Thursday, July 6, 2017

2017: A Mid Year Review

What has 2017 taught and given you to be on course with your goals: Have New Year resolutions been kept? Career aspirations on track?  Started that business? Wrote that book?  Lost that weight?  Spending time on  reviewing the status of personal and professional goals for this year  is a good strategy.  Explore any barriers or obstacles that may be preventing forward movement. Look for purposeful tips and resources to reset or relaunch those goals!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Face Up! The Place for Our Problems

A wise person will always find a way.
Tanzanian Proverb

Problems, problems everywhere and sometimes not a solution to see.
My grandfather could ‘rig things up’— finding a method to make something we needed out of what was available in the house or yard. Wire hangers, string and glue were miracle items. He’d come up with a way to fix most things that were broken, even if he really didn’t know a lot about it.  I often watched him in those moments—thoughtful and determined.
            My mother got this know-how from her father. In running her household she created makeshift wheelbarrows or tools to get her hauling or yard work done. She’d even try a few wiring jobs or faucet fixes— getting them in a condition she could use for her purposes. My mother’s physical strength was also something to behold.  On visits to her house I’d notice that furniture would sometimes be in a different location than before and I wondered how it got from point A to B, knowing she was home alone. When asked she’d say, “I moved it by doing…” explaining her strategy. As Voltaire, the French philosopher stated,No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking.” My mother would give every challenge her best effort.
If anyone needed items repaired, she’d figure it out. I took broken pieces of luggage, flawed hemmed slacks and household knickknacks to her to make right. She’d touch the object and look it over. Then say, “Give me that thing, ay Lawd. Let me see here, Umph, Umph, Umph. Maybe I can do something with it.”
And yet my mother and grandfather both encountered situations that they alone couldn’t mend. Repair specialists would be called in.  Sometimes the thing to be fixed wasn’t an object but a money or personal matter. Those would just be what they were – another issue to play out at another time. Or there were some problems my grandfather and mother decided to let go of or turned them over to God to make a way.
I’ve tried my best to be a problem solver—sometimes that’s good, others not. When my mother was sick with leukemia, I hoped I could do something to make this situation better or go away. Busying myself by talking to her medical team, researching her condition and managing details in her home consumed me.  One day when I was in fixing mode my mother looked at me and said, “You can dot every i and cross every t, but you can’t fix this.” I sat stupefied and scared – not wanting to face the reality of what she said. My purposeful assault on her illness helped but would not repair. The solutions of her life were in the Lord’s plan and hand.
I had to learn what my grandfather and mother knew about some of this journey’s problems. My job was to sit back and let the Lord work it out according to His will. That’s the best way —always!
 What do we know about problems?

  • We will have them   
  • Some are relative
  • They travel together 
  • We have to think about them
  • Not all of them can be solved
  • Some fix themselves
  • Sometimes they set up shop for a while
  • Murphy’s Law stands
  • Some are harder than others
  • We need help with some of them
  • Pursue options
  • Consider the root cause
  • Know when to turn them over to someone greater than ourselves

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Navigating Life's Mountains and Valleys

Out hiking in 1982

    Not sure what 2017 will bring but know that with God's help, I can climb every mountain! And every valley provides its own type of lessons.  Through it all I know who I can depend on to guide me in navigating strong...A  GPS of God Provided Safety!

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Life Journey and Matters of Money

