The Appointment

As I cross the threshold the smell of coffee beans curl around me and escort me further into the coziness of the coffee shop. As I inhale the goodness I scan the shop for my appointment, we make eye contact, she’s comfortably tucked away at a table in the back corner of the shop. With my calm smile I say, “I’ll be right there.” Then I return my attention to the menu, just to give my eyes something to do. I’ve been here a million times and hardly ever change my order.

“Shine I’m so glad we could meet today! How are things?”

I drop my bag at my feet and reluctantly settle into the worn cushion on my seat.

“Everything’s going pretty good. I’ve just been working and trying to enjoy the down times that I get. But you know me I’ll like to stay busy and want to be a part of everything.”

“Yes I do know that about you. You should really slow down and just stay home and focus on yourself for a change. You know forget about everyone else.”

“Yeah but that’s just not me. I want to be involved in the world not just wrapped up in myself all day. That can get lonely real quick.”

“Well, all I’m saying is that it’d be better for you to enjoy some isolation from the world so you can focus on the things you need to fix. Anyways have you made a decision? Are you going to stop resisting me on this?”

“I can’t just make a decision like that. Why can’t I just ride this out and see what happens before I decide to sell?”

“Come on, Shine. Let’s look at the facts. You’re not doing well. Right now you have more failures than successes and really what does your future hold? You don’t have any clue what you’re doing. It’s going to be better for you to just cut your losses and call it good.”

She stares intently at me while I teeter on the fence of my mind. As I exhale the deflation of my lungs matches my spirit and I feel the tears starting to well up.

“Yes what you say is true, and maybe you’re right but there has been some good too. I’ve made some progress, not perfectly, but progress none the less. It counts for something. Right? Oh and if I get help from a couple of my friends, I’m sure we can figure something out together.”

“Shine! You don’t want to drag other people into your mess, do you?” Her bold tone has invited a few sideways glances from strangers around us. “Just think of what kind of burden that you’ll be putting on them. What will they think of you? I’m telling you it’s time to just throw in the towel. Give it up will you? You’re not going to amount to anything at this rate and you need to just be honest with yourself.”

“Why do you always have to be so negative?” My heart is pounding and I really just want to agree so this argument can be over but something in me just cannot let it go. “This can’t be the end. I’m not going to give up, there has to be more. There has to be something we can do. Seriously let’s bring in a team and work this out. Let someone that knows what…”

“Ok just stop it! OK? Stop.” Everyone is staring now. “I’m just going to lay it out for you so there is no confusion. You’re done. No one is here with you and you’re a failure. You couldn’t make this work. You’re disappointment to your family and your friends. There is no coming back and everyone has their own problems, they don’t have time for yours. They don’t care about you and wouldn’t miss you if you were gone. You keep repeating the same mistakes. You’re not changing or growing in anyway. You haven’t moved in forever. Don’t you see you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not talented enough…you’re just not enough.”

“Who do you think you are, saying those things to me?” the tears freely flowing.

“I’m you.”

“What?!” I stare at her in disbelief and start to recognize myself in her face. Stunned I looked to the strangers around us and I start to recognize the nodding faces of my parents, my dearest friends, and shame suffocates me. They heard everything and they agree. The emotions weigh down on me like someone is sitting on my chest and I can’t breathe. I shut my eyes tight and open them in panic.

It’s pitch black and I can’t focus on anything but I’m breathing wildly. I roll to my back and gradually my disorientation fades and I realize I was dreaming. As the air conditioner clicks on the raw emotions of rejection, discouragement, and disappointment continue to torment my heart in the darkness.

Silently and desperately I pray.

“Dear God…Thank you that I’m not alone. Thank you that I have you and nothing can separate me from you. Not even myself. I know that I am my own worst enemy. Thank God that in You, I always have hope – the fight inside of me that won’t ever give in or sell out to the lies that try to destroy my spirit. I pray that you would continue to strengthen the hope inside of me and quiet the doubts that I have about myself. Give me the strength to move in faith and trust the outcomes of my life to you. And thank you for the support of my family and friends. I wouldn’t be here without them. Thank you God for how you’ve blessed my life. Amen”

Now in the darkness, the silence is comforting, and the peace settles over me like a blanket and I drift back to sleep.

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Author Notes:

Through my experiences I’ve come to realize that hope is never lost. We always have a choice to rise and move forward. Imperfect progress is still progress. We are not alone and in our darkest of times all we need to do is reach out or cry out. We need to have a healthy mistrust for our self-talk and make sure to have a sounding board of close friends to sift out the lies and discouragements that will steal our joy and potential for the great things to come in our lives. We were meant to live and experience the world around us not self-destruct in isolation. Don’t ever give up, where ever you find yourself. The fight is worth it.

