In the Moment

In the Moment

This weekend, Hubby and I attended the Heart Festival at a local meditation center. Earlier that week, I saw two lectures that seemed interesting: The Science of Meditation and Meditation as Medication.

Due to driving and walking a bit further than anticipated, we were a little late but came in on the tail end of the first portion before the introduction of the meditation. I wished I could have heard what she had to say. However, we did get a chance to participate in the meditation which lasted much longer than I expected–at least a half hour.

The chairs were comfy, the room darkened and my feet were bare– a seemingly perfect recipe for a successful meditation. However, my mind and heart raced. I wondered why I didn’t hear more about the science, how long would it actually last and then hoped I would eventually drift off to sleep to tame the pace of my thoughts.

I never did but it got me thinking about being in the moment. During the second presentation, Dr. Dilip Sarkar addressed our short attention spans, the benefits of yoga therapy and shared concrete evidence of improved health of his students and patients. I could have stayed another hour. One thing that stuck with me is his emphasis on achieving a meditative state all of the time. It reminded me of 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without ceasing.

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I understand the spirit of the verse and Dr. Sarkar were asking for the same thing: peace and contentment without the oppression of anxiety and the illusion of control.

After the Heart Festival, we went to a local bookstore for a poetry reading to support my friend Hope’s book “Traveling the River.” It was followed by an open mic where I was encouraged to read a couple of pieces. Normally, if I were to read I would have chosen to wear something different, pieces would have been printed out and read aloud to myself a couple of times.

But I let all of those ideas go.

I chose to be in the moment.

 

A Word

A Word

Last Thursday I went to a book launch for “Traveling the River” a moving book of poetry by my good (and wildly talented friend) Hope Whitby.

After congratulating her and taking pictures as if I was a proud mama, I took my seat and waited for the reading portion of the evening to begin.

A word kept coming to mind as I waited and persisted as Hope told stories of what inspired certain pieces and as she read her work to us. A word kept coming to mind as I took in the beauty of the Japanese artwork around me. A word kept coming to mind as I watched her supporters fill the seats, ready to toast her with cake and champagne.

Deserving.

I have spent many evenings in writing classes with her, around a table in reserved library spaces and cafes listening to her stories and poems and sharing literary dreams. She gave me my first book about haikus and was one of the first people to buy my E-book last year. When I heard she was asked to write this book, the first book by Valley Haggard’s Life in 10 Minutes press, it came as no shock at all. It felt right. It felt as if my friend’s time has come.

When your friend or family’s time has come, you stop and celebrate. You plunk down your money and buy. You gift it.

And maybe you even write a blog post about it.

 

 

 

What I Owe

What I Owe

I know to become a better writer, I must read. I used to swallow books whole the moment I got them, as if I was almost racing myself to see how fast I could finish before devouring the next. Over the last couple of years, I noticed I have slowed down considerably, reading more about books I should read rather than actually reading them. I have written more than I ever have but have also read the least.

This morning, I was reading the last of “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. It dawned on me how much I missed quiet time where I flew through chapters, uninterrupted. It conjured memories of paydays when I lived alone. I would pick up a decadent meal and at least two books from a nearby bookstore and enjoy a night to myself, indulging in flavorful treats  and becoming addicted to new characters.

As part of my self-care, I pledge to revisit that part of myself more often. The woman who takes an afternoon to get lost in another writer’s creation, another writer’s world.

I owe it to myself right now and the writer I will grow to be.

A Brief Look Back

A Brief Look Back

Today is my birthday and I spent it doing some of my favorite things plus taking a brief look back. I walked around with Hubby, spent ample time in a bookstore and ate delicious food. My brief look back was because I did it at my college Alma mater.

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I hadn’t been in 12 years. It was surreal to drive by old dorms and regale Jeff with stories of a time gone by. It was strange to see everything new and comforting to see how some things never change. I almost wanted all of my friends to be here with me so we could laugh at all the same memories.

But the loveliest part was it felt like I was properly introducing an old segment of my life, of me to my husband. A place where I started to grow into the woman he married.

Of all of the places we could have chosen to celebrate this new year, I am glad we chose this one.

It warms my whole heart to look into the past without being stuck there.

 

 

Hip-Hop as News, Mirror and Narrative Art: An Evening with Angie Thomas

Hip-Hop as News, Mirror and Narrative Art: An Evening with Angie Thomas

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of meeting #1 New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas. In addition to her book signing, she gave an in-depth look into how and why she wrote her first novel “The Hate U Give.”

She shone a light on why hip-hop had such a profound impact on her growing up. It appealed to the rebel in her and idolized what she heard and saw on TV. She spoke about it giving a voice to the voiceless and even rapped a few bars from classics such as “The Message” and recited poetry from the late great Tupac Shakur.

