It Really Is About The Journey . . .

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God is within her, she will not fail; God will help her at break of day.

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Collage of speakers and some of the attendees.

Psalm 46:5 (NIV)

“So, how’d it go?” my friend asked with wide-eyed enthusiasm. We both had events to happen the weekend of November 7 – she hosted her younger sister’s first baby shower, and I hosted my first women’s conference.

“It was amazing,” I started. “It far exceeded my expectations.”

The truth is my faith waivered the entire journey.

The. Entire. Journey.

Leading up to the actual event, I probably cried about once twice a day. At first they were tears of uncertainty. For a long time I felt like I was swimming in the depths of the ocean, I was full of fear. I thought I had nothing on which to anchor. I thought, maybe God did not give me the vision to start the Faith.Hope.Love. Mom Conference. Maybe I concocted the whole ding-dang thing, and I heard what I wanted to hear and not what He called me to do.

The tears then morphed into disappointed tears because I took a leap of faith and did something that I would NEVER do: I asked other people for help. I heard the word “no” too many times to count in the past ten months – I lost track after about the millionth time. I diligently called, emailed, Skyped and physically met with dozens of companies and people across Georgia and was turned down again and again and again.

It’s funny now but I realized toward the end of my journey that fear was going to be there regardless. It wasn’t something I could easily get rid of, fear would have to come along; I just couldn’t let it dictate how I operated my life. And the disappointment, well that comes with the territory. As a writer, you hear no a lot, I mean a lot because maybe the timing is off, or there’s no budget to support your project, or they’re just genuinely not interested, and that’s okay. I took the rejections personally, and I shouldn’t have. I felt like they were saying no to me, but they weren’t.

The woman-owned business or centric organizations that supported the inaugural event.

The woman-owned business or women-centric organizations that supported the inaugural event.

Truth?

My asks were misplaced. It wasn’t about reaching out to people and companies for help; it was about re-training me to turn to Him for my needs.

All of them.

When I realized that, my dialogue changed, I was no longer asking for help and my self-worth, my identity, my wanting to be brave was not tied to their response. Brene Brown says in Rising Strong that, “the most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity.”

I didn’t need their validation. I was on a mission from God, and that was enough.

And “no” eventually turned to “yes” – just enough of them. I aligned myself with several woman-owned businesses that sold their wares, and either discounted or volunteered their services.

Me (turquoise shirt) surrounded by the 2015 speakers and host. L to R, Diana Watley, Dr. Maria Barnes, Egypt Sherrod, me, Kendra Morman (host), Dr. Roxanne Donovan. Missing Tracy Nicole.

Me (turquoise shirt) surrounded by the 2015 speakers and host. L to R, Diana Watley, Dr. Maria Barnes, Egypt Sherrod, me, Kendra Morman (host), Dr. Roxanne Donovan. Missing Tracy Nicole.

The speakers were amazing, and so was our awardee. We honored a local businesswoman for her impact on influencing generations of Atlanta women. I proudly watched as everything unfold. I was touched when the attendees shared bits of their personal stories. I began praising God in the corner because He did it – through him I created a safe and judgment free place where moms felt they could rediscover themselves and lead intentional lives.

I wouldn’t trade the past year for anything. I’m emerging wiser and more resilient, and I look forward to doing it again next year.

 

Dr. Joyce Irons our 2015 Inspirational Award Recipient

It’s time to rethink your story

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Read. This. Book. If you have not read Liz’s book, Big Magic … please do.

“…You have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures – and so do I, and so does everyone around you. And bringing those treasures“…You have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures – and so d to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think small.”

From “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert

“Why would you even do this?” my friend said completely unconvinced. I was hurt. Her words stung because I’ve been venting the successes and challenges of orchestrating an event I’m planning to her for months. Recently I revealed some lessons learned about this process, and she exploded with frustration. “Seriously, I love you but you think too big.” The conversation from that point was a blur. All I heard was, “you think too big.” For a nanosecond, I let her words sink in and then I had to remind myself that thinking big has always served me well.

The lesson I shared was faith and self-love are important — they’re vital, but it’s hope that lights the pathway. Hope anchors us, it propels us forward. Hope clears the path. What I know for sure is that anything you’re thinking of doing right now in this moment with your life has always been with you. You may have just discovered it, but it has always been planted in you. In Christianity, we’re taught that “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”1 In Jewish culture, it has been said “Even if I knew that I would die tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.”2

So why would I even do this?

