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Don’t Psych Yourself Out!

The Mountain

Sometimes we focus on the mountain. We become fixated on the seemingly insurmountable obstacle we would never even dream of overcoming. Ironically, it’s the self-defeating language we speak to our inner selves that leads to poor imagination. We predetermine we are not able to do, to conquer, to overcome what is before us then we lay down and play dead… or put our heads in the dirt… or crawl into caves for extended hibernations.

Alternatively, we can choose to simply look at the mountain for what it is: something that has multiple sides and levels. There is always a way up, over, around, under and through it. Be assured, getting to the other side is achievable. Remembering this simple truth about every impossible situation will shift perspective and focus immeasurably. The mountain may not become a molehill, but it will become manageable. It can then be approached as a challenge or trial in need of an action plan.

Mind Shift

When we no longer view our obstacles as insurmountable they stop being the opposition of our life, the limits of creative thought, the borders of vision and the anchors of our energy.

How we react to external problems reflect our internal conflicts. The human condition seems to be a lifelong process of constantly striving to get to the other side of fear, and therefore to the other side ourselves. First, we have to see that it’s possible to do so.

The Process of Change

A few days ago, I resuscitated my bike; it had been sitting on flats in the garage for over a year. One of the things that attracted me to the Sonoran Desert was the thought of cycling with my camera throughout the year. Unfortunately, when I got here, everything about riding in the desert seemed like a death wish. Long expanses of curving road. Impatient drivers. Wild animals. Cactus needles. Dehydration. Sun-burn. Unending upward mountain climbs.

The fear snuck up on me.

I had been riding around New York City and parts of New Jersey since 2011. I had done cycling events – The Five Boro Ride several times, a couple of half centuries, and countless other organized and solo rides. Yet, I when I got to a wide open road in the desert, I believed the limits of my sight. New York City didn’t have mountains! Where’s the shade? Where can I rest? What if I run out of water? What if I get hit and no one sees me in a ditch?

The obstacles I created impaired my ability to actually do one of the things I enjoy most and something I’ve wanted all my life to do around the world. During the two years I’ve had my bike in Arizona, I’ve gotten on it no more than two or three times.

Getting to the Other Side

All this to say, the other day I went out on my bike for the first time in a long while. For two days prior, I had walked a nearly three-mile route. The same route I had tried to ride last year and ended up feeling as if I had outdone myself with. It completely took my breath away, or more aptly, it was so hard to breathe that I turned around and went home. One and half miles did me in. And kept me off my bike for a year. I could have pushed through. I could have tried again that next day. I did neither. I limited myself and refused to even try again.

This time, I did push through. This time I huffed and puffed up this incline and whoo-hooooed all the way down! The downhill return was mind-blowingly-smooth and I basically coasted back to my subdivision gate. The below video was made during this ride. In it I talk about how the payoff is worth the effort.

Remember Who You Are

When I got home, I reviewed my ride stats on my phone and saw old ride stats that sort of blew my mind.

This three-mile roundtrip in my neighborhood had an elevation gain of 269 feet. Isolated, that sounds like a lot. The 269-foot climb must be what took my breath away, or so I thought. But my old stats show rides around Manhattan with 100 to 600 feet of elevation gain. One Staten Island event had a route elevation gain of 3203 feet. Since the highest point I reached was 396 feet above sea level (practically the tallest peak on the island), I believe the gain indicates the combination of hills I went up that day.

While writing this piece, I’ve finally realized I never accounted for the need to acclimate to a higher overall elevation. New York City is 33 feet above sea level. My home address in Marana, Arizona is at 2425 feet above sea level. My lungs are working harder here due to altitude and thinner arid air.

Sometimes we have to give ourselves a break and consider the practical elements of our environment and what adjustments we need to make to adapt better.

I had long proven to myself I’m capable of overcoming physical obstacles. Yet when my new environment proved more of a challenge than I expected, I gave up. I didn’t examine why it was more challenging or how I could adapt to the environmental changes. Focusing on the mountain ranges surrounding me defeated me. I psyched myself out.

Now that I’ve reminded myself that I did more in New York than I’ve even attempted in Arizona, I’m gonna retrieve that fearless, can-do attitude and go ride these desert roads!

