Green Queen

            For the last 4 years I’ve participated in my church’s corporate fast. It lasts for 6 days where the congregation only consumes unlimited amounts of water and 2 cups of juice daily. The first time, I didn’t feel prepared to go cold turkey, so I opted for eating foods similar to the Daniel fast (vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, etc.). The following year and each thereafter, I adhered to an absolute fast drinking only water (no juice).

            I’ve learned a lot from fasting, and it has become less difficult to do. One of the things I’m trying to give up in observance of Lent is swearing/cursing. It’s actually much harder for me to remove all profanity from my vocabulary than it is for me to turn down my plate. During this year’s fast, I watched a lot of documentaries on Netflix and Hulu. Two of these changed my outlook on food in general: “Super Size Me” and “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead“. The first follows a man’s health drastic decline after eating nothing but McDonald’s for only 30 days. The second follows a man who went on a juicing “reboot” for 60 days. A change to a plant based diet aided him in regaining his health, losing weight, and discontinuing all previous medications. My favorite takeaway from those who have switched to juicing or a plant based diet is their testimony of no longer needing medication.Healthy food background

            I’ve always considered myself to be healthy. I ran track from the 7th grade through the 12th. As a college freshman, I started lifting weights for the first time and have been a gym rat ever since. I’ve never had high cholesterol or problems with my blood pressure. I’ve never been prescribed medications for health related issues. My concerns were more vain: my weight and appearance. While I lead a very active lifestyle and would not be considered “fat” by those who know me, I didn’t feel that my body truly reflected my strength and physical abilities. That has bothered me for years. To add insult to injury, I thought I was eating well. Most of my meals were prepared at home, and I tried to limit eating out to the weekends. The aforementioned documentaries and others I watched during my week of fasting prompted me to try something different: juicing. The first week was challenging. I had a hard time mixing ingredients that yielded a juice that actually tasted good. It wasn’t until somewhere around day 5 that I made something that was more than bearable. I lost 6 pounds after juicing for one week. What makes that number so meaningful for me is that that weight loss occurred after I had been on an absolute fast the week prior. The body has an amazing ability to adapt to change. Usually, at least for me, the first week is always the best and most dramatic but changes slow down and eventually plateau. I wasn’t expecting to lose so much weight after already dropping pounds from the fast.

            pic2I’m excited to gain the body I’ve always wanted, but more so, I’m interested in seeing what other changes occur in my health. While I may be “healthy”, there are some improvements I’d like to see in my body like less colds, better skin, less headaches, and less joint pain (especially in my knees and back). I used to have night sweats seemingly for no reason at all and those have stopped since I started juicing. My cravings for sweets have also diminished.

            We’re often bombarded with conflicting messages about food. The benefits, effects, and need of milk, carbs, protein, fats, and more are debated with no general consensus. Even fruits and vegetables are questioned because of GMOs. I’m still unsure as to whether organic options are truly better. One study says yay while the next says nay. It can get confusing to know what you should eat, but (for now) juicing is working well for me, and I look forward to seeing the long-term results.pic3

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Out with the Old, In with the New

new-yearWith the New Year right around the corner, we take a moment to reflect on the good and the bad while resolving within ourselves to ensure that next year is better than ever. The year of 2016 proved to be a prosperous one for me personally, but it has been quite grim for many others. I’m reminded of the water crisis in Flint, MI; the Zika scare surrounding the Olympics; the terrorist attacks in European countries like France; the shocking deaths of icons like Prince and Muhammad Ali; the Pulse nightclub massacre; the unnerving (yet unending) documentation of police brutality; the destruction of hurricane Matthew; and so on. I can certainly understand why many are happy to bid 2016 farewell and good riddance. I in no way intend to diminish the real issues people are facing but am sending a lighthearted memo to 2017. Here are a few of the things (in no particular order) that need to be left behind in 2016.

