About Last Night, About Will Smith

Some of my dearest friends and I have agreed to disagree about the angry choices a certain actor made on Hollywood’s biggest night.

What’s also true is that I don’t condone violence; I wish he would have handled it backstage, and I was waiting on him to offer a more direct apology in the aftermath.

But as I often say, we rarely know another person’s full story – including the challenges they may be walking through.

As Will Smith accepted his Oscar I saw what appeared to be shame in celebrating his biggest career achievement amid his biggest career misstep – knowing that his mother (who he seemed upset with for not coming) and his children had witnessed his implosion.

Who knows? Maybe he had to beg Jada to show up and deal with her alopecia-related hair loss on a night when other women’s tresses were flowing.

And who knows what else Will may be dealing with in his family, with his health or within himself?

He still shouldn’t have strode onstage and slapped a colleague.

He did what hurt people often do – hurt other people. And in this case, he hurt himself most of all by taking away from the legacy of “strength in the face of fire” that Venus and Serena entrusted to him.

All that said, and even as I shook my head at it all, I could think of times I wished I had handled situations differently. Can’t we all?

Not condoning his behavior, but also not serving as judge nor jury. (The memes and Twitter comments are pure entertainment and offer enough sentences without mine.)

Will Smith will face his consequences, and as he deals with them privately and publicly, I hope the rest of us can use this as a reminder that at every age and stage, there’s room for growth and room for empathy.

And who walked away with his head held highest for showing restraint? Chris Rock, who I’m sure will be telling jokes about that experience for years to come. Get ready, Will.

14 Ways to Treasure It All

I’ve been reminded in various ways these first 90-plus days of 2022 to not take anything or anyone for granted – including yourself.

Treasure it all.

Stop to smell the roses.

Eat the cake without counting the calories.

Exercise not because you should, but because you can. 

Apologize sincerely, regardless of whether it’s acknowledged.

Forgive freely, even when it’s not requested.

Give thanks for your blessings; appreciate the lessons. 

Stretch yourself. Relax yourself. Enjoy yourself. 

Breathe more deeply, more often.

Smile more.

Laugh more.

Love more.

Pay attention, with intention.

For this is the journey called life, and yours is yours alone to treasure.

Introducing…On Womanhood

Seven years ago I launched an online mentoring program for aspiring writers called Focused Writers (www.focused-writers.com), not knowing that this intimate space for learning about writing and publishing would not only lead to books and blogs being birthed by members, but also to a tribe of mutual support.

When some of the members approached me about writing something together, I finally agreed, and in January 2021 we embarked upon a yearlong Mastermind Class of sorts, with me guiding them through every aspect of publishing – from idea stage to finished book.

Members have participated in every way along the way, from writing to editing to proofreading to formatting to designing the cover, and I’m delighted to share our “book baby” of personal essays – On Womanhood: Connecting and Thriving in Every Season.

Thanks to my friend and mentor Daphne Reid for writing our Foreword and to Chandra Sparks Splond for serving as our external editor. And most importantly, to our talented cover artist and Focused Writer member Dawn Edge Campbell.

We hope you love the cover as much as we do!

Also exciting for us as we release this book just in time for Women’s History Month in March, is our collective agreement to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from sales made from February 22 through March 31 to the YWCA USA.

Back in my reporter days, I covered a range of social issues, including writing stories about women working their way off of welfare, fleeing abusive relationships and learning to advocate for themselves and their children.

I also wrote about the organizations and nonprofits designed to support them, including the YWCA, whose mission is to empower women and eradicate racism.

So when my Focused Writers mentees decided to write a book together, title it On Womanhood, and donate a portion of proceeds from sales, the YWCA USA was a natural choice.

I am a six-year board member of the YWCA Richmond and can vouch firsthand for the staff’s dedication to serving women and children, in a myriad of ways.

Yet, we have chosen to contribute to the YWCA USA because our Focused Writers anthology authors are based around the nation – from Las Vegas to Houston to Savannah to Richmond. And each writer will be reaching out to her local branch, too.

So in addition to buying our short collection and supporting a great cause in the process, also take some time to learn more about the YWCA USA and the YWCA in your local area!

Stacy and the Focused Writers members featured in the anthology On Womanhood: Connecting and Thriving In Every Season
(Nailah-Benā Chambers, Margo Clifford, Jacqueline S. Owensby, Njeri Mathis Rutledge, Jackie Hunter, Wanda S. Lloyd, Cassie Edwards Whitlow, Belinda Todd, DaNika Neblett Robinson, Rita Flores Moore and Stacy Hawkins Adams.)

Every Life Matters

So many people are stunned by the tragic death of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst. And that of actress Regina King’s son. And perhaps the suicide of someone you know.

We must not let this become the next pandemic.

Check on people in your circle – and check the “petty” at the door.

Remind yourself that being kind is often more important than being right, because there’s often a story behind someone’s anger, silence, odd behavior, etc. 

You don’t have to be the judge and jury. 

Your call – our call – is to grant more grace and to love unconditionally.

Even if it’s from a different source, it will indeed boomerang in our favor.

Prayers and peace to all who are grieving, and heartfelt hugs to anyone who is suffering. Please keep reaching out until someone hears you. Your life matters.

Sacrificing Season

You get to define what success looks and feels like for you – which means you also must decide what will get you from here to there.

