How’s Your New Year “New You” Doing?

We often make resolutions at the dawn of a new year, believing that with a fresh date and fresh start, we can jumpstart what fell by the wayside weeks, months or even years earlier. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t – a reality that all of us can own.

In my case? I haven’t started exercising regularly yet in 2019, although my gym is awaiting me. And I’m still trying to convince myself to give up refined sugar.

I did purge my closet, and that felt oh so great. Yet I’m still in the process of mapping out a quarterly To Do list, to make sure that by the time I reach April, I can actually mark as completed most of the 90-day goals I set out to achieve.  (That list will be finalized before this month is over!)

Tackling goals like these year after year is refreshing in a way, because they are reminders that we always start again; that we should never stop living, learning and growing.

Yet, the first step, in one sense, is the easiest: We’ve talked ourselves into doing what we know is right and good for us in both the short- and long term.  On Jan. 1 of (whatever year) we’re psyched and excited.

However, then comes Day 2 and Week 3, and before you know it, Month 10. Taking step after step, day after day, in moment after moment is where we must keep talking and walking and envisioning that for which we long.  For it is after taking step after step, day after day, in moment by moment the magic, the movement and the new reality await us.

Are you up to the challenge and the change required to actually shift into this new space? I think I am, even if I have to recalibrate and restart on Day 15 and then again on Day 30 and Day 225. For, when we really decide we’re ready and we choose to really dig in, we’ll be able to appreciate the small transformations along our journey that make it as worthwhile a process as achieving our ultimate goals. Even if the process takes longer than we want (which it often does), we can stay on course by remembering that delays aren’t denials and “not now” doesn’t mean not ever. life_spiritual_breathing_sea_world_corunna_it_vibrates_beauty-1188436.jpg!d

I’ve done it before, and I’m aiming it to experience those mountain moments again, for both my big and small dreams. Are you with me?

If so, remind yourself throughout the process – on the days when sticking to your goals isn’t fun or when it seems easier to say you’ll get to it  “tomorrow” – that the change you long for – the change I long for – requires that we change our minds today.

Throughout your process, remind yourself…

When you’re open to consistently learning and growing;
to seeing life from another person’s point of view;
to stepping outside your comfort zone;
to helping someone else just because;
to opening your heart to new adventures at any age;
to living in peace and ensuring others that same opportunity,
the sky is not your limit and your joy can’t be contained.
It’s the true definition of changing for the better; of transforming into more of you.

–  Stacy Hawkins Adams

Why Christmas Stories Matter

For those of us who are Christians, nothing matters more than the original Christmas story, which is the reason we celebrate this annual holiday- the birth of Jesus.

However, I believe that another meaningful use for this season is a study and reflection of all that Christmas and Jesus’ birth represent: giving and receiving, unconditional love, grace, joy, and creating special memories.  These are the intangibles that, as one grows older and wiser, tend to become more treasured than any presents wrapped in pretty paper and tucked beneath a gorgeous tree.

Yet, on our route to that discovery, it’s wonderful to have stories – both fiction and nonfiction – that entertain us while helping us recognize areas in which we can grow or help others thrive.

With this in mind, it has been my pleasure to “birth’ a short story this Christmas to share with both longtime readers of my fiction and those who are coming across it for the first time. This super-short piece can be read in one sitting, but I hope its themes will linger during the holidays and long afterward. Sentence-COVER

To learn more about The Sentence Between Us, view my live TV interview with the local CBS station in Richmond, Virginia here.

Also enjoy my Q&A for author/editor Chandra Sparks Splond’s blog here:

You can read a synopsis and download your copy of the short story here: The Sentence Between Us.

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!

Stacy Hawkins Adams 

Her Story: How Getting Away Helped Me Get Back to Me

By Guest Blogger DaNika Neblett Robinson 

I slid the balcony door open, walked to the end of the railing in front of me, and stood there. Soaking up all of the beauty.  To my left was the sun rising as it peaked through the palm tree leaves that swayed from left to right. In front of me was a picturesque view of someone parasailing over the aqua blue water beneath them.  To my right was a middle-aged man wearing earbuds and walking a trail in the 70-degree weather that would peak at 90 degrees by midday.

I sat down and reflected.  I was on vacation.  I could finally stop for a few days and do nothing.  No emails to check.  No meetings to hurry to and no numbers to crunch.  No football practice to scurry a child to.  No choir performance to slip in the back of the auditorium to hear my baby’s alto voice melodically come through.  Nothing but me, God’s creation, and the fears I had decided to toss into the body of water in front of me.
Back home in the U.S., where I was a leader in my community and at work, I often had to be mindful of eyes watching me – which made me as cautious as the seasoned woman I observed wading in the beach water in front of me, holding the arm of the person who walked beside her. My trip to paradise allowed me to throw caution to the wind, however, as I boarded a catamaran and sailed with the native who guided the vessel to the furthest part of the blue horizon that I could see with my naked eyes. As I sat there on the open vessel, I realized that I had conquered a fear.
You see, I had pondered that boat ride for a few hours, afraid I would drown like I almost did at 10 years old.  Only this time, it was not a pool.  I was surrounded by water so deep I was sure that if I took a plunge, the life jacket would not save me.  At this moment, on the catamaran, I felt superior.  Fear no longer controlled me.
Traveling exposes you to many sites and experiences and provide opportunities to reset, regroup and refresh.  One could choose to go thousands of miles away from home or simply a car ride down the street.  The idea is to get away and do things outside your norm.  I’m glad I did, and I encourage you to do the same. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it.
DaNika Neblett Robinson is the author of a novella, The Metamorphic Journey, about three teenage mothers’ quest to succeed. The Metamorphic Journey is also the name of a movement she 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 recent graduate of the Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, she holds several other degrees and uses that knowledge, coupled with her expertise in transformational leadership, to empower young adults to embrace their purpose. Learn more about DaNika and her body of work at www.themetamorphicjourney.org.

