And a New Journey Begins…

Dear Friends,

This post feels difficult to write. Not because I shouldn’t, but because I feel like there is so much to say. I just don’t know where to begin. People often say, “Write from the heart.” In fact, I’m one of those people. But what do you write when your heart is overflowing? What do you write when your heart feels emotions that your mind cannot express?

On June 13, 2011, I began this incredible journey here with all of you. It has been a journey of discovery…a journey of unveiling all the secrets in my roux…a journey of perfecting the gumbo that is me.

…the process of turning simple flour and oil into a rich pot of complex flavors and aromas is much like the process of transitioning from a young, naive girl into a strong, confident, and self-assured woman. It takes time, thought, and careful consideration.

~Donloyn LeDuff Gadson, The Creole Magnolia

Those were some of the first thoughts that I shared with you all.

As I reflect on all the emotions, inspirations and fears that I have shared on this blog with all of you, I see a woman freeing herself… moving away from the young, naive girl she has carried inside and making room for the confident and courageous woman she has become. I see a woman who understands the complex relationship between growth and acceptance. I see a woman who once undervalued her uniqueness but who now has gained the courage to celebrate it.

As I reflect on the ideas shared here, I see themes surrounding love, courage, fear, vulnerability, self doubt, uncertainty, growth and strength. But, above all else, I see the theme of Clarity.

My most insightful assessment regarding Clarity was when I recognized I was Looking for that which I cannot See.

Sometimes We Must Dwell In Darkness In Order To Appreciate The Light!! By darkness, I do not mean despair or gloom. What I mean is the unknown, the uncertain, the unchartered, the absence. Finding Clarity is not like finding a lost hairbrush or your favorite lip gloss. You don’t just happen upon it. Clarity is a presence, a knowledge, a breath of fresh air that is Attained! It is not tangible. And it is immeasurable!

I’m not sure I’ve truly gained Clarity. Some days I believe I’ve achieved it. And others, it’s gone. But I have come to accept that there is a large portion of Chaos that comes with Clarity. And you must work through that chaos, one layer at a time.

Clarity requires action, a continuous moving forward. And that is what I am doing…moving forward, embarking upon a new journey, working through a new layer of chaos.

This post will be last here on Creole Magnolia Cafe. This is last serving of inspiration I have for you. And the truth is, you’ve inspired me more than I have inspired you.

I will be moving forward, not as The Creole Magnolia, but as Donloyn…Donloyn LeDuff Gadson. I will step out from behind the moniker, and I will be whom I have always been…me. I will embark upon this next phase of my writing career with transparency and vulnerability. And I will take comfort in knowing that Clarity will come.

This blog has served me well. Not only has it given me the platform to inspire all of you, but also it has given me the opportunity to find the courage necessary to accept me…a unique individual who has never fit into any one box. I do not know what the future holds for me, but I do know one thing…

Clarity is always closer than you think.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life. I will keep this site active so we both can reflect when necessary. Because sometimes, you have to remind yourself of where you’ve been in order to fully appreciate where you are.

I’d love for you to join me at my new website and blog, www.Donloyn.com. I pray my new  journey will inspire you to develop, accept and celebrate your own beautiful uniqueness.

Wishing you more Love, Peace and Clarity than your hearts can hold.

Happy New Year,

Donloyn_Logo

The Giver, Part 2: Confirmations, Trust and Newfound Clarity

I was obedient. I followed what I know God put on my heart (and, oddly enough, in the fortune cookie). I was obedient. I wrote, and I sketched. Ultimately, I created The Giver, and I shared it all with you.

And then…I waited…expecting Clarity to immediately pick me up, dust me off, and position me upright upon my once stable two feet. I waited…impatiently…and nothing happened. At least not immediately.

The day slowly faded and transitioned into the next, and I found my myself, and my thoughts, even more confused and muddied. Clarity, at this point, was a fleeting memory, a story of long ago, something I had possessed at one point in time but somehow lost along the way. Like losing a box in the midst of a move…you remember packing and handling it with care; but somehow, it’s vanished.

And so I prayed. I begged God to pour into me. I just needed the answers and I needed them from Him. I needed to know what His plans were for me. I needed to know how He planned to use me. I needed to know what my next steps would be and how I was to use my skills to enhance the lives of Sassy Sophisticates. Sassy, I needed to know what was next for me AND for you.

Remember, I’m The Creole Magnolia, the Inspiration Specialist, leader of the Sassy Sophisticate movement…my job is to inspire. Only one problem…I wasn’t feeling so inspirational.

So I prayed. I spoke to a friend. Tearfully and reluctantly, I shared with her how shaken I was. I doubted my talents and gifts. I even questioned my calling and my ability to get the job done. I thought to myself:

My Sassy Sophisticates need me and I need them. We need inspiration, and they depend on me to find it and to find it from within. So just get out of your head, Donloyn, and get this job done. The Sassy Sophisticate movement needs YOU!

While talking with my dear friend, I shared with her my prayer asking God to fill me up, telling Him I was an open vessel ready to receive. She was confident that by the end of the day not only would God fill me up but also I would be overflowing. If anyone was ready to overflow, it was me.

Moments later, the first testimony came in. My post, The Giver, was speaking to people and in such a profound way, a way that I had never expected.

Then came more shares and messages. Like this one:

“This is my Season…I <3 this! Donloyn LeDuff Gadson…what a piece! You just told my story!” PRM

 

My 11-year-old daughter shared with me the first few lines of a book she is writing. Yes, you read that correctly–And it was GOOD! She is serious about having it published and has asked for my help in doing so. Then I stumbled across two beautifully written poems in my 8-year-old twin boys’ school folders. Moments later, one of those boys informed me that he would like to start a book club for kids. This is not a mommy blog; however, mentioning my children is quite fitting in this instance because I even began receiving confirmation through them. Yes, my children were speaking to me. It was as if they were saying, “Mom, we hear you. You’re inspiring us, too. Keep on inspiring. You’re doing good.”

 

And then came a testimony so grand it brought tears to my eyes.

Confirmation

Donloyn Gadson, I hope u don’t mind but I have put pic of ur tree on my locker next to my “Award for being the greatest Mom” that my son made for me. Your blog ministered to me in a great way. I put the tree on my locker as a reminder of who I am, as a giver to my family, co-workers, patients, friends and everyone else in my life BUT more importantly as a reminder of how great a Giver my Father God is. And that even when I rejected Him, He still loved me in my mess and gave His one and only Son as the best gift ever, for a daughter that He waited on patiently, to return to Him!…This Word that God gave u is going to travel and reach farther than u will ever know! It will be the catalyst God uses to heal, deliver and to set His people free. 
Your pic is no longer on my locker. It was up there for maybe 30 minutes. My co-worker has it now along with a copy of the message that came with it. I wanted to share, I mean how cud I hold on to life changing Words and not give them away (I guess that’s part of The Giver in me) She carefully read the Words, asked if she cud have a copy and said that God had just given her revelation, with tears in her eyes. I know that she too will have to share this great Word just as I did! God bless you sis! Be ready for when the testimonies begin to pour in!  LG

 

And then…a few days later…I won this!

 

MeandAward

MyAward

First Runner Up in the 2013 Charleston Multicultural Bridal & Events Association Awards for Best Blogger!

I was humbled, honored and, again, reminded.

After receiving all of the Confirmations, my Trust is being renewed, rebuilt and restored, and I am beginning to ease into a Newfound Clarity. And for that, I am truly thankful.

~

How has your Clarity recently been restored? Inspire us in the comments below!

Project SHINE: Celebrating Sassy Warriors

Three of the most important attributes of a Sassy Sophisticate are her strength, tenacity and ability to inspire. For the Sassy Sophisticates waging war against breast cancer, these qualities shine brightly. Their unwavering courage, persistent drive and relentless refusal to give up inspire all whom they encounter.

The nation pays tribute to these shining warriors every October, and though we recognize the importance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and are overjoyed to join the fight, many of us have been touched personally by these women, and thus battle alongside and claim small victories with them year-round. They are wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, grand-daughters, cousins, best friends and co-workers. These stars play leading roles in our lives and are deserving of their moments in the spotlight.

Project SHINE, a unique initiative created by Dana Klein of Photography by Dana, is an annual event held in Charleston, SC that celebrates the beauty of the breast cancer survivor. Its mission…To shine the light on these beautiful warriors. Through the coordinated efforts of hair and makeup talent combined with the photography skills of the project’s creator, local breast cancer warriors are treated to a day of beauty and pampering followed by a professional photo shoot to commemorate this special occasion.

Nancy Barnwell, one of the beautiful survivors celebrated during Project SHINE 2013!

Nancy Barnwell, one of the beautiful survivors celebrated during Project SHINE 2013!

This year, Project SHINE is 2 years strong, and I have been blessed to play a small role since its inception.

In 2012, after being asked to help spread the word about this wonderful cause, I was able to sit down in a one-on-one interview with Dana in order to learn more about her as both an artist and a humanitarian (She is extremely humble, and although I may get into loads of trouble for mentioning her too often, I must give credit where credit is due. She is a wonderful woman! Check out our interview from 2012 and see for yourself!).

This year, not only did Dana invite me back, but also she gave me a “backstage pass!” By allowing me behind-the-scenes access to Project SHINE, I was able to see first-hand how it all comes together.

And now here I am sharing it with all of you! I hope the positivity of this event and the strength and beauty of these women inspire you as much as they have me. These women are a true testament to the spirit of the Sassy Sophisticate!

May they continue to SHINE!

Is there a special warrior in your life who you would like to SHINE the light on? If so, I invite you to share in the comments below! Let us join you in celebrating her Strong, Sassy Spirit!

To learn more about Dana and Project SHINE, please visit her online at www.PhotographyByDana.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/danaphotography!

 

“Inspiration is a dish best served with coffee!” ~The Creole Magnolia

 

Diving into Purpose: Thoughts on Life in My Forties

In my twenties, I knew it all! Or so I thought. I was stubborn and strong-willed and convinced I had it all together, despite the crumbling walls that enclosed me. I had no idea who I was, what Life was really about or what my purpose was in it. I was a selfish, hungry caterpillar, whose prime purpose was to feed my EGO. I didn’t intentionally set out to be selfish; however, like most “twenty-somethings,” it was all about me.

When I reached my thirties, I was swiftly smacked with the realization I actually knew nothing at all! All the truths I held dear began to unravel, and I was thrust into a Decade of Discovery–a time to develop, explore and transform into the real me. During the early years of this decade, I was unsure, doubtful, fearful. I longed for the comfort I had created in my disillusioned twenties. Although that was the time I lacked purpose and was severely misguided, I had created comfort for myself. And even though the security and self-esteem of my twenties was created through immature tactics and lies I told myself, it was still comfort all the same.

Once I entered my thirties and recognized there was much work to be done, I had to become comfortable with the unknown…the unanswered questions…the uncertain outcomes. I had to learn that it was okay to spend time in the dark, uncomfortable places because it is only then that we grow. My thirties can easily be equated with entering a cocoon, where a magical transformation occurred.

