Wednesday, September 19, 2012
We all know what it's like to not have the work we've put into something go unappreciated. Though you might not do something for the praise of even the acknowledgement, it is still such a great feeling to have someone say through words or deed "Thank You."
As I was thinking about this issue of Conversations Magazine I couldn't help but think of all of the reasons we all have to be grateful for the gift that is life. That doesn't mean that everything is perfect in our world, but it does mean that we acknowledge just being here is a gift.
I recently finished a book called LIVING LIFE AS A THANK YOU by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons. It had this important message included in it: "Whatever is given — even a difficult and challenging moment — is a gift. Living as if each day is a thank-you can help transform fear into courage, anger into forgiveness, isolation into belonging, and another’s pain into healing. Saying thank-you every day inspires feelings of love, compassion, and hope."
This reminds me that not a day should go by without letting it be known that I am thankful for the opportunity to do something amazing each and every day. That is really the theme of this issue as we are celebrating the gift that is life. I have compiled an amazing array of individuals who are showing through the way they approach each day and the gifts they have that they truly appreciate the opportunity they have been given. As you will see, it doesn't mean that every day is easy or has the best results. It does mean, however, that their attitude towards life is that come what may they are going to do the best they can with what they have.
What about you? Have you been able to look beyond what you think you don't have and show appreciation for what has been given to you? When you wake up in the morning do you say "Thank You" for another day by the way you use it? This is the challenge all of us have as we maneuver through the world. It's not about always getting the best. The important thing is for you to bring your best to each and every situation.
Have a story you want to share with our readers? As always I would love to hear from you. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Living Life as a Thank You" in the subject line.
Until next time, happy reading!
Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Should love ever hurt?
It seems like such an unnecessary question, but in the time that we live in there are still those that feel as though they have to suffer in order to enjoy love.
Over the years I have had the honor of interviewing hundreds of individuals who talk with me about the abuse they endured at the hands of those who were supposed to love them or who at least said in words that they loved them. Some told me they stayed in relationships, because that was how they thought love was shown. Still others had their innocence destroyed by predators who took from them their dignity, their sense of self-worth and the understanding of what love actually is.
As a person of faith I am reminded of what the Bible says about love in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13: "Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked...It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth...Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NWT)"
This should remind us that love does not hold you hostage. It frees you. It is the greatest gift God has given us to feel, and no one should ever take that away from us---and this also means that we have to be careful who we give it to.
October is typically recognized in part for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Conversations Media Group and its parent company Shadow Play Entertainment takes it a step further and looks at all forms of abuse. Over the past few years we have used it as an opportunity to share the stories of individuals who have overcome abuse and made the journey from being a victim to a victor.
On Saturday, October 15, 2011 I hosted a panel conversation on the radio with abuse survivors Freda Emmons, Dr. Loren Due and Patrick Dati. They shared their very personal stories of abuse, and how they have been able to move forward and are now in a position to help others along the way.
In the discussion we focused on the following three points when it comes from making the transition from being a victim to a victor and survivor:
1) Speaking out. Not allowing the abuser to have to power over you by causing your silence.
2) Forgiveness. Even if it is something that seems to come slowly towards the abuser, making sure that you have forgiven yourself and refuse to blame yourself for what was done.
3) Knowing that you are not alone. Making sure that you take advantage of the support group available to you all around the world. This will also let others know that they are not by themselves and may aide in their speaking out as well.
What I have learned is that no matter what you have gone through in your life it doesn't have to define you. You can take steps today to emerge from the darkness of your past and truly enjoy the life in front of you. If you missed the conversation with these brave individuals you can listen to the podcast here: www.tinyurl.com/shouldloveeverhurt.
Interested in telling your own story on Conversations LIVE? Contact Cyrus Webb at email@example.com or at 601.896.5616. CONVERSATIONS: Feeding your love of life!
In 10th grade she was voted Funniest Person in class. Now an adult Roxy Rich is still making people laugh and doing it her own way.
The spunky comedian and author of the book ROXIE DOES RETAIL stopped by Conversations LIVE radio show in early September of this year and chatted with host Cyrus Webb about the journey and how she has been able to make a name for herself while sticking to her guns in the process.
Webb asked Roxy what it has been like to find her niche in the world and do something that she loves so much. She shared with the host and the radio audience that she has been able to put her own spin on comedy when it comes to how women look at the dating scene. "When I started doing dating material," she said to him, that is when it all clicked. "Going through my life I just found the humor in it, but I also wanted to educate people. It costs a lot to be a girl! You're faced with all these guys calling you a gold digger. I'm like 'Dude, do you know how much it cost to go on a date?! It's not a date. It's a job interview!'"
Roxy soon realized that what she was saying was not just funny but Dating 101. She had audience members (men and women) telling her that they were looking at things differently because of her routine. "It felt good to be actually enlightening people," she told Webb
During the conversation on the radio show Webb asked the comedian what she hoped people thought of her when they heard her name. Roxy joked about the first thing people probably thinking when they heard "Roxy Rich" was 'porn star.' She then said, "I want them to think I'm a talented and funny comedian... A lady who is educated and has something to say."
This response led Webb to ask if she felt as though there was more to prove being a female in the business. "Absolutely," Roxie replied. "As a woman people expect that you are not funny." She went on to say that women don't always get the same amount of stage time as men, and for some women there is a tendency to go vulgar to get the attention. "It's almost like you have to be a shock comic when you're a girl," she explained. This truth led her to take some time to figure out what she wanted to say as a comedian. There was also the question of how an audience would perceive her.
What was the solution for her? She says it took her about 15 years to really figure it out, but now she has definitely discovered her place by speaking for a lot of the female audience. "If I can just stand on this viewpoint that it cost money to be a girl, that's funny. My show is based on that viewpoint, but I do more than that." She then wen ton to say something profound: "It's not a new idea to find a good provider, but women are criticized for wanting that." It is being rationale while mixing it with a joke or two that is really giving Roxy the platform she wants. The rest is just her being who she is.
"You have to have love for yourself," she told Webb. "I have integrity. I know exactly who I am, and what I want to communicate. I just do what I feel I need to do. If I fall on my face it's on me, and if I make it then I know I did it. I'm not a household name yet, but I'm working on in it."
