This past weekend, I went to Vegfest with hubby. It was a cornucopia of vegan soul food, burgers, sweets, Thai and Caribbean food. A friend of mine performed with her belly dancing group. It was a lot of fun and our burgers with slaw and vegan Mac lived up to its delicious promise.
Vegan burger with slaw
Hubby enjoying his gluten free mac
However, I knew this weekend was going to be a last hurrah of sorts. A good friend of mine and I decided to start the #75 hard challenge created by Andy Frisella.
Here are the basic rules:
1. 2 45-minute workouts: at least one of them has to be outdoors.
2. Stick to whatever diet you’ve chosen: no junk food, no alcohol and no cheating!
3. Drink a gallon of water a day.
4. Read 10 pages of a non-fiction/personal development book each day.
5. Take a progress picture everyday.
And if you mess up on even one, you have to start again at Day 1! Intense!
Our lunch was on Friday and we vowed to begin on Monday. So with that in mind, I blew it out this past weekend. But there was one thing I watched that reminded me how important it was to keep this upcoming commitment: Brittany Runs a Marathon.
I may not drink or pop pills but the cholesterol is a bit high and I am not trying to add anything else to the list. I felt convicted to change after my last doctor visit. I am motivated more than ever to complete this and get a clean bill of health at my next appointment in February. By the time the movie was over, I was in tears. I knew I didn’t want to let it be a fleeting moment of inspiration. I wanted the results and the mental toughness cultivated to get there.
So here I am on Day 2. Tired but ready to tackle my second workout of the day. Tired but ready to guzzle the last of this gallon and read those 10 pages.
Wish me luck on the next 73!
When was the last time you set a challenge and saw it all the way through?
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.
A group of amazing drummers led by Elec Simon opened the conference. The energy was electric and instantly reminded me why I come here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Special thanks to my friend, Gina Molinari for graciously hosting me at her home and surprising me with a stay in the hotel.
I finally feel like I have turned a corner. I took a chance and proposed bringing a creative writing workshop to my job. I am proud to say it was accepted and in a few months, I will be teaching. It made my rejection from the residency I applied for much more palatable. I truly believe what’s for me is for me.
This year will also be my third time at The Summit of Greatness in Columbus, Ohio. I couldn’t go last year due to being selected for The Storyteller Project at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Although I have zero regrets about my choice to go to Alabama, I did miss my Greatness community. Everytime I go, a couple of things happen: I come back home with renewed energy to finish a project and I look forward to how we all change and grow the next year.
It’s a relief that I come away with being propelled into action. I never wanted to be someone who loves standing, jumping around, dancing and listening to successful people and then come home to do nothing but listen to podcasts and drown myself only in self-help books and other conferences. I see how easy it would be to get caught up in that world without creating your own but it wouldn’t be worth it for me.
But I am not interested in focusing on what I don’t want.
I want to focus on the fun and love I will undoubtedly experience and how it will drive me to keep taking chances until we all meet again.
The last few weeks I have been absent from my workouts. It started off because of intense pain in my ankles and I slowed down because I knew continuing to push would only make things worse down the road. I was limping around the house and that’s never good.
But I have been feeling better and there has been no visits to the gym, dance class, videos or walks outside.
I am not sure why after being active for so many months that it has come to a stop. I feel static. I can almost hear myself make an excuse as to why I won’t workout tomorrow.
Tonight I was at writing group. We discussed if we fear what would happen if we make it in the literary world. I have to ask myself the same question in regards to my wellness journey.
Is there anything I fear about being on the other side of this struggle? Will writing about it now help me cross back over to where I was only 3 weeks ago?
I’m betting it will. If things are really going to be different this time, then I have to call myself out and pull myself out of the hole I sunk myself into that makes me feel stuck and scared.
I am hoping to look back on these past few weeks as a minor setback a year from now.
I can’t let it determine who I will be a year fron now.
One of my writing goals for 2018 was to pitch an idea once a week to a publication. This week, I decided to really look at how often I was really pitching. I think I have only pitched once or twice. Instead of hanging my head low, I’ve decided to evaluate that goal. Does once a week work for me? Have I organized myself to meet this goal?
When I even take a cursory glance at it, the answer is No.