When my 40th birthday arrived, I was ready! I had emerged from that metamorphosis knowing exactly who I was, ready to share my newly found sense of purpose and womanhood with the world. I had emerged as a beautiful butterfly, ready to test out my wings.

40 marked my New Beginning…a new decade…a new journey. It was to be one of Enlightenment. There I was on the threshold. Walking through the doorway, away from being a girlish imitation of a woman and into being a fully grown, fully matured woman with a voice.

And at 40, I stood there, gazing out into vast ocean of possibilities, excited by all that lay before me. Dismal clouds of fear, comfort and self-doubt were far in distance. And I stood there, a lovely Butterfly, God’s love and light shining upon me, illuminating all that was in store. I spent a year testing the waters, spreading my wings just enough to exercise them, but not quite enough to show that I had truly accepted my Purpose. And I continued to stand there, gazing upon the waters of possibility that made the Decade of Enlightenment so phenomenal…patiently awaiting the day when I would dive right in.

And when the day came, I knew…

I knew that at 40, I had to continue to reflect, continue to prepare, continue to take it all in. The sun had risen on my new day, but I had to wait for each inspirational ray to fill the sky, warm my skin and illuminate all that was designed for me.

As I approached my 41st birthday, I had an epiphany. I realized why I had been waiting…why I had moments of forward momentum followed by long periods of rest. In that realization, I discovered the difference between being 40 and being in your 40s. Being 40 means having the wings and testing them out. Being 41, means having the confidence to spread them far and wide. Being 40 means standing on the side…standing in the doorway…standing at the threshold, watching, waiting patiently. 41 symbolizes the jumping right in.

And so I did…

Diving completely and gracefully into my Purpose. Embracing all that my 40s have in store.

Diving completely and gracefully into my Purpose. Embracing all that my 40s have in store.
Artwork by Donloyn LeDuff Gadson ~The Creole Magnolia

On Tuesday, October 1, 2013, I jumped right in. With complete trust, faith, hope and love, I jumped into all that God has prepared for me. I am committed to my purpose with no fear of the future.

And I have the promise that with each passing year, my Purpose will continue to become clearer and clearer, and my Decade of Enlightenment will become more fruitful and more gratifying than ever.

How will you live life on Purpose?

~

RememberInspiration is a dish best served with coffee!

 

And The Winner Is…

Greetings Sassy Sophisticates!

The last 2 weeks have been filled with marvelous encounters!

I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in several different activities and functions that have exposed me to some pretty spectacular ladies! And I have been overflowing with inspiration!

I was invited to be a part of the Renew & Restore Expo brought to you by Restoration From Within and even hosted my very first Sassy Sophisticate Social! At both events, all in attendance were able to enter the drawing for the Sassy Sophisticate Inspiration Sampler which is a gorgeous gift basket filled with tons of goodies designed to inspire the crap out of you!

Sassy Sophisticate Inspiration Sampler

If you have a dream, a goal, an aspiration–anything trapped inside and dying to get out–then pray your name is drawn, because the goodies in this basket were all selected with the purpose of encouraging you to explore your inner most thoughts and feelings.

Giveaways are awesome! Giveaways that inspire…Even Better!

I would like to thank you for taking the time out to enter. I am about to make one Sassy Sophisticate very happy!

So, without further ado, click on over to the video! Could the winner be you?! Find out now! And be sure to congratulate the winner in the comments!

Oh yes, and subscribe, too!

And remember…

Discover your passions! Create your own identity! And let the world hear your Voice!

Until next time…

Stay Sassy!

The Creole Magnolia

The Butterfly

FLORIDA  WILD    ~   NATURE & WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY ~ BY LEIGH A WAX: FLORA BUTTERFLYS DRAGONFLYS &emdash; WO-9889-Black Swallowtail Butterfly
~

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, there was a beautiful valley nestled amidst two hills. There were open meadows filled with Milk Thistle, Shasta Daisies and Purple Cone Flower. There was a stream…wild flowers lined the sides of its banks.

This beautiful valley was the home to a community of butterflies in a wide array of colors and types.

The butterflies flew along the base of the hillside, throughout the meadows and near the stream. However, they never ventured beyond the valley. They never even flew to the top of the hillside to take a peek and what lied beyond this barrier. They were content with what they knew, and had no interest in expanding their horizons. The valley was a beautiful place, and they were just fine with that.

But one butterfly was not okay with this mediocre mindset. The valley was beautiful, indeed, but she wanted to learn new things, see new places and travel as far as her glorious wings could possibly take her.

So each day, Blossom ventured beyond the valley, taking in new sights and expanding her horizons.

The other butterflies did not like this at all. They scoffed at Blossom’s curious spirit and ridiculed her for seeking more. They did everything they could to dissuade Blossom from setting out on her journey each day,

But no matter how hard they tried to convince her that she was behaving foolishly, Blossom continued on her quest to discover amazing things. Each morning, after fluttering about in the valley, Blossom would fly high above the meadows and cross over the hillside.

She saw mountains, rivers and the ocean. She saw happy children playing in parks, far more than the few who would occasionally visit the valley to play. She visited the bushes and flower gardens of homes in quiet neighborhoods and frequented city parks surrounded by large buildings and honking horns.

And each day, when Blossom would return to her home in the valley, the other butterflies would laugh, point and stare. Some would whisper, while others would jeer.

One day upon returning from an exciting adventure, the taunting from the others was far worse than it had ever been. Blossom had had enough. “Why do you insist on being mean and spiteful?” said Blossom to the others. “Why do you poke fun at me every day and why is today worse than all the others?”  Bianca, who always seemed to be at the center of the mockery, fluttered forward. “Blossom, look at yourself,” she said in a disgusted tone. “You leave this valley every day, stretch your wings beyond their limits and spread them far and wide. And each day when you return, your wings are larger and grander than the day before. Now look at you! You are monstrous and hideously huge—a disgrace amongst butterflies.”

Blossom looked around at them all, shook her head at the sadness of this situation, drew in a deep breath and calmly responded, “Bianca, perhaps it is all of you who should look at yourselves.” They all looked around at one another, puzzled at the point Blossom was trying to make. “Have you all not noticed how much higher you have to fly before you get to the delicious bud of the Milk Thistle?” A few eyes began to open and expressions began to change. They hadn’t thought about it before, but now that Blossom mentioned it, they realized that was true. They quickly shook off any effect this truth had had upon them, and continued to scowl at Blossom. Blossom went on. “And have you all not noticed how long it takes you to flutter from one side of the stream to the other?”  Again, their expressions began to change. “And have you all not noticed how large the Purple Cone Flower is when you rest upon it, or how you must steady yourself when drinking from the Shasta Daisies so you don’t become stuck in its center or buried within its petals?” By this time, everyone was nodding in agreement. Blossom was correct…these things were true. But until this very moment, it had never occurred to any of them.

Blossom looked around at them all and said, “The flowers in the meadow have not changed. The hillside has not grown, and the stream has not widened.” She flew towards and landed upon a Shasta Daisy. “Notice my size compared to this flower. It is quite normal.” Everyone looked confused. Blossom did appear to be normal in size next to the daisy. They all looked at one another and then back at Blossom. “Broadening my horizons and spreading my wings has not caused me to become hideously huge,” she said. 

“Well then what is going on here, Blossom,” said Bianca in a flustered tone.

“Don’t you see?” responded Blossom. “It is not I who has become grand and monstrous. It is you and your wings that have become withered and wilted.”

~

Are you a Blossom or a Bianca? Will you allow your wings to wither and wilt?

Or will you spread them and take flight?

To view a live reading of this blog post, please click HERE

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Whirlwinds, Pinwheels and Passions

The past 4 weeks have been a whirlwind! It’s been both amazing and overwhelming.

Some of the highlights…

With many blessings–whether in business or on the home-front–come many responsibilities. And between you and me, sometimes the whirlwind is filled with chaos that ain’t so blessed! Yep, I’ve had to tussle with a bit of that, as well (A husband, 8 kids, aging parents and bills! Need I say more).

But even when the winds have blown in an unexpected element…even when they’ve stirred fearful emotions or have thrown me so far off balance that I miss a step or two…even when good stuff is all mixed in with a little bad…even when business blessings pile up so high on my plate that it appears to be too much for one person to handle…even then, it has been amazing!

An amazing whirlwind…

Whirlwind by Lisa Strazza

 

And me…I’ve been a pinwheel. Twirling. Spinning. Dizzy. One direction. Then the next.

 

Pinwheel1

Standing tall in the wind, facing its strong currents head on, allowing its energy to fuel my passions.

The Passion flower bears a stunning resemblance to a Pinwheel.

The Passion flower bears a stunning resemblance to a Pinwheel.

Dancing during times of challenge, showing off my colors as a celebration of victory…This is how I handle overwhelm.

Like a Pinwheel!

Why am I telling you this?

You know you’ve had those moments. Moments when the pressure seemed far too great. Moments when you’ve felt the weight of the world on your shoulders. Moments when you’ve felt you couldn’t possibly get through or hang on. Moments when you wanted to let go, cry and allow the whirlwind to sweep you away.

When the overwhelm is just too darn overwhelming and the winds become too intense, be a Pinwheel.

Hold your head high, tap into your why, and roll with it…one breeze, or gust, at a time!

Remember these 4 key points!

  1. Prioritize! You cannot handle everything at once. Focus on the most important demand, knock it out and move to the next!
  2. Change your outlook! You can’t get anything done successfully if you have an attitude of dread, doom and gloom. Think Pinwheel!
  3. Approach your tasks as challenges! How awesome do we feel when we’ve kicked a problem in the Patooshka or crossed an item off our To Do Lists?! Pretty dang awesome!
  4. Keep your vision at the forefront! By doing this, you’ll be inspired to come up with innovative ways to get things done.

Tell me…How do you handle overwhelm? When things have become so intense–whether good, bad or a combination–what techniques do you employ to get through?

Tell me in the comments below! REMEMBER! Your techniques may be the answer that someone else needs to hear! So please, share!

 

If you love this blog, then please subscribe! And remember! Inspiration is a dish best served with gourmet coffee! Want a complimentary cup? Then click the OG symbol on the column on the right!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sauntering through, Learning Lessons…Picking a Few Miracles Along the Way

Over the course of the last several months, I’ve learned many invaluable lessons. My journey towards a clearer state of mind has exposed my vulnerabilities and, as a result, has empowered me.

I am Strong because I allow myself time to be Weak.

I am Protected and Secure because I allow myself to be Transparent and Open.

I am a Success because I allow myself to reflect upon and learn from my Failures.

I am Enlightened because I allow myself time to dwell in the Darkness.

I am always changing, transitioning, developing…I forever will be. This constant state of metamorphosis used to unnerve me. I felt unsteady, unstable, uncertain. I see the beauty in this now. I have realized that this constant need for change shows my love for learning, my unwillingness to remain stagnant and my refusal to conform to a life of disconnect.

