Find Your Child Within

By Samantha McKenzie

I love being a woman. In fact, each year I discover more fascinating (and peculiar) things about myself. Growing up and open is an amazing experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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But there are times when I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize myself. Instead, I see the side effects of adulthood. I see the worry lines, the dark circles around my eyes and the blank stare I often give back when I still haven’t found a solution to a minor problem. I noticed​ my natural joy, who used to show up frequently during my youth, now pops in less and stays for shorter visits.

I miss the little girl I used to be. The one who used to skip down the street, singing all the wrong words to a popular song without a care in the world. My biggest dilemma on any given day was how I would spend my $1 allowance at the convenience store.

She was sure-footed and patient. If you told her no the first time, she just waited for a better time to ask again. The little girl inside of me knew the “yes” was sure to come.

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My childhood was filled with adventure and discovery and double dutch, stoop ball, Italian ices, skateboarding and crushing on The Jackson Five (I flip-flopped between Michael and Marlon). My biggest health risk back then was eating too many sunflower seeds and letting the salt cure my lips.

It’s important to tap back into the child within. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could carry this little person around to remind us how we used to be?

She smiles without measure and laughs with no regret.

She runs, jumps, and scales fences like there’s no tomorrow.

If she loses, she’s tough enough to get back in the race. When you falls down, she’s tender enough to pick you up again.

She giggles just because and is thoughtful enough to share her candy with you even before you ask. She’s that little girl that we all love and adore.

She is you.girls

Keep the Focus on Your Destiny

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By Dawn Onley

We can get so caught up in the stuff that doesn’t matter in life that it can keep us from the stuff that does.

For example, I use to get really hung up on what people said to me, or didn’t say, whose party I got invited to or didn’t, who was loyal and who was not, who was there for me when I really needed them and who mysteriously went MIA, whose dreams I supported and who went silent on mine, etc. For years, I would remember all of this stuff and keep it lodged in my head and my heart.

Yep, I was a score keeper. When things got too lopsided, I would declare “Game Over” and distance myself from some people. But the distance didn’t stop the brooding. I spent far too much time nursing hurt wounds.

I would even allow these distractions into my spirit. I would tell so-and-so what so-and-so did. I would temporarily feel better for releasing my hurt, but it never really moved me forward in any substantial way.

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but these distractions were time-consuming and energy-zapping. Plus, they didn’t matter. They hardly ever matter in the grand scheme of things.

One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that to achieve our dreams in life requires a singular, unrelenting focus. Our focus needs to remain on moving the needle closer to our end results and not remaining stuck.

Most of the feelings I was allowing on a monthly, weekly, sometimes daily basis was keeping my mind and attention from much more important things.

Any moment spent on items that are not productive to our purpose in life is a moment we can never get back. I thought about this yesterday as I scrolled through social media channels and read angry posts that were filled with innuendo, drama, and declarations that sprung up from hurt feelings. I thought back to last week and the week before that and even last month. Some of these same people had logged similar posts.

I can relate to some of this hurt because I’ve been there before. Many times. But a part of growth and maturity requires us to put away things that aren’t helping us flourish. We need to love our way forward more than we feel the need to cling to our past.

distractionsIt is so easy to get distracted. There is so much noise in the world. On social media pages there is a constant barrage of life occurrences that take us away from where our minds should be focused.

Bishop TD Jakes discusses this idea of destiny detractors in his book, “Destiny.” He uses Tyler Perry as an example of a person who has fought battles his entire life – against a father who ridiculed him, against the people who sexually abused him, against homelessness, and for his place among filmmakers. Jakes said Perry could have lost his focus and could have succumb to feelings of despair on any number of occasions.

But he didn’t.

Jakes said Perry “chose to let go of the fights that were counterproductive to destiny. Instead, he invested his Warrior Spirit in fights that were worth the effort to get his plays and films to audiences. Tyler kept on fighting to live his dream, even when he was homeless and sleeping in his automobile.”

“Because he never gave up, the winds of fate changed in his favor and he has since sold millions of theater and movie tickets to fans of his beloved Madea persona and the characters in his many other film and theatrical productions,” Jakes added.

That’s the kind of fight that’s worth my energy, and yours too. The fight for our destiny. The fight for our soul purpose. The kind of fight that helps the winds of fate to change in our favor.

Not the stuff that doesn’t matter.

Ask yourself, before you put it out there and speak it into existence, is this fight worth my energy? Will it get me closer to my destiny?

If the answer is no, LET IT GO.

 

 

By Samantha McKenzie

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”    Walt Whitman

When we fall, we should get back up. When we stumble, we should correct our steps and try it again. When it doesn’t work out, we must dig in until we get it right. This is a part of living. This is a part of you.

The truth is, we will fall more times than we can count. From the time we are tots, we have someone there, trying to catch us from falling. It’s normal to want to avoid pitfalls, to find the easier, to seek out the less costly route to a destination. But it’s the furthest thing from reality. We actually fall down pretty often – figuratively and literally. It usually happens unexpectedly and there’s hardly any time to brace ourselves. We waste time pretending it won’t ever happen to us, and when it does, we are often ill-prepared.