When I go deeper, I had to ask myself why I have not met the goal. I have been able to keep up with my blogging schedule, publish my first E-book journal, “What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal and Vows” and take writing classes. In addition to the rigor of everyday life, I am aggressively attacking my health goals.
But none of those realities are excuses. I now have more time in my schedule to see how I can start making the time to pursue freelancing opportunities. It’s been a wonderful side effect of writing in my journal every morning. In addition to writing my prayers and gratitude, I’ve also included a to-do list. Writing it down has gifted me with tremendous clarity on the parts of my life I neglect.
Part of this clarity can be attributed to belief. Before establishing a morning routine, I didn’t believe I had time to write and pray just for me. I didn’t “believe” I was a morning person or and I believed I was a night owl. My transition is not miraculous but it is a result of sticking to the habit which created my new beliefs.
I believe I am the type of person who goes to bed early and wakes up early, too.
I believe I am the type of person who makes time for exercise.
I believe I am the type of person who schedules time to pitch editors and other blogs.
I believe I am the type of person who more often than not, finishes what she starts.
I believe I am a child of God who loves and works hard who intentionally makes the time to achieve her goals, has fun and gives herself a break when she needs it.
Tonight, I had the distinct pleasure of being interviewed by Sharvette Mitchell on her radio talk show (www.sharvette.com) to discuss my writing and blogging journey AND…..to talk about the release of my new E-Book Journal!: What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal and Vows.
To say I am excited is an understatement. I have waited to make sure everything came together before announcing the release. The whole subject of vow writing, writing words that are meant to be spoken and helping others have been swirling around in my head for years now. It wasn’t until I was in a coaching session with Sharvette herself did I realize that I was writing a journal all along. My notes were full of questions and prompts and once the connection was made, I was determined to see it come to fruition.
I am incredibly grateful for my husband who ultimately planted the seed, my family for encouraging me and for my God who steadied me when I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing. My faith keeps me lifted. It allows me to see things through and to realize the support I was seeking was there along. I just had to see it through.
So please join me in celebrating the release of my first E-book baby to the world! It is available for purchase on my website only. It is for so many people-men or women writing vows, those planning to propose or those wanting to rekindle romance by taking that all too familiar and hopefully joyous stroll down memory lane in a love letter for Valentine’s Day or anniversary anytime of the year.
You know when something goes wrong right before a big event and you start to believe it may be an omen?
That was me last night. I noticed a thread trying to run away from my sweater so I grabbed a pair of scissors to gently cut it off. I soon realized I had a dull pair of scissors and was doing a little too much to get it off. In a matter of seconds, I not only taken the thread but cut a hole right in my sweater. Seconds before I was about to dash off to the Firehouse Theater to sit on a panel for James River Writers Writing Show: A 2018 Creative Plan for Scheduling, Motivating & Organizing Your Writing Life.
I found another sweater, crossed fingers and toes, said a prayer and went to the panel.
I am relieved and proud to proclaim that my worry was a waste of time. The evening could not have gone better. My fellow panelists, Michelle Mercurio and Evans Hopkins were not only knowledgeable but there was a sense of ease in how we interacted with one another. The positive energy from the audience was palpable and relaxed me right away.
Karen Chase and Kris Spisak organized the evening to a T. Although Kris was unable to join us as a moderator last night, Karen took the reins and the panel went smoothly. We discussed topics like dividing our time, motivation and even our writing spaces. I particular loved Michelle’s powerful advice she gives to her clients to plan how they want their 2018 to end. Evans’ vulnerability was unforgettable as well. He realized how retreating from the world also leads to an absence of material to write about.
The panel discussion flew by and before we knew it, it was time for a quick intermission and the Q&A session. Even though I spent a limited amount of time with the audience members, there was an undeniable warmth present in their questions and our interactions. Even through the blinding lights during the Q&A, it felt like we were all in it together, asking and fielding questions, sharing our stories and frustrations and wisdom gained from our experiences.
What cannot be overlooked or undervalued is the colossal amount of support I received from my friends and husband. I love that I have People. People that can be counted on. People that will show up without barely having to be asked. My husband is part of my People. I am keenly aware that is not everyone’s situation.
There is gratitude. Gratitude for being asked, to being able to participate, for an audience of writers and non-writers alike who seemed to pick up what we were putting down, for James River Writers and for the smile that never left my face.
