From Black History Maker to HERoine Legacy

When I was in high school, I was named a “McDonald’s Black History Maker of Tomorrow.” At that point in my life, I really didn’t reflect on what that distinguished award meant until this past weekend when I thought about it while driving from Memphis to Indianapolis.

On Saturday, March 18, I was recognized as a #HERoineLegacy honoree for Women’s History Month by Fresh Touch Publicity. 

When I learned I was going to be honored, shock was my first emotion. I am not one of those people who asks let alone needs to receive awards (and yes, those type of people do exist unfortunately). It’s just not my love language. I work in social service, specifically public health, where we always not only work as a team but for the betterment of our respective communities. 

Little did I know this woman (pictured in the photo above next to me) was observing my efforts and hard work. She is a truly AMAZING human being with a heart of gold, a soul filled with so much love and a smile which will light up any room. 

TJ: Thank you for selecting me to stand beside all the beautiful, intelligent and talented Black women for the #HERoineLegacy Awards Brunch! You are truly a gem to me and the entire Memphis community. 

To my blog readers: Check out the digital magazine featuring stories about all the honorees, including me! Go to: http://ftpublicity.com/the-heroinelegacy-2017-magazine/.

As always, these are thoughts “From My Hart.”

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New Day, Renewed Focus 

Several weeks ago I reached my breaking point. I was exhausted….emotionally, mentally and physically overwhelmed. Anyone who knows me even for just a moment knows I always plan some type of celebration for my birthday every year, but chapter 37 was different for some reason. I had no party planned, no dinner, no trip. Nada. What was happening? Could this be some kind of premature midlife crisis? I rebuke that thought in the name of Jesus! The only real explanation was stress. It was taking a toll on me.

With the impending 11th anniversary of my daughter’s death approaching (this time every year is such an emotional rollercoaster….birthday is Feb. 27 and daughter was stillborn on March 11), I knew I needed to think of something STAT.

Several years ago, I told myself I would go somewhere I’ve never been every year to celebrate, but what would I do this year? I waited until the very last minute. Flights at this point were going to be extortion prices. Originally, I planned to go to London to visit my family and then go to Dubai to visit one of my sister friends. But then #45 decided to drop the travel ban axe. Sure, I’m an American and would have no issues gaining entrance back into the United States, but I really just didn’t want the international travel headache (hindsight: I could have gone, but at the time….nah).

At this point, I was having some serious anxiety about my 37th birthday. Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks. After a very unexpectedly stressful day, I found myself in my director’s office crying. Not just the one “Denzel tear” running down my face. I was in a full blown crying spell. Was I experiencing some kind of breakdown? Surely not. I have a horrible poker face, but I generally am able to keep THOSE kinds of emotions to myself. Or so I thought.

The very next day, after a long conversation with my mom, I made a decision to take a solo trip to somewhere warm with absolutely no agenda. Airline tickets to travel during the week were unbelievably low. Puerto Rico it is!

BEST. DECISION. EVER.

Sure, I had a little anxiety about traveling by myself. Who would I talk to? Who would watch my stuff when leaving the beach to go to the restroom? Who would I eat meals with? Even more….who was going to split the cost of housing? I know, I know. First world problems.

As I write this on my last day in paradise (at a beautiful resort by the way….shoutout to Wyndam Grand Rio Del Mar Beach Resport and Spa) looking at the beauty God created with this ocean, I know I am incredibly blessed and highly favored. This trip was EXACTLY what I needed. Good food, great drinks, incredible scenery, relaxing spa and of course the beautiful sun (LOVING my tan!). Did I mention I actually read an entire book? Yes, me. I never manage to find time to read anything other than the news, but I deliberately picked “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” Great read Issa Rae! I see so much of myself in many of her stories as she navigated through life.

I am more relaxed and at peace than I have been in a long time. With a renewed focus, I am looking forward to Chapter 37. No, I don’t always want to take solo trips (one day I will actually go on my honeymoon….let us all virtually touch and agree that my husband will find me. On God’s time of course.), but I will if it means I am in need of pressing the refresh button on that moment in life.

If any of you reading this blog post (all 10 of you I’m sure!) ever find yourself at a breaking point like I experienced, find the “Control+Alt+Delete” button and plan a solo trip….even if just overnight at a hotel. Treat yourself. You deserve it! 

The Truth Always Reveals Itself

lies-and-deceit

Well, it has certainly been quite some time since I wrote a blog entry, but I am here writing the same line I did this time last year. I promised myself I would do better, but life happened. Thanks to the constant reminder from WordPress, however, I find myself taking the jumbled thoughts in my head and forming them into sentences again.