Those considered great among us can confirm that their success required (and requires) sacrifice – even when they make it look easy. 

So what are you willing to sacrifice in the short term to see that vision or goal become your permanent reality? How will you be a better steward of your purpose or dream?

As I continue to “bake” a new book – and prepare a few surprises for readers friends along the way – it is requiring some sacrifice.

Less TV time and limited hangout time, just for a season. Earlier morning risings. Deeper dwelling in my “writing cave.”

Additional quiet time to reflect, brainstorm and be. (For writers, this is part of the process.)So if you have a writer in your life, grant us some grace if you see us staring off in space or at a blank wall. We’re creating!


And for everyone else moving in your flow, don’t apologize for needing to shut things down for a while. Your results will someday offer clarity on your behalf. Stay the course, and win in your own way.

Moments and Memories

On this final day of 2021, give in to tradition – take a journey through your mind and review the past 365 days you’ve experienced. Consider grabbing a journal or a notebook to jot down your thoughts and feelings about where you started at the top of this year and how life is going as it comes to a close.

Acknowledge your areas of growth and the seasons you may have pushed through, without taking time to pause or reflect. Bravely confront the areas in which you’ve felt stagnant or stuck, without a clear plan to correct course. 

Whatever surfaces as you process, decide to use those memories and reflections for good.

Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Celebrate your successes. Give a nod to your meaningful “baby steps” in the right direction.

Craft a practical plan to keep moving forward, one detail and one goal at a time. Decide in this still-raging pandemic to embrace personal peace, grace and excellence, shedding any habits that in 2021 allowed mediocre or treading water to become your comfort zones.

Be in THOSE moments of year-end reverie long enough to gather the fuel you’ll need to seize THIS moment – the birth of 2022 and the collective clean slate to start anew.

Believe you can and guess what? You will.

Trust Yourself

In these final few weeks of 2021, take some time to sit with yourself and just be.

Settle your heart and accept all that has been and

Renew your hope for all that could be.

Seek wisdom and listen to wise counsel; then trust yourself and that muse in your soul. 

Some dreams are so big and some callings so powerful that you’ll be paving the way into unfamiliar territory; so of course everyone won’t understand. 

Trust the seed that God has placed in your heart.

Drown out your fears and ignore naysayers’ worries.

Believe that even in a pandemic you can deliver something amazing.

Envision the future you desire, and even as you keep climbing, start living in expectation.

You’ve got this. Trust yourself. Get ready to receive.

Gratitude in Action

Author Grace Hansen once said: “Don’t be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin.”

If you’ve been living on the margins – going along to get along – decide to do something different today.

Realize that even during these strange times, when a global pandemic has caused untold grief, stress, isolation and disruption, and when the simultaneously unfolding racial pandemic has led to heartbreak, hope and strain on relationships, you can make choices and create impact that yield some positive, lasting change.

Sometimes you may need to stand alone, be still or do it afraid.

You may find yourself compelled to speak up in some instances, while others will require restraint. In all cases, you can be grateful to be a chosen vessel, for such a time as this.

When you do the best you can with who you are and what you have, you’re telling your life ‘thank you’ and showing gratitude to those who are in the trenches with you. Your Creator appreciates the nod, too, for faith without works is dead.

Gratitude in action is a full circle opportunity to appreciate, and in some way, pay forward the chances we get to breathe, be and do some good.

Expecting Less, Caring More = Grace

During a leadership event I attended this evening, a new acquaintance informed me about a trauma-relief organization for adults that she leads in the Richmond region called Robin’s Hope.

She and her staff are running 20 groups, 7 days a week, mostly virtual she said, to help people with all kinds of grief, trauma and mental distress.

That level of need blew me away, yet it is very real, across the land.

Nod to UNC-Chapel Hill for acknowledging the mental health crisis unfolding on its campus right now.

Perhaps it’s time we individually take on the charge. I challenge you to look around you, my friend, and be extra kind to those who seem a bit sad, stressed, withdrawn or even overly chipper.

We may not be comfortable yet giving random hugs, but random messages of “Hello” “Have a nice day” “I see you” “I will help you” and “I’m here for you” matter.

Let’s do our best to see each other through this global health pandemic. As you extend more grace to others, also be open to receiving it, because you matter, too.

What’s In Your Bag?

Nothing can trump my love of being near water, but being in the mountains is a close second.

A recent weekend visit to Carter’s Mountain in Charlottesville didn’t disappoint, and in the days to come, I’ll enjoy some of the fruit of my efforts – handpicked apples that I mostly pulled from trees myself.

The pic below was taken before my bag was full, but I left the mountain with it bulging with some delicious apples and a few gems for life.

For what we choose to fill our bags with can both feed us and fuel us. No one gets the mix right 100 percent of the time – my sweet tooth wins more often than it should. However, just enough filling of goodness, wisdom, love and hope can add weight and substance in our life’s favor.

What will you fill your proverbial bag with today? This week?

I’m throwing in some creative juices for my writing,

some sneakers for the miles I want to walk,

some generosity and fun for myself and my loved ones,

some courage to push past fear and take a few more risks,

some prayer for those who are grieving or angry with the world,

and some kindness and grace for all I encounter.

Be intentional. Make sure you enjoy filling the “bags” you’ll carry along your way.

You’ll be more likely to find them weighed down with blessings and lessons you won’t mind holding onto.

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