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.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Better to stand on 3

I took my dogs to a dog swimming event today. I've always loved swimming and I love dogs so it was a win win situation for me. About 30 minutes into our swimming, a group of dogs appeared and I noticed that one dog had 3 legs.
My first instinct was to feel sorry for the dog but as I watched her run around and play and swim, I soon realized that sympathy was not in order because this dog was not missing out a beat!
I began to think about how people will let their flaws or imperfections govern their actions even quite possibly missing out on all the fun simply because they look different or feel insecure.
I'm at a point in my life where I put on a swimsuit, hop in and have fun!  I don't want to sit on the sidelines and miss out on memories because I'm worried about what I look like to people who don't even matter!
So ignore those skinny arms, that crooked tooth, that flabby stomach, the bald spot on your head, etc. and learn to accept yourself as you are. That dog today had so much fun. It was better to stand on three than sit and watch on all four.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Life Lessons from a 1st 5k

I recently completed my first 5k run. Those who follow me on social media know that I started training for this months in advance. As a kid who couldn't run at recess due to asthma (my left lung collapsed twice) and as an adult managing chronic asthma, running was not an activity that I ever imagined I would enjoy or participate in. Not to mention I have had 4 left knee surgeries including an ACL replacement as a result of a cheerleading injury that never got repaired timely!

Preparing for such a physical challenge really opened my eyes to some valuable life lessons. The way you prepare for one thing is an indication of how you prepare for anything.

1) Set your own pace.
When you begin any new challenge, your biggest competitor is yourself. Don't worry about what others are accomplishing or at what speed they are accomplishing things. This is your new challenge and you are working towards your personal best. Someone boasted on social media that they didn't need to train for their race. I thought "Good for you but imagine what your time had been if you had put in the time and commitment to train."

2) Accept that setbacks will happen.
I started 2016 with a very ambitious challenge posted on facebook-90 miles in 90 days. On the surface I thought this would be easy; that averages a mile a day. Since we have a treadmill at home, I assumed I could easily reach this challenge. I didn't account for sick days, long days at work or simple lack of motivation. Listen to your body! If your body is telling you to sit this one out and rest, listen to it! For the days I missed, I added on those miles and am proud to say I did run/walk/jog 90 miles in 90 days but I went in thinking it was a done deal. Always mentally prepare for obstacles so you can overcome them when they occur.

3) Inspire and Impact.
Don't be afraid to share your goals or your progress. Those who perceive it as boasting or self promotion are shallow in scope. Your accomplishment can inspire someone else who would like to do what you have done. People should like to see their friends and family working towards a goal and they should contribute to that goal if possible. You are working hard; share your positive news with your circle. The world needs more of it!

4) Whatever you do, just finish!
I remember standing at the START line. I was in a new city (Philadelphia) and didn't know anyone at the race. I thought about backing out because I was getting nervous, scared and embarrassed. Then we all started off; some running, some walking and some jogging. My confidence soared when I passed others and my confidence dropped when others flew by me. It was humid and there were unplanned steep inclines on the path. I stopped to use my asthma inhaler and thought "Can I do this?" ABSOLUTELY. I walked until I got the strength to start running again. Whether you walk, crawl, run, jog or skip....just finish! Remember, you are competing to win against yourself. Your negative self speak is your only enemy.

It was an awesome feeling to have people cheer and celebrate as we crossed the finish line. This was about setting a goal and working hard towards it. I wasn't out to compete against friends or prove anything to anyone else. I used to run from a painful past but now I choose to run for a brighter future!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I always swam in the deep end

Do you remember what it was like to stand in the shallow end of the swimming pool as a child? You probably got real comfortable quickly because you knew you weren't going anywhere. Did you ever want to swim across the pool and venture into deep waters?

The shallow end allows you to see eye to eye with people on a superficial level. The deep end challenges you and sets you apart from just standing.....stagnant.

Life is like a swimming pool. You can't expect a deep relationship with a shallow person.

People will come into your life; many asking for a raft or a swimming lesson but always standing in the shallow end.

I learned to swim at an early age. In fact, an in-ground swimming pool was a childhood birthday present. With each stroke, I grew stronger and more confident until the shallow end was no longer fun for me.

Seek relationships that are meaningful and deep. Relationships built on lies, insecurities and falsehoods won't help you grow. People will reveal things and behaviors that weigh you down.

Throw yourself a life jacket and navigate on. I always preferred the deep end of the pool. Gene pool included.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Cancer is a coward

Yesterday, I reached 9 years as a breast cancer survivor. I count my diagnosis date as my annual milestone as a survivor. On what should have been a joyous day, a cowardly act only reminded me that life is full of unaccepted acts that will only set you back momentarily.

My daughter's car was hit and damaged by a hit and run driver yesterday. Despite the obvious anger and disappointment, we were thankful that she wasn't injured. The whole incident was a reminder that you can be going through life when an unexpected and undeserving event can rock your world.

It is how you handle those obstacles that will define your character and measure your strength. You never know how strong you are until you have to be strong.

When I was diagnosed, initially I was terrified. I actually put off chemo therapy for 9 weeks simply out of fear. This was not a wise move nor was it a move driven by knowledge. I was simply afraid of the unknown and ready to accept what could have been fatal consequences.

It was through outreach with other survivors, self reflection and my daughter's encouragement that I found the courage to undergo chemotherapy and exhaust all medical intervention to give myself the best odds of beating breast cancer. Soon I realized that I wasn't a coward; cancer is a coward.

Just like that driver who hit my daughter, cancer causes harm with no reason or recourse. It seeks to break spirits, separate families, test faith and strip people of all they hold dear. It awakens the fear and uncertainty within us. It is ruthless in its pursuit of death.

I am beyond grateful that I have seen 9 years since that dreadful date of April 24th, 2007. I've had 9 years to spend with my family and hopefully impact lives in a positive way. I have laughed more and enjoyed special memories with special people more than I ever did before battling cancer.

Cancer enabled me to focus on myself more and live fearlessly. I'm not afraid to speak up, be heard, walk away, facilitate action and live a life that I've crafted that defines my purpose but also cater's to my heart's desires. I focus on people in my life who share my synergy.

People used to say "you can't have your cake and eat it too." Yes you can. You choose the life you live. When you are faced with your own mortality, it is in that moment that the rest of your days will be defined. What will people say about you when your time here is up? What will you be remembered for?

A cancer diagnosis feels like someone hit you and then ran off. You are left breathless and asking why this happened to you. Don't let the coward win. Stand up, fight back and embrace every moment of the rest of your life with confidence and certainty. I may have had cancer but I promise you....cancer NEVER had me.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

In a good place

When you're in a good place,  you don't want to leave.

I'm grateful for being in a good place in my life right now; mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Things seem to be aligned and I'm happy with the choices I've made and how I have chosen to deal with adversity and setbacks.

I used to think that life should be easy. That was when I was young and na├»ve.

Life will ALWAYS have challenges and setbacks but the key is going through it and overcoming those hurdles. Remember setbacks pave the way for amazing comebacks!

So embrace the feel good days and the good times. Celebrate the small successes. Unfortunately, there may be tears and challenges around the corner so why not enjoy the ride until you hit the speed bump.