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Day 18: Dreams #SteeleThankful Challenge

Day 18: Dreams #SteeleThankful Challenge

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be sitting in this library that birthed me; signing a copy of my first children’s book to go in their library for circulation amongst the library and the universities system. I would have probably looked over my glasses in true Librarian fashion, and chuckled.

From a graduate student in the Library Science program, to a published author.

Don’t you ever let someone tell you that your dreams are too big. If you are willing to work for them, they are attainable. Dreams may change, but the main thing is that you keep pursuing them.

I’m #SteeleThankful for dreams that have come true, and the ability to keep dreaming.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Adventures of Alleykats

Steele Thankful 2016

Dear Benton Harbor, You will always be my secret place…

Dear Benton Harbor, You will always be my secret place…

Population of over 10,000.  Predominately black in population.  Some would say that most are living at the poverty level.  It’s home to the Whirlpool world headquarters.  Right on the shores of Lake Michigan.  I’ve taken you for granted before.  I must admit.  I love you.

I’ve lived and worked in many cities across the country.  I’ve traveled.    At the end of the day, there’s no place like home.

We all need a secret place.  A place to regroup.  It’s always been my secret place.

I can remember living in Raleigh, NC, and I would be itching to go home when things became absolutely unbearable at work, or in my personal life.  My friends would joke about my retreat back home would leave me recharged.

But sometimes home changes.

After my father died I knew that home would change.  I just didn’t know how it would change.

I often ride by the old family home, and think about what could have been.  What should have been? What was?

Home isn’t the same, but it’s up to me to make new memories.

This week I will embark on a journey that will absolutely blow my mind.  I will be traveling to the World Burns Congress.

Being a burn survivor has become a part of my life now, and so I’m traveling to a secret place to regroup.  I didn’t intend to make this a long post today, but thought that I should prepare you for the what is to come.

I will be looking forward to sharing all of the upcoming events that will come out of this week excursion.

I’m leaving my secret place in order to bring more love and inspiration to you.

We shall chat soon.

Benton Harbor, I love you.  That will never change.  It’s time for change, and a remix to my secret place.

 

Xoxo,

R.J.

Click Accept or Decline: DAMAGED GOODS

Click Accept or Decline: DAMAGED GOODS

“Please bring your gently used items to the church’s yard sale.  We want to bless others within our community.”

Can you identify with a statement similar to that?  It may not even be for the church.  It could be for an employer, a friend, or a nearby thrift store.

You look over at the pile of clothes that you don’t wear, and you think about dropping them off, but then you decide otherwise.

You would rather take the items that you painted your house in, or the clothes that could honestly walk themselves to the trash can.

Are you selfish?  Are you constantly negative?  Are you always in a glass case of emotions?  Sweetheart, are you damaged goods?

I was in church on Sunday, and the message was titled, “Damaged People.”  It’s the second installment in our series, “Soul Food.”  I was compelled to break down some of the things I could identify with even within myself.  You know the things that keep me from moving to the next level:

Past Relationships (Friendship, Work, and Love): I had a very hard time with forgiving people.  I used to write them off as if they never existed to me.  I would write them off without forgiving them.  As if I didn’t learn some very valuable lessons from the encounter.  I had to let go.  I was CLEARLY DAMAGED, and didn’t want to admit it.

Changing Others Around You:  Guess what.  You don’t have the secret power or potion to do that.  They have to want it for themselves.  Our fitness coach is a constant reminder of that.  If I don’t want to lose the weight that’s on me.  I have to want it for myself.  The same goes for the people that you are keeping around you that are stagnant when you are trying to move forward.  Say it with me…real slow if you have to…DAM-A-GED.  Release yourself from the negativity, and keep it moving.

Stubbornness: Uh oh! **turns mirror on self** “I got this, I can only rely on me.”  <— how many times have you said that?  Be honest. Well, it’s not necessarily true.  Often times I find myself thinking like that, too.  People won’t know that you need anything unless you say something.  <—- Last line courtesy of my mother! 😉 There is something that happened to you in your past that when you feel your back is against the wall you feel that all you have is YOU.  Not true.  I’m sure God placed some amazing people in your path to assist along the journey in life.  Don’t abuse those people now.  Admit to them your shortcoming, basically that you’re DAMAGED, and you need help.

Whew chile.  Preaching to myself, but do you feel me?

I refuse to be in the throw away pile.  There’s someone counting on me, and it would be selfish of me not to deliver.  I have plenty of content to bring to the world, and I’m not about to stop now.

Don’t walk around carrying the baggage from your past.  Unless you prefer to continue clicking “Accept” for damaged goods, and if that’s the case, you are on the wrong page.

**No Pity Party Zone**

Xoxo,

R.J.

 

 

 

Will the gate (door) always be OPEN?

Will the gate (door) always be OPEN?

