35 Lessons At 35.2

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I just had the MOST EPIC 35th Birthday Celebration! I’m usually super low-key about my birthday but this year I decided to REALLY celebrate and thanks to my loved ones, I had an entire week to celebrate! Here is what I did:

(1) Went to dinner and attended a MeShell Ndegeocello Concert

(2) Went to see Rebirth Brass Band in Chicago, my favorite New Orleans Brass Band

(3) My bestie Jamila took me to see Erykah Badu and we had dinner

(4) My hubby got me a trip to San Diego to watch the blood moon lunar eclipse, and on my actual birthday, I had a Spa Day at Spa Kingston in San Diego. Cali also has the BEST crystal specimens I’ve ever seen and the prices are incredible so you KNOW I went Crystal & Bead Shopping!

Caption: I didn’t even realize there would be so much crystal stuff at Spa Kingston. When I walked in I knew I was in the right place. I picked them because they were listed on Conde Nast’s Top 10 Spas in San Diego. 

My friends and family got me some beautiful gifts. More than anything I am grateful to have a dope group of friends, a healthy marriage and supportive husband and now more than I ever I truly feel fulfilled and look forward to waking up every day! But the point of this post was to share my 35 things I’ve learned. I think it is important to check in with self and more importantly to share our wisdom and our experiences because you never know who needs to hear something and who will be inspired by your words! I had every intention of publishing this on or before my birthday but that didn’t happen so here we go, in no particular order:

  1. Notice those who are silent when you win, and loud when you lose.

People will tell you exactly what you need to know about them. Pay attention to their behavior and more specifically the patterns.

2. There are some people in my life who I never hear from unless they hear something bad or hear something in the news.

I am not interested in being connected to people who only reach out when they hear something bad or some gossip. I don’t feel like those people are genuinely interested in being connected to me, so I keep my distance.

3. The more people you have in your circle, the less energy you will have. 

Building genuine, meaningful relationships with people takes a lot of energy! It’s not even necessarily a bad thing but I want to be able to truly show up for my friends, devote time and energy to them and really show up for them when they need me. Because of that I keep a pretty small circle. I want to have friendships with a lot of depth.

4. What you do is not who you are.

Now when people ask me who I am, I focus more on my values and on the things that are not connected to my work. Identity is something that is fluid and that evolves over time. I never want to “lock” myself into an identity or into a corner that I can’t walk out of.

5. Use “pings” to make decisions about your relationship to people.

I always assume that people have good intentions until proven otherwise. When someone does something questionable or hurtful, I “ping” them, meaning I take a closer look, I’m paying more attention and based on their behavior or actions, I make decisions about what to do next.

6. There is no single person, place or thing who will give you everything that you need.

I love my husband deeply, but I do not expect him to give me everything that I need. I love my friends deeply but I don’t expect them to individually give me everything that I need. I love New Orleans with all of my heart, but I don’t romanticize and think that if I move to New Orleans, all of my problems will disappear. The only person who can give you everything that you need IS YOU! For those who are spiritual beings, your faith also plays a big role in your ability to full fulfilled. This year I really pried myself away from the “If Only” mindset. If only I had a new car. If only I had $10,000. If only I had friends that… If only (fill in the blank). At 35 I have truly learned to accept and embrace the now, the what’s in front of me. While I work toward certain things, I do not place the impossible burden of everything on any single being, experience or person. I also reject anyone trying to place that impossible and unfair burden of me being someone else’s everything. Variety is the spice of life! I have my scrapbooking boos, my magical boos, my business boos, like I build relationships and community around my different interests and truly feel like I have everything that I need that way.

7. All thoughts are not meant to be said. 

The filter is your friend! Everything that comes to your mind or to your heart is not meant to be said.

8. It’s ok to give yourself time to process before responding.

I used to allow people to pressure me into giving a response or making decisions. Now I just ask for more time and if someone can’t grant me that time, I pass.

9. New dreams are fragile. Be careful who you allow to handle them.

We get so excited about new dreams and new goals! New dreams and new goals are like babies in the NICU. You can’t expose them to every virus and every person out there! Be careful with them until they reach the point where they are strong enough to withstand being “out in public.”

10. You can find the answer to any question that you have. 

Google it. Visit the public library. Ask someone! If you are not comfortable with it yet, learn how to do effective research!

11. Ask the experts. 

I rarely do anything without consulting at least one expert. You do not have to move about blindly or in ignorance. You’d also be surprised to find out just how much information you have with people in your network.

12. Periodically look at the baggage you are carrying and make adjustments. Sometimes you can’t take flight because you’re carrying too much.

We all have baggage. Be sure that you are mindful of your own baggage so that your plane can take off.

13. Say less.

The older I get, the less explaining I feel compelled to do. My husband and I have adopted this saying. We just do and let our actions speak for themselves.

14. Sometimes the yo-yo won’t return to you… and that’s ok.

I remember learning how to yo-yo and the feeling of shock when sometimes the yo-yo wouldn’t bounce back up. There are some decisions and experiences that we have that are like that. What’s meant for you will return to you. What’s for you is for you.

15. Influencing people is much easier than trying to change them or their opinions.

I try to lead by example. We can try to talk people into things and out of things. We can give them advice. The best thing that you can do for others is to show them by your example.

16. Talk is not cheap, it is expensive.

Every time we speak we are casting a spell. Our motto at Spell Well is “What we speak comes looking for us.” Be mindful of your words. As Maya Angelou would say “taste your words.” They are POWERFUL magnets!