The Universe needs learners. Learners must be deep thinkers and feelers, willing to reflect, make connections, arrive at conclusions, change and become new, and share these experiences with others in meaningful ways. I am one of these learners.

At the start of 2013, I had lost momentum…slow to even come out of the gates. In a scramble to catch up, my goals and purpose became clouded. I doubted everything I did or planned to do. Eventually, I allowed that doubt to keep me from fulfilling goals I had set for myself. I momentarily fell into the trap of comparing my journey and achievements to those of others, foolishly thinking their outward appearances (because no one knows what internal struggles someone else may be facing) had become the all-purpose scale by which to weigh my value.

Thankfully, I woke up in time–in time to enjoy my saunter.

I realized that there was (and, still is) beauty and necessity in my slow pace. Slowly journeying…sauntering, strolling…has gifted me with the ability to absorb, reflect, connect and learn.

On tough days, I’ve been able to see the lessons, appreciate the value of struggle and develop the strength that comes from endurance.

The beautiful days…those are the days I enjoy my miracles…and even stop to pick a few more along the way.

PickingMiracles

Ironically, today is World Sauntering Day…I hope you’ll take a moment today, and everyday, to see the beauty in a slow, steady pace, for this is what makes a true learner.

Enjoy the world around you, soak up the lessons, and pick every miracle in sight!  (Tweet that!)

The Gift

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching recently. Much of it has to do with my writing and taking it to the next level–becoming a published author. As writing has been at the forefront of my mind, fittingly, so have quills and inkwells. I’ve found myself almost subconsciously, and quite uncontrollably, attracted to them, stumbling upon them in both familiar and unfamiliar places and, truly, taking notice. Each time I gaze upon the pair, the symbolism and the private meaning they hold just for me feels like a secret shared only through a sacred bond. It’s become quite a love affair, one that I don’t want to end.

Last week, I shared my new obsession with my husband, telling him of my desire to one day own a quill and inkwell set (in addition to an easel, stretched canvas, paint brushes and acrylics…but I’ll save that passion for a separate post). I’m certain the gravity of my revelation escaped him, because he nodded, said “uh-huh,” and continued about his business on the computer. Despite my school girl need to “blurt it all out,” my secret romance had, essentially, remained secret.

Today, Thomas, my no-longer-kindergartener, found a big goose quill by the pond near our house. And he brought it home as a present for me. He was so pleased with his discovery. He was even more elated with his plan to gift it to me. He told me all I needed was some ink and I could write with it. I was amazed. How does a newly turned 6-year-old know what a quill is or how it was used? I don’t think I was aware of quills and inkwells at such a tender age.

TheGift

Both my father and my oldest son tried to discourage his sweet offering, telling him this lovely plume was filled with germs. But, I, for once, saw beyond the possible salmonella contamination, and saw only the beauty in this kind, heart-felt gesture of a child. After saving him from all the insensitivity that men can sometimes bring, Thomas and I took the feather to the bathroom and we washed it, over and over again. While we carefully lathered it, we discussed what a lovely pen it would make. I never asked him how he knew these large feathers were once used as writing instruments. I never even asked him how he knew ink could be purchased in a container. I just let the moment flow…just as the sudsy water flowed over this perfect gift.

And as we talked, washed and dried the feather, here was this imagery again…only this time in a familiar place, a more personal setting…intimate surroundings. The object of my secret love affair was, again, staring me in the face, and I couldn’t help but wonder what it all meant. The timing of his precious gift couldn’t have been more meaningful. I’ve been struggling internally…really struggling. I’ve been tussling with my purpose, reevaluating my dreams, reexamining my approach. All this searching, redefining, transitioning…it has caught me completely off guard.

TheGift2

As I gazed upon his precious face, filled with so much excitement and innocence, I found myself thinking, “Is this a sign? Could this be the answer I’ve so desperately been looking for?” Because, in reality, I have been awaiting a sign, some miraculous epiphany, some mystical answer to my questions and confusion.

Why am I confused, you ask? Well, I’ve been thinking of packing up my floral designing tools and pushing Creole Magnolia Creations to the side, at least long enough to focus on the next phase of my writing. Did I just type that out loud? Yes. I did, and it’s true. However, I’ve been struggling with this possibility. I don’t like the thought of accepting this answer. You see, I dream of flowers everyday. I study the arrangements of floral artists I admire; I create new designs in my head; I toy with a myriad of design concepts. My passion for floral artistry is very present—each and everyday, it is present…that has not changed. But what also has not changed is my shortage of time, my large family and the demands and responsibilities that come with marriage and motherhood.

My crazy life doesn’t leave a whole lot free time, and when there are a few extra moments at the end of long day, I feel the need to fill them with family, quiet, and some much needed relaxation.

Some might ask, “Why can’t you continue to do both?” Well, the aforementioned gives the answer to that. Furthermore, I’ve been attempting to do both all along, and look where it’s gotten me.

And so here I am with a still-on-the-ground floral design business, an unpublished children’s book manuscript and a bitter pill labeled “Focus.” Yes…Focus. I’ve been resisting that for, well, forever. I’ve had many well meaning individuals advise me. And their advice all sounds the same. “Yada yada…blah blah…Focus on one thing…wonk wonk…blah-zay bland.” It feels too confining for me. Like a loss of freedoms. Like I’m being told that I can’t soar to unknown heights…that if I fly, then I have to do so cautiously low. Like I’m only capable of doing one thing well…something I know is completely untrue.

My husband and kids are the longest things I’ve ever done. Marinate on that. I’ve always spread my wings far and wide…allowed myself to experience a multitude of things. I love to learn and grow, and when I feel stagnant and unchallenged, I move on. I dig deeper, explore new interests and add another layer to the complex woman that is before you today.
Some call that fickle, flighty or uncommitted. I call it passion…desire…living! I am passionate about and in love with so many things, and I can’t wait to do them all! And, when faced with the decision to choose only one, I just can’t. How do you choose which passion to pursue? How do you willfully walk away from one, even if only for a short while, without feeling as if you’ve abandoned it? Especially when it is so strong within you?

That’s where I’ve been…in my head and my heart, that is. Struggling, deciding…

And then came the gift. From a child. A child who knew just what to give and what to say, without really knowing at all. A child who, unbeknownst to anyone else, essentially, walked up to me and said,

“Here. Now write.”

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Embracing Self and Accepting Permission

Apparently, I was correct in concluding that I feel uncomfortable with shifting my focus onto Self. So uncomfortable, in fact, that it caused me to begin to feel pulled back towards the very thing I am trying to escape…a complicated plate filled with things that don’t fuel my passions.

For those who have been following along, this concept of truly putting my goals and aspirations first threw me so off balance that I haven’t been able to find the words, yet I have been immersed in thought. I haven’t blogged for 9 days, yet I’ve been drowning in words and lost in emotion. Crazy, right? Surrounded by words, but unable to use them? So much for the 30 day blog challenge.

But, I am not going to allow my failed attempt to blog for 30 days straight cause me to end my journey for Clarity. I am simply going to pick up where I left off and try to make some sense of this confusion. I’m going to try to give myself permission to be selfish.

To be successful, you have to be selfish, or else you never achieve. And once you get to your highest level, then you have to be unselfish. Stay reachable. Stay in touch. Don’t Isolate. ~Michael Jordan

In addition to being selfless to a fault, I seem to have trouble accepting my limitations. My dear friend Angie, who is also on a similar quest for Clarity, read a quote to me about accepting your limitations. It immediately triggered my control response, and my first thought was if I accept my limitations, then I am no longer in control and must wave the white flag of capitulation. It will be as if I have surrendered…become conquered and defeated. Imagine that…A Selfless Control Freak! Such an oxymoron.

And, now that I’m thinking about it (because, I am completely free-styling this blog post), maybe I did do exactly what I said I would do in my last post. I Sat with Myself in the weird place of Awkwardness & Discomfort. I really did. It’s not important that I didn’t blog each day. What’s important is that I continued to focus on my journey. I continued to focus on gaining Clarity. I wrestled with my thoughts and emotions. I allowed myself to be pulled back and forth, to and fro. And that’s truly all that matters.

In the past 9 days, I have come face-to-face with fear, anxiety, emotional turbulence and the like. I have come to grips with what I have to do, and have realized that sometimes there is a distinct difference between what you want to do and what you choose to do. In a way, maybe that is me accepting my limitations. It is also me realizing that in order to grow and move toward something better, you have to be willing to let go of some things in the here and now. You have to be willing to sacrifice the things that can be perceived as good in order to gain that which is great.

There is nothing bad about the freelance jobs and projects that I am involved with…nothing bad about them, at all. They just simply do not serve any purpose when it comes to furthering my dreams and goals for my business. They just happen to not be good for me.

I believe they may also be a crutch, an excuse, a way to hide my fear…Fear of transitioning, transforming, changing and growing.

So, right here, today, I give myself permission…Permission to be selfish. Permission to accept my limitations. Permission to feel out-of-control. Permission to let go and grow. Permission to be fearful without being paralyzed. And, yes, even Permission to skip a blog post.

“Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.” ~Bill Cosby

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Embrace your true Self and all the Creativity & Inspiration that lies within.
~The Creole Magnolia
(Artist: Jerod AleXander Davies)

Sometimes Life isn’t about finding your voice, finding yourself, or finding your passion. Sometimes Life is just about giving yourself Permission to use what already Exists Within. However, in order to that, you must Embrace Self and Accept the Permission that has been granted.

 

 

 

Sitting with Self, Amidst Awkwardness & Discomfort

I am one week into my journey to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics–my theme for my month long Ultimate Blog Challenge. Ironically, this month is National Stress Awareness Month, and I firmly believe in order to conquer stress, we must first have Clarity.

I find myself struggling to grasp and hold onto simplicity as a result of the additional work commitments that I have hoisted upon my already tired and beaten shoulders. These additional obligations–freelance writing jobs and other professional projects–devour my time and leave me feeling overburdened and uninspired. Because they cast me into a role of support for another company, organization or individual’s work-related missions and interests, they have become distractions designed to prevent me from actualizing my own dreams, passions and goals.

Over the course of the last 7 days, I have forced myself to come face-to-face with my concerns in an effort not only to find a solution, but also to prevent the same situation from recurring in the future. Consequently, I’ve noticed that my blog content has shifted from speech that was geared towards lifting and inspiring women, as well as myself, as a collective whole to now being worded in a manner that seems self serving. My message, that once used “we” and “us,” is now ladled with “I” and “me.”

This is very strange for me.

I realize that in order to do “personal work” and make effective changes “within,” I must turn inward…reflect…and, ultimately, take a long hard look at myself. Clearly, if I am sharing a specific, personal journal on a public platform, then, yes, the attention will be directed upon me.

Be selfless and give of yourself, without losing yourself.

Be selfless and give of yourself, without losing yourself.

