Monday, August 30, 2010

Be Fearless and Soar

I usually try to keep my dreams within city limits. In other words, if it’s in or around L.A., I’m with it. Don’t count me in, if it’s not. Any thought of packing up and leaving my family and everything else I know and love in L.A. has always been ephemeral. I thought about moving to Kentucky once until that little voice inside reminded me that I’m a Cali girl. Kentucky couldn’t handle me. I thought about North Carolina for a spell, but those darn Confederate flags on the fronts of pick-up trucks really piss me off. Then there was Atlanta. I thought about Spelman, but opted for CSUN because it was near my mom and dad.

This past weekend, I met a guy who totally blew my mind. His name is Brian O’Connell and he’s been in Los Angeles for 10 years. He moved here from North Carolina to pursue his acting dreams. Brian is headlining shows in Hollywood, he is amazing on stage, and above all he is happy because he is living his dreams. He is fearless and confident—a combination that has made all the difference in the world. If he had been unable to dream outside of North Carolina, he would have blocked so many of his blessings. He might not have ever realized the true extent of his passion and his love for the stage.

He might be doing something in technology or maybe he would have been teaching (two VERY honorable careers…I’m not at all knocking them), but he wouldn’t have been on a stage in Hollywood every week doing what he LOVES. He might have been tracking storms or sitting behind a news desk (again two VERY honorable careers), but he wouldn’t have felt the sensation of standing on stage and hearing the applause of a satisfied audience after he rocked an improv performance…

This past weekend I learned so much from Brian. I learned that if I want success and fulfillment, I can’t be afraid to take a giant step outside of my comfort zone. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean packing up and moving 3,000 miles away. Sometimes it can simply mean joining a group that I wouldn’t ordinarily join, or setting up coffee meetings with people I admire. Sometimes it means starting a blog and forcing myself to write and post something new every week. Sometimes it means boldly telling the world who I am and what I have to offer. It definitely means doing what I love.  Today I challenge myself to be fearless and soar…

No. Today I choose to be fearless and soar.

(Check out Brian O'Connell at

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It Happened for a Reason

When I was at Audubon back in ’95 I started to think about what high school I would attend. My home school was Dorsey, a school that I KNEW was NOT for me. Hamilton High was my first option. I had heard that they had the best music academy and at the time I didn’t think there was such a thing as life outside of the performing arts. I mistakenly wrote down the number for Hollywood Performing Arts Magnet on my Choices application and was accepted there. The problem was that there was NO part of me that wanted to attend Hollywood High. I had never even heard of Hollywood High before 1995.

I was devastated.

I begged my mother not to make me go to Dorsey. Although my sister had gone there 10 years earlier I didn’t want to. I didn’t think it was a safe place. After all, it was too close to the notorious Jungles (as seen in Training Day). Dorsey just didn’t match the image I wanted for myself. I pleaded with my mom to let me go to Crenshaw instead. She said no. She knew people at Dorsey and was confident that it would be a great place for me.

I cried and cried…

And then I cried some more.

4 years later I graduated from Dorsey (D-House) with honors, thousands of dollars in scholarships, great friends to last a life-time, and experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere else. It ended up being one of the most nurturing places with a staff who genuinely cared about the students’ success. The stats may not have been the best, but it was the perfect school for me. I was encouraged to pursue my dreams, to think creatively, and to demand success.

Looking back I see that God’s hand was all over my high school “mishap” turned blessing. Why hadn’t I checked (and re-checked) the numbers I wrote down on my Choices application? Why was my mom so opposed to me attending Crenshaw High? Why was Hollywood High so unappealing to me?

It all happened the way it did because it was in God’s divine plan for me to attend D-House! It was meant for me to be a Don. It was meant for me to be the Co-Captain of Pep Squad in 10th Grade, the school Mascot in the 11th Grade, and a Cheerleader my senior year. It was meant for me to be a member of Young Black Scholars, Knights and Ladies, Junior Statesmen of America, Choir, and Play Production. It was meant for me to participate in the Career Awareness Program and the Fox STAR Mentor program. It was meant for me to meet every student, teacher, mentor, and administrator that I met. It was meant for me to be in an environment that inspired and motivated me to soar. I am who I am today for many reasons, but one of them is because I was first a Don. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Romans 8:28

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Can Stand with You in Prayer (For My Children)

Somewhere along my journey I lost my ability to communicate my feelings openly and confidently to others. If someone hurt my feelings, I would close myself up in the back bathroom and cry. If someone upset me, I would close myself up in my room and sleep the anger away. If someone did something to offend me, I would try to find ways to deal with that person in a loving way without ever addressing the offense in hopes that I would eventually just “get over it.”

