The Kind of Writer I Want to Be

The rest of my year is shaping up to be full of writing activities, time with family, work and moving regularly. I am actively exploring Kemetic Yoga and dancing around in my own house for these options. I also decided to spend more time reading. One of my current reads, “Rockaway: Surfing Headlong Into a New Life” is about a 40-something journalist and divorcee who challenges herself to become a surfer. It reminds me of my goal to continue competing as a Strongwoman. This is no surprise as reading has always made me want to dip my toes into worlds I have yet to explore be that with travel, athletics or activism.

I have a tendency to pile on but letting reading take me somewhere else never leaves me feeling like that. It inspires me to write better, look for the detail and cultivate understanding. I attended James River Writers Conference over the weekend and served as a ShopTalk expert with the topic “How to Own Your Story: Getting Your Truth on the Page.” It was invigorating to listen and dispense advice to other writers and part of me wished I could jet off to the future to hold their finished works in my hands.

Right before my first ShopTalk session on Saturday morning

We were told at the conference that being a literary citizen is writing, reading is writing and good conversation can be writing. I believe this to be true because when I am engaged in any of these things, I find spirit lifted and I feel nudged to get to a pen and jot these experiences down.

I am hosting the second session of the virtual open mic poetry series “From the Page to the Mic” with Henrico County Public Library this Saturday and the last on November 13th. I am attending a showcase at my sister’s pole studio next weekend and an author’s signing in December. I will be bending, stretching, dancing, writing, reading, listening, supporting and watching others’ art. I can’t think of a better way to grow into the kind of writer I want to be.

Year 4 of Bloglikecrazy

Today is Day 30. The last day of bloglikecrazy challenge. As predicted, there would be times where I didn’t feel like it or I was grasping at straws to find just the right thing to write. As I promised myself at the beginning, there was no beating myself up if I couldn’t finish this or anything else.

At the beginning of the month, I started Miracle Mornings, rising just before 5am to learn more about morning routine, entrepreneurship and exercise. I realized I was left a mess on most of those mornings and gave it up halfway through the month. I have no regrets. I acknowledge my limits and abide by them.

I also had a rough draft to turn in. I did and although I have plenty of work and writing left to do, that first part is over. I also led a self-care workshop for co-workers and am in the midst of planning my first community workshop for this weekend.

Some of my greatest joys from this month came this last week from an invigorating walk, seeing my family over Zoom and a couples Zoom game night with my sister and her husband. I remembered how much I loved our game nights in their kitchen. My sister can attest to me being a little loud (especially when I win) and competitive but all in good fun.

I rejoined the See Jane Write Collective. The virtual write-ins were integral to me getting work done on pieces I hadn’t fully developed yet. I also had a post inspired by a podcast interview with Lewis Howes and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Jericho Brown, “Make a Plan”, retweeted by the poet himself!

December will bring lots more work, classes and aching to see my family. I am not even mentally prepared to be without them on Christmas Day. My husband and I will have to start our own special traditions.

Each year, I ask myself if I will participate in bloglikecrazy again. I always end up saying yes. November becomes my month to pay closer attention to the wisdom I hear, the beauty I see and the love inside and around me.

I get to walk through this process with See Jane Write sisters. I learn about their traditions, families, businesses, art, healing and passions over 30 days. It doesn’t leave me with much of anything to say “No” to. I am proud to say year 4 is done and year 5, I look forward to you.

What I’m Excited About

5 Things I’m Excited About:

  1. Time off the next few days without the expectation of going to work, a class or a meeting. I have days off but I regularly schedule appointments, meetings and errands. The only thing I am committed to is posting here until the end of the month.

2. Time to read. Octavia Butler’s “The Parable of the Sower” and “The Parable of the Talents” have been on tables and nightstands throughout my home. Started and put back down to write, sleep, work and binge watch to unwind. I am a better writer when I read and also far more inspired.

3. Taking a few more bike rides before it gets too cold. We haven’t out on our bikes in a while and I want to get back out there. I don’t believe I have ridden my bike through fall leaves since I was a little girl. I am looking forward to doing that again.

