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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Worked on breathing today!

February 14, 1997 I started the Sheriff's academy in San Diego. I was never an athletic person. I mean, I like dance and step and zumba class but I the band. I was a nerd. I was a fat kid. I played growing up, but nothing like the academy. But I was determined that the academy physical training wouldn't beat me! The first day we had to jog. It was probably only about one mile and we jogged pretty slowly. They drove a van behind us and told us we could get on it if we gave up. I watched some get on the van. I refused and pushed through. I finished that first day and really had to consider if it was worth it to do this every day for the next 11 weeks. Again, I told myself I would not let them beat me! Everyday when it was time for PT I would start having anxiety. My heart would start pounding, I would sweat and pant. Jogging was the hardest thing I had ever done. I graduated from the academy eleven weeks later. I was #1 academically, but the greater success was that I was able to meet all the PT requirements.
Fast forward to 2010. I started a school at my church and in accordance with our vision to incorporate mental, spiritual, and physical fitness our pastor started a boot camp for the staff and students. We worked out 6 days a week for an hour each day for 3 years straight. After the first few months, guess what he added to the training? Yep! Jogging... ugh! But it wasn't that bad. With pastor leading the pack he would call out "Lean back, throw your legs out in front of you and breathe!" Well, the school had to close after 3 years for lack of funding and with it went the boot camp.
It has been three years since we closed our doors. I still work out at the gym, I take the classes (Zumba, RIPPED, SPINN, U-Jam, Kickboxing), I take karate classes, and I still jog. Last week I went out to jog a couple of miles and at the 3/4 mile marker I was DONE. My body was good but I had not been able to control my breathing and I was pretty much hyperventilating! I'm overweight but I'm in pretty good shape. This wasn't about being able to do it or even about my anxiety any more, it was about BREATHING! So I looked it up online for advice and pointers. This is what I learned: Start slow and concentrate. Walk and breathe. Deep breaths. Then walk faster still concentrating on the breathing. Count the number of paces for each breath. Then a slow jog. The breathing should be easier to control. Then step it up to your goal pace. Today I jogged an ALMOST effortless 3 miles!
But this LONG post is about more than that, isn't it? It's about not giving up. It's about focussing on what sustains us and what gives us the power and strength to do what we set our minds to do. It's about overcoming obstacles, looking (asking) for help when we need it and never giving up. If you've read this far, I hope you are encouraged. Don't let struggles in life get to you. Don't let anxiety stop you. You may just need to work on your breathing!

Monday, April 11, 2016

What I Learned This Week: I QUIT!

Dear sirs,
It is with no regrets that I write this letter. I was at one time very grateful for the opportunities with which I had been presented during my stint in your service. I have, however, come to the understanding, observation, and recognition that you mean nothing but harm for me in everything that I put my hands and my heart to. You made me believe I was doing well but with every job review I was getting worse. I worked many overtime hours without pay or recognition. Each of the tasks you gave me I took on wholeheartedly, each one taking a piece of that same heart. I will no longer spend my days doing mundane tasks. I will no longer serve ill will. I will no longer smear lives with hatred. I will no longer maintain an attitude of despair and defeat. I will no longer give the worst of me to highlight the best of you. In my time under your supervision I have killed many dreams and lost many opportunities and you made me think I was my own supervisor. I slammed doors closed and locked them before I realized I had no keys. 
Your promises, when I came on the job, were all lies. There were no lifelong benefits; my health has suffered and there is no WELLNESS plan; my finances have suffered and there is no SAVING plan; my family has suffered and there is no LOVE plan; my soul has suffered and there is no SALVATION plan!  Even the meals you served in the lunchroom were unfulfilling and lacked nutrition. You commissioned me to do your dirty work, to steal from the poor and ignore the brokenhearted, to kill and destroy, to maim and mar. I won’t do it any more. The final straw was when I realized you were charging me to work for you. The cost was too much. Much more than I can afford to pay. It was costing me everything that I AM. 
Therefore, this letter is to serve as my resignation, effective immediately. I will not be returning to your service. I will not be applying for unemployment benefits and require nothing of you. I have been approached by another job. I have accepted another position, one with EVERLASTING benefits. The pay is more than I can carry. The potential for growth is astronomical. I’ve already been given a RAISE! I am turning in my badge, on my new job I carry a different kind of SHIELD. I am turning in my uniform for on my new job I will wear a WHITE ROBE. The nametag you assigned me is of no use, because MY NAME HAS BEEN CHANGED! 

