All or Nothing

All or Nothing

You ever get to the end of the day and feel like you made a lot of good decisions? Decisions that were just right for you?

Today was that day for me. I talked more openly about my writing with people. I spent an hour outside, just walking and talking. Even though there was a chill in the air, I cherished every moment I had outside and not cooped up indoors.

Now I am here, writing this post and preparing to work more on the first draft of my book and another writing project. I am thanking God I asked one of my writing group members to check on me this Saturday to see where I am with my pages.

Which is leading me to another thought: Please don’t underestimate the power of accountability. I sorely need it! One of my goals during #bloglikecrazy in November was to finish my first draft. I know why I set two lofty goals but I also know they were not completely grounded in reality. When I set unrealistic goals, I set a trap for myself. And I fall for it every. single. time.

The “All or Nothing” mentality has never served me well and it only guarantees that something on the list will not get done. In November, it was my first draft. I looked at it but that was about as far as it got. I did not anticipate the everyday stressors, activities, work, and of course I couldn’t have known to factor in hubby’s short hospital stay. However, there is something about me that wants to keep reaching. I think there is a little devil on my shoulder that whispers “This time it will be different. This time you can push yourself to do it all.”

I can at least promise not listen to the lies and do what I know I can do and if sometimes I surprise myself with more, then I will welcome it. For right now, I am happy to dedicate the rest of 2017 to staying consistent with my blogging schedule, working out a few times a week and continuing to work on my first draft with the support of my accountability partners.

I can’t think of a better way to start to say good-bye to 2017 and hello to 2018.

Meatless Mondays: Roasted Carrot, Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

Meatless Mondays: Roasted Carrot, Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

This week, especially after a couple of days of snow, I decided to make a soup as part of our dinner tonight. Hubby found this recipe from choosingchia.com:

Ingredients
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 cups carrots
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 liter vegetable broth
  • pinch of cayenne
  • salt & pepper to taste
""
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a pan with parchment paper.
  2. Chop your sweet potatoes and carrots into medium sized cubes and place spread out of your pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tender.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot on medium heat. Chop your onion and garlic and and add to the pot, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Add grated ginger, sweet potato, carrots and a pinch of cayenne and stir together.
  4. Next add your vegetable broth and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Transfer soup to a blender (or use a hand blender) and blend soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
It turned out  to be amazing. Because of the onions and garlic clove, I barely had to salt and pepper to taste. I also did not have veggie broth so I mixed water with Goya salad and vegetable seasoning and added that to the onions, garlic, ginger and cayenne. I also used 1 tablespoon of ginger instead of 2–it’s all we had left. Hubby told me we already had everything we needed to make this soup so the improvisation was clearly not planned. But that’s ok. Sometimes, that’s how it is and it did not disappoint.
Already excited for next Monday!

Blank Pages

Blank Pages

At writing group tonight, we discussed the doubts that we all face as writers, how sometimes cuddly kittens can masquerade as roaring lions.

This reminded me of one of the books I am reading right now, “You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero. She writes about waking up from “The Big Snooze” when you are ready to take control of your life and relentlessly pursue your goals. She says when we start to attack our goals, there will often be unexpected trials that start to crop up. She even used the example of a woman she was coaching who finally fulfilled her dream of opening up a music studio. Soon after, the studio burned down. This woman was obviously at a crossroads. She could have chosen to wallow in her misfortune or focus on fundraising and rebuilding. She chose the latter and has been an incredible success ever since.

This was one of many examples used to inspire her readers to persist even when roadblocks seem to magically appear. Our roadblocks may never be as dramatic as a burned down building. However, the doubts can set our mindset up to destroy anything in its path and leave us with nothing but blank pages.

 

Social Media Machine

Social Media Machine

As some of you may know, I only joined Facebook last September to engage in the private Facebook group for the School of Greatness Academy 8.0 class.  I also had no Instagram or Twitter at the time. I only had a long abandoned LinkedIn page.