The real lesson is in the number of times we must get back up. What happens after we fall? After the shock, the dismay, the embarrassment?  How do we pick up the pieces? How do we recover from the self-inflicted shame?

Image result for woman falling down getting back upWe should share our getting back up stories. Try putting aside the idea that we are perfect. Instead, try telling about the lessons learned, the cost of starting over and the intrinsic value of giving your life another fighting chance.

I fell down and I got back up.

Got pushed down and got back up.

Got the rug swept from under my feet and I still got back up.

Got swindled and lost everything, but I crawled my way back up.

Was hard-headed and didn’t want to listen and got back up eventually.

Got skipped over for something I just knew was mine and got back up anyway.

Missed another opportunity, and got back up.

We all fall down and we must get back up.

Tell yourself to get back up. Get back up….

Choosing Love and Light

“Take a moment every day to look at the places, spaces and faces in your life and ask yourself if they are the ones you want there.” – Tim Storey

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By Dawn Onley

We get to choose.

Every day we wake up, we have a brand new set of options. We have the ability to decide where we’ll work, where we’ll live, who we’ll love and like, who we’ll spend time with, or even what we’ll have for dinner.

What a blessing that is!

In a good chunk of the world, sadly, people do not get to choose what religion they’ll practice or if their kids can go to school or who they’ll marry or even who they can be friends with. For women, the opportunity to choose in these places is even bleaker.

The consequences for violating these societal norms could range from being shunned to facing incarceration, or even death.

In America, we have so many options that we take for granted. Not only can we choose what we want, but we can choose what we don’t want. This includes, as Tim Storey says, the “places, spaces and faces” in our lives that are not benefitting us.

Sometimes we stay stuck in that dead end relationship, in that miserable job, with those unsupportive “friends,” or in the same area we spent our entire lives, because we fear the unknown. We fear starting over. We don’t trust our judgment. We think the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t. As if the devil is our only option.

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The truth is we often lack the courage to change.

This is fine if we don’t want different results. But if we are not satisfied with the “places, spaces and faces” in our lives, we can choose different. We can redirect our lives toward a path that is affirming and uplifting. We can find people who are kindred spirits. We can relocate to an area that feeds our souls. We can choose to not waste our time with things that don’t fulfill our highest calling or nurture our deepest passions.

It’s up to us.

Choose bravely, sisters.

Choose love. Choose light.

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Today Calls for the Extraordinary

By Samantha McKenzie

Being good just isn’t good enough.

Neither is being mediocre or the just plain ole ordinary. Last night’s nail-biting game was a testament to this. The time that we live in demands our very best. Who wants to be average anyway, when extraordinary is right at our fingertips?

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Gone are the days when you could skate by with being seen and not heard. When longevity at a job almost guaranteed you a promotion or flying under the radar meant you were a team player. In a world with so many opportunities, there’s really nothing stopping our success. As we speak, young girls and boys, men and women are calculating their next move. They are deciding what obstacles to jump over and what walls to scale. They are thinking and doing, failing and pushing through and defying the odds. They won’t be stopped.

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Today calls for our greatness. Today dares us to bring our ideas into fruition.

Each day our news feeds and social media accounts are introducing the next “it” person. Talent is being discovered on YouTube, entrepreneurs are getting younger and younger, and start-up companies are becoming the “new” corporate America. The possibilities are endless and you are invited to participate.150528225250-spelling-bee-2015-champions-exlarge-169

“We’ve all been to the proverbial mountain and have seen the promised land…”mediocrity

Thankfully, mediocrity has been replaced. It’s been stomped out and paraded on by the new achievers. The “you only live once” generation. The ones who allow adversity to fuel them and turn unfortunate circumstances into platforms to springboard their success.

They know, like we all should, that greatness lies within.

So failure is an option, it’s even highly encouraged. And daydreamers aren’t failing school these days, they’re the new innovators. Nowadays, risk takers are both rewarded and applauded. And the real heroes are finally getting their 15 minutes of fame.

‘Cuz good ain’t good enough anymore.

Be extraordinary!

Happy Birthday, Prince!

By Dawn Onley

Today Prince Rogers Nelson would have turned 59 years old. I will celebrate today as I’ve done much of the past year since his passing by listening to his music and reading articles about his life. Prince is an artist who has no parallel. He was a true original, a musical prodigy, a gifted songwriter who wrote many hits for other artists that many people would be surprised that he wrote. He is irreplaceable. He was a once in a lifetime artist. So as I join millions of his fans around the world remembering his life, I’m reposting this blog from last year upon learning of his death. We lost so many musical greats in 2016, but it was the passing of Prince that impacted me most. My husband and I threw a party to celebrate his life. We called it “Purple Reign.” Happy Birthday, Prince! Your music, your legacy, your artistry, YOU will forever live in my heart — until the end of time. 