Be blessed. Don’t psych yourself out. Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving! Amen!

Related posts:

I used to be an athlete.

Bike the Boros: Staten Island

Morning Stretch and Praise Break

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Find Your Place

Many of us go through life thinking a dream is all we need. With a dream, anything is possible or rather the impossible becomes believable. Dreams are fun. They motivate and invigorate. Once you’ve achieved your dream, then the real work begins.

Often times we move through life focused on accomplishing goals that move us closer to the image of our life we’ve created for ourselves. Some people accomplish their dreams and keep working on it for the remainder of their lives. Others of us manifest our dreams and wonder what’s next. What will my life be now that I’ve done everything I envisioned? How will I continue to grow? What will I develop into? Is there a need to keep pushing forward? Why can’t I stop now? What’s wrong with digging in and perfecting the imperfect dream?

When I moved to New York City, it was an essential part of a much larger dream. Big city, larger opportunities. Within a year of being there, I re-imagined I would exit the city in three to five years but certainly under ten. All told, this September marked the thirteenth anniversary of my arrival in the Big Apple. The dream was great when I was young. In some ways, it never manifested fully into my vision. In other ways, it surpassed my own expectations for my life. As good as the City was to me in certain respects, it never felt like my place.

For years, I forced it. I was determined to make it work. Until I was simply done. And no longer interested in trying. At that point I decided I was ready for what comes next. My readiness allowed the world to open wide for me. Which led to me finding my place in an area I didn’t even want to visit. A new challenge with no dreams attached. No built in disappointments. Simply the opportunity to greet each new day with joy and adventure for the manifestation of endless opportunities.

This year has has been an open-hearted welcome of everything to come. The future is not a dreaded thing. It’s welcomed with anticipation.

A former co-worker, Gee, shared his migration story with me a few years ago. He was possibly in his late sixties or early seventies. He spoke of how when he came from Thailand, he first moved to San Francisco. Within a short time he said he realized, “This is not my place.” He moved to Los Angeles. Again he said, “This is not my place.” He moved to Oklahoma then to New Jersey. Neither were his place. When he arrived in Queens, he said he new immediately, “This is my place.”

Your place may not be the dream. It may not be one of the first five locations you try. But it will be something that speaks to you directly and immediately. It’s never too late to evaluate where you are and make any changes accordingly.

Be blessed as you go.

Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” And Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. ~ Acts 7:1-4

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Road trip: Riding shotgun

Travel was one of my first loves. I remember telling my mom at a young age that I wanted to visit all the states, each continent and as many countries as possible before I die. The desire to see the world likely comes from the frequent moves my family made in my youth. So much so that folks often ask if my parents were were military. They weren’t. They were simply okay trying something new for a better life. After making life moves with family, school trips with classmates seemed to be a good next step. Which led to vacations with friends throughout my twenties. My thirties was dedicated to exploring myself and solo trips became my therapy… until the therapeutic benefits disappeared. After a while, asking strangers to take horrible snapshots of me in front of historic landmarks lost its charm. I was tired of group travel with various personalities because the first couple of days were usually spent trying to get to know each other, while the last few days were spent putting distance between self and everyone else so we could all enjoy our own personalized experiences.

When solo travel fell out of favor with me, the only pleasure trip I could talk myself into for a five year period was a self-planned hop-on/hop-off train tour along the French and Italian Riveras to celebrate my 40th birthday. Absolutely no complaints about that trip. As the mother of all vacays, it was also the first time I consciously road shotgun with God. The whole trip was about embracing my solo status and a reminder to celebrate myself even in the absence of others.

Over the last two years, my life has been all about transition and transformation, which are happening at multiple layers currently. The biggest layer is moving from New York City to a suburb of Tucson, Arizona. Throughout the last year, I’ve traveled between the two cities preparing to end my life in one and begin anew in the other.

Because August is my birthday month, I view it as my primary new year and a symbol of renewal. For that reason it was important to spend August in the new place. It proved to be a much needed gift of time and space to myself. Before returning to New York City to sell my apartment in the autumn, I decided to take a road trip. The idea started off small-ish. A quick – perhaps overnight – trip to the Grand Canyon. Five hours each way split over two days seemed almost leisurely to me. It turned into a six day excursion I now call my Grand Tour of Arizona. Road trips and national parks are going to be a huge part of my future. 😌

At the beginning of my trip, words began settling in me. These words were a medition throughout my travel.

