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Day 17 – “Promises” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 17 – “Promises” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

-Promises aren’t meant to be broken

-Don’t make promises you can’t keep

-2 Corinthians 1:20, Yes and Amen

Have you ever heard, “I promise I won’t break your heart.” Or, “I promise I got your back, don’t worry.”
Well, I’m not here to focus on the negative, because Lord knows I’ve experienced broken promises. I mean I’ve broken some promises too. At the end of the day all you have is your word, so I encourage us all to do better.

What promises have you made to yourself in the last 5 years? Even better, what promises have you made since January 2015. I promised myself I was going to get out of credit card debt and lose 30 pounds. Chile, can I receive partial credit? I did the Green Smoothie Challenge in October, dropped 12 pounds and that’s it. I promise I’ll do better in 2016. 😏

Promises are similar to goals. They require action and it’s okay to altar them, and be realistic. Yes, I said realistic. I’ve told you about my three promises back in 2013? Actually it was February 13, 2013 to be exact. I promised to graduate with a master’s degree, begin a children’s book series, and start a documentary studies program. Done. Done. And Done. I had to consult the above scripture, Yes and Amen!

So, what’s next? What promises do I have going forward? I promise to travel more, love more, and write more.
I had to think what will it take for me to keep my word to myself and not break these promises? I have to do more, want more, and grind. I promised to live the life that I wanted two years ago. I put in the work! Even though the person that I shared these promises with is no longer with us, I still felt accountable to not going back on my word.

Try it today. Not only are we in the month of thanksgiving it’s also a great time to re-evaluate your promises to yourself. Examples: I promised to buy a house for my kids, I promised myself I would go back to school, I promised I would work towards being a business owner, a better wife, husband, or person. Write them down and tape them to the wall, so you will have a reminder and put a date on it! It works. Trust me! I’m #SteeleThankful because of it.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Day 16 – “Love” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 16 – “Love” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

When you look at your calendar and notice that you are on Day 16,  and decided that the topic would be “Love.”  **Begins singing Love by Musiq Soulchild**  Am I ready to talk about the four letter word?

I’ve experienced love before, a time or two.  I even thought I was close to marriage, and then I realized it wasn’t love.  Someone once told me that you can be in love with the thought of a person, and not the person.  That statement changed the way I looked at love.  I opened up about how I witnessed true love as an adult in one of my first interviews.  You can listen to that podcast here.

My iPod is full of 90s R&B music.  I believe in love, not just for myself, but for those around me.  This year, I was able to be apart of two weddings, in May and September.  Being able to see the two relationships blossom was something that I needed to witness to reassure me that love was still possible.

I learned a long time ago that you can tell whomever you want, whatever you want especially when it comes to love.  The real test comes when you apply action.  My father was never really big on uttering the four letter word.  One of his strongest attributes was being a provider.  Sometimes I felt as if he believed what’s understood doesn’t need to be explained.

I can remember standing at the bus stop in college, and I was on the phone with my dad.  He was never big on having long phone conversations.  He said what he had to say and concluded the call.  This particular day I had to hit the pause button. I had to stop him and tell him that as his daughter I needed to hear that he loved me more.  I needed to hear it from my father even though I NEVER felt as though he didn’t love me, I just wanted to hear it.  I recognized in that moment that I needed to speak up about how I wanted to be treated, and it had to start with my father.

Can I be honest with you?  It was hard for me to say I love you first, to anyone.  Rejection was probably the reason.  What if this person that I said it to, didn’t say it back?  Reality set in and I realized it was hurting me more by not letting others know that I love them, and to stop looking for someone to always return the favor.

I’ll admit I’m a hopeless romantic at times.  That Love Jones, BrownSugar, Love & Basketball kind of love story that melts your heart and reminds you about the various avenues of love. I’m #SteeleThankful for true love and the heartbreak lessons I’ve experienced along the way.  Those moments have allowed me to receive the power of the four letter word…Love.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

(L-R) Dad, Pastor McAfee, Mom 3/6/1976
(L-R) Dad, Pastor McAfee, Mom
Wedding Photo
Day 15 – “Stability” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 15 – “Stability” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

:the strength to stand or endure

I know.  I know.  What does the girl that jokes about being Carmen Sandiego know about being stable?  I honestly know about both sides.  I know what it feels like to move every year, and what it feels like to live in the same house from birth to the age of eighteen.  A place to call home.

Providing a stable household was very important to my parents.  My mom still lives in the house that she raised her children in, and I would say is pretty comfortable there.