I prided myself on not being part of a social media machine. I was satisfied to read, write, watch TV, go outside to experience the world without documenting it and catch up with friends and family via phone calls, text messages and emails.

I heard dramatic stories of social media drama and addiction. It seemed as if people were moving through the world with their heads cast downwards or upwards in a flattering angle.

I was never one for constantly wanting to be included in pictures. I took my fair share in the days before smartphones but it felt different–somehow more natural. Years ago, I was at a dinner with some friends and it seemed like we could barely enjoy the meal without constant picture taking. I respected everyone’s right to live and document their lives as they pleased so I was never overtly vocal about my discomfort. It was evident that I didn’t love it but I never wanted to ruin anyone’s fun. As I was driving home while they continued their impromptu photo shoot after dinner, I felt a sense of disconnect. Why was I so different?  Why did I even care?

The feelings passed as did the years. When I came to a crossroads last fall trying to decide if I was going to continue my graduate school education or get serious about my dedication to writing, I joined School of Greatness to learn more about goal-setting and pulled myself into a new world. It was apparent that I had been doing a little hiding, weirdly harboring a fear of judgment. I found, like with a lot of other things, you can strike a healthy balance. I slipped into the habit of  catching up with family and friends via scrolling, liking and commenting. It brought both a new sense of connection and disconnection. I experienced great joy seeing how members of both sides of my family and old friends had grown but it gave me a false sense of belief that I’ve really caught up. Unless I’ve had a conversation or seen you in the flesh, you may still seem two-dimensional to me. I have to take responsibility for my part in moving from the two into the three.

Although the realization of false connection rings true sometimes, I welcomed the wealth of opportunity and education that came with sharing my work, travel and the awe-inspiring events I’ve been able to attend. Before I started sharing myself and my work online, one of my greatest concerns was privacy. It still is because I have drawn a line about how much I want to share with the public, particularly with my marriage. I am a firm believer that some aspects of my life should be just for me (and my husband).

I have always been sensitive to the types of people I allow in my life. If someone is known for things like flirting with other people’s partners, lying, speaking to others in a patronizing manner or constantly talking about others for silly things like the kind of clothes they wear, I shut down immediately. Call it instinct, survival of the fittest, The Holy Spirit, intuition. It has served me well. I know they are people (just like me) who are carrying pain and insecurity within them and this is how they choose to relate to the world to avoid the healing work they have to do (Yes, I have watched more than my fair share of Iyanla: Fix My Life). I wish them well but from afar. I do not need to possibly sacrifice my mental health, my relationship and time to keep someone in my life for “their good moments.” I have learned that lesson.

On a positive note, opening myself up to all of those mediums of social media confirmed we are not alone more than ever for me. I see the struggle, the beauty, the triumph, the failures, the uplifting, the laughter, the teaching, the open gushing wounds of the hearts of millions of people. There is hiding and deception but the option not to do so is clear. There are connections and movements.  Even though I have wasted some time in the last year or so, there have been so many gains.. Maybe it’s because I knew the world before it, knew the world with it while I chose not to jump in or maybe it’s because I brought the wisdom of a grown woman to it.

There are no regrets. I have moved past fear to build this site and apply for a fellowship, share my work on these platforms and cheerlead for others on this journey along with me–the writers, the bloggers, the vegans, the wellness seekers, the psoriasis and PCOS warriors, small business owners, my fellow Greats who stepped out on faith to go after scary goals and other Black women who are often misrepresented as a monolith.

I will continue to embrace the mess of the world and carve out my own corner in it with all that is available to me. I will close with a haiku I wrote and posted a few months ago:

19985182_287461098395440_7180888347693285376

What Support Looks Like

What Support Looks Like

Last night, I was going through some files and found a book synopsis I wrote earlier this year. It was 8 pages long and a joy to read. I had such a clear vision of where I wanted my book to go. It provided a short burst of inspiration to keep going and finish this first draft. Next week, I have the entire time off to put in serious hours towards completing it.  Even though there will be hours when I want to throw my laptop across the room or crawl under the covers to avoid it, it doesn’t matter. What matters is being the writer, more importantly the woman, I thought I’d be. The woman who doesn’t waste time talking about it, she does it (she writes about it, too).