New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana

Can you believe it’s August 1st???  At the beginning of the month I like to make adjustments to my budget, and check my goals checklist.  What do I need to follow-up on, and what opportunities have I missed?

Yes.  You read that correctly, what opportunities have I missed?  Whenever I visit New Orleans I’m always fascinated with the rich history, but in the feature photo I was mesmerized by the gate.  The gate is open, right?  Could I take this picture if the gate was closed?  Well, I could, but that’s not the point.  If the gate was closed I wouldn’t be able to walk through the park.  Now, if the gate was closed it could also mean that I arrived to the park too late, and would be denied legal entry.  In the past seven months how many times have you allowed the gate to close?

Think about it.  **Jeopardy Game Show Final Round Theme Music**

Do you have an answer?  You can leave your answer in the comments section if you’re bold enough to do so!  Be accountable that you’re going to do better in the remaining months.

I would say that it’s happened at least a couple of times, especially with social media.  I can let an opportunity go cold because I didn’t follow up, and when I decide to reach out again, well you know what. It’s TOO LATE.

That gate may not reopen, and I simply must find another avenue.  It is life.  You live, and hopefully you learn.

A couple of weeks ago I commented on a thread on a Linkedin page about a podcast that interviews authors.  Well, I honestly abandoned the post after I commented because I didn’t get a response right away.  And then…I heard a clear voice that said, “go back to that post.”  I did.  The author of the post responded at the very bottom.  I emailed her, and she responded to me right away.  I received the interview information this morning, and looking forward to getting on her calendar in early 2017. (Yes, she’s that popular, and booked until 2017)

So, you see I almost let the gate close on that opportunity.  Who knows there could be some other opportunities out there waiting for me.  I mean I did have a dream that Oprah and OWN endorsed Adventures of Alleykats last week.  Anything is possible right?!  I could be on Ellen talking about my projects, and chopping it up with Steve Harvey about my purpose and passion.  Sky is the limit.

Just don’t let the gate close, and lock.  If you do look for another gate!

Xoxo,

R.J.

Ride the wave 🏄🏾, with a flashlight! 🔦

Ride the wave 🏄🏾, with a flashlight! 🔦

Last week was jam packed with goodies, so let me get straight to it!

Tuesday:

I attended my weekly “Discipleship Class” at One Church Empowerment Center in Grand Rapids, MI.  The four week class has enlightened and encouraged me through this journey of my life.  Learning to embrace abandoning MY PRIDE in order to do the work of the Kingdom.  I arrived home to complete the story for The Final 48 Project #GriefTalkTuesday photo campaign.  Be sure to check it out on Facebook and join the conversation.  AH-MAY-ZING testimony that you don’t want to miss.

Wednesday:

Answering Emails, and ironically I went to sleep feeling quite blah.  I was overwhelmed with the supplies I need to purchase, and truly holding on to faith.

Thursday Morning:

Early morning I began gathering my things for a freelance assignment that I was doing in the evening.  I received a text message from one of my friends.  I’m not sure if I was still sleep because I misunderstood what he was saying in the first two texts.  Until I checked my email.

North Carolina Central University, SLIS Alumni Newsletter
North Carolina Central University, SLIS Alumni Newsletter

My book was highlighted in our ALUMNI NEWSLETTER!!! **tootsie roll, running man, and mc hammer typewriter dances**

What an honor, and I honestly have to give all the glory to God.  Only He could turn my morning around, and produce that type of joy in my heart.  My new hashtag is the #ReviewsDontLie see for yourself on Amazon and our social media sites under @alleykatsbooks

Thursday Evening:

I was working with the Boys and Girls Club Teen Center in Benton Harbor, MI for their annual summer b-ball program.  It was their Night Court – Draft Day.  It was really cool to see so many young men in the community off the streets, and engaging in activities that encourages teamwork and discipline.  The special guest this year was NBA Star from the Denver Nuggets, Wilson Chandler.  Chandler is also a native of Benton Harbor, MI, and was in the area to give back and to remind us all that dreams really do come true.  You have to believe and keep working towards every goal that you have set for yourself.  We were able to take this photo,

Wilson and I
Wilson and I

along with a copy of my book for his children.  Welcome to the Alleykats Club!!! I told you everyone is apart of the Club.  Are you rocking with us, yet?  Grab your copy here!

I ended the week with friends and family, celebrating upcoming weddings, open houses, a BBQ, and Sunday morning church service.

The road may seem uncertain, and you may feel like you’re drowning at times.  I encourage you to jump on that surfboard, pull out your flashlight, and be sure to ride the WAVE!

From me to you, with love.

R.J.

 

 

 

Surrounded by Dream Chasers: Trust the process…

Surrounded by Dream Chasers: Trust the process…

I almost said, No.  I almost missed the opportunity.  I almost decided to play it safe.  I almost missed the chance to leap.  Oh, but my faith wouldn’t let me do it.

