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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. 🙂

Why we all need to choose forgiveness…

Why we all need to choose forgiveness…

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

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

That was my story a year ago.

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

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

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

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

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

Now…that…was…God!

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

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

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

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

I forgive those that tried to hinder my growth. 

I forgive myself for allowing others to mistreat me. 

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

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

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

**Chains Broken**

Yes, I’m judging…

Yes, I’m judging…

How was your Christmas? Great I hope! My family doesn’t exchange physical gifts. We eat, laugh, and watch movies all day. I say, it’s Christmas all year long, I enjoy the fellowship more than any gifts. So, I’m not judging if you participate in gift exchanges. 
My mom and I were talking over the weekend about judgment. Honestly, our conversation began at 4 am when she’s bright eyed, full of wisdom, and has the potential to spill over into breakfast. I’m always joking about living in a #NoJudgmentZone but am I really living that way?
My mom was a greeter at her last church. She would be the first face that you saw when you walked through the door. She took pride in treating everyone the same. I mean we were all there for the same purpose, right?
I was convicted when my mom said, “in order to clean a fish you must catch it first.” What area of my life was I too judgmental? I’m sure there’s an easier way to approach sensitive conversations, but do we take the time to talk to people instead of instantly judging them?
I’ve joked before about saying, “Yes, I’m judging.” I think we all subconsciously judge. Whether you admit it or not, we do it. I’m working on loving more, judging less, and if I don’t agree with something to leave it at “my opinion.” 
We can’t force people to live the lives that we want them to live. Everyone’s walk is different. If we constantly lead with a judgmental spirit what do we expect to receive in return?
I am reminded of my first friendship ever. He lived on the same street as me, and years later revealed to me that he was gay. He told me that growing up he knew that my family was aware of his preference but they NEVER judged and he was still invited into our home. Even though I had no idea growing up, he was my friend and nothing else mattered to me. We are still close friends to this day. 
The next time we decide to frown at the gay couple walking into the church, the homeless man asking for change, or the woman that’s strolling at night, let’s think about their story, and how their story can impact another’s life, and help them in the process.

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

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

Live with…Follow…Love…Embrace…

YOUR PASSION!

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?

Will the “REAL” R.J. Please stand up?!

Will the “REAL” R.J. Please stand up?!

There’s a running joke among my friends that I’m really Carmen Sandiego. Despite the fact that the fictional character who I absolutely loved growing up looked nothing like me. My Instagram and Twitter handle was once dedicated to that chapter of my life where I was constantly running. Running from reality…

I’ve always been a private person. I guess it was the way I was raised. Multiple aliases so no one could ever calculate my next move. Then, I thought, I loved the mystery that comes with the persona of Carmen. I began to embrace my reality, and live life without regrets. 

Carmen wore my favorite color (red), and moved strategically with a minimal trace of evidence. She was smart, mysterious, and clearly a world traveler. Even though I retired the handle she still lives within me. Carmen reminded me to chase my dreams, and not apologize for being different.  

To purchase the Real Carmen shirt just click here.

 

Loner and a Rebel – A story about a rebellious teenage nerd…

Loner and a Rebel – A story about a rebellious teenage nerd…

I was a recent high school graduate. I believed I had done everything correctly in life. Graduated high school with honors, involved in numerous extracurricular activities, and what I thought ready for the next phase, COLLEGE! My plan was to always graduate and enroll at four-year HBCU (Historically Black College/University). Well, that plan didn’t work. “She’s not ready yet.” I wasn’t ready for a four-year school? Despite knowing that my grades could pretty much guarantee an acceptance letter from the schools of my choosing. “A two-year community college would work best for her right now.” What did I do when I learned that my closest friends were going away to school and I was staying local in my small town that began to feel like a terrible episode of “Cheers,” because of the company I was keeping everybody was starting to know my name?  I REBELLED!

