Friday, March 10, 2017

The Park Bench-Inspiration from Strangers

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I visited one of my favorite neighborhood parks one morning this week to take my dogs for a little walk. I also needed the fresh air and exercise as well. One of the perks of being a dog owner is that you tend to attract other dog owners or people who also love pets.

I was feeling a little down initially when we began our walk until a group of 4 small children ran over to us and after asking if they could pet my dogs began laughing and petting the dogs. The children's smiles and giggles immediately lifted my mood and I made eye contact with their mothers to let them know it was okay and in control. It was amazing how this brief interaction with my dogs brought these children so much joy.

We walked on about a quarter of a mile and stopped to rest on a bench. A woman walking by stopped to comment on how beautiful CJ and Annaka were and we began swapping dog stories. I learned that she is a widow and that her dogs provide her great comfort in her life. Quite simply as she put it, she could not imagine her life without her dogs and they are good company to her. I also discovered that Jan worked at a thrift store I like to frequent so we had that in common as well. After about a half an hour of chatting, she invited me to church. I plan to take her up on that invitation real soon.

As Jan left, Ron was walking by and I commented that he had surely hit the 3 mile mark based on his walking path. He stopped and told me he aims to walk 5-6 miles a day. Ron took a seat on the bench and shared that he had been sober for 27 years and was free from his meth and drug addiction. He also asked if he could pray for me.

We got up and walked a bit and he shared how God truly worked a miracle in his life. He also invited me to his church.

Jan and Ron may never know the depth of gratitude in my heart for their testimonies, invitations to fellowship and for just taking the time to uplift a stranger in a park. You see, I truly believe that there is inspiration all around us if we choose to find it and that an ordinary person is on an extraordinary journey.

We get so wrapped up in work and stress and the world around us that we forget to connect with others who may also need an ear to listen. Jan and Ron didn't care that I was Black, or what my political affiliation was or what my religious beliefs may have been....they simply stopped to talk and engage. We had delightful conversations on a beautiful day.

So if you are reading this, I encourage you to not only get outside and partake in the beauty of nature but to speak a kind word to a stranger. You never know what wisdom and encouragement is headed your way.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Stretching outside of your comfort zone

I recently checked something off my bucket list. After battling aggressive breast cancer, I decided to list some things that I have always wanted to do or dreamed of and began the check off process. My list isn't that grand or expensive but rather a compilation of things that once paralyzed me with fear.

I've dabbled with yoga off and on for years. Many of the poses help my asthma by forcing me to focus on breathing and calming techniques. During radiation, yoga was helpful in managing the side effects of skin discomfort and scar tissue build up as well as regaining the limited mobility of my right arm.

Television and movies always made public yoga look so interesting but the thought of taking a class in public was intimidating to me. What if I fell over or couldn't do the poses as well as the person next to me? What if everyone else was limber and I was barely touching my ankles?

This past week, I was casually slipping through the Weekend Guide as I normally do and saw a yoga glass advertised. Okay, so it was a Beer Yoga class that really caught my eye! Ha! I was intrigued at the class being held in a brewery as I absolutely love the scenery in a winery and imagined a brewery would be just as cool.

I mustered up the courage to go by myself and when I arrived, I soon realized it was partner yoga. Oh great! I had brought my invisible BFF. The instructor assured me that it wasn't a problem and she was certain I would pair up with someone else. To my luck, there was a woman behind me who attended with two friends.

So it was initially awkward to start the yoga practice with a complete stranger holding my hand. As we progressed into the class, there were a series of poses that required me to trust her completely and vice versa or else one of us would have fallen on our behinds! We even had to touch our bare feet together! I don't even think I rub feet with my husband!

Throughout the next hour, I was reminded that trust is a two-way street and can be extended immediately. Yes, it was awkward initially touching this stranger and entangling ourselves in a series of body poses but in the end, it was the underlying lesson learned that I will always treasure.

