Why “Black Girls Rock!”?

Relaxing in beautiful Boca with a little black girl who rocks

Like thousands of black women, I just finished watching the awards show Black Girls Rock!  This annual show and national movement is an amazing celebration of today’s black women, our spirit and our accomplishments. In 2012, when African-American women and women from throughout the African diaspora have accomplished so much, it’s easy for many to wonder why a show like this is necessary.  Many may wonder why black women feel the need to continually affirm themselves publicly?Believe me, it is extremely necessary.  It’s not just that black girls and women continually see negative images of themselves in the media.  Yes, that does happen.  But more often we don’t see enough images of ourselves cloaked in success.  Not in the media and sadly not in real life.This week my husband went to a conference in Boca Raton, Florida.  Maya (my daughter) and I tagged along since it was her school’s fall break and my husband’s sessions were only for half a day.  It was my first time in Boca and my first time at the resort where the conference was held.  Both the city and the resort where we stayed were absolutely stunning. The resort and the gorgeous city were both clearly created for the affluent.  There were lots of wealthy families vacationing and having fun.  But for 5 days straight, the only black family that I saw in this playground for the rich and fabulous was my own.

Although we had a wonderful time, it would have been even more wonderful if my daughter could have seen other black children having fun with their moms and dads.   The experience would have been so much richer if the other black faces she saw weren’t just the housekeepers, hotel staff and resort shuttle bus drivers.

This is not a commentary on the resort.  And it’s not a commentary on beautiful Boca Raton or those that are able to afford this luxury.  This observation is a commentary that shows that we have not arrived yet, we have not overcome yet and we do have so much further to go to make the dream a reality for all of us – especially those of us with brown skin.

So Black Girls Rock! and other programs that highlight the accomplishments of black women are very necessary.  We don’t get to see our own success every day.  And when we see it, the world is always too busy to celebrate it.

So I’m thankful for this show that shines a light on the beauty and accomplishments of black women.  It helps me tell my daughter that black girls do indeed rock.  It’s one thing for me to tell her, but it’s quite another for her to see it with her own eyes.

Those pesky foxes

Have you ever been so busy dreaming about living the life of your dreams, that you didn’t realize that you were ALREADY living the life of your dreams??  Or maybe it’s just me!Well this summer, I woke and up realized how very blessed I am.  I have a lot to be thankful for.  My husband is amazing.  And I’m a parent, which was something that I worked for and prayed to be for years.  I’ve gotten a major health battle behind me.  And now I’m living the flexible work-from-home schedule that I always wanted, while launching my freelance writing business.  On top of all that, I’m surrounded by wonderful friends and the world’s best church family.

So why did it take me so long to see how great my life is?  I think it was because I’m easily distracted by the small things.  You know – those little annoying things that can suck the joy out of life if you let them? For me, these little things have come as a part of adjusting to island life.  Instead of seeing Nassau, Bahamas as a tropical paradise, this little American girl felt imprisoned by the island inconveniences that were working my nerves.  All it took was a random power outage, unreliable cell phone service or a cultural misunderstanding and my joy was gone just like that!  I was spending far too much time daydreaming about the opportunities, friends and conveniences that I missed at home.   I was spending way too much time clicking my heels and waiting for the American fairy to swoop down and take me back to my comfort zone.  By the way – the whole “clicking heels” thing only resulted in sore heels.

Somehow this summer, I woke up and realized that life was passing me by – and it was my fault.  I was focusing on the small things that don’t matter at all.  I was overlooking the beautiful beaches of Nassau and the quaint hometown feeling of everyone knowing your name.  Once I started focusing on what matters – my family, the new friends that I’m making, the direction that I wanted my career to go and most importantly, my relationship with God – my world brightened up.  It’s as if a dark veil was lifted off of my window and now the sunlight is streaming through.  It feels great to see this bright, sunny world full of possibilities.

Now I’m making a conscious effort to get over those little annoyances that seem to wait like little evil ninjas wanting to attack my joy.  I’m confident that I have what it takes to squash these little buggers and enjoy the blessings of life here in Nassau or wherever life may lead.

The Song of Solomon talks about “the little foxes that ruin the vines.”  I had let island life become a little fox ruining my blooming vine of life.  But I’m sure that I’m not the only one with a fox in the vine.

What about you?  Are you living the life of your dreams?  What are you letting hold you back?  And when will you take control of your own joy and dreams?