17. No matter what you do, people will have something to say so just do what you want to do.

This is also something that grows as I age. People are always going to talk, so you might as well just do what you want to do!

18. When you feel frustrated, angry or sad, allow yourself to feel the feels but also introduce yourself to the cause of those feels.

Anger, frustration and sadness are usually the by-product of another emotion. It’s kind of like the pimple that shows up after your poors are clogged, you’ve been eating poorly or you have some some of hormonal imbalance. Try to figure out what CAUSED the anger, frustration and sadness so that you can learn to let those emotions work for you and you can work with them.

19. Every action has a reaction. You don’t always have to be responsible for delivering the reaction.

When people do me wrong I don’t feel personally responsible for delivering their karmic lesson. I trust in the laws of the universe and know that what we put out comes back to us.

20. Cleanse your spirit as often as possible. 

Juvenile reminded us to “keep our body clean.” Don’t forget to clean your SPIRIT! You are collecting a lot of spiritual dust and dirt everyday. Every interaction that you have with another human being impacts your spirit. Everything you watch on TV. Everything you scroll past on your phone. It is important to regularly cleanse your spirit and to not wait until your spirit is so heavy, or so impacted that you hit a crisis. Spiritual cleansing should be a part of your daily routine whether life is good or life is challenging.

21. Create what you wish existed.

Stop waiting for someone else to do it and just do it.

22. Be the energy you wish to attract.

I am the type of wife that I want my husband to be. I am the type of friend that I want to have. I am the type of neighbor that I want to have. What does this look like in practice? When I’m at the grocery store I purchase things that I know that my husband likes, even if I don’t like them (ewww to those frozen chocolate bananas he loves lol). I send cards and pick up little trinkets for my friends all the time, not because I expect anything back but because I love the feeling of people giving me little things that they picked up for me. I love getting cards in the mail. When I pick up trash in front of my house, I often pick up half of the trash on my block even in front of the houses that don’t belong to me. In my experience I get what I put out.

23. Intuition is truly the sixth sense, don’t ignore it.

I never ignore my intuition. It is a data point for us! If my intuition is telling me something I tune in. It has helped me avoid so much trauma and heartache!

24. Shift your perspective from finding magic, to creating it.

I stopped looking for magic and now I create it.

25. Give the gift of your absence to people who abuse your presence.

When people abuse my kindness, my presence or the access they have to me, I don’t curse them out. I don’t put them on blast in public. I pick up my things and find the nearest exit out of their life! I know what I bring to the table and to the relationship. I also know that my presence is a gift. Your presence is a gift. Your attention is a gift. When you think about it that way, you won’t engage with people who don’t treat your presence and your attention as such.

26. Brows, nice jewelry and a great lip elevate any look.

These three things make me feel like I can conquer the WORLD!

27. Failure is the stepping stone to success.

One of these days I want to publish a book about all of the epic failures that lead to great things. Don’t be afraid to fail! When you fail, you just know what doesn’t work and can go back to the drawing board. Not saying the ego won’t be bruised but having the ability to try again with new information is a better position that just starting out fresh. Trust me!

28. Engaging with people on certain topics brings validity to their point of view. 

If you argue with a racist about why your humanity matters to a certain extent you are validating their point of view. Now I am not saying that you shouldn’t engage with people who have a different opinion, I am just saying to be wise about when and how you engage with those people. There are some people who all they do is argue and fight with people all day. Who has time for that? I know I don’t!

29. Argue in private. 

Arguing with anyone about anything in public is always going to have a different outcome than if you have the same argument in private. When I used to teach, if I had to address a behavioral issue, I would ask the student to step out into the hall with me. One on one was always different than if I addressed the issue in front of the entire class. When there is an audience the stakes are always super high and you get into this thing where people are performing for the audience (yourself included!).

30. Don’t generalize.

There is always an exception to the rule. Be careful using absolute terms like “All” and “Never.”

31. Identity as quickly as possible who makes the decisions.

The person who makes the decisions and who knows what’s truly going on is RARELY the person in charge or with the biggest title. A person’s assistant often knows more about what’s happening than the person. The person answering the phones and telling you to sign in, has more information that you can imagine. Don’t be so quick to build a connection with the boss or the “king.” There is always a king maker. There is always the person who promoted the boss or the person who the boss goes to, to get things done. Find those people!

32. You can never really know someone’s intentions.

Intentions are internal. They come from inside. For that reason you can never truly know what someone intends. There are also people who will misrepresent their intentions when confronted or asked about them. The best thing you can do is deal with how someone’s behavior made you feel or how you’d like for something to be solved. I also pray for discernment. I pray for strength. I pray that my words be coated with love.

33. Give people the same grace, compassion and empathy that you’d like to receive as they grow and evolve.

The 35 year old Donnie that you see before you is not the 25 year old Donnie that you may have met. What I consider “dumb” now is not what I considered “dumb” when I was 15. Allow people the same grace, compassion and empathy that you’d like to receive. You make mistakes. You didn’t always know what was appropriate. When people mess up, you have the opportunity to help them grow and evolve. I am not saying to accept abuse!!! I am saying that people weren’t raised like you were raised, don’t have the same value system that you have. There is a sort of dance that has to take place when we are dealing with people, especially people we claim to care about and to love.

34. You don’t HAVE to do anything.

Compulsion is the quickest way to get me to go ghost! Don’t ever allow people to make you feel like you have to do anything. I don’t care who they are!

