We Are Pearls in Progress

Nearly 15 years ago I penned a novel that still resonates with readers – and me – today. This nationally published book, Watercolored Pearls, shares the story of three women friends who find themselves relenting to the doubt, worry and fear that lurks in their daily lives – silent enemies that seek to overshadow their inner wisdom and beauty and mask their gifts and growth. Then an older woman comes along who sees herself in them, and remembers her own journey to wholeness. She tells them to take heart and be of good courage, and to keep going, because their individual paths are leading them to purpose, and even joy.

In the vein of the message I shared through those fictional characters, I share this poem with you. Aptly titled We Are Watercolored Pearls, I wrote it in 2014, for guests at a brunch I hosted to celebrate my 10th anniversary as a multi-published author. I share it with you now, during these turbulent times in our world, to remind you that it often takes shake ups and setbacks, twists and turns, pauses and pitstops to arrive at your destination whole and ready to thrive.

So stay the course, lean into life’s lessons and enjoy the journey as much as you can – with this poem serving up some inspiration.

Visions of Change #BLM

My drive this past Saturday through downtown Richmond, Virginia, my longtime city of residence, was a reflective one – from thinking about the slave ships that docked here by the multitudes hundreds of years ago to seeing businesses on Broad Street and in Carytown boarded up due to recent protests to witnessing the peaceful gathering at the Arthur Ashe statue, and just a few miles away, the moving tributes to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others at the base of the statue of Condeferate General Robert E. Lee, which is coming down.

I hope to always remember this juxtaposition of history, heartbreak and solemn efforts to heal, but not have to live through again what has brought us to this point.

The marathon to snuff out hate and brutality while building bridges of understanding and solidarity is just beginning (with generations of previous work serving as the foundation).

None of us who cares can let our weariness win or give up mid-race; for our basic humanity is at stake, and our children (many of whom are in the trenches and leading the way) are watching and counting on us. We must continue to #saytheirnames. We must find a way to #risetogether.

Coaches for Change peaceful protest and march at the Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. – Saturday, June 6, 2020
Statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. The Governor declared during a week of protests in early June 2020 that the statue would soon be removed. In the meantime, it became the site of a memorial to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed black Americans who have been killed by police and others in the past decade.

The Monument Memorial at the base of the Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia. – June 6, 2020

Let Your Heart Break with Ours

There’s no excuse for random violence or senseless looting; they aren’t the same as peaceful protests, which are a means of visibly showing pain and rising up together.
As I take a few days away from social media to reset, I’ll leave you with the 5-minute video below as some form of explanation for what many citizens of this nation are feeling and fearing.
Please watch and listen. More than once, if you need to.
Let your heart break with ours.
See us as the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, spouses, partners and friends that we are and summon your courage to empathize.
For authentic caring does indeed take courage; and even if you don’t get it right at first and even if it feels uncomfortable, reach out and extend it to a colleague, friend, neighbor or relative who may be hurting.
Then speak up, stand up and say their names with us. More importantly, help keep more names from being added to the list.
Watching a man die on live TV/video broke our hearts – hearts that already had rips and tears. It was a form of secondary trauma.
A tiny measure of healing may come (in time) by helping make real change, tangible and positive change, for the better. Can we all – every human being reading this – take on the challenge and do just that?

Click image to view video or click here.

Mother’s Day Special: Someone Else’s Children

By Guest Blogger Linda Leigh Hargrove

My husband and I have three boys. They are ‘all boy’ as the saying goes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They call each other “brothers of another mother.” They’re adopted, you see. 

As a young married woman 20-plus years ago, adoption was the furthest thing from my mind. Both my husband and I were in school full time, working like Hebrew slaves on advanced engineering degrees. Between the two of us, we made $18,000 a year in stipends. Can you say “poor house?” I thank God for those years (and for that small vegetable patch). Those lean times taught me how to wait on God.

Growing up in the swamp lands of North Carolina, I played with trucks and climbed trees. Doll babies and tea sets were never on my gift wish list. After a few years of marriage, that changed. It happened one sunny afternoon while I babysat for a college friend. That precious little toddler stole my heart, with her sparkling brown eyes and chubby hands. When her mother picked her up two hours later, our one-bedroom apartment never felt so empty.

Knowing how much money my husband and I had (or rather, didn’t have) between us, I knew that having a child while we were both in school was not wise. So we maintained our ‘family plan’ (kids after college) and I clipped baby pictures from magazines, secretly claiming them as my own.

I soon graduated and tried to replace the yearning with a full-time job, community volunteering, church involvement and writing. But the emptiness persisted.

My husband was still in grad school, but he agreed that it was time to start a family. That was 1995; I was 29. One and a half years later and no baby, I hit a wall. I started each day in tears, crying in the darkness of my walk-in closet before work. The crying lasted for most of 1997.