The power of touch and the power of trust are still among the highest powers that exist in the human experience. Once I became comfortable with this new experience, I became more confident in the class. Touching a stranger, holding her hand and joining hands was not as odd or weird as I thought.

I stepped out of my comfort zone A LOT this weekend and I encourage you to do the same. Stretch your mind a little. You'll charter new territories that you once were afraid to travel.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thank You Mr. President!

I can't imagine how it feels to want to champion for the people and also be enemy #1 for those same people. I can't imagine what it must be like to be under constant scrutiny for every move you make, subjected to daily criticism, be labeled with racial slurs and likened to animals, have your wife and children degraded all while running a country and never lashing out or completely losing your cool. But that is exactly what you have managed to eloquently endure for the past 8 years.

Before you even had an opportunity to make a mistake or a misstep, people were against you from election night. "But I'm not racist", they said. Then they could offer no logic or policy or fundamental belief why they weren't willing to give you a chance. Now their "give him a chance" pleas fall on my deaf ears.

I've watched you deliver a Presidential address only to be met with disrespectful remarks and applause at inappropriate times. I've seen your very named mocked and slandered. You've held your head up high even when being booed and you gracefully encouraged protestors to voice their opinions even if it didn't match your own.

You see Mr. President, you have proven to be a bigger and better person than me time and time again. You have demonstrated that no matter what comes your way, there are some things that simply can't be taken from you; an education, intelligence, class, humility, grace and most importantly....a legacy.

I NEVER imagined the depths of hate that the first African-American President would face but I always knew it would exist. I see it daily on social media, in public, at work. It's painfully there....perhaps it will always be there.

So I'm mentally prepared for those catty remarks tomorrow and applause that you are leaving. Those same people never acknowledging that they actually survived the past eight years without their guns being taken, arms being microchipped, stripped of their bibles and escaping martial law. Hell, they probably don't even know where THEIR birth certificates are!

I simply want to say THANK YOU. Thank you for being a pure example of a leader. You faced your critics with backbone and the absence of juvenile tweets. You were someone to look up to. You gave brown children a tangible aspiration.

All my life, I would look at walls and walls of great men in museums and secretly wonder are there any men who look like my father who have reached this level of greatness? And the answer has always been "yes"; they just haven't been on a world stage. Take a bow Mr. President. Job remarkably done.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

9 Lives

I'm sitting here in a very somber mood. While many will celebrate the death sentence of Dylann Roof, I find myself mournful remembering the 9 church parishioners who were murdered in what should have been the safest place to be. People worshiping in a religious building should not pose a threat to someone that warrants intruding into their space and coldly executing them. Their crime: being born Black.

I want the world to know that I didn't see the outrage and outcry for these 9 victims like I do for one or even 3 victims in senseless killings. In fact, the murder of one police officer will flood my timeline with cries of swift justice but when these 9 were murdered, the outcries were in Black and White-literally.

I can't smile and pretend not to notice when black lives don't matter to my friends. 

Susie, Clementa, Sharonda, Cynthia, Depayne, Daniel, Ethel , Myra and Tywanza. You have never been forgotten. I choose to speak YOUR names and breathe  life into the beautiful legacies you created.

I've witnessed a lot of tragedies and heartache on my own life journey but few have rocked my inner core like your deaths. Senseless....thoughtless.....hateful.

9 beautiful lives so wrongfully ended. Outcries from most but not all. I see you. I always have and I always will.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 is a milestone year!

10. It's always been a good number. God willing, in just a few months, I will not only celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary but my 10 year cancerversary from stage IIIA triple negative breast cancer. I will never forget the doctor giving me a few years "at best" to survive.

2016 seemed to be an aggressive death year for many celebrities and well known people and many of my social media connections deemed it as awful. Despite what obstacles and hurdles we faced in 2016, we should hold our heads up high that we survived it.

Every year will present tragedies, heartache, setbacks and misses but we can't let those define how the whole year went. Between the tears, there were lots of smiles and successes; we just tend to focus on what hurt us over what helped us.

