I Hope for Many Things

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”  First Lady Michelle Obama

By Samantha McKenzie

I hope for many things, like world peace and stomping out hunger. Today, however, I hope for more granular, tangible things that can be accomplished, almost immediately.

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I hope you kiss your children and remind them how much you love them.

I hope you write down one goal on several pieces of paper and stick it on every mirror in your home.

I hope you call an old friend, the one who popped into your thoughts a week ago, before it’s too late.

I hope you apply for another job, just to remind you of your value. And dust off your interview suit.

I hope you say yes and I hope you learn how to say no.

I hope you tell the truth, even though lying about it seems easier.

I hope you wear a dress that makes you feel pretty, again. I hope it has a pop of color.

I hope you get a glance and glance back.

I hope you say I love you first. Why wait?

I hope you cook a scrumptious meal and eat slowly. Savor it the moment.

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I hope you say one sincere prayer before you get out of bed. And then another.

I hope you smile and giggle and laugh at a joke.

I hope you read something inspiring and then share the message with another.

I hope you clean out that drawer and throw away 50% of the stuff.

I hope you exercise for at least 30 minutes without whining.

I hope you drink more water.

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I hope you give away a material possession to someone else who needs it more today.

I hope you speak up, even if what you have to say will be unpopular.

I hope you dance with no music and sing in the shower.

I hope you get what you deserve.

I hope you use the next few minutes wisely. Because time is most precious in the present. And hope is only a place holder for courage.

I hope for many things today.

 

 

 

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Life, Death and Love

Angie and Everett

By Dawn Onley

Tomorrow, my friend will bury her husband.

They had long been one of my favorite couples, for many reasons — the way he looked at her and the way she looked out for him; how they did everything together, from family gatherings to yearly vacations; how they went to church together every week; how they cheered on their Redskins and represented everything D.C.

Their happiness and zeal for life couldn’t be contained. Their smiles could illuminate the darkness that anyone, anywhere felt, and they did just that when their own journey grew bleak. They kept smiling, lighting their path. They never stopped believing. They were one of those couples that seemed like they had always been together. They just fit. They were solid.

They were fated to be husband and wife even before they met. They had a timeless love story. He died, but their love will never end.

Everett was one of those cats that knew how to treat a lady. That is something you could just vibe from first meeting him. He was old school. He had a quiet sophistication and swag that could easily conjure up a 60s Motown great like Sam Cooke or Otis Redding, except that Everett belonged in a group. He sung on the men’s choir at The Sanctuary at Kingdom Square. He would have been a Temptation.

I admired how he made my girl, Angie, feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. I mean, she is, so he was not pretending. But still.

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I’ve been filled with a dread ever since Everett’s illness and a sadness ever since his passing because he had a whole lot of life left. He and Angie had a whole lot of love left. They had trips that they were planning. They had a business they were building. They were finishing up a home renovation. He had a daughter and a grandbaby that he absolutely adored. He had much more to give and they had a lot left to receive.

Life is too much sometimes. Too heavy. Too burdensome. Too hard. So unfair.

As I sat with Angie this past Sunday, I thought about her strength and how incredibly courageous she has been throughout this whole ordeal. She meant every last word of those wedding vows – in sickness and in health. Everett couldn’t help but adore her (and she him).

I thought about all that she was teaching me in this very moment about faith and about being at peace with things we don’t understand. I thought about the Serenity Prayer.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Death cannot be changed, but it is not final. Everett will not walk this Earth again, but he will forever live — in Angie’s heart and in her smile. In Heaven. With Angie, that is where he’s always lived.

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An Experience in Owning Your Truth

By Samantha McKenzie

We’re all gifted in many ways and yet we spend very little time acknowledging our treasures out loud. When we hear women celebrating themselves, we need to encourage it. Today is about acknowledging your strengths and express your truth. Today is about getting out of the background of life and feeling comfortable in center stage. Today you are going to practice embracing who you are.Image result for african american women boss

I invite you to share yourself with the world. If you’re shy, that’s even better (we’ve been dying to hear from you). If you’re super confident, then we hope you set a new trend for all of us to follow.

So let’s get started. The rules are simple. Write down character traits that you admire in yourself. Start each sentence with I am…

Do not include any titles (i.e. – I am a mother. I am a doctor). Instead, search for the attributes that make you a good mother or a good doctor).

Do not overthink it. If you believe you are intelligent, then write it. Remember this is about accepting who you are and claiming it.

There’s no limit to your list. You can write down as many things about yourself as you like. You don’t have to be perfect at any of it, you just have to live it.

Image result for african american women prayingMy list goes like this –

I am a nurturer. (I am best when I am around people who want to grow).

I am inspiring.

I am a deep thinker.

I am good at finding the right words, at the right time.

I am emotional.

I am principled.

I am eager to learn new things.

I am talented.

I am encouraging.

I am calm under pressure.

I am loving.

I am interested in other people’s journey.

I am genuine.

I am spontaneous and little adventurous.

I am generous beyond measure.

I am sisterly.

I am a seeker of truth.

I am a champion of the underdog.

I am a non-traditional leader.

I am a believer.

Now it’s your turn. Own your greatness and share with our readers who you are.

I am…fill in your blanks.

 

 

 

Give Them Their Flowers While They Can Still Smell the Scent

Beautiful Nana

By Dawn Onley

Three years ago, my family hosted a 100th birthday celebration for my grandmother at one of the fancier restaurants in my small town.