On the outside I was doing good things in my church and community. I was a faithful wife. I was a productive engineer, managing a $2 million grant program for the state.

On the inside, I was dying. Longing for a child.

At one point, someone at church suggested that we consider adoption. I was tired of all the doctor’s visits, the fertility treatments, basal thermometers and all of the prayers to God. I wanted relief. I wanted to feel good again, to feel God again. Adoption seemed like an appealing option.

We did our research. We talked with counselors and social workers. We talked with our friends and parents. We prayed and fasted. We had so many questions about the process, the costs, and especially the kids. What if they’re not black like us, what if they’re developmentally challenged, what if they’re violent?

God answered all of those questions with peace. As Psalm 34:4 says: I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

As I internalized that scripture, I realized it didn’t matter what the child He gave us looked like or acted like. What God had for us, was for us. I had peace with His plan.

Adopting was not easy. In fact, in the beginning it was like pulling a scab from a wound I thought had healed. But today, I have three boys through three separate adoptions.

Not three rejects or three unwanted children. I have three sons. 

Some people call them someone else’s children. I call them mine.

Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her 10 works of fiction include three novels, as well as several novellas and short stories. Linda has taught workshops on fiction writing to adults and teens. She is a native of Washington County, North Carolina and currently resides near Charlotte with her husband and three sons. Connect with Linda on the following social media platforms: Linda’s website, Linda’s Facebook page and Linda’s Instagram feed.

Just Be….That’s Gift Enough for Today.

There’s someone in this world waiting for what only you can offer when he or she needs it most: 

that well-timed call or text;

 that book, poem or song;

that humor or virtual hug;

that truth-in-love swift kick;

those words of wisdom or kindness. 

The list could go on, but you get the picture.  Your life matters. You matter.

Even during a pandemic. Especially now.

 So press forward, embracing this slower place.

Listen to your heart and declutter your life. 

Love yourself and value yourself. Treasure those who love and value you, no strings attached.

Extend grace to others and appreciate when it flows your way, too. Just be, and let that be gift enough for today. 

Be Encouraged & Endure

Over the past two weeks several friends that I hold dear have lost loved ones to the coronavirus. My heart goes out to Helena, Robert, Pam, Gwen and Teresa. And also to other friends whose relatives are fighting to recover or to live.


While I pray for them and the millions who are suffering in some way due to this virus, I also pray for those of us whose impact has thus far been limited to having to shelter in place and sacrifice our norm. For let’s be real: This right here isn’t normal.

There’s the surrealness of it all. In may ways, it feels like we’re living out a sci-fi movie.

There’s the surrender required during it all. This is when the best place to be is at the center of the storm, wrapped in the Almighty’s embrace, due to what we can’t control.

And certainly, there’s the shifting of it all. Those of us who survive will come out of this indefinite period of disruption changed, no matter what.


If we’re intentional, perhaps this era will leave us wiser, more gracious, more authentically ourselves and more focused, connected and settled – ready to live our purpose or lean into discovering the next phase of our life’s unique calling. And many will be like my friends – forever touched by the losses this difficult season has wrought, fighting to forge ahead.


Wherever you land on this spectrum, be gentle with yourself, yet determined not to let this time of shutdown be a blur.


This doesn’t mean you must write that book, build a new business or “boss up” in some other way, although if you’re up to it, you can. What this season does offer is a chance to do the deep work to polish the gem your life already is.


Be courageous and love more deeply – yourself first, so you can truly love your neighbor.Look within and be real about the state of your soul. If you’re good, remain steady and firm and pour out from that full well. If you’re shaky, use this time to brutally self-examine, forgive yourself and others, and do whatever else it takes to transform into a person you’re proud of and gracious toward. We all have room to grow.


Challenge yourself to avoid self-numbing to the point of missing the lessons you’re meant to learn or the blessing you’re meant to be to others.
Be okay with everything not being okay. And even so, still find a way to live, love and laugh your way through as much of this as you can.


That’s what the doctor’s and nurses on the front lines are doing with the dances and songs they’re flooding social media with, between their calls to loved ones of dying patients.That’s what so-called “ordinary” people around this nation and globe are doing as they find time to help a neighbor or stranger, or celebrate someone’s birthday while social distancing or make an extra phone call to say hello, or share a meal or buy someone’s groceries. That’s what every essential worker is doing every time he or she leaves home to do a job that could be putting him or her at risk; and every teleworker who is pouring into others online, via email and on calls, keeping systems in place and processes moving forward.


I heard on the news (which I watch sparingly) today that social distancing and sheltering in place is slowly but surely making an impact. Certainly, we’re not out of harm’s way. There are more waves of valley moments seemingly ahead. But what this proves is that the one thing we CAN control during this time is our choices.