Success for Roxy Rich has gone from being a cocky 19 year old who thought that by 25 she would be starring in movies opposite Brad Pitt. "Now my idea of success is that I am working and being paid for my work," she told Webb. He assured her that there was still time for Pitt.
When giving her advice for all of us with a dream, Roxy says this: If you are true to yourself you are going to get somewhere." Loving what you do is key. "If you really love what you do no matter what hits you in your face, you can conquer it. "
Stay in contact with Roxy Rich and discover more about her book and her at www.roxyrich.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/comicroxy.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Recording artist Gutta Mane 601 is not just a rapper. He's an individual that has grown into himself and knows why he is here and what he needs to do in order to be successful in life. Though we are both from the state of Mississippi, it took Facebook to bring us together and now I'm able to share his story with all of you.
At the time we met he was promoting his single "Goin' Nuts" and during his stop by Conversations LIVE to promote it he shared a little bit more than the story of his music. He revealed his philosophy about life.
GUTTA MANE 601'S MOTIVATION: "Success doesn't come overnight. It's really a blessing from God. You have to be careful what you ask for and how bad you want it. I just came to a point when I didn't care what anybody said. It's all about expressing yourself. It's all about feeling the culture."
GUTTA MANE 601 ON THE GIFT: "I realized the gift actually this summer. God put a lot of challenges in my life. I realize that everything that happens to me is a story from God. I'm not just focusing on home (Mississippi) because there is a big world out there. I am living God's story. I just put my time and persistence in it. You can't do it overnight. It's on you to stay determined and brand your name."
GUTTA MANE 601 ON THE DREAM: "You are the only one that can see your dream through. You can't depend on anyone else to do the work for you. You have to do it by yourself. You are the mastermind of your life."
GUTTA MANE 601 ON PERFORMING: "It feels better than your first kiss. You can get your message out there to the world in the music. It's a picture that you are painting. I try to catch people, letting them know it's going to be alright. I don't just rap. I'm an artist that has feelings. It's on me to motivate people and after I catch their attention to have something to say."
Gutta Mane also talked about the importance of focusing on yourself and knowing who you are. This means you have to keep your eyes ahead and not keep looking backwards. "If you are constantly digging in your past you will never see your future," he told me.
It is this message as well as his music that he shares not just with those he meets in person but online as well. He understands that his being effective is tied to reach as many people possible. "The name of the game is to keep your name out there," he says. That is why he uses social media to the fullest and encourages other artists and entrepreneurs to do the same. Gutta Mane can't help but motivate you, and as he says "when you motivate people that is when you create a fan base."
Stay in contact with Gutta Mane 601 online on Facebook at www.facebook.com/guttamane601, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/guttamane601 and Youtube at www.youtube.com/601guttamane.
For Michael F. Blake of Chicago, IL being a writer may not have been the first thing on his mind growing up, but his life experiences have definitely shown that he had a story that was meant to be told.
Today he is the author of the book THE HOLY CITY, the first in a trilogy that takes readers inside the lives of two brothers (Marcus and Christopher) and their choices which can lead to the highest of highs or destruction.
Blake gave Conversations LIVE an exclusive first interview about the journey from pain to print, and he shared not only what it has been like for him to achieve what he has as an author but what he wants readers to take away from the story.
ON BEING PUBLISHED: "It's been kind of surreal to be honest, especially not thinking about being a writer early in life and having to go through some trials and tribulations in order to see the talent I never knew I had. To be in print is really amazing."
ON THE SUPPORT HE'S RECEIVED: "Just for your family and friends to see you doing things on the positive side is a reward in itself. They have really supported me, and the love being shown has been extremely overwhelming."
ON THE STORYLINE: "I always had a movie in my head, but it seemed I never had the time to jot it down or even think about putting it on paper. It was during the dark time in my life that it came to me to write it down. The story just started taking a life of its own. I let a few people read it, and they were intrigued and it really went from there."
ON MARCUS AND CHRISTOPHER: "For the brothers it was about survival. The characters come from a real place for me. THE HOLY CITY shows the downfall of the street life but it is also about the choices you make. It's obvious that Marcus makes a choice that doesn't lead down the right road, but he doesn't want Christopher to make the same choice. Marcus sees this as his brother's opportunity to do something. He might not be the best person, but Marcus' good side wants his brother to do better for himself."
ON THE LESSONS: "None of us have to be defined by where we are from. There are some positives that can come out of anywhere. Even coming up in a rough neighborhood you can still rise above it and find your place in life and the world."
Stay in contact with Michael Blake by "liking" his Facebook Fan Page and following him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mfblakeinc. You can also purchase autographed copies of his book THE HOLY CITY directly from his website at www.michaelfblake.com.
I have always believed that there are more things that unite us than divide us, and when I heard of the amazing story of a woman named Adrienne Arieff I found another living example of that fact.
Here is a woman that like so many in the world just wanted to start a family with her husband. After three pregnancies and three miscarriages, however, it became clear to them that they were going to have to find another way for their dream of becoming parents to come true. It is with that backdrop that the book THE SACRED THREAD unfolds.
We are able to see how Adrienne and her husband Alex began the emotional (and eventually physical) journey that the couple embarked on that would take them deep inside of themselves and eventually to India where life would begin for them in a brand new way. This book and their story is sure to illustrate for you exactly how interconnected we all are, and what an amazing gift life is no matter where it is found in the world.
Reading the book was one experience, but when I had the chance to converse with Adrienne on the radio show Conversations LIVE it brought an entirely new dimension to me as it relates to what she was willing to do in order to become a mother.
I began the conversation by asking Adrienne about the response to the book, and she told me how heartwarming it has been to get the letters, emails and phone calls thanking her for writing it. She told me that many have seen it as a "great resource" when it comes to examining "alternative parenting adoptions".
For me I had to ask how her relationship with her mother and coping with her death and how it influenced her own desire to be a mom and bring forth life. "I think with her she was such a force in my life that her being with me spiritually helped me stay strong," Adrienne told me. "I'm sure her passing had a lot to do with my wanting to become a mother."
