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Life is the Dash…

Life is the Dash…

“Here today, gone tomorrow…”

I remember hearing that a lot growing up.  Now, I’m looking around and realizing, gosh my elders were right.

Last week was quite an emotional week.  I talked about “Blue Monday,” got through Monday, went to the gym on Tuesday morning, hopped online as usual and began reading a story about a possible homicide-suicide that occurred in the next town over from my hometown.  When I initially read the story the names had not been released.  Later on in the afternoon I received a text from a friend, and I politely told him, “Yeah, I read the story, but no names, yet.”  I guess he thought R.J. CLICK THE LINK.  Well, I didn’t click the link, so he decided to do a screenshot (screen grab, whatever) to show me that the names had been released.  It was someone I knew.  In fact, I spoke with this person about a month ago, and some of you were able to witness it.

It was Denise.

98.3 The Coast

I sat in silence for 30 minutes after reading her name in that text message.  She was tragically killed by her husband, and leaves behind three young children.  Even though we never met in person, she had a huge impact on my life.  It’s amazing the effect that people can have on you in such a short amount of time.  During our interview last month on the air I promised I would include her and Jonny as characters in an upcoming book in the series.  I promise not to disappoint.

I did say that it was an emotional week right?

I wanted the passing of Prince to be a hoax.  I remember waking up Friday morning thinking it was still a dream.  Can we agree that Prince was amazing?  He was musical genius, but what really stands out to me is that Prince was an UNAPOLOGETIC BLACK MAN.  He didn’t mind telling you what he thought, and never apologized for it.  He worked tirelessly behind the scenes for the rights of his people.  He was a cheerful giver of his time, knowledge, and resources.

You never know what someone is dealing with, or how much time they have on this earth.  Life is the dash.  We are gifted this life on this earth, and we must determine how we choose to live it.  The outpour of love for both Denise and Prince last week was mind blowing.  There was no need to question how much they were loved.

My takeaway from last week was that we all need to start giving people their flowers while they are living.  I can only hope that they were shown the love that was displayed last week while they were living in the dash.

I decided to go over my grammy’s house on Saturday morning since I was in town filming for The Final 48 Project.  I spent two hours with her, and it was honestly one of the best visits we’ve EVER had.  She told me that what I was doing with the “Final 48 Project” is what God birthed in me, and I have to keep pressing forward.

I went over there to check on her, and received a mighty Word.  That visit with her is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

What are you doing with the dash?  It’s Monday.  Another opportunity to push towards the purpose that God has birthed in you.

“We are gathered here today.  To get through this thing called, life.”  ~ Prince

Xoxo,

R.J.

Celebrate the Gift of Life…

Celebrate the Gift of Life…

It’s been a rough week.  I wasn’t feeling too great last week.  I will say that I am done with Saltine Crackers, Soup, and Ginger Ale.  No, seriously, I don’t want to see it for awhile.  I fell victim to the Midwest weather, and I got caught slippin(g). I knew better.

Anyways…I feel better.

I’m in New Orleans for a work, and pleasure.  I mean hello, it’s New Orleans, and definitely going to participate in a Secondline!

I’m sure I’ve told you before about my circle of friends that God blessed me with.  I am surrounded by friends that have been in my life since 1987, 1990, and 1996.  Crazy!  Two of them have birthdays that are a day apart.  Double Celebration!!!

I converse with my friends almost daily, and it’s always nonstop laughter.  We keep each other motivated through this journey called life.

Birthdays have always been extra special, and one of the birthday girls decided to do a countdown of throwback pictures for the last 30+ days leading up to her birthday.

I learned something very special about that.  Celebrate the gift of life and memories everyday.  I love the new feature of Facebook reminding me (or us) of our memories since we’ve been on Facebook.  The great thing about my friend is that she went through her personal archive of photos, and is dedicated to celebrating the years of her life with family and friends.

Celebrate you!  Even if no one else will.  You only get one life, and you better live everyday to the best of your ability.

Hats off to the birthday girls, and cheers to celebrating life not just on our birthdays, but 365 (or 366) days of the year!

Xoxo,

R.J.

