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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!

Are you here to WIN OR WHAT? The 4th Quarter of 2016 is HERE…ARE YOU READY?

Are you here to WIN OR WHAT? The 4th Quarter of 2016 is HERE…ARE YOU READY?

Okay. Let’s get to it!

October 1st was Saturday, and that means the official start of the last quarter of the year.  If you are a sports fan you can definitely appreciate this quarter, and growing up in a household with sports fanatics I totally understand the importance of this season.

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN THE FOURTH QUARTER!

Imagine it’s the championship game, I’ll let you choose the sport 😉

You are down by seven points after the half, and now entering the fourth quarter.  During halftime you received the pep talk from your coach on how to bring this win home, but in the 3rd quarter you still didn’t see any results.  I mean you were definitely getting closer to the goal, but not quite there.

Do you know that feeling?

Okay maybe I’m talking to myself over here.

I will admit that I had some life changing events occur in the 3rd quarter, but my goodness I knew that I had to pick up the pace in the 4th quarter. Especially if I want to win in 2016.

Here it is the end of the 3rd quarter, and I’m on the phone with one of my closest friends discussing what I want to crush in the 4th quarter.  He encourages me, and understands my faith driven ideas so he was definitely hype about the plan.

So, you ready to hear about what’s coming up next?

The first event in the Midwest will kick off the #SteeleThankful challenge.

#SteeleThankful Challenge 2016
#SteeleThankful Challenge 2016

This will be open to a select number of people, (first dibs to the subscribers of the email list, so I suggest you don’t miss out).  Last year I had an amazing time launching the challenge, so it’s coming back this year.  The challenge highlights our genuine thankfulness in the month of November.  Even though we are thankful all year long, it’s our time to celebrate with family and friends.  I’m #SteeleThankful for this platform to share with you the ups and downs of my journey of entrepreneurship through storytelling for Adventures of Alleykats book series, and the documentary/photo campaign for the Final 48 Project.

I’m excited to share what I’m #SteeleThankful for this year, and looking forward to hearing about what you’re going to share during the #SteeleThankful Challenge.

Are you ready to crush the 4th quarter with me?  What is one thing you would like to accomplish before December 31st?  Write it on a piece of paper, attach a scripture to it, and tape it to your wall.  Recite it every day, and see what happens!

There will be more information about location, and date after this week.  Let’s get ready to fill the atmosphere with thankfulness!

XOXO,

R.J. – girl behind the lens

 

Dear Foolish Pride…

Dear Foolish Pride…

Pride. Yes I have a lot of that. The first step is admitting it right?

I had a few friends over the last week tell me that I was stubborn, and living with pride. It took me having a conversation with my mom in the kitchen one evening to realize that all of this was true.

I absolutely hate asking for help. Why? Rejection could be right around the corner, and sometimes I think I am SUPERWOMAN. I mean it’s okay to feel as though you have the super powers all the time, but hey it’s also okay to admit when you don’t.

And this past week, I was fresh out.

I mean it was the end of the month. About to start the 4th quarter of 2016, and I was losing steam.

I had that feeling of no way of coming back from the last week that I had experienced.

And then that night, I turned some music on, danced and sang in the mirror until I got sleepy.

I woke up on September 1st with a new outlook on life. I made a few phone calls, and then BOOM. Doors began to happen.

All I had to do was ask. It was possible that rejection could have been on the end of that call, but it wasn’t. I had to believe that everything was going to work out and it did. I had to have a Plan A and be prepared to turn a Plan B into plan A if I needed to. Did you understand the last line? If not, read it again.

The plan that I’m always referencing can not work if I’m not willing to work the plan, and ask for what I want.

Here’s a great example:

I was struggling with the whole raising money for my documentary project. I was thinking well you know maybe crowd funding will work. I didn’t reach my goal, and I began to feel bummed. Then it hit me. I have to be transparent, and then ask. Oh that’s how this thing works.

So, I added a “Donate” button to the website for the project, and I received my first donation on Friday! It was such a surprise and a blessing. The message that the donor left me was so inspiring. It was just the pick me up that I needed.

It’s important to ask for what you want. I’m working on my pride, and I know it’s a one-day at a time process.

I hope you’re encouraged on this Labor Day. See ya in the same place next week!

To check out the current documentary project please click here.  If you would like to donate please do, and thennnnnnn you’ll hear from me!

Thanks again for all of your love and support.

Xoxo,

R.J.

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.