This wanting did lead us around the world to India to not just a journey for parenthood but it became almost a spiritual pilgrimage as well during this difficult time. "I had gone to India with one thing in mind and something else emerges," she explained. "I had no idea that it would be so life-changing. That place has a lot of power on many people... It's something about the worth of the people there. Their priorities are really about family, taking it slower and being in the moment." Those were all things that became reflected in Adrienne as well.
Her story and her decision to have a foreign surrogate have not been without criticism, but Adrienne told me she "didn't write the book to change anyone's mind." This was her journey and her decision to make, but by sharing it she is definitely debunking some of the myths about India and the people there. "Many westerners assume that anyone (in India) who is on this economic poverty line must be terribly miserable. That's just not true," she told me "They are happy. They live a simple life."
In fact it seemed to me that there was much we could learn from how they were able to be content with what they have and the priorities they set for themselves. Part of this story is the dialogue I believe it creates, and in the end regardless of how they child get it's here the important thing is that the child (or children) feels love. Adrienne agrees. "Once the child is born there is not a lot of difference when it comes to loving a child.
"India gave me back that confidence and my ability to listen to my inner instincts and not to others," Adrienne said to me. It allowed me to have moments to get my confidence and faith in a really good place."
Adrienne's surrogate Vaina is also forever connected to her. At the close of the book she writes this: "We are forever connected by the sacred thread of our respect for each other, and our love for these children." It is that line of the book that sparked the headline of this article and the theme of this month's issue.
Thanks to Adrienne and her deeply personal journey we are reminded of what is important. All of us on this earth are connected as brothers and sisters, all originating from one source. Sometimes with all of the hatred and discrimination that fact is lost, but I believe that stories such as this can bring us back to what is important in life and what really matters at the end of the day. May we never forget what matters most: the importance of loving and living a life that reflects that love.
For more information about Adrienne and her book THE SACRED THREAD visit www.thesacredthread.com.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Growing up he dealt with bullying and being misunderstood, but recording artist Daniel Peter was able to stay focus and thrive thanks to the support of his Mom and Dad and friends. Today he has a worldwide following online because of his musical skills and he is celebrating the release of his single LEAVE ME ALONE.
When I first heard the song I knew he not only had a talent but that others would be brought in under his spell. That is exactly what has happened. When Daniel stopped by Conversations LIVE to discuss the release of the single and what the experience has been like for it he was quite excited about the impact the song was having. "It's been a great experience," he said. "Now I can share the things that are happening in everyone's lives. LEAVE ME ALONE is a song that everyone can relate to. "
Considering the encouragement he received at home, it is no wonder that Daniel Peter has found his calling through music. "When I was young my father always sang to me," he told me.
"I was interested in what he was doing, and I taught myself how to sing." His sharing his music online led to his being noticed on the popular site Youtube. "Now I'm on the road," he said, living a dream.
"I was kinda surprised when I was at the pool and a group of my friends was singing my song," he told me when I asked about what it has been like to have a song available for the world to hear and share. "I didn't know it would spread that fast." Though it has been a lot of hard work, Daniel is proud of the journey so far. "I feel very proud of what I have accomplished," he told me. "I have always wanted a chance to do something with my life." The interesting thing about his wanting to use his life for good is that it's not just about him. During the interview he shared that his father is fighting cancer right now, and Daniel wants to be able to help his father as well as others in need. "I want to make everyone feel loved. So many people don't get a chance. I want to let people know that there is nothing you can't do. "
Daniel told me that his quote is "Live your dream." He shares with his friends and fans the importance of not giving up. "Everyone can get a chance," he told me. "You got to keep going, no matter what anyone says or does. It's your life."
Find out more information about Daniel Peter at www.danielpetermusic.com. You can also find his Facebook Fan Page online and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/danielwpeter.
Walking the path meant for you is not always as easy as we might like it to be. There are sometimes obstacles that come our way and challenges that threaten us, but it is totally in our control whether we will press forward or allow the things that happen to us to affect who we are and the person we become.
Take Seth Mitchell. Some five or six years ago those who knew him for football would have thought that the injury he sustained would have ended his life as an athlete. Good thing Seth didn't believe that. Today he is a professional boxer that is literally kicking butts and taking names, and if you ask him he will tell you that he is just getting started.
Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell recently agreed to give me an exclusive for DC Now Radio's edition of Conversations LIVE, and it was an eye-opening discussion from beginning to end.
I began by asking him about what it has been like to have his dedication to boxing and his fans rewarded over the past four years. "It means alot," he told me. "In my hometown I had a big following because of playing football. To come over to boxing and have the success I've had is amazing. It definitely makes me want to work harder. I feel that the people want me to succeed. When they get to know me they see the kind of person I am. They see my character."
Mitchell had his football career cut short in 2005 because of an injury. For some that would have been their obstacle in the road. He sees it another way. "I call it the luck of the draw," he told me. "Up until that point I had never thought about boxing." That changed, however, when he saw a former college football player who had went into boxing and was good at it. Whether you see it as a coincidence or something more destined, it changed Mitchell's life and led him towards the path that he has now been dominating.
One of the main ingredients to Mitchell's accomplishments is the priority he has set for himself. On Facebook he let's it be known that he is a Christian first. Family man second. Boxer third.
"I don't claim to be the most holiest person out there," he explained. "I try to do the right thing. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated. I live my life right as an example for my children. Boxing is my profession, but it doesn't define me. I am defined by being a good father and husband and representing myself well." He then added this: "If you have those things in order you'll be ok."
That is the message he is sharing not just with his family but his fans as well. He wants those who have been following his career and who hear about him to know that you can accomplish your own goals in life if you remain dedicated, work hard and believe in yourself. "You can do whatever you want to do," he says. All you have to do is carry that belief with you.
Stay in contact with Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell through his Facebook Fan Page as well as on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sethmayhem48.
We have always heard that seeing is believing, but I think LaToiya Williams might just prove that wrong.
She has become a respected voice in the music industry before really being heard. It was her skills as a songwriter that got the attention of industry insiders and made her one of the go-to people in the business.
This year, however, that is changing as she releases not only her new single THIS LOVE IS SWEET but begins to promote her upcoming album. I had the opportunity to catch up with LaToiya on Conversations LIVE and asked her about the experience and the response to her lyrical abilities.