Spring Forward: The Monday After…

Spring Forward: The Monday After…

The first Monday after “Spring Forward Sunday,” and we must push through.  **yawn**

I am currently in search of imaginary coffee, and attempting to adjust to the time change.

Similar to the time change I realized that I must “spring forward” with some things.  A shift that I must accept, and ride the wave.

For the past couple of months, you have been apart of this journey of me launching the first book in the Adventures of Alleykats series.  You have witnessed the relaunch of the grief platform, (Final 48 Project) that I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, and travel the country doing Historical Tours with R.J.

Every Monday, I’ve provided stories of encouragement in hopes that you would tap into what motivates and inspires me to keep going.  A snapshot into my life has been extremely challenging but therapeutic.  It’s because of people like you that I have been committed to writing a story on the site 2-3 times a week, and I thank you.

I realized that the mission has changed, and greater things are to come.  A new website will hopefully be completed by Summer 2016, and I am excited.  More resources, and content that will inspire, educate, and uplift beyond my community.  I’m talking a global movement.

I wanted to spend this Monday thanking you, and not to dread the time change.  Sometimes in our lives things must be adjusted or changed in order to grow.  I’m #SteeleThankful, and looking forward to the next phase of this journey.

Spring is right around the corner. 🙂

Yo Birthday Is Not About YOU! When someone special forgets your birthday…

Yo Birthday Is Not About YOU! When someone special forgets your birthday…

**Singing** back down memory lane…

I love old photos and music.  You can catch me at any time snapping pics, and listening (and singing) to music.  The featured photo today is from my 25th birthday.  You know your 25th birthday can go up there with your 18th, 21st, and 30th birthday.  I could rent a car by myself, and my car insurance premium decreased.  #Winning

My birthdays have always been extra special.  I have the gift of remembering others birthdays and being more excited for them than for my own.  Insert **YASSSSS, TURN UP, LET’S GRAB DRINKS & BAR HOP!**  I love celebrating birthdays, because it gives us another opportunity to be great.

What happens when someone special forgets your birthday?  You’re crushed, right?  I know when people used to forget my birthday I would be all in my little feelings.  Who am I kidding, I still feel some type of way when certain people forget.  I used to think well I remembered their birthday, they should remember my birthday!  I was tired of one person forgetting my birthday after I turned eighteen.  So, I decided to speak up about it.  No more calling my sister or mother to remind them that it was my birthday.

I began writing my birthday on my dad’s calendar.  This huge calendar hung in the kitchen, and it also served as his appointment reminders.   I said he’ll remember this year I tell ya!  I’m writing in big purple letters!  HE FORGOT AGAIN!

One day I decided to ask my dad why was it so hard to remember my birthday.  I was born a day after his mother.  It should be the easiest to remember!  In a calm voice I finally received an answer, one that I didn’t expect.  “When granny died, I tried to forget everything that was attached to her, including her birthday.  You never notice that my appointments are heavy in January. ”  I was speechless.  I identified my dad’s way of grieving.  To shield his hurt he became busy.  It made perfect sense.  On holidays such as Mother’s Day or Memorial Day he became unavailable.  Too busy to do anything.  On that day I realized my birthday was no longer about me anymore it was about others.

I adopted the practice of celebrating my birthday alone or with others, either way I was going to celebrate life.  For those that reached out to me on my birthday I always wanted them to know how special I felt for even remembering, and offer some encouragement.  Yes, offer a little love to them on your day.  It’s not that hard!  My birthday is not solely about me.  I had to remember there are some grieving people out there, and it was selfish of me to be upset with anyone about forgetting my birthday.  Especially when there are others waiting to celebrate the gift of life.

Your birthday is a gift from God.  Celebrate the possibility of becoming a better you, and share a little love to others in the process.

Be Aware of the Signs…Write it Down or Take a Pic!

Be Aware of the Signs…Write it Down or Take a Pic!

I currently have over 1,200 photos/videos stored on my external memory drive.  I’m able to relive moments from 2007 to the present.  The photos that I choose not to share on my social media sites are more than likely there.  Well, I should probably say that I have not shared them, yet.