Quietly Remarkable

I have been blessed to know many fabulous women.  I know divas, fashion plates, and movers and shakers.  But the women I admire most are those quietly remarkable forces of nature.  You know – the ones that don’t make a big fuss but manage to do amazing things while making it look effortless.  These women seem to be driven by some invisible force to make a difference in their little piece of the world.   These aren’t your flash in the pan, one-hit-wonder type of chicks.  No—these are remarkable women who consistently show class, grace and strength even under tremendous adversity.  Whenever I feel overwhelmed or wonder if I can make a difference, I look at their lives.  I look at them and know that by persevering I can be like them.

Over the years I’ve studied these ladies (mainly because I desperately want to be one!) as I’ve tried to learn the secret to their success.  Here are a few things that I’ve learned:

  1. These ladies are consistent.  Every day they get up focused on their end result.
  2. They’re not easily shaken.  These ladies seem to understand that even though bad things happen, there will be a brighter day and the sun will come out.
  3. They’re giving.  Ever notice how selfish women usually find themselves lacking in all areas (time, money, resources, and friends)?
  4. They’re transparent.  They don’t mind you taking a peek into their lives, even at the not so glamorous parts.  After all, they know that keeping it real can strengthen someone else who is going through.
  5. They are genuine.  They genuinely care.  They genuinely love.  They genuinely make a difference.

I do want to be one of these women.  And I want my daughter to be one too.  So every day I’m working on it.  And I’ll continue working until I achieve my goal.

What characteristics in other women do you admire and aspire to?

Bye, bye Superwoman

I had the opportunity to be a speaker at my church’s women’s conference last weekend.  While I was there I heard an amazing presentation by an even more amazing woman named Erin Brown  (ww.erinbrownconnects.org).  Her topic really slapped me in the face.  It was “I’m Not Your Superwoman.”  Can you say “Wow!”

Her presentation talked about the pressure that we put on ourselves as women to be everything to everybody.  Hearing her presentation made me reflect on my recent decision to be a stay-at-home mom.  For years I’ve been a “superwoman” juggling career, community involvement, church obligations and family.  This year the juggling act became overwhelming.  I knew that I was getting out of control when I found myself working at home ALL the time.  My 5 year old daughter began complaining that I was always in a meeting.  My husband and I were ships in the night passing on the way to our next work meetings.  I felt out of whack and unhappy.  And we all know the saying “When mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!”

It was hard tearing myself away from a career that spanned over 15 years of nonprofit management.  But for me it was the right choice.  I’ve made a personal decision to put my family first, and for me that means staying at home, doing part-time consulting and managing the family full-time.  It’s not a decision for every working mama, but it works for me in this season of my life.  It gives me time to really be there for my family, pursue goals that I’d put on the shelf and forgotten, and most importantly take time for me.  I’m a firm believer that we women are amazingly strong.  We’re stronger than we know — but we all have our limits.  The reality is that Superwoman is a burnt-out, overloaded, crazy woman who rarely puts her needs first.

Ladies, the superwoman myth is just that – a myth.  We CAN do it all, but just not at the same time.  It’s time that we start reprioritizing and making decisions that work for us.  Forget the world’s expectations.  Life is short and at the end we all want to look back and know that we spent our time where it counts.  For me reprioritizing meant being a stay-at-home mom.  For you it may mean letting go of activities that waste your time.  Or it could mean abandoning your career to pursue your true dreams.  Or maybe it just means reserving a weekend every month just for you.  Whatever it means, it’s time to put what’s important to YOU first.

So are you ready to burn the S on your chest and replace it with what really matters?

Motherhood is a Good Look

Yesterday was Mother’s Day – a day I truly love.  Years ago as I was battling infertility, motherhood seemed like a distant dream.  There were days where I thought I would never hear the patter of little feet or have someone call me “mommy.”

Now years later, I’m often wishing those little feet would just take a break.  And every five seconds I hear “MOMMY!!!” being screamed throughout my little house.  Even though my 5-year old sweetie pie drives me crazy, without a doubt motherhood has been one of God’s biggest gifts.  And I’m grateful.