Pilgrimage.

Communion.

Silence.

Peace.

I felt a need to declutter my mind, my heart, my soul. A need to be more purposeful about decluttering my life. I didn’t think about fasting until I was on the road. At that point I was already tiring fast so not eating was out of the question. As I reflect back, the week before I began my road trip, I did indeed fast from life. I shut down. I refused to check email or follow up with the major stressors in my life. I decompressed. I vegged on tv. I did some gardening, some cleaning. Generally, I allowed myself to simply and quietly occupy my space.

That was a beautiful gift.

The Grand Canyon has become a symbol of perseverance and focus in my life. When I lived in Arizona as a child, we never visited the Canyon. For my relocation, I wanted to be a tourist early on, to see the wonder of my new home state before I fall into new routines.

I am so grateful for the time and opportunity to see some of the amazingly beautiful National Parks and monuments throughout Northern Arizona and the stunning landscape variations from the south to the north of the state. (Many photos will be shared on my Images + Life photo blog under the tag “Exploring Arizona.”) My Grand Tour of Arizona consisted of stops at Sunset Crater Volcano, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell and the dam that created it, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I camped in my car for the first two nights, found a bed and breakfast on the third night, then splurged on hotel rooms. Nearly three days were spent on Navajo Nation Land. My first camp fire was started at Grand Canyon Desert View camp site. I LOVED that spot! My fire burned for less than five minutes total, despite lighting it up about twenty times. Most amazing and unexpected was the boat ride I took on the lake in the middle of the desert! Who knew? There was so much natural beauty over such a vast amount of land, I grew tired trying to chase it all.

Within the first day or so, I knew this would become a regular, most likely annual, trip for me. Acknowledging that allowed me to relax a bit. There was no need to try to see everything or do more than my body was prepared to do. I made the trip all about photography. Capturing sunrises, sunsets and dark skies were my primary goals each day. The secondary photo goal was to capture some decent self-portraits. Note to self: hair and make-up should be part of the routine when attempting self-portraits on vacay. 🤭

This year has been exhilarating in many ways. I’ve purposefully taken action to change my life into something that represents my heart, spirit, vision and purpose. It’s taken a lot of energy and focus, so much so, I keep thinking I’m failing when I allow too many distractions or eagerly change or adjust plans as things come up. However, when I look around after detours, I see that I have not been pushed off-course. I’m exactly where I need to be. I’m developing and moving at a pace that has been calibrated for me. After all, I am not behind the wheel of my life. I’m riding shotgun. It may appear that I’m in control, but I’m not. It may seem like I can screw all this hard work up, but I can’t. I’ve already surrendered to the one who controls the universe. Any moment of uncertainty or chaos in my life is not going to disrupt the plans He already has in motion for me. Believing that, knowing it, and remembering it brings comfort and peace in a solitude full of communion with my Heavenly Father. My life, my pilgrimage, my journey is unfolding before me. With each step, I discover more and more good things that have been deposited in me for my good.

Be blessed as you go.

Working on my selfie game!

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Reader Review by Kayla: Desert of Solitude

Kayla Pompey of Milwaukee, WI reviews Desert of Solitude: Refreshed by Grace written by LaShawnda Jones. Kayla openly shares how the book has helped her in her life.

“In this book, LaShawnda explains how she felt she was not enough. I think a lot of people feel like that and they don’t even realize how much they really are. They are enough. I realized I am enough. This [book] just came out a few months ago. Within that time I have been able to completely change my life around. A lot of choices I make now don’t revolve around what other people will think. I’m not trying to be so much of a people pleaser anymore. I am learning to please myself and be happy with the choices I make. In that, other people are feeding off my confidence.”

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Vlog: Reflecting while moving forward

For several years now, I’ve been creating video logs while traveling and for new projects. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to editing and posting them. For my I AM WOMAN Portrait & Essay Project, I occasionally video the women’s introduction. The desire to get these short clips about womanhood posted has led me to figure out the basics of editing video on my mobile devices.

