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BYE 2016! Bumps, Bruises, Heartaches, and Lessons Learned! ;-)

BYE 2016! Bumps, Bruises, Heartaches, and Lessons Learned! ;-)

What have I learned in 2016?

You can’t do it all by yourself.  As much as we think we can, we can’t. We need a team or a tribe to hold us accountable and essentially help with bringing the bigger picture to life. 

I have items on my vision board that didn’t come to fruition this year, and you know what. That’s okay.  

Vision Board 2016 vs Dream Catching in 2017
Vision Board 2016 vs Dream Catching in 2017

Add on to them or change them.  New Goals, New Year!

I took some trips this year that allowed me to connect more with my purpose. I connected with family members that I never knew existed, and reconnected with some people during unlikely circumstances. 

I overexerted myself in some areas, and simply loss the grip on some in my personal and professional life. 

But. Hey. That’s life. 

I started a new career path, in order to give back to my community, and find peace within my current journey.

I learned that you can be unqualified for a powerful position and still secure the job. It takes guts, and you have to be willing to put yourself out there. You will have naysayers, or as the millennials say “haters” but you can’t worry about them. Do what’s best for you. 

I had to get back to me this year. I’m going to focus more on what works best for my sanity. People won’t always understand what you’re doing, but for those that trust you they will support.

2017 will be a huge year of branding for Steele Lens and what falls under the umbrella of the company. 

The first book in the Adventures of Alleykats series was released, and the support has been EVERYTHING.  Looking forward to releasing book 2 in 2017.

Alleykats Club 2016
Alleykats Club 2016

The Final 48 Project continues to prove to me that the documentary and photography campaign is necessary.  Honestly, take a look at your timeline.  A lot of your friends have suffered a significant loss this year.  We need love and support from each other more than ever.

The annual #SteeleThankful Challenge will be bigger and better and that’s thanks to you all. You trusted me, participated, and we all learned so much about ourselves.

I will continue to keep the faith, and believe that God has some amazing things in store in order to make this world a better place. 

Throwing Glitter and Lots of Love going into 2017!

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Xoxo,

RJ

This Challenge WILL Change Your Life! You down?

This Challenge WILL Change Your Life! You down?

Happy Halloween! I was feeling quite nostalgic, and this is probably the last time I wore a Halloween costume that I loved.  Queening since 1989-1990 Lol!

Halloween 1989 or 1990 Cleopatra style!
Halloween 1989 or 1990
Cleopatra style!

The second annual #SteeleThankful Challenge kicks off tomorrow, and I’ve had people asking me well what is it really about?

In a world where there is so much chaos, unhappiness, fixation on material things, I feel there is a need to really look inside of ourselves, and find what we are truly thankful for.  The best time is to do so in the month of November.  The month that we observe Thanksgiving.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to not only encourage yourself, but encourage others as well.

So, how does that work?

Have you looked in the mirror today?

Seriously.  If not the mirror, clip the camera icon of your cell phone, and have it face you.

Let’s start with being thankful for being able to receive this message today.

I’ll help you out.

Example: I’m #SteeleThankful that I’m here to celebrate another day with my family, because last year I didn’t know how I would make it to the next day, let alone another month or year.  Everyday is a new opportunity to strive for greatness, and continue to make myself happy.

As I stated before this challenge is only in the 2nd year.  I can see this challenge gaining momentum, and I have to truly let the process flow.  There will be changes along the way, so let’s enjoy this ride of transparency, and thankfulness.

I know that it sounds easy.  But, I’m here to tell you that it’s not.  I can tell you how empowering it feels to share your struggle with others on the road to absolute gratitude.

When I was in Rhode Island for the World Burn Congress a couple of weeks ago I realized how hard it was to tell my own story.

YES. You read that right.  Hi, My name is R.J. I’m a storyteller, and I’m sensitive about my SH*T! No one can tell my story like me, but that’s difficult.  When telling our own story we sometimes tend to ramble, or leave out the portion of the story that we don’t want to own.  I feel the same way it comes to sharing my journey during the #SteeleThankful challenge.

Can I be honest?

When I have to edit, and post a story for the Final 48 Project I will read it NUMEROUS times before I decide to schedule the post to go live.  I’m super protective of the stories that are shared on that platform, and I try my best to uphold the integrity of every person’s story.  I mean they chose to share their stories with me, in order to share with the world.  Encouraging others along the journey of grief is never easy.  Especially when you are still dealing with your own.

When I unlock another level of transparency I feel empowered.  Often times I can be reluctant to dangle my foot from the ledge of fear in order to show the world that I’m not apologizing for my past experiences, because they have shaped me into the person I am today.  And for that I am #SteeleThankful

I can’t wait to share this experience with all of you this year.  So much has happened from November 2015 to Now.  I’m sure the same for you.