However, I am cautious about such things. To me, there is a fine line between self-assurance and self-indulgence. A fine line between selfless and selfish.

I also realize in order to uncover what’s hidden, you must sit with the awkwardness and discomfort. You cannot grow and evolve if you are never willing to explore life beyond the boundaries of restrictive comfort zones.

In typing this, I also realize something else…could this strange discomfort I feel when focusing on “I” and “me”…could this be at the heart of my constant battle with putting the dreams of others ahead of my own? Am I too uncomfortable to focus on myself and, thus, push my aspirations aside to help someone else attain theirs? Am I sabotaging myself by piling my plate full of duties designed to  support the missions of others in order to avoid shining the light on my talents and efforts? I’ve always been self-confident, self-assured, with a positive self-image. But could I be too selfless?

Until now, I have always prided myself on my ability to motivate and encourage the collective…to teach and inspire through my own personal experiences and thoughts without making it all about me. Now that I am faced with it being “all about me,” I seem to have stumbled upon valuable information…an intuitive gem!

This definitely gives me more to consider when I explore the why’s.

Until then, I will continue Sitting with Self, Amidst Awkwardness and Discomfort.

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

 

 

 

Giving Myself Permission

Today, technically yesterday, I kept it low-key. I slept in, fixed breakfast at an hour that is probably considered late even for brunch, went in the back yard with the family, and, even walked to the park with my husband and the kids. We had a blast, and for the second day in a row, I gave myself permission to relax…to keep it simple…to feel the moment…to open the door for clarity!

Oftentimes, we neglect to give ourselves permission. Permission to feel, to think, to say, to do…to live and live happily!

Giving myself permission is like setting my soul free!

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Day 7 of my journey to Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics thanks to the Ultimate Blog Challenge!

Feel This Moment

Life is marked by moments…

How we spend these moments are choices…choices that we make. No one else.

Today, I could allow tasking deadlines for projects, that don’t speak to my passions, dictate how I spend this day’s moments.

Or, I can choose to truly feel my moments…to fill them with meaning and purpose.

As I write this, I am looking out onto the back patio, gazing at the 3 baby Passion Flowers my husband gifted to me. My kids are in the distance playing on the swing set and throwing footballs in the open spaces.

Passion Flower...Fully grown, amazing and unique!

Passion Flower…Fully grown, amazing and unique!

The Passion Flowers remind me to feel, grow, live and love my dreams. They’re babies, with no blooms. But with time and care, they will thrive.

My kids…They remind me to do everything with simplicity, joy, innocence and laughter. They’re babies, as well. Naive and immature, but filled with hope for the future. They feel their moments by choosing to see their world with amazement.

As for these freelance writing deadlines looming above–I haven’t even begun to give them thought. And today, I don’t intend to. In this moment, I’m choosing to push them aside.

Today, I choose to have coffee and great conversation with a wonderful friend while our kids play and create memories together. I choose to allow the relaxation of downtime to replenish, refuel and rejuvenate my passions.

I Choose to Feel This Moment!

(Yes, I did just go from John Mayer in my last post to Pitbull & Christina Aguilera in this one! I’m eclectic and amazing like that!)

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

As a result of this blog challenge, I am on a quest for Clarity. I’d love for you to join me on my journey! Please subscribe to see how it all unfolds. If you haven’t been following, you can catch up by starting here.

Saying What I Need to Say

Today, I fully expected to pick up where I left off yesterday. For me the next reasonable step was to begin examining my why’s.

Why have I put myself in this position? Why do I continue to assist others in reaching their goals and realizing their dreams at the expense of my own? Is it fear? Greed? Competition? Inadequacy?

However, instead of exploring these very important questions, I remained stuck on one, single, solitary thought…

How will I “break up” with all my freelance clients? How will I tell them, “It’s over.” How will I get them to understand that “it’s me, not them?” 

Instead of facing the Why’s, I’ve gotten all ahead of myself and have fast-forwarded to the How’s.

My amazing friend Angie Mizzell, whom I mentioned in my last post, asked my advice today on a completely unrelated topic. She asked, “How do you find the courage…?” I had all the answers as they pertained to the topic we were discussing. Ironically, as it pertains to clearing my plate of all projects that distract me from my dreams, I don’t seem to have a clue.

Since she and I ended our conversation, all I can seem to ask myself is, “How do I find the courage?”

All day, I’ve tussled with this.

This evening, around 9:30 pm, my family and I popped The Karate Kid (the remake with Jaden Smith) into the DVD player. The kids were spread out on the floor and couches with blankets, pillows and stuffed animals. I sat here, on my corner of the couch, laptop open, staring at a blank “Add New Post” screen.

As the movie began, I couldn’t help notice how this mother and son were in the midst of making life changes that would inevitably lead to Clarity. Within the first 15 minutes of the movie, this mother and son arrive in a new place…China. And as they are taking in their new surroundings–uncertainty all around–a song is playing in the background.

That song spoke to me. It brought everything I’ve been feeling today into focus, and it answered my new question of How.

How do I find the courage?

The answer is: I may never find the courage.

How do I end these relationships with my freelance clients?

By Saying What I Need to Say…whether I’m courageous or not.

 

Even if your hands are shaking, say what you need to say...

Even if your hands are shaking, say what you need to say…

 

Thank you, Angie. Thank you, kids for wanting to watch The Karate Kid. And Thank you, John Mayer.

 

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

“I Gotta” Get Off of this Runaway Train

I opened my eyes this morning, and, no sooner than my feet hit the floor, my thoughts were consumed with “I gotta…”

“I gotta” meet this deadline. “I gotta” meet that deadline. “I gotta” deadline approaching next week. “I gotta” get that project done. “I gotta,” at least, brainstorm on the other.

Every “I gotta”–each having absolutely nothing to do with my current business and career goals–left me filled with angst, turmoil and breathlessness.

When you find yourself sighing, huffing, puffing, gasping for air at the very thought of a task or tasks at hand, then that is a sure indicator that it should be removed from your list of obligations.

You see, Time is so precious, valuable and, in my case, limited. I only have so much with which to work. My sweet friend and fellow writer, Angie Mizzell, says it best…”Working in between the cracks!” Any woman who juggles marriage, motherhood, career and individuality knows exactly what that means. Sometimes, we only have small shreds of time to channel our creativity and talents into something productive and meaningful. Sometimes, it’s 20 minutes…Sometimes, you’re fortunate enough to get an hour…Sometimes, only a mere fraction of that.

When my tiny slivers of time are filled with “I gotta’s” that solely benefit someone else, then “I gotta” problem with that.

It feels like I’m flying down the tracks on a runaway train that’s sure to crash and burn.

Chaos is like a Runaway Train. If you don't get off, you're doomed!

Chaos is like a Runaway Train. If you don’t get off, you’re doomed!

You’ve seen the movies and cartoons. Some damsel in distress is trapped on board a train car with no engineer, no conductor, no brakes and the track abruptly ends at the cliff of a mountain. She’s yelling for help, and her hero risks it all to bravely save her just in the nick of time.

Humph! How convenient…

In my story, my only hero is me. If I want to be saved, I’ll have to do it myself.

But before I can even begin to devise a plan of escape, I must first understand why. Why did I re-board this same train? And why did I do so after I had already claimed and embraced my Clarity?

Am I placing the dreams of others ahead of my own out of fear? Fear of what? Fear of failure? Fear of success?

Am I piling more and more on my plate out of greed? An insatiable thirst to be seen as some type of Superwoman?

Is it out of competition? Or a need to prove myself?

I need the answers! I fully intend to explore all of these questions and more, because the only thing “I Gotta” do is Get Off of this Runaway Train!

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

Recognizing the Chaos & Calling It Out!

This is day 3 of my 30 day journey to find Clarity, embrace Simplicity and get back to the Basics.

In my last 2 posts, I have tiptoed around what truly lies behind my quest. Perhaps that’s part of the process. I’ve been in denial for so long, that now I’m almost fearful to publicly admit the truth. So here it is…in a “not-so” nut shell.

I have been blessed with a husband, 8 children, artistic talent, career goals and aspirations. (Yes…I did just say eight children!) As a result, I wear many hats. I am a wife, a mother, a floral designer, a writer, a business owner, a daughter, a sister and a friend. Regardless of how much I long for one, there’s never a still moment.

I’ve never been one to use marriage and motherhood as an excuse to place my personal dreams on hold. In fact, I’ve always used it to fuel my passions…to ignite my creative spark. I want my children to see their mother as a woman who is loyal, strong, driven and passionate–A woman who can be fully present for them, as well as continue to develop as an individual. And I want my husband to be proud of my accomplishments and rejoice in my endeavors, knowing that he has a wife who lives life on purpose. After all, he married me for the person I am, and I’m certain he would want me to be true to my uniqueness, always.

My plate is larger than most, and it is always full. And there are certain things that just cannot be removed. My husband and children have a permanent position on my platter; they’re supposed to, and I like it that way. My floral design business, this blog and my quest to move from being a writer to a published author all take prime real estate on that platter, as well. Anything else that requires my time and talents but does not assist me in moving forward in developing my brand is Chaos…sheer CHAOS!

NO CHAOS by alles-schlumpf

NO CHAOS by alles-schlumpf

At this stage of my business, I have diagnosed myself as having Starving Artist Syndrome. The treatment…freelance writing work, and lots of it. Honestly, too much of it. So much, in fact, that it consumes my time and talents, and I find myself laboring over obligations that have me feeling disconnected and uninspired. Let’s face it; these freelance jobs are designed to catapult the successes of the individuals for whom I do the work–not for my business.

I also seem to have this uncanny inability to say “No.” New projects and ventures are presented to me and I cannot, for the life of me, seem to say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but no.” And it’s not like they’re horrible mistakes…they’re actually wonderful opportunities…for someone else. For me, they are distractions that will only serve to deter me from my goals, steer me off course, and drown out my purpose.

Clarity is no new concept for me. I had recently moved away from doing all freelance work so that I could focus, intently, on growing my brand, Creole Magnolia Creations. Then slowly, I began adding more and more and more to my once manageable plate. Now, deadlines for the projects of others have taken precedence over my own commitments, and my mind has become bogged down and overloaded with the impossible burden of juggling it all.

This Chaos is paralyzing, as I have become stagnant in my purpose, and my ability to move forward has waned.

But, I see hope…

As someone with the need to always be in control, it takes courage for me to admit that I am overburdened and stressed. But I realize that a sliver of Simplicity is far more appetizing than a plate full of uncontrolled bedlam.

So this is me…fearlessly Recognizing the Chaos and Calling It Out!

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

 

 

Navigating My Murky Waters, Feeling Strangely Refreshed

What a surprisingly amazing day today has been.

I reclaimed my position as captain, and today was my first day back at the helm. And though I was navigating through dark, murky, unclear waters, I felt renewed…light…lifted…hopeful and refreshed!