This video message is about the movement and transition of life and the importance of reflecting on where you come from but not getting stuck in the past.

Be blessed,

LaShawnda

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Family Dilemma

The three part Family Matters series I’ve shared has been very powerful for me. Like many, I have struggled painfully and mightily with my relatives through every stage of life. Unlike many, after a while, at each stage I have consistently chosen separation and distance in order to preserve my life. Self-preservation has been both a blessing and curse. The instinct to cut off my arm, my foot, even my heart in order to breathe and live another day with a bit less pain has been my status quo since adolescence. But now, as I approach my middle years, after living the last fifteen years alone without family input or interaction in my daily life, it feels as if I’ve over-preserved myself. I’ve processed out the salt and flavor of life, the meat of existence, the joy of being. I’ve grown stale.

The Tug-of-War of Returning

The aunt who knows me best and had a hand in mothering me during a portion of my teen years, dropped me in my twenties. No rhyme or reason I’m aware of. She simply stopped communicating and interacting with me.

She had a very controlling stranglehold on many people. The hold she had on me was through constant reminders of how she stepped in to help my mom when no one else would. Her idea of being paid back was me owing her my life and being willing to give her whatever she wanted whenever she asked for it. Preferably before she asked for it. When I moved away at the age of thirty, my main intent was to get away from the yoke she kept trying to attach to me. My insight into my aunt’s character was very limited then. Fortunately, I see her much clearer now.

After I moved to New York City, the only time my aunt and I communicated during the first ten years of my self-exile, was surrounding the death of family members.

When my aunt became ill a couple of years ago, she began sporadically reaching out in earnest. Meaning her speech was earnest but her follow-through was not. I listen to her with a very skeptical ear, in an attempt to discern truth and need from hyperbole. Despite not being able to trust her, I do find that I would still like to have a good relationship with her. What I’m coming to terms with is that such is not possible.

My return to Arizona was not meant to be shared with relatives in the state. There was no intention of interacting with people who have no goodwill towards me. However, I am very talkative, my aunt is very nosy… and I’ve never been a deflector or a liar. She knows this. When I don’t want to answer a question, she will keep at me until my guard lowers and I overshare throughout the course of the conversation. She is also good at inserting herself without invitation. Long story short, I eventually shared my intention to move to Tucson and she began planning my life. First, she wanted to visit me in New York City before I leave for good. She wanted to join me in various endeavors when I arrive in my new home and insisted I pick her up and drop her off in Mesa (suburb of Phoenix about 1.5 hour drive away from me) so she can do so. Her suggestions exasperated me. Each time I impatiently cut her off. “I’ve been in New York for twelve years, if you haven’t visited by now, I’m not holding my breath for a visit before my final exit. I’m not driving to Phoenix on a regular to pick you up and drop you off in order to participate in an activity with me. No. No. No. Then… Okay, do you want to spend Christmas with me? In March, I’ll be in Phoenix for an event and will stop by to visit. When do you want to come to New York? I’ll see what I can do.”

Love is very simple. So is relationship. Love embodies the desire to provide and accommodate. That is the essence, the true core, of relationship. My aunt no longer manipulates me from the angle of owing her anything. She targets my loneliness by revealing her own. She tries to identify with me being on my own by claiming to be the same. In addition to being “on her own,” she’s ill, she’s dying, and unemployed. What she doesn’t like mentioning is that she has three children, several grandchildren, a brother, nieces and nephews in the same city. She claims no one’s checking on her or looking out for her. She’s not eating. She can’t go shopping. No one cares. So yeah, I finally gave in and agreed to visit her. I told her two weeks in advance when I would come.

When I called to tell her I was in Phoenix and leaving the event I had attended, she passed the phone to one of her grandsons who was visiting. She called a few minutes later, as I was heading to the highway to get across town to frantically tell me her brother and his wife also “dropped by.” I could hear her anxiety through the phone. I wasn’t prepared for a visit with her, her brother and his wife – far too much ridiculous energy in one space. I told her as much and told her I was fine staying on the highway and returning to Tucson directly. She said her visitors wouldn’t be there long and asked me to come by as I intended. By the time I arrived at her complex, I had to use the restroom, so I called and told her I would bite the bullet and deal with her brother and sister-in-law because I needed a bathroom. She calmly replied, “Can you go to McDonald’s down the street? I’ll send my grandson down to take you there.”

