2016: So far, so good

With the exception of being sick for what feels like a month, 2016 is off to a good start.

In January, I traded manuscripts with the best writing friend I could hope for. Reading her words has given me all the feels (envy, shock, and a little fear). Reading good writing and being allowed to accompany someone on their writing journey is a reward within itself. My advice for writers finding their way this year – find a GOOD writer friend. You will not regret it.

In my home life, I began the year by doing “double up” Sunday. Basically instead of cooking one dinner, I make two. Therefore we have dinner on Sunday and something to look forward on Tuesday. So far this has been working out well with my busy/travelling schedule. Last month, I also reconnected with another love of mine: baking. I had so much fun baking coconut muffins with my daughters. And bolstered by the deliciousness we stepped out I made some yeast bread.

Kitchen time is always revealing for me because it actually allows me to clear my head. There is something magical in putting a bunch of pinches and little things together and yielding something great. Cooking allows me to breath and reflect. This past month, I began to think about ways to improve my current manuscript and provide guidance on my current reading project.

What do you do when you are seeking clarity in your life? Feel free to share in the comments below. Also, if you happen to try the coconut muffins, let me know how you like them:)

2015 Reflections: My Writing

So this was supposed to be posted about a week (or 2) ago and thus this sums up how my writing went in 2015.

It was delayed multiple times. *sigh*

In my final reflection of things that transpired in 2015, I focus on my writing. I have to be honest, I really was not feeling my writing at the close of 2015. My mind and spirit was overwhelmed. I felt like I kept hitting a brick wall and nothing productive was coming out and finally the passion that I had for earlier projects JUST WASN’T THERE.

In terms of writing, here are the three major things I wrote in 2015:
1.  I worked on business writing – writing speeches, constructing social media campaigns, talking points, etc.
2.  I hit a wall in editing my finished SciFi and shelved it. I then started working on my MG. I got really gung ho during NanoWrimo but the fever only lasted up until the first day. I did some small edits throughout the month but nothing lasting. The story just stopped resonating!
3.  I blogged (minimally). My number of blog post in 2015 was 10 (and I took a blogging break between February and June). This was a major blogging slump for me.

In 2016, I want to find my passion again and I think I’m off to a good start. I exchanged chapters of both projects with my writing friend at the end of 2015 and became reignited. She has steered me back on the path of my SciFi project and we have exchanged novels. I’m actually EXCITED. Once I started reading over my work on this project again, I felt pulled back into this story and I cannot wait to give it another look and hopefully make magic happen.

Here’s to a productive 2016!

2015 Reflections: My Life

If you are still tuned into the blog – bless you! I love you for your support and for coming back on today as I reflect upon my life and more importantly lessons learned.

When looking back, I think my writer friend sums it up best: SELF CARE.

2015 literally saw me running all over the place via my main job, my side gig, and my home life. I learned that self care is not just about nails and hair (although these two are very important as my hair had some definite neglect), it’s about your overall well-being. I have narrowed down my personal highlights of 2015 into a top 3:

1. Passion Project: I reconnected to doing what I LOVE – Communications Consultant Work. I love being able to craft words and help people relay their story. Whether I do it on the political arena or for a little mom and pop that needs to build its brand, its where I feel the most alive. I really allowed myself to step outside my comfort zone in this area this year and subsequently in brought newfound swagger back to my life. I became my vocal about my abilities and more confident in my skill set.

2. Pescetarian Challenge: My health was failing from my amplified work load in 2015. I put on some pounds, was feeling tired and cranky, and just really started to feel not like myself. The end of the year, saw me rededicating myself to my health. In December I did a 21 day Pescetarian Challenge that saw me only eating veggies and seafood. I also cut back on my junk food snacking and huge desserts that were serving to comfort me in stressful time. Once a healthy stretcher and walker, I greatly decreased my activities during the fall. Thus in December, I began making a conscious effort to wake up early and meditate and stretch. HUGE RESULTS followed. January saw a 5 pound weight drop, increase in energy, and overall healthy feeling returning.

3. Feeling Pretty: Dang it,  I’m not old and decided to stop dressing like it. I changed to another department in my company that is a little more laid back and to be honest I really did not want to be here. But honey, I gave up the ghost and I wore heels like nobody’s business. I am also proud to say I have learned what clothing and shoe styles work for me. On the makeup front I tried some pink lipstick (not for me) but discovered purple tones were my thing!

Did you learn any personal lessons about yourself in 2015? What are you doing for YOURSELF in 2016? Share in the comments below.