When I heard one of my childhood friends was hosting the annual event for the International Natural Hair Meet-up Day in my hometown I couldn’t wait until tickets went on sale.

I wrestled with the idea of being a vendor before purchasing my ticket, but didn’t think I was ready.  I waited until it was too late to inquire about the opportunity, and missed out.  So, I thought.

I was contacted a couple of weeks later about being a vendor for the event.  Was I ready?  I was scheduled for a separate event at the local library for authors and illustrators.  The library event was in the morning, and her event was in the evening.  I could do both, right? Again, I asked myself.  Was I ready?

Next thing I know, I said, “Girl lemme do it.”

**Exhale**

Vista Print was having a sale, and I thought oh my goodness this is PERFECT!  I can get a banner made, and look into getting a personalized t-shirt.

Promo Alleykats T-Shirt
Promo Alleykats T-Shirt

Alleykats Banner

Highlights from Saturday:

Library Professionals unite, and a cool member of the Alleykat Club!

Benton Harbor Public Library - Local Authors & Illustrators Reception
Benton Harbor Public Library – Local Authors & Illustrators Reception

I was able to connect with one of my favorite elementary teachers, Mrs. Elwell at the event Saturday evening.  She was so moved that I had written a book, she began crying.  We shared the emotional moment together, and parted with this picture.

Mrs. Elwell and I - INHMD

 

What if I would have said, No, I don’t think I’m ready to be a vendor.  This was my first event being a vendor, and connecting with so many cool people was truly a priceless experience.  I’m so proud of my childhood friend Dashuna, and the success of her event along with her Serenity’s Hair LLC staff/volunteers.

I’m #SteeleThankful for my strong support system.  My mom and sister do whatever they can to make sure that my dreams come true.  They are definitely my cheerleaders.

I scheduled an interview between both events on Saturday for the Final 48 Project. I was sitting in the car playing around with SnapChat reflecting on my morning, and preparing for my interview.  My morning went to a whole new level after a phone call from my mom.  Here’s a snippet of the video I recorded.

Squad Goals - R.J., My Sister, and My Mom
Squad Goals – R.J., My Sister, and My Mom

 

Amazing weekend! Thank God for the lesson and testimony.  Trust the process, keep the faith, and JUMP! It’s worth it.

Don’t forget to grab your copy of the hit book, Adventures of Alleykats – The Missing President!

Xoxo,

R.J.

Will the journey ever get easier?

Will the journey ever get easier?

No path worth traveling is ever straight. It is full of twists and turns. Excuse me. Unexpected twists and turns. There will be a variety of lessons along the way that will force you to grow. If not, you will continue to repeat the lesson. I am speaking from experience.
Relationships

Branding

Entrepreneurship

Accounting

Friendships

Coaches

Professional Development

Social Media

All of the above take work, hard work.  Work isn’t always easy. It can be uncomfortable, frustrating, heartbreaking, and depressing at times.

Well, when does it get easier?

Every day. Every day it gets easier. Every day that you decide not to give up it gets easier, because you are one step closer to making your dreams come true.

I am my own worst critic. I’ll admit that.

I remember Tyler Perry saying at a conference a couple of years ago that he’s a perfectionist. Some of his projects/plays/movies would have never been released because he was constantly revising the script. He had to realize that there will always be things that we want to change, but it’s wise to give everything our best and let God do the rest.

We have to stick to the script. The script may change a bit but drastic changes on our own can be detrimental to our growth.

I had to sit last week out for the Final 48 Project. I was BUMMED!

Here’s the #PlotTwist

The same day I was scheduled to post a new story was also the day that I met with my new mentor. I realized God had me rest from my regularly scheduled program to be advised and regroup so that I could be able to deliver more life changing content.

No one said it would be easy, but everyday it gets much easier.

Don’t give up!

Xoxo,
R.J.

P.S. Be sure to check out Final 48 Project tomorrow, and read some of the past stories.

What’s your issue?

What’s your issue?

Let’s see. Where do I start? I’m not sleeping at night. 
More and more I’m realizing that your dreams will definitely keep you awake at night. The dreams or purpose that you need to focus on during the day instead keeps you up at night. 
When I’m not able to secure an appointment for my current project, or I didn’t meet my goal of book sales for the month I don’t sleep. I’m constantly thinking where did I fall short? What can I do better for the next week or month?
Don’t be afraid to venture into the unknown. I need to revisit my plan. Revise and seek counsel. So, on this first Monday in May I’m ready to switch it up! 
I’m excited about working with my mentor this month. I need clarity in some areas of my projects, and I’m open to all of the feedback I will receive. 
Remember to surround yourself with people that believe in your vision, and aren’t afraid to tell you when you’re wrong. 
What’s your issue? How can you switch things up? May is the month of miracles. Be ready to receive!