35. Set intentions as often as you can.

Intentions are the radio stations that the universe listens to. Set those intentions so that the universe can deliver what you called for!

35.2 (for the 2 days that I’ve already been 35 lol) Manage expectations… yours and other peoples

When you make an agreement with another person, try to lay out your expectations and hear out their expectations. The more clear and specific you can get on both sides, the easier the relationship will be. You can’t get mad at people if you haven’t been clear about what you expect! Ask the hard questions up from so that you can save yourself the frustration, embarrassment and disappointment later.

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Thank You For All Of the Love and Birthday Wishes! This last trip around the sun was amazing and I am so grateful that my bags are pack and I’ve taken off toward 36 😉

 

 

2019 Vision Board Reveal

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I have finished my 2019 Vision Board, which will remain in place until the end of December of 2019. 

A Vision Board should be a tool that inspires you to manifest your intentions. I speak more about how to set intentions in my Vision Board Masterclass here. I also speak about the process here

Here is a closer look at my Vision Board:

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I cut my hair earlier this year. Danai is so beautiful with her short hair. This image is a reminder that strong & sexy are not mutually exclusive and it is also connected to my intention of living a healthy lifestyle.

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This photo of Naomi Campbell connects to my intention of “looking good, for good.” This phrase was coined my our friend Kenneth Cole. I love fashion and style and when I step out, I want to do so with confidence and with class! 

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This graphic represents the many hats that I wear, as well as the type of clients I’d like to work with. I am now offering consulting services and would love to work with people, women in particular who are in these different industries. You can book one on one time with me here.

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I always have some form of travel on my Vision Board. I’d really like to travel to the following places in 2019: Mexico, Morocco, Egypt, Senegal (for the 2nd time), Italy and I’d like to go mining for gemstones. I was not able take a trip out of the country in 2018, so I plan to make up for it with at least 2 trips in 2019. 10781705248_IMG_8808

I want to be more present in my body and I want to DANCE more in 2019. I’ve also been really focused on doing more with less and living a life rooted in abundance and not lack or scarcity. 

Here are some sample pages from the Ultimate Guide to Creating A Vision Board Book: 

Sample Page 1Sample Page 2Sample Page 3

Vision Board Book

Vision Board Book

I would love to see your Vision Board! Post a link in the comments or e-mail me at wespellwell@gmail.com! I believe that when others see our Vision Board it adds good energy amplifying our intentions & manifestation process. It is also a built in accountability system when we make our intentions public or open. 

 

The Sweet Life: Michelle Obama’s Becoming Tour Recap

Becoming Stadium WrapBecoming Banner

The mood was festive! When we walked in there were large photo backdrops with lines of people, mostly women, getting their perfect shots. Merch tables were selling photos, posters and of course books! I overheard one person asking if there were any more signed books. “We sold out of those already.”

When we walked in to the stadium we were greeted with festive music and a backdrop of photos from Michelle’s Obama’s Journey both personal and professional. From clips of her on Sesame Street, to Lebron James, to Will Ferrell, during her family’s time in office Michelle Obama became a part of pop culture. Once she had her initiatives, Let’s Move, Let Girls Learn, she went to where the people were and spoke to us in a language that we could understand. It was a reminder that when we saw Michelle Obama, a black woman from the South Side of Chicago as the First Lady of the United States, our country’s version of the “Queen” we had visual proof and confirmation that anything was possible.

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Caption: L, Kris Christian, my friend, myself and Del-Marie, an alumnus of Art of Culture and one of my mentees/musical daughters. 

My mentee Del-Marie, my friend Kris and I made our way to our suite. Our suite was stocked with food, snacks and a mini fridge filled to capacity with soda & water. The room was filled with women non-profit organizational leaders and their mentees. We all introduced ourselves while enjoying the very delicious spread. We quickly made our way to our seats as the chatter in the stadium quieted in anticipation of the show beginning.

Michelle Obama and Oprah

Photo Credit: Rob Grabowski, Invision, AP News. 

The show started with Oprah Winfrey coming out to introduce Michelle via a video about her life. The graphics and visuals were all on point! That was followed by a powerful montage of people sharing who they were becoming in person and on video. Once the video ended Michelle and Oprah came onstage to take their seats. The backdrop was a large screen on top of golden yellow curtains. The seats were a dark teal and perfect frames for Oprah & Michelle’s beautiful brown skin.

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Michelle rocked a shimmery off one shoulder top, white pants and hot pink heels. I wrapped my head around the fact that I was sitting in the United Center for a book tour, and it was a packed house. According to Time Magazine, 14,000 to be exact. People attend the United Center for concerts, sporting events and now, thanks to Michelle Obama – book talks. Despite the fact that there were so many people in the stadium, Oprah & Michelle managed to make it feel like we were sitting in a small room with them. You could hear pockets of laughter, “Amens” and cackling when certain points were made. Here are some of the nuggets from the conversation which lasted 90 – 120 minutes. Although I wish I could represent the conversation in it’s entirety, I’m highlighting those things that stood out to me.

On Motherhood

  • Michelle shared how when she called herself “Mom-in-Chief” she received a lot of criticism for that.
  • She shared a story about how she wanted to try to normalize the experience of living in the White House for her daughters so unless they were doing formal dinners, she wanted the staff to dress more casually and not in full tuxedos. She said living in the White House was like living in an expensive hotel.