Sure, I have thoughts on this year’s presidential election (who doesn’t?!), but I will hold onto those for another month or so. I’m going to attempt this blog thing again with a new direction. I’m going to pinpoint one word as a focus and go from there.

Today’s word is: Deceitfulness.

Now, one can attribute that word to the election cycle we all just experienced. Perhaps, one might also use it in the same sentence when describing a cheating lover. At the same time, one might use it to convince law enforcement not to write a speeding ticket even though you knew you were going 25 mph over the speed limit, but your child (which you don’t have) is sick at home. [Sidenote: I have NEVER used that excuse!]

Deceitfulness, no matter how many ways you spin it [I’m a public relations pro so I’m an expert at spinning], is rarely good. I won’t say never because there may be times when it is beneficial to not tell the entire truth. Of course, I’m not telling anyone to lie, but if you find yourself in a tough situation and the only way you will survive a “made for television” moment is to tell a little white lie….then yes. Do what you must. But generally deceitfulness is frowned upon.

But I digress….

The internet is a beautiful mechanism. It allows you to search for any topic and find archived articles, photos and so much more. It is also great because you can cross-check [or fact check since we just exited an election cycle] anything. For example, if you own a copyright or a trademark to a business, you can search the internet to find individuals or organizations using the name without your permission. Any first year attorney can write a Cease and Desist letter faster than you can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Once upon a time I learned the age old adage “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” In the world of business, however, imitation can have serious consequences if proper credit is not given or permission to copy a concept or document was not initially provided.

Here are two examples:

  1.  I work in the public health field. We generally belong to multiple associations and organizations who create toolkits with the sole purpose of having common language when discussing various topics. In other words, it is actually encouraged for me and my colleagues to use already existing templates.
  1. Remember Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and the “Blurred Lines” controversy? They were sued by the Marvin Gaye estate (and lost by the way) for using music which sounded eerily familiar to his hit song “Got to Give It Up.”

I’m sure you can think of hundreds of other examples, but I wanted to keep it to just two. Feel free to leave your own in the comments section below.

In the last couple of years I have seen several instances when individuals take someone else’s hard work, repackage it with new wrapping paper, slap a bow on it and then sit back and accept all the accolades knowing good and well they don’t deserve it.

I don’t know how else to say this other than it is completely wrong…..ethically, morally, personally and professionally. It speaks volumes to potential future investors or business partners. It is hurtful to those who put in the blood, sweat, tears and hours of brainstorming. Bottom line….it is deceitful.

Unfortunately, the sad part about people who are deceitful is they generally don’t care what others on the opposition think until it affects their bottom line.

What’s funny is a simple sentence or two acknowledging the brainchild behind an idea will usually take someone from the deceitful pool and put them into the “thanks for the acknowledgment, but I will still keep a close eye on you” pool.

Sure, I could provide names, but I’m not a gossip columnist [all of my gossip is off the record! LOL!]. I’m simply providing advice to anyone who may find themselves dipping their toe into the wrong pool. Your deceitfulness may end up costing more than your original investment because the truth ALWAYS reveals itself.

As always, these are just a few thoughts “From My Hart.”

 

I Didn’t Know My Own Strength

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[On Thursday, February 11th, I delivered the monologue below at a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis. It was such an honor to be asked to share my story. When thinking of a “title” I kept hearing Whitney Houston in my head. In her words, “I Survived my darkest hour. My faith kept me alive. I picked myself back up, held my head up high. I was not built to break. I didn’t know my own strength.”]

10 years ago. 10 long years ago. It seems like it was just yesterday. 10 years ago my life completely changed. I never knew how strong my faith was until that year. Truth be told, my family calls me “Nine Lives” because I have had more near-death experiences than I really choose to count. Yet, after each occurrence my mom and Grandmama would always tell me God has a purpose for you on this earth. They would say it’s all part of His plan.

February 27, 2006: It was my 26th birthday. My boyfriend, who lived in Chicago, surprised me in Indianapolis, my hometown. My close friend and her boyfriend treated me to dinner, and then they seemed to take the long way back to my house which I thought was quite odd. My boyfriend was in the house setting up what had to be dozens of candles and hundreds of rose petals. Needless to say….my best friend and her boyfriend didn’t stay long. Like I said….it was my birthday after all!

I had never been happier. Life was good. I had an excellent career. My family was supportive. My friends were amazing.

But all that happiness and joy came to a screeching halt on March 9th. The evening started with laughter and smiles as my youngest brother and I watched American Idol (the first round of auditions…..with all of the characters). He brought me dinner, and we relaxed and spent quality brother-sister time together.