"Muddy waters should never prevent proper navigation of the ship or the spirit." ~Chase LeBlanc

“Muddy waters should never prevent proper navigation of the ship or the spirit.”
~Chase LeBlanc

I cannot allow the dreams, visions, aspirations and goals of others to steer my vessel any longer. As long as I permit the purpose of another to chart my course, I’ll always feel as though I am in unfamiliar territory. This realization alone has brought me so much joy.

I can taste the freedom that Clarity promises, and it makes me want it all the more. It makes me wonder why I ever gave it up.

As I coasted through this day, I realized that it’s not a matter of “IF” I will get back to the basics and claim Clarity, it’s “WHEN!”I drifted through the confusion and clutter and saw glimpses of beauty, freedom, peace, contentment…glimpses of me and reminders of my purpose.

Everything is lining up, and I know I’m moving towards the right decision…I know I have to throw any desires and dreams that are not mine overboard, or else risk sinking into the swampy, watery deep.

I’ll not drown in the labor-filled, uninspired tasks of others. I have far too much to give, far too much to do, far too much to create to do anything so foolish.

I haven’t even lightened my load, yet, and it already feels so good…

 

This is Day 2 in my Ultimate Blog Challenge and my quest to find Simplicity. Are you making moves toward Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics? Please, tell me in the comments below!

If you love this blog, you can have fresh content delivered to your reader, RSS feeds or email by clicking HERE!

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics

For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity. ~Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.
~Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Children understand the importance of clarity, simplicity and keeping ideas and concepts basic. They want clear answers without the layers of garbled muck.

We can learn a great deal from children.

Recently, I’ve been in a state of confusion. The Clarity I once, so victoriously, claimed seems to have slipped just out of my reach. The Simplicity I created for myself has become convoluted and complex. And I now find myself desperately trying to return to the Basics.

What are my basics, you ask? Growing my floral design business and becoming a published author…as simple as that.

Yet, everything I’ve done as of late has been designed to catapult someone else’s business or endeavor toward success. I have filled my plate with tasks and obligations that assist others and have, once again, allowed my dreams and goals to take a back seat.

I had, at one point, moved away from taking on any new projects that were unrelated to my specific career goals. I had made a decision to make precious use of my time and to focus on certain aspirations that required specific action to become realized. But, now, my Time is filled with deadlines that serve another’s purpose…deadlines that take me farther and farther away from the simplicity…from the basics…from me.

I feel lost in the crowd…bumped to and fro as hurried individuals shuffle and hustle on by. I keep thinking, “What about me?”

Then I found the Ultimate Blog Challenge–a challenge to write a fresh blog post everyday for 30 days. I thought this would not only be a wonderful opportunity to breathe new life into my blog, but also would afford me the opportunity to truly delve into why I continue to allow distractions to steer me off course and why I continue to place the dreams of others ahead of my own. This blog challenge will force me to sit face-to-face with this issue. And hopefully, at the closing of 30 days, I will have regained the Clarity that I once knew.

My theme for this challenge is Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics. During the next 30 days, I plan to ask myself a series of questions. When all is said and done, I intend to have clearer focus. Decisions will be made and my plate will only contain items that are good and healthy for my personal goals.

I hope you’ll join me. Perhaps there’s something in your life that has you wading in murky waters. Or perhaps there’s so much noise swirling about that you are unable to hear the symphony in the silence. Whatever has you feeling confused, stifled and bogged down, know that we can claim clarity together.

How do you plan to get back to the basics? Tell me in the comments below.

Using this blog challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

Using the Ultimate Blog Challenge to find Clarity, Simplicity and the Basics!

 

 

The Bird, Self Doubt and the Crossroads

Many thanks to Jeffrey Scott Villafane for his talented eye and for inspiring me, through his work, to consider the possibilities.

Look at this picture. What do you see?

Some may see what appears to be obvious…2 birds on a limb, in the fall, facing opposite directions. Some may delve slightly deeper and see 2 quarreling lovers, unable to compromise, challenged by the uncertainty of the future of their relationship.

While those interpretations seem quite possible, they’re not at all what I see.

What if I agitated your intelligence by disputing the one thing that appears to be factual in this photograph? What if I told you there is, in fact, only one bird and that the one farthest away is, simply, an illusion?

Humor me for a moment, as I encourage you to explore the possibilities…

The bird closest to the lens is real. The camera is focused on her and her beauty. WE are focused on her and her beauty. Her full, plush feathers in delicate hues of brown capture the gazes of all who come her way. Her head and neck, dipped in a vivacious shade of red, speak volumes of her fiery personality. And when she speaks, she sings a song that dazzles and inspires even the hardest of hearts.

However, despite her unparalleled beauty and unique gifts, her confidence has become clouded by fear. As she peers into the blurry beyond, she hears the voices of self doubt. The voices become so loud they materialize. They are given breath, and they take shape. This negative energy, that has taken on a life of its own, happily escorts her to a crossroads. And, it nudges her, again and again, toward the path of despair.

You see, the second bird–the illusion that sits quietly, yet ever present in the background–is the manifestation of her fear and self-doubt. It resembles her, slightly. But, only because it’s a parasite that feeds off of a small part of her…an undesirable part of her. Its plumes are no where near as plush. And that vibrant, crimson headdress, that could only be worn by one who exudes boldness…nonexistent. It is no match for her. It just seems stronger right now.

Void of pleasant melodies, this bird in the background only utters, “Who do you think you are? You are not good enough. You will never succeed. You cannot achieve greatness. Everything you touch fails. Stop dreaming and get real! You have no confidence. You will fall on your face. No one will ever take you seriously!”

Though she dwells atop the highest tree, on the highest bough, overlooking the grandest view, this beautiful creature is caged. She is caged by her own fears, afraid to grant herself permission to fly.

~

I have invested a large amount of time in my personal journey of discovery, a decade, in fact. So, I KNOW who I am. I KNOW what my passions are…what I dream to be…how I view the world…and, most importantly, how I view myself. But even after 10 years of truly getting to know myself…accepting myself, flaws and all…exploring the dark spaces of my soul…even after emerging more confident, sassy and courageous than ever, I am currently experiencing a profound moment of uncertainty.

Initially, this uncertainty threw me for a loop.

If you’ve been keeping up with me, then you know that turning 40 was a monumental occasion for me. It was symbolic of my successful completion of my Decade of Discovery and marked the beginning of my Decade of Enlightenment. This uncertainty caused me to doubt the success of my journey to personal discovery. Fortunately, I quickly abandoned that destructive thought. You see, this is NOT uncertainty of WHO I AM, WHAT I STAND FOR or WHAT MY HOPES and DREAMS ARE. It is uncertainty of HOW I will USE who I am, my gifts and my passions to ACHIEVE these hopes and dreams.

After banishing that thought, I have found myself exactly where I need to be. This uncertainty is necessary on my new road to ENLIGHTENMENT. It is not a set back, as I originally deemed it to be. It is a sign of progress. This uncertainty is challenging me to connect the dots. It is challenging me to take a spiritual journey. After all, my Decade of Enlightenment is all about attaining spiritual knowledge. Without it, I cannot fulfill my purpose of inspiring others.

One vital lesson that I have learned is when I am in the midst of uncertainty, doubt and fear, I must allow myself to dwell there for a period of time. Not because I am giving in to those voices of self-doubt. Not because I am allowing the fear to take control. But because I allow myself time to sit in that uncomfortable place in order to come face-to-face with its cause, I conquer it and emerge stronger.

That is where I have been. I’ve been in a place of darkness and stillness. I have had to RETREAT, regroup, RETHINK, refresh, RENEW, reaffirm, REFORM, rekindle, REASSEMBLE, replenish, REALIZE, reassess, RESTRUCTURE, re-dream, RE-DRAW, recondition, REORGANIZE, reawaken, RESUSCITATE, revive, REJUVENATE, restore, REPAIR…and, most importantly, prepare to RE-ATTACK!

I have said it before…Sometimes We Must Dwell In Darkness In Order To Appreciate The Light!! Likewise, we must exist within that same uncertainty before we can be Enlightened.

~

My current state has been marked by much meditation and reflection, and a significant truth has been revealed to me. I have often accused others of caging me, hoarding my beauty and talents. They were my scapegoats…my excuse for not setting myself free…my excuse for not granting myself permission to fly. Truth be told, I am the only one guilty of hiding my beauty from the world.

Fear and self-doubt are powerful forces…

Look at the picture again…Do you see me? Yes, I am the bird…filled with self-doubt…at a crossroads.

Can I ever believebelieve in myself? Can I ever find freedom in the fall, knowing I will spread my wings and take flight? Can you? Can you believe…believe in yourself?

Yes, I think we can…

In fact, I know we can.

~

Thank you for sharing in my first lesson of my Decade of Enlightenment. Join me on my journey…SUBSCRIBE.

Reflections, The Open Door and A New Beginning

When one walks through an Open Door, most only see it as entering a new area, a new space or a new time. However, if you free your mind and open yourself up to the entire experience, you also will see it as an exiting…an exodus of sorts. In order to move towards something new, you must leave the former; however, the experiences you just left deserve  as much attention as those you are set to begin.

Some say you should never look back, only forward. They equate it with living in the past, but there is a distinct difference between Reflection and dwelling. If you don’t reflect upon your previous situations and states of mind, then how will you ever measure your successes or the increased strength of your character? How will you be able to take note of personal growth? You wouldn’t be able to. It’s not possible to truly appreciate where you are unless you have the courage to examine where you’ve been.

I have spent the better part of the last several weeks Reflecting. I have been thinking back on my Decade of Discovery(my 30s), examining my growth and reviewing my journey. I have read through many old journal entries; examined jotted down notes and ideas; and unearthed hidden treasures in the form of scrap slips of paper, containing my deepest thoughts and dreams, stuffed in the pages of a book long forgotten.

My 10 year story of growth and discovery surrounds me. It is profound. At times is it happy and vibrant…at others, dismal and bleak. Mostly, it tells the story of young woman in search of her unique self, looking for solid ground, longing to forgive, yearning to be free–A woman with gifts so rare, others stand in awe of her talents…talents that she can’t seem to see. It tells the story of a woman with a voice as loud as thunder, power as mighty as a raging river and confidence as vast as the heavens, if she would only give herself permission to use them. Secretly, she is a caged bird without a song, who, over time, realizes that she has held the keys to her happiness, understanding and freedom all along. It is the story of a woman who learns to see beyond the circumstances and begins to recognize the lessons. It’s the story of a woman discovering the beauty in all things…even the beauty in herself.

And so, after much Reflection, I find myself standing at the threshold of The Open Door–the door that leads to my Decade of Enlightenment, My New Beginning! Today, I am no longer 30something…I am 40, and I have never felt more alive, vibrant or secure! I feel Enlightened, Encouraged and Inspired! I now truly know who I am and what I stand for. When I looked in the mirror this morning, I liked the full-grown woman I saw standing before me! I have prepared for this moment, and this moment did not disappoint!

Like the sunrise, today marks a crucial transition.