On Marriage

  • During her 20/20 interview with Robin Roberts she spoke about how she and Former President Obama went to marriage counseling. Oprah highlighted the fact that had become headline news. Michelle went into more detail about that.
  • She described how when her husband was Senator he had to travel a lot and how that impacted the family. When they went to counseling she wanted the counselor to tell Barack his issues, but wasn’t quite prepared for them to help her deal with her own issues. Her biggest takeaway from counseling was that she was responsible for her own happiness.
  • She also talked about how she didn’t want the girls and her to be in a position where they couldn’t eat because they were waiting for their father. They made adjustments and dealt with it from there.
  • There was a really cute video clip of Sasha & Malia sharing how they had more ice cream during the campaign season than they ever had in their life. They also talked about that night in Grant Park seeing everyone crying and screaming. They also talked about how proud that their mom as First Lady had, and how cool it was that she was also their mom.
  • She described having children as the first “joint project” for many couples. In many cases the wife has her thing and the husband has their thing, but the children is “our” thing which presents couples with challenges.

On Negativity

  • Oprah asked Michelle “How do you continually go high when the game is set against you?”  Michelle’s response was to “Do the work.” She said “your work will speak for itself.” She also talked about “having a lot to do distracts you from the pettiness. If you’re pushing a real agenda you don’t have time to play those games.” Finally she spoke of learning about moving the needle and the importance of removing our ego so that we can get things done.
  • Her parents encouraged her curiosity and they encouraged her and her brother to use their voice.
  • In safe spaces and private moments she would have “bubble moments” where she would really say what she wanted to say but then when she would come out in public she would say what needed to be said. She also said “You do not say the first thing that comes to the top of your head” and cautioned against that being acceptable.

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On Women

  • She said that we were still trying to figure out what we believe women can do. She described Hillary Clinton and others hitting a ceiling.
  • She also described how women were voting against their interests, and both her & Oprah mentioned wrestling with the why.
  • Oprah asked her a question about what she has learned about being in rooms with powerful men from Sidley Austin (the private law firm she used to worked for) to others. Michelle said “Our fear that our story doesn’t matter, it chokes us.” She then went on to talk about how we are often more qualified than some of the people who don’t believe that we should be there. How important it is that we speak up when we are in those rooms and at those tables, otherwise we are not making the most of the opportunity for ourselves and others.
  • She talked about how women often have ourselves 4th on our list, and we need to put ourselves closer to the top.

On The Writing Process

  • While writing she wrote the majority of the book before sharing it because she wanted to be transparent. She would share chapters with some of her early readers one of which included Oprah Winfrey and also her mother.

On Leadership & Life

  • She talked about the pressure being the first black family and how she felt the need to be perfect.
  • She described how hurtful some of the criticism was during the campaign and while her husband was in office.
  • She described reading the newspaper and seeing everything that was going wrong in the country being her husband’s responsibility, which is also where her empathy for anyone holding that seat emanates.
  • She talks about learning how to play the piano from her Aunt Robbie on an imperfect piano. The “middle c” was where you were supposed to start to play. On her piano at home the middle C was chipped and brown, but all of the other keys were yellow. When she played her first recital on a Baby Grand, she thought “This isn’t a piano” because all of the keys were perfectly white. She then used that as a metaphor saying that “Many of us are learning to play music on an imperfect piano and don’t even know it.” That was probably the story and the image that stuck with me the most from last night.

 

Caption: The above video features Non Profit Leaders + Their Mentees! We were all in the suite together. 

I highly encourage you to purchase and read the book. It is 426 pages! I plan to start reading it today! For those who were in attendance, if there was something that resonated with you that I didn’t cover but that may be helpful for others please share in the comments below.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to share this experience with one of our Art of Culture alums Del Marie Nelson. Del is a creative powerhouse with a beautiful soul. I will never forget the image of her writing notes during Michelle’s talk and her sharing the moments that resonated with her throughout. Our mission through Art of Culture is about providing access and information, and last night we were able to do just that. Thank you to Derrick Christian and Kris Christian for making last night possible for Del & I. I pray that you both are immensely blessed. Sometimes you feel overlooked. Running a non-profit is not easy and the stack of no’s is often towering over the stack of yes’s. Last night you guys said yes to us, and for that we are forever grateful. We needed that energy so much!

Donnie and Del

Lastly, thank you to Oprah Winfrey and to Michelle Obama for being shining examples of powerful, strong, unapologetically intelligent and graceful black women. You both have been North Stars for me throughout my personal and professional journey. If I am ever afforded the opportunity to meet you both in person, I will share that with you! I pray that my life and my work can have a fraction of the impact that yours has had on me and so many others.

Side Note: Exactly one year ago today, I had the pleasure of participating in the first Obama Foundation Event, and had the opportunity to meet President Obama.

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I recorded clips throughout the night for all of the people who for whatever reason couldn’t be in attendance. I want you to know that I thought of you last night. Here is a Dropbox link where you can view some fo the footage I recorded: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/6maqej50q5nw7ro/AADFZnMpTHu-OXQLWUtX66ADa?dl=0. I hope it inspires you and you can get an idea of what it was like to be there!

It was an absolute miracle that God pulled through in the last minute for me to attend. Read the full story here.

 

The Power of Manifestation – My Michelle Obama Ticket

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My best friend and I signed up for the notification when Michelle Obama released the announcement that she was doing a book tour. We we were already experts because of our ability to secure Beyonce tickets. After all, we are card-carrying 20+ year Hive Members. We were on the phone searching for tickets. Once we found the tickets we wanted they were way out of our budget. We decided not to purchase. As the owner of 2 businesses, I have to stick to my budget. When I don’t stick to my budget, I am unable to meet my financial goals. I will be 35 in January and when I took the entrepreneurial leap, I also walked away from my growing 401K, a paycheck every two weeks, my amazing health insurance – it was a real sacrifice for my dreams.