Now, I’ve always loved history. For as far back as I remember. I especially loved learning about historical figures that resembled myself. I remember sitting in a History class at the community college and the professor was jumping on the desk and everything. He was attempting to get the class excited about the subject. The one subject I had grown to love was not exciting for me. Why? I was pissed about my current situation. I was still pissed that my friends were away at school and I was wasting my life away at a community college. I felt worthless, I felt as though everything I worked so hard for in high school was irrelevant. Educators told me to be active, well rounded, that’s what schools look for when applying to universities. That day I decided to walk out and not come back. I had reached my breaking point. Even though the first year was paid for…I didn’t care…I began to rebel. I think I only passed one class that semester. A freshman orientation class was the only positive thing on my transcript after the first semester. I said you know I’ll give it try next semester. Same results. I took a full load (4 or 5 classes) and only passed one class. I still didn’t care.

The next fall semester I was no longer on scholarship and I remember my dad writing a check to the accounting office for all the fees for the semester. I thought okay, I’ll attempt to give a damn, and take this semester seriously. I made an appointment with a guidance counselor. I don’t even remember the woman’s name but I can tell you this if she’s still a counselor at the community college I would love to see her right about now. She sat behind her desk and asked me what my problem was, among other questions but here’s the kicker “WAS I ON DRUGS?” You read that correctly she asked if I was on drugs. I remember being puzzled and not knowing how to respond in a respectful manner so I chose to walk out of her office and never come back. I knew if I stayed a minute longer I would’ve crapped on my family’s good name. I decided to withdraw that semester and flip that school the bird.

Maybe they were right. I wasn’t ready for a four-year university. At the rate I was going I was going to be the nerd from high school that was now employed at the local diner begging for tips and my sanity. So, I had to think what am I going to do now? There was another community college about 20 minutes away. The same community college that my sister attended and received her Associate’s degree. I said I’ve got nothing to lose, let me give it a try. My bright idea to start at this other community college for the Winter semester was genius **insert sarcastic grin** and I didn’t think about traveling an extra 20-25 minutes for classes. I did it though. The guidance counselor I met with came up with a plan of action after looking at my previous college transcripts and my high school transcripts. With a puzzled look on his face, he took a deep breath and asked me, “Okay, please tell me what’s wrong? Why are you unhappy?” I sat in that office and poured my heart out to this man. He assured me that I could bounce back but I have to want this and no four-year school would touch me with grades like before. I told him I was determined and I would produce results. I just had to find my motivation. My motivation was getting the heck away from my hometown. At the end of the Winter semester I was finally able to show my dad a report card. Before, I never produced one, I would always change the subject but this time I hand delivered the mail with my grades in the envelope. I even remember my class schedule from that semester.

 

  1. American History 101
  2. English 101
  3. Psychology 101
  4. World Religion

 

Drum roll please! I managed to receive a 3.75 that semester. I couldn’t believe it myself. I was fighting ole man winter, pride, and others to get those grades. I switched up my circle of friends temporarily to get the job done too. I had a goal and was motivated to complete it. I knew I wanted to move away and I didn’t want anyone or anything standing in the way of me accomplishing it.

I was convinced that if I had a goal, estimated end date, and a little elbow grease that I could be unstoppable. I enrolled in the Spring and Summer semesters after that successful Winter semester and continued to be on a roll. I transferred to a four-year school for the fall semester and thanked my former guidance counselor for doing what he was sent to do in that season of my life. I rebelled earlier on and realized where it would have me, in the same place as a lot of the people I despised to be around.

What happened after you transferred? Well, I received my BA and fast forward to 2014 I finally was able to experience life on an HBCU campus, and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Master of Library Science – Archives & Records Management Degree.

I still find it in me to rebel from time to time but I’m grateful for the lessons I learned as a teenager, and I’m sure my parents are too!

18 year old - Rebellious Teenager
18 year old – Rebellious Teenager
Grad School Graduation with Award Winning Research Poster
Grad School Graduation with Award Winning Research Poster