What I loved most besides actually getting to meet her was her passion: lifting hip-hop up without completely letting it off the hook, giving us a personal roadmap to writing and publishing her book, and most touching for me was watching how she lit up answering the teens’ questions during the Q &A. I could feel how much she wanted them to hear her and how much she believes in them.

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You can’t fake that kind of passion–not that well. I related to her when she spoke about being a Black girl in predominantly White spaces and the anger that is felt when microaggressions are hurled your way. I was all too familiar with her story of not standing up for herself when she should have. One of the best pieces of advice she gave was not everyone deserves your energy. You try to show them the way. If they learn the lesson, great. If not, move on.

It was a reminder I needed. I shed a couple of tears during her presentation. I could feel her bravery and how much she actually cares about the equality of ALL people. There was so much solidarity in the room as she spoke about justice.

Listening to her made me feel like my Black life matters. She was a voice I could hear. And one I hope to be reading and listening to for a  long time to come.

 

 

3 Tips to Help You Write Your Vows

3 Tips to Help You Write Your Vows

Wedding season is officially here! As many of you know, I released my E-book journal “What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal and Vows” to help people express themselves on the day they decide to propose, get married or even on an anniversary!

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I had so much fun pondering over the prompts, finding inspiring quotes, writing poetry and recalling my own fond memories of the proposal and writing my vows that I wanted to share 3 prompts from my E-book you may enjoy:

1. What did he/she introduce to you? (A new hobby, special vacation spot, favorite book or movie, spiritual practice or sport etc.)

I included this prompt (and accompanying questions) because what your partner introduced you to may have changed not only who you are but may have changed the course of your relationship. It may have brought you closer together and that can definitely be worth including in your vows.

2. What is the most impactful thing they have ever done for you?

I encourage the reader to go deeper, beyond the physical with this one. Your partner wants to know the effect you have had on their life. Never underestimate the power of acknowledgement.

3. What are you looking forward to experiencing as a married couple?

This can be as simple as trips you plan to take, as challenging as the fears you plan to conquer or as life-affirming as the family you plan to expand.

I hope you enjoyed reading these tips. There are more accompanying questions and 12 other prompts you can use in “What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal and Vows” available right here or at https://www.etsy.com/shop/WhatILoveAboutYou?ref=pr_shop_more

 

Haitian Heritage Month Highlight: Kettly Mars

Haitian Heritage Month Highlight: Kettly Mars

Today’s feature is Kettly Mars, an award-winning Haitian poet and novelist. I wanted to feature her for a very specific reason, besides her talent. She worked as a administrative assistant for several years and didn’t begin to pursue her writing until she was in her 30’s. I love that she knew it wasn’t over because she started down one path and had the courage to go down another. She has written seven novels and several poetry and short story collections including young adult. She writes in French but her work has been translated into Kreyol, English, Italian, Dutch and Japanese.

 

My hand and the stone (as translated by Alexander Best)

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My hand and the stone,

sage rebellion of noble particles

gripped in my palm.

I’ve made my own her reality:

grey, heavy, oval.

Millennial stone

whose cry

lays claim to nothing other than a

defiance of oblivion.

 

A Weekend of Writing

A Weekend of Writing

This past weekend I went to a couple of events for Richmond’s Lit Crawl. I participated last year and was excited to support fellow writers sharing their work from a multitude of genres. I also had the treat of attending a special interview featuring writer, director and producer Iris Bolling at the Black History Museum as part of their Inside Out Series.

My first event was the Friday evening Lit Crawl event at Valley Haggard’s Life in 10 Minutes. Since I read as part of Life in 10 Minutes last year, I was anticipating supporting the writers this year. The variety of styles and perspective was nothing short of spectacular. I love walking away from a reading, ruminating about a somber moment in a piece or chatting about the humor and animation of a writer’s delivery. They should all feel incredibly proud of the work they produced.

Saturday morning started right with the Iris Bolling event. Inspiring is an understatement. Hearing her speak about how she started writing (being frustrated with the state of government), turning her books into movies and doing it all without established connections in the film and publishing industry was astounding. I was telling Hubby that I can think of no one in our local area with that kind of resume and gumption. One of the quotes that made me smile upon hearing was: “You never know what people are willing to do until you ask.” It resonated with me because while trying to grow my writing career, it’s something that hasn’t always been easy for me but I found it’s a necessity. Essentially, submitting is asking and asking a group or a friend to read your work leaves you vulnerable to “No” but it is an ask to make you better.

“You don’t have to wait for someone to green light your dreams. Green light yourself into dreams.”