I started thinking about how badly I wanted to go to the Michelle Obama Becoming Tour, and thought & felt that I would be there, despite deciding not to purchase tickets.

About two weeks ago, one of my friends and colleagues e-mailed that they were working with the Obama Foundation and were working on securing tickets. I was super excited about it. This is one of those “plugs” that always comes through. I also know how things work though. “Working on it” is not guaranteed. I managed my expectations and hoped for the best. This person has come through time and time again.

As of 11/11, I hadn’t heard from my connect. I watched the Michelle Obama special on 20/20. I live tweeted. It felt refreshing, it felt inspiring. At 54 years old Michelle Obama represents strength, resilience, beauty, class and grace! She didn’t have to choose between family, career, her dreams and her husband’s dreams. She welded them together. Her fertility journey had me in tears. Having had 4 miscarriages (one at 5 months), and quickly approaching my 35th birthday, I realized that was the age when Michelle Obama started IVF, giving birth to two beautiful black girls. I was reminded by her that all hope is not lost.

I hop on Facebook and realize a South Side Bookstore was giving out 300 tickets to get Michelle Obama books signed. The tickets came and went and by the time I saw the announcement all of the tickets were gone. Another opportunity lost. I made peace with the fact that I may not be in the building Tuesday night… and that was ok. So many of my friends and colleagues were posting their tickets on social media. I was excited for them and made a mental note of who was going so that I could tune in to their social media profiles to catch as much of the show as I can.

When things are meant to be they happen. Yesterday morning I finished up creating content for social media for Spell Well, my new company. One of the videos included this:

It is now Monday. The event is in 24 hours. One of my good friends (not the one from 2 weeks ago) calls. She says “Are you available tomorrow night?” She then starts explaining and it turns out that not only am I getting a Michelle Obama Ticket, I also have the opportunity to take one of my mentees of a certain age. It’s a special thing that I am uniquely qualified for. As I type this message I am in tears. I matched the vibrational frequency of what it was that I wanted (see Oprah video above). I made peace with either outcome and divorced myself of the outcome. What’s for me… is for me. Never underestimate the power of your mind, your heart and your actions to draw the people, things and experiences you desire. I am a witness. It is now Tuesday morning and I am considering what I’m going to wear and preparing myself to show up for this amazing experience that I KNEW I would have. I didn’t know how but I knew the when and the where and I kept my schedule open…. just in case!

UPDATE: Read my full recap of the Michelle Obama Becoming Book Tour experience here.

Register For My Free Online Vision Board Workshop

There are 55 days left in 2018. Insert distressed emoji here. This is the time of year to start reflecting on 2018.

I recently did a ritual created by Gaby Herstik that involved looking at experiences as either thorns or roses. It was such a beautiful metaphor for my experiences this year.

What worked for you in 2018?

What didn’t work for you in 2018?

What do you want to amplify in 2019?

What do you want to leave behind in 2019?

As I come to grips with these questions, I thought it was only fitting that we think about these questions together. I am hosting a free Online Vision Board Master Class on Saturday, December 1st at 10:00 a.m. CST. You can participate from anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the internet and a device (laptop, cell phone, iPad or tablet, etc.). Here are a few examples of my Vision Boards over the last few years:

2017 Vision Board

Vision Board 2014

Vision Board 2016

In this class we will explore:

(1) How to set annual goals and match images to those goals.

(2) Where to find images, quotes and other content to put on your board.

(3) Examples of Vision Boards including other formats and sizes besides the traditional Cork Board:

Cork Board

(4) Basic Principles of Manifestation.

There will also be time at the end for Q & A, and I will be going live on Instagram from my @donnienicole84 handle to show you how I take down the current year (2018) and put up my 2019 Vision Board! The start time for that will be 1:00 p.m. CST!

Click here to register for the free Vision Board Masterclass! There is limited space so please grab your seat ASAP!

In Loving Memory of Ntozake Shange

I will never forget the first time I experienced Ntozake Shange. I was a High School student in Ms. Melissa Borgmann’s Writing as Performance Class.

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I remember feeling excited because the woman on the cover looked like me. I attended High School between the years of 1998 – 2002. At the time I was dealing with a lot including having survived a sexual assault at the age of 12, reuniting with my mom who spent a part of my childhood incarcerated, and at the age of 14 (the summer before starting high school), leaving one state – Missouri for another – Minnesota. Plus you add the normal coming of age stuff with hormones, falling in (and out) love, rejection, making life decisions about college, and trying to figure out who you are. It was a lot. 

I found myself between the pages of Ntozake’s book. These women looked like me… they sounded like me… They also looked and sounded like women I knew – my mom, my Aunties.

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This text is one of those cornerstones of influence in my life. Shange’s words affirmed who I was as a blossoming black woman, and they also provided me with the courage to discover my own voice. I wrote poetry extensively at that time (I started writing poems in middle school), and I was (and still am) an avid journal writer. I felt like I couldn’t process the many emotions and thoughts I was having until I wrote them down. Writing was therapeutic for me. It gave me power.

You can imagine my excitement when the film came out in 2010. I actually took my students to see it, after we read the text.