Thankfully His,
Child of God
Child of God
(Previously known as Sinner)

Friday, February 5, 2016

What I Learned This Week: I Am Part of the Revolution

I guess, when I look at the history of the United States I have to admit that I am heartbroken. There is so much that is so wrong with this country, its history and its people. The death and destruction, but most of all, the hatred. The fear that has been born and fed from misunderstanding and self-righteousness. We take what we want, we give little, and demand more. Who does that?

So, reflecting on my own life, I have discovered, declared and decided that I am part of the revolution. I lift my voice on paper with pen and I say what needs to be said to the people that need to hear it. I speak words of encouragement and I take up arms in your defense. I want to walk blocks with a paper pinned to me that lets everyone know that I am woman, I am mother, I am wife, I am Black...I am African American....whose ancestors were not given a choice but simply a place and we continue to accept that place as our own as if that were the only place that we have.

We hold on to religion as if the only real hope that we have is in death and that our lives are simply the result of a sinful nature which we are hopeless to control. And, brothers and sisters, that is a lie.

I have decided to be a change. Even if it is for the sake of no one but those who share a roof with me. But it won't. It will be for the man who hates me before he knows my name. It is for him and her who decide my fate based on the way my hair doesn't lie flat against my scalp and despises me because I allow it, in all its glory to wind upon itself and stand at attention. It will be for the children who, in awe, reach out to my skin to see if, in fact it is a permanent state of being and whose mothers have insisted that they stay away from it lest they become a victim of the disease it carries. It will be for the old woman I listen to as she rambles on about her past and the one Black friend that she had growing up. How that little girl shaped all of Black America for her and in her mind, we are all made up of that one. A culture bound in limits.

As I type on computer keyboards and watch words come to life, I realize that I have become part of a renaissance that has lasted and tested time. A symbolic shift from an era of masters to masterpieces of me and you bound together. An artistic rambling of thought and temperament. Pen and ink, paint and keys, colors that rise to the surface like hot grease voices singing negro spirituals turned jazz sonatas with a blues back. This is the place where I dig my heels in and reminisce on times past and make promises to myself that the past will not be the future for my sons, or the sons of my sons and my daughters will not cry out in the dark of nights for the souls of forgotten boys.

A shot cries out as I throw away plastic guns. My sons will not be the victims of fear and hatred and so I teach them a lesson in the revolution. We must arm ourselves with knowledge and power. We must not be afraid to be who we were created to be and own our place on this planet. None can make you less, son. None can make you less. No one can make you anything unless you decide in your mind that the revolution is over and take the place that is thrown toward you.

Today, I have decided with the determination that my fingers pound on these keys that every breath that I take and every word that I write and every thought that goes through my mind must be for the building up. As I take my place on the battle line and the marching line, locking my arms with those who stand united with me. No longer will the shade of coffee in a cup divide and separate me from who I love. No longer will I stand idly by and watch the shift in the atmosphere as if I have no control over my own airspace.

I am part of the revolution. My job in it, is to impact your mind.

The Coffee Date

Standing in her living room I was oddly uncomfortable. The room was clean. Tidy, and reminiscent of the way model homes were decorated and eerily uninhabited. Those homes that possessed no soul. No rhythm or heartbeat. Without the echo of footsteps on wooden floors and the parade of laughing children on staircases.

She invited me to sit. I lowered my body in unison with my purse onto the brocade tapestry. And then, thinking twice about setting my purse on the sofa pulled it back into my lap. I glanced at my shoes near the front door, a longing in the eyelets peering at me. I wiggled my toes in stockinged feet grateful that I had the fore-notion to cover peeling polish and crooked knuckles.

Balancing the tiniest cup of coffee on a china saucer I watched a cube of sugar slowly dissolve. Who uses sugar cubes any more? She laughed and talked about nothing. My eyes dancing back and forth from her lips, moving up and down, a silly pucker and phony high-pitched baby voice, to the bare walls and coffee table. A candle that had never been lit and a vase of silk flowers.

