Thursday, May 28, 2015

Down in the Dumps

No one ever likes to admit when they're under the weather....down....or the taboo word "depressed." For the last month, there have been more rainy days than sunshine and it has made me down. It sucks to feel down when you are usually an upbeat and happy person.

Life isn't always cheerful. In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that in order to appreciate joy, one has to get acquainted with sorrow.

I just spent the last 30 minutes belly ache laughing at a facebook post and it inspired me to write this blog post. Yes, good old fashioned laughter is really the best anecdote for the blues. Communicating with people who make you laugh, reading a funny book or watching a comedy is a sure way to make you feel better; if even for a short period.

Some other ways that I have found help lift my spirit when I am down include:

1) Wearing bright colors or fun prints. Walking into a room with bright colors on or a whimsical print is an instant mood lifter and may even invite welcome comments on your attire. People tend to dress in dark colors when they are depressed or when it's cold so why not dress colorfully and reflect the mood that you want to attract?

2) Surround yourself with light. Sometimes literally. Sitting in a dark room is depressing in itself. Light some candles or turn on some bright lights. You will notice that the room ambiance changes when you let some light in. Open the blinds if the sun light is out for natural light.

3) Buy something that makes you happy. It doesn't have to be extravagant or fancy. Simple things like gummy bears, fresh cut flowers or lemons for homemade lemonade make me happy.

4) Create your happy space in your home. Find a place in your home and make it your happy space by adding a comfy blanket, framed photos of your favorite memories, a few good books, mug warmer, etc. Only utilize this space when you truly want to relax and be happy. Don't use this space t sulk or cry because now you won't associate it with happiness. I retreat to my daughter's room (she's away at college) and read in her bed which is by a window.

5) Write your thoughts down. Keep a journal when you are feeling depressed. It will help to get the feelings OUT of your thoughts. One day when you are stronger, revisit your journal and measure how far you've come.

Rainy days are no fun. There's always a calm after any storm. And if you look hard enough, you may even find a beautiful rainbow.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Mom In Action

Yesterday on Mother's Day, I witnessed a heartbreaking incident while picking up my dogs from a boarding facility.  There was a young woman who appeared upset and unnerved standing at the counter recounting the night before.

Even though I was out of state, I was well aware that my area had undergone severe weather. The young woman forgot to let her 14 year old dog back into the house and the dog remained outside overnight in the storm. She had brought him into the 24 hour clinic because he had gone into shock. My heart sank when the conversation changed to the possibility of putting the dog down.

The boarding facility attendant was a bit unsympathetic (perhaps passing judgment) so when she walked away to ask the vet a question I turned to the woman and said that I was sorry that happened and that I hoped her dog would make it. She started crying and said that after working 14 hours, she simply forgot to let him back in and added "I know. I am a horrible human being."

I felt terrible for her. I tried to reassure her that she was human and that mistakes happen in life. The attendant came and took her back. On my way out, a woman ran in and frantically asked where her daughter was. "The one who left her terrier outside?" It was evident that the mother rushed up to the clinic to be with her daughter.

As I walked to my car, I smiled and said "THIS is motherhood. This is what GOOD mother's do." We rush to our children's aid; no matter their age and we want to be by their side in the dark times.

I sure hope her dog made it. As someone who has lost a dog unexpectedly, I know how devastating and hurtful that can be. I've thought about her off and on since it happened. I was able to sleep a little better knowing that regardless of the outcome, she had her mother there to comfort and console her through her own personal storm.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

2007-2015 Still learning and surviving

I spent this weekend celebrating my 8th year in remission from stage IIIA triple-negative breast cancer. In normal fashion, I got together with my closest friends and had a grand time. Several of my friends who shared my special days are also cancer survivors and I draw from their strength, humor and zest for life.

Since my diagnosis, I have learned that being in the company of people who not only support you but make you laugh and bring out the best in you is VITAL to my well being and happiness. I no longer stay in relationships that have toxic dynamics no matter the affiliation (family, employer, neighbor, etc.) Once you literally fight for your life, it's easy to walk away from circumstances. You didn't stare death in the face to stare at the enemy daily.