After he left, I went to sleep. I was suddenly unusually tired. At 2 a.m. I awoke from my sleep with an indescribable pain in my stomach. See….I was pregnant and expecting my first child….a girl. It was too early to have contractions. I thought maybe my stomach was mad at me for eating the Mexican food for dinner. But the pain kept increasing by the minute.

Being the independent woman I am (and seeing as how my boyfriend lived in Chicago), I drove myself to the hospital….it was literally just across the street. Within an hour, my blood pressure dropped dangerously low, my heart rate slowed and my body temperature rose to over 104 degrees. Something caused me to become very sick….and I was on the verge of septic shock.

My doctor was forced to induce my labor because the infection had crossed into my amniotic sac. I was dying and so was my daughter. Even though I was in and out of consciousness, I still managed to remember every minute of every hour on that day…..My family arriving from all over the country….the sounds of the fetal monitors……my heart monitor beeping…..and at times, nothing but silence as time seemed to just stand still.

My doctor couldn’t perform a C-section because of the infection. I almost certainly would not have survived. After enduring more than 24 hours of labor, at 12:47 a.m. on Saturday, March 11, A’Layla Marie exited my body and entered this world as a stillborn baby. There are no words to describe that kind of anguish and pain. 

I didn’t think I could take anymore. My heart was broken….in a million different pieces. Little did I know that was just the beginning of what would become the six worst months of my entire life.

Just a few short months later, I was the victim of a head-on car collision which caused swelling on my brain and ’round the clock migraines.

Then, on August 22nd, while home still recuperating from my injuries, I received THE call no child ever wants to get. My dad had suddenly fallen to the ground in the bathroom of our family home and suffered a massive heart attack. I was forced to return to the same hospital where my daughter died only to be told my dad was also dead. I distinctly remember dropping to my knees in the Emergency Department, looking to the sky and asking God “WHY? Why me? Why my family?” Days later I remember my Grandmama reminding me, once again, that God always has a plan.

I have never vocalized what happened on that fateful day in March nor the months that followed. I’ve written about it a few times on my personal blog and Facebook but never to an audience. Despite everything we endure, God always has a way of subtly reminding us just how much strength we really have. Anyone who knows me knows I believe in divine intervention. The invitation to share my story with all of you was most definitely all God’s handy work.

My Brother is Now One of the Cool Kids

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 [photo credit: @JohnLegend Instagram]

My blog post this week is slightly delayed by one day….for pretty good reason I believe! On Sunday I spent the majority of the day on the phone with my mother and reading all the reviews of the new romantic comedy movie premiering at the Sundance Film Festival called Southside with You.

No, I am not a huge movie buff. I honestly can’t even remember the last time I went to the theater and what I saw. Don’t worry…I did go in the last calendar year. I have heard about the Sundance Film Festival. I know Hollywood essentially relocates there for a few days to brave the bitter cold temperatures of Park City, Utah which is a dramatic difference from the warmer weather in the Los Angeles area. To be honest, that was probably all I knew about Sundance…..until last year.

For those who follow me via my social media networks, you know my brother is an actor and relatively new to the scene. Matter of fact, he really has only been acting for a little over three years. Who would have thought the little boy I used to boss around our house in Indianapolis would eventually become an actor….a pretty good one if I say so myself.  Technically, I’m the older sister even though I’m nearly a foot shorter than him and our other brother Patrick. [I clearly received my height genes from both of my grandmothers, one of which was barely five feet tall and the other is probably right at five feet!]

In late 2014, there was news about a new film in the works to chronicle the first date of the future president and his first lady. Tika Sumpter was chosen to play Michelle Robinson, and then the world discovered the name Parker Sawyers, aka the little boy I bossed around the house, who was picked to portray a young Barack Obama.

And thus the whirlwind adventure began for my younger brother.

I have said it a thousand times on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but Patrick and I along with our mother are so unbelievably proud of Parker. There are just not enough words to express how excited we are to know the world will now see his incredible talent. To see bloggers and movie critics gushing over his portrayal of Barack Obama has been so surreal. Naturally, in my mind, I was saying “DUH! We get it from our mama!” LOL!

Seriously though…we are so happy for him!! My brother is now one of the cool kids…the really cool kids.

Kudos also to the entire Southside with You cast and crew. I was able to spend a couple of days in Chicago over the summer while they were filming, and everyone was so kind and sweet to me.

I can’t WAIT until the rest of the world is able to see the great work from this amazing team in movie theaters this year!

As always, these are just a few thoughts “From My Hart.”

Who Are Your Accountability Partners?