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One Conversation

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It was the first conversation that initially sparked my interest to know more. I knew he was different in the first few minutes we started to dialogue. He was direct and spoke my name clearly making eye contact that most people find uncomfortable, but to him seemed to be second nature. He, like I, knows people, he is a charmer and can put on a good show. Everyone sees him as easy-going and fun, they look to him to bring the party, a leadership role he gladly takes on with ease. Which is something I admire about him, he can engage a room full of people if he so chooses but that is not the man that I am curious about.

Sure there are the usual stories that he tells everyone, those stories come easy and every word is spoken with confidence. His opinions and stories are supported and amplified by his hand gestures and delivered from a laid back frame of mind. Then there are the answers to questions that require a moment of attentive silence before the words flow with careful selection. He even deliberately over communicates himself in order to achieve calculated clarity. Some questions he answers openly and thoughtfully but some of the deeper subjects he answers with the walls up. His face is serious and the body language is gone, everything is still as he speaks. The words still sincere but delivered with careful control and a precision that makes me curious about the reasons for all the effort exerted for that one sentence. I see the conflict in his eyes and how he tries to pursue favorable outcomes but I can’t help but think sometimes he completely misses the mark. I can see there is a depth to him that he guards with his life, but I wonder why. The questions in me rise but I stay silent.

The walls are built so high that I fear who he really is will always be a mystery to me. Even still I am captivated by every word carefully studying his movements, searching for anything that will clue me in on the truth of it all. Then there are these moments, that are over as quickly as they came, that take my breath away, like a startling surprise of sweetness, where the gates are completely open. And I see him for just a second, his face is relaxed and the passion in his voice is rich. Suddenly there is an authenticity that can’t be mistaken. It’s like someone walked into the forbidden room and as the door swings open then closed again I catch a glimpse of the interior just long enough to be in awe of its radiance and then the door clicks back into place. I secretly wish for those moments like a child that wishes for ice cream for dessert. The sheer freedom in those moments is so sweet no matter how simple the topic. When they happen my eyes get bright with excitement and my awareness sky rockets because I don’t want to miss a thing. I see the sparkle in his eyes when the topic is fascinating to him. Or the memories that flood his face when he’s speaking of his past. I see the inner struggle that furrows his brow when he’s trying to decide if he’s made the right decisions. I’ve seen the anxiety wash over him as he’s walks himself though every outcome of his choices and then observe as he transforms into a stranger. His mannerisms remain kind but at the root is a cold disconnection. A defense against the overwhelming emotions that he has unearthed.

I don’t take any word for granted. I must say that I respect the way that he guards his heart and I’m fascinated by his ways. His thought processes are so unique to me. He has allowed me pieces that make a beautiful mosaic but I know the whole is more mesmerizing than just the pieces. There is more to the story. I know that he is a treasure and I want to discover why. Each conversation reveals another dimension of his character and with patience I collect the facts that I’m allowed. I can’t put my finger on the appeal of his mystery, or why it has fueled my curiously to know more. I think that it’s because rarely do I meet someone with such undiscovered depth that I just want to know them. But it is difficult to know someone that seems to not want to be known. The truth is unknown but the conversations are quite interesting and they make me smile. He changes my days one conversation at a time. Within this year he has drawn me out of myself in ways that I don’t even think that he realizes. Friendships like that are one in a million and I’m just happy to have had the first conversation. I expect many words with varying weights will be exchanged through the years and I’m content to just be a friend privy to these small but memorable encounters.

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The Time I was Given

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I remember how we did everything together. You could say we were connected at the hip. We were always together. We had numerous sleepovers. If I was with her I didn’t mind if I didn’t make it home. Her home was my home. My heart would warm as soon as I’d see her house come into view. I’d bounce down the steps of the driveway and swing open the screen door and I’d always find her in one of two places. As soon as I’d get in through the front door she’d be sitting in her chair in the middle of the room, perfectly positioned in direct line across from the TV. On bad days I could burst through the front door and run straight into her arms and curl up in her lap in her chair, completely safe. We’d also spend long mornings in front of the TV, me bumming on the love seat, she’d be in her chair, we’d be watching The Price is Right, my favorite was when the contestants got to play the Plinko game. I was always captivated by Bob Barker’s skinny microphone and his ability to engage his audience. We watched almost every episode of the I Love Lucy show and we’d laugh and laugh until we couldn’t breathe and then watch another episode. We also watched many interviews on the Sally Jesse Raphael talk show, but my favorite interview was when Sally brought the entire cast of Sesame Street on and I was able to see Big Bird get interviewed.