According to an old proverb, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Figuratively speaking, I believe that to be true. Through my time of Reflection, I wondered if I would be well-prepared for this day…if I would begin to see the light…if my wings would spread and I would take flight…if I had Trusted My Journey enough. And like the first rays of light that burst through from the morning sun, a Door was Opened.

The Sunrise marks the the transition from the former things to the experiences that lie ahead. It is the doorway to all that is new and promising. And it allows us to Reflect on the day gone, learn the lessons and apply those lessons to the day before us.

The sun has risen on a new day, a new chapter in my life. I happily journey into my
Decade of Enlightenment!

The Sunrise marks a New Beginning…

It is with Confidence, that I Fearlessly walk through this Open Door into my New Beginning!

I am 40! Fabulous and Fierce! Feeling Fantastic and Free! I am far from from perfect, still flawed, and I will forever be a student of Life. But, as I stand here, looking out onto my horizon, I see an ocean of possibilities caressed by the rays of promise!

Thank you, Michelle Shanahan-Scott, for unknowingly capturing my transition from Discovery to Enlightenment!

 

Ignoring the signs, claming clarity

With less than 2 months remaining in my 30s, which I like to refer to as my Decade of Discovery, I am still learning new and profound things about myself. I realize the learning process spans the entirety of our lives; however, what I am referring to here is my personal discovery process–my attempt to truly reveal to myself who I am and what makes me tick–getting to the heart of ME. To have unearthed something so crucial at what I had hoped would be a “wrapping up” period of sorts is very eye opening.

I have been so looking forward to turning 40. I have been preparing myself to carry a wise woman with true knowledge of self, her desires, her dreams, her passions and her thoughts over the threshhold. I have been prepping to take my new and improved self, aware and fully present, from the Decade of Discovery into what I call the Decade of Enlightenment.

And then, all of a sudden, a very crucial discovery comes along…I fester! At a time when Clarity is so vital to my self discovery, I have realized that I FESTER!

Let me explain something…You cannot expect to achieve true Clarity–clearness of heart, mind and soul–if you allow yourself to fester. It’s toxic! That’s like striving to have perfectly functioning lungs, yet each day you are breathing in poisonous gases! It’s absurd! And one thing I refuse to be is an ABSURDITY!

I have always been a straight-shooter–truth in my voice, emotions on my sleeve, expressions on my face…the whole nine. In fact, in my younger years, I was so direct that I was often referred to as blunt–which is not exactly a compliment. I was very fiesty and bold. I am still fiesty and bold now…it contributes to my Sassiness. However, the difference between my fiestiness and boldness now versus then is that, back then, I wouldn’t hesitate to allow it to be fueled by temper. Tempermental, fiesty AND bold…not always a good combo.

I have since matured. Over the years, I adopted the concept of “Choose Your Battles,” and my perspective on certain things changed. Bottom line…some issues were just not worth my time or energy to even address.

But then another shift ocurred. I began to let TOO many things go. And I was letting them go in an effort to keep the peace. Well, oftentimes when you “think” you’ve let something go, you’ve actually just internalized it. You’ve absorbed something undesirable. This wretched habit of internalizing is dishonest, untrue and unfair to self and others. You cnnot sustain meaningful relationships if you are depriving those you care for of knowing and seeing ALL of you. How can your relationship transcend? How can you transcend?

Swallowing your true feelings about issues will eventually cause you such internal turmoil that you begin to fester. And festering eventually leads to a Boiling Over…an Explosion of Emotions that can damage and even destroy a relationship.

I’m not suggesting that you unload on those you love every chance you get. What I’m saying is that you should never carry excess weight or be emotionally burdened when all you had to do in the beginning was communicate. Open and honest communication of your true feelings and thoughts will give you mental clarity and free you of any unnecessary junk.

So, why do we harbor important feelings and allow ourselves to fester? We do it because we ASSUME. We ASSUME that the other person will not respond favorably to the sharing of our emotions.

We think things like:

  • “He/she might get upset if I say this.”
  • “This could just end up starting an argument.”
  • “He/she will never take this the way it’s intended.”
  • “This is probably not the right time to bring this up.”

Making assumptions about others is not fair. Anyone in a real relationship with you will value your thoughts and feelings.

When you make assumptions in your relationships, you are unfairly creating Relationship Warning Signs. You are putting up emotional “STOP,” “WARNING,” “CAUTION,” and “YIELD” signs where they do not belong.

Does this mean you should just blurt out your feelings abruptly without regard for another? Of course not. There is always a way to share your feelings without crushing those of someone else. In other words, choose the CORRECT words instead of choosing NONE at all.

I have been doing this…harboring…festering…and blowing up! But, no more. I have made the conscious decision to ignore the self-imposed Relationship Warning Signs. I have chosen to push past them and enter a place of mental clarity, peace of mind and emotional freedom!

I recently boiled over after allowing myself to fester. I went for a drive to clear my head. This warning sign stood in between me and this beautiful view. In an instant, it all became clear.

Won’t you join me?!

What toxins have you allowed to block your Clarity? Please share below.

I’d love it if you’d follow my blog!

See you in the comments!

A better understanding…

In the early morning hours on June 15th, I published a blog post about my tumultuous relationship with Time.

I listened to the ticking of the clocks in my home, and I reflected upon the profound significance of Time while this beautiful melody played in the background of my mind.

As I reflected on my feelings regarding tasks left undone, thoughts left unexplored, words and experiences unshared, I concluded that I needed to “find me a better understanding.” I needed to gain a new perspective, a reformed way of seeing things. However, in order for one to truly attain a new position and achieve a heightened level of understanding and awareness; a jolt, a push, an event, a revelation, an epiphany–some sort of catalyst–needs to occur.

24 hours later, my jolt came; my alarm sounded, and I was awakened.

On June 16th, a beautiful life paid the ultimate price of Time. Marley Lion was harshly and abruptly taken from us. At the tender age of 17, still just a baby, he was brutally murdered…gunned down.

His Time ended…yet, ours continues on.

Amazing how Time can begin, end and continuously exist…simultaneously–these complexities are what make Time so precious.

I wish my nudge toward “better understanding” could have come in a less traumatic way, but it’s too late for that now.

Marley’s death is a tragedy, but it would be even more tragic to allow his death to be in vain. It would be a tremendous disservice to self and to his memory to be blind to the lessons–and there are many–that live within this chaotic time. Even more so, those affected by this cannot allow his life to be in vain, either. We must find the message in both the way he lived AND the way he died.

A special friend shared a very basic, yet profound statement:

If Your Crop Had Constant Sun It Would Burn Up and Die. In Order To Grow, It Also Needs Rain. In Fact, Sprouting Is Escalated After A Good Downpour. Isn’t It TRUE, That While The Sun Sustained You Day By Day, It Was STORMS That Generated The Most Significant Growth (Lessons Learned) In Your Life. Those Very Storms Have You Here NOW…Still Standing, Stronger Even. ~ Hoe Mama

We have to soak up the emotions, the lessons and the insights of this “downpour.” It’s the only way we can grow…grow towards the light. I must allow my tears to water my spirit, quench my wisdom, nuture my humanity and strengthen my faith…We all have to.

Marley is gone from us, and I keep coming back to that same song, the melody, the lyrics…

“You and me are running out of time…”

It’s true. We ARE running out of Time. Are we going to allow that reality cause us to remain stagnant? To live in fear and doubt? To break us down and eat away at our faith? To destroy our hopes and steal our dreams? OR…will we use it to fuel our passions? To propel us forward? To inspire us to live a good life to the fullest? To love hopelessly? To dance endlessly? To walk on our journeys courageously?

 

The choice is ours!

These  ARE everchanging times…But if we hold on to each moment, seize every opportunity, share without reservation and love without fear, then, when we see the clock upon on the wall, it won’t bother us at all.

Thank you Marley Kanoelani Lion…

Thank you for giving me A Better Understanding…

The clock upon the wall…

I see the clock upon the wall…but, right now, it still bothers me…

~~~

Time…

Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years…

It all goes by so quickly. There never seems to be enough Time. And yet, Time is the one thing that all other things depend upon.

The Clock…it’s just an instrument–an instrument used to measure Time, a transcendental concept capable of having a beginning and an ending while still existing. Quite philosophical.

How is it that something so abstract…something completely intangible…something that cannot be tasted, seen, smelled or heard…how is it so intertwined in all we do?

Time is a crucial part of our lives. It is by far the most precious and sought after resource. We spend Time; we waste Time; we kill Time; we lose it; we gain it. We run out of Time; we share Time; we have some to spare. We watch Time…we reflect on it…we fantasize about it. We need it to dream and plan and grow and live and love and dance! We need it to be still. We need it to slow down. We need it to speed up. We need it to wait for us. We need it in order to catch up.

I have been struggling with Time for quite a while. My eyes are always fixed on The clock upon the wall...  I am always measuring how much Time I have, how much I’ve spent, how much I need, or how I need it to creep so that I can soak up the moments, learn the lessons and appreciate the memories…

Being a wife, a mother of 8, a business owner and a writer requires enormous amounts of Time, especially when it is my desire to do these things well. They all require full commitment, being completely present, being in the moment–again, descriptions that reflect the significance of Time.

Some days, my Time–what precious little I have–is used wisely and efficiently. However, there are those days–and there are many–where Time is an angry, bucking bull and I’m holding on for dear life, being tossed and thrown about, not knowing whether I’m coming or going, wishing to just make it out alive.

That’s where I’ve been the last 3 weeks…at the “Time is beating the hell out of me” Rodeo!

So many things have happened…things profound, momentous and thought-provoking. So many circumstances and situations that deeply inspired me to write and share, but I didn’t have the Time.

~My baby brother got married. I didn’t write because I didn’t have the Time.

~My son Brandon graduated from high school…I didn’t have the Time.

~My son Noah graduated from elementary school…again no Time.

~I went home to Louisiana for the first time since my Parrain died…and I still had no Time.

The past 3 weeks has been a whirlwind of emotions, preparations, appointments, activities, obligations, travel, commitments, etc. One day seems to spill into the next, and the next, and the next.

And you know, I’m not really certain what the purpose of this blog post is. I have not arrived at any sort of solution for this. I’ve had no epiphany…no revelation. In fact, it has taken me so much Time to even write this.

Maybe the point here is that there is no solution…

Or maybe, just maybe, the solution lies within the problem…

Perhaps, The clock upon the wall…serves as a reminder to observe the here and now rather than focus on what is yet to be.

Maybe the only way to tackle the beast of Time is to dance with it, toe-to-toe, in-sync with the rhythm, no longer trying to race it, realizing it is impossible for us to win.

As I sit here writing this, listening to the synchronized ticking of the clock on my fireplace mantle and the one on the kitchen wall, I’m reminded of an old song entitled Everchanging Times by Siedah Garrett…the theme from the movie Baby Boom.

I’m reflecting on the lyrics…(Click here to listen)

And these, are everchanging times
Everything is going so much faster
It seems like I’m
Watching my life, and everything I do
Wondering if the dreams that I believed in
Still come true

Caught in between, it comes back to
You and me are running out of time, I gotta find me a better understanding
Every day keeps forgetting what’s mine, I gotta find me a way, less-demanding
And we’re holding on so tight, together, all of our lives

And I, I had some big idea
So much of my life, still not completed
Hopes and Fears
Watching it change, into something new
Wondering it I’m gonna find the answer, loving you

All of my life, it comes back to
You and me are running out of time, I gotta find me a better understanding
Every day keeps forgetting what’s mine, I gotta find me a way, less-demanding
And we’re holding on so tight, together, all of our lives

But, it don’t bother me at all
It’s an everchanging time
I see, that clock upon the wall, it don’t bother me at all
It’s an everchanging time

All of my life, it comes back to
You and me are running out of time, I gotta find me a better understanding
Every day keeps forgetting what’s mine, I gotta find me a way, less-demanding
And we’re holding on so tight, together
And we’re gonna be alright, together, all of our lives

I see that clock upon the wall, it don’t bother me at all
It’s an everchanging time

Maybe the answer lies within the lyrics of this song. Perhaps I need to find a “better understanding” and a “way, less demanding.” Maybe then, when I see The clock upon the wall…maybe it won’t bother me at all…eventually.