“I just passed McDonald’s. I can get there just fine.” This was my first visit since my grandmother, her mother, died four years prior. Yet, she refused me entry for a time in preference for her brother whom she later shared lives around the corner.

I drove to McDonald’s and ordered food while I was there. Then I drove to another location to journal. I was gone for close to two hours, during which she called three times. My internal debate was should I get back on the road and drive back home to Tucson or should I follow-through on the visit I said I would make? I suspected she had set me up. She had always tried to force me into interacting with her brothers even when I have been direct about not wanting contact. Though that wasn’t the case this time. I had already tried scheduling time with her brother. That seemed to surprise her. Against my better judgement, I completed my journal entry and went to visit my aunt. When I arrived I was surprised to see her son – who had according to him, been living with her for four years. His girlfriend shared his room with him.

The lonely aunt whom no one was checking on, literally had a full house.

My aunt has always made destructive choices. She has never chosen love for the sake of love. Not for her children, not for her husband, not for her mother. Nor for me. I have always given her the benefit of the doubt, but her actions have always been honest expressions of her priorities. She always says I’m like a daughter to her. Yet she did not drop out of contact with her children for ten years.

I view my aunt now as a gateway drug or disease. She chooses everyone and everything I don’t want in my life. Even my willingness to accommodate her for love’s sake is not a good reason to open the door of my life to her when I know she will continue to pull undesirable people and elements in.

Ultimatums

I have nieces of my own whom I have no contact or relationship with. My brothers’ daughters have been withheld from his family since he died eleven years ago. The girls were still sweet then. And I did what I could in all my broken exiled loneliness to maintain a semblance of a relationship with their mother, thereby staying within their world. I reached out to cultivate relationships. I called, I visited, and I sent care-packages. Their mother was a party to my brother’s death. The police refused to investigate so she was never charged. She and I had a couple of conversations about what witnesses shared with me and my family. To my recollection she never denied her part. She didn’t want me connecting with her daughters and when she gave up trying to manipulate me through them, she shut down access altogether.

Several years ago, I connected with one niece on Facebook. I was quite excited to be able to see her and her sisters virtually and perhaps hear about them online. My excitement died a pitifully quick death. They were playing a short game they thought was a long con. Be borderline courteous for a couple of short emails or texts. Hit me up for money. When I refuse, tell me to go kill myself or that I’m not a real auntie because I’m not paying for the privilege. This cycle happens every few years. It’s been three years since the last time.

Last week, my middle niece texted me from an unknown number. Cue borderline courteous brief texts. She said she has a lot of questions and asked to speak to me. I suggest the following evening. When I got on the phone with her, she began with a disclaimer. “I don’t mean to come off as rude, but on the other hand, I am very angry and I just want some answers. Why are you not interested in having a relationship with your deceased brother’s children? Why don’t you ever come around or call? Why didn’t you reach out when your grandfather died? I know you were in Gary, why didn’t you stop by?”

Sometimes, people create their own alternate realities. She’s eighteen now. She was fifteen when she told me I am not her aunt because I don’t “act like” the aunt’s she acknowledge. For example, her mother’s sister is accessible and available for everything. I reminded her of this exchange. And because I know her mother used to text awful things to me then pass the phone to her so she could add her own awfulness, I offered, “Perhaps your mother had your phone when that text was sent.”

“No that was me. That’s how I felt because you’ve never been around and I don’t understand why you don’t want a relationship with me.”

This is where my heart would’ve broken if it hadn’t been targeted and trampled under-foot for so many years.

I told her, “Your mother would be better able to answer why I haven’t been around. I have never not wanted a relationship with you. However, if you’re asking if I want to work on a relationship with you where you have all these expectations about who and what I should be and how I should perform in a role, then no, I am not interested in that. But if you’re interested in getting to know me and allowing me to get to know you, then yes, absolutely. I would absolutely love to build a relationship with you.