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At the beginning of this year, I knew I wanted to make some changes in my life. One of the biggest obstacles I currently face is my weight. Last year I wrote a blog about wanting to lose several pounds, but life happened and well….the weight was still around.

That weight loss goal somehow faded to black. My clothes still felt the same, if not a little more snug. I vowed not to buy any new items until I lost some weight. The good thing is I have actually stuck to that promise. The unfortunate part is I’m still wearing the same clothes. I know I really could use a new wardrobe, but that’s just not in the plan…..right now.

I live in a wonderful complex with access to a 24-hour gym. Naturally, you’d think I would go every single day especially since I didn’t have to pay a single dime. That’s just not where my head was in 2015. Even though when I looked in the mirror and wasn’t thrilled with the physical body, it still didn’t manage to motivate me enough to put on workout clothes and a sports bra. [SIDENOTE: Ladies with a large chest like mine definitely understand that struggle. It’s not exactly comfortable to have the boobage tied down that way. But I digress….]

I’m fairly certain my best friend in Indianapolis tried to convince me to purchase a FitBit for at least the last year if not longer. Well, I finally joined the team thanks to my dear friend here in Memphis who happened to have an extra one still in the box and never even used! Now, I’m so #TeamFitBit! As an extremely competitive person, I am finding myself participating in five challenges (the maximum) every single day. When I check the latest numbers, I take a walk through my office building or go to the gym to make sure I’m still in the lead or trying to grab the lead from someone else! These ladies and gentlemen have become my accountability partners, and I love it!

Having accountability partners is extremely important. Mine motivate me to go to the gym at 5:30 a.m. when I really wish I could sleep for one additional hour. Mine push me to hit my 10,000 step goal when at 4:00 p.m. I’ve only logged 8,000. Mine encourage me to laugh more. Sure, I laugh plenty, but I have some amazing people in my life who keep me genuinely laughing all day [social media and group text messages are AWESOME]! Mine truly challenge me to do better and be a better person.

Do you have accountability partners? Are there people in your circle who will not only push you to be greater but hold you accountable for each and every one of your actions….whether good or bad?

If not, I highly encourage you to reevaluate those closest to you. I promise it will make a world of a difference. Your burdens will be lighter. REAL TALK: Your blood pressure will probably be lower too! You’ll find yourself enjoying life more. So, this week…ask yourself who are your accountability partners?

As always, these are just a few thoughts “From My Hart.”

Public Service Workers are ROCKSTARS!

public service

Don’t get me wrong…I’m all for supporting small businesses, but it seems everyone these days wants to take a drive down the entrepreneurship parkway. To be honest, I’d much rather support small businesses than the big box retailers. Naturally though, I still have to take my weekly trip to Target. Yes, I’m one of those people. But I digress…

The problem I see with all this hype around owning your business is that it is causing a serious drought in other areas. For example, I have spent the majority of my career, albeit that’s only 10 years, working in government (public health specifically), higher education (medicine) and the non-profit world. Do a simple Google search for articles about the declining number of new physicians and teachers. For those in the medical field, the idea of being in serious debt due to medical school loans is quite daunting and can certainly persuade even the most head strong student to turn the other way. For educators, we all know why there is a decline. Their annual pay versus what they are required to do on a daily basis is often times definitely not fair, especially if you want to work in an urban setting. In government, those in the older generations are retiring at a rapid rate but aren’t being replaced by younger counterparts. Many still in their current roles then become responsible for multiple jobs while only being paid for one.

My point? We still need people to serve in these public service roles. I’m all for wanting to work for yourself and make your schedule, but the number of businesses to actually succeed in what can only be described as a sometime topsy-turvy economy versus those that go belly-up after only a year is quite lopsided. (Whew, yes, that was a super long sentence!) I won’t even get on my soapbox about the number of entrepreneurs who start businesses without a comprehensive marketing plan.

We need to be encouraging the next generation to pursue careers as bankers, doctors, lawyers, social workers, teachers and the list could go on.

Now, this blog isn’t meant to bash those who have been successful with their businesses. I know PLENTY. From chefs to event planners to make-up artists to mobile app designers to publicists to photographers and graphic artists. If you plan properly and research your business idea, you very well can make it quite profitable and thus giving you a much more flexible lifestyle.

The reality is you’re not going to get rich working in public service (unless of course you become a government doctor or a lawyer!), but the end reward is so much greater. Let’s try and preach this message to the fourth and fifth graders who idolize us and see the great things we are doing. You can still push the entrepreneurship message while also encouraging these young people to think about a career in public service.

Of course, this is only my humble opinion and just a few thoughts “From My Hart.”