  1. new-year-2Colored contacts. I thought these were a thing of the past until I saw one of my Facebook friends update her profile picture sporting a freakishly unrealistic pair.
  2. Group text messages especially around the holidays. I understand the convenience factor for the sender, but stop it. Receiving one of these is annoying for a couple of reasons: a) it’s impersonal, b) the recipient is left wondering who are all of these people, c) the reply doesn’t go to the sender but to the group. Notification overload.new-year-3
  3. Facebook Live. This new feature isn’t all bad, but it seems that the majority of the people using it shouldn’t be. I really don’t care about your shopping experience at Wal-Mart. Write a review instead.
  4. Bad posts. A social media post can be bad for a lot of reasons but my pet peeve is over sharing. I’m sorry you and Pooky aren’t getting along, but relationship problems don’t need to be broadcast. And the laundry you’re finally doing? No one cares about that either. #TMInew-year-4
  5. Bubble gum music. You know what I’m talking about…the song is catchy and sounds good, but the lyrics are either vulgar, lack substance, or both. Unfortunately, bubble gum music has taken over the airwaves of radio. Is a dope beat with a thoughtful message too much to ask?
  6. Remakes that no one asked for. Independence Day without Will Smith. Why? When Madea tops your numbers, you’re doing something wrong.
  7. new-year-5Deceptive Marketing. This includes not only the transformers ladies who look completely different with makeup but also ridiculous TV commercials. I remember when Pizza Hut came out with their flavored crusts. All of the choices were advertised as “free”. Of course it’s free. Or were you planning on giving me a pizza without crust?
  8. The misuse of GoFundMe accounts. These are not to be used for vacations or your rent money. You’re going to need a better financial plan in 2017 than this.
  9. Work meetings that should have been e-mails. Can I go back to my cubicle so I can look up jobs I might actually want on LinkedIn? #kiddingnotkidding
  10. Chain letters/memes. Please show me where it says in the Bible that I will receive an abundance of blessings in three days if I share your post with ten people?new-year-1

I could add much more to this list, but I’d be writing for several days into 2017. What are your thoughts? What do you not want to see in 2017?

Half Truths

all-thingsFor a long time I felt like a Jack of all trades master of none. Growing up, I participated in a lot of activities. I played the piano and the saxophone, ran track and field, played volleyball, sang in the church choir, and so on. I was good at all of these things but not great: not great enough to become a musician, a professional athlete, or a singer. That didn’t bother me though. What troubled me is that although I had the ability to do so many things, I never cared about any of them. I didn’t care enough to want to be great. Those things weren’t my passion. I didn’t know what my passion was and am still on a journey to find out what it is.

I’ve always had natural talents and things that came to me easily. I made decent grades in school but language arts is where I excelled. I liked to read and write. As an adult, reading and writing for leisure took a back seat. Due to my college studies (undergrad and grad) and work demands, reading and writing became a chore – something I had to do not necessarily something I wanted to. That changed a couple of months ago.

In September, I went to an open mic night. The house band consisted of a drummer, a keyboard player, and a violinist (electric). They rocked out with different vocalists who blessed the mic. There were some spoken word artists as well. I was both impressed and entertained at the level of local talent; however, not everyone attracted the right kind of attention. A few of the poems shared that night were elementary and far from exceptional. I thought to myself, “I can do better.” But then I had to ask myself, “Why? Why aren’t you doing better?”

Writing was one of those things that came naturally to me. I didn’t have to try very hard to match pen to paper. In fact, writing (text, letters, e-mail, etc.) is my preferred method of communication at times. I’m a very structured person and a planner. I think writing helps me to better express myself without feeling rushed. Somehow it’s easier, yet those same strengths of organization and planning prevented me from crafting my gifts. I don’t know exactly when, but a long time ago I said I wouldn’t do certain things like spoken word poetry because the end game was undesirable. I hate being the center of attention and death is more attractive than public speaking. What was the point of writing a poem that would never be shared?