She must do chores all day. I thought about my own home, stacks of books on shelves and tables and in corners. A fine layer of dust on the blinds and bits of thread and this or that screaming their existence against the dark colored carpet that I hated from the time that we moved in but had been too lazy to do anything about. My sewing machine, I remembered, had been left on the window seat in the kitchenette, out of its case, the spools of thread on their sides threatening to fall and unravel on the linoleum. My heavy ceramic coffee mug, on the table, a ring of sugary sweet caffeine drying inside, a line of it down the outside of the cup lending itself to a unique ellipse on a white paper napkin next to a novel, its pages dog eared and stained from reading and rereading pages that pulsed with their own life.

This home, with its dainty scent of rose petals and pine cleaners did not echo the open arms of her mistress. But she was proper. Far from the wild haired, open mouthed stare of my front room, not used for sitting in delicate conversation, loud music blaring, booty shaking and off-key singing, door slamming cadence. Frying bacon and dirty diapers and smokey burning the second time from the bottom of the stove where the berry pie boiled over. Dirty dishes left for later, when living stopped waiting for something brilliant to happen. Birds that ruffle feathers and dogs that shake loose hairs into the air as they lay in panels of light from curtain-less windows, proof of life when humans, doing human things are absent.

Interrupting her chatter, I asked, because I longed to see and hear the passion in her voice. I wanted to see her heart, raw and naked in the room. Spilling over in color-filled words onto the area rug. If she could just let her hair spill over her shoulders and dance with carefree abandon. Awakening sleeping beasts. Allowing her hands to touch and feel textures and temperatures as they explode in sparkling flashes of light. But she just kept on talking, everything in its place. Everything just so. Proper and in order.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Writing in the Desert

Droughts come and seem absolutely desperate for the writer. It feels like the rains will never come. You look to the heavens and... nothing. Not even a cloud of inspiration. Sitting in front of a computer screen looking at a blank document makes you feel like a dehydrated lump. Soon you're fighting the urge to give up and surf the web or check out what everyone else is doing on social media.

We've all been there. If it was a school assignment, a letter to a friend, a job assignment or that freelance article facing a deadline, we have all felt like the words would never come. It is a place where we feel so utterly inadequate. When dry seasons come it seems like creativity crumbles in our hands. It causes us undue concern and we use the dry season as the indicator of our ability to write. But is it, really?

I've had the opportunity on occasion to talk to aspiring writers who want to know how I overcome writer's block. How do I find water in the arid season? The simple answer is: I don't.

Did you know that there is life, even in the desert? Things can and do grow in the most unlikely places. Instead of looking to the sky for rain, the place to find life might be right under foot.

Here are three steps I take that might be helpful to you in your times of drought:

1. TAKE A BREAK from the task at hand. Whatever it is that your mind can't seem to connect to can be its own dead-lock. Start writing something else; a letter to a friend, a grocery list, a poem, a journal entry. Once you've oiled the gears you may discover a new found inspiration to write!

2. READ something that you enjoy. Pull that book or magazine that you've been wanting time to read off the shelf or pull out some of your old stuff and start reading your own writing. Relax your mind and give yourself something else to focus on. When your creativity is piqued, put the book down and start writing!

3. CHANGE YOUR SURROUNDINGS and go outside or to another room. Close your computer and grab a tablet and a pen and take a walk around the block. When inspiration takes hold start writing!

No matter what, don't panic! Droughts are for a season. Soon the storm clouds will cover the sky. In the meantime, find the blossoms in the sand.

Find quick information and advice on defeating writer's block here: on sale now for only $5

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What I Learned This Week: Maybe I'm Not a Writer