From Victim to Victorious: Falling in love with a burn survivor

From Victim to Victorious: Falling in love with a burn survivor

Out of all the topics that I’ve discussed this is definitely the hardest. Now, there will be some things shared here that are exclusive to my personal archives. Viewer discretion is advised.

Just got paid. It’s Friday night. I decided to go from shoulder length hair to a bob cut. I would say a good 4 inches of my hair was on the floor at the beauty shop. I was FREE! I was ready for a weekend in Charlotte, NC with my girls for the annual CIAA tournament activities. It was our first year, we were single, and ready to paint the town red.

We mingled with people in the lobby of our hotel, laughed all night with strangers, and even marched the streets of downtown Charlotte in 4-inch heels. We had the time of our life.

Back to work and school on Monday. I walked into work feeling like a new woman. I worked late on Tuesday, said my “good nights” to every one, hopped in my car and made my commute from Durham to Raleigh. I didn’t show up for work on Wednesday morning.

I got home Tuesday night exhausted. I had homework and I needed to eat. I decided to cook a quick meal and call it a night. I placed the pot on the stove, had a seat on the couch, and snapped a few selfies.

I dozed off.

I woke up to smoke, and then flames. I panicked. I grabbed the pot of hot grease, and ran to the door. Too late! The damage was done. It was raining outside so of course grease and water doesn’t mix. Next thing I know the pot falls from the second floor balcony and flames engulfed the stair well. I shielded my eyes with my left arm, and ran back inside of my apartment.

I didn’t call 9-1-1. I called my friend Shanita. I was numb. I stood in the bathroom, and ran my fingers through my singed hair. My hair was transferring from my fingertips to the floor. Shanita picked me up and took me to the hospital. In her words, “it smelled as if you cooked the whole way there.”

Shanita would have to make the phone call to my family and friends about my condition. To this day she says that’s one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do.

After hours of not being able to move I finally wobbled to the bathroom after the suggestion of not looking in the mirror. I did it anyway. I needed to see what the road looked like ahead. I thought, “eh, I’ll be okay.”

 

My features began to transform over night. I took the above photo(s) because I believe in results and of course I’m a visual person. Very visual. I needed those photos during the recovery process to prove to myself that God had this situation under control.

I was in therapy 3-4 days a week for mobility in my right hand and my leg. Changing my own bandages, and sleeping most of the day.

My support system though. My God. My mom and sister were there during my entire hospital stay. My friends were delivering food to my family while I suffered with hospital food. My brother was receiving updates from my father (who arrived the day I was discharged). Everyone had a position, and I’m still blown away by their love and support.

The therapy wasn’t the hardest part. I had to learn to love again. I was a new person. Falling in love is hard, but loving yourself after a traumatic experience is harder.

When you’re faced with insensitive questions you become very defensive. I know I did. “Well, what were you doing trying to deep fry your hand?” Or, “Well you know you could’ve put floor or sugar on it to put the fire out.” Until you’ve experienced the shock of something like that, YOU have no room to judge. Those questions crushed my pride and self-esteem. Yes, I understand I didn’t think clearly in the moment but who would? I was exhausted and delirious. Imagine trying to adjust to having NO HAIR, spots on your face, and a glove that someone asks “what happened?” every five minutes of your “new” life. You can grow even thicker skin to deal with it or you become a recluse. A lot of burn survivors prefer the latter. There were times I wanted to go in hiding, but my personal care giver (Aka my dad) wouldn’t let me do that.

Years later I realized that this whole experience was not about me. When I tell you it strengthened the relationship with my dad and I, I mean my God it did. He brought his clippers with him from Michigan to North Carolina and shaved my hair so it was even. He kept reassuring me that my hair would grow back.

The faith walk wasn’t just for me, it was for my dad too. He was able to witness the transformation of my face. He was BLOWN AWAY. I would hear him in the other room on the phone, “Man, when I got here she looked pretty bad leaving the hospital. She’s looking better and better everyday. Up walking around, and her color is coming back. I mean, man, it’s unbelievable.”

Weeks after the hospital discharge.

God did that. My faith was shook, but my dad’s was questionable. He witnessed a miracle happening before his very eyes.

Loving myself after becoming a burn survivor was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. If I could go back to March 2, 2010 and change what happened, would I?

Answer: Nope.

That experience blessed me with three things: Strengthened my faith, learned how to love beyond the physical, and a priceless relationship with my father.

Back to work. Months later…Glowing!

So, on the 6th anniversary (or BURNiversary) of a life changing event, I am encouraged to keep going. The hedge of protection is real, and God ain’t finished with me yet.