At this point in my life I’m striving for stability.  For the past seven years I have moved at least once a year.  A different city or state, I was packing up my apartment and relocating.  Well, I’m tired.  I was moving in the name of love, education, and safety.  A part of me was running from something.  If I was moving, no one could track me, or the rent would increase to a ridiculous amount that I made the decision to vacate.  That was just a few reasons.

This last move was stressful.  I spent so much money and decided that I was over it.  The next move I wanted to plant roots and grow.  Provide a space of stability for myself, and my business.  Stability for me at this point is a different level of happiness.  I want to take my time, and know that the next move will be my BEST MOVE!  I want to provide the same stability for myself that my parents provided for me.

I’m thankful for my nomad experiences because they taught me about adventure and what makes me happy.  Those experiences have led me to a place of yearning for stability, and I’m #SteeleThankful for that.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Day 14 – “Conspiracy” #SteeleThankful (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 14 – “Conspiracy” #SteeleThankful (30 Days of Thanks)

Caution: this post is not about aliens, religion, or unicorns.

I promise.

Once upon a time I popped up some place. Okay it happens often. That’s why my friends refer to me as Carmen Sandiego. Okay, let me try this again.

Once upon a time, I received a phone call that my dad was in the hospital. I was living over 13 hours from home and it bothered me that I couldn’t be there. My father was in the hospital the previous year but I had just returned to work after my accident so I wasn’t able to go home. Well, this time it was around his birthday and I said guess what I don’t care what my family says I’m going home.

I called two of my closest friends and told them my plans. One of them agreed that she would pick me up from the shuttle stop and take me directly to the hospital. Well, I missed my flight. The first time that’s ever happened! My direct flight had turned into a long layover. I was crushed. I just wanted to get home. Oh, you’re wondering where “conspiracy” comes in. The definition of conspiracy is to form a secret plan that’s typically to the detriment of someone. This wasn’t the case. It was a secret plan alright!

My other friend picked me up from the shuttle stop and drove me right on to the hospital. It was getting late and I wasn’t sure if they still had the rules of visiting hours so I was speed walking to the security desk. Received my dad’s room assignment and we were off (we referring to my luggage).

I got to my dad’s room. His door was cracked but I could hear him on the phone. I gently knocked and then opened the door. It was as if he had saw a ghost. Well, that’s actually what he said. He told the person on the other end, “man I gotta let you go my daughter just surprised me from North Carolina.” My dad instructed me to come over and give him some “sugar.” Anyone that knows my dad knows that was out of character for him. So, I knew that my “secret plan” had worked. My mom was overjoyed, and my siblings couldn’t believe I pulled it off.

My friends and I helped conspire a surprise visit for my dad. I will be forever grateful for that precious moment that I will never forget.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Joking around with my sister early in the morning while in my dad's hospital room.
In my dad’s hospital room, joking around with my sister.
Day 13 – “Determination” #SteeleThankful (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 13 – “Determination” #SteeleThankful (30 Days of Thanks)

I am determined! I am determined! I-AM-DETERMINED

I remember chanting this on a couple of occasions especially over the last five years.  Let me tell you I was determined to do a lot of things.  Now, this can go both ways you know.  I was determined to graduate, and I was determined to NOT let anyone stop me from doing so.  See, what I did there?  I told you about what it took to graduate with my professional degree.  Oh, you want details.  I got you!

I was given a 2nd chance to finish.  If I haven’t told you how I had to fight my way back into my graduate program that’s another post, for another day chile.  This one is about my last year of school, well really last semester.  Here, I was my last semester, registering for classes, and missing one requirement.  I remember calling one of my friends and asking, “girl did you take a foreign language in college?”  She was an Engineering major and it wasn’t a requirement for them.

I was working in the library, teleconference production studio, a practicum, and two other classes.  YOU TELLING ME I HAVE TO THROW SOMETHING ELSE IN THE MIX?  So, I said I MUST graduate, I’m willing to do whatever.  I registered for a German class at the local community college, and a Spanish class on campus.  I was more pissed about not being able to take an American Sign Language class.  I said I was determined right?  Even if it was CRAZY.  I’m gone tell you I dropped that Spanish class and lost the money that I paid for it.  I got over it.  The German class was accelerated and met Monday – Thursday for five weeks and the second class was another five weeks.  So, basically I was attempting to learn level one and two of German in one semester.

I was constantly tired, but I was determined.  Determined to finish, and finish STRONG.  Then, I was at work one evening and someone suggested I take the foreign language exam.  I mean I knew the basics of German, but not enough to take an exam.  I put the fear aside and decided to sign up for the exam.  If I could pass the exam, I wouldn’t have to take the second level of the German class and I could sail through the rest of my final semester.  I took the exam on a Saturday morning and waited.