When she was kneading dough for frybread she’d sit on the edge of the coffee table right in front of the TV while her favorite soap opera played. I’d sit right behind her on the coffee table and every few minutes she’d tear off a piece of dough for me to nibble on. Her second favorite place in the house was the kitchen. She was always cooking something so that meant we were always eating. She was the best cook; her dishes comforted your soul. She was such a thoughtful cook and always made my favorite things each dish truly made with love. Everything she did for me was truly an act of love. One time she used a strip of a dish rag to tie the house key to my shoe just so I wouldn’t lose it, and would have a way to get into the house when she wasn’t going to be there. So silly but that simple act I’ve never been able to forget.

I think that grandmothers have that gift though. They do the simplest things that melt your heart and make you feel so loved. Ask anyone, there is no one like their grandma. My Grandma Dixon was definitely a woman unlike any other. Her presence inspired me and left a sweet impression on my heart. She loved so deeply and always opened her home for everyone to come and feel the love that she was pouring out. If it was a perfect stranger that she could serve a hot meal to or her family, it was all the same to her. From her examples I learned the significance of the gift of hospitality. Her ability to love so intensely and intentionally changed my world and always drew me into her. I never wanted to leave her side. She was my best friend and was the first person I learned to love so deeply.

When her health declined and eventually took her from me I was devastated. She was too young. I was too young, only in elementary school at the time, and this loss was profound. As a child this was a harsh reality check that the moments that we have with people are so precious and once the time has passed, it’s just gone. Although I’m so blessed to have been loved so deeply and to have had my life touched by an angel I still mourn for the time that we lost. The countless coffee dates we would have had, the weekend road trips I’d have taken to visit her and update her on my life, the cooking lessons we would have had. Or all the times we’d watch reruns of I Love Lucy and continue to laugh like it was the first time. I miss the phone calls I would have made to ask for advice when I felt lost in the world and I’m sure she would have encouraged me and told me how much she loved me and my world would be right again. I miss her at every milestone and lunch that I have with my mom. At every family dinner, every holiday and I’m sure I’ll continue to miss her as I grow my own family. I miss her on the days when I just want to go home and run into her house and jump into her lap and sink into her sweet embrace. I miss her always.

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A High Point

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“Mountaintops inspire leaders. Valleys mature them.”

-Winston Churchill

There is a place where I feel in complete peace. The view is overwhelmingly breathtaking. Every time. It’s a place where I can be completely honest with myself about the seasons that I am in. I can go there broken, angry, when I’m on cloud nine, or just because I had the time. I am always accepted and there is no judgement. There is always a feeling of coming home, a relief to be in a place that I am completely known. The worries, the busy days, all the weights of my world just melt away in this place. I get just what I need at every visit, comfort, rest, quiet, encouragement, a reality check… just a simple stillness that meets me exactly where I am at in the moments that I find myself there.

My alarm goes off at sunrise and I debate going back to sleep but then I remember the little adventure that lies ahead of me and I get out of bed. My backpack is already packed and in the quiet morning I wash my face and brush my teeth and quickly slip on my shoes and out the door. Even though my body is screaming for more sleep there is an excitement inside of me that fuels my determination to make it to my destination.

After I park and double check my backpack for water and my small breakfast I take my first step on the dusty trail that is my very own yellow brick road. My legs begin to warm with every step, as the elevation slowly increases the sleepiness fades away, my breathe quickens and my body begins to feel alive and energized. On the way up there are a few climbs that make my muscles burn and tempt me to stop pushing upward. I don’t want to take any breaks for fear of losing any momentum that’ll shorten my travel time. I’m anxious to be home and enjoy the air and be in awe of the beauty that I know awaits me.

I always sit for a minute at the one mile mark. The engraved stone that read “1 mile” is gone but the mold of its resting place is still there serving as my own personal checkpoint. I have one final climb to push through, and then I’ll be there. With my headphones on I watch the world pass by, I slowly sip my water, while inhaling deeply and exhaling with precise control, my heart is pounding. I give a polite nod to each passerby and sometimes a slight smile, they say with their eyes, “You’re almost there.” I sit just long enough to recover my breathe, then quickly get back on my dusty feet, recommit myself to this climb with a quiet determination to finish strong no matter how I feel. I am my own coach. “You’re stronger than you think you are. Come on. Press in.”