I don’t know what it was about September’s open mic, but I felt like I belonged there. I wanted to join these people; not only as a spectator but as a participant, so I wrote a poem. I gave the poem the same title as one of my blog posts, ‘Bone, Scrubs, and Harmony.’ Both the poem and the post talk about the great efforts I went to to get my dog and the frustration of dating guys who give much less.Retro microphone on stage

I initially wrote the poem as a word document on my computer. I saved it and e-mailed it to myself so I could view it on my phone. The font was quite small, so I pulled it up on my son’s tablet where I could read it easier. I missed October’s open mic but shared my poem at November’s. The day of, my son’s tablet stopped working. It completely froze. The power button didn’t work, and I couldn’t access the battery. I didn’t have enough time to write my poem on paper, so I was forced to read it from my phone. My name was called from the list. As I approached the mic, my vision was blurred. I was wearing contacts per usual but my sight was somehow compromised as if I didn’t have them in. I read my poem unable to look up at the audience while doing so, but I READ MY POEM.

I think it was well received, and I finally got over my nerves and my own self. The next open mic is in less than 2 weeks. I purchased my ticket already and am working on the next poem I want to share. I haven’t figured out the subject matter yet, but I can’t help but wonder why I had such opposition to do it in the first place. Again, I do not know what my next poem or poems will be about.

1fjel1While I’m a Christian, I’ve never wanted to be a Christian poet. I feel inadequate somehow like maybe I don’t know enough or maybe my sin compromises my witness for Christ. In church we say it all the time, “The devil is a liar (lie).” I think for once that joker might have told the truth. He just might have told on himself. If he was making any attempt at all to prevent me from sharing my poem, my truth, what does he know that I don’t? What is he afraid of? What is he afraid of me to say? What is he afraid of me to write?ucant-stop-me

Forgetting What’s Behind

This will probably be one of my most transparent posts to date. I write today for two reasons: first to fully express myself by journaling this moment in time but also in hopes that others, even if just one person, can relate and/or heal through a shared experience.

y In October of 2015, I broke up with my now ex-boyfriend. It was the worst relationship I had ever been in. He had a Master’s in manipulation and exhausted me in ways only an expert narcissist could. We initially met through an online dating site. Fast forward to today, nearly one year since our breakup. I was swiping from left to right on the same dating app with which we had met on. All of a sudden, his picture pops up on the screen. My stomach dropped. There was a flash flood of emotions: the good, the bad, the very bad and downright evil. Somehow I felt curious. I tapped on his picture to look further at his profile. In one of his pictures, he was wearing a shirt I had bought him for his birthday. He listed his height at 5’11” when I know full well he is two inches shorter. I exited the site/app.

I took a bathroom break. Sitting there in the stall I tried to reason with myself. Why did I look? Why did I want to say something? I knew the best thing was to leave him where he belonged, in the past, but my emotions were running wild.y2

I texted a trusted friend asking, “What does it mean when you don’t like someone but you still want them to like you back? Vanity? Conceit?”

He gave me sound advice about the situation, and I felt more calm about my decision to let well alone by doing nothing. Some call it the law of attraction or a self-fulfilling prophecy, but the principle is clear in Proverbs 23:7. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Another scripture is of a similar tone in Matthew 9:29 where Jesus says, “According to your faith let it be done to you.”y1

I am a single woman with the desire to one day be married. I know what I have prayed for (and have written down) regarding the qualities and traits that are important to me in a potential mate. I know that I know that I know my ex meets none of those standards. I don’t know if today was meant to be a testing of my faith, but if it is, I feel I have passed. I’m not letting my curiosity tempt me into engaging with my past. I gave the best of myself during a relationship that failed. There is nothing beyond my best to give. Instead, I will wait. With no (qualified) suitors in sight I will wait trusting that God will one day give me my heart’s desire for a husband.y3

P.S. I have forgiven the wrongs he committed against me. The memes are #JustJokes #LaughALittle #SomeOfYallLaughedALot

Your Vote is Your Voice

bad politicians are elected by good people who don't voteIn the fall of 2014, I drove to work one day and saw a small purple and yellow sign posted in the ground that read “Zimmerman for Sheriff”. I thought to myself, “What kind of sick joke is this?” I passed by that sign at least 2 more times before I decided to remove it. A few days later, I saw another one. It was on a different and busier highway; but I still stopped my car, plucked up the sign, threw it in my trunk, and resumed my travels. Not long after, I shared my misguided vigilantism with a friend. I made her laugh out loud but not for good reason. I associated the name Zimmerman with George Zimmerman: Trayvon Martin’s killer. My friend informed me that the signs I assumed were making a mockery of that tragic event were indeed true campaign signs for James Zimmerman who was running for Sherriff in Guilford County, NC. I felt like an idiot. I wasn’t ill informed. I was ignorant altogether and failed in my civic duty.facebook_1457973109146