It’s an odd thing when you can be hurt by someone, move to protect yourself from their fiery barbs and still ache because of the pain they’re experiencing. It’s not lost on me that this girl is reaching out with the same hand she’s lashing me with. Even as she’s seeking love and knowledge, she’s attempting to punish and destroy. She wants a connection, yet she keeps burning the bridge we’re meeting on. I see it. I get it. I’m just not here for it.

I’m over all this foolishness in my life.

And I’m as a self- preservationist who has never had the luxury of sharing my pain with anyone connected to the source of the pain despite having a host of pain points…. Because of my history, I am not interested in coddling, and further enabling, an abusive personality. Also because of my own seeking and longing, I will continue to re-open the door the tiniest bit as the simplest invitation I can manage.

Even if I take her at her word and dismiss her methods as learned behavior from feeding at the breast of malice and destruction, then I’m still sort of blurry as to her true intent.

Before the end of the call, she said, “It would have been nice to have had you or someone from my dad’s side of the family at my graduation.”

“It would have been nice to be invited. When was your graduation?”

“It’s this Friday.”

“Yeah, an invitation would’ve been nice. Have you decided on a college?”

“Yes, I leave in August for Atlanta.”

We talked a bit about college. I’m quite happy for her and wish her all the best in all she does. However, it was not lost on me that the timing and the purpose of her call speaks more to her expectation for a financial acknowledgement of her accomplishments than to an interest in getting to know me.

Reconciling Past, Present and Future

Both my aunt and my niece represent the current state of my familial relationships. More importantly, my aunt is solidly entrenched in the past. Everything I have worked to extricate from my life would return to roost in my home and life should she be allowed access to either. I know it. I see it. I don’t want it.

My niece also represents a future hope. She and her sisters could have filled the void of the children I never had and would have joyfully been showered with whatever was showered upon me. She also represents a future destruction as a reminder that the enemy is roaming the earth seeking people to devour. From that perspective, just being able to build and maintain a path to healthy communication would be a blessing to cherish.

 

 

 

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Sermon: Family Matters – Present

by Ryan Kramer

Family Matters – Present from Casas Church on Vimeo.

This is part two of a great three-part sermon on family. My notes are below.

Notes:

The divorce rate in 1967% was 16%. In 1980, it was at 52%. What is not normally discussed re the low divorce rates in the 1960’s is that in fidelity in marriage was statistically high. In order to divorce on grounds of unfaithfulness, the infidelity had to be proven.

Also, rarely considered with the low divorce rates mid-century was the state of Women’s Rights. There were few opportunities for women to provide for themselves.

Due to economics and societal structure, women were essentially stuck in marriages with no way to exit.

Has there ever been an ideal Biblical family?

  • The First Family: Adam and Eve raised a murderer
  • God eventually had a do-over with humanity
  • The Second First Family: Noah’s son, Ham, raped his mother while his father was passed out drunk next to her
  • Abraham took side women and divided his household with bitterness
  • Isaac fathered and blessed his devious deceitful son over his rightful heir at the urging of his wife
  • Jacob’s jealous sons sold his favorite son into slavery

Family has always been difficult, shameful and painful.

Take Three Opportunities

  1. Take the opportunity to be present.
  • This requires action. It’s not passive. It’s a choice that requires a willful step.
  • Luke 10:38 Mary & Martha: Martha insists that Jesus make Mary help her. Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’s feet.
  • Jesus was an itinerant rabbi. He had no home. He traveled and stayed with people who offered hospitality. Sometimes he invited himself into people’s homes. He also traveled with a posse.
  • Martha was busy and overwhelmed.
  • But Mary chose the good portion. She chose to spend time with Jesus in proximity and conversation.

Are you Mary or Martha?

Truth: We are all both Mary and Martha.

  • We all feel the pull and tension to choose between what matters most and what the moment seems to require.
  • “Busy for just a season” becomes a life habit. There’s always going to be a season. There’s always another moment. That’s life. Therefore we have to make choices.
  1. Take the opportunity to define what family means to you.

Mark 3:19-35 Jesus went home, a crowd gathered and accused Him of being possessed. His family was sent for. They believed the crowd and tried to shut Him down. When told by the crowd that His mother, brothers and sisters were outside trying to get Him, Jesus responded: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35)

  • Family has a diversity of meaning:
    • Depends on what you grew up with
    • Becomes what you’re used to
    • Is how you structure your life
    • Could be people who choose to be together no matter what
    • Or simply people who know each other very well and share their joys and struggles

Have you thought about what family means to you?

