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

Chat With The Author: Inspiring Readers Inspires Her to Write More

Meet Chandra Sparks Splond, a multi-published author, editor, speaker, blogger, wife and mom, advocate of reading and champion of writers. Today she shares what fuels her love of words and her passion for helping others find joy between the pages (or on reading devices and audio) as well.

In what genre do you write?  First, thank you so much for having me, Stacy. I mainly write for the young adult genre, but I have also published a few books for the middle grade and new adult markets.

What is the title of your most recent book?  My most recent release is a Christmas hfh-splondshort story called Home for the Holidays. It’s about a 15-year-old girl named London Bridges who is dealing with her parents’ divorce over the Christmas school break. She’s bummed because her mother has nixed her plans to visit her father where he now lives in Atlanta. When she finds out her brother, Landon, is going to the mall, she begs to go along—partly from boredom and partly because she has a secret crush on his best friend with whom he’s going. The day ends up unfolding in ways she can never imagine.

What is your primary goal as an author? As a writer, more than anything I want readers to be inspired by my words—whether it’s through my books, my speeches or my blog. I’m also on a mission to get people excited about reading. When I do events around the country, one constant refrain I hear is that reading is boring. I believe people who feel this way just haven’t encountered the right book. I’ve had lots of readers tell me they didn’t like reading until they read one of my books because it reflected their reality. I write the stories I didn’t see when I was growing up, about kids like me and my friends and their issues. This seems to resonate with readers.

What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about your current book or another recent title? I think the most surprising feedback is how much a story has impacted readers. As a writer, I often wonder if my words are making a difference, so it always surprises and humbles me when someone gives me validation that they are.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey? The most surprising aspect for me is the way my author journey unfolded. I’ve known that I’ve wanted to write books since I was 14 years old. It wasn’t until after I had my daughter in 2004 that I actually sat down to write a book, though. As a parent, it occurred to me one day that I couldn’t encourage my daughter to pursue her dreams if I had never pursued mine, so I challenged myself to write a book before my daughter turned a year old. I finished my first manuscript a month after her first birthday. Once I did that, I challenged myself to land a book deal before she turned two. I received the offer for my book Spin It Like That two months after her second birthday. What’s interesting is I had actually been hired to ghostwrite Spin It Like That. About halfway through writing the book, the celebrity I had been hired to write it for decided she didn’t want to do a young adult novel. My editor came to me and said, “I think we should just let you publish the book.” It was nothing but God. I was writing a book in the genre I’d always wanted to write in, and instead of waiting the normal year or so for my book to hit the shelves, it came out about six months after I received my official offer. God is just awesome like that.

How do you continue growing as a writer? I believe great writers are readers, so I read a lot—mainly via audiobooks these days. Most of the time my reading is for fun, but often it’s for professional and personal development, too. I also do a few webinars or workshops whenever I see something that interests me.

Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors? I consider Jacquelin Thomas, Vanessa Davis Griggs and Kimberla Lawson Roby to be mentors—and my friends. Not only are they great storytellers, but they are also Godly women. I’m blessed to have great relationships with all of them.

What else are you passionate about, i.e. if you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing? I’m blessed that my other passion is also my profession. I’ve been an editor for 25 years. I’ve worked in various aspects of publishing, including serving as a copy editor for Good Housekeeping magazine. I was also the consulting editor at Kensington Publishing for BET Books/Arabesque, the African-American romance line. I was the editor for amazing authors like Brenda Jackson, Donna Hill, Leslie Esdaile and Rochelle Alers. I signed quite a few popular romance authors like Angie Daniels, Melanie Schuster and Celeste Norfleet to their first major book deals. I also do freelance editing, and several of my clients, including the late E. Lynn Harris, have made the USA Today, Essence and New York Times bestsellers lists.

What do you like to do for fun? For fun, I love to eat, hang out with my family, craft and plan parties.

_Chandra Sparks Splond headshotChandra Sparks Splond is an editor, speaker and award-winning author and blogger. She is the owner of West End Publishing, LLC., and was the consulting editor for Arabesque romance at Kensington Publishing. She has also edited for Random House, Moody Publishers, Kimani Press, and Hyperion, as well as several New York Times, USA Today and Essence bestselling authors. She was a copy editor for Good Housekeeping, Newsday and The Morning Call, and has written for Black and Married with Kids, Brides Noir, Weddingpages, and Romantic Times.  Visit her at www.chandrasparkssplond.com or on: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/bookofsplond; Twitter: https://twitter.com/cssplond and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chandrasparkssplond/.

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 We Must Surrender to Wonder

Sometimes our dreams are so big that we tiptoe to the edge of them, then shrink away.

But what if we had the courage to actually follow where they lead?

To consider how leaning into them and falling forward allows the wind to buoy us and keep us afloat? 

To trust the lessons we’ll learn, the people we’ll form bonds with and the experiences that will shape us as our divine birthright?

What if we loved ourselves- and those in our care – enough to surrender to this way of being?

Wow…just wow. Wouldn’t our lives be a wonder?

One Mother’s Journey: Pacing vs. Racing – Taking Time to be Kind to Yourself

By Guest Blogger C.A. Morgan

Fame isn’t my forte. But neither is obscurity.

What am I good at? Well…

As an artist, author, vocalist and Top Chef wannabe, I am quite the Renaissance woman, not to tweet my own tune. My friends will tell you: I do it all. (Thanks, friends!) But ask my family a few years back and they’d claim I was best at being Mean & Ornery & Hard to Get Along With. MOHGAW for short.

I can’t help it; it’s in my blood.

I never wanted to emulate my mother, though she is pretty sweet these days. As a stay-at-home mom of nine children who gave up her dream of becoming a nurse, Mom made MOHGAW her motto. I craved a family, but also to develop and share my own gifts with the world. Anything less seemed like a cop-out.

Once a bright-eyed collegiate turned ambitious young adult, I planned to become the next C.S. Lewis/Beatrix Potter combined. I moved east with great expectations and – blink! – somehow found myself married with four young children, struggling to not disappear under piles of dirty dishes and laundry.

While I love my kids, parenting well is demanding work. I began to understand – and resemble – my mom as I despaired ever achieving my career goals. Oh, the mom-guilt! Why couldn’t being the best possible homemaker satisfy my needs? Why must I want it all?

Still…I did, and it showed.

Deciding I could no longer wait for the perfect circumstances (there is no such thing), with our two oldest in school and portfolio, toddler and swaddled infant in hand, I met with a local author who generously agreed to mentor me. For the next several years, while trying to keep family my priority, I wrote and scrupulously edited the first book of my YA fantasy trilogy. To contribute financially, I went to work part-time teaching music at my children’s school. (How better to share that gift than by passing it on to the next generation?)

I created and donated art for charity, and kept up an illustrated parenting blog to encourage other moms while providing self-therapy. Life was fulfilling, exhausting…and totally unsustainable as we welcomed our bonus baby.

MOHGAW Momster reawakened.

Thankfully, and long before Oprah Winfrey put the sentiment into words, I had an epiphany: It really is possible to have it all, just not all at once. I was cheating everyone by trying. Pace myself and I might actually enjoy the life I already had, while creating the one I dreamed of.

Granting that permission to slow down was the kindest thing I’ve ever done – for myself and everyone around me. Skip ahead: Thirteen years since penning that first novel – the year after my firstborn graduated high school – it was published. Two more children left for college, and I gave birth to two more volumes. More are coming, all in good time.

And I’m not so MOHGAW anymore. Just ask my family.

Author C.A. Morgan

C.A. Morgan, author of Emrysia: The Three Sisters Trilogy (Emrysia Awakening, Lament & Endurance) is a lifelong learner and champion dream chaser who loves to encourage others to contribute what only they may to the world. From northern Michigan to remote mountainside in Vermont’s northeast kingdom, she is equally at home on stage or in her garden, and is currently sharing the gift of music in a hospice choir, and completing illustrations for her children’s book on the fears associated with diagnostic testing. She and husband, Roger, are enjoying a quieter house these days, raising their belated blessing with occasional unsolicited advice from her adult siblings. To learn more visit her online at: www.camorganwrites.com, facebook.com/reademrysia, and twitter@camorganwrites.

5 Ways to Push Past Fear

Were you one of those kids who believed that ghosts or monsters lurked in your bedroom closet, waiting until the lights were out and you were trying to sleep to make their presence known? (See my raised hand.)

Or, maybe you were the young adult with the world before you, yet you were so anxious about making wrong decisions that you opted more often than not to play it safe and make choices that were safe.  (Hand still partially raised.)

Or, could it be that now, as a full-fledged adult, you view your age, weight, finances, personality or other personal circumstances as reasons for staying in a holding pattern or coasting through each day?  (Hand NOT raised.)

It took me a while, but after living for a bit and surviving a couple of life’s major “D’s” – death of loved ones and divorce – I’ve come to realize that life’s not meant to be expansive and enjoyed only after you’ve conquered your challenges; instead,  while you’re wading (sometimes knee-deep) through them, you could be growing, learning, laughing, loving and even thriving in your inner soul.

Watching my now-deceased older sister find enjoyment in simple things after surviving a double lung transplant in 2011 taught me to value each breath, each opportunity to connect with loved ones, and indeed, each day.

Experiencing the death of important relationships and the snuffing out of their accompanying dreams taught me to value myself, flaws and all, because even if no one else is around, I have to live with and love me.

Pushing through all kinds of highs and lows with others shook me and shaped me into a more empathetic, peaceful and purposeful person – someone filled with more resilience, hope, deeper faith and joy for simple blessings than I otherwise might have possessed.

While my experiences have been uniquely my own, the benefits they’ve yielded are universally possible.

What has hampered you or broken your heart? What has made you press pause and enter a journey of self-examination or sacrifice? What has led to tears that have filled God’s bottle with your name on it, yet also grew a garden of unexpected supporters and mentors to surround you?

Consider those consequences as the gems for your journey. Allow them to fuel your steps forward and foster more hope and heartiness where needed.

Fear comes to us all, yet fear can’t take up residence unless we grant permission.

When it pays a visit, greet it with these behaviors:
  •  Acknowledge the emotion’s presence, then try to assess why you’re afraid.
  • Envision your worst-case scenario. If the thing you’re fearing were to happen, how would you survive? (Your faith, your Plan B, support from family or friends, or all of the above? )
  • Envision your best-case scenario and how this outcome would empower and elevate you. If this were to happen, how would you stay centered while sustaining the success?
  • Remind yourself that whatever comes, you are strong enough, smart enough and loved enough to fall down and get up, or to stand  and wait, or to rise and forge a new path – whatever is required.
  • Remember that by some accounts, FEAR is simply “False Evidence Appearing Real.” You have all within you to overtake whatever is causing you to stumble or spin your wheels.

Embrace the five suggestions outlined above and execute them routinely – one moment, one hour, one day at a time. Refresh and repeat as necessary.

Invest attention and intention in yourself, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself shedding your cocoon and soaring, in your solely special way.

You’ll be living life “untapped,” in a space where regrets are few, life lessons are abundant, and grace is more than sufficient.

CCO Use photo. Overcoming fear.

Video Viewpoint: How Storytelling Helps You Grow

Whether personally or professionally, may this brief video inspire you to write a vision, life strategy, book, blog post, journal entry or essay about your experiences and set a new resolve to thrive.