I spent three wonderful summers in Richmond, Virginia as an Intern/Intern Supervisor at the Museum of the Confederacy (American Civil War Museum).  My last summer in Virginia was very eye-opening.  I was going back to North Carolina to complete my final year of grad school, and I was still attempting to process the passing of my father four months prior.

One of my favorite board games of all time is “The Game of Life.”  So, when the interns decided to have a game night, I insisted that we played that game.  It’s changed quite a bit over the years, but necessary improvements, and many enhanced spaces.  One thing remains the same, no one’s path is ever the same!

It was my turn to spin the wheel, and I landed on a space to pull a card.  I pulled a card from the stack, and this is the card I pulled.The Game of Life

I couldn’t believe it!  Ninety days before pulling this card, I wrote the idea for my children’s book in my journal.  My plan before arriving to Virginia were to spend my Sunday afternoons working on my outline.  Realistically, I began the internship spending my days off either sightseeing or sleeping.  I wasn’t motivated to focus on the book, and then God sent a friendly reminder.  I knew it was the confirmation that I needed, but I was scared.

You know God will send you reminders, or some people say, “signs.”  However you decide to refer to them is between you and God.   It is important that you are in the right place/space to receive the message that God is delivering to you.  I was clearly missing the messages because I was not in the space to receive them, so He made it very plain through one of my favorite board games.  Fast forward to this moment with my Alleykats!

The Missing President - Book Cover
The Missing President – Book Cover 

 When God speaks to us, it’s best to listen.  It will change the entire course of your life.  I’ve told you before that I wrote two scriptures (Matthew 7:7-8) at the top of a sheet of paper, taped it to my wall, and read it every day.  When God is speaking to you, are you listening?  

So many reasons to keep going!  I’m #SteeleThankful…

 

 

 

Day 3 – “Faith” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 days of Thanks)

Day 3 – “Faith” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 days of Thanks)

Okay, so I’m starting to have fun with this challenge.  Then a part of me thought, “Can you commit to 30 days of this?”

The answer is Yes!  I have a lot to be thankful for.  When I graduated college there were no opportunities in my field, well at least on the local level.  I had experience as a Certified Nurse Assistant, so if I wanted to move home and make money that’s what I had to do.  I was at work one day and thought, “what am I doing?”  My former professor had a conversation with me about Grad School, and I thought the idea was so far fetched cause the only thing I cared about in college was my History courses.  No, other class mattered.

My brother was living in North Carolina at the time, and I was able to visit the school that professor spoke so highly of.  I decided that day, that I was going to move.  I had less than 90 days to make it happen.

I cashed in my PTO and began to plan my escape.  Just one problem, I didn’t have any money saved.  None, whatsoever, and purchased a new car a few months prior, and I was planning to move July 26, 2008.

Here it was, day of departure, and I had $100 to my name.  Rent would be due within 2 weeks of me arriving, and I had no job.  My sister took the ride with me from Michigan to North Carolina.  She had my back! Once, I got settled with my clothes, and an air mattress until I could purchase some furniture, I went to the temp agencies.  Boom! Offered a position that started the following Monday.

Tunnel Vision - Leaving Ohio, Entering West Virginia.  Destination North Carolina
Tunnel Vision – Leaving Ohio, Entering West Virginia. Destination North Carolina

Unfortunately, Grad school had to wait until the next year, because I refused to pay out of state costs.  I decided to work for a year, establish in state residency, and go from there.  So, you see, I had to exercise my faith, remember that I had a mustard seed, and put in some work.  I’m not saying the journey was smooth or easy, but it was definitely worth it.  Having a little faith can take you a long way!

Vacation Over…Back to Work!

Vacation Over…Back to Work!

Have I been away that long?  Between vacation, car problems, and just simply trying to fight the POWER; I have felt a bit discouraged.  I’ll have to elaborate about the week I have had on Monday’s post but today I wish to reflect on my ocean view from last week and what I need to do to bring history to the classroom and beyond.

“I stood on the rocks, looked across the Atlantic, and couldn’t begin to imagine what my ancestors endured for my freedom. My work is not done!”

 

There is so much that needs to be done and the time is now!

BarbadosBeach