What do you value from family most?

What do you expect from family?

What is it about you definition that is different from definitions your family members have?

Go share your thoughts on family with your family. Hear what they have to share in return.

What do you want to do about what you learn?

  1. Take the opportunity to recognize the gift of complexity.
  • We navigate life in compartments. It is exhausting holding our full beings back, keeping ourselves in check. Family is where the “real” is. Family gets the good and bad you – your worries, frustrations, joys, highs, lows, etc. Family is the place you don’t have to hide. You can be your true self. This is a gift.

 

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Summer Special: 30 min for $50

For summer events this year, I am offering onsite mini photo sessions in my vendor booths. The sessions are 30 minutes for $50. The actual photo shoot may only take a couple of minutes. The remaining time (and more) goes towards editing one image, which will be done after the event. The finished image will be delivered via email. This Summer Special does not include prints and shipping.

I photographed two mini sessions at the Harlem Book Fair on July 15. I couldn’t be more pleased with the final images. I share them below.

Co-Rulers

Queen Tara and Her King pretty much took my breath away when I saw them. I immediately grabbed my camera and asked if I could take their the picture as they walked through the crowd in my direction. They graciously agreed.

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They then paused at my table to look through my product offerings and then headed off for food insisting they would stop again on the way back. True to their word, they returned. I found myself debating asking them to pose for me. They were two of three people I couldn’t stop thinking about getting in front of my lens that day. The third person was a fellow author; I didn’t know that at the time she stopped at my table earlier in the day. I was struck by her beauty as well as her regal bearing and outfit. Her tent was set up across from mine. As the fair came to a close, I nervously watched her come and go, kick off her heals and change into flip-flops. During this time Queen Tara and her Man came back. We chatted. They purchased a book. Another couple came over and took them to the side. And before I lost my nerve I sidled up to them again with camera in hand and asked, “Can I please take some shots of you against the backdrop here?” Without hesitation they said yes and I was able to capture the below in under two minutes and twenty-two shutter clicks.

 

Queen Mother

After that proud accomplishment, I walked over to the regal lady, author Michelle L. Heath, I had been eyeballing all day and asked if I could take her picture against my backdrop. She agreed. She walked over and was tailed by her little princess, Leigh. My favorite image of Michelle is from the first click of the shutter. She had a brief moment of uninhibitedness. Then her little one walked into the frame and took over the shoot.

 

After her initial shyness, Princess Leigh began voguing in front of the camera. It was really precious. To say that she’s a natural is a discourteous understatement.

 

Shortly after her photo shoot, Princess Leigh came back to my booth and asked me to come take a picture of her Aunt Pat… “but don’t let her see you,” she whispered. So I pretty much walked behind her taking pictures along the way as she walked over to Aunt Pat. Aunt Pat tried to hide when she saw my camera aimed at her, but when she realized her sweet niece came and got me for the photo, she stopped hiding and posed.

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Leigh & Aunt Pat

The spontaneity of interacting with people is probably why I love doing events so much. On Saturday, July 22, I will be on Colonel’s Row on Governors Island for the South ‘n the City Picnic event. Look for me if you’re in the area.

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Harlem Book Fair 2017

The 2017 Harlem Book Fair was Saturday, July 15 on 135th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues in Harlem, NYC. It was a bright sunny beautiful day.

Since I have no real sense of moderation, my wagon of goods was literally overflowing, as always. I tried to take a video of my set-up at the end of the fair but there’s no sound 😶. Earlier in the day, I had gotten called to the stage during the afternoon program to discuss my work and read a short piece. I wasn’t expecting that, but I had the presence of mind to take my phone and a couple of books with me. I tried to record the audio of my short presentation but again, no sound! 😳 Aside from these two instances, I was a phenomenal sidekick for myself. 😋 Or as I shared with other vendors and Instagram, I was a one woman tag team gettin’ stuff done.

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It was a good day. My sales didn’t cover the vendor fee (they never do), but people really appreciated my work. That appreciation alone is enough to get me to tackle some unfinished projects.