  • It’s because instead of waiting for something miraculous to happen in my life, I know that I’m the miracle, and it’s my responsibility to make it happen
  • It’s because I’ve got to believe that I’m more than my current circumstance
  • It’s because I’ve got to be an example to my children that waking dreams do come true
  • It’s because I define success in my life, and my journey is my own

What do you think? Why do you think big? or not?  I want to hear from you.

Giving Yourself Permission To Dream . . .

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I’m still on my resilience trek, and it’s pretty amazing. I’ve fallen down all over the place, tripped on my shoelaces, and even locked myself out once or twice.

See? Amazing. It’s okay; you can laugh.

That’s not the interesting part, what has turned out to be quite serendipitous are the women that I’m meeting along the way. Moms who are professionals and entrepreneurs or working from inside the home, they have all been my “sisters in arms.”

Looking around, I’ve seen women in different phases of life. Some are ahead of me, having raised their children or finished their careers and are trying to create their second life. Some are in the thick of it – like me – with multiple kids and a profession or business, and are realizing that work-life balance is a crock. Truth is for some of us, our work is our life, and integration is the key. For others, they’re just getting started and have erroneously pick up what so many of us believed when we began our mommy trek – that we were no longer a priority in our lives. Everyone else comes first; mom’s needs come last.

Again a crock.

I was recently in a precarious situation where I stood back-to-back with a mom. Failure was imminent, it surrounded us, or so it seemed. When we took a minute to assess what was going on we determined that the situation was really our own doing. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course.

We created the obstacles. We created the enemy.

We weren’t fighting anyone – we were fighting ourselves.

We thought we had evolved beyond the mommy guilt but realized that we still held on to the baggage we picked up at the beginning of our respective treks. There was an unspoken lie that attached itself to the foundation of the life we were creating; hindering us from becoming the women we’re trying to be. We bought into the notion that sacrifice means pursuing our dreams and ambitions stopped as soon as our children entered the world. Or if we fought to keep the embers of the dream alive, it was no longer something aspirational rather a burden that reminded us of what we couldn’t do.

Would it be selfish to take a few hours each morning to write or exercise or make homemade lavender soap? Would it be okay to take my career in a completely different direction and run the risk – not knowing how it’ll end? Would it be okay to start dancing again, go back to school, take art lessons or even move across the country to an unfamiliar place?

Only you can decide that. I just know that you do yourself a grave disservice if you don’t give yourself permission to savor the possibilities and all the wonderfulness that dreaming brings. And worse still – if you don’t act upon it in some regard. If you do nothing, it creates resentment and regret and the “what ifs” start playing target practice with our self-confidence.

When we dream, we honor our souls. When we dream, we evolve ourselves beyond the present moment. When we dream, we move closer to what could quite possibly be our life’s purpose. When we dream, we inspire our families to dream. The thing to remember is to bring them along for the journey.

What about you? Now that you can make your dreams come true, what are you going to do?

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Mother May I?

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Something’s wrong.

Queen B herself, Miranda Priestly. I loved Meryl in this role.

Queen B herself, Miranda Priestly. I loved Meryl in this role.

Something’s terribly amiss here.

With all the progress made on behalf of women’s rights over the past 40 years since Roe v. Wade, and especially in the dawn of the presidential election, it seems lately we’ve taken about 4 steps in the wrong direction.

All the controversy swirling around calling little girls names, changing business practices, and flagrant bouts of elitism from women in corporate America stinks more than a mess of day old collard greens.

Yes, Belle is back and I’m fired up something powerful over here because I’ve been sitting and watching silently, gnashing my teeth to powder over the happenings in the media lately. Women’s rights and images in the media are under attack again and this time it’s not the republi-crats or anti-feminist talking heads taking the cheap shots.

One baby step backwards: Let me tell you something, anybody calling my little girl names will have to answer to me. The Onion calling Quvenzhané Wallis out her name last month during the Oscars was disgusting. She’s a kid. And get this: sometimes kids behave like (well) children. God forbid if she was called a slut then her story may have actually received ongoing national attention. It could have even sparked a movement, The “C” Walk. Who’s with me?

Three giant step backwards: Professionally accomplished women being vilified in the media for business and personal decisions. Marissa Mayer trying to make Yahoo! relevant again since (umm) well since the turn of the century. Canceling telework has made her unpopular among people who don’t even hold Yahoo! working credentials. Ouch. But get this: as CEO she’s responsible for doing whatever it takes to make her publicly traded company successful. Even if she has chosen to make unpopular, polarizing, culture-shifting decisions that could have far reaching implications beyond the confines of the Yahoo! camp. I don’t want to see Marissa fail. I want her to be more conscientious of the decisions she makes. Those rungs on the ladder to her success weren’t placed there by accident. She has this role for a purpose. (Tweet that!)