     Maybe I'm not a writer. This whole thing could just be some vision of grandeur that doesn't actually exist. Maybe I should have listened to all the nay-sayers: the ones who told me that I should have given up a long time ago, the ones who told me that my spelling is bad and my grammar is worse, the ones who declared that my books, written and unwritten, would-not-sell. 
     I could have listened and saved myself countless hours in front of a computer screen trying to gather words into perfect sentences to make the reader "feel" what my characters feel. I didn't have to try to make words icy to the touch and a breeze blow from between pages making an audience tighten their own collars. I could have concentrated on complicated math problems, I could have worked on my customer service skills, I could have ignored the advice that good writers are good readers and I could have thrown that love of literature away with all the pens and pencils, notebooks and binders full of words that I should have never used. 
     Maybe I'm not a writer and my life could be much simpler; only one life to live in my head. Stories could have stayed dreams and dissipated with morning sunbeams. I could have long ago stopped paying attention to the way that people move their hips in an individual quirky rhythm when they walk or the way they tighten their eyes when they wrestle inside with the words they speak and what they actually think. 
     I could have written myself into another story. I could have become an investment banker or a microbiologist or a sheepherder. I could be doing the things that people see as actually working. Clocking in and out. I could have locked words away for something more... suitable. Who reads books anyway? Fiction, non-fiction, historical, fantastical; it has all moved aside for the sake of technology, right? Libraries full of outdated, dusty, leather-bound
parchment. Turning pages! E-readers morphing into tablets that tempt us into the social media trap where we read short snippets of life hastily written with words that spellchecker doesn't even bother to spell check...
     Maybe, I'm just not a writer, but I can't seem to get with that. I can't seem to make my fingers and my mind comprehend and cooperate with the notion that there is no point to the direction that my heart has exploded and taken off into. My spirit is stubbornly uneasy when I am away from my word processor for too long and I search under my car seat in the grocery store parking lot for a pen that I know is there to write down the phrase that erupted out of the atmosphere and made me pull over lest I forget it. The perfect phrase that my character, the girl with the thick mahogany ponytail trapped between her back and the seat of the bus, is waiting to think, unedited and raw. I can't abandon her there. She could ride that bus eternally oblivious to the place she was going and the thing that, not yet imagined, waits for her.
     If I'm not a writer. If this thing isn't for me; I am afraid. I am afraid of what isn't and what may not be -- the only thing that my knowing has ever been. Graded papers that I refused to determine my destiny. Volumes of spiral bound, handwritten stories: Notes and poems, ideas and character sketches, plot diagrams and outlines: Writer's conferences and workshops, writer's groups and poetry groups and reading groups: writer's handbooks and references, dictionaries and thesauruses...and the books-- stacks of books, Steinbeck and Angelou and Sheldon and Morrison and Butler that sing to me from their pages and where I find my own voice and breathe my own breath.
Is it cliché to say that maybe I'm not a writer...but I think there is a writer in me?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What I Learned This Week: Beyond the Stop Sign

When we were kids we played on our grandmother's street. We rode bikes and roller skates and skate boards, we had foot races and played chasing games. The only restriction to the scope of our play was the stop sign at the end of the street. Grandma said that we were not allowed to go beyond the stop sign. We played content within the confines of the block, the signs at either end being the imagined forcefield that kept us safe.

The other day I climbed onto my bicycle to take a ride. I was by myself. I packed my cell phone, a speaker, a bottle of water and a towel in the basket on the front of my bike and started to ride. As I neared the end of the block I looked up at the stop sign and remembered Grandma's street. I remembered how it felt to be held by the red and white octagon. Secure.

Several miles down the road I thought about that sign again. What was it protecting me from? 

The symbolism in that sign and my ability to ride past it became more and more evident with every pump of pedal and brush of wind against my face. There was a training ground inside those signs. It was a place where I would learn to look out for cars, the safety of the sidewalk. In that space of one block I explored who I was and how I fit in the world. I wasn't old enough to explore beyond that space. Grandma knew that. She knew that confining me to the amount of freedom that I could handle would later prepare me for the blocks beyond, the new stop signs, the yields and the no-parkings.

As I slipped past five miles I started to pick up speed. I started breathing deep. In those freeing moments I began to look around at the world beyond the stop sign. I started to see the different people smiling and waving as I rode by. I started to notice the flowers on the side of the road and the way the trees built a canopy overhead. I stood on the pedals and used my strength to climb, something I hadn't had to do on the block in front of Grandma's house. Pulling the bike on the will of my own strength.

The eight mile marker was at the top of a hill. I slowed my feet as the bike took off on it's own in the pull of gravity. My shirt pressed against my body and I breathed in the cool air as it pulled loose hair behind my head into the breeze. I was floating. The wind brushed against my arms like feathers. I couldn't help but to smile. This was an incredible freeing experience. There was nothing holding me. There were no stop signs as I glided down the hill. This was the place where I wanted to be. It was what I had been preparing for. 

Leveling off and dropping into a steady rhythm of push and pull I pedaled my bike. The ride wasn't over but I had a new understanding and appreciation for the stop sign. It wasn't the thing that held me back, it was the thing that, when I was ready, would release me. I don't begrudge the training; the world is beyond the stop sign. 

Join me and other writers at the Temecula Valley Indie Christian Writers Conference
March 18-20, 2016
Register here: