Journeying to 101. Global Leadership Summit

Have I ever mentioned just how much I love creating a 101 list! It’s one of the greatest motivators in the world for me. I’ve been working my current list since June 1st and I’ve managed to place a check next to five things so far. Not a bad start in my opinion.

Today, I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit. Until a few months ago I’d never heard of this meeting, but I’m so glad I stumbled upon this information. Without a doubt this is the best leadership event I’ve ever attended. At 5:30 pm, I was still wide awake, taking notes, and fully engaged in the final talk of the day! I’m excited about taking things from the training back to my circles in both my professional and personal lives which is far from my norm, but the summit has been just that good! The beauty of this event is that while rooted in Christian values, the speakers are not limited to faith leaders. Yes, there were two pastors that spoke today, but the majority of the speakers were business leaders and everyone focused on leadership lessons, there was nothing “churchy” about the event. I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions.

So, what are my personal action steps from today’s session…there’s so much, but I know I can only do a few things!

  1. I need to determine who I will plant leadership seeds in. People did it for me, now I need to do it for someone else.
  2. I will create a leadership betterment plan that outlines how I will take responsibility for improving my leadership skills over the next year. Everyone wins when I get better!
  3. At the end of each day I will write 3 moments of joy!
  4. I will be more intentional in giving people a chance. Despite how things may seem, I don’t know everyone’s story…I must be mindful of this.
  5. I will stay hopeful and I will be present with those I am trying to lead.
  6. I will choose to be a student, not a critic. I will choose to keep my eyes and mind open. I will choose to replace “How” with “Wow”.

The last goal, replacing “how” with “wow”, is probably the point from the day that resonated the most for me. The lecturer challenged us to “wow” ideas to life rather than “how” them to death. I think this hit me so hard because I see this exact scenario unfold in so many areas of my life all of the time. When presented with a new idea, individuals in my space are quick to respond with questions that ask how we can afford something or how can we find the people to do that or how can find the time to make that work or how do we think this small church can do that. While individuals hearts may be in the right place, I’m so sick of hearing excuses framed as “compassionate questions”. I really just want everyone connected to me to think outside the box and dream bigger!

With that, I’m looking forward to what tomorrow’s sessions will be…

Journeying to 101. Year of Yes!

Happy Sunday!

Since beginning my 101 list, it’s been my intention to post on here at least weekly, but last weekend, I seemed to run out of things to say. I’m not quite sure why, so I simply blamed it on having a writer’s block. But, I’m back this week…

I’m continuing on my journey to 101. I managed to check one big item off of my list last week…more about that later this week after I’m able to edit some of the pics. In the meantime, I’ve finished another book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be You Own Person by Shonda Rhimes. I started this book quite some time ago…it was a Christmas gift from 2015…and decided to make it my vacation read. I think it was a pretty good choice.

In short, the author chronicles a year of her life where she goes from never saying yes to anything to forcing herself to say yes to everything – herself, her children, her family, her health, and her happiness! The author did a great job of pulling me into her story of facing her personal fears, I could relate to the things she was feeling and experiencing with an uncomfortable amount of ease. I highlighted and underlined several things in the book, but two points sunk deep into my soul – “That never would have happened if I hadn’t stopped dreaming of becoming her and gotten busy becoming myself,” and “I’m great at taking care of other people. So why am I so bad at taking care of myself? Why am I so unwilling to show myself the same kindness and consideration, to cut myself the same slack, to give myself the same protection and care that I would give anyone else?”

That never would have happened if I hadn’t stopped dreaming of becoming her and gotten busy becoming myself.

Shonda was referencing her longing to follow in the footsteps of Toni Morrison in this particular section of the book. She wanted to be a Nobel-prize winning author, but she mentions that while she was dreaming, she was also living in her sister’s basement not reaching her potential. Her dream kept her from being who she was created to be. That hit too close to home for me. I want to write a book and I want to move this blog to its own site…I dream of doing these things…I’m talking I look at others and say, “Wow, one day I hope to be like them…I hope to write like them and I hope to have great impact like them.” I say these things in my mind over and over again, but truthfully, God has not created me to be like others, He’s created me to be me and only me. Sometimes I try too hard to make my circle fit into a square, but I’m not a square…I’m a circle! God created me to do my thing and have my impact, but only in a way that I can do it, I’m uniquely me! So instead of dragging my feet and doubting myself, I think it would serve me well to get a little bit busier becoming myself! That’s not to say I’ve not done anything…I’ve been doing some work, but I’ve been moving slow, so maybe it’s time for me to pick up the pace and march a little faster to the beat of my drum!

I’m great at taking care of other people. So why am I so bad at taking care of myself? Why am I so unwilling to show myself the same kindness and consideration, to cut myself the same slack, to give myself the same protection and care that I would give anyone else?

Now this is the big one for me…if one could earn a PhD in everything that statement says, I’d have it! For more years than I’d like to admit, I have struggled greatly with showing love, care, and compassion to myself…I am hard on me! But this book challenged me to say yes to loving me…ALL of me – my curves and edges, my greatest hopes and my biggest fears, my beautiful smile and my kinky, maybe curly (and quickly graying) hair, my low tolerance of people at times (the introvert in me) and my love of making others laugh! Loving all of me is hard stuff! My natural tendency is to pick myself apart and declare that I am a broken mess that’s beyond repair! But really I’m not…I was made in God’s image with the kind of love that only He can give, so I’m following Shonda’s lead and deciding to say YES to loving me a bit more, caring for me a bit more, showing compassion and kindness to me a bit more, and giving myself the same protection and care that I would give anyone else. I deserve it!

The journey continues…I’m excited about what is still to come!

Writer’s Block!

I need to write, but I’ve got nothing in me right now. Yet, I’m committed to writing because it’s a part of my 101 journey and I’m determined to finish the work on my book before the end of the year! Given these things, it seems like getting stuck in a writing funk is not an option…

So, I’m going to do some reading and thinking tonight to see what thoughts begin to stir in my mind. And then, I’m going to write because it’s been too long since I’ve worked on my book, and deep down I know there’s something in me that needs to be shared with the world. I can’t let momentary mental challenges stop me…

Journeying to 101. The Gifts of Imperfection

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“My story matters because I matter.” – Brene Brown

For the past few weeks, I’ve been focusing on reading more…it’s one of my 101 challenges. My goal is to read 10 books that I currently own but have not completed. Some days, I manage to get in a few chapters, while others just a few pages, but I’ve been intentional in reading and reflecting for a few moments daily. It’s been good, and I’ve now managed to read two of the ten books! A few weeks ago I finished In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson.

Today, I finished reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I’ve had the book for a long time, but I’ve never managed to get through it. Perhaps this is because the book requires one to do the tough work of self-reflection (the book’s subtitle hints at this very thing – Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and EMBRACE Who You Are) or maybe I’ve just been too busy doing a bunch of nothing to stop and read a book! I’m certain it was the self-reflection piece that kept me from reading the book. For me, genuine self-reflection is hard stuff (I bet the same is true for you), but it’s so freeing for the one who is daring enough to do it! I’ve learned that many of us are content not digging deep into the depths of our souls to deal with our life issues, but I’m convinced that honesty is still the best policy. Unfortunately, over time, we’ve mastered the art of “wearing the mask that grins and lies”…oh yes, “with torn and bleeding hearts” we know how to smile, but somehow we’ve managed to forget how to truly live. Living authentic and wholehearted lives is a daily struggle, well for me at least…but this book challenges its readers to face this struggle with an open heart and a sense of expectation. I would encourage anyone to give this book a try.

Now…I must offer this disclaimer, I had a major meltdown in the middle of the book. I’m talking an “I’m done with God” meltdown! This book made me want to cuss (ok, I did cuss…I’m just being honest)! In dealing with me…I was left feeling quite vulnerable. For a moment, I felt like my life was shattered in a million pieces with no hopes of repair! I felt like I had failed myself, I felt like I had failed God, I felt like God had failed me, and I just felt downright sorry for myself! I’m currently recovering from the meltdown…I’m still feeling the effects of it…but I pushed myself to keep reading the book and I’m still doing the hard work that goes along with this journey! And, I think I’m glad I did.  The author ends the book with a statement that sums up my present journey pretty well…one minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time…brave, afraid, and very, very alive.

Will you embrace your gifts of imperfection?

Weekend Adventures…

 

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About two weeks ago on a casual ride home, I stumbled upon a beautiful treasure tucked away in Harford County, the Jerusalem Mill Village. I didn’t have a chance to stop that day, but managed to go back for a visit over the weekend. What an awesome story this place offers…

The Jerusalem Mill was established in the late 1700s and remained open in some capacity through the mid 1900s. It started out as a mill and ended up as a local convenience store before it ultimately closed down. The one interesting fact that I learned during the visit was that Joppa, MD was the major port city of Maryland for many years until the water became to shallow to accommodate large shipping vessels. This led to the Port of Baltimore taking shape as we know it today. Kinda neat!

Over the last several years, the buildings that define Jerusalem Mill Village have been restored into a piece of living history. What really captured me as I rode through the village the first time was its potential for creating beautiful pictures (it has so much scenery to offer…I can’t wait out to get out there with my real camera), but what fascinated me during my visit was the rich history of this small community. What an awesome reminder that the so-called small things in life have the ability to make a major difference in the world!

What local spots fascinate you?

Journeying to 101. Swim Lessons.

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I’m so excited to be on the journey to 101! Today, I’m checking swim lessons off my list…yay! I took swimming lessons as a child, but that was a really long time ago, and I’m pretty sure I never managed to perfect the art. So…I decided that now was a great time to jump back in the pool and take lessons again. Today was the first class and I think I did rather well (if I must say so myself). We started nice and easy with bobs and progressed to swimming laps using kickboards. The competitor in me was happy to take on every challenge the instructor put before me. While I could feel the fatigue in my legs when I got out of the pool, I had a great time! I can’t wait to get back in the water and practice my kicks this week…

A New 101 in 1,001 List…

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A few years back I wrote a 101 in 1,0001 list. I got the idea from my cousin Tiffany, and found that it was really helpful in pushing me to do some things that otherwise may fall off the radar screen. So, for the past month, I’ve been slowly working on my new list. There are some things that I never managed to check off of my old list that I’ve recycled, along with some new things. I’m looking forward to another leg in my life journey….there are lots of great things out there to do, if we’ll just set aside the time to do them!

This journey began on June 1, 2017 and I’m hoping to check everything off the list by February 27, 2020!

Things to Do/Personal Challenges

  1. Finish writing my new 101 list…I don’t think it will be so hard this time! – Completed 7/7/2017
  2. Complete photography CE certificate requirements.
  3. Finish watching Dear White People.
  4. Write 5 letters to 5 people who have had a positive impact on my life. (6/19/2017: 1 of 5 written and sent.)
  5. Organize my computer files.
  6. Organize my iTunes library.
  7. Make a list of my fears and what I can do to face and defeat them.
  8. Complete a 30-day photo challenge.
  9. Make an address book with contact information for family and friends.
  10. Go to Morgan’s Homecoming Gala.
  11. Launch new website. – In Progress…Coming Real Soon!!!
  12. Write and publish a book of devotions.
  13. Write on my blog weekly for 52 consecutive weeks.
  14. Get to work by 8 am every day for an entire month.
  15. Go without watching TV for one week.
  16. Bike round trip from Baltimore to Annapolis.
  17. Go to Top Golf.
  18. Play a round of golf on a course
  19. Plant a garden.
  20. Make a batch of homemade soap.
  21. Make a batch of bath salts.
  22. Attend PlantNite.
  23. Visit the Newseum.
  24. Visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
  25. Host a dinner party for friends.
  26. Host Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends.
  27. Host Family Christmas Party.
  28. Attend the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival.
  29. Start or participate in a MasterMind Group.

 Personal Growth and Enrichment

  1. Finish reading 10 books I currently own but have not read in their entirety. (6/19/2017: Read 1 of 10)
  2. Write a living will.
  3. Write a letter to open at the end of the 1,001 days challenge.
  4. Write a letter to open when I’m 40.
  5. Write a Personal Mission Statement.
  6. Identify my core/guiding values and display these in my home.
  7. Write in my journal for 30 consecutive days.
  8. Write a letter of forgiveness to those people who have hurt me in my past…won’t send it, but will write it.

 Relationship-Building

  1. Go on a vacation(maybe a camping trip) with my immediate family.
  2. Have lunch with my Dad.
  3. Take a photography workshop with my brother.
  4. Go on a spa day with my sister-in-law.
  5. Go to tea with my mother.
  6. Spend a day with my oldest nephew.
  7. Go on a movie date with my middle and youngest nephew.
  8. Bake holiday cookies with Kim.
  9. Go to Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse with Pastor Ann.
  10. Go on a weekend ski/snow tubing trip with friends.
  11. Complete a 5K (walking or running) with Ronnie to celebrate her weight loss journey.