Tomorrow, March 15th, is North Carolina’s presidential primary and state primary election day. I’ve heard a number of excuses ranging from everyone’s corrupt to my vote doesn’t matter. Lies and falsehoods! We live in the information age. Not knowing is not an excuse. I too was unsure of who to vote for, but there’s this really cool website called Google. Problem solved. I pulled up a sample ballot so that I would know all of the names of the candidates to choose from. I then checked out their campaign sites to review their stance on pressing issues. It’s pretty simple. Vote for those who share your values. If you’re not ready and willing to vote, you cannot complain about what elected officials do and/or don’t do on your behalf. While the presidency is important, there are many other seats at the local level that should be given the same amount of attention. Let your voice be heard and go vote!

Rise and Grind

It’s February. While the “New Year, New You” mantra may have waned for some, I’m still going strong. It’s not so much that I’m trying to reinvent myself. I’m really just getting back to where I was. I slacked off on exercising and eating well (and gained a few pounds) during the last quarter of 2015, but now I’m back on track.

pumpdaysYesterday was rougher than the typical blue Monday. Nonetheless, I stuck to my self-made schedule and went to the gym after work. I considered dialing 9-1-1 afterwards because I killed that workout. I wanted to build a house after that workout. I wanted to go on tour after that workout. I wanted to defeat Isis after that workout. I wanted to…well, you get the point. My mood had definitely improved. How is it that I wasn’t tired after expending so much energy? I’m sure there’s some scientific reason to explain why that happens. I feel so accomplished after a good workout. While I can’t run to the mirror after one workout to see a ripped six pack, I do see progress in the 6 weeks that I’ve committed to a more fit me. IMG_20160209_145812

I’ve been working out at home for the last 2 years. I’ve used Daily Burn and countless YouTube videos. Fitness Blender is my favorite subscription. As a former track and field athlete, I also did a lot of running. Somewhere along the way I stopped feeling motivated. That’s when I got a gym membership. I don’t go to a big box gym like Gold’s. The local place I joined had a promotion going on at the time where I got unlimited semi-private sessions for the first 30 days for $59. I actually think semi-private sessions work better for me than one-on-one sessions because there’s an element of competition that pushes me to go hard. Even though my 30 day promotion has ended, I’m still enjoying my membership. I love my gym. They have top of the line equipment and super friendly staff. I’ve bonded with my gym mates and different trainers. It’s like a family, and we’ve all got similar goals. Even when I take my 9 year old to the kid care section, all of the other kids welcome him loudly yelling his name upon entrance.

track girlI’ve always had an active lifestyle. I like running, lifting, and HIIT (high intensity interval training). For me, the more challenging aspect of staying in shape has been food. I love food. More specifically, I love sweets. I like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Reese’s, Almond Joy, Raisinets, and will sing and dance for some peach cobbler with a side of vanilla bean ice cream. Glory!!! Since cleaning up my diet I’ve learned something about my palette; what I thought tasted good really isn’t that great. I live by the 80/20 rule now, but when I used to have a weekly cheat meal, I would often feel disappointed. One day I went to a restaurant whose food I typically enjoy, Popeye’s. My food wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t as good as I had remembered it being. Some people like beer. Some people don’t. They say it’s an acquired taste. I think food works the same way. For a period of time, I had been eating junk. Once I started eating real, whole, nutritional foods I could see and feel the difference between the two. For the person who thinks healthy eating means fruit and boring salads, there’s so much more variety than that. Pinterest has given me so many healthy AND tasty recipes to try. Even if you’re not ready to make that leap, I feel a huge difference between eating out versus cooking at home. Not bad on the pockets either.

dyinWe’re all motivated for different reasons. I may want to look like a million bucks for my 30th birthday this year. You may want to walk on the beach without a cover-up or lower your cholesterol or lose a dress size before your wedding or lose the extra weight you put on after an injury. Whatever it is, it’s only February. You’ve still got time to make the necessary changes to be a better you. Seek progress, not perfection.