Let’s embark on this journey together, and tell the world what we are all #SteeleThankful for?

#SteeleThankful Challenge 2016
#SteeleThankful Challenge 2016

XOXO,

R.J.

P.S. On this Halloween of 2016, I am #SteeleThankful for the little girl that learned at a young age that she is a Queen, and you must always address me as such. **Featured Photo** THROWBACK! 😉

P.S. S. I share the true meaning of the #SteeleThankful name during the challenge this year.  Are you ready?  It’s going to blow your mind!

How Long? Frustration…Confusion…Intimidation…Distraction…

How Long? Frustration…Confusion…Intimidation…Distraction…

How long Lord?

How long do I have to wait for the right opportunity?
How long do I have to wait for “the one?”
How long before you bless my kids to do better or want better?
How long before you deliver my family member from their addiction?
How long do I have to wait before I can pay off this debt?
How long before this flight leaves? (Lol my life in 2015 😩)
How long do I have to pray before I see a breakthrough?

Well…

I think the answer to all of these questions is in God’s timing. We have to be aligned within His will, or there’s really no way this thing called life will work.

At times I can become distracted.  That feeling usually leads me down a path that is hard to recover from.  We can become distracted by window shopping, and enter a store front that we had no business entering.  The intimidation of investing in that new shirt or skirt.  Receiving the credit card statement, or looking at your bank account the next day/month is a level of confusion.  A month later when you’re unable to make a payment on a bill, you become FRUSTRATED.  Do you get my drift?

It leads me back to the first question.  How long?

How long do you want this cycle to continue?  How long before I am delivered from the terrible decision making in my life?

Do you want to be delivered from the situation that you’re currently in.

YES, R.J. YES!

Shoot, I do too. Lol.  I can go through all of the above emotions within one day, and I find myself saying, How long, Lord?  When will that windfall that I really need happen?

Are you ready?
Are you ready? Where are you going?

 

You aren’t ready!

Ouch.

What changes do you (we) need to make in order to choose the path that is right, and stop expecting God to do EVERYTHING.  We have to roll up our sleeves, and get dirty.

So, How long before the breakthrough?

No one knows the answer to that.  You have to keep believing, keep plugging away, and don’t get defeated.  It is TOUGH, but I know it will be worth it.

XOXO,

R.J.

 

“Are you mixed? You sound white.” Owning who YOU are.

“Are you mixed? You sound white.” Owning who YOU are.

So, what’s up with the title RJ?  Where am I going with this?

Over the weekend I was reminded that the culture of “colorism” still exist.

Colorism: prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.

I was cruising around social media, and noticed a few things that were disturbing.  It’s 2016 and in an age of #blackgirlmagic we are still making comments about light skin vs. dark skin.  Then I noticed that it’s the parents that are teaching their children this stuff.  Information that the parents received as children is being transferred to their children.

At the end of the day the race box on any application does not say, “Are you a caramel, red bone, yellow, chocolate, or cocoa black person?”

I can remember being a little girl in the neighborhood, and I found nothing wrong with the way I spoke.  I noticed a difference in viewpoints once family members, or friends of the neighborhood kids would come around.  “Are you white?” As a six year old child I would look at others as if they were talking to someone else, because I was the same hue as the person asking the question.  “Is yo mama white? You sound white.”

Where did this thinking come from?

So, not only are we fighting with the struggles of colorism, but we are also struggling with the way a person speaks?   We can’t win.

After my injury that left me severely burned, my way of thinking changed drastically.  I was surrounded by individuals who were diverse, but apart of the same society.  An event that changed the course of our lives forever.  I encountered people that had to learn to love the new person that they were, including myself.  It was no longer about skin color, or speech.  It was about coping with a new way of life.  It’s definitely not easy.

#burnsurvivor #EssiePolish “Fear or desire”

At the end of the day it’s about a person’s inner beauty, and not outer.  Right?!

How can things change?  Well, it begins with you!  Is this way of thinking valid, or right?  We must be mindful of what we are teaching the future generation.  Within the blink of an eye a life altering event can happen, and then the color of your skin, or the way that a person speaks isn’t really that important anymore.

Xoxo,

R.J.

Peddle Forward? Backward? Or Both?

Peddle Forward? Backward? Or Both?

Everyday we should strive to learn something new.  Even the days when I feel like doing absolutely NOTHING; I’m constantly learning.  It could be something as simple as a new word from the dictionary, or about my family history.  Never get into the habit where you become comfortable with where you are, because it will become impossible to grow.

I didn’t want to go to the gym this morning.  I kept thinking what if I skip today, it won’t hurt nothing.  I’m discouraged at times because I still can’t believe I allowed myself to gain this much weight.  It was that thinking of, “oh I’ll skip doing anything active today” that landed me in this spot in the first place.  I rolled over at 4:45 am and went though.  I learned to push myself towards the goal even when I don’t feel like it.