Every year that I reach another milestone, I sit back and honestly reflect on my progress emotionally, spiritually and physically. It's always hard for me to address my flaws and shortcomings but if I truly want to grow and continue to be well, it is a task that must be done.

So, with that said, over the past year, I have succeeded and I have failed. And I'm okay with that. I branched out and made new acquaintances-some were fun company in the moment and others will be around a lifetime. I'm trusting my discernment more. I've learned to set boundaries of how I will be treated and what I will reasonably tolerate. I've embraced a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise and I have my husband to thank for that. I've accepted the fact that my four legged friends are an important part of my daily life. And most importantly, I've learned that anyone who takes the time and energy to belittle you, mistreat you or make you feel inferior is already aware of your greatness. After all, why would they try to constantly put you down if you weren't already uplifted and soaring?

Eight years post cancer feels like my old self at times-my hair is long, my weight is stable, my asthma is under control, I'm hustling as an entrepreneur and at times, I long for something more. I don't like getting comfortable in any situation and I live for the challenge to exceed my own expectations.

Cancer revealed a meaningful purpose in my life and I will work harder to fulfill that purpose and be a better person for the 9th year milestone. I'll let trivial matters go and focus more on what truly matters. It's very cliche but yes, I had breast cancer but breast cancer NEVER had me.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Celebrating Annaka

I always find the humor in my life. I had to laugh at the excitement I felt when I woke up that today is my dog Annaka's 6th birthday. In order to appreciate my joy, you have to understand what happened to my first pet Cotton who fell two weeks shy of his 6th birthday.

When my husband and Cotton were attacked by pit bulls during a normal routine walk, it was the kindness of a brave and beautiful stranger named Annaka who pulled over and rendered first aid to my bleeding husband until the paramedics arrived. It was one selfless act that provided a little bit of calm and comfort during a very frantic episode.

For the past 4 years, every time we have spoken or loved Annaka, we are honoring a stranger who gave of herself to our family. We are subconsciously reminded that someone you have never met can have a positive and meaningful impact on your life and heart.

Our dog Annaka went blind last summer. She may not be able to see all the beauty in this world but she represents the beauty of the world. Yes, I am wishing my dog a Happy Birthday! I am celebrating the promise that comes after the pain.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Beware of the Organizational Cowards

"Only cowards hide behind silence."  Paulo Coelho

In any organizational structure, there must be leaders and there must be followers. If you're lucky, those who are most capable and competent are leading the way.

The recent events at OU with SAE fraternity were disturbing to say the least. The poor actions of a few have tainted the public perception of the group and University at large. Several of the young men caught chanting that horrible chant claim they were bullied into it.

Organizations (companies, fraternities, sororities, unions, social groups)  must be careful when appointing leaders and managers because their actions, or lack of, can not only jeopardize public perception; it can make the entire entity liable for wrongdoing.

We've all been there. The manager who harasses, demeans or bullies the new person in an attempt to exert power that they have never had before. The President of a group who rules with an iron fist and presides over meetings by tuning out the suggestions or thoughts of others seated around the table.

Real leaders aren't afraid to surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are. They embrace the background, knowledge, experience, diversity and skill sets that every new person brings to the table.

Look around your organization and look closely at those in top leadership. Do they resemble you? Do they share common interests? Do they make you feel like a valued team member? If the answer is "no", be grateful for the transparency and plan your exit strategy towards a better fit for your personal growth.

Weak leaders funnel down to those they manage. People who once held justice, truth and morality close to their heart turn a deaf ear and blind eye to wrongdoing. When faced with the opportunity to do what's right, they avoid conflict and let fear govern.

I've always chosen to be highly selective of who and what I dedicate my time to. I'm also fortunate that I can walk away from any situation that is not aligned with my moral code. It doesn't behoove me to be part of an organization where I am constantly fighting to prove that I belong there. If the structure has already been built to ensure that only a chosen few will have power, bow out gracefully.