I find myself saying this every year but I am always thankful for the bad things that happened because they reveal things to me such as what I need to improve, eliminate or focus on. The people that exited in 2016 didn't need to be present in your life because they were never tied to your destiny anyway. The opportunities you didn't get were not in line with what you truly needed to be doing anyway. Change your mindset about the things that seem like disappointment on the surface and dive deeper to reveal what the lesson in all of it was.

I'm already looking forward to great things this year and am beyond grateful that I will reach 10 years in remission and in my marriage. 2016 wasn't perfect but it was perfectly suited to help me grow and learn.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Why I say Happy Holidays

I've found myself lately stammering over words when I want to wish someone a joyous holiday season. I caught myself doing this during a recent store visit after a pleasant exchange with a sales associate. I reached for my bags and said "Happy Holidays!" and then mumbled "I meant Merry Christmas." As I walked back to my car, I asked myself what was that all about.

You see, I am a Christian and my best friend is a Muslim. Our faith has NEVER impacted our relationship. She has been there for me in my darkest hours and she is someone I can always count on. Along the way, I have had close friendships with Jews, Hindus and Muslims and my interactions with them are no different than my interactions with my Christian or non-believer friends. We get together and laugh and enjoy each other's company. When times get tough, and they often do, we listen and support one another. We live in the human experience. Before we choose a religion, we have to remember the humanity in our existence.

So, I won't apologize for saying Happy Holidays. I know that the world is greater than my viewpoint allows and Christmas isn't a holiday observed by everyone and that's okay with me. I don't feel threatened or offended if someone doesn't celebrate it. I want to say Happy Holidays because my sincere wish is that the holiday season of December and New Year's is a joyous one-complete with happiness and memories that transcend religion and beliefs.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election 2016: It was the worst of times

I'm just going to cut to the chase today. I've held my tongue long enough for the sake of diplomacy and getting along peacefully. We, as the American public, have never experienced such electoral divide until an African-American man and a woman became serious contenders for the Commander-In-Chief spot. Never before have we sunk to such campaign lows and lost friendships over a Presidential election.

On the surface, a shallow mind would casually observe that true friendships can't be lost over political differences. Obviously, throughout history, people have lived side by side and gotten along peacefully with different political opinions but it is the fundamental differences that drive people apart. A cat cannot befriend a fish. A lion cannot befriend a buffalo. I, as a Black woman, cannot befriend a sexist racist. Some things are not negotiable and I don't apologize for that.

For the past 8 years, I have sat back often quietly (quite a challenge for me) and endured quite a bit of racist behavior in my social media circles as that type of behavior is NEVER exuded in the flesh. Keyboard cowards take to the internet to solicit support and praise from ill-advised cartoons or memes, skewed statistics, satirical articles or misleading headlines. While their posts may attempt to be passed off as humor or opinions not of their own, they quietly sit back while their friends reply with racist rhetoric; never condemning or stopping the behavior and therefore choosing a side. Pay attention.

People are actually angry about change. They want the Presidential photos to reflect rows and rows of White men. They don't want to allow opportunity to anyone who doesn't fit what we've always had. But what if what we've always had wasn't in the best interest for the greater good?Power is a dangerous hunger. When those in power feel threatened, they will resort down the darkest avenue to reclaim it.

Racism and sexism have always existed and will continue to exist but it is how you respond to it that will navigate your peace of mind in life. Only those in power within an infrastructure can harm you with those outdated views. Someone spewing hateful words or posting a racist facebook meme can't hurt you. Don't allow it to disrupt your spirit.

I am grateful that this election has created a platform which has shed a light on those in my circle who hold racist and sexist views. By unveiling their cloaks, they have revealed to me who they truly are and I am grateful for it.

Continue to hold values that are dear to you close to your heart. Continue to be selective of who and what you allow into your life. Everything is not for everybody and that is okay. We've lived through the worst of times before and we will continue to thrive through adversity and despair no matter who sits in the Oval Office.