I just got back from writing group where I am always reminded of the support I have to become the woman I want to be. I would encourage anyone to look around and take an account of all of the support that is already present in your life. I would bet there is more than you realize, even if it’s just one person praying for you daily living 5 states away or a reader who sends positive vibes your way directly after reading one of your posts.

Or it could be more obvious like the love of your life baking you a vegan apple pie while you were away at your writing group.

Girl Time!

Girl Time!

Yesterday, on See Jane Write’s Facebook page, I saw a prompt asking us to describe our idea of a perfect Girls Night Out. Ideas floated around for a few minutes and reminded me of what I’ve been thinking lately: I haven’t had a real Girls Night Out in years.

Yes, I said it. Years.

Before anyone points fingers or starts pearl-clutching, I have been to plenty of lunches, dinners and events with friends but it’s usually been with one or two of them at a time. It hasn’t been on purpose. Weeks turn into months and months turn into years and before I knew it, I am sitting in a movie theater watching Girls Trip with my husband, laughing but also asking myself like the R&B group 702 in the 90’s: Where My Girls At?

As many of us know, wellness should be whole–physical, emotional and spiritual. Part of the journey should be a commitment to getting together and even better, getting away with your friends. Phone calls, text messages, email and the random lunch/dinner should not be enough. Time away to unwind, laugh and let it all out builds us up and strengthens our relationships. I guess it’s time for me to start planning!

Vote!

Vote!

It’s cloudy and raining and cold. I ate a big, beautiful bowl of three-bean vegan chili and corn bread for lunch and all I feel like doing is alternating between napping, reading and watching old episodes of The Office. And I don’t feel bad doing it right now.

Because I voted.

I left work and went straight to vote. There is always more that can be done to uplift and change our communities: write letters, protest, preach, pray, volunteer, march, form organizations, create art, mentor and donate money but the least we can do is exercise our right to vote.

I am aware that there are those who believe it doesn’t change anything, especially for the most oppressed of this society and to a certain extent, there is truth in that statement.

But if my vote can help to change even one thing…inch an issue forward in the right direction, especially for those with the shallowest of pockets and the least access to quality education and healthy food and air, then I will do it.

I may not change the world but the next time I complain or huff and sigh at the news, I will know I did more than sit on my comfy couch today. I exercised a right that others before me were beaten, humiliated, harassed, threatened and died for me to have.

Grateful

Grateful

I woke up today.

I have a husband I wake up next to everyday who is my partner and the love of my life. When a couple of people told me not to get married, tried to get me to doubt if I could feel alive and married at the same time, I ignored it and know now they were dead wrong. Not that marriage is always easy but we work hard to grow together. We invest in each other’s interests, hobbies and dreams.

I am grateful for my family. We don’t always see eye to eye but we love each other. We hug, kiss and say I love you. My parents raised me to have a world view, to read, to have an appreciation for classic movies, museums, to value travel, education and to have pride in my racial and cultural identities (Black, Haitian-American) without being plagued with insecurities because of my brown skin. My mother gifted me with the introduction to my Christian faith. We laugh and tease, check in on one another and speak our minds, in anger, joy, frustration or love. There is no perfection but it is genuine. They never made me feel like I couldn’t make it out in the world on my own and when I think of all the grown men and women I have known in the past that were terrified or not motivated to forge a future outside of their parents’ home, I say a thousand silent thank yous.