He who knows how to be poor knows everything.
Michelet, French historian

            My beginnings as a ‘poor black child’ provided me a few insights about all things financial. Watching my mother and grandparents constantly trying to ‘make ends meet’ was a tricky as well as tedious process. But they did it— we were sheltered, fed and clothed. For them money wasn’t just about the dollar bills. There were many non-monetary ways that helped our family survive.
        Connecting with neighbors to borrow and lend were well used methods that mattered. “Can I get $5 from you until I get paid?” was a question that could come from anyone. There was no ATM; instead it was ‘ANM - Ain’t No Money.’ Checks floated and crashed. Reserve funds were limited to quarters tied up in a handkerchief that the adults pulled out as a last resort. I watched my family share resources such as food or household items with others in need even when we didn’t have much—literally ‘counting pennies’, or measuring cups of sugar.  
            As kids, when we went to the local store, we learned how to bargain with each other or make loans when someone else didn’t have enough for their treat. Sometimes we were entrepreneurial—collecting soda bottles to turn in for money. A nickel could buy you a soda or candy bar back then.  If you had a quarter, you felt your ‘ship had come in’!
            My mother and grandmother sold boxes or tins of candy and at times used the ‘green stamp’ exchange to acquire funds or household items. Lay-a-way programs with the local merchants gave my mother and grandparents a way to purchase needed clothing or household items over a period of time. This was their planning method, requiring them to look ahead for our needs. Stewardship in church, whether it was putting a nickel in our offering envelope or helping count money from the collection plate, was emphasized as a way of giving to the Lord.
            These experiences provided a mindset for elements of my financial strategy: Share, improvise, prioritize, identify resources and plan when you can.
            When I worked for fifty cents an hour at my first job at the Waverly Diner, I used my $20 dollar a week salary to buy my school clothes and share some of the money with my family.  The next summer I got a raise to sixty cents an hour because I moved up from dishwashing to grill cooking. Boy was I excited. A 20% salary increase!            Financially, my attendance at William and Mary was made possible through the existence of educational grants, academic scholarships and national defense student loans that were available as part of a federal education thrust for minorities in the early 1970s. Yes, government handouts got me through college with the funds for tuition, room and board. It was definitely advantageous for me to be poor, black and smart.
            A part-time job at the college post office provided through a work-study program helped me pay for other educational and personal survival expenses.
            Mirroring what I’d seen in our household growing up, I willingly worked hard, used available resources and shared.
            During the summers between my years in college I worked at the chemical factory with my mother. This was definitely a better opportunity for making money to keep my school needs met and still help my family. That foundation of principles and skills to use in other monetary situations that I’d learned in my youth continued to build. Sacrifice and don’t hoard. 
But as the years went by I also started the gaining and losing cycle of dealing with money.           Even still I went back to school, realizing another degree would help in my career and business pursuits. I decided to use my MasterCard over a two-year period to finance this master’s program. I was also able to secure a part-time job on the campus. Win-learn! Once my training/consultants projects stabilized and rewards were reaped, I was able to pay off my credit cards. “Money spent on the brain is never spent in vain,” according to an English proverb.
            In continuing to watch my own and others’ financial issues through the years, I’ve come to several conclusions. We can’t separate ourselves from living life by building our personal Fort Knox. Yes, in looking out for our financial future, saving and finding ways to create wealth is important. However, ‘tomorrow isn’t promised’ so enjoy what you can for today and splurge a little. Earn money while reaping joy and making memories too. 
            Share, improvise, prioritize, identify resources and plan when you can.

Excerpted from my motivational autobiography, Navigating Life’s Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey in print and Kindle eBook


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Never Too Late: Lessons for Life Transformation