P.S. My hair grew back. 💁🏽

#SteeleThankful

Stitch by Stitch: Granny’s Quilts, Nostalgic Lessons & Love…

Stitch by Stitch: Granny’s Quilts, Nostalgic Lessons & Love…

My sister and I spent last weekend laughing and joking about the good ole days.  I would call her when I had a new discovery while looking through my dad’s “archives.”  The way my dad’s archives is set up, we were screaming and laughing the entire time.

One of the highlights of going through his stuff is the family history, until I came across this quilt (featured photo, bottom quilt).  There was a laundry basket that was full of my stuff that I left behind when I moved away from home in 2008.  I began to unpack the basket. There were many items that I could donate to a local shelter, until I got to the bottom.  Folded neatly was the quilt.  My sister had been looking for this quilt for almost 20 years.  It was in our possession the entire time.

I used to believe that the quilts made by my grandmothers had super powers.  Seriously, I mean there was no way to explain it otherwise.  When I was in high school, my sister was home visiting and received a phone call that her apartment building was on fire, and that it was a total loss.  I can remember where we were when she received the phone call; in the living room at home.  There’s just some things you never forget.  My parents and I went with my sister to see if there was anything that could be salvaged from the blaze.  We walked into her 3rd floor apartment and I must say it was a depressing site.  My sister would have to start over from scratch, and my heart truly ached for her.  It’s never easy starting over.  It was definitely a total loss, but there were a few items that were untouched: vacuum cleaner, Aunt Jemima cookie jar, and grandma’s quilt.  Can you believe that quilt was in mint condition? (See featured photo, top patch work quilt).  There’s something about those quilts made with love from our grandmothers.  I would know.   A small quilt also made by our grandma was wrapped around my waist when I had my grease fire at my place.  Those super powers must be prayers.

I’m enjoying going through my dad’s stuff, and continuing to unlock so many memories.  I would say that’s something to be #SteeleThankful for.

 

STAY READY: A weekend mindset shift…

STAY READY: A weekend mindset shift…

On Friday I decided that I was going to spend my Saturday organizing.  That was the message last week, right?  I was attempting to get my life in order.  My closet, finances, and my dad’s archives was on the list.  Any items that I could not use would go out with the trash on Monday, or donated to a local shelter.  That was the plan.

Saturday morning I woke up at four.  Yes, 4:00 AM!  Instead of sleeping in; I was awake.  I jumped on my social media sites, and went to work.  I began networking with some brands, and landed on a 12 days of Christmas list.  That would’ve not happened if I wasn’t awake, and ready for action.  After launching the first book in my children’s book series, I’ve been looking for ways to get my book in the hands of every child this season.  (If you haven’t purchased it yet, you can purchase the book here.)  After that happened I was off and running from there.  I had friends tagging me in post on Facebook for  other networking opportunities.   All I could think was this is what I prayed for, keep going!

Sunday morning, I was at church and the message was about staying ready.  Ohhhhhhh!  I clearly needed to hear that message.  I could not waste anymore time getting ready, I had to switch to “STAY READY!”    There was something I wasn’t doing to keep myself from going to the next level.  I was in the corner getting ready.  As my dad would say, that was the “WRONG ANSWER.”  How will I be able to change the world if I am in the corner getting ready?  If the wealth is already within me, does that mean I AM THE ONE keeping myself from greatness?  Well, the answer is Yes!  This is the time to step it up a notch, and continuously stay on task to be ready at all times.

When opportunity knocks will you be ready?

Day 30 – “Life” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 30 – “Life” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

The month of November truly flew on by.  Did you enjoy the challenge?  I sure did.  Being transparent is not easy, but I hope you learned more about the girl behind the lens and yourself.

I am the Queen amongst my friends when it comes to remembering  dates.  In my mind, dates are connected to life experiences.  Life is so valuable, so there’s some things about the journey you should never forget.

Birthdays, Anniversaries, Graduations, Weddings, Engagements, First Road Trip, Moving Day, are all blissful events but sometimes we focus on the dates that hurt us the most.  Why is that?

Life…We only get one!  How are we choosing to live this life?  I have a story.  You know I have a story.  Lol!

I looked in the mirror on March 2, 2010 after my accident, and thought God has given me another chance at life.  I’ve suffered 3rd degree burns to my hand, face, arm, and my hair is gone.  What am I going to do now?

My brother asked me on February 11, 2013, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”  I had spent all of my life to please my dad.  What was I going to do after he took his last breath?  My dad was ending his journey, but I still had a life to live.  What’s next?