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More than anything, I just want to thank Shange for walking in her truth as a writer. I want to thank her for writing in a genre… “the choreopoem” which defied the rules of structure at the time. I want to thank her for picking up the baton where writers like Zora Neale Hurston left off. I want to thank her for giving words to my pain, my frustration… and my hopes.

Below you will find a few poems that she inspired me to write as well as one of my graduate school Reference Letters because I actually used for colored girls for one of my undergraduate projects and my professor referenced it in his letter. I was always weaving black authors and experiences into my coursework. I usually only share my poetry with family these days, but it is fitting to put these words, inspired by Shange out in to the atmosphere. I can’t believe I was writing AND PERFORMING this stuff in High School! My maiden name is “Belcher” so that lets you know when these pieces were written. Also, Ms. Borgmann was a strong influence on my decision to become an educator, and she was also the reason why black literature was a staple in my classroom! If it wasn’t for her, I would not have met Ntozake, and the many other powerful writers she introduced me to.

I will be adding Shange to my altar in reverence after her funeral and hope that my writings, my work and my life can provide even a fraction to others of what her writings, work and life have meant to mine. You can read her obituary in Essence Magazine here.

“i found god in myself
and i loved her
i loved her fiercely.”

 

 

Grad School Letter Final

Promiscuous Cycle #1

Power of the Pen

Angel of Innocence

Concrete Memories

My Weightloss Journey – Down 21 Lbs.

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Caption: The picture on the left was taken this week. The picture on the right was taking the first week of August of this year. 

In August while at my family reunion, I was looking at photos of myself and quickly realized that I was largest I’d ever been. For the first time ever in my life I felt embarrassed about the way that I looked. I was instructing people taking pictures “get a close up.” Motioning for them to only capture me from the chest up. It was bad…

Add to that, earlier in the summer while getting up to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night I felt dizzy and had to hold on to the wall. My mind was telling my body to move… and my body wasn’t moving. It was so scary that I ended up going to the hospital. My blood pressure was through the roof. When they were able to get my blood pressure down, I was instructed explicitly to take medication 3 times a day to help regulate my blood pressure.

That health scare along with how I felt about myself led me on a journey to becoming healthier. I was an athlete in High School. I ran track and that was the period in my life where I was the healthiest. At the age of 12 I actually got diagnosed with high cholesterol! On the outside looking in at that time I was “healthy.” It was then that I learned that a person’s physical appearance doesn’t necessarily correlate to what’s happening on the inside. At that time I stopped eating pork and beef, and never added it back to my diet and my cholesterol dropped significantly.

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Caption: I try to be super intentional about eating enough veggies and balancing out the type of meals I have each day. If I know I’m going out to a bar at night, I’ll drink nothing but water the entire day. 

So back in August I made a decision to make better choices as it related to my diet and as it related to my fitness. Here are 10 things that I’ve done that have worked for me:

(1) Invest in workout equipment at home. I am just not a gym person! My husband and I took some money and invested it into a treadmill purchased on Amazon. My phone cost more than the treadmill. [Insert angry emoji]. We also invested in a weight bench, free weights, resistance bands, jump ropes, kettle bells etc. We basically created a gym in our basement. This has been helpful for me because all I have to do is go in the basement to get my workouts in. Before we had the equipment it was a struggle for me and often became an excuse for why I couldn’t or wouldn’t work out. I had to remove the opportunity to make that excuse.

(2) Keep it simple. My approach has been to work out for 30 minutes, for 5 days a week. After I do my cardio on the treadmill, I do conditioning workouts. I have watched my waist get small, my arms get smaller, everything is firming up!

(3) Don’t totally deprive yourself when it comes to the diet. I love ice cream. At this point, I’m not going to give ice cream up! Maybe once a week or so I have a root beer float. I try not to beat myself up over it. The key is just moderation. At some point in the future that may change. Despite having an occasional root beer float, or cupcake, or cookie, I have still lost 21 lbs!

(4) Press play. Music helps motivate me. I turn it all the way up! Give me a jungle or tribal beat and lots of bass and it feels like the workout just does itself lol. Spotify actually has really nice curated playlists organized by genre and Beats Per Minute. You can check out my very eclectic Work Out Playlist here.

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Caption: This is my “eating calories” face lol. 

(5) Do it first thing in the morning. I am much more likely to work out if it is the first thing I do every morning. Plus, I get good energy and I can start the day with being proud of myself. Sometimes I can’t work out in the morning due to other obligations but my good weeks are those where my workout happened first thing in the morning.

(6) Make substitutions. I read the back of labels now more than ever and check for the sodium and the sugar. Too much sodium raises my blood pressure and too much sugar makes me fat, and often leads to an energetic crash. Instead of eating so many cookies I now eat graham crackers. My max is usually two rectangles but often one is all that I need to feed my craving. Read the labels. Instead of telling yourself no sugar and binging out when you have a bad day, say yes to sugar but just eat a healthier kind. I’m also a big fan of smoothies so if I’m having a sweet tooth as a meal replacement I’ll have a smoothie.

(7) It’s ok to mess up. There have been some weeks where I have not worked out all 5 days, but if I was able to do 3, I was ok with that and said I’ll try again next week. The thing about this journey is that as long as we are living, we have the opportunity to make better choices. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your standard for the week or for the day. Go to bed (my solution to most things lol) and try again tomorrow.