My sister called me on a Tuesday evening and said, “we need to call mom and we all fast tomorrow, we need those results for the exam.”  The second level of the German class had begun and I didn’t have my results.  I was nervous, paid for the class, and attended the first 3 classes.  I was more cautious instead of exercising a little faith.  Well, the Wednesday afternoon of my fast I received an email.  An email that I had PASSED THE EXAM!  I emailed my German professor that I would not be returning for the class and I appreciated all of her help, and immediately went online to drop the class so I could get 75% of the money that I paid for the class.

Again, I was determined.  I went into the Dean’s office in August and stated to her that I was determined to be done by the following May.  She said it was possible but I had to work hard.  I did whatever I had to do to finish.  I am #SteeleThankful for that determination that brought me through my last year of school, because that same determination keeps me pushing towards my dreams.

Day 12 – “Opportunity” #SteeleThankful (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 12 – “Opportunity” #SteeleThankful (30 Days of Thanks)

Have you heard the saying, “When opportunity knocks…”  There are many quotes that begin with that phrase.  What does it mean though?

You can interpret the phrase many ways, but the first thing I thought about were two scriptures in Matthew 7:7-8; ask, seek, and knock.  For the past two years I have faithfully executed what the featured image says; iAsk, iSeek, iKnock.  After you “ask, seek, and knock” what do you do?  Well, you wait.

Now, I’m not saying the opportunity always comes instantly, but it comes, and you have to be very specific about the opportunity in which you are seeking.  I have an example.  Ready. Set. Go!

Last semester of grad school, I was mingling, networking, applying for positions both in and out of state.  The weeks kept rolling by and I was getting closer to that graduation date.  I was on my way to graduating with honors, and I hadn’t secured a job.  I wasn’t even getting an interview.  What was I doing wrong?  I sat in my room one day, looked at the above scripture (Yes, Matthew 7:7-8),  and said, “Lord, I’ve spent all this money on grad school, I would like to receive a job in my field, and I don’t want to go on all these interviews, I want the opportunity to fall in my lap.”

Graduation day had come and gone, and I get a phone call, now I almost didn’t answer.  It was the Tuesday afternoon after graduation, and I hear this voice that sounded very familiar.  I dropped off my resume at an institution while in Dallas back in 2012.  I received a tour of the place, a short interview, and a “we’ll keep in touch.”  I was notified then that they only had a part-time position, and I decided at that time to take my talents elsewhere.

Well, that same place called me in 2014 offering me a full-time position.  The older gentleman from HR said to me, “I’m not sure if you’re a spiritual person, but I would say that the timing couldn’t be better.”  I hung up the phone, looked at the wall again, (yes with the same scriptures, lol), and said, “thank you God.  It’s what I asked for.” The opportunity had come and I was taking it.

Every opportunity that we decide to take is about the moment.  At the moment it seems so right, but it can honestly also turn sour, but guess what there’s a lesson in the good and the bad.  So, be thankful for the opportunity, because within it can be a life changing lesson, or lead to another amazing opportunity.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?


Day 11 – “Freedom” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 11 – “Freedom” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Freedom, Oh Freedom!

When I look at the picture of my dad in his army uniform I see freedom.  You see my dad didn’t choose the military, the military chose him.  I know what you’re thinking, but R.J. how is that freedom? Hold on. Hold on.  Let me explain.

My father was drafted during the Vietnam War.  A teenager when he left home, a teenager that was leaving home to fight for the country he was born instead of pursuing a college degree.  After he was discharged, he resumed working full time, and began raising a family.

He instilled freedom in the three children he raised.  The freedom to be what we wanted to be, with one catch.  You must attend college FIRST.  Centuries ago we had ancestors that were not afforded the opportunity of freedom of speech, education, or rights.

The opportunities that I sometimes take for granted would not be available to me unless there were others before me that fought for freedom.  We have come so far, but yet still have so far to go.  At least I can be #SteeleThankful for the veterans that continue to fight for freedom, freedom for us all.   One day my child, one day, we will all be free.  Free of the bondage of the mind, body, and soul.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Day 10 – “Purpose” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 10 – “Purpose” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

What is your purpose?  Do you know?  The last time I spoke about purpose I was on Periscope crying.  Don’t worry I saved that video, because I want to reflect on that breakthrough.  I may share it again publicly one day.

I certainly didn’t arrive at what my purpose was overnight, and sometimes I feel that my purpose morphs into other things, but arrives at the same end point.  Storytelling.