On May 9, 2014, I looked in the crowd and saw two of my biggest cheerleaders waving and smiling during my graduate school commencement.  What will I do after today?

It wasn’t easy but I am here! On November 30, 2015, I’m looking fear in the face, and saying it’s ON.  I am able to drop my featured project a day early.  At a special introductory price on Cyber Monday, I present to you the first book in the Adventures of Alleykats series, “The Missing President!”

Your love and support through this journey has been amazing.  #SteeleThankful was my way of showing myself, and the world that you can be thankful for something outside of things.  You know the stuff without a price tag!  I can look at the featured photo, and think I could have been dead.  I was smiling weeks after being discharged from the hospital.  That picture is a reminder of why I am  “Steele Here!”

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Day 29 – “Choices” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 29 – “Choices” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day of the challenge (insert sad face here). I chose to post everyday, and I’m happy about the outcome.

Now, I’m ready to talk about “Choices.”  You can choose your destiny.  I’m sure you’ve heard that, over, and over, and over again.  Our life’s journey is based upon the choices that we make.  One choice can change the course of your life forever.

Spending my summers in Virginia was a choice.  I either had to decide to stay in Michigan or go for what ended up being the last summer of the program that I was fortunate to be apart of for two summers in a row.  Without hesitation I made the right choice to be a leader that summer, and became apart of some unbelievable moments such as the one in the photo.

My last summer in Richmond, Virginia, the interns of the Museum of the Confederacy were able to tour the Lewis F. Powell Jr. United States Courthouse. It was pouring down raining but we pressed on!  The court is still being used today so cell phones were not allowed in the building and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t have my digital camera (Still kicking myself).  We were able to go through the entire courthouse including the office of President Jefferson Davis, the court room that President Davis trial took place, and the door and stairs that President Davis exited after the trial.

Yes, you read that correctly, I said trial.  At the end of the Civil War the President of the Confederacy was on trial in the courthouse where I am standing.  He exited these doors.  You know who else was tried here, Mr. Mike Vick, quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I know you’re probably wondering why am I mentioning these two men.  They were tried in this courthouse over 200 years apart.  It boils down to a choice.  A choice that they made landed them in this place, with someone else making a decision for them that would change the rest of their lives.

I’m not here to reflect on their choices, but I am here to tell you that it’s about a choice.  Our choices, both good and bad effect the course of our life’s journey.  We must also realize that we can be redeemed from our bad choices though.  What are you going to do with that second chance?  I’ve made some bad choices.  I’m sure we’ve all made some bad choices, but how are you going to change the negative into a positive?

You have the opportunity to begin again.  There will be people that will continue to judge you for your bad choices.  SO…WHAT!  Don’t allow them to decide your destiny.  You are in control! You have a choice to make.  As we close out the challenge I ask the same question at the end of my post, right?  Take advantage of your second chance, and continue to strive to make the BEST choice.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Day 28 – “Fear” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 28 – “Fear” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real

I was afraid.  Let me be honest, sometimes I’m still afraid of failing.  I guess that would be fear.  Anxiety can be a phase of fear too, right?

How can I eliminate fear?  I honestly don’t have an answer that works for every situation.  Try.  Try to believe that everything is going to be okay.

I was looking for a picture that would symbolize someone that overcame fear.  The picture I decided to use is myself inside of a replica box used to ship Henry “Box” Brown to freedom.  I’m sure Mr. Brown was fearful when he decided to get in a box and ship himself from Virginia to Pennsylvania.  Or was he?  The fear of living as a slave for the rest of his life may have overpowered the feeling of not surviving in that box on his way to freedom.  He had to try!  No matter how long it was going to take he still had to try!

That can be encouraging in itself.  If Henry “Box” Brown decided that he would die trying to get to freedom, what was my problem?  Why would you let fear keep you from completing a project, writing the first page in your book, accepting a public speaking engagement, traveling, or falling in love?

I know it may be scary, but you have to try!  Can I tell you something?  I was afraid to write my first blog post.  I was afraid to start this challenge, because I had to be transparent in some areas that I’ve never been before.  If I was afraid to do all of that was I afraid to succeed?  I guess I was afraid of no one reading the posts.  I honestly can’t worry about any of that.  I can say that I’ve tried.  I’ve tried to encourage someone, and ended up encouraging myself in the process too!  No what ifs left behind is the mindset going forward.  Bye Fear!

What are you #SteeleThankful for?