I’m suddenly aware of every step and the size of every boulder on my way up. I’m carefully calculating my path on the way up doing my best to conserve what’s left of my energy so I don’t have to stop again. I’m so close I’m just ready to get there. My deep concentration to keep my momentum gets interrupted as people who’ve already quenched the beauty slowly trickle down the narrow path I’m struggling to stay on. They politely step aside or quickly pass probably relating to me, because it’s where they were moments earlier.

The best part is the last twenty feet before the top, because I’m completely depleted, challenging all my limits but there is always a burst of energy that meets me and I charge forward, raising my gaze to my horizon. There’s a shining silhouette of relieved hikers enjoying the reward of their hard work and I step over the top, and the sky just opens up and a refreshing relief just washes over my body and my mind is free of everything. I am home. There is a calm that settles over me and a thankful smile spreads across my face as I take in a panoramic gaze of my little piece of heaven. I am reminded of how truly blessed I am. I sit off in my own little corner so that I can bask in the pure joy of this place.

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You’re free to THINK as you please.

It’s amazing how adaptable we are as humans. If we open our minds to the possibilities and opportunities then really anything is possible. But when we focus on the limitations or possible failures, the “what ifs”, or “last times” we seriously rob ourselves of experiencing the amazing moments or people that could have changed our lives. I had this epiphany while I was at my dance lesson for Zouk tonight. I’ve been doing West Coast Swing for the past year and a half and I love it. But tonight the characteristics of West Coast Swing were holding me back from being a free flowing Zouk dancer. Zouk is even more free flowing and organic than West Coast Swing. The moves are limitless but only if I was open to them. At first I was struggling, trying to keep beat and remember where my feet where supposed to be but it was because I was applying all the rules of West Coast Swing to Zouk. It just wasn’t working, it was actually pretty funny to watch. When I stopped thinking of what was familiar to me (let go of my West Coast Swing mindset) I was able to dance more fluidly. I became open to the Zouk movements and it all started to make sense and I finally felt like I was dancing! So exciting!! In life we do this to ourselves, limit the awesomeness that could be had because of fear, insecurity, or just being too comfortable in what we find familiar. We were meant to thrive daily but our mind sets limit us because we allow it.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right. -Henry Ford

It matters what you think on. It affects your day today, tomorrow, and in the grand scheme of things, it can affect the trajectory of your entire future. It’s that deep. Makes me think twice about my attitude day to day. If I can make tremendous progress in an hour dance lesson, how much more growth could I achieve if I applied that principle to my life. Yes I agree easier said than done because life in general is one hot mess sometimes. But there is hope that change is possible for everyone.

You’re free to think as you please but what ARE you thinking about?

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Snapshot Story: Sisters make the best friends.

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“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are.
The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”

This photo was from yet another epic bathroom selfie photo shoot! Yep Valerie and I are shameless and if there’s good light and a mirror, then the photo shoot is ON! I know that a lot of people hate on selfies but really if you had this much fun taking selfies…well why not! This night we took tons of photos and laughed til it hurt. We talked about life and dancing while I was getting ready and then went out for more dancing. We are addicted, must be the dance instructors in us. That is what I love about our friendship, it just IS. We make the best of each day, she has become the sister I never had. It doesn’t matter if we’re just getting a refill on our cheap drinks at the gas station or if we’re having a serious life talk in the parking lot, we are for each other every step of the way. We laugh all the time about nothing and share our concerns when needed, but the love and support is unconditional. Life is hard and you need friends that will stand with you in the storms as well as celebrate the sunny days with you. Growth doesn’t happen in isolation. Good friends will encourage you, challenge you, inspire you, support you….love you.

Cheers to all my friends and special shout out to my Valentino! Thanks for being there for me. Love you!

Thanks to The Daily Post for this prompt.

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Maya Angelou: An Inspiration to the World

Maya Angelou: An Inspiration to the World

“I believe the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare.” “I can be changed by what happens to me. I refuse to be reduced by it.”

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

“My mission in life is not to survive, but to thrive: and to so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Maya Angelou’s life and successes just prove that you can build a beautiful life no matter what your background. She was truly gifted with an amazing ability to speak so profoundly and elegantly. Every time I read her poems, quotes, books… I am always left in awe of her writings and simply inspired. She was deep and I’m so thankful that she was able to share her talent with the world. She was the phenomenal woman, a legendary author, a real woman whose story and life has brought hope and strength to me, in my own life.

May she rest in peace…

Dr. Maya Angelou

April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014

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