When serious matters arose in my life and forced me to make decisions about things that would affect me and many of my loved ones for the rest of our lives, I was so tangled in my own thoughts and so lost in my own emotional turmoil that my vision became more and more blurred. The line between right and wrong was vague. The distinction between things of significance and the small stuff that really didn’t matter became less clear.

I wrote in journals A LOT throughout my teenage and young adult years. I figured it was best to write in journals and deal with issues on my own than to talk with others—and I mean REALLY talk with others—who genuinely cared for me, wouldn’t judge me, would pray with me, and wanted what was best for me. The problem with that is that the enemy had a chance to get into my psyche and place some thoughts there that, when watered by me, grew into actions that I was not the most proud of and had consequences I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. I was so ashamed that I shut down even more. And I shut others out even more. My prayer life suffered. I felt guilty and unworthy to approach my Heavenly Father.

How could I pray for forgiveness when there was no telling if I would do the exact same thing again? How could I witness to others when I felt like such a sinner? How could I stand in front of God’s people when I had been so low the night before?

I could go so many directions with this, but I will stick with my original intention and address other points at a later time. For now I just want to say that while it is imperative that we have alone time with the Lord spent praying, listening to, and strengthening our relationship with Him, it is not a good idea to shut others out. God intended for us to have relationships, friendships and interactions with other people. We can draw strength and support from other positive people that He places in our life.

It is a trick of the enemy to convince us to cease interaction with other strong, positive people who are on fire for the Lord. He wants to get into our minds and make us feel terribly guilty and inadequate. Satan rejoices when we are isolated and stop communicating with God. He loves to watch us falling further and further into sin and moving further and further away from the Master.

Thank God He loves us in spite of ourselves. Thank God He continues to tenderly call out to us to return to Him. Thank God for His grace and mercy.

I want you to know that no matter what, I love you. I am here for you. I want what’s best for you. When I don’t know the answers I will tell you JUST that and pray with you through whatever situations may arise in your life. No matter how bad things seem, no matter how upset you think I will be, no matter how disappointed you are in yourself, you can ALWAYS talk to me. Chances are I’ve been where you are or know someone who has been who can provide spiritual guidance and sound counsel. Your life is yours to live. I can’t live it for you, but I can stand with you in prayer.

Friday, August 20, 2010

For My Daughters

God made you beautiful. He blessed you with amazing skin, captivating eyes, luxurious hair, and all the other things that make up “stunning good looks.” He fashioned you in His image and when He was finished He said, “It is good.”

Don’t ever allow yourselves to get caught up in society’s ideals of “beauty” captured in airbrushed images in magazines or by made up celebrities on television. You’d be surprised by the illusions a camera and some make up can create. Short people appear taller, skinny people appear thicker, old people appear younger. It is very deceiving. Some people look in the mirror, frown at what they see because it is so different than what is in the media, and turn to plastic surgery, unhealthy diets, and other unnatural means to alter their images. I pray this is never an issue for you.

Don’t allow the enemy to trick you into feeling insecure about the beautiful masterpiece God created you to be. The color of your skin, the color of your hair, the curve of your hips, the reach of your arms, the length of your legs—all of those things were determined by the Master before the beginning of time. He doesn’t make any mistakes, so there’s no way your lips are too big, or your hair too nappy, or your ears too pointy. You are just as you were meant to be. Stunning. Gorgeous. Uniquely beautiful, YOU!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Things That Make Her Happy

She doesn’t care anything about a day at the nail spa or relaxing at Burke Williams.

She’s not interested in dinner at a fancy restaurant.

She will probably fall asleep in the latest action movie.

She couldn’t care less about shopping sprees at the ritziest establishments.

Trips around the world don’t excite her anymore.

She will attend a musical, but she won’t care to understand it.

You can shower her with gifts but she’ll tell you to take them back if they cost too much.

It was when I figured this out that I was finally able to love her in her language.

An hour at a thrift store or flea market is exciting for her.

Spending time with her sister in North Carolina is relaxing to her.

Sitting at the kitchen table and having a conversation about roses means the world to her.

Playing a game of Trouble or sharing ice cream with her girls makes her feel special.

A lightly-seasoned home-cooked meal is her thing and she will brag about how great it tastes.

A thirty minute conversation with her oldest daughter or her only son makes her day complete.