Do you ever look at pictures of yourself from high school, or even college?  What could I learn from that person that appeared to have it all together? Cheesing from ear to ear displaying all of my 32 teeth, what could I learn from her?  Imagine yourself on a mountain bike/10 speed, or even an exercise bike.  What happens when you peddle backwards?

Nothing.

You don’t move forward, and if you’re on a hill you will go tumbling very fast.  I can always go back to the old photos of myself and think about how small I was, but I am definitely wiser now.  Back then I believed in reading and being aware of my surroundings, but it’s amazing what a little wisdom and time will do for you.

When I decided to move closer to home a year ago people thought I was crazy.  Why would you go BACK home?  That’s not the case at all; the journey is new.  Every time that you feel like you’re going backwards, think of it as your way of going forward to learn something.  The R.J. that moved into the family home after undergrad is a totally different person than the R.J. that moved to Michigan in order to start her own publishing company.

I challenge you today to hop on a bike, think about what I said, and apply it to your life.  Are you trying to peddle forward or backward?

The choice is yours.

Xoxo,

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.

Why did I go to GRAD SCHOOL? **REAL TALK ALERT**

Why did I go to GRAD SCHOOL? **REAL TALK ALERT**

Looking at debt accrued after undergrad and the amount I racked up in grad school I can’t help but ask myself one question. “Why did I take out so much in loans?”  To live? Well, I had a full-time job, but shoot I wasn’t making NO MONEY!

The only time I get upset about my student loan balance is when I receive that dreaded letter that states that my debt to income ratio is too high.  I get it! I should have been more responsible in grad school.  Thanks for the constant reminder!

My advice to you when it comes to graduate school, be sure it’s really what you want to do.  Don’t waste time or money.  Research scholarships, paid internships, fellowships, and you don’t have to accept all of the loan money that is offered.  In grad school there is no option of Pell grants, so don’t bank on that money!

Do I regret anything?  I don’t regret the education. I will admit that I definitely mismanaged that money.   Whew! I can say I learned so much in my 20s!  Lessons…Learned!

One of the best decisions I made with that money was investing in my education, and neighborhood.  When I was laid off from my full-time job while in grad school, I had to use the remainder of my refund check to live.  It was important that I lived in a safe neighborhood, because every single woman should invest more in their living situation vs clothes!

Even though I paid the price for grad school there is one thing I must remember.  No one, I mean no one can take the education, experience, and relationships that were formed during that journey.

White House of the Confederacy.  Without grad school I would have never experienced this amazing internship.
White House of the Confederacy. Without grad school I would have never experienced this amazing internship.

I may complain or joke about what in the world did I do with all of that money, but at the end of the day it was one of the best decisionsI could have ever made.  Graduate school taught me the meaning of perseverance (to learn more about the journey check out my first post).  Do I have to work a little harder to pay those loans off?  Absolutely.  Do I stress about them anymore?  Nope.  As my dad would say, “hey you pay them somethin’ and don’t worry about it.”  The money will come, and they will be paid off soon enough!

Are you thinking about college?  Grad school?  As I stated before be sure to do your research, and have a plan in place.  The plan may change so write everything in pencil instead of pen! 😉

Until next time!

 

Don’t forget, I’m just an email away (info@steelelens.com)!  To connect with me or share your feedback you can tweet me @Steelelens

 

 

Blow Out EVERY Candle! A Letter to R.J. from Ronnika…

Blow Out EVERY Candle! A Letter to R.J. from Ronnika…

I woke up for my 5:30 AM workout with a new mindset.  How bad do I want to be the best ME this year?  I’ve never wanted it so bad.  Getting my finances, health, and spirit in order, and celebrating my birthday!  Yes! O-o-o-ah-ah-ah, Turn up! Lol.  I honestly chose to chill today, reflect on how far God has brought me, and continues to keep me.  So, I decided to write this letter to myself.

Dear R.J.,

It’s the year of 32.  Girl, you look great!  Skin is glowing, and you are finally walking in your purpose.  I know that before you lost your way.  You continued to blame yourself for past mistakes, but girl all is forgiven.  Seriously, it’s apart of growing up.  We make decisions that shape our story, and sometimes we make bad decisions.  I don’t want you to focus on anything negative anymore!  Do you hear me?  Your past is your past.  Girl, let it go.  You had to go through those things in order to be stronger.

Remember when you moved to North Carolina with $100 to your name because you really wanted to go to grad school?  Girl, God was right there, steering the boat, and you were sitting right behind him with your mustard seed in your pocket.

Some of the best advice you received that year was the reminder from your dad that kept you out of a physical altercation at work.  “Never let em see you sweat!”  I look at your TimeHops and I see how much you’ve grown.  You’re not the queen of verbal “clapbacks” anymore, you know how to resolve a situation as an adult, and choose not to respond to ignorance, but instead you educate.