Stand in Place: I just picked up Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In” – I’ve heard varying opinions about the book from “she takes the movement back 20 years” to “it’s the best thing ever” to “it’s self-serving and pointless” and so I decided to just read it myself to form my own opinion. If you’ve read it, let me know what you think.

Truth is women’s rights benefit everyone and feminism is not a monolithic point of view. It’s hard enough to be an ambitious person, let alone a woman, or woman of color or even a little girl of color.

Remember the childhood game Mother May I? The object of the game was to convince the mother to allow you to take enough strides so that YOU then become the mother and can call the shots. This is what we are facing today (I could be reaching here but what the hell…). But instead of requests, let’s consider them components of a manifesto to further define who we are. I’ll start:

Mother may I:

  • decide what’s best for my body
  • work and receive equal work for equal pay
  • lead major corporations and not lose my soul (or make it impossible for other women who may not have access to the same resources as I do to succeed)in the process
  • be strong and confident in my own skin and not be vilified for it
  • be strong and confident in my own skin and not punish those women who aren’t

What would you add to this list?

Something Within

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“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” – Harriet Tubmanblack-ladies

“I’ve got the perfect place for lunch today,” my editor beamed.

The lines on his bearded face deepened with excitement. Standing up from his desk, he stared out of the large window that surrounded the newsroom and stretched his long limbs with anticipation. In sight was a picturesque view of the harbor, a few sail boats were moving inland.

It was lunchtime in my small town; I was an intern reporter at the local paper. Around noon, the downtown streets were flooded with locals taking advantage of the neighborhood eateries.

“Surely you’ve eaten there before, Cece?” he asked with the sweetest southern drawl.

“No sir, can’t say that I have.”

It was my first week on the job, and as a way to welcome me to the team, my boss offered to take me to lunch at a well known café on Main Street.*

I’ve been in that town all my life, and I’ve never once eaten downtown, nor had the inclination to do so.  Actually, at that point in my life, I couldn’t recall if I ever saw anyone that looked like me eat at a downtown restaurant. As a child, I would accompany my mother to Main Street to pay a few bills and shop — but never eat.

The mere thought frightened me.

Was this how my great grandmother and grandmother felt under the unforgiving sun of the Jim Crow south?

Was this how the Jena 6 felt when they saw the noose hung from the tree?

Was this how Recy Taylor felt when she was kidnapped by her rapists?

“Well, you’re going to love it,” he assured me. “They have the best fried chicken salad, ever.”

We gathered our belongings and headed out the door; me, however, with anxiety and fear in tow.

With each step, I felt even more nauseous.

Was I really going to eat there?

When I was a teenager, the only African-Americans I saw entering restaurants were going in through the backdoor as hired help, not as customers.  

Not to say that we didn’t. I personally never saw any. So I had no point of reference. I didn’t know what to expect.

We entered the building.

“There’s such-and-so, he’s a judge, and over there is such-and-so, she’s a lawyer,” my boss said in a hushed tone.

I saw them but what piqued my interest was the well dressed African-American man surrounded by colleagues at a table in the center of the room.

“Who’s that?” I spoke softly, tilting my head in the gentlemen’s direction.

My boss chuckled quietly because he understood why I asked the question.

“That’s such-and-so, he’s a city councilman.

As we ordered and awaited our food, the councilman and his party stood to exit the room. My boss waved slightly which prompted them to stop by our table. They exchanged pleasantries.

“…and allow me to introduce you to, Cece Harbor, our newest reporter,” he continued. I shook hands with about six people. The councilman squeezed my hand a little.

I felt my anxiety slowly disappear.

I looked around the restaurant and saw that we had a small captive audience, including a few from the kitchen staff peering around the corner. I nodded at them in respect.

As we ate our lunches, I kept going over and over in my mind that day the cause for such fear. The truth is I was taught, consciously and subconsciously that there was a limit to what freedoms I should enjoy; not that I wasn’t deserving… but limits, no less.

Sadly there are those of us that still carry certain shackles in our minds…and so we choose to stay within the confines of the familiar. And then there are those of us who in spite of fear, anxiety and uncertainty still march forward no matter how hard the walk, no matter what the cost because we believe that we know that there’s something more…and that we do deserve better.