(8) Celebrate the small victories along the way. I initially set a goal in August of losing at least 35 lbs before my birthday (January). After about week 6 or 7 I was down 13 lbs and I celebrated that with some new workout gear. If I have a really great workout I will post it on social media as a celebration that I did it! I made it through! Today, I am down a total of 21 lbs! I have not yet my goal, but the sheer fact that I am over halfway there is something to celebrate. These micro-celebrations are the motivation and the carrots that you need to keep going.

(9) Address your emotions. Overeating and eating unhealthy things for me is directly connected to my mood. Now, when I’m feeling a certain type of way instead of reaching for a Pepsi, I reach for my journal. Instead of visiting a Sweet Shop I’ll text or call my bestfriend to vent to her. Our emotions are very powerful and are often the reason we make poor or unhealthy decisions.

(10) Do what works for you. Every body is different. What works for me, may not work for you. Someone may go on a particular diet that works for them, the same diet may make you sick! Some people give up dairy and meat. Some people eat more dairy and more meat. Your journey to better health and weight loss is your journey. Experiment with different things until you find the formula that works for you.

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My next doctor’s appointment is on 10/29. I’m excited to see how this weight loss has impacted my blood pressure and overall health. This has not been easy, by a long shot. I do not like working out and I’d love to be able to just eat and drink what I want, when I want. But that’s not my reality. I take it one day, one meal, one workout out at a time. Incrementally over time, I’ve been more consistent than not, and I am seeing results.

Feel free to comment any questions, suggestions or resources you may have below! Sending you encouragement if you are on a similar journey. You can do it!

How To Create Room In Your Life For What You Really Want…

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Caption: Earlier this week my husband & I wrote down five intentions, tied them on sticks and then stuck them in our plants. Whenever we water our plants, it is a physical reminder to water our intentions. 

When you ask yourself what do you truly want, what comes to mind?

Perhaps you want to be a full-time entrepreneur. Maybe the photo of a lifetime love popped up. It may not be that deep for you. Maybe you’re up for a promotion at your job? You’re trying to muster up the courage to ask for a raise? Perhaps life is good and you’re looking for less… less stress… less pain… less struggle.

Either way it goes, I truly believe that if we are to get the things we want (or remove the things we don’t want) we have to create room; literal space to welcome the thing, the person and/or the energy into our lives.

PHYSICAL SPACE

If your physical space is cluttered, you don’t have room to add anything. I’d strongly suggest doing a deep clean – physically removing trash, papers you no longer need and dust to give whatever you are looking for a landing strip in your life. Have you ever lost something and went on a rampage to find it only to discover that it was hiding in plain site? Here are some additional ways you can make room physically for what you want:

A. A dedicated journal or notebook. – Writing things down takes it out of your mind and brings it into the real world.

B. Space on a shelf. – The simple act of creating space on a shelf, is a dedicated action to your desired outcome.

C. A basket or container – Similar to the idea of creating space on a shelf. This may be an option for those who are limited in space. This is also great if you find you need to be mobile. I have containers for my scrapbook stuff, containers for my jewelry making, and even containers for my spiritual tools – incense, essential oils, etc.

D. A Room – I know people who have prayer closets or prayer rooms. Craft rooms, etc. Dedicating an entire room to your work, or to something else that you care about is symbolic of how much something means to you and the priority it has in your life.

MENTAL SPACE 

The human mind is powerful. Did you know that your body cannot tell the difference between an action it performed in real life and an action it simulated or visualized. It is what made Muhammad Ali one of the greatest to ever do it. Our minds are the gardens that either grow (or kill) our seeds. Here are some ideas to create mental space for your desired outcomes:

A. Time on your calendar. – Dedicated 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour a day, a week or a month to your dreams. Protect that sacred time and honor it. Even if you are just spending time with yourself, add it to your calendar like you would any other appointment. Show up for yourself. Show up for your dreams.

B. Mastermind conversations – A mastermind conversation is strictly focused on meeting your goal. Meet with your mentors. Meet with the experts. Spend some time with the people who can help you move the needle.

C. Seminars/Workshops – If you want to start a business, attend workshops and seminars. There are SBA’s in every state that provide free programs and workshops that can help you actualize your dream. Go on Eventbrite and search for free events connected to your dream. Find others who share similar passions, subscribe to e-mail lists, etc.

D. Read books & listen to podcasts – The time you spend reading a book and listening to podcasts can really make the difference in helping you to “level up.” You can often filter podcasts by topic – lifestyle, business, etc. Often the people who are the leaders of a particular field host podcasts.

EMOTIONAL SPACE

Moods are magnets. If you feel motivated, you will attract more motivational energy. If you feel like a loser, you will attract loser energy (be careful with that one, because the energy may come in many forms – personal or professional). Do whatever you can to manage and move your moods. Here are my recommendations:

A. Affirmations – write your own or find them online. Repeat them at least a few times daily. Carry them in your purse. Say them when you first wake up or before you go to bed.

B. Mood Boards or Vision Boards – Create a visual of your desired outcomes and display the board somewhere you’ll see it everyday. I’ve written extensively about vision boards. Start here. I collect things all year that resonate with me and that represent what I’d like in my life the following year. I spend New Year’s Eve (or the last week of the year) taking down last year’s Vision Board, and putting up my new vision board before midnight. I also keep the contents in my old board in a scrapbook, because I believe that even when I take them down, I am still holding space for those things to come into my life.

C. Convos with loved ones. My best girlfriends and my husband are my greatest cheerleaders. When a seed starts to sprout I speak to them because they share in my excitement and my joy. Most of all, they encourage me to go for it, and that’s the kind of emotional energy you need when your goals and dreams and ideas are in their infant stages.

