I also have my electronics with a solar charger for my phone. I’m not sure of my living conditions yet, volunteers can be placed in areas with no electricity or water to housing with water and electricity when there isn’t a power cut happening! Yes, electricity is not guaranteed even if you have access to it! However, I’m excited and will adapt to whatever circumstance I will encounter.

Love Prevails  

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 LovePrevails2Tomorrow is the first day of February and I find myself asking “where has the time gone already?” Just 4 days after the New Year classes resumed :-/. While I am pleased that this means I will be done by the end of April, it still felt a little premature with me not accomplishing nearly as much during the break as I desired or imagined. Before I knew it, I was back in school, back at work and back to teaching a couple of classes during the week and on the weekends. And likewise, before I knew it the year had just started and I was exhausted already.

What did I do? I decided to treat myself to a spa visit. I decided to slow down a bit. I decided to prioritize my schedule and let a few more things go. I regrouped. So I start the month of February feeling a bit more refreshed. My healthier eating habits attempts have already fallen to the side, but I am getting back on track. Exercising has been good and probably the best that it will be with this semester’s schedule. And love … yes, love has been incredibly wonderful.

If you’ve read my posts for some time, you may have noticed that there are a few things that I never blog about in any explicit terms: work, my family or my intimate relationships. I have maintained this position both here and in other forms of social media not only to protect my own privacy, but the privacy of those that I could potentially write about. Therefore, this post is no different 🙂 – while I will share a few thoughts on love in 2015 they will be in no explicit terms.

Back to the post … so love. Yes, love. I believe that I have always known how important love is; love from family, friends and significant others. And I have also learned that all of these forms are love are needed (at least by me) as I recall various periods throughout my life when I have felt void in one or more areas and the longing that often accompanied these periods. Nearly 8 years ago I became acquainted with love in a way that I’d never known. 3 years ago it was love entangled with anticipation, hope and faith that nearly tore our life apart. 2 years ago I questioned love desperately and began to rethink just what it all meant. And 8 months ago I was reminded of just how wonderful and multifaceted love can be.

Today I celebrate love: the beauty of love; the wholeness of love; the healing power of love; the restoration of love; the comfort of love; the joy of love; the ecstasy of love; the passion of love. Today I am so very thankful to love and be loved by so many others. One month in to the New Year in the midst of so many happenings in the world and my life, love prevails. I love love and am so grateful that love seems to love me just as much.

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