 ~~~

I’d love for you to follow my blog, leave a comment and share with a friend.

Still giving strength to my roots…

Early morning, this past Mother’s Day, May 13, 2012, my husband dragged me from my bed.

“Close your eyes, I’ll lead you,” he said. He walked me down the hall, through the family room and out the front door.

It was cool out that morning. I felt the tiny whispers of rain faintly brushing against my skin, as if they were quietly trying to escape my attention.

Aastan, my husband, uncovered my eyes, and, standing before me, all eight of my children shouted, “Happy Mother’s Day!” They all moved aside to reveal a baby Magnolia tree…in my eyes, the perfect Mother’s Day gift!

It was quite significant on many levels.

Here’s the surface level…Since Louisiana and South Carolina share a common bond with the magnolia tree, it seems only fitting that a Louisiana French Creole girl living in beautiful Charleston, SC should have one in her yard. Secondly…I have a Magnolia doorbell and a Magnolia door wreath–A Magnolia tree completes the set. Thirdly…How is it that The Creole Magnolia, who happens to be a floral designer, doesn’t have a Magnolia tree? It seems now I’ve added touch of credibility to my name. (Oh yeah, I’m legit now!)

Delving a little deeper…I was touched by the fact that my husband thought of such a moving gift, filled with sentiment and symbolism. It is my passion to inspire others to reach for and attain personal growth. For the past 18 years, I have been charged with, not 1 or 2 lives, but EIGHT, precious lives to nurture and grow. I have also invested and continue to invest much time, thought, prayer and energy toward growing, transforming and developing into the woman I know I am destined to become. Being a source of inspirational nourishment for my children and others, as well as for myself, has been at the forefront of my mind. It has been carefully crafted and intertwined within everything that I do. One can only hope that a fraction of their efforts is recognized and appreciated. By giving me this tree, for me, my husband was recognizing my skills as a nurturer. For me, he was saying, “Here you go, baby. Here’s one more thing for you to nourish and grow. You can do it. I trust you.”

On Sunday, May 20, 2012, exactly one week later, my husband and I planted that tree…together. It was as important for him as it was for me. It was one more memory brought to life, one more layer added, one more moment cherished. It was another creation together–a creation in which he is fully vested, yet confident enough to allow me the freedom to cultivate and sustan it. And again, I heard him say, “Take it from here, honey. Do what only you do. You got this!”

When we dug up the earth and prepared the spot that would become my tree’s permanent home, the layers of meaning, again, settled deeper.

10 months ago, my Parrain (godfather) lost his battle against cancer. He played a large role in helping me grow into the woman I am today and in guiding me toward the woman I hope to become in the future. He is one of The Men That I Come From…

Through his love and encouragement, he gave strength to my roots. He watched me grow, and he watched me share my growth with my children so that they, too, could fluorish.

I miss him, but the memories we shared remain…the love we shared remains…the lessons he taught remain…the wisdom he imparted remains…And, although he is gone, I am able to share all of those priceless treasures with my own children. I am able to reflect on those gifts and replenish the strength of my own roots.

When Aastan placed the tree in the ground, I reached for the red velvet, heart-shaped box, with the brown bow on top. I carefully opened it. Inside…a newspaper obituary clipping and a bag of ashes. I sprinkled the gray dust all around my tree, praying that the remains of this man, who had contributed so greatly to my growth, would continue his legacy…

the legacy of Giving Strength to My Roots

A Love Affair

A Love Affair

~

Our link has been tumultuous filled with turbulence and passion

Dangerously you’ve escorted me from misery to satisfaction

You have cut me and left me wounded, dying, lost in tears

Then comforted me in your warm embrace and delivered me from my fears

 ~

You’ve been absent from my memory, forgotten, obsolete

Only to return again, at my lips we meet

You make your presence known when I am naive and unassuming

Sometimes you’re softly spoken, at others loudly booming

You are there when I am naked, standing all alone

Quickly transforming from tender to harsh depending on my tone

You are there when I am laughing, with others all around

Whispering secrets into my ear, without even making a sound

In ecstasy, you scream my name, much to my delight

I’m wrapped up in your essence, your nuances surround me tight

Through adaptations you reinvent yourself and my mind is captivated

When your new meanings suit my purposes, I am selfishly elated

At times you mean the world to me, at others, nothing at all

I find much needed escape in you when my back’s against the wall

I cannot get you off my mind no matter how I try

You are my voice, you are my truth, you are my carefully crafted lie

I love you, I hate you, you are everything and nothing

You are my best friend when I’m happy, my worst enemy when I’m cussing

I’d be lost without you, you’ve become my sweet addiction

I’m dependent upon you for expression, my necessary affliction

I see you when I can’t see myself, I hear your voice and I get weak

I feel you deep inside of me, you caress my mouth and I speak

You touch me and I’m whole again, inspired beyond measure

You cause me to question and investigate, on a search for buried treasure

 ~

You stroke my ego and fill me up, shaping me into a confident woman

You show ignorance and chauvinistic ways, thinking I’ll jump when you summon

You call attention to my sex appeal, complimenting my hips and thighs

Then laugh and scoff at all my flaws, really it’s no surprise

Inseparable since I was a baby, we’ve never been apart for a day

But when I’m old, worn and silver-haired, you could begin to fade away

By my side whether I’ve needed you or not, not giving me any peace

You’ve fueled my voice and I’ve been heard, finally finding release

You come to me through melodies, providing much needed escape

With an open jacket, you envelope me, and I see your story take shape

At times your expressions are simple, a gesture or nod of the head

At others, they are more complex, angry and filled with dread

We’re back and forth, we’re in and out, emotions all over the place

Something undeniable sustains our love, though I’ve never even seen your face

For some this relationship may not work, for some it seems absurd

But no man’s thoughts will ever change my Love Affair with words…

~

~A private peek into my personal Love Affair~

~

Tell me, what is your secret Love Affair?

~April is National Poetry Month~

Learning to Trust My Journey

From the time I was a very young girl, I have always been drawn to seashells.

My first real collection of shells began when my mother purchased a beautiful seashell-filled, glass lamp with a soft pink lampshade for my bedroom. That lamp grew with me. It shined light upon my dark nights for many years to come. In fact, it remained with me through young adulthood. I’m not certain if the lamp broke or if I just decided to open it, but, what I do know is that I eventually took all of the seashells out. And today, I still have them.

Seashells are huge part of my life. I craft with them. I decorate with them. They’re in my bedroom…my bathroom…my family room. I see and admire them daily. And if you give me a starfish or a sand dollar, then I am over-the-moon!

Seashells are beautiful–that’s no secret. Everyone loves them. So, I couldn’t help but wonder why they are so significant to me.

Seashells are carried throughout the vastness of the ocean by that which lives in them. In return, they offer protection and security ensuring the vitality and longevity of the life force within. At times, they are abandoned, no longer to be used as a dwelling place, cast aside for another that can more accommodate their needs. At other times, that which lives and breathes in them is preyed upon, picked away and devoured, leaving the shell empty and lifeless.

This brings me back to my original question. Why are seashells so significant to me? 

The answer? Because they are me.

I am carried through this abundant space called Life by the desires, goals and inspirations that live within me…They drive me! I am a vehicle of protection for my hopes and dreams, nurturing them…feeding them…sustaining their lives…providing for their existence. During difficult times and moments when I am redefining myself, I question my ability to live up to their expectations. I become filled with doubt. I become uninspired. It is during those times they abandon me, perhaps to take up residence within someone else…someone else who may be better suited to deliver them to their collective purpose. At other times, they are taken from me, picked away by the evil pressures that exist only to defeat me, leaving me vacant and without resolve.

Maybe that’s why I have seashells around…to remind myself to always be a Vessel of Vitality, a Vehicle for Vibrancy. Perhaps, I have them around as a reminder to always fill myself up with dreams and aspirations and to always be that place where they can live and grow. Perhaps, they’re around to provide comfort when I feel abandoned, defeated and confused. This, sometimes, occurs more often than I care to admit.

I recently came across a wonderful photograph by the talented Jeffrey Scott Villafane. It’s simplistic beauty is ladled with symbolic tones. And again, I saw myself.

Another thought provoking image by the visually gifted Jeffrey Scott Villafane. See more of his work at www.jeffreyscottphotography.com

I wondered what this shell had been through. What life force did it once house? What conditions had it endured?

Imagine, if you will, being carried from place-to-place within the ocean…braving rough waves and seas…being tossed about until finally you’ve reach land.

Quite a tumultuous journey, to say the least.

And notice, this shell is not cracked. It is not chipped. It is not shattered into pieces of its former self.

It is whole…unblemished…patiently awaiting what life has in store.

Look closely and you will see that it is surrounded by the broken bits of shells that came before it…the ones who weren’t strong enough…the ones who gave up on their purposes…the ones who not only felt fragmented, but also became fragmented (Yes, there is a difference.).

As I gaze at this photo, I feel an absence of direction. I don’t know whether this shell is coming or going…winning or losing…failing or succeeding. I suspect it may feel the same, only somehow, I don’t think it minds.

Similarly, in this very moment, as I gaze inward, I feel confusion, uncertainty and no sense of direction. The difference is I am impatient, and I have minded.

Seeing this photo of this shell, which has managed to navigate Life’s choppy waters and emerge unscathed, gives me hope.

This shell patiently sits, surrounded by ridges of challenges–the ridges behind it are those difficulties that have been overcome–the ridges ahead are those challenges yet to be conquered. Although it sits in the wet, hard sand that will inevitably become immersed in salty foam, it knows the dry, warm sand awaits. It knows all it needs to do is trust, persevere and never give up.