2015 Reflections: (Harry) Potter Revisited

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I contemplated a lot over things I experienced, lessons learned, and great moments from 2015. As with every recent year, I feel I have learned a lot about myself and hope to use this knowledge to make great decisions in the new year. This week, I will share some of my 2015 reflections in regards to books, my life, and my writing. Today, I will start with my 2015 book journey.

2015 saw me tackling two projects: one a SciFi revision and the other a MG fantasy. My life was also really busy but I didn’t want to shut out my writing -however, I lacked the motivation to really make anything work. Thus, I gave myself two book challenges which entailed rereading The Twilight Saga and the Harry Potter series.

Both were like snuggling in a comfortable blanket. When life was hectic, it was nice to revisit books that I had enjoyed. In the case of Potter, it was great to read what I consider a “how to” of children’s lit. Below I have given you a book by book takeaway of my renewed thoughts on this series:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: This is the epitome of a great book and the ultimate “how to” in writing a great MG book. I love the way JK Rowling builds this world. Also shout out to the great literary tool of foreshadowing which now after I have read and re-read the series (and watched the ABC Family movie marathon), I wonder how I slept on some of this foreshadowing. For example in chapter 6 some great foreshadowing is laid about Quirrell (and the centaurs predicted the book 7 war).

Another great thing I enjoyed was there was a good build-up. We didn’t make it to chapter 2 and Harry already had his ragtime group of friends and things were great. No sir! We get to experience life at The Dursley’s, shopping for school, and the celebrity status – all before our dynamic threesome is fully formed in Chapter 9.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Is this where we truly realize how awesome Hermione is? I think so. I feel like people may have been a little “iffy” on Hermione in the first book but in book 2 I really JUST LOVED Hermione. I mean, I was actually shocked Harry was able to save the day thus I want to officially request another 7 book series just based on Hermione’s point of view. #puttingitoutthere

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Was this the filler book? Loved the introduction of Lupin, hated Pettigrew. I mean that is the takeaway from here to book 7 how much I just despise Pettigrew and maybe because we all know a Pettigrew. He’s lurking in the shadows at school, work, or even the mommy group just trying to be apart of things but never truly loyal to anybody. Ugh!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Cho Chang. The dark lord came back and stuff which I was all excited about the first time I read this book but during the reread – man Cho Chang! JK Rowling did a great job really showing Harry’s emotion and just really all the kids as they experience crushes and first loves.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Um, can we trade in this whiney kid who has taken over Harry’s body. If I didn’t have my own whiney, sulky teenager – and thus understood this sudden mood change – I would have flushed this book down the toilet like Ginny trying to flush Riddle’s diary!

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: I now hate Cho Chang and you have to understand that until recently I thought that JK got it wrong and Harry and Cho were truly meant to be but clearly the movies and my first time reading just masked that Cho was a little crazy! How the heck did I miss this!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Wow, so it just dawned on me that all of the authors of the marauder’s map are dead – like for real – that happened! I was not shocked about Dudley in this book. To me, Dudley was like Harry’s evil older brother and once you realize that your little brother may die or you will not see them again, the tears start and things get terrible. Younger siblings are just destined to get terrorized – sorry! rite of passage.

Revisit Potter for yourself and nab all the books via Pottermore.

What are your thoughts on Harry Potter? Have you revisited any series and had differing opinions of the characters? Comment below!

NanoWrimo 2015 Reflection

So here’s the dirty: I think I wrote for 2 out of 30 days but I actually prepped for about 2 weeks. I’m serious! I mean I marked up my existing draft, reordered pages, and figured out a plan for my writing.

So what happened? How did I go wrong?

Sadly its cliché but it’s my honest to goodness answer – I was busy. Work has been kicking my butt and this neglect in writing has also reflected a neglect in me. I have decreased my working out and not been taking good care of me (just ask my new expanded mid-section).

Writing, far from being the thing that could produce a book, gave me piece of mind by letting me imagine and dream and create words. It also allowed me a great avenue to blow off steam at society’s ills via my blog posts or writing crazy characters in my novels. However, things have changed and now I work long hours, come home, eat, treat myself to decadent desserts, and go to sleep. I am stifling myself mentally and physically and my hope and promise to myself is to do better – be better- in the new year.

How did you do on NanoWrimo and how do you balance writing and your life?

Holiday Magic?

My mother’s family lives in a small Mississippi town with a population of approximately 2100 people.

This small town housed me during the summer. It found me catching fireflies (or lightening bugs as we called them) and playing freeze tag until darkness caught me. As I got older and friends went away, the little town did not hold the same appeal and mannerisms about my family and the town’s inhabitants became more striking – especially returning in later years as a married woman.