"It can be a bit overwhelming," she told me, "but it keeps me humble. I just want to give good music to my fans." And her fans definitely appreciate it. It is obvious that her words are a gift, one that she doesn't mind sharing.
So how did this all begin? Latoiya told me that she was singing her first song at the age of two, but it was at the tender age of four that she knew this was what she wanted to do. "I was going around the house singing and singing in the choir," she says. The dedication to it paid off, and at the age of fifteen she was singing background for Yolanda Adams. The rest as they say is history.
Latoiya says it is her faith in God and in her gift that has been the key to her longevity. "Being true to your gift and your character speaks a lot for itself," she relates. "My mother raised me to have respect for myself and other people. That, and the believe in my craft has kept me here Without God I would have given up a long time ago."
Among those who LaToiya associates with on a regular basis are the people who support her career, namely her family, friends and fans. I was surprised to learn, though, that the idea of fans was something somewhat new to the artist. "I honestly didn't know I had fans until Youtube," she says with a laugh. "To go online and see all of the responses...it's like wow! You can get stuck in a studio and you don't see the outside. Thanks to the internet I am able to communicate with my fans and see I have people out here who loved me and wanted me to keep going. If I have all those people pulling for me I don't want to let them down. It's because of them that I am still making music."
For LaToiya Williams music is more than just about the recognition. It's about what is your real motivation. "Regardless of if I don't get a Grammy or an award I'm going to keep singing," she says. "I have always been a firm believer that you don't have to sell yourself in order to get whatever God has for you. Focus on your craft and not the glitz and the glamour. That is the key to real success."
If THIS LOVE IS SWEET is any education, LaToiya has the keys needed to continue open doors for her career. Stay in contact with her and what's next at www.latoiyawilliams.com.
Here’s a quick and easy tortilla pizza my then 10 year old daughter taught me years ago that kids can make on their own safely for either a snack, lunch or dinner.
Preparation Time: 1 minute
Cooking Time: about 45 seconds
Favorite Tomato Sauce
Grated (or sliced) Mozzarella Cheese
Favorite Pizza Topping
Microwave Oven Safe Plate
Potholder or Folded Dishtowel (not really necessary because plate won’t get that hot)
1. Lay a tortilla on a microwave oven safe plate, and use a tablespoon to spread a thin, even layer of tomato sauce over the entire tortilla.
2. Cover the sauce with grated cheese and either leave it as is or top half the cheese with your favorite pizza topping.
3. Quickly and carefully fold the tortilla in half.
4. Put the tortilla pizza in the middle of the microwave oven, and cook using HIGH heat or 100% power for 45 seconds. NOTE: Cooking time may vary depending on microwave watt output power.
5. Use a potholder or folded dishtowel, if needed, to remove the cooked tortilla pizza from the microwave oven. The tortilla pizza is done when the cheese has melted.
6. Use a table knife to cut the tortilla pizza into 2-4 pieces and serve warm.
For visual help with this recipe, you can go to the Gotta’ Eat, Can’t Cook website at www.gotta-eat.com. Just click the “recipe menu” tab from the banner in the middle of the homepage. Click “Kid Friendly Recipes”. Then click the picture of “Tortilla Pizza” to download the step-by-step picture book recipe all entirely for free.
With such great, fresh ingredients like those you see below, there’s no need to top this salad with a lot of dressing, though a good shot of balsamic vinegar, with its evenly balanced and full-on sweet & sour flavor adds a great shot of zest!
Preparation Time: 5-10 minutes
1 Large Tomato
Handful of Fresh Basil
Balsamic Vinegar (optional but adds zest)
Ground Black Pepper
Sharp (Chef’s) Knife
1. Rinse and shake dry 1 large tomato and a handful of fresh basil.
2. Carefully use a sharp knife to make a cone-shaped cut at the top of the tomato to remove the tough, fibrous stem patch. Cut the tomato into slices 1/4-1/2 inch (6-12 mm) wide.
3. Pinch the basil leaves from their stems with your thumb and forefinger. Then bunch and hold the basil to the cutting board with curled fingers, and cut the leaves into pieces 1/8 - 1/4 inch (3-6 mm) wide. Finish by chopping the basil coarsely into smaller pieces.
4. Cut the mozzarella cheese into slices about 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide.
5. Assemble the salad by layering a tomato slice with sliced mozzarella and chopped basil and repeating until you’ve used all the ingredients.
6. Finish with light drizzle of olive oil, a light dusting of both salt and ground black pepper, and an optional but fully flavorful shot of balsamic vinegar.
You can get complete easy to follow step-by-step picture book directions by going to the Gotta’ Eat, Can’t Cook website at www.gotta-eat.com. Just hover over the “Salad and salad dressings” tab on the banner in the middle of the homepage. Then click the picture of “Tomato Salads” and click the picture of “Tomato, Fresh Basil & Mozzarella Cheese Salad” to download the step-by-step picture book recipe all entirely for free.
Initially, my message was aimed at the folks ages eighteen to thirty. I soon realized that the faces of today’s college students extend beyond that range; what a blessing.
As you prepare for the upcoming school year, you will be faced with challenges and many may appear to be more taxing than they actually are.
My goal is to provide you with tools that are aimed to empower. Several students’ emailed questions and I will share with you my responses to a selected few:
I will be attending a large university, what if I’m overwhelmed by the campus size: To lesson possible anxiety, sign up for a college tour, make several visits to the campus ahead of time, route out your classes and get acquainted with the college grounds prior to your first day of class.
I’m not sure if I can do this. I may not be intelligent enough: Stop the self doubt. You would not be on that campus if you could not cut it. Brilliance is born every day and it does not have a pre selected zip code. You did the work and earned the right to be on that campus. Believe in your greatness.
I’m attending college out of state, I don’t know anyone: I can recall my first day of Grad School. I was nervous and as soon as I entered my first class, a young lady with the most beautiful smile came up to me and stated, “Hi, I’m Adrienne.” She and I continue to share a beautiful friendship. Trust that GOD will place the “right” folks within your life. Also, you will be placed in situations that will force you to connect with others (special projects, study groups, work study programs, social organization…etc).
I’ve always had problems with setting aside time for my studies: It’s about creating a “FINE BALANCE”. Setting aside time for studies must become a priority. Achieving this may require that you let go of some of your prized extracurricular activities but you will adjust. That time will be filled with the educational investment you are making in yourself.
