Her Story: The Sliver Linings in Curveballs

By Guest Blogger Dawn McCoy

At the time, it seemed so wrong. It was something that happened to other people. Then it happened to me.

I found myself so blindsided by my company’s sweeping corporate layoff that almost 10 years later, I still cannot recall what was said during the announcement. This was a position I was sure was secure – so much so that I relocated from California to Virginia to oversee a regional office for the organization.

After the layoff, I chose not to move elsewhere or return to California. Instead, I assumed that my college education, leadership positions and 20 years of work experience meant I could readily transition into another top organizational position.

Networking skills and political acumen helped me navigate in the unfamiliar region. However, dead-end interviews and lukewarm job leads ended with closed doors. It was the first time I felt defeated despite my accomplishments. Occasionally I glanced at my diplomas and awards shaking my head in disbelief.

As with other life-changing experiences I’ve gone through, I faced the harsh reality and decided I had to think fast. In this case, that meant reinventing myself and shifting my thinking beyond the expected “climb up the career ladder.”

I began to approach my next steps by thinking beyond checkboxes on a job application. I leveraged my expertise to speak, teach and write, and translated those areas of expertise into a hybrid of part-time work and contract opportunities.

Thankfully, my background in drafting technical user manuals, regulatory policies and corporate compliance requirements paid off. I was able to translate those skills into valuable lectures, life-learning guides and proposals. Networking and strategic thinking also morphed into valuable grant-writing and fundraising opportunities. Who knew!

The same year as the layoff I launched a leadership development and communications firm to empower others with training modules and tools. Looking back, it was the beginning of a new chapter to serve others and at the same time chart a different career path.

Interesting enough, within three years of the layoff, my young son’s special needs and chronic health issues required a more non-traditional work schedule to accommodate his therapies and medical appointments. Not to mention that he had repetitive, unpredictable health problems. Thankfully I was already in a work capacity that nurtured my role as mother of a special needs child.

Had the unfortunate corporate downsizing really manifested into an unforeseen blessing?

The silver lining in my 10-year journey means remembering the layoff as a life-changing event that no longer makes me frown, but cherish even unsavory situations. Turning the corner does not mean that I have lost time or given up a future cushy-corner office. On the contrary, I continuously remind myself to embrace a new paradigm that nurtures my creativity and makes my spirit soar.

Dawn McCoy is a leadership strategist, speaker and the author of Leadership profile-headshotBuilding Blocks. She is also founder of Flourish Leadership Group, LLC, and a senior service facilitator with Moms in Motion, a consumer-directed Medicaid Waiver service facilitation case management provider. Dawn and her son reside in Central Virginia and enjoy the arts. Learn more about Dawn at Flourish Leadership Group (www.flourishleadership.com). You can also connect with her on Facebook at Dawn McCoy Books  and Twitter @dawnmccoy02

The Power of Story Is In Both Art and Words

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

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“Southern Landscape” by artist Eldzier Cortor. Photo captured by Stacy Hawkins Adams, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

I had an awesome time this evening at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts participating in the National African American Read-In.
Along with those who gathered for the readings in front of designated pieces of art, I learned the history behind this beautiful painting (see right) by artist Eldzier Cortor (who died at age 99 last year, a short time after the museum interviewed him about this work). The piece was produced in the early 1940s and was owned by famous author Ralph Ellison.

After the museum curator shared details about how and why Cortor rendered this painting, I read two poems  – “Southern Song” and “Sorrow Home ” – to the guests of all ages, backgrounds and hues who had gathered.   The poems were penned by esteemed writer Margaret Walker and related well to the “story” told in Cortor’s art.
As a GRITS (Girl Raised in the (deep) South), I could relate to the images Walker painted with her words, and also to the emotion present in the eyes, posture and gesture of the woman featured in Cortor’s painting.

Both the artist and the writer seem to be grappling with the bittersweet notion of what staying in their beloved south means and what going would mean. There are wins and losses either way.

Do you find yourself at a crossroads sometimes? What is your measure for staying or going, for pushing through the dilemma to consider all options, and making choices that honor the best in you?

Consider telling your own story with a paintbrush or pen, and tell it authentically.  For this is what “freedom of expression” permits, and ultimately, this is what makes both art, and our individual journeys, awe-inspiring to live and watch unfold.

 

 

 

Why What You See Matters

Today, it’s all about perspective.
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Will you see everything you’re experiencing as a glass half-full or glass half-empty encounter?
Will you be saddened that beautiful roses have some undesirable thorns, or grateful that thorns can’t keep roses from blooming?
Choose the attitude that gives your heart hope and helps you persist. Remember your “why” and be dogged in claiming it. For while your circumstances may not shift, your mind and spirit can – all for the better. Choose to enjoy the journey.

Her Story: Choosing a Life Worth Living

By Guest Blogger Alyson Lindsey Taylor-White

They looked at me like their cat had just talked to them. The kidney surgeon and his nurse had just delivered what they thought would be devastating news – that my case did not merit a life saving transplant – and I had responded with words of hope.

What they did not know is that I had prepared for that outcome and was already strategizing how my future would proceed without a new kidney. This looked less like a barrier to me and more like an opportunity. In many ways, I was relieved. The transplant process has its own challenges that are seldom mentioned in the literature. My healing would proceed without this ordeal.