4. My upcoming workshop “Get Lifted: Using Music and Poetry to Find Your Light.” I keep finding songs and poems that seem perfect for it. I am hopeful listening, writing and reading aloud together will produce an experience that actually leaves us lighter and ready to try it again.

5. Seeing my family over Zoom tomorrow. It’s been a few months since we have all seen each other at the same time virtually and in person, years. COVID-19 has taken away so much but it cannot take this.

Halfway Once More

A few minutes ago, I sent the first rough draft of my chapbook off to my publisher. I also connected with a talented artist friend of mine who will work on the cover. I know there’s plenty of work to do but getting this step done, pressing send at this point lifts a bit of the weight. It is fitting that halfway through bloglikecrazy, this part is finished. I made sure the load I was carrying never felt too heavy. I took advantage of the time I had at Miracle Mornings, weekends and a designated writing session with the See Jane Write Collective to get here.

I also have time to reflect on what many consider a big birthday. Tomorrow, I turn 40. I am currently not allowed to peek at our guest bedroom because there is supposed to be a surprise waiting there for me. I have the day off of work. I get to sleep, snuggle with my husband and be grateful to celebrate, even in a pandemic when I am missing my family.

Compared to most of the internet, my idea of celebrating my birthday is low-key at best. But outside of wishing I had a group of close family and friends to safely gather and watch me struggle to blow out my candles, I am happy. I can wait until next year. Maybe by then, I will be flying away from home, ushering in 41 with a new stamp on my passport.

What I Took For Granted

During a (socially distant) outdoor get-together a few days ago, a friend and I talked about what we missed about the pre-COVID-19 world. As we were talking, it quickly turned to what we had actually taken for granted.

  1. Going out to eat indoors at a bustling restaurant. I haven’t gone out to eat anywhere since March–even outdoors. I always enjoyed the occasional long lunch or dinner with my husband or friends. It was our time to shake off the cycle of going to work, coming home, watch TV/read/workout and sleep. I even miss looking over at other tables to see what they are eating, the clang of plates, forks and knives and the multitude of aromas floating from the kitchen.

2. Concerts. I hope I never say “I’ll see him/her/them next time they come” because now I don’t know when “next time” will be. The energy of singing along and rocking my body to a live performer in an arena or club with other fans is the kind of connection I miss sorely. It cannot be duplicated online.

3. Travel. I know some are masking up and taking the risk to fly but that isn’t for me right now. All those times I searched for flights to London, Ghana, to go back to Aruba but dismissed it, just knowing we would go later now seem like missed opportunities. I know there will be a time where it will be a safe reality again but I really didn’t know what I had until it was gone.

4. This one is big for me–time spent with family. All of my immediate family and cousins live hours away from me and out of state. Since my household is immunocompromised, taking the risk definitely isn’t worth it. There is an ache within me I know will only be soothed when I get to see, hug and kiss them safely again. If I could go back in time, I would have been in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, New York and Florida more often and never put it off because I thought the time would always be there. This virus has even taken away my husband and I being able to safely pay our respect in person for the loss of my beautiful Auntie in New York. I took for granted that I would see her again at another family function, a familiar and loving presence.

5. The feeling of safety. As a Black woman married to a Black man in America, safety isn’t always a guarantee but I never imagined the feeling of security would be robbed from me in this way. No one did. I can take all the precautions I want but if I don’t feel safe, it doesn’t matter. I won’t have peace.

Nothing is worth sacrificing my peace.

All I can do is watch and wait and work, connect with who and what I love and breathe.

And forgive.

Forgive myself for taking these small pleasures and great joys for granted.

Keeping my Promise

I missed my Miracle Morning session today. Some version of me woke up at 4:45am, shut off the alarm and passed right out.

I made a promise to myself that if I missed a day of anything (even bloglikecrazy), that I wouldn’t treat it as if the world has suddenly come crashing down on me. I am going to keep that promise and focus on what I feel grateful for today.