I’m in my forties and returning to school after a long absence. What if I become frustrated, unsure and overwhelmed: First, accept the reality that at times you will feel frustrated, unsure and overwhelmed. To feel those emotions is perfectly normal.
- Arm yourself with a strong support system
- Utilize Campus supports (Counselors, tutoring services, therapeutic services to assist in the processing of feelings and to aid in the development of coping skills if needed)
- Post affirmations reminding yourself that you are deserving and have within you the capacity to achieve greatness
Will I have professors who are sensitive to my needs and how can I ensure that my needs are met: First and foremost, it is vital that the expectations are understood. In addition, they should be outlined in the class syllabus. If you do not understand the expectations, meet with your professors; their office hours should be posted. I must note that even if you understand what is expected; meet with your professors anyway. Trust me when I state my professors knew Mary E. Gilder. They knew that I was dedicated and serious about my education. Building a positive relationship with your professors will pay off tremendously.
Please provide tips for organizing myself:
- A Large wall calendar
- A Planner for the entire school year
- An organizer. Organize materials by class
- Find a special spot that is soothing and will nurture your creative flow. Retreat to that location when you need to work on projects or relax your mind
- Most importantly, accept that this is your way of life for the next Semester. Take it one day at a time. Make it fun and embrace this great journey
Remember, if those who came before you rose to the occasion, so will you. Regardless, of your age, this is an amazing adventure. As you stroll across that campus lawn and pave the pavement, never forget that this is not for nothing. And for the more seasoned students, the forty over club, stop feeling as though you are too old. It’s never too late to go out and claim your goals. If self doubt should creep in, tell yourself, “I can do this, I can do this.” Post affirmations and have your cheer leaders because you will need them; we all need cheer leaders.
Finally, when your work load is outrages and you wonder if it’s all worth it, visualize your family and friends cheering in the stands as that Degree is placed in your hands. And the pride you will feel in knowing that you have found within in you the courage to step out on FAITH and claim your destiny.
Love, Peace and endless Joy, Mary E. Gilder
I am a voracious reader; I come by it genetically and by inclination. My favorite genres focus on transformation, spirituality, sexuality, sci-fi, relationships, and the lyrically (and sometimes quirkily) poetic. A few years ago I picked up a book that contained almost all of the above. Within short order, this travelogue of the heart that took the writer on a one year journey to Italy, India, and Indonesia became a worldwide best seller. Eat, Pray, Love was penned by author Elizabeth Gilbert. Immediately attracted to the familiar, conversational style with which she draws the reader, I felt as if I was being carried along for the ride without need for passport or inoculation.
I attended a presentation that Liz offered in New Hope, PA. The topic touched me to my core, since it was as if she and I were sitting face-to-face exploring the nature of creativity. She waxed both philosophical and practical about the ways in which our ideas come. One particular concept that latched hold was that while those of us who write, sing, dance, paint, draw, and design may believe that it is we who are creating, we are really the servants of the creation. Our artistry comes through us and not from us. I often state emphatically that “my writing writes me.” It uses me as a vehicle and voice to find its expression in the world. In spiritual terms, I sometimes say that I am God’s Typist, and as 13th century ‘ecstatic’ Sufi poet Rumi refers to it—a “hollow reed.”
I find inspiration EVERYWHERE! It can be while cleaning a closet, sweating at the gym, in conversation with a friend, driving on a highway, reading someone else’s words, writing my own, floating deep in dreamland, or meditating. It arrives in unexpected ways and from unanticipated sources. I welcome it from wherever it has traveled to make its way to my door. According to wikipedia, “Inspiration refers to an unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or other artistic endeavor. Literally, the word means ‘breathed upon’.” I like the idea of being breathed by the Divine.
I was listening to the radio in the car last week and Rod Stewart burst forth with “Every Picture Tells A Story.” He grabbed me and took me on his worldwide whirlwind that was far grittier and less poetic than Liz’s trip, but along I went. It occurred to me that not only does every picture tell a story, but every story paints a word picture. Although I used to claim that I wasn’t an artist, I can now retract that statement. As a writer, I have been told by readers that I do indeed paint word pictures into which they can step, dance, drift, or dream.
When I set fingers to keyboard, I can imagine—eyes closed of course—that I am holding in my hand the wisp of a paintbrush. Sometimes dipping it into subtle colors, I more often plunge it into outrageous-jumping-up-and-down-look-at-me vibrant hues that splash across the paper begging to soak them up. Whew! Just typing those words gives me an intake of breath and causes butterflies to dance within …
So, I ask you:
What creative force within you is calling out to be recognized?
Have you answered the call or told it nobody’s home?
How have you squelched your creativity?
How have you celebrated it?
Edie Weinstein a.k.a. Bliss Mistress is a work in progress, like everyone else on the planet, an opti-mystic who sees life through the eyes of possibility, a colorfully creative journalist, who has interviewed some of the most amazing transformational teachers on the planet, dynamic motivational speaker, interfaith minister, licensed social worker, Bliss coach, and PR Goddess. Edie is a frequent guest on radio shows and writes for numerous blogsites and publications and invites people to live rich, full, juicy lives. She is also the author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary. www.liveinjoy.org
Seventeen-year-old Anya Preschnikov dreams of one day becoming a famous actor, but she's faced with two problems: her one-parent, dysfunctional family neglects her and has no money to support her, and at school, she's the target of her peers' contempt. Anya believes that in order to secure her stepping stone to stardom, she must dress like the rich girls and be surrounded by a large network of friends. All of this changes, though, when Maria Hernandez comes to Peach Valley Senior High. Rebellious and headstrong, Maria instantly gains the acceptance of her peers - yet she sees in Anya what everyone else does not: her physical beauty and immense talent. So when Maria extends her hand of friendship, Anya is elated. Her lifelong dream seems like it's about to become a reality - until it falls short one Saturday night at a party when a boy's rude comment sends her into a rage.