Choose to continue being a ripple in the proverbial ocean. Your sacrifices and prayers, virtual hugs and words of encouragement, dollars and donations, and other acts of kindness, are making a difference.
For those who are grieving, we grieve with you.For those who have something to celebrate (birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, end of cancer treatments) we celebrate with you.For those who are struggling, we see you and are helping however we can. If you feel unseen or unheard, don’t go it alone. Reach out to a friend or relative or even a stranger; for right now, we’re all family.


For those who took time to read all of this, please receive my virtual hug and smile. Know that I am praying for you, and for our world.


Also hug yourself and think about things that make you smile. Cry if you must; curse if that helps. Then, rise up and resolve to push through. Let your faith edge out the fear, and conquer the battle for your mind and your sense of hope.


Embrace this sober wisdom that my late mother shared with me in our last conversation in 2005: “Sometimes you have to lose to gain.”
We don’t know when, we don’t know how, but If we’ll endure through this night, morning will come, beauty will replace ashes, and hope and healthiness will reign through the land once again.

~ Stacy Hawkins Adams©

‘Tis the Season…for Virtual Hugs & Self-Care

Sending a virtual hug and heartfelt encouragement your way today.
Take a few minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply.
Take a walk or engage in some other type of exercise for just 15 minutes.
Read or utter a prayer and an affirmation of hope and healthiness.
Love and be kind to yourself.
Love and be patient with others.
Find a few reasons to laugh, if you can.
We are going through a global traumatic event; but rather than give in to fear and panic,
may we all more readily lean into the faith and the peace that come with trusting God.
Through thick and thin, when we understand and when we don’t, He is there. Let us continue to be His hands and heart and listening ear in human form.

Pressing Through Coronavirus Season

I started some early spring cleaning yesterday evening and look what I found??

overcoming stress during corona virus

A whole box full of custom-designed commas that I had specially made about 15 years ago, by the woodworker-husband of my dear friend, editor and late colleague Mary Goodwyn.

Rediscovering these treasures reminded me of Mary’s radiant smile and matching heart, and also of the reason I had them created: To distribute to every audience member when I gave speeches far and wide about the power of faith, focus and hope, as a tangible reminder to never put a period where our Divine Creator may have simply put a comma.

Seems like now more than ever is a good time to hold onto this belief.

overcoming stress, mental wellness and well-being during corona virus stress

So if you’re inclined, save one of these pics on your phone or desktop and reassure yourself when you view it that we are in a global “comma season” right now.

While we pause, retreat, watch, wait and pray, may we also use this time to rest, reflect, reset, renew and refocus, so that when we come out on the other side, our stories will have some meaningful and amazing comma moments in between.

Value Friendships

By Guest Blogger DaNika Neblett Robinson – (In honor of International Women’s Day)

Like organizations, it is important to have a Board of Directors to assist you with the strategic direction of your life and ensure that you are prosperous. Their purpose should be to check on you, connect with you, and to challenge you to be a better version of yourself. These are the people who would probably say, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (3 John 1:2, KJV).

Yes, you have to be careful about who you allow into your personal space. But, being too cautious can be detrimental. “Let your conscience be your guide” (Jiminy Cricket, from the movie Pinocchio, 1940).

At work, I have a Tribe that I connect with weekly. Being the only person of color in a senior leadership role on my campus, I know it is my duty to connect with subordinates, particularly those that look like me. During this weekly sync up, we talk about a variety of things. I create a safe space where they are free to vent as well as encourage. Other leaders may frown upon this approach but my authentic leadership style* compels me to:

* understand my purpose;

* practice solid values;

* lead with heart;

* establish connected relationships; and

* practice self-discipline.

As an author, I am a member of Focused Writers led by my mentor Stacy Hawkins Adams. My fellow writers and I receive writing tips from Stacy as well as each other. Writing a novel or speech or even a blog can be a lonely process. Having people you can count on to share what projects they are working on while gently nudging you to meet a deadline has been critical. Although we typically meet virtually, we have been diligent about meeting in-person as well. These connections have helped us to remember why we write and solicit ideas that can benefit us as we move forward.

In my personal life, I have my God Sistahs. These women serve as a sounding board for me. They have helped me to see things from a different perspective while loving me through my hot mess moments. Our friendships have gotten us through turbulent times when dealing with the loss of family members. Assisted us in rearing our children who are now adults. And ensured we remained in healthy relationship while supporting the need to breakaway when necessary.

On my path to become a doctor (Ed.D), I had the pleasure of spending three years with 17 brilliant people. Being a first-generation, nontraditional college student, I did not have the standard undergraduate experience.  No roommates. No student life. No sorority. But I do not feel like I missed out on anything because this cohort of smart people inspired me to be a passionate educator. We started the doctoral program very green and not knowing our super powers. Any time we have the opportunity to reconnect, we remind each other of how far we have come. Those moments together are priceless.