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I’ve been in a fog since Prince died. Just numb.

Sure, we all must die at some point. Yes, even at just 57 years old, Prince lived a full life, accomplishing things that most of us couldn’t even fathom.

Still, it is surreal. And sad.

I’ve been driftlessly moving about, watching TV specials, listening to radio dedications and reading everything that I can about the man whose posters adorned my bedroom walls, whose songs I played and replayed over and over again, and who occupied so many of my teenage and young adult fantasies. It feels weird to mourn so deeply for someone I’ve never met, but this one is hard to deal with. Prince’s music shepherded my journey from teenager to young adult. Purple Rain, which I’ve easily watched over 20 times, will always be my favorite musical and purple remains my favorite color — influenced by Prince, of course.

Prince was bold and beautiful, unapologetic and courageous. He took chances and he demanded respect. He was a brilliant songwriter and businessman. He was a philanthropist and truly epitomized his Jehovah’s Witness teachings of never announcing the good deeds he did, which were many. He represented the disenfranchised and used his power for good. He didn’t just write thought-provoking lyrics, he walked the talk. He was a beautiful soul. He stood out.

His music brings me back to Players, a former teenage dance spot in my hometown, where the dance floor would be packed with hormonal teeny boppers, sweating it out to the sounds of such hits like “Let’s Go Crazy” “Raspberry Beret” and “I Would Die for You.” And of course, “Purple Rain” and “Adore” were always crowd pleasers.

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Since his passing, I’ve viewed videos about his generosity and chuckled at memes about his strut and attitude. I just can’t get enough. I know over the next few weeks and months, I will have pored over countless interviews, read more first-person accounts from people who had intimate friendships with Prince and watched some of his memorable concerts all around the world.

But none of it will fill the permanent void I have for never seeing him live in concert. My heart breaks at two missed opportunities. I was looking forward to him coming to my area this year, but that will not be. When Prince died, like when Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Luther Vandross died, so did my dreams of witnessing them perform. 

This year has been brutal for the musical greats it has taken thus far (Prince, David Bowie, Maurice White, Phife Dawg, Papa Wemba, to name a few). Natalie Cole died New Year’s Eve, 2015. So much great talent. Gone, but never forgotten, thanks to the legacies of their music, which will last forever.

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I will celebrate Prince’s life and legacy by playing his music, by learning all I can about my childhood crush, and by introducing my son to his artistic genius. I only hope Prince knew how much he was adored, and how his music comforted and inspired millions of people.

Real music will survive. Prince’s legacy will endure. Until the end of time. 

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Keep Living and Let Them Talk

By Samantha McKenzie

Many, many moons ago, I worked a short stint at an African-American art gallery. It was sort of layover job after having my first child – a transition period between maternity leave and finding a new writing gig. The gallery was located in the city’s cultural arts center which was unofficially managed by a seasoned woman named Mrs. Murphy.

pearls-of-wisdom-i-jai-johnsonMrs. Murphy was actually the housekeeper in this three-level building, but she was a central figure. She came to work with a smile on her face, and greeted everyone with genuine pleasantries. Her shift started around 4 p.m. each day and she spent a portion of her lunch hour teaching me about this “thing called life,” she used to say.

Mrs. Murphy shared hundreds of colorful stories of her childhood, growing up in the south, meeting her husband of 35 years and sacrificing her education to raise her two beautiful children. She was in her late 60s, and as you can imagine, had a fresh take on mostly every topic.

She was a happy woman who was proud of her journey. She had a great personality, an extraordinary relationship with God and the wit and wisdom of the sages. I drank from her spiritual cup often.

One day without invitation she said, “Samantha, people will always talk about you. But let ’em. Let ’em talk. They may be jealous, they may be intimidated, they may be afraid. God only knows, they may just be lonely. Most of the time they are just talking about you because they’re unhappy with themselves.”

“But that is their cross to bear, not yours,” she added. “Don’t worry about what others have to say about you, you just keep doing your best and looking straight ahead.”

Image result for gossip quotesI have carried that message with me since that day. Her words of wisdom seemed to immediately lighten my burden. I did care what others thought of me, and I did spend time second guessing myself because of it. I mean, at that age I just wanted to be liked, you know, by everyone. It didn’t matter though, because people still talked.

Mrs. Murphy’s advice arrived at the perfect time and prepared me well.

I started to worry less about what other people thought.

I tuned my ear to positive things and used time for more important ventures, like raising my child and planning our future. And they still continued talking.

I left that job after one year. Mrs. Murphy retired shortly after and we eventually lost touch. She gave me many more lessons within that time – from raising children, to finding my joy and then some. She reminded me to make the best out of my choices. She pushed me to give people something good to talk about, like success. She reminded me that life would provide me with my own share of burdens, no need to take on someone else’s.

Nowadays, I set my sights on what’s important. And I can only imagine that there are still people who are talking. I often hear Mrs. Murphy’s voice in my head, “That’s their cross to bear, not yours.”

Keep living and let ’em talk.