An entire day outside selling goods at a yard-sale is exhilarating.

Washing her hair or oiling her scalp is the best way to pamper her!

A kind word from her husband makes her smile on the inside.

Taking inventory of her trinkets, polishing her silver, reading the first chapters of a book, taking notes in shorthand, dancing to her own off-key singing, clipping coupons, baking a home-made cake…

These are simple things and they are what matter most.

These are all the things that make her happy.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Percent Breakdown

Amari received a $100 check from her grandmother. She was so excited! Before she did anything with it, we sat down to discuss how it would be used: 10% for tithes, 10% to a charitable organization of her choosing (which she decided would go to provide toiletries for people on Skid Row), some to her savings account, and the rest could be used for whatever she wanted. She chose to put 40% in the bank and to keep the remaining 40% to buy all the things I normally say no to—candy, chocolate milk, unhealthy snacks, etc. I watched her. She spent her money VERY slowly. She made and revised lists and bought only the things she really wanted and only IF they were on sale.

What ended up bringing the biggest smile to my face was the fact that she decided to buy her little sister a birthday present with some of her money. We went to Babies R Us, just to look around, and she headed to the sales rack and found an adorable pair of pajamas on sale for 8 dollars. She insisted on buying them for Halle. I reminded her that she only had 11 dollars left at the time, and with tax, she wouldn’t have very much left once she purchased the PJ’s. “That’s ok,” she said. “I want to get Halle something really nice.”

Later on we had (yet another) little talk. I told her that I was proud of her. I told her to remember during her life that whenever she receives a financial blessing, she should ALWAYS tithe. It is a practice that she must make a habit even at a young age. That way it won’t be difficult when she gets older. I told her that she is always to use a portion of her blessing to bless another. I assured her that she would be blessed beyond measure for this. “Don’t give to receive, but understand that you will receive when you give. It’s just the way things work.”

I told her that she should always save and invest—not necessarily for a rainy day, but for financial freedom. (If I had begun as a child there’s no telling how far along I’d be.)

I’ll eventually throw in that a portion of her earnings/gifts should always go toward increasing her knowledge base, but for now I’ll cover the costs associated with that.

I admire that Amari stuck with her spending game plan. Although we didn’t put the $40 in the bank right away, she held on to it. She didn’t dip into it (as I may have if it were mine and sat around too long). She definitely has what it takes to do great things! She has tons of drive. She is focused. She knows how to prioritize. She understands beyond her years. She listens to my lectures and really tries to internalize my messages. She sets goals and achieves them! She is my little hero. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

When I was in elementary school, I was the featured singer in 2 or 3 concerts at my father’s church. It was a very special thing for me. One year there was a write up about me in the A.C.C., which is a newspaper distributed to African American churches throughout the city of Los Angeles to keep everyone posted on church events. I received a post-card from a random older lady who saw the A.C.C. write-up and said she was proud of me, happy that I loved the Lord, and wished me the best in my future endeavors. It was a VERY kind and encouraging gesture. She didn’t know me and had never even heard of me before the write-up, but she wanted to let me know that she supported me. I will never forget that. I don’t know her name and I misplaced the post-card, but I will NEVER forget her random act of kindness.

I hope I am able to encourage someone in the same way. Whenever I am presented with an opportunity to say a kind word or give a token to a young person who is doing something positive, I don’t let it pass me by. It may be my random act of kindness that keeps her moving forward and feeling great about herself…even 20 years later.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Love—what a wonderful gift from God! When I come home in the afternoon and see the smile on Halle’s face and hear the screams of excitement coming from her little mouth, I feel loved. When Amari runs to the door with a huge smile on her face and her arms stretched wide awaiting my embrace, I feel loved. When my mother meets me at the front door of her home, her eyes light up as she leans in for a kiss, and I feel loved. When my father tells me to “Hold my jaw” for a little “head sugar” I feel loved. When Shannon holds me in his arms and looks me in my eyes, I feel loved.

Each morning when I awake, I feel God’s presence. Every moment of each day, I can feel His tender touch as I see Him move in EVERY aspect of my life. I KNOW that I am His child. Because of His grace and unmerited favor I know that He cares for me. He is good! He is ALMIGHTY and with Him ALL things are possible. He has blessed me with far more than I deserve. In Him I find rest, peace, security, and comfort. He IS LOVE and He loves ME and His LOVE is the greatest feeling in the world. Knowing that a God so GRAND loves EVEN ME brings great JOY. Hallelujah.