Remember that you are operating WITHIN their framework and while that person may be your leader, manager, President, etc., in the real world they are not better than you. They know it too because they would not spend so much energy trying to bring you down if you weren't already elevated.

You shouldn't have to sacrifice who you are to be who they want you to be. A lion doesn't lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Misplaced Elitism and Criticisms on "Empire"

Fox's runway show "Empire" features the acting talents of two Academy Award nominated actors and a slew of guest appearances by celebrated actors and musicians. With a highly dramatic story line reminiscent of the great shows from the 80's like "Dallas", "Falcon's Crest" and "Dynasty", each week those seeking pure entertainment are well served.

I was pleasantly surprised when a White female colleague told me that she loved "Empire" and particularly liked Cookie's character. She said that Cookie was a "strong woman who would do anything to protect her family." It got me to thinking that my colleague saw a positive character while social media tends to see the show as "buffoonish" or "coonish." While Cookie may not be presented in Claire Huxtable fashion, she is a strong mother character. We often see what we open our minds to accept.

Black communities are the only communities who collectively get in an uproar over television shows with less than ideal characters, story lines, and plots. With the release of each new Black produced show or heavily Black cast such as "Scandal", "Power"  "How to get away with murder", "Being Mary Jane", "Empire", etc., we seem to be seeking saviors and role models in televisions while ignoring that the impetus for these shows often are born in real life.

Successful shows like "Prison Break", "Breaking Bad" and "The Blacklist" don't have the White community in an uproar over the portrayal of White criminals so why do we point fingers and yell stereotyping at every Black drama that comes out? Why do we look down at the stories being told through Urban narratives or imperfect character narratives?

The problem is in the denial of such characters and the refusal to honor the stories of people who live like these fictional characters. We degrade television shows for their portrayals of "ghetto" types and drug dealers yet we do nothing in our own lives to address these social ills. We put down our friends for indulging in entertainment that may not be entertaining to us setting a false premise that their choices are less than.

Initially, even I rolled my eyes at the premise of "Empire" but when I gave the show a chance, I found the dramatic story line fun and entertaining and if you truly look at the lead characters, you can find their strengths outweigh their perceived weaknesses.

Television is entertainment. Televisions still have channels that are most often controlled with a remote. If you want to exercise your freedom of speech, you might want to warm up with respecting the freedom of choices of others. I promise you that there are more important things to be concerned with than what your friends are watching on television.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Don't poke the bear!

"The puritan hated bear baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators."                                  Thomas Babington Macaulay

Deep within all of us lies a ferocious spirit. Most times, it is dormant and at other times it is like a beast startled in the dark by a sudden twig snapping.

For most of my life, I have had to struggle with anger issues and a constant need to battle.  As a child, I had a lot to be angry about. As an adult, I fight for what I perceive to be righteous and I go to war for those who can't fight for themselves. I have a fundamental desire to do what I feel is not only right for those around me but a desire for truth, equality and fairness in the world I have no choice but to live in.

This past week has been a tremendous challenge to my inner warrior. My father instilled in me repeatedly that sometimes you just have to keep your mouth shut and choose your battles carefully. An interesting paradigm because often keeping silent in the face of injustice makes you just as bad as the oppressor. Turning a deaf ear or holding your tongue has never solved a problem and it has never righted a wrong.

When the time comes for you to truly step up and fight for yourself, I challenge you to give it your all. Don't back down once you prepare to battle and come armed heavily with all the facts, knowledge and supporting evidence you need to support your battle. Your opponent has already created their blueprint for your take down. Plan heavily and be smarter.

It takes great courage to challenge someone who may be above you in an organizational structure especially when that person, in a cowardly fashion, uses that structure in an attempt to antagonize, intimidate, demean or even bully you. Day after day, you sit quietly; taking it all in......learning.......simmering.

Be careful when you constantly poke a bear. While each playful jab at the bear's flesh may seem entertaining, eventually that bear is going to wake up and fight you back. And you will be in for a war that you never should have started.