Feminism

So, I honestly do not know how to define myself in this category but I hold one truth and it is strong – I am NOT catering to a man! It has always grated my nerves, holiday after holiday when we allowed the “menfolk” to come in the kitchen and get served first. I mean, the men folk did little more nowadays than watched television while myself and my aunts dredged up at 6 am to put turkeys and hams in the ovens and slaved all day so people could eat. I mean is this the olden days when women are keeping house – chile please. I work EXTRA hard and if I want the big piece of chicken and first crack at the chicken I’m dang sure going to get it!

Another pet peeve of mine, was that every one of my highly intelligent aunts and cousins (all medical professionals) seem to be “settling” for men because “it’s slim pickings.” What does this look like you ask? It looks like staying in a relationship with a man with 7 kids, one of which being a 6 year old child which you’re told you have no rights to raise – and frankly you don’t want to raise. But, when asked why not cut the relationship loose and see what else is out there you go – “the pickings are slim in these parts.” Or there are the little questions when I say I’m on work travel – “you ought to be happy your husband LET’S  you do that.” See, I don’t even have a polite comeback for that!

The Time Warp

My final straw came at the hands of a shopping excursion. While out gathering supplies for the night before Thanksgiving dinner (we like to eat!), I spotted a scene straight out of “The Help.” There is a young Caucasian woman in the store, ordering an African American lady around – speaking of items she needs in the cart for dinner. Yes America, she has a black servant lady preparing her holiday dinner. And that was it for me!

So, I don’t know about your holidays but I can truly say: each time I go home, I find more and more items for my potential memoir.

How is your writing going?

Monday Wisdom: On Clinical Research and Henrietta Lacks

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I often entertain the idea of becoming a doctor.

After becoming a mother at age 20, I (and dare I say even my family) doubted that I would ever finish college and medical school for a single mother was totally out of the question. However, I have worked in the medical field for over 10 years – in mental health, outpatient surgery, and clinical research. My time as a Clinical Research Coordinator strongly resonated with me as I read Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Oh my goodness. I had planned to write this blog post months ago and the time has constantly dragged because I honestly could not pull myself together. Never, have I read a book that shook me and had me question everything I knew about myself and more importantly my career in healthcare. THAT IS INDEED THE MARK OF A GOOD BOOK!

SOME BACKGROUND:

A few years ago, I interviewed for a Clinical Research Coordinator position at a local hospital. When I was in front of the PI (Primary Investigator), I was told that I was brought in specifically to recruit African-Americans. For one reason or the other, they were having a hard time recruiting African-Americans and the money they would receive to continue to research was contingent upon recruiting more African-American (males specifically).

Now I knew the history of Tuskegee, read all of the issues regarding vulnerable populations research, and just knew of the distrust involved in clinical research. Working in medical trials, the adverse events (side effects) of the drugs could be unbearable and deadly. In one trial I worked on, most of our patients were already deadly and the study drug would, at best, buy the patients another month or two but the potential side effects would make those extra months of life 10,000 leagues past miserable.

So as I sat across from the interviewer who singled me out due to my blackness and ability to recruit blacks. I was flabbergasted! The money was nice and the hospital would bring a certain level of resume credentials but I hurt because I didn’t want to used to lure in black men. No!

As I read the book, I found myself going through all those emotions again and dredging up some new ones. For example, when I read how staff just NEGLECTED to tell Henrietta and her family, what they were doing with her cells, I felt ill. I have been in the icky situation with doctors pushing me to drive up subject numbers and to recruit at all costs and watching if I become to “overly explain-y” or made things sound too horrible when explaining the research project. We had numbers to meet and research to conduct. Reading Skloot’s work did not surprise me because I have worked with many doctors like the John Hopkins doctors. I am saddened that there are still many like them in 2015.

Earlier this year, after a 2 year break from Clinical Research where it literally felt like recovering from a bad breakup, I interviewed for another position. As I walked through the hospital and felt how familiar it would all be, a sadness washed over me. While I know that future generations would benefit from any research finds, I still find that there are some doctors and nurses and medical staff, that are still very much like Henrietta’s. How can I reconcile myself with that?

Skloot’s book changed me because it reenergized my passion for health. While I may not be treating patients, I can teach students how to properly conduct research; I can educate the public on what to look for when approached for a clinical trial or any type of research.

My writing has also been re-energized. I want to find the best ways to tell a good, honest story. Because in the end, the story is what matters.