Isn’t that how change begins?

Oh and you know what? – My editor was right, the chicken salad was delicious.

*Name changed

Somebody’s Fa-bu-lous!

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Guess what?! – Apparently I’m fabulous. No I’m not being vain (you know me better than that). I was awarded The Fabulous Blog Ribbon from Katie over at The Intrinsic Writer blog. How wonderful is that?!

Okay, I’ll stop with the questions.

So the award comes with some rules, I have to:

  1. Thank the blogger who gave it to me and share the link back to the awarding blog.
  2. Name 5 fabulous moments in my life.
  3. Name 5 things that I love.
  4. Name 5 things that I hate.
  5. Pass the award to 5 deserving bloggers.

Be sure to read Katie’s blog, especially if you’re an aspiring writer, you’ll like her blog. She writes about writing, which I honestly think is a genre unto itself. I like the way she skillfully crafts her posts, I always leave with something after reading The Intrinsic Writer blog.

5 Fabulous Moments? – One, two and three…the birth of my 3 children (yeah yeah cliché but true). I never knew how incredible women were until I gave birth. Four…when my step-son became a part of my life and five…when I married my best friend.

5 Things That I love?

1. Good Friends.

2. When I occasionally succumb to my vices, it reminds me that I’m human.

3. People that can laugh at themselves.

4. Second chances.

5. Aha Moments.

5 Things That I hate? – Hate’s such a strong word …but…and in no particular order…I hate it when:

1. …Women that say they are not a feminist. If you believe that women should have a say in their own healthcare, have equal pay for equal work, believe that no woman ‘had it coming to her’, believe that women shouldn’t be slighted because of her gender, race or socioeconomic status – then you’re a feminist. Sorry to break it to you.

2. …Injustice goes unpunished.

3. …Media and marketers try to use gimmicks, lies or shenanigan to sell products.

4. …trashy reality TV shows influence popular culture. Some are really well done and motivational but the majority of these shows film people at their worst and weave those moments together to present an unflattering version television truth.

5. …Entitlement. Get over yourself already, no one owes you a thing.

5 Bloggers You Should Visit Today!

Abrielle Valencia! She’s smart, funny, and thoughtful. I read her blog often.

Memory Bears by Bonnie! Bonnie is so sincere in her writing. She suffered a horrible loss and each entry (I think) is powerful because she seems stronger with each one.

Adriana Ryan! Okay this woman is fearless. Literally! She writes supernatural fiction.

My Body the City: The Secret Life of a Callgirl! Stella is amazing. She was domestically trafficked in New York for 10 years!

The Many Shades of Love! Amy’s name says it all. Amy Wise. She’s an incredibly gifted writer. Oh and bonus– she just published a book, it’s on Amazon.

Congratulations and enjoy!

Having It All and Giving It Back

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“…we need you to work more hours until we get this project back on track,” my then project manager said coolly. His eyes said nothing. I tried reading his body language; aside from a short flip of his hair his remarks were pretty candid and dismissive all at once.

I, on the other hand, was not so contained. I sat across from him in his small office with little beads of sweat accumulating on my forehead and a baby bump on my lap – I was 6 months pregnant.

Can Women Really Have It All?

“I’m already putting in almost 50 hours, Todd,” I was exhausted.

“The system requirements are done and short of developing the application myself, there really isn’t much else I can do until we’re ready to test.”

He knew I was right; there wasn’t physically anything else the management staff could do. He wanted me to babysit the client. I thought that decision was a poor project move – all we had to do was deliver on time. Truth is those long work days were emotionally and physically taxing for the entire team. In my mind, I didn’t see what I personally needed to do necessitated longer hours in the office.  I could surely log in from home and respond to email from there, right?

Wrong! Todd was fixated on face time in the office.

“No we need you here, we’re thinking 12-hour shifts for everyone until the development work is done,” he responded.

Seriously, dude?

I thought about how much I’ve already sacrificed for the company, neglecting my health, neglecting my family and neglecting my career on this and other poorly ran projects.

“No, that won’t work for me,” I said as evenly as I could. “I-I have a family Todd and….”

Did I just say that?

“Aren’t you married?” he snapped. He seemed offended.

“Yes.”

“Couldn’t your husband, step up at home until the project is . . . . ”

I remember distinctively how I felt at that moment. I was anxious, afraid and angry all at the same time. I saw his lips move but I couldn’t hear a word. All I kept thinking was: what would I say next . . . .

Tell me what you think! Have you faced a similar sitaution? Sound off below.