Desperate to belong somewhere, Anya and Maria set out to find new friends outside of school. They soon meet Alex and Marissa, a young couple who eagerly welcomes them into their world of parties and drugs. Anya and Maria soon learn that Alex is a drug dealer, but they're so lured by his wealth and aggressive confidence that they can't resist his friendship. What they don't know is that Alex's gang is at war with a rival gang - one run by Anya's older brother, Adrik - until a deadly incident puts their lives in danger's path. To make matters worse, Alex refuses to let Anya and Maria out of his sight.
And now an excerpt of TO BE MARIA....
Anya wakes, startled by the loud, repetitive beep of her alarm clock. In a daze, she reaches over to the small night stand and slaps the stop button. She groans, her tired eyes half-closed, while she slips out from underneath the old, but comfortable blanket.
Great. I'm so tired. If only I had two more hours - but no. When there's no school, there's work, and that's even worse. I hate that I have to get up at five-thirty every Saturday and Sunday morning. My manager always gives me the worst shifts.
Anya shuffles over to the closet. Unlike most other girls in school, she never rummages through the closet in search of the perfect outfit. She rolls her eyes.
Oh God, here we go again: the same jeans, faded tank-tops, baggy T-shirts, and sweatshirts. I can't wait until the day comes when I throw away these ugly clothes. I just wish I had the money to buy new clothes, fashionable clothes. Maybe then I'd fit in at school.
Anya traces her finger over the delicate cloth of her one and only bohemian-style summer dress. Even the dress is a hand-me-down, worn by her mother back in the 1970s. But it‟s the only piece of clothing she loves; unfortunately, it's still too cold outside to wear it.
Thank God for my imagination. I don't know what I'd do without it.
The things Anya enjoys the most are brushing her hair and writing in her journal. These are the only times she can let her imagination take her away from home. She can pretend to be anything - anything but herself.
Anya rakes her slender fingers through her long hair.
Today, I'm the daughter of a wealthy architect, so I'm going to wear a pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans and a green peasant top, the revealing one. Then I'll put on that expensive necklace and those silver hoop earrings that Mom bought for me yesterday.
Anya frowns at her clothes. Ugh, who are you kidding, Anya? Why even waste your time pretending to have something when it makes you even more unhappy to realize that you don't have it?
To get her mind off her clothes, Anya looks at her mother's photograph, the one that always sits on top of the nightstand. Every time she looks at the photograph, she studies her mother's features. Her father used to tell her that she looks so much like her mother, Ana Preschnikov, but until now she never gave it much thought. Anya now realizes why her father used to call her Ana. Ana - who must have been in her early twenties when this photo was taken - boasted the same long, caramel brown hair, chocolate brown eyes, petite, heart-shaped face, slender nose, and smooth, cream-colored skin. Anya often wonders what life would be like if her mother was still alive. It has been so many years since she passed away that Anya has forgotten what it's like to have a mother. Sometimes she dreams about her mother, longing for the comfort of her tender arms and loving words.
Her eyes eventually shift away from the photograph to the journal sitting on the floor in front of the nightstand. The front and back cover is of a soft blue and leather. She received it as a Christmas gift from her best friend, Patrick, a little over one year ago. Since then, she's filled it with her thoughts until only a few empty pages remain; she‟s planned to leave those pages blank until she purchased another journal - something she‟s decided to do after work this weekend.
"Oh heck, I can't wait until the weekend. I really need to clear my mind," she whispers. She changes into a T-shirt and a pair of jeans, grabs the journal off the floor, then walks over to the kitchen.
The kitchen is messier than usual. Two of the cupboard doors are left open, the sink is filled with dirty dishes, and the counter is littered with stale food, wrappers, cutlery, and cups half-filled with juice. As she bites down hard on her lower lip, she can feel the red creep up her neck and over her face.
Why doesn't my dad clean up after himself? Why does he expect me and Sophia to clean up after him all the time? She sinks into the nearest chair, breathing out a long, angry sigh. Her stomach growls, warning that if she doesn't eat she'll spend the entire day tripping over her words and suffering from exhaustion and a bad headache - something she‟s endured several times in the past.
Anya leaves her journal, then walks over to one of the open cupboards. As predicted, it‟s empty - save one box of macaroni and cheese and a package of Mr. Noodles. Anya shuts the door, then peers into the next cupboard; all that remains in there is a box of Cheerios. She grabs the box, realizing that it's more than half-empty but thinking that it should be enough to satisfy her until lunch.
Deanna Proach is the author of two novels: Day of Revenge (Inkwater Press) and To be Maria (PULSE). When she's not writing novels, Deanna is actively involved in her local theatre community as an actress, and she's learning the art of medieval sword fighting. You can find out more about her and where you can purchase her books at desstories.blogspot.com.
The novel opens with the protagonist, Ursa Corregidora, being stalked by a jealous husband who throws her down the stairs and causes her to lose her “womb.” Within the tale Gayl Jones constructs, this introduction is mild compared to the agony and ecstasy that follows. Nothing that occurs in the novel is expected.
“I knew you was gonna come out a girl even while you was in me. Put my hand on my belly, and knew you was gonna be one of us. Little long-haired girl on my lap. You come out baldheaded though. They just kept looking at me, Mama and Gram. I knew they hated me then. Cause you come out all baldheaded. White skin before you got the little pigment you got now, and baldheaded. They hated me, but then your hair start to sprout, and get real long. I used to put a little ribbon on your head so people would know you was a girl . . . I knew you’d be a girl. I knew my body would have a girl” (117).
A talent of Gayl Jones’ is to being able to place a reader in the moment of the scene; one is dropped into the life she creates and forced to fin for ones’ self. Corregidora is 185 pages of family trauma, love, sex, and survival.
Tony Lindsay is an award-winning author and adjunct professor at Chicago State University. His new book ONE DEAD DOCTOR is available now on Amazon.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tony.linssay2.
This was my first book in Elizabeth Zelvin's DEATH Series to read, but it was one that definitely makes me want to know more about the characters readers get a chance to meet.
Zelvin gives us individuals who have learned to address their personal demons and now are in a position to not only help others but use their abilities to solve a crime or two in the process.
Bruce Kohler and his friends find themselves in the middle of a mysterious set of circumstances while in the Hamptons, and it falls on them to figure out not only what is going on but who is not exactly what they appear to be.