 Faith and Spirituality

  1. Read the Bible in its entirety.
  2. Create a prayer and meditation space in my home.
  3. Complete seminary (or get very close).

 Lifelong Learning

  1. Take swimming lessons.
  2. Take a guitar class.
  3. Take a piano class.
  4. Take a cooking class.
  5. Take 3 photography courses.
  6. Learn to hand dance.
  7. Take an Intermediate WordPress course.
  8. Attend Global Leadership Summit.

 Health and Fitness

  1. Complete the Whole Life Challenge.
  2. Run/walk 30 miles in 30 days.
  3. Complete a 10K race.
  4. Lose 25 pounds.
  5. Go rock wall climbing.
  6. Run in the St. Michael’s Running Festival.
  7. Bike a century.
  8. Complete a sprint triathlon.
  9. Complete a 50 push-up challenge.
  10. Complete a plank challenge.
  11. Consume zero cookies for an entire month.
  12. Document my meal choices for 30 consecutive days.

 Things to Own

  1. Upgrade my dSLR.
  2. Buy prime lens.
  3. Buy new lamps for my bedroom and living room.
  4. Buy my first home.
  5. Buy a new laptop.
  6. Buy a new pair of sunglasses. – Completed July 3, 2017

Financial Milestones

  1. Pay off my car.
  2. Save 10% of my annual salary.

 Things to Do at Home 

  1. Organize my filing cabinet.
  2. Create a weekly cleaning schedule.
  3. Finish decorating my bedroom.
  4. Make my bed every day for 30 consecutive days.
  5. Create a functional office space in my home.
  6. Frame and hang my artwork from Nigeria.
  7. Create an art gallery in my home that features my own creative works.

Places to Visit 

  1. Go on a European vacation.
  2. Visit Western Maryland.
  3. Visit Great Falls Park.
  4. Go on a cruise.
  5. Go to New York during the Christmas season and see the Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall.
  6. Take a trip to Canada.
  7. Take a trip to Albuquerque, NM.
  8. Go to the US Open…I love tennis!
  9. Attend the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival.
  10. Spend an afternoon in St. Michael’s.
  11. Spend a day in Old Town Alexandria.
  12. Take a trip to Bermuda.
  13. Take a beach vacation.

Giving Back

  1. Organize a scholarship fund to give a book scholarship to at least 1 high school senior annually.
  2. Donate books to a school/organization.

 

Why Not?

This weekend I spent some time flipping through my grandmother’s Bible…it was filled with lots of good things – pictures, wedding announcements, funeral programs, newspaper clippings, etc. One of the things I stumbled upon was a poem written by a local artist entitled, Why Not. It was an amazing piece that I read at the right moment in my life. There have been lots of changes and transitions for me over these past six months…I’d say all of them have been positive…but change certainly is not always easy. I started the year declaring that my theme was to Jump. I was very clear in January that I was committed to dreaming again and pursuing bigger goals, and yet while I was excited about doing new and different things, apprehension and nervousness has crept in as the months have gone by. The beauty is I have not stopped crawling forward (that book that I decided I would write is taking shape ever so slowly and the new website is on the way), but on numerous occasions, I have questioned why I thought these big, crazy, wild dreams that I have were feasible for me. And then I stumbled upon this poem in Mom-Mom’s Bible that let me know that it’s okay to jump out and chase a dream that is one size too big! So, I leave it with you today, as perhaps you question some decisions that you need to make for your own life. Perhaps all of us should refrain from asking why and push ourselves to ask, Why not give it a try?

Why Not
J. Joy Matthews Alford

I knew I’d never do it.
I couldn’t.
I always wanted to,
But didn’t know how.
Didn’t even know where to start.
All my life I’d been told,
“You can’t do that”,
So I never questioned why.
Just accepted that I couldn’t.
“Til one day I asked myself, “Why Not?”

“Nothing beats a failure but a try.”
How often I’ve heard those words recited.
Is that all they are; empty words?
Or could they hold the key?
Ok, so, I can’t do it now.
Does that mean I can never do it?
What part can’t I do?
What part can I do?
Will my ego stop me from trying
Because I fear I might fail?
If I get over this fear,
How far can I go?