I love my friends, past and present. I am grateful for the people who were in my life. They provided me with life lessons. They taught me what it is to outgrow people and that no matter how much time and effort you may invest in them, they may never do the same for you (and that it doesn’t matter anymore). I also learned you teach people how to treat you through these friendships and my past romantic relationships. They also gave me refuge, laughter, hugs, silly adventures, conversations I never wanted to end and a sense of brother and sisterhood I needed in some of my most uncertain moments. I don’t take those moments for granted and they hold a special place in my memory.  I experienced a growth with the past that has allowed me to treasure the people I hold dear to me now.

I am also grateful for the ability to pen and type words. It is my source of creativity and this past year has taught me it is a well I can draw from that has always been here, even when I chose not to acknowledge it or cultivate it.

I am grateful for self-awareness. It helps me to see who I really am and how I can grow to be better as a wife, friend, sister, daughter, granddaughter, cousin, Auntie, group member and a servant to God and others. There is room for improvement in all of these roles and I am glad not to be living this life blissfully unaware that there is work to be done.

There is much more but I will close with I am grateful for this challenge. It’s Day 5 and it’s forcing me to write even when I didn’t feel like it today, even when I am saddened and fatigued the news of the loss of life yet again.

What are you feeling grateful for today?

 

Keep the Story Moving Forward.

Keep the Story Moving Forward.

Even though I write a lot of non-fiction and lately, have been inundated with a lot of personal development books, my first love is fiction. Yesterday, after thanking God for waking me and my husband up, I grabbed the latest book I am reading:  “The Perfect Find” by Tia Williams. She is one of the authors I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of weeks ago at the James River Writers Conference 2017. I am not ashamed to admit I spent my morning wrapped up in my blankets, getting caught up in the tension and excitement of the story.

The words “keep the story moving forward” have been ringing in my head for a while now and it got louder as I read yesterday.  One of my writing teachers, author Sadeqa Johnson offered similar advice to me during the Pens Up, Fears Down course I took earlier this year. I heard it again at the James River Writers Conference during the Library of Virginia Nonfiction Awards Finalists panel from Annette Gordon-Reed.

Writing has taken a more central role in my life this year so those words do ring true. However, why the volume turn-up right now? As I am writing, I am having an onslaught of realization. Those words have been my theme “song” this year.  I  have challenged myself to do more writing, traveling, confronting of my health, posting, applying, conference-attending and class-taking than any other year of my life. The song is just beginning to build, no deep-throated belting yet but make no mistake, it is audible. With my acceptance of the #bloglikecrazy challenge next month, the commitment to complete my first draft of my novel, starting the process of establishing my business and falling in love with dance again, the vision and the song have clarity.

I have been moving my story forward.

Your turn: What have you been doing to move your story forward?

That Good Sweat

That Good Sweat

Since I wrote about it and I promised I would do it and I talked about it out loud where other people outside of myself could hear it, I went. I don’t mean to sound reluctant. It was just fear..fear of not being in good enough shape, not catching on fast enough, not being able to keep up.

So like I said, I went. I attended my first Afro-Caribbean dance class just as I declared I would in my last post. And it was exhilarating! I probably looked like a scared toddler creeping up to the door but there was no reason to fear. The instructor was kind, immediately asked if it was my first time and welcomed me with open arms.

For an hour, we danced and I felt that good sweat! If you have ever been so engaged in an activity, you don’t even realize you are drenched until it’s time to take a break, then you know of what I speak. I missed letting my body speak the words that have been muted for so long. I loved seeing my joyful, vibrant, moving reflection in the studio mirrors.  I didn’t even think about my psoriasis scars on my arms, not even once.

There was comfort being in a group of people of all sizes, shapes, colors, ages and skill level smiling and popping their bodies and bare feet to the beat. We danced in lines, mimicking our instructor’s movements and enjoyed the eclectic variety of music played. I was on a high doing African-inspired movements to the classic “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J.

I guess there is no need to ask if I am coming back.

There will be no languishing in the dark, underneath the covers this Saturday.

Just dancing in the light.