There are so many layers to this book that will draw readers of various genres in. There is the mystery that I mentioned, and those who like a little suspense and drama will appreciate that. There is also the complexities of not just Kohler and his friends Barbara and Jimmy but those they meet in the group house that will keep your attention. They are imperfect individuals trying to make the most of life, not always being able to succeed.
DEATH WILL EXTEND YOUR VACATION comes to life for the reader because of the way the author is able to draw you in with the storyline and the characters. Once you start reading it you will definitely be hooked, and what more could a reader want from a book!
Find out more about Zelvin and her other work at www.elizabethzelvin.com.
In 1984, Frank Robinson was a young minister serving in southern Alabama, when word got out that he was engaged. It would be an interracial marriage, which quickly became a local controversy, both scandalous and dangerous. This marriage was announced not long after a lynching in one of the neighboring areas. For safety, their first child was born across the state line. Frank began to understand that if he did not survive, his wife would be left a widow and his son without a father. With this in mind, he began to write letters that would survive in a book. He intended to say the things a father should say and to equip his son to live a meaningful life. Further, even when this son was so young, the letters were written as to a man, so that when the boy became a man, he could have this book. This father writes about identity, character and the timeless responsibility of men and fathers. He speaks of courage as one faces life, hardship and injustice. He tells his son of perseverance, humility and faith, of how to deal with disappointment, criticism, and so much more. These letters were written over years and through seasons of difficulty. The author reminds his son to never forget what struggle is like.
This book tells of a unique and interesting journey. The mixed race son has grown up, is now married, a new father and a military officer, who serves his country during a time of war. In 2011, about twenty five years after the project started, Frank Robinson gave the hand written original book of letters to his son, who has already begun to write letters to his own child. The author has read a few of these letters to some scarred and damaged people. He found the words he wrote to his own son, were medicating to the sons and daughters of others. Further, these letters may help the reader to see the world a little differently and possibly to find a better self. This work is heartfelt, moving and refreshing, ultimately a rich, deep and encouraging piece of literature.
LETTERS TO A MIXED RACE SON is available on Amazon.com.
CONVERSATIONS BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Through Frank Robinson, Jr.'s LETTERS TO A MIXED RACE SON We Better Understand Our Own Place In The World
There are so many things in the world that seem to separate us. For many race is the one thing that makes us different, but in Frank E. Robinson, Jr.'s book LETTERS TO A MIXED RACE SON we are able to glean the importance of who we are instead of what we look like.
In a series of letters to his son that span over a decade, we are able to read how the father shares not only his thoughts about his son but the lessons he has learned along the way. Robinson's faith leads us to remind his son of the importance of being authentic and true to himself and respecting all life. There are personal areas of the book where we see how the father deal with challenges in his home, but writes that he tries his best to shield his son from the worries that sometime cloud the household. We are also able to see how the father is able to share God's word with his son in a way that is practical and not preachy or condemning.
One of my favorite lessons comes in a letter dated July 18, 1990. Robinson writes this: "A good name...is worth protecting. I am what God has called me to be. I am who He has made me to be and I have what He has given to me. My definition involves Him. Another person's labeling of you or me may or may not be accurate. So what? I know who I am."
That is something all of us can take away from this heartwarming account. It is the heart and all that comes from it that matters. That is what we should focus on, and in the end that is what will sustain us through the difficulties that we face.
No matter where you're from or what you look like, Frank Robinson, Jr.'s LETTERS TO A MIXED RACE SON helps us better understand our own place in the world---and we are better off because of it.
Transformation is something that is beautiful to watch, but may seem like something for others to enjoy and not ourselves.
We have amazing examples of how the caterpillar turns into the colorful butterfly, and we might ask ourselves is it really possible for us to go through a change that dramatic. Denise Jones shows that the answer is a resounding YES.
In her book WHO SAID IT COULDN'T BE DONE? she takes you through her amazing journey of not just self-discovery but what it means to truly love yourself and know that you were created for a purpose. She didn't come from the best of circumstances, and vices of all sorts were all around her. For a time Denise was a part of the world's darkness. She writes in her book: "I could feel myself changing inside. My emotions, my desires, my cravings: they all turned dark." She adds this: "I was insatiably addicted to living life fast...I yearned for it; I needed it. The part of me that longed for the Brady Bunch lifestyle no longer existed. Darkness emerged from a long sleep and took control of my life."
That darkness included death and times when her own life was in danger due to decisions that she made. Denise got to a point where she seemed to welcome the closure that death seemed to offer. She writes this: "I often wanted to commit suicide. Life, and the cruel reality of it, was something I no longer wanted to deal with. I deliberately tried to overdose several times, but each attempt failed. Since God wouldn't allow death to have me, having no other choice I continued to do what I did best: get high."
So what changed? Through a series of events Denise was able to see that God loved her and wanted something different for her life. It wasn't easy, but that was the purpose that caused her to make the needed changes, and the result is the person who has chronicled her story.
In the book we also read accounts from those who knew her before and after the transformation. They talk about the transition that Denise experienced, giving us all a firsthand glimpse at what is possible for us.
Inspiring and full of hope, WHO SAID IT COULDN'T BE DONE? is the kind of book you need if you have been told what is impossible in your own life. This book allows you to see that Grace has no favorites and you are able to live a life of purpose and happiness if you choose.
Through sharing her story Denise Jones shows not only what can be done in our own lives but how our change can affect others as well.
Find out more about author Denise Jones and her book at www.authordenisejones.com.
Discover more about Cheeseland at www.cheelandthebook.com.
CONVERSATIONS BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Randy Richardson's CHEESELAND Reminds Us Of The Preciousness of Life
There's nothing better than being able to enjoy your youth and make the most of time you have growing up. I think all of us would agree that when you are young it is almost expected that there will be some antics that get you in trouble, but you can use them as learning opportunities for the future. In CHEESELAND, however, we are also able to see that even in youth there are issues that can fester and grow and cause you to lose hope for anything better.
Author Randy Richardson introduces us to Lance Parker and Daniel McAllister, two young people who have had their share are great times but when a friend ends his own life there is something that seems to end with them as well. To help them find their way back figuratively, the two decide to take a literal road trip. What happens along the way and years later will not only threaten their friendship but their very lives as well.