Until now, I never believed I could do this.
Never believed in myself enough to try.
What else might I try if I succeed?
What other fears might I conquer?
Even if I fail
Will things be worse than before?
Maybe that’s the key –
That by challenging myself
I can discover new facets of me.
Maybe venturing beyond the safe and charted route,
By striving towards goals once believed unattainable,
I can achieve successes I never dreamed possible.
Successes that I could never have known
Without have tried, or having asked, “Why Not?”

 

Lessons From My Grandmother…

giftAfter more than 93 years of life, my grandma died early Thursday morning. She has had many ups and downs over the past 18 months, but she proved to me and everyone I know that God truly has the final say. Doctors counted her out on several occasions, but “Lazarita” just kept on getting up! But, on Thursday, God declared that her work here on earth was finished. While death draws out many emotions, when one dies in the Lord, I find comfort in knowing that my loved one has gone on to their heavenly home. So, for me, Mom-Mom’s death is well with my soul!

As I was riding in my car this morning, I started thinking about the life she lived. I’ll be the first to admit, Mom-Mom and I had our share of differing views – she was quick to offer me unsolicited advice, feedback, opinions, and yes, sometimes criticisms – but, I’ve got to be one of the luckiest kids to have ever lived! God blessed me with two of the best grandmas ever known! They didn’t have a whole lot of material things, but they sure did have a lot of love to give. But, back to Mom-Mom. As I was riding, I thought of 3 key lessons my grandmother taught me. Mom-Mom taught me about acceptance, endurance, and sacrifice!

For many years, Mom-Mom worked at the Benedictine School, a school that served children and young adults with developmental disabilities. Upon her retirement, she served on the school’s Board of Directors as a member and honorary member until her death this week. My grandmother had the ability to look beyond each child’s disability and see their ability and zeal for life. As a result, most members of my family spent a bit of time working at the Benedictine School over the years. As a child, I remember going to work with my mother during the summers when she served as a summer school teacher there. I absolutely loved it…to this day, there are certain students who I can remember vividly! Something that may seem odd happened during those summer days – I learned to not view disability through a negative lens! I learned to accept all people as God’s amazing creation! At summer school, I was there in my Mom’s class just having fun with other students…I remember my favorite days were pool days! As I got older, I loved taking advantage of opportunities to volunteer at Special Olympics and be present for those who may feel like the outsider. It became a part of what defined me!

Mom-Mom also taught me how to endure. As children we often view the adults in our lives as perfect people. It’s not until we are grown ourselves that we fully understand their ability to survive the greatest of challenges in life! My grandma had it in her to face life’s challenges head-on! My grandfather was a diabetic his entire life, and she cared for him while working and raising their 5 children. My recent encounters with diabetes and its affects on one’s life has increased my respect for my grandmother tremendously! When life got hard, Mom-Mom continued to put on foot in front of the other. Multiple knee replacements…no problem! Fused leg…no problem! Lost daughter…no problem! Dementia…no problem! Mom-Mom’s ability to endure through life and all of its changes is a lesson in life for me!

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from my grandmother was sacrifice! She did that well. She was the oldest of her siblings, which meant she was not only a big sister, but a surrogate mother too! As if that weren’t enough, after raising her own children, Mom-Mom’s house was a haven for her grandchildren. Who needed a babysitter or summer camp when we had Mom-Mom’s house! Every summer my cousins and I would spend our days (and for some their nights) at out grandmother’s house. It was a sacrifice of love for her family! She dealt with their shenanigans (because I was always the good cousin). My brother and cousins would throw apples on the neighbor’s tin roof just to hear the thumping sound, then they would have contests to see who could throw the apples the farthest, and the worst, my cousins would write songs about me. Through all of our cutting up, Mom-Mom was always kinds to us (I only recall getting in trouble once for the apples); my Aunt Elaine used to threaten us with the switch off the tree, but not Mom-Mom, nope, she didn’t fuss with us all that much, so long as we didn’t interrupt her soaps or Norm Lewis on Channel 2 News.

I feel today as I did when Mom Putt passed away. I’ve managed to find peace while facing death. I thank God for the years He gifted me with Mom-Mom, He blessed her life abundantly and I’m one grateful soul! Now, I pray that my family remains close and perhaps grows closer through this!