On Saturday, I was back at Afro-Caribbean dance class. It had been a few weeks because of holiday, cancellations, illness, etc. I was ecstatic to join the group of smiling faces for the last class of 2017. Towards the end of every class, our instructor has us gather in a circle. Some people get out in the middle of the circle and dance while the rest of us clap and cheer them on.
One of the fabulous dancers settled next to me at one point during this time. We were both smiling and clapping at this gorgeous little girl who couldn’t stop herself from throwing herself in the middle and jumping around with her parents. Nothing but pure joy. The woman next to me leaned in and said “We all have a little girl inside of us just like her.”
And that’s when it hit me. I have learned not sit on the sidelines with my writing in 2017 but the woman who used to embrace the center of the dance floor has not made an appearance in a long time. Anyone who really knows me remembers that I may not have always been the first person on the dance floor but I was certainly never the last. If I was feeling the music, that was it. All she wrote. I don’t know if it’s my island roots (Ayiti!) or the fact that my family was never shy about burning up the dance floor when I was younger. Til this day, watching dancers makes me tear up. The type of dance has never mattered to me-belly, ballet, modern, African, jazz, hip-hop. The fluidity, the sharp and precise movements and the grace of the dancer has always spoken to me.
Anyway, after she leaned back and the music continued to pulsate throughout the circle, I found myself drawn, not all the way to the center but away from the sidelines and let the beat find me.
And even if only for a few moments, the little girl inside of me made an appearance.
After tonight, the next time I post here will be on January 1, 2018. So this is the perfect time to share my writing goals for 2018 (some of which are already in full swing).
Here we go:
-Submit work to publications at least once a week
-Complete my E-Book. I have an outline. It’s time to execute.
-Complete my novel. This was on my list last year. I know achieving this goal will be a result of my effort and consistency. No excuses.
-Go to more events as part of James River Writers, our local organization for writers. I went to a Writing Show, their annual conference, a book reading and a salon but I can make time for more.
-Connect with and be of service to other writers
-Strengthen my accountability resources (Be more active in my online groups and with my current writing partners)
-Embrace opportunities to speak about my journey (whether that be as part of a panel, as a speaker or as a podcast guest)
-Read more (2 books a month). Some months I read more, some less. I would like to be more consistent.
-Continue to go to book signings (especially for local authors!)
-Continue blogging 3 times a week.
-Do #bloglikecrazy challenge with See Jane Write again in November! (That challenge stretched me and gave me the idea to incorporate Meatless Monday posts).
-Seek more opportunities to guest post (at least once a month).
-Continue to take writing classes, even if it’s just a one-day workshop.
-Write down my goals daily in my journal!
-Remember to keep having fun! This level of commitment to writing is still technically in its infancy so there is no need to compare my walk with anyone else’s. I love that last year at this time I didn’t have a blog, had never taken a writing class, had only been published on one site, never thought to apply for a fellowship, and did not have a writing group. All of that has changed in the space of one year. I feel like my eyes have sprung open. I am already excited about what goals I will get to post in December 2018.
Happy New Year to all of my readers! I wish and pray for the absolute best for all of you!
Today, we came back from visiting family. After breakfast and gift opening yesterday morning, my parents set off for Texas. Neither of them have ever spent any real time there so they decided to try something new. Hubby and I are the same way. I realize I get that quality from them. Since they have been empty-nesters, I’ve observed them enjoying their life together by taking trips, running races and going to festivals and conferences.
Partly because of their example, it will always sadden me when I hear someone say.. “I’m too old for this.. or I should have done (fill in the blank) when I was younger and now it’s too late.” As long as you have breath in your body, it’s not over. I’m not saying anyone I know lives up to this perfectly but I have been inspired to live this way, even when I have moments when I am full of doubt and fear.
And when those moments come, these questions must be considered: What if the experience presented to you was just for you right at this time? What if you never have the opportunity again?
As we are all aware, tomorrow is promised to no one. So why not now? Book that trip, start that business or blog, write that book or try that new restaurant. Sometimes (and I have been guilty of this as well), it feels like we are just waiting until the next time we choose to put it off. It’s as if we are waiting just to kick the can down the road again so to speak.
I am excited for 2018. Not because I can’t wait to see what happens but I want to see how I make it happen. And that starts now–no waiting for an arbitrary date, no cans to kick down the road.