However my perspective was clearly not the reaction they anticipated.

Having suffered for years with failing, and finally failed kidneys, prepared me for the potential outcome that a transplant might be my only hope for survival. During those challenging years, additional health complications became a factor. In the fall of 2015, my heart and kidneys gave up at the same time, and my survival was extremely iffy for about a month, when I struggled for life in a local hospital intensive care unit.

While coming out of the haze of medications and dealing with other affects of organ failure, the medical staff told me to prepare for the worst. They said my life, if I made it, would never be the same again. They assured me my old life was dead, and that I might have diminished abilities for the remainder of my life.

As difficult as it was to hear, maybe them telling me how awful my life could be actually made me more determined to recover and create a life worth living. Six major surgeries and a year of daily dialysis later, it is.

I had stuff to do, and I was not going to let these new disabilities derail me for long. For two years, I’d been working on my first book and it was at a crucial stage in the publication process. My pets and my husband needed me.

In fairness to all of those medical experts, I had a secret weapon: My ability to believe in myself. This has always proven successful. My life has had serious setbacks, but since early childhood I have been able to count on the soothing comfort of imagining the positive potential outcome of every situation. What saved my life, and has sustained me to this day, is being able to see the positive side of things.

It is not always easy to have faith when faced with doom; but my determination to heal has enabled me to persevere and succeed. Whether I have six years, six months or six minutes of life left, it is my job to live every day to its fullest and jettison whatever is not inspiring joy. You can do the same.

Alyson LinA.Taylor-Whitedsey Taylor-White is a University of Richmond certified adjunct instructor with a background in journalism and museum education. She has researched and written about Richmond and Virginia history and politics for more than 20 years, and is passionate about sharing these stories with others. She creates and gives public and private tours of Virginia historic sites. Her first book, Shockoe Hill Cemetery  – a Richmond Landmark History, will be published this year.

 

5+ Ways to See Your Dreams Realized

Welcome to Wednesday. Whatever positive things you long to experience or achieve today…
* See them as real in your mind’s eye: Visualize your new reality – in full color, with specific details.
* Speak those desires into existence: Words and prayers hold power.
* Move deliberately: Resist all doubt.
* Trust the process: Success cannot be birthed without struggle.
* Give thanks in advance: Put your faith into action.
And then…be ready for the blessings that materialize.

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Create with Love

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I spent some time this week in the company of writer friends who reminded me that the beauty of our words and our written works – whether literary, commercial, for adults or for kids – is always needed.

It was a well-timed reminder that what one tenderly and carefully creates does indeed matter. What you produce can change a heart, fill a soul, light the imagination, give hope to dreams or render some measure of joy.

All of this has value. So create with love, and trust that your devotion to your craft will be enough. ccbooklove

Her Story: No More Chains

By Guest Blogger Renee Spivey

I vividly remember the day 25 years ago when I sat on a bathroom floor with a knife to my wrists, ready to end it all. I was tired of the devastating challenges I was enduring, and thought death was better than what I was going through.

That’s not the only time I was suicidal. The second time was when I was sentenced to prison for eight years. Me, the church going, good grade-getting, mostly-obedient child. I had no business going to prison, but sure enough, it happened. Even though I was a first time offender, I was convicted of felony theft by check, and I would go on to serve almost two years of that eight-year sentence.

The day I arrived at the minimum security women’s prison, I was so devastated that I was put on suicide watch. I was asked during the intake process if I was thinking of killing myself and I said yes, because honestly, once again, I thought death was better than what I was facing.

Every hour or so, an officer was at my cell calling my name, making sure I was still alive. After the first two days, I was fine. I had read, cried, prayed and accepted my situation, and a peace finally came over me. After that second day, I told them I was fine and no longer thinking of killing myself. They took me at my word and didn’t perform the hourly checks anymore.

Being locked up for 22 months was the roughest thing I have ever experienced. To be treated as simply a number and not a person was a very humiliating, but humbling experience.

Even though this was the worst time of my life, it ended up being the best time of my life. It took me going to prison to realize that God had more in store for me than just a continual life of heartache and pain. He had a calling specifically for me.

The road has definitely not been easy, but through it all God kept me and blessed me. I did not let my past dictate my future. I refused to be known only as Smith #744519.

I’ve gone on to do some incredible things, such as go back to college at age 40 and obtain an associate’s degree in Information Technology/Web Design. I am currently working on my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. I own a business called Literary Signature Services, where I work with authors and small businesses, helping them with their website and graphic design needs. I’ve held the same full time job since my release in 1997. And now, I am working on becoming a published author.

I am a wife, a mother, a homeowner and founder of the Women of Worth ministry, which was started to encourage women to step out of the shadows of their past into a brighter future. ~ © Renee Spivey, 2017

Renee SpiveyRenee Spivey, an avid reader and aspiring author, owns Literary Signature Services, a company that focuses on graphic and web design. Her client list includes authors Suzette Riddick, Regena Bryant, and New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Brenda Jackson, to name a few.  Renee also has a short story in the recently released anthology, When Women Become Business Owners. Learn more about Renee at her websites The Masters Vessel and We Are Women of Worth. She is also active on Facebook at Empowered Women of Worth, Instagram at Renees1971 and Twitter @empoweredwow.