D. Remove the barriers. Get rid of the excuses. Turn down the volume of the naysayers (not those offering constructive criticism, but those who are just negative and haters for no other reason than to be petty, shady and ugly). When I decided to start pursuing a healthier lifestyle 9 weeks ago, I knew that if I had to leave the house I’d be less likely to work out. I purchased a treadmill and set it up in the basement to remove that barrier or that excuse.

SPIRITUAL SPACE

I believe that our desired outcomes must align with the energies and the realities of the universe. We work in collaboration with the universe and all of the things and the beings that are a part of it. For example, if you are pursuing a promotion, you often aren’t the only one being considered for that promotion. It is usually you and at least one other person. If you don’t get it, it just means that it wasn’t for you and it was for the other person. You are not lacking in any way or wrong in any way or undeserving in any way. Your path is just different and that particular thing was not for you at least not at the moment. If you get the promotion, the other person has to remember that same. Entitlement is a helluva drug. The more that we can detach our personal egos, feelings and lives from something, the happier, freer and lighter we become. The only thing that belongs to you is your body. Anything else that you receive is a gift from the universe. Here are my recommendations for how you can be in better collaboration with the universe.

A. Prayer – Prayer is the language that spirit speaks. Write your prayers. Say them out loud. Send your desires and your hopes and your dreams to the spirit world with love and humility.

B. Meditation – I see prayer as sending messages to the universe, to God, to our ancestors. Meditation is for them to speak back. Meditation is when we focus ourselves. It is when we are still enough to align and realign our energy with the flow of the universe. Guided meditation is super helpful when you’re just getting started. There are tons of apps that can help you with this if you need assistance. Also if you are on Spotify, they have a host of meditation playlists and guided meditations that you can listen to.

C. Open your heart and open your mind. – Open your heart to the gift of friendship, the gift of love and the gift of abundance. If you are feeling paranoid, distrustful, bitter or fearful – you need to process that. Talk to a counselor or therapist. Write in a journal. Release those energies. It is said that fear and faith cannot occupy the same space at the same time. The same goes with your mind. If someone is sharing information or resources for you and all you can do is interrupt them or think about the millions of ways of why you can’t do it or it can’t be done, your mind needs to be opened. I am not saying that any of this is easy. When I first met my husband as my boyfriend I had a laundry list of the reasons that marriage was a mistake and a bad idea… and I shared it with him! I was carrying the baggage of abuse and of a failed marriage and thank God that he saw past all of that fog to my heart and true desires. He and I will be celebrating 9 years of marriage next year!

Every day I try to remove those things that are no longer serving my highest good out of my life to make room for those things that I truly need and want in my life. I hope this was helpful and I hope that your dreams are a little closer to being real today than they were yesterday! You are a powerful being with the capacity to transform your life. Transformation is not easy and it is certainly not always fast. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself some grace. Take it one action at a time and before you know it, it will be done!

No More Playing Small…

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” ― Nelson Mandela

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Today, I participated in a panel on WCIU’s The Jam TV Show as an expert for job hunters. This opportunity came to me because of a social media post I made a few weeks ago about hiring talented people. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m usually a behind the scenes person. Don’t get me wrong, I can speak live on camera, but when given the option I usually push other people forward to speak, and only speak when I have to.

I was also joined by two powerhouses on today’s panel, and two women I have deep admiration and respect for – Adrienne Samuels-Gibbs and Kris Christian.

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Today I made a decision that I will no longer play small.

When given the opportunity to highlight my accomplishments, my plans or my voice, I will seize it.

When someone sees something good in me that I may not see in myself, I will be gracious and receptive, instead of dismissive or reductive about it.

When someone advocates for me, I will respond to that advocacy with affirmation and confirmation.

When the next step toward my dream is visible, I will take it and will not feel guilty about it or feel bad about it.

When a person wants to take a photo with me, I will pose with great posture and serve face, hip and lip.

I will nominate myself. I will write myself in. I will show up for myself.

I will walk in my calling when I hear my name called.

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You can watch the full segment here.

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Thank you to Producer Melissa Perez for the invitation!

Note: I am wearing my signature Crystal Ball Bracelet in Pyrite + Amethyst, as well as a necklace from Love Peridot. My custom jewelry and accessories can be purchased here.

 

 

Designs By DNS… My New Jewelry Collection

In the spring of 2014, my friend Dana Todd Pope complimented me on the jewelry I had on at the time. She also told me that my accessories are always amazing and that one day I’d “design my own collection.” I remember feeling so good that someone even noticed and my friend Dana is an incredible artist so the compliment meant even more coming from her.

When I was in High School I had a job working at Marshall Fields at the Flagship store in downtown Minneapolis. My assignment? The accessories counter. I sold belts, scarves and other outfit accents. I enjoyed when my clients of all ages would come in and need my assistance finding the perfect scarf or belt to go with their outfits. I was about 16 years old and it was then that I learned how the accessories really make the outfit.

I remember being into crystals as a little girl, but recently returned back to my love of them. I have a great collection of loose stones but my favorite way to work with the energy of the stones is through wearing them. I’ve amassed a pretty impressive collection of bracelets, pendants and rings. One of the things that I’ve always loved is purse charms, but I had not seen purse charms made out of crystals.

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Caption: My collection of non-crystal purse charms. I wear one of them daily with my bags. 

All summer I’ve been going through the process of learning about creating jewelry. Experimenting with different tools and supplies. I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’m ready to begin selling and launched