This book is one of those coming of age stories that although full of good times and laughs carries the seriousness that comes with life and decisions we face. Told in Daniel's voice we are able to take this "ride" with the characters, get a better look at how they deal with situations but also understand how they get to where they end up.
Richardson takes us through the trouble in the home that spills into the trouble in life, creating a cocktail that seems doomed from the beginning. Daniel seems to take the hits and move forward, but Lance doesn't seem as fortunate. You will not only feel these characters. I believe you will see them as friends of your own.
Delivered with skill and captivating from beginning to end, CHEESELAND rmeinds us of the preciousness of life and the importance of making the most of each and every day.
Friday, September 7, 2012
Though I would definitely not win any awards or special recognition for my moves on the dance floor, when it comes to celebrating life I don't mind moving to my own beat.
This issue of Conversations Magazine is all about knowing when it is time to step out of line and doing what it is that not only fulfills you but gives you real joy as well. Each of the features are individuals that regardless of their field they have found ways to not only make a difference but give a tangible example of what it means to live our lives on purpose.
Kenny Lattimore graces the cover of this issue and sets a standard for what it means to know where you believe and why you are here. His conversation is one that will not only surprise you but inspire you as you find your own way. Then there is celebrity jeweler Mark Lash. He has gone from creating jewelry in his parents' basement to seeing his unique designs on celebrities around the world.
For those fans of the hit show Braxton Family Values we have Towanda Braxton sharing not only wisdom but her key to finding real happiness. There is also Keny Cohen, a designer that has allowed her own personal taste and style to make women look and feel beautiful.
Regardless of what article you read, I think you will see the advantage of not allowing fear to keep you from stepping out of line and paving the way to not just your happiness but that of others. As our features share it's not easy to do all the time, but it is definitely worth it.
Have a personal story you want to share about how you are dancing to the beat of your own drum? I would love to read it and share! Email it to me at email@example.com or post it on our website. Keep in mind that we might use your comments in a future issue of Conversations Magazine.
Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine/Conversations with Music/Conversations Model Citizens
On August 3, 2012 the world was introduced to the new single TALK ABOUT IT from recording artist/actor Camero. I had already given the listeners of Conversations LIVE a sneak peek of the single when I welcomed him to the show, however, now the world was to see the talent and skills of a young man who is truly living out his dreams.
"I can say that as quickly as things have happened I'm just enjoying the ride," Camero told me. Prior to the release he had already gotten attention for his vocal ability in his single WATCH ME and from his role in the BET show REED BETWEEN THE LINES. "I'm very proud to have found something like Reed Between The Lines and then be able to focus on my music. It's been great to hear the response that I have gotten so far. So rewarding."
Some might look at Camero and wonder how this has been able to happen to him. It's very obvious, though, that there would have been no other path that he would have taken. "I have always known there is something inside of me that would lead me to do great things one day," he says. "Something great was going to come out of it. My mother and grandmother always encouraged me to shoot for the stars. Because of that I knew I had to do me whether people like it or not."
One of Camero's strongest areas of support can be found through his social media family. I asked him how that has played a part in not just how he views his success but where he finds encouragement as well. "I can honestly say that the online community has been huge in my confidence to give the best of myself," he told me. "I could have never braced myself for the response I've gotten. For them to pay attention and want to know exactly who I am and what I'm doing means alot. That's why I try to respond to every tweet and every post. You got to remember that those people who are supporting you want to know that they matter. We would be nothing without that following."
Being a part of an industry that tries to conform you to its idea of how you should live your life, I asked Camero what keeps him from losing himself. "It's home," he answered. "Family brings me right back to where I need to be. Their honesty keeps me grounded and allows me to understand that I'm not perfect. There is also the realization that what comes quickly can go just as fast. It goes back to being thankful and always appreciating what people are doing for you."
When people look at how he is using his life and the music he is creating, Camero told me that he is already looking ahead to his legacy. "There's alot of music out here today that is not giving us something to focus on in general," he says. "It results in alot of behavior that is not conducive to making ourselves better personally. I think we need more of that in music. I put a little bit of thought in the music to give you something to think about. You might enjoy the best, but you're understanding what I'm saying as well. By listening I hope it makes you a better person. That's my goal. I want to draw a purpose to everything that I create no matter what it is."
To stay in touch with Camero follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/iamcamero. You can also like his fan page on Facebook and visit his website www.iamcamero.com. His single TALK ABOUT IT is available where you get your music online.
There is no substitute for hard work and dedication. When you are living in alignment with your divine purpose, there will be continual blessings showered upon you that seem almost beyond belief.
Just ask actress Jaqueline Fleming.
She has been enjoying a year that would be any actor's dream: Not one but THREE movies in theaters already in 2012: Woman Thou Art Loose: On The 7th Day, Contraband and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as well as the pilot of her own sitcom UNDER ONE ROOF being shopped around for a network. Yes, life is pretty good for her right now.
"It's been exciting," Fleming told me during our conversation. "I'm so glad to do what I love, that is to tell the story. It's why I got into the business the first place."
That same feeling has carried into her sitcom as well. She told me that this was an opportunity to give viewers a look at a family dynamic that people literally around the world could relate to.
I believe that what has contributed the most to Jaqueline Fleming's success is her ability to not only pursue her career but use her platform as a way to give others an opportunity. A great example would be the acting studio that she has now opened in New Orleans.
During our conversation she told me that she had come out to New Orleans from L.A. about 4 1/2 years ago for a New Year's Eve party. Something else was in the works, though. "One thing led to another," she explained, "and I saw a vision for a acting studio in the city." She not only saw it, but began putting things in motion to make it a reality. "It was a purpose greater than myself," she says. "This is my way to help other people get into the business." This led her to beginning an entertainment and production company to expose the talent in the southeast region.
The rest as they say is history.
How has she been able to do all that she has accomplished? "It's not really about you," she told me. "I am just taking advantage of the opportunities in front of me. We all have the same amount of time. It's all in what you do with it."
Jaqueline told me that she is just having a great time living life, and that she hopes that something she has been able to do contributes to others being able to see their own potential as well. May that be something all of us strive for!
To stay in contact with Jaqueline subscribe to her feed on Facebook by searching her name "Jaqueline Fleming". You can also follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jaqfleming.