Got Empathy? How Seeking to Understand Serves Us All

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

“Don’t Make Assumptions.” I appreciate this one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s tenets from his book The Four Agreements in particular because it reminds us to give grace to others due to our own blind spots.

There’s no way we can fully know what someone else is going through or has gone through – especially by watching their social media “commercials.”

There’s no way to know the complete behind-the-scenes experiences that have motivated others’ next steps or perhaps left them stuck – unless we both ask with an open heart (when appropriate) and listen with unfiltered ears (always).
Until we can truly see and value others, we’ll always assume what “should” or “could” be their reality and/or their responses. But what good does this kind of judgment yield?

So consider this agreement a practice worth pursuing, in the spirit of elevating relationships of all kinds.

Ask instead of assuming you know their truths and speak up instead of assuming they “should” know yours.

Pause instead of pointing fingers; reflect instead of rejecting. Know that unless you’ve walked the very path they’re trodding, you really know very little – and vice versa!

Extend grace as you’re also seeking it. Hold at the forefront of your mind that each day and each personal encounter should begin and end the same – with love as the central force.

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Why Women Matter

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
Today is International Women’s Day, and I salute the women who have helped raise, nurture, mentor and encourage me and others.
From our mothers and grandmothers to
our biological sisters (in my case, three of them, and their friends) to
our teachers and youth program leaders to
women mentors in the workplace to
sister-friends with whom we’ve mutually shared triumphs or tears, and who’ve climbed beside us or pushed us higher –
Thank you all.
It is in honor of you that I write women characters in my novels who stand together through highs and lows, tell each other the truth, love even when it’s hard, and grow together in purpose and grace.
Women who, like you, change the world for better.
Even in the darkest of hours, places or seasons, and even when you don’t realize it, your presence brings life-sustaining hope. Thanks for being the light.

Her Story: The Risks and Rewards of a First Step

By Guest Blogger Belinda Todd

I am an actor. This avocation is not about the paycheck, nor is it about recognition. It is an innate something that makes me want to see the world through characters often different from myself.  It is fulfilling a dream.

However, fear almost made me cancel my first audition. The afternoon appointment was set and I arrived at the theater early. Before I could turn off the engine, the mind chatter began: “Are you crazy! Who do you think you are? You will be laughed at!”

Too nice to be a no-show, the integrity of my word compelled me to open the car door and channel an inner diva. I strolled into the theater like I belonged there.

When the audition was over, I was ecstatic, invigorated! I was finally feeding my interests. The director had said she would get back to me in a few days. Three weeks later I had given up hope of being in this performance. Then the e-mail came, offering me the part of Reba in Before It Hits Home, a play by Cheryl L. West.

The play was well received and my performance was good – not stellar, just good. But I was hooked. I was in a new tribe—a community of talented artists.

Today, my credits include television, stage, commercials, and most recently, film. I am so glad that on that fateful day, I took the first step.

The first step begins the journey to nurturing your goals and developing your talents. The first step takes you outside your comfort zone and into your dreams. The first step is a signal to the universe to prepare the way. If you don’t take the first step, you’ll never know what could be.

You see, I am a black woman over 50. The odds of venturing into new territory were not in my favor. I have watched too many people give up on their dreams at certain mile markers in life, letting age dictate their fate. But I am daily choosing to see life as a glorious adventure.

I don’t know what it takes to liberate your soul, but I do know that until you do, your light will not fully shine. The first step is embracing the vulnerability that exposes who you are on the inside: your beauty, your talent, your capabilities as well as you weaknesses.

Here is the truth: first steps are scary. It is scary to leave comfortable surroundings, routine living and even old friends. I didn’t know if I could memorize scripts or if I would appear too old with a younger generation of actors. But I had to take a risk. I had to risk looking foolish and out-of-place. Even though I risked ridicule, I didn’t risk my faith in a kind and loving God who sees me and always has my back. I have learned that it can be good, oh so good, to risk the first step.

Belinda Todd is a risk-taker. After retiring from a career with the airlines, img_4841Belinda received a master’s degree in theology, became a certified yoga instructor, and is now studying acting. She is also an Adjunct Instructor in the Languages and Literature Department at Virginia State University. She believes her mission is to inspire and empower women to use their gifts and talents to make the earth more loving, more peaceful and more joy-filled.