Activate your gift 🎁 Don’t get BURNT OUT! 🔥🔥🔥

Activate your gift 🎁 Don’t get BURNT OUT! 🔥🔥🔥

When you’ve grown up in the Midwest (Michigan, on the lake to be exact) you can identify with the struggle of experiencing all four seasons within 24 hours.  Imagine running errands, preparing for a photoshoot, and snow in April! Sunny, Rain, Snow, and windy all within one day, and no wonder I’m recuperating today.

I have a habit of committing to things, and becoming burnt out.  I’ve done it with social media.  I was too focused on being present on every social media site (new and old) that I became exhausted.  I’m only one person, and Super(wo)man is a fictional character.  I’m not able to always save the day, and I don’t always have the answers.  Even though I try my hardest to solve every problem.

I was quite weak yesterday, but I was determined to complete the photoshoot for the photography campaign.  The project uploads a new story for #GriefTalkTuesday on the Final 48 Project site.  The ministry that God blessed me with is not designed for me to be burned out, but it is designed for me to draw people closer to him while addressing an uncomfortable topic.  When you are able to identify your God given gifts life can become a whole lot easier.

Last Tuesday I completed my gifts assessment at the conclusion of a four week course held at One Church Empowerment Center.  I received confirmation on gifts that I had been denying.  When I read the results, my only response was a chuckle.  One of them I had been hearing since I was a little girl.  One conclusion is for certain, when working in any gift, you must have FAITH.

That’s right, faith.  I’m sure people thought I was crazy when I was laid off from my last job, and I said well now I can work full time in my ministries.  “Well, where is the money gonna come from?”  When you totally commit to the will of God, the finances will come.  Where is the mustard seed?  You know faith the size of a mustard seed.  That kind of faith had me moving to a new state with $100 and no job, and that same faith has kept sane through this whole process of trusting God in this journey.  It’s been hard, but I have faith!

I’m sure there were plenty of times Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted to throw in the towel.  Whenever you want to examine a test of faith read an autobiography or biography of a great leader.  Start with Jesus and work your way to the present!

The reason I used Dr. King today because today marks 48 years since he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

4/4/11968, 48 years later.
4/4/11968, 48 years later.
Fighting for change in your life, and the lives of others is no small feat.  There are things that you must sacrifice to get there.  Reducing pride, and getting rid of old habits to usher in the new and improved ones.  I’m going to take a lesson from Dr. King today.  When you receive the calling that God has put on your life, keep fighting, don’t give up, and surround yourself with Kingdom people.

 

Xoxo,

R.J.

Why we all need to choose forgiveness…

Why we all need to choose forgiveness…

“You don’t know who you are until God sets you free.”

When Pastor Austin said this in church yesterday I was stuck to my seat. It’s so very true. Have you ever been lost in a situation that you don’t know who you are anymore?

That was my story a year ago.

When I was in church yesterday I was convicted. I’m absolutely grateful that I’m not in the same place I was in a year ago, but I haven’t completely forgiven the people that treated me terribly from Summer 2014 – 2015.

I’ve never hated anything or anyone so much and I know that the key to all of my dreams will only be revealed once I forgive them.

How can I be grateful that I’m no longer in that situation but I choose not to forgive them. How does that work?

How they treated me was not for me to understand. It was for me to grow deeper in my faith. Jesus is the only reason why I kept my cool. I’m serious. Not laughing or giggling. I’m being real here. The situation was unbearable at times. I constantly asked myself, “What Would Jesus Do?”

When I received my walking papers last year it was a month earlier than MY PLANNED departure date.

Now…that…was…God!

I was so miserable, and my mental state was at risk. My plan was to exit stage left and just consider the situation a BUST. I was completely OVER IT. God had a better plan (Always better than our own right) and allowed me to exit with style and grace. They were stunned, and I was rejoicing on the inside with a smile on the outside. I felt like breakdancing!  The peace that I received on that day was so calm.  That storm was officially over.

Even though I left that place and never went back. I didn’t forgive. That’s on me. I’ve talked about bitterness and not forgiving can block you from your blessings. So, I had to take a long, hard look in the mirror. The negative energy was still present, and I needed to let go.

I decided to purge those feelings, and leave them on this post:

I forgive those that tried to rob me of my joy and smile. 

I forgive those that tried to hinder my growth. 

I forgive myself for allowing others to mistreat me. 

I know that God has set me free, and everyday I’m trying my hardest to glorify God’s Kingdom. I know sometimes it’s hard to forgive but if Jesus can forgive, so can I. One day at a time.

Today, I am able to focus on my many projects, and I honestly couldn’t be happier.

I know who I am, and I’ve never felt so free in my life.

**Chains Broken**