Being a busy woman who travels to and fro regularly, it is imperative for me to return to home base. The greatest of all friendships for me is that which I experience with my life partner/husband. He knows when I am drained and suggests I take a nap. I laugh at his dry jokes. We have intimate conversations about our children and what is next for them. Most of all, he is my biggest cheerleader. I could not ask for a better person to share my life with.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) says it best, “And let us not neglect our meeting together as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Do not downplay the value of friendships. Do not limit the number of people you allow in your personal space, simply because you fear being hurt once again. Know that all interactions are needed as you continue your metamorphic journey.

*George, William W. Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Editor’s Note: This column first appeared on DaNika’s blog, The Metamorphic Journey. Visit here and subscribe: themetamorphicjourney.org.

DaNika Neblett Robinson is the author of  The Metamorphic Journey. This page-turning novella explores three teenage mothers’ quest to succeed. The Metamorphic Journey is also the name of a movement DaNika founded to provide individuals with opportunities to foster personal growth. DaNika has served as a higher education administrator for more than 20 years and is currently the CFO of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. A graduate of the Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University and an expert in transformational leadership, she speaks widely about excellence in leadership, in particular to women’s organizations and audiences. She also uses her knowledge to empower young adults to embrace their purpose. Learn more about DaNika and her body of work at themetamorphicjourney.org.

Why Creative Artists Matter – A Cinematic Reflection

By Guest Blogger Norma L. Jarrett

By now you may have seen the movie The Photograph, written and directed by Stella Meghie, starring Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Chante Adams and Y’lan Noel. My favorite character is Christina, played by Adams. Why?

Because she is the creative, ambitious woman of color and Black mother that many of us need to see. Everything about Christina is authentic, especially her beauty, talent, aspirations and passion for her craft. Her backstory is a southern blend of curiosity, flirtatious innocence and romance. She had me mesmerized from the start.

We don’t get to know everything about her, for example, how she became famous or details concerning her marriage. But the moviegoer in me didn’t really miss it (at least that much).  Especially when Christina informed Issac (Y’lan), her first love, that she needed something else to look forward to besides making his dinner. When those words dripped from her mouth I sat up.  There it was. The thing we are not supposed to say.

At that moment, I understood the reason Christina was born.  She’d come to set us all free: the creative, unconventional, artistic women of color who need to create like they need air. Her bold declaration was Affirmation. Because many of us creatives suffocate unless we have space large enough to dream. When we witness Christina flee Louisiana and all that is attached, we’re riding shotgun; secretly rooting for her.  Because we know that feeling.  A feeling of obligation or a place competing with or feeling too small for our future.

The sheepish grin that crept across her face as the bus rolled on informed us that her regrets were left at the curb.  Although we felt her man, we found solace that sis was going to be just fine. She’d chosen “bigger” although she hadn’t known what or where bigger was. She was running to and not away from her life. And a creative life is still a life.  Phew!  Pass the collection plate please.

As a woman, a woman of color, a wife, a published celebrated author who started writing decades ago, I felt that. Why?  An unconventional path is not any easy one. For many decades there was no model, Google map or instructions for us.  All women seemingly were put in the same box marked conventional.   Therein lies the struggle.

For I, too, chose the unconventional path during my final year of law school.  I wrote and published my first novel that year and landed a book deal shortly after. At the time, many of my friends were getting married and having kids.  I was having a different type of “adventure.”  It wasn’t wrong, just different.  My aunts and other women in my family were proud.  They encouraged me to fly, joining me as willing passengers on my journey. Christina was symbolic of women who dare to dream big, even if it cost.  

The grief that Christina displays at one point in the film seemed to be derived from a need to force herself into the only box she knew.  She didn’t give up her dream, but partially clipped her wings.

I truly believe that God honors our gifts and wants us to maximize our creative call, regardless of marital status, geographic location or other factors.  However, freedom comes from choices and living an authentic life. He gives instructions to answer our creative call. And yes, sometimes we need Christina’s courage and wings!  

The character of Christina wasn’t just about art. She desired and embraced other love, but struggled. She raised her daughter the best way she knew how. And married. However, her love of photography was clearly effortless and brought her the most joy.

A great character resonates long after the movie credits end, and the last page is read.  I believe there is a little Christina in every woman. Christina reminds us we should not explain, grieve or limit our dreams. But make room for them. And sometimes that means finding the courage to “buy the ticket,” board the bus and ride to our creative destination as often as needed.

Norma L. Jarrett is a writer with traditionally published and indie titles. Her work has been featured in Essence, Ebony, USA Today, Southern Living and other media. She is married and resides in Houston, Texas with her husband and two dogs, Mylo and Lexi. Her titles are available on Amazon.com.  Her next novel, Ivy’s Soul, is a multi-generational romance that will be released in 2020.

IG: @authornormajarrett

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Books: Norma Jarrett Author Amazon Page