  1. Being able to sleep a full night. That is not always possible for me but especially not the last couple of days. Between anxiety, general restlessness and the state of the world, I tend to let my thoughts run me ragged until consciousness gives way for a few hours. Even with prayer. Even with deep breathing. Even with counting as if I have a residency on Sesame Street. Last night was peaceful and my journey to sleep was swift.
  2. My self-care writing session with my co-workers yesterday. Saying yes to vulnerability and the willingness to express how they combat loneliness were acts of bravery. I was facilitating but it was still one of those experiences where you say to yourself: “I got to be in the room for this.”
  3. Receiving a picture of my precocious and beautiful niece, masked up and ready for socially distant kindergarten. I am sending all of the “Auntie loves you. Auntie is proud of you” vibes I can.

Maybe there should be more but that is all I want to recognize today.

Even finding one bit of joy is enough.

An Offering

I don’t want to talk about me.

I want to talk about her.

She is mother’s mother

Matriarch and Patriarch

She is ancestor.

She is mortar and pestle on the kitchen counter.

Mayi moulen simmering on the stove

Floral and paisley painted on her skirts

Chanel lingering on her skin

Morning stretches in a pink mumu

Gazing at the miracle of Mother Mary on the wall, clutching her rosary.

She is a survivor who crossed oceans so the world could see

Her.

Throwing her head back while laughter and music floated from her throat

Joy unearthly

And we are tiny hands massaging her feet during Dallas and Falcon Crest on Friday nights

And sitting between her legs as she greased, parted and braided many a crown.

She is slicing with deft hands, avocado as an offering to us. 

the shape of her mouth as she said Ah-vo-ca-do

Haiti never left her.

Her presence made brothers and sisters out of cousins.

Her essence made brothers and sisters out of cousins.

She rests.

And I offer

These words to her.

Athlete Ready?

This past weekend I became a Strongwoman. I may have always known there was an inner strength but I unveiled a woman that was physically strong, too.

My gym hosted a Strongman competition. There were many classes (light and heavyweight women and men, master’s men and women, novice men and women which was my category). I also found out we had fitness trainers among the competition which made me proud that people like me who don’t work in the fitness industry could hang and in some cases, beat those who do.

I had my husband, friends and family there to cheer me on which besides the friendly and vibrant Strongman community, was the best part. They knew and understood my investment –the time, the money and the conviction it took to believe I could do it. It would have not been as special without them.

There were five events: the log press (65lbs lifted repeatedly overhead for a minute), the deadlift (my favorite starting at 125lbs–met my goal of 315lbs), the husafel carry (carrying a 110lb iron tomb-shaped structure 100ft), the hand over hand sled pull (pulling the sled 50 ft across AstroTurf while sitting in the middle of a tire) and the sandball toss (for my class, throwing a 10lb, 15lb and 20lb over a 12ft caution tape in the fastest time).

I placed 4th in log press (16 lifts), 1st in deadlift, 3rd in husafel (16.77 seconds), 5th in hand over hand sled (I lost my balance and fell out of the tire but I was 2 pulls away from finishing before getting back in to complete it) and 2nd in the sandball toss (15.65 seconds). Overall, I finished 3rd!

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I am incredibly proud of entering the competition, daring to see myself as an athlete, grateful for pushing past fear to recognize my body’s ability and of course, for medaling my first time out.

If you had told me six months ago I would be standing in a gym, hearing someone ask “Athlete ready?”, I would have definitely thought you couldn’t have been talking about me.  But there I was standing in a gym, with chalky palms, bruised forearms, broken nails,  sore arms and a genuine smile feeling more like myself than ever.

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At 315lbs! Adrenaline rush is real! Could have pulled more but this was my PR.

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Day 74

I am spending time with family. I often wish I could bring all members of my family together, in-laws and all. But I am grateful for the faces I see today and not even feeling the slightest hint of bitterness about what I have left to do to complete day 74.  One more workout and a few ounces of water left will have it all done.  Since I am sitting passenger side and on the way back home, I am keeping this short. I don’t want to miss many more moments.

Day 75 tomorrow!

Summit of Greatness 2019

Last weekend, I made my way to Columbus, Ohio for The Summit of Greatness hosted by Lewis Howes. This was my third time in attendance (had to miss last year due to The Digital Storytelling Workshop at the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa).

And it was my best time.