I think I’m most grateful because motherhood has caused me to grow in ways that I could have never imagined.  I never thought that I’d be a teacher, comforter, storyteller, nutrionist, activity planner, disciplinarian, chauffer and hairstylist all in one day.  At the end of each and every day, I am totally exhausted.  The good kind of exhausted where I know that I’ve poured every fiber of my being into a little life.  The kind of exhausted where I can’t remember what in the world I did, but I know that it made a difference.

And I only have one child (she has the energy of an army, but she is only one child).  So my hat is off to you mommies with several children.  Just remember that despite how much work it is, motherhood is a good look on you and you’re making a difference.

Rock on, pretty mommy!

We All Need Sisters

It’s now 3 weeks after my open heart surgery and I’m feeling stronger than ever.  I have God to thank, and the motivation of my two extremely fabulous sisters.  These chicks didn’t just motivate me – they kicked my butt in gear as only a sister can!

Nicki, my youngest sister, came to Nassau despite her busy work schedule and stayed with me for a week and half.  Not only did she cook great meals for my family and take care of my (often unruly) child, but she motivated me (actually she forced me) to take a brisk walk every day.  I absolutely hated every moment of these walks.  Walking after a major surgery takes a lot of effort. But despite my protests and attempts at procrastination, she was there every day badgering me like a pitbull until I would get my butt in gear.  And for this I thank her.  It’s because of her constant hounding, that I’m almost back up to my normal walking speed now.

My other sister, Felencia, came for four days.  It was four days of sheer laughter and joy.  Every day she’d say something like “To have just had surgery, you look great!” and “You’re doing great!”  She affirmed me so much, that I started to believe her words.  I think her words somehow made me stronger.

Most importantly, they both made me laugh until I thought I’d split my poor little chest stitches.  I can’t tell you how many painkillers I popped just because of too much laughter.  But I’m convince that laughter is essential for healing.

I’m so thankful for sisters who lift me up when I’m down, and give me the nudge I need to keep going.  Do you have women in your life that keep you encouraged?  If not, find some quickly.  We all need “sisters” to make it through this unpredictable life.

The Amazing Incredible You

If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed that I’ve been gone for a few weeks.  No – it wasn’t a vacation.  More like a test of faith.  I’ve just come back from open heart surgery.  I was born with a heart disease, so this is just a part of a life-long process.  But I won’t lie.  It was one of my biggest mental, spiritual and physical challenges yet.  Amazingly, the physical part hasn’t been that bad.

While I can’t say that I was glad to have surgery, I have been learning so much from the entire process.  I thought that some of these lessons were worth sharing:

1-      We’re stronger than we think we are – Our bodies, minds and spirits are incredibly resilient.  The day after surgery, I had many of the tubes out and was walking, talking and laughing.  Even the surgeon commented on how well I looked.  I surprised myself!

2-      People love us more than we know – I have been overwhelmed by all the friends and acquaintances that have called, visited and prayed with me.  I expected close friends and family to be concerned, but nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming amount of generosity and love I’ve received.

3-      No matter how bad it seems, it will pass and you will survive with God’s grace – For me the worst part of the surgery was the preparation.  The not knowing and trying to get my mind prepared for what was to come was horrible.  But I got through it, and I’m here.  I realize that God’s grace helped me overcome what seemed impossible.

4-      Laughter is essential for healing  – While in ICU, I had one of my sisters with me and my husband.  They had me laughing so hard that I cried.  I noticed that with each laugh, things just seemed a little better and I felt a little stronger.  It’s as if my laughter spoke to my soul and said “C’mon, girl.  You can do this!”

5-      Take care of yourself, and the world will take care of itself – Before heading off to get my heart fixed, I was so preoccupied with everything.  I was running around frantically tying up loose ends for my job.  I was creating schedules and making checklists for my daughter.  Every night was a sleepless night with nightmares about things not getting done.   I was doing everything except taking the time to make sure that I was okay.  And guess what – while I was in the hospital, the world went on.  Problems got solved and things got done – and nobody needed me to do any of it. That’s a lesson that I will definitely remember!

Ladies, I’m not special.  We all get knocked off our feet by the winds of life.  Maybe it’s a surgery.  Maybe it’s a divorce, the death of a child or a lay off at work.  Whatever it is, I’m here to tell you that you will get through it.  Life will go on.  You will smile again, and share your story so that others will be inspired.  We’re all amazing, and life’s tests are just an opportunity to show what we’re made of.

I’d love to hear from you.

How has life knocked you for a loop and what lessons did you learn?