Yesterday, I discussed being thankful for my passion.  Yes, I believe there is a difference between your purpose and passion.  Now, hold on, work with me.  Your passion is what you love to do, and your purpose is what you were put here to do.  Can they overlap?  Sure. Mine certainly do.  Does it take some time to figure it out?  It depends.  Once you accept your purpose, the journey is not easy, and that’s why I’m #SteeleThankful.

My passion is clearly history.  I mean, no brainer, I have other passions, but that’s definitely #1.  My purpose, I wrestled with it for a long time. A LONG TIME!  I used to joke about having a “trusting face.”  I said people trust me with their life stories, even strangers.  How can I be an example and let them know everything will be okay? When I arrived at the notion of being a filmmaker, it almost frightened me.  Documentaries intrigued me.  The art of capturing a story and telling it in such a succinct way was the challenge.  Was I up for it?

When my first documentary project idea came along I thought, “yes, that’s it, I’m going to change the world with this one.”  Life happened.    The loss of my dad shattered my own world, and I wasn’t sure if I had the strength to relive a moment that we shared together.  I was in my room one day and it hit me.  All the videos that I recorded were for a reason.  It was for this divine purpose.

I changed my focus.  It was no longer about changing the world, it was about providing closure, one person at a time, and that changes their world! If I could provide a safe place for someone to share their story and in turn impact others, I was on the right track.  Only one person besides myself has seen my home videos.  That was my test.  Could I do this?  I’m asking others to be vulnerable but was I able to do the same.  Goes back to walking in your purpose isn’t easy, oh but it’s worth it.  Your purpose can keep you up at night.  It had me sleeping with my journal next to my bed every night.

I still struggle with it sometimes.  The comfortable 9-5 lifestyle be calling me.  Then I ask myself, am I running into these roadblocks because I’m not obeying my life’s journey, and not trusting what God told me.  God clearly told me to have faith, you know the size of a mustard seed.  Do you know how SMALL that is?

My purpose is listening.  Listening leads to understanding, understanding leads to wisdom, and wisdom leads to one heck of a journey, impacting one person at a time.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Day 9 – “Passion” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 9 – “Passion” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Live with…Follow…Love…Embrace…


It took me a minute to understand, and believe how powerful passion can be.  It’s such a strong emotion.  So, when I think of passion I automatically think of history.  I love it!  I fell in love with it as a little girl.  I was more intrigued with the fact that according to the history textbooks in school was that black history began with slavery.  I kept asking the questions, well where did we come from?  How did this happen?

If you read some of my last post I spoke about a red book that my dad purchased when I was a little girl.  That book provided biographies of notable figures in black history.  Just a little nugget, parents when you see your children are passionate about something, encourage and support them.

I fell in love with reading about history, mystery, and horror books.  There weren’t many history books for children with characters that looked like me, so I was reading Nancy Drew and Goosebumps.  When I was in grad school the first thing I thought about was writing a children’s book.  I wanted the main character to resemble me but with a twist, which means a combination of my sister and I.

My passion for history led me to this point.  I read, researched, and executed the plan.  I wanted a cool way to learn about history, and I ended up here.  I’m continuously amazed by how your passion can give you so much joy.  I’m thankful for that book that my dad gave me over 20 years ago, because that book led me to this moment, with my Alleykats!

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Day 8 – “Hope” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 days of thanks)

Day 8 – “Hope” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 days of thanks)

“The Audacity of Hope” is the title of the second book by President Barack Obama.  Hmm…thoughts of reclaiming the American Dream, and I talked about dreams yesterday.  Lol. Hope is optimism, and truly believing it’s going to happen.  That your thoughts will come to fruition.

Five years ago I was in search of hope.  I disappeared from social media, and even became distant with a few people.  I honestly wanted to receive the same message that I was giving others, “hope all is well.”  That’s what I truly believed, I hoped that all is well with them as I tried to piece together what had come of my life.  In a blink of an eye I had taken on another title, “burn survivor.”  My scars I attempted to hide, and a story I began to shield.

Hope began to appear on a daily basis.  People came into my life to restore my hope in love, dreams, faith, and peace.  It was a choice.  The choice to reclaim my power in this journey.  I hoped that I would go back to the old me, but instead I received a new and improved R.J.  It was a mind blowing experience for those around and myself.  Hope had been restored.

Everyday I hope that my dreams will continue to come true, as long as I continue to put in the work.  The same audacity of hope that President Obama had when he wrote his book, is the same hope that can drive us all.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?