Family members sang to her as part of a special choir assembled for the occasion. Many of us shared stories about Nana, what she had taught us over the years, how she demonstrated her love so effortlessly in the soulful meals that she prepared each Sunday for whomever dropped by, how her faith covered us and her prayers sustained us. Tables were adorned with framed proclamations from senators, members of Congress, the governor of Maryland and even President Obama and first lady, Michelle. It was a grand affair and she was completely deserving of such an honor.

Afterwards, an older cousin raved at the great time she had and also commented that she wished that she could know now what everyone would say about her at her funeral. She said we gave our Nana that opportunity because we gave her “her flowers while she is still here to enjoy them.”

At the time, I shared this comment with my Facebook friends as a status update. Yesterday, I was reminded about the comment when it came up as a Facebook memory. I’m thankful that it did because it reinforced for me that I need to make sure I’m putting forth my greatest effort in giving my loved ones their flowers while they are still here. This means letting them know that they have added so much value to my life just by being in it; that they are irreplaceable; that I have learned from the lessons they have taught; that I admire them; that I feel so immensely blessed to call them family or friend.

It’s so easy to forget this important message while we go about our busy lives. We can get so consumed with living that we forget to let our loved ones know just what they mean to us. A quick phone call or visit might not mean much to us, but it could mean the world to someone we love. Let’s vow to take the time to do this, if we aren’t already doing it.

I know I will. From here on out, I will make it a point to do better. When the thought of a person enters my mind, I will reach out. I won’t hold back nor will I put it off for tomorrow. Tomorrow is not promised.

 

I will share the flowers now. I will let them know that they played a role in who I am; that they made my road easier and more pleasant just by being there. I will tell them that they are appreciated. Because, the sweet fragrance of gratitude received is far better than the wilted longing of a single regret.

 

Moving Out, Moving On!

By Samantha McKenzie

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.”– Tao Te Ching

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Special thanks to Felton and Damien from Goodwill in Greensboro, NC

This weekend I started my move to Raleigh, N.C. I had prepared for this moment well in advance. I planned it out back in January, scoped out everything I could about my city-to-be and sorted through tons of properties looking to strike a nice balance between good schools and shorter commutes.

I bought boxes, scheduled the moving truck and coordinated with family and friends for this very day. Each month leading up to the move, I made strides toward the moving list. I started cleaning out closets in February and in March I made a healthy list of rentals. By the time April ushered in, I was scheduling visits to various sites and well on my way to go full steam ahead.Related image

I dread moving (like everyone else) so I spent every weekend for two months decluttering rooms and closets. I needed to do it in stages. I visited the Salvation Army so many times, the last time I dropped off another set of bags, the assistant offered to pray for me before giving me a receipt. I thought I had everything under control until I had to come face-to-face with these empty rooms.

Until now, nothing could have prepared me for that feeling of emptiness, of leaving all of my past behind. There I stood, staring down the nakedness of every room. I flashed back on the 13 years I spent raising my children in this house. It held years of laughter in it and the quiet tears as well. I remembered piecing together the crib that welcomed my youngest child into the world. I remembered every painting, trophy and award I hung or placed around the house to show off their achievements. I brushed my fingers over the tiny holes in the walls that were left behind. I remembered the plans made at the dining room table (like talking with my writing partner to create this blog), and the visits from family members excited to see how big the children had grown. I remembered too, the home cooked meals, the love and the jokes we all shared as a giddy group. I couldn’t help but remember the moment I made the decision to ask for a divorce. This house held together a good part of my emotions – the ones that brought me extreme pain and immense joy. I know now that I needed it all and learned to use it to push the family forward. I grew up, just like the children, right under this sacred roof.

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As I packed down more of my past and taped it away neatly into boxes, I remembered sitting at the dining room table typing yet another paper due by midnight that would get me closer towards that next degree. I remembered the Friday night fish frys with the friends who had become like family over the years.

To say the feelings I touched on this weekend were bittersweet is an understatement. I said a brief prayer as the last box was placed in the moving truck.

I prayed for a safe passage into my next chapter in life. I thanked God for each experience in this home, good or bad, they all increased my faith and my strength. I prayed also to embrace the emptiness, and to accept it as a temporary and necessary feeling of transition. I prayed to hold on to my memories, but not to let them interfere with my future. I thanked God for the opportunity to declutter, to toss some things into the sea of forgetfulness and to pass on some of our belongings to someone else who could make good use of it.

I’m moving out and moving on. The blank rooms that I’m heading into will be like a new canvas. I look forward to the stories yet to be written and the mysteries of the days to come.

Walking briskly into my future and as scary as it feels, I can’t wait. Raleigh, N.C., here we come. I’m moving on…

Here I Am, World…

Believe in your Dreams

By Dawn Onley

Your highest self is waiting for you. My highest self is awaiting me.

This is not simply a concept or a theory. It’s a truth that is as old as the ages, and it is only unleashed through faith.

At night, we dream big dreams for ourselves, but we have no idea of how big the possibilities are, come day. If we did, we’d act. Right now. We wouldn’t fear. We wouldn’t wait. We wouldn’t brood. We wouldn’t sit at the table when our song plays. We’d get up and dance!

We owe it to ourselves to explore our highest selves; to see what we are fully capable of.

We owe it to each other, too.

“The future is as bright as your faith.” – Thomas S. Monson

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Life Always Works Itself Out

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No matter how much time you spend worrying, you are not always in control.

Somewhere in the depths of the deep dark universe, God has already set aside a solution to your problems.

Listen.

Leave your mind open to the possibilities that everything will work itself out and let the mysteries of life simply unfold.

Be still.

Allow the magic in. 

Watch it all work out.