Sunset Over The Dead Sea in Israel
I recently read Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying for a seminary class. In this book the author unleashed a gripping and symbolic work on a host of enduring challenges as transformation hovered. In the novel’s various scenes, themes of love, family, faith, and expectations pierce the pages with lessons displayed in courage and testimony, then ultimately degrees of transformation for each character. From reading the actions of Grant, tortured teacher, to Jefferson who anxiously awaits execution, or Reverend Ambrose, conflicted support provider, the relevant question emerging for me is: How many learn what they’re supposed to learn between their sunrise and sunset? Taking place in the backdrop of familiar segments of racial realities, the African American journey around human identity and dignity, transcends place and time in Gaines’s words.
What struck me the most in this book, weaving in these segments and themes, shows up in a conversation between Grant and Jefferson on p. 193 as Gaines writes, “And that's all we are Jefferson, all of us on this earth, a piece of drifting wood, until we - each one of us, individually- decide to become something else. I am still that piece of drifting wood, and those out there are no better. But you can be better. Because we need you to be and want you to be. At this point I cried as Jefferson cried: a transformative moment for reader, character and work with rich symbolism appeared. I thought about a conversation with my late favorite uncle about five years ago on the topic of family challenges, especially during crisis, where some don’t step up but instead rest in their ‘ this is how I am’ stance. My uncle’s statement was, “Sometimes it’s time to be something else.”  A situation now calls for this new posture as was the case for Jefferson, to walk to his earthly finality as a man, for his godmother Miss Emma, the community and himself, and not take on the hog label which his persecutors attached to him. Throughout his imprisonment, Jefferson had many drifting thoughts, one noteworthy as the context for the time of his execution led up to the Easter holiday, as he repeated the phrase, “And he never said a mumbling word.” In the end Jefferson had learned to be strong in the Lord, modeling certainty in his identity as a man and the bravery of Jesus on his journey to Calvary, to fulfill the expectations of his Father. Actions which left transformation for those on the edge of this narrative such as the deputy Paul as a witness to Jefferson’s execution, ‘saw the light’ in the jail’s own ‘Damascus Road’ experience, and shared Jefferson’s bravery in the end with Grant. Then the ultimate story for the preaching and believing community emerged.

On a death bed or tragic accident or sudden illness, has one grasped the totality of those Believers Instructions Before Leaving Earth (BIBLE)? The inevitable journey after our drifting days, we can only hope we learn the critical ones that God has for us to learn, packaged for us; being open to the process. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Finding Life's Road to Realization

March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life’s path.

Kahil Gibran

            “Life is difficult.” In Dr. M. Scott Peck’s well known book, The Road Less Traveled, this is the first sentence. Startling at first glance, but when we think about these words, it’s very true.  Dr. Peck goes on to say that once we accept this fact, life becomes less difficult because this fact no longer matters.

            Keep going ISO (In Spite of).

            We then focus on the many roads ahead, knowing as we proceed on our odyssey that some truths will become evident. One such truth is that we ourselves sometimes get in our own way and create difficulty. Other times we show out brilliantly, handling our business. Hard stuff happens and none of us are immune. Wonderful times roll around and we all get to celebrate.

            Most of life actualizes somewhere in the middle and that is where we learn—traveling on what appears to be a ‘long and winding’ road.

             I’ve (literally) broken down on the road yet found inspiration in the words of a gospel song that relates, “Nobody told me the road would be easy; I don't believe he brought me this far to leave me.”  These words help me to recognize and use my IPS (Internal Positioning System) more.

            What I’ve come to terms with on this journey we call life is that I have experienced a lot and will experience much more. This range of events has presented many emotions for me, reflective of things I’ve missed and things I’ve cherished. I’m sometimes lonely for a mate, yet proud of what God has allowed me to accomplish. I lament relationships that fell into dysfunction, yet relish those that remain in alignment. I revel in joy over family rites of passage and sometimes sink in sorrow over those who’ve transitioned to be with the Lord. I’ve learned that you can’t always count on those closest to you, but strangers of immense kindness will pass along your way.

            At either end of this spectrum, coping is what we do. We learn how to wipe out and negotiate and handle what’s thrown our way—it’s the Navigator’s mission. Facing the fact that no one roadway will put us exactly where we would like to be, we internalize this tough lesson. With no guarantees for happiness, we reach for it where we can find it. Oftentimes we’ve heard others say (or have thought to ourselves), "If I get this or that then I'll be happy." Trying to keep up with others in current lifestyle trends usually leads to temporary satisfaction, but an ultimate return to dissatisfaction. The important thing is to keep our focus and be optimistic even in the most challenging of times. Where we are is where we are. 

            Understand that the roads of life are best paved with managed expectations.

Excerpted from my motivational autobiography, Navigating Life’s Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey in print and Kindle eBook