She also  stated that she loves opening doors for people. Ms. Bolling even holds Green Light sessions at the local libraries to help budding authors and filmmakers. The spirit of giving is alive and well in her but she emphasized that she wants the information and experiences she gifts to be tools for self- empowerment. “You don’t have to wait for someone to green light your dreams. Green light yourself into dreams.” I walked away from that session feeling a little more in control of my writing destiny.

 

After a quick stop at Richmond Wellness Center, Hubby and I made our way to another Lit Crawl reading the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The subject was social justice.

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The writers pictured L to R: Jack E. White, Stacy Hawkins Adams, Robin Farmer and Michael Paul Williams

 

In the midst of times such as these, I was ready to hear every bit of what they had to say. Even though they read a variety of work from Op-Ed pieces to excerpts from their fiction work, I noted that a lot of their pieces and commentary weaved in Christianity’s role in civil rights, too.  Since there was time left after the readings, there were several questions that kept the conversation lively about Richmond’s outdated and offensive monuments (and the timing of their erection) and how children are educated about slavery and civil rights. As they read, I found myself feeling a bit angry about some of the things that simply haven’t changed but grateful for the conversation it spurned.

Events like Lit Crawl and the Inside Out series at the Black History Museum are supposed to inform, inspire and bring awareness about the vibrant literary community here in Richmond.

Job well-done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open

Open

I have found the more I move towards what I’m supposed to be doing–writing and focusing on achieving my wellness goals through plant-based eating, the more help I receive. I know there are some who advise to keep your dreams a secret but reaching out to others has been life-saving for me. I would never say not to be careful about naysayers or people who claim to “support” in word but never in action.

Although I have definitely run across people like that in my life, I have seen that it has been more worthwhile to keep opening myself up to people. In general, I think it makes people feel good to support you by buying your books, coming to your events and sharing ideas contributing to your growth. For the people who don’t, I think it’s best to wish them well and let those people fall away in their own time.

I keep finding with those who truly supported me, it revealed their character to me. It seems when you reach milestones in life, people either rise up and  support you or find a way to fade into the background. I have experienced some sadness but overall, when I started blogging  and then wrote my E-book journal, I experienced so much growth that it was worth a small amount of pain.

So I vow to remain open. Open to people. Open to help. Open to contributing to others’ successes.

When it comes to this, I believe there is no such thing as going it alone.

 

 

Relatability

Relatability

I recently read “We’re Going to Need More Wine” by Gabrielle Union and I am well on my way to finishing Chrissy Metz’s new autobiography “This is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today.” I enjoyed reading both books and one of the most powerful reasons for my enjoyment is the following: Relatability.

I know our society talks a lot about “authenticity” and “keeping it real” or “keeping it 100” but a lot of that conversation gets confused with oversharing or saying so much we end up not saying nothing at all.

Both of these books struck a chord with me. Yes, there were personal stories and moments where I felt like I was in the room with them as they were recounting their stories but I also felt like there was other stories that the reader will never be privy to and that is more than OK with me.

When Gabrielle spoke about the PTSD she still has regarding her rape or when Chrissy spoke about forgiving her stepfather for his physical and verbal abuse, I saw women who had done the work to push past the fear of sharing their stories because they knew the healing that could come from its release.

I found myself nodding as I read along. I could relate to some version of their lives: the rejection, things not always going according to plan (whether it turned out to be for the best or not), the insecurities, not fitting in, past relationship woes, standing up and standing out.

I believe readers can see themselves in the triumph and the perceived failures of Chrissy and Gabrielle. I know I did.

There were many takeaways intended for the reader but as a writer I took away a few key things:

  1. Your story is not over. As a writer/blogger, I have found that while I keep posting, submitting work, networking and taking classes, it’s easy to get impatient. When will I catch a break? Both Chrissy and Gabrielle weren’t born into show business. Both of them had to put in consistent work with no guarantee that their star would ever rise. As writers, I believe that is something we should never forget. Stay consistent. It’s not over until you say it is. And you say it is or it isn’t by your actions. You’re writing or you’re not. It may not be easy but it is simple.

2. Believe in yourself. Even when it feels like no one is reading, no one is watching or no one else even cares. If you don’t, who else will? People are attracted to confidence even if you have to fake it a little through the struggle. Sometimes, I am clinging so hard to this it feels is as my knuckles will burst through my skin. If God planted this affinity, this love, this all-consuming need to write within me, there has to be a reason, even if I don’t know what it is yet.

3. Do not be afraid to share yourself with the        world. After I read both works, I applauded      the gutsy nature of both of these         powerhouse ladies. I admired their humor and willingness to quiet the chatter of what other people say and let their voices be heard. As writers, as hard as it can be, there is undeniable value in telling the truth. It may manifest as ugly, scarred and heartbreaking but it deserves to be read in our novels, blogs, essays, poetry and short stories. We only have one voice.

Why silence it?