Not because any of the other speakers weren’t impactful or powerful (they absolutely were) or that I didn’t make beautiful connections (without a doubt I did). It’s because I could truly enjoy the experience by myself. No one has ever held me back but I did hold myself back when I attended with others.

Even when I had a couple of pangs of loneliness, they quickly went away because I knew it would be just a matter of time before I would strike up a conversation with a stranger who would soon become a friend.

The Summit started with a welcome party at the Columbus Commons. I got to reunite with old friends and meet a few new ones. One of the more notable parts was a tent devoted to crafting instant poems based on the word of intention for the weekend.

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Ready for Day 1!

A group of amazing drummers led by Elec Simon opened the conference. The energy was electric and instantly reminded me why I come here.

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The first speaker was renowned singer Leann Rimes. Apparently, it was her first speaking engagement and her vulnerability was palpable. She spoke about the isolation of fame and her growth. She sang a beautiful song and led us all in a chant:

I am human.

I am holy.

Grace renews me.

It’s love that guides me.

The vibration and the spirit in the theater left many in tears including me.

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The next speaker was Ed Mylett. His idea of hell: meeting the person you could have become at the end of your life. This concept is not a new one to me but his phrasing was exceptional. He called it “chasing his twin.” He was unapologetic about his faith but at the same time inclusive of everyone and exuded humility. He seemed to be the perfect person to seek advice from for my future students at the nonprofit I work for. I took a chance and sent him a message. I was right! He sent me a voice message with wonderful recommendations and I will be eternally grateful for the time he took to send it.

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Kyle Cease was up next. He had a few messages that resonated with me but his emphasis of staying in the now was particularly impactful for me. Learning to embrace it is a non-negotiable for me as Hubby and I navigate life post health scares.

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Jesse Itzler, former rapper, serial entrepreneur and endurance athlete delivered an impassioned speech urging us to inject more adventure into our lives. He compared life to a bus that never stops and does not go in reverse. At 51, he completely rejects the notion of being “too old” and is smart about the risks he takes.

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Day 1 was great but I needed to take a minute to power down afterwards before heading to North Market for the Friday social. I loved on old friends I only get to see at Summit and was inspired by new ones. There was even a mural by Ruben Rojas painted representing our community.

Day 2 proved to be massively inspirational and incredibly fun! Marisa Peer’s message of “I am enough” and teaching us not to criticize ourselves was powerful. Our thoughts listen and execute the stories we tell about ourselves.

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The R&B group Final Draft performed for us. They were amazing and had great command of the stage. Dr. Alaa Murabit was incredibly impressive. She is a UN Commissioner, a doctor changing the world with her peacekeeping efforts. She graduated high school at 15, medical school at 21 and is only 29!I loved how she stressed that we should listen to all leaders of all ages. Heed the wisdom of those that came before us. Figure out what went wrong before, what was missing and execute from there. She said that a leader is not someone with a lot of followers. It’s someone who creates other leaders.

Stephan speaks offered us sage advice about relationships. I agreed we should be telling each other what we want and need specifically and the power of a written letter. Also, we are not responsible for anyone else’s healing. It was wonderful to see Lewis honor his team, volunteers and highlight Pencils of Promise and the hundreds of schools built all over the world.

In-Q closed out the conference with his soul stirring poetry. There was also a special video from Sean Stephenson. He recently passed and his message to love our bodies, love ourselves was the perfect note to end on. The closing party was a blast and the return of DJ Irie did not disappoint. I danced until I ached. I wouldn’t have it any other way. After a couple of hours of sleep, I was at the airport, reeling from the weekend. On my layover in Philly, I ran into Elec Simon who was just as gracious and personable as he seemed on stage.

It’s all over until 2020.

So what now?

I found that when I was the most engaged, it was with people who travel, seek adventure, take action and are creative. In addition to hitting my fitness and writing/teaching goals, I want to create my own (mostly) solo adventures.

That part of myself has been slightly repressed over the years due to letting myself become distracted with work, relationships and a bit of good old-fashioned laziness. Realizing it was painful but it is a box I don’t have to stay in.

I can tell myself a new story.

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Special thanks to my friend, Gina Molinari for graciously hosting me at her home and surprising me with a stay in the hotel.