Again, a shell is reminding me of what I need to do…

When the waves of distraction, confusion, self-doubt, failure and defeat swell to sizes larger than life, I need to ride them out. There will undoubtedly be moments when I am completely underwater, near drowning with no lifeline in sight. It is during those moments that must fight the hardest, hold my breath the longest, trusting that I will not only reach the surface, but also be delivered unto dry land, whole, unblemished and unscathed.

The shell has taught me to be still, to be patient, to be persistent and, above all else…

Trust My Journey!

I am…EVERY woman!

~

I am Strong

I am weak

I am Resilient

I am fragile

~

I am Intelligent

I am clueless

I am Brilliant

I am foolish

~

I am Fiercely Protective

I am in need of shelter

I am ENERGIZED in the Sun

I am weary through stormy weather

~

I AM A FIGHTER

I AM A LOVER

I AM A DAUGHTER

I AM A MOTHER

~

I am a Best Friend, a trusted confidante

I am your Worst Enemy if you try to fill me with daunt

~

I am Accurate and Precise like a sleek Stealth Bomber

I am Carefree and Wind-Carried like a sailing air glider

~

I am Powerful and Deliberate, more than any locomotive

I am flimsy and undecided, complete with trainwreck moments

~

I am Sassy, Saucy, Spicy and Silly

I am Sophisticated, Subtle, Self-Secure and Serious

~

i am humble

I AM BOLD

I am Warm

I am cold

~

I am Fun, Zany, Fantastic and Wild

~

…i am dull…

~

I AM INSPIRING!

I AM A BREATH OF FRESH AIR!

~

I am Creative, Artisitic, Motivated and Driven

I am tired and worn out and wonder the purpose of living

~

I am Hardworking

I am lazy

I am Sane

I am crazy

~

I am OUT LOUD AND IN YO’ FACE!

~

i am reserved

~

I am an OxYmOrOn

I am Perfectly Flawed

~

I am Multi-Dimensional

I am Multi-Faceted

~

I am EVERYTHING and nothing

~

I am EVERY woman…

~

I'm Every Woman

Ladies…What kind of a woman are YOU?!

Discover and Embrace…today and EVERYDAY!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

75 days of me…for YOU!

75 days ago, on November 17, 2011, I had the esteemed pleasure of talking with and interviewing Ms. Phylicia Rashad.

During that conversation, I quickly realized that she was just as I had envisioned…A strong, phenomenal woman secure within herself…A force that pulled you in with loving authority for the purpose of imparting wisdom…A woman, whom through her journey of self-discovery, had evolved into a wise, regal beauty…A humble spirit, accepting of her flaws, desiring continued knowledge and growth. And thus, I quickly realized that she not only embodies much of what I hope to attain but also paves the road which I have chosen to travel.

I was interviewing Ms. Rashad for a magazine article that will appear in the February edition of Living Roots Magazine. So, our conversation began quite professionally, as most freelance jobs do. Before long, we were sharing personal stories and memories of life growing up in Louisiana. After discovering that our families are from neighboring towns, I felt a more personal connection. ~Yeah, she was my homegirl, now!~ (insert chuckle here)

As we exchanged stories about life as a woman with a husband, children and a career, she gave me a very timeless, precious and priceless piece of advice. With a tone ladled in experience, she affectionately said the following:

You have to carve out some time for you. You’re a creative person…a little bit more time and a little bit more thought, goodness only knows what you’ll think to write. You have to have time for yourself. Just see it, and don’t wait!

Though you may be thinking, “Well, this is no different from what women are told to do all of the time,” it was different for me. It wasn’t different all at once. It has taken time. 75 days of time. Time to sink in…Time of feeling burnt out…Time of feeling flustered and frustrated…Time of hearing her words again, from memory as well as the live recording…Time of reflecting on those words and seeing, over and over, the results of NOT following her advice.

It has even taken me looking back on my last blog post [And then it hits you], and thinking, “Recognizing the need to build a network of supportive ladies is all well and good; however, ACTING on that need…Now that’s the key!”

And then, I took it a step further. In the last 75 days…75 days since I received the gift of friendly advice…what have I done for others, and what have I done for myself?

In the past 75 days I have:

  • Prepared 3 meals per day for 9 people (my husband and 8 kids)…That is a total of 225 meals during the last 75 days, which equals 2,025 individual servings!
  • Prepared 2 snacks per day for 9 people…That is a total of 150 snacks, which equals 1,350 individual servings!
  • At the very least, I wash 2-3 loads of laundry per day. That’s at least 188 loads of laundry!
  • I have provided chauffeur services to and from countless basketball practices, games and dance classes.
  • Checked and helped with a multitude of homework assignments.
  • Broken up thousands of fights and arguments! THOUSANDS, I’m sure of it!!
  • Heard “MOM!”…”I’m Telling!”… “SHUT UP!” … and “QUIT” so many times that I have literally said “SHHHH” (very loudly) when no one was even saying a word!!! Yep!  I was the one who looked like the crazy fool!

This list goes on!

In the last 75 days, here’s what I’ve done for myself:

  • Had my gray roots colored TWICE
  • Went to the nail salon ONCE (1st time in almost 2 years)
  • Went on ONE date with my husband

This list unfortunately, does not go on. However, one thing that must not go on is this constant placing of ourselves on the back burner. Ladies, how many times have you felt guilty for entertaining the thought of spending time with a girlfriend? How many times have you planned to do something only to put it off to accommodate someone else?

I fall into the guilt trap all of the time. I still have a gift card in my purse for my favorite clothing store that I received from my husband for Christmas. Why? Why do I constantly view time for myself as some type of extravagant luxury, when, in fact, it is a necessity. I must begin to view myself as a priority.

I have been working on my February calendar, and I intend to treat myself as a just that…a priority. I will follow Ms. Rashad’s advice and “carve out some time” for me.  And, if you’re anything like me, you should do the same.

“You have to have time for yourself.”

It’s time to include personal time in our regular routines. That way, we’re being proactive. We’re recharging our batteries before they become too depleted.

Doing so will enable us to always deliver our best selves to those around us. I want my family to have a woman in their lives whom they would describe as being Bright and Blissful, not Bitter and Broken. I want to always be that woman who is Sassy, Spunky, Shining, Social, Sweet, Sincere and Sophisticated, not Scornful and Scarred.

Women have always passed on recipes to loved ones. Recipes for savory dishes and succulent desserts. They’ve carefully perfected and passed down the exact measurements and fool-proof methods to create satisfying dishes. What about the recipe for life? More specifically, the recipe for a happy life? And even more specific than that, the recipe for a happy life as a Woman?

We are creating life recipes and handing them down…just as our mothers did, and their mothers before them did…we just don’t realize it. And many times, we don’t realize what type of recipe we are creating until it is too late. Our children, as well as all those we influence, learn our life recipes through our actions, our demeanor, our levels of happiness. I want to pass on fantastic recipes like Living Life Out Loud, Struttin’ Through the Stress and Finding Love and Laughter Even In The Most Unexpected Places.

I don’t want my loved ones learning the recipes for resentment, sadness and despair.

The only way we can perfect these recipes is by spending time in our “test kitchens,” discovering and revealing all that is good within ourselves, and concocting a perfect medley of our personal flavors!  A concoction that we would feel proud to pass on to others. I actually talk about this in my first blog post Secrets in the roux!  Funny how you come full circle.

Interesting…if you take a moment to look at it…when you take the time to do for yourself, you are, in essence, still doing for others! Undoubtedly, that’s a win-win! No guilt in that!

For the next 75 days, I will be spending some much-needed time in my test kitchen. Each day, I will “carve out some time” for me.

I’m going to give unto myself so that I may, in turn, give to you!

And then it hits you…

Disclaimer: Today’s post is throwing all fear out of the window…I’m about to be real, so brace yourselves!…..

Somehow women are duped into believing that feelings or expressions of discontent, frustration, irritation, sadness or dissatisfaction all convey unappreciation, unthankfulness, complaining and downright b*!$%iness (you know what I mean). We are convinced that no one else can possibly understand, and, if we share what troubles us, then we will be subject to ridicule and judgment. As a result, we hold in our true feelings in fear that others will misunderstand our intentions. We fear being ousted. So we go through the motions as if everything is just dandy–living our cookie-cutter lives–thinking we need to smile all of the time because Suzy Q. Homemaker is doing it.

Is it so wrong to be real? To be honest? To share with other women the feelings that we all have experienced at one time or another? We should be able to do that without fear of being “The only one.” And usually, we only intend to vent or communicate how we are feeling at the moment. Our “in this moment” feelings do not mean that we feel these things all of the time. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we are incapable of seeing the blessings in our lives.

We are made to feel like we need to Grin and bear it, Suck it up, Take one for the team, or simply just Get over it.

NEWSFLASH! We are entitled to say it like it is, to share our woes and to express ourselves without the worry..without the fear. In fact, if more of us came together and shared honestly, then we would find comfort in knowing that we are not alone and there is an entire sisterhood in our corners.

How many times has a friend asked you how things are going and you lied and said everything was great? How many times were you ready to spill your guts and let it all hang out, but, instead, you held it in with a smile?

When you bottle it up, it finds a release. When you sweep it under the rug, you, eventually, trip over the hump.

You’re going along. You think you’re fine…You’re maintaining.

And then it hits you…

WAM!

That is a…Woman Amnesia Moment!

You look around and wonder, “Where am I? How did I get here?”

You look in the mirror and you don’t recognize who’s staring back at you. And you say, “Who are you? What is your purpose?”

You look at the person next to you and think, “Who the hell are you? Where did you come from? Why the hell are you here?”

You look at the once precious babies that the doctor gently placed in your arms and think, “Who are you defiant creatures? Where are those sweet babies?”

You look around again and wonder, “What is all this chaos? And why are you people draining me dry?”

Even after doing what I feel is much work on myself and my purpose…even after exploring all that is me and working towards discovering my path, I still feel these things from time-to-time.

Sometimes, I feel tired. I feel drained. I feel overused. I feel helpless. I feel trapped. I feel uninspired. I feel alone. I feel saddened.

And that is okay. I do not have to make apologies for feeling out-of-place…disconnected…falling without a net. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care. It doesn’t mean that I don’t cherish. It doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel blessed, thankful, or gratitude.

It just means that I am human. It just means that I need a sympathic ear. It just means that I need a shoulder…a friend…good advice.

What’s the cure for a case of Woman Amnesia Moment? I don’t know. Maybe just the things I mentioned above…understanding, compassion, comradery…

The challenge is letting go of the fear and being honest with one another when we share our feelings and needs. Women can only be there for one another if there is honesty with no shame.

If we surround ourselves with a NETWORK of like-minded, supportive, good-spirited sisters, then we will surely have less WAM! episodes.

And, in case you were wondering, I am currently experiencing WAM!

And, so it just it hit me…

I need to build my network.

Realizing I need to expand my network of support gives me hope...like the rays of the sun.