Monday, July 25, 2016

Dr. Crista's Girl Power Book Club

I enjoy reading. Fun reading that is. I consider fun reading anything that is not required academically or professionally. Since the summer affords me a slightly slower pace than my norm, I figured it was a perfect time to prioritize reading again. I gathered together girlfriends who live near and far and created an in-person and online book club. I felt like I needed some female-empowered non-fiction, so those were the picks. Here's a brief review from Dr. Crista's Book Club.

Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
First author up was Shonda Rhimes and let me just say, all of the yeses to the "Year of Yes." This was our first pick and we knocked it out of the park with this one. It was a funny, yet substantive read about how she challenged herself for a full year to say yes to whatever scared her. In doing so, her life turned upside down in the best possible way. It was very inspirational. We've all been afraid. We've all been bored in life. We've all felt like something was missing. This book offered one way to start to turn things around.

Bossypants, Tina Fey
Let me say that I love Tina Fey. She's funny. She's smart. She's feminist. She's a great writer. I was certain all of those qualities would yield another good read. Unfortunately, "Bossypants" just didn't do it for us. We actually didn't even finish it because no one in the group was really feeling it. It's hard to even put a finger on what wasn't clicking. It had humorous anecdotes and an overall relevant theme. Perhaps it just wasn't meant for our group at this time. No shade, Tina. We still love you.

Why not me?, Mindy Kaling
Although this wasn't selected by the book club, this was my second book of the summer. Here we have another comedy writer and woman of color. She shared various stories from her personal and professional life in essay form. Her humor had just the right amount of self-deprecation, while still feeling genuine. Her journey was essentially about becoming comfortable in her own skin. She made it clear she has not arrived, which kind of gave me permission to be patient with myself if I haven't either.

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
The next book club pick was one I absolutely loved in an equal but different way than "Year of Yes." "Big Magic" was all about creativity and inspiration. It's a wonderful book for any artist or creator, and according to Liz, that's anyone who's breathing. She began by challenging readers to consider, "Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures within?" This book really lit a fire in several of us to get moving on some things that have stirred within for a while.

You are a Badass, Jen Sincero
The last book of the summer that we're concluding this week is the popular, "You are a Badass." First of all, kudos on the title. I bet the title alone sold copies. Why? Because just like we've all been afraid, we've also felt insecure, insignificant, and less than. This book honored that feeling while still giving a swift kick in the arse to readers to quit pouting, quit giving up your power, and do something to change your life. You can look at it like this. If Shonda Rhimes and Liz Gilbert gently invited and inspired action, Jen Sincero gave the final shove to act now.

So, in a nutshell, this has been the summer of saying yes, accepting the skin we're in, bringing forth the treasures within, and owning our inner badass. This book club has been instrumental in finally doing what's been in my heart to do for a few years now. I have finally decided to share my story in a self-published book titled "Healing Through Movement: Getting Back up After a Broken Heart." It's a personal story of getting knocked down pretty hard when my relationship ended. But more important than the fall, was the process of getting back up. I interviewed women who had also endured painful endings and summarized how we figuratively and literally moved through the healing process. Interesting how it kind of goes along with this summer themes of courage and power, huh? I invite you to check it out at the link below. Maybe you can add it to your own girl power book club.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What Family Reunions, Zumba, and Michael Jackson Teach us about Black lives matter

The last eight days have been so incredibly refreshing. I haven't wanted them to end. I made a trip home to visit my immediate family as well as meet a good friend's new baby. Then, over the weekend I had my big biennial reunion with extended family. Not only was it wonderful to get a break from the usual work grind. It was great to get a moment of respite from the week of grief in the news.

It was interesting to gather together and experience so much joy, while the backdrop for the rest of the nation was anger and grief over racially motivated police shootings. Of course, the senseless killings hit home for us as well, as a family who identifies as Black/African-American. I just also think we have a unique experience with race relations because there's so much multiculturalism among us. Interracial relationships are almost the norm in my family. Therefore, we have always embraced white in-laws and any other cultural group, just like our own. Provided they are good people (which they always are) that can fellowship over drinks and off-color stories (which they generally do), then they're part of the fam. We're not color blind and we don't want others to pretend to be either. It's just that once the bond of love is shared, any noticeable differences just don't matter as much anymore.

In thinking about that, there was a moment when I got a little choked up standing in front of several family members. I led a Zumba class as one of the weekend activities. I looked out at my awesomely diverse family jamming out to dance rhythms and music from all over the world. As Shakira's "Waka, Waka" phased out, she said, "We're all Africa." Then, we transitioned to my favorite cool down song, Michael Jackson's, "Will you be there." Towards the end of this beautifully written song, there's a really touching speaking part. It always moves me because: 1) I love MJ and believe he was a phenomenal talent and genuine soul. 2) It felt especially poignant at my reunion as I considered how relevant his words are to what's happening today.

So, I'll close with his words and echo his sentiment. We are all just looking for love and belonging. We are all someone's child and loved one. We are all connected to something bigger than ourselves, whether we realized it or not. We all want to know we are seen for who we are, we are loved and valued by others, and, at the end of the day, there's at least one person in this world who will be there. I'm blessed beyond belief to have a whole tribe of people who are there for me.

In Our Darkest Hour, In My Deepest Despair
Will You Still Care? Will You Be There?
In My Trials And My Tribulations
Through Our Doubts And Frustrations
In My Violence, In My Turbulence
Through My Fear And My Confessions
In My Anguish And My Pain
Through My Joy And My Sorrow
In The Promise Of Another Tomorrow
I'll Never Let You Part
For You're Always In My Heart.

- Michael Jackson, Will you be there