Oh yes, the photo of you blowing out your birthday candle.  That was the last birthday before your accident, right?  That could have easily been your last birthday.  But God.  Eh, makes me want to shout!  Chile, that accident is the reason why you and your dad were able to experience the miracles, signs, and wonders of our mighty God.  God’s grace.  That accident made you stronger, and turned you into a beautiful butterfly.

Don’t dwell on bad decisions in finances, business or relationships.  You are a rockstar because of it.  I want you to realize that without those events you wouldn’t be able to share inspiring stories, or see your growth.  It’s your year of restoration.  Walk in it!

I’m proud of you.  Do you know where you were last year?  Girl, you were going through it.  You were so unhappy.  Your unhappiness made you focus more on your gifts though.  You began writing more, you were working with your illustrator, filming behind the scenes for the Final 48 Project, and almost landed an appearance on the Wendy Williams show.  I know, I know, they ran out of time, but next time girl you will be a guest on her show, and many more.  You just watch, it’s coming.  Don’t forget to have your people, call my people so we can do lunch.

I’m so excited about this year.  I see you evolving into the woman that God wants you to be.  I want you to eliminate any fear or doubt that you’re not where you’re supposed to be.  I know that your nomad spirit is dormant, but it’s because God is teaching you things that you will need for the future.  Continue to trust Him, and spend more time with Him.  Keep positive individuals around you that will encourage and check you when needed.  You’ve been blessed with such an amazing support system, so don’t forget to share your love with them this year.  They need it as much as you do.

Don’t be afraid to leap and continue on your quest of #SteeleThankful You will connect to the right dots soon enough.

 

Xoxo,

Ronnika

 

Breaking Curses: Jumpin’ Like Jordan!

Breaking Curses: Jumpin’ Like Jordan!

Curses are real.  One bad decision has the potential to haunt you for years!  One decision that was made in 2004 nearly ruined my life.

I was an undergraduate student, and I thought I was living the life.  I had my own apartment, car, and to some it appeared as if I wanted for nothing.  That was not the case.  I was secretly racking up personal student loan debt because I was too ashamed to say that I was in over my head.  Wait, let me be honest, I wasn’t budgeting properly.

I was constantly reminded of bad decisions from college via my credit report. I had over 700+ credit score in 2008 but when these loans were charged off my score plummeted. I was in grad school, working a full time job making less than 30k, and I felt defeated.

My message to you all is to hang in there cause it truly gets better!  If I can bounce back from the seven year cloud that was over my head, so can you!  As of today, the accounts have been resolved and removed.  I’m on the road to my credit score increase, and financial stability.  This is the second year that I’ve participated in the Live Richer  Challenge with the Budgetnista (Tiffany Aliche) and I must say it works.  It challenges you to make better decisions with your finances, and I’m utilizing my accountability partner.  She’s closing on a house, and I’m just trying to live richer this year!

Don’t let any curses have control over your life.  Grab an accountability partner, stay focused, and pray for guidance everyday because it can be done!

 

The Mourning After…

The Mourning After…

I spent some wonderful summers in Richmond, VA as an intern.  I learned a great deal, featured in the local newspaper and news station.  It was truly an amazing experience.  #SteeleThankful for it.  I wanted to master the art of reading 19th Century manuscript before I departed my final summer in Virginia.  It wasn’t until I came across primary documents with black borders that I became more intrigued.  My good southern friends would refer to it as, “mourning” stationary/letter.

What is a mourning letter you ask?  A mourning letter in the 19th Century was stationary paper with black borders.  For example, the border would symbolize if the person writing the letter has experienced the loss of a  loved one.  The width of the border depended on the sender’s state of grief and/or the timeline of the passing.  Basically the  current emotional state of the sender.  The letter (featured photo) that was written by Mrs. Jefferson Davis (First Lady of the Confederacy) addressed in August of 1899 shows the presence of the black border.

From research I was reminded of the death of the President’s daughter, Varina “Winnie” Davis in 1898.   In true super sleuth, Archivist mode we are able to piece the story together of how Mrs. Davis was dealing with the grief internally from the width of the borders on her letters, and of course the letter itself.

(Sidenote: Have you thought about why its customary to wear black to funerals?)  There was documentation of a woman who wore black for years after her husband died.  Proof that she grieved for over five years!  Interesting, right?

After during research in the archives and losing my father in 2013, I found myself ironically wearing a lot of black clothing. Well, I still do, for other reasons. Lol.  It didn’t hit me until my  last year of school that I was not allowing myself to grieve.  Similar to the people that were writing with the black borders in the 19th century, and wearing black garments, I had to realize that the void of losing a loved one will always be present.  I must allow the borders of my own stationary paper to become narrow.  People have to go in order for us to grow.  I must continue to grow in strength.  Mind, body, and soul.