Word to the wise…there are a lot of options to help you reach your fitness goals besides long sessions of steady state cardio. An hour or more on the eliptical? Stop it. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. I’ve seen people on recumbent exercise bikes reading a book. Stop it! That’s not how this works; that’s not how any of this works. On the flip side, you don’t need to hurl during a workout or feel so sore the next day that you can’t hold your hands above your head. Leave #TeamTooMuch as well as #OvertrainingCauseIWantToLookLikeArnoldTomorrow and find a happy medium between strength and cardio.leg day parking

 

 

Bone, Scrubs and Harmony

cockersThe first dog breed I can remember being introduced to as a child was a buff Cocker Spaniel. He was full of energy, and I thought his long ears and curly fur were so cute.  I am still a dog lover with Cockers being my favorite. I had one once, but he suffered from separation anxiety after we moved to a new state so that I could work full time. I gave him to someone who could give him the attention he needed but still wanted a pet. I told myself I’d wait until I had a yard before getting another pooch, but the itch wouldn’t go away. Almost daily, I’d look at Cockers listed on Petfinder.com and other local classifieds for months. I even had the app on my phone. I saw one I really wanted, but my boyfriend at the time didn’t share my enthusiasm for the breed. Once that relationship ended, I was back on the hunt for my perfect Cocker.

In December I saw a 5 year old, neutered, black Cocker Spaniel listed at a shelter 2 hours from my residence. I was planning to drive to my hometown for Christmas and would pass through the city where he was located. He was such a catch; I hoped no one would adopt him before I had a chance to. Christmas day fell on a Friday. I knew they would be closed, so I went the next day on Saturday. To my dismay, the sign on the front door alerted me that they had not resumed their normal business hours and were still closed. The following Monday, I called ahead of time to make sure they would be open. I left work early around 2 o’clock. According to my GPS, I would arrive by 4:30 p.m. Even with the 30 minute buffer I thought I had, traffic derailed my plans delaying me by an hour. Again, they were closed upon my arrival.

reallyI had had it. After driving to this location twice, I decided I was not going to make the trip for a third time. Instead I went shopping for essentials like dog food, a collar, a leash, and so on. I went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner, watched some of my favorite shows on Hulu via my phone, and slept in my car that night. By morning, I was ready to see about my dog.

He was a lot hairier in person than his photo but nothing a little grooming couldn’t fix. After filling out some paperwork and paying his adoption fee, the doggy formerly known as Pepper was mine! It’s been a month now, and I’m so happy things worked out. He’s mild-mannered, housebroken, gets along with my 9 year old, and has no signs of separation anxiety. We renamed him Hamilton. In fact, he has a full name: Hamilton Coley Gordon. Hamilton comes from my favorite soul singer, Anthony Hamilton. Coley comes from my favorite gospel singer, Daryl Coley. And Gordon comes from the Spanish word for fat which is gordo. (His weight is under control now.)

I don’t mean to ruin this touching story by being a Debbie Downer, but I cannot take some guys seriously. Please excuse the foul language, BUT

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Quality time, communication, and consistency have and always will be important to me in terms of relationships with the opposite sex. To have a guy I’m dating text or call me after days or even weeks of silence to say hello as if we can pick up where we left off is inconsiderate. When I think about all of the effort I put into making a dog my own, there’s no excuse for a suitor to be so aloof during courtship. So yes, I’m likely going to either ignore you or have an attitude in response to the annoying, “hey stranger,” text. I want to be married one day. The way I see it, whomever I’m dating is a candidate to become a boyfriend. Once a boyfriend, he is now a candidate to become a husband. Don’t spouses see and/or speak to each other every day? Therefore, frequent communication is both a prerequisite and a requirement when dating and beyond (assuming we have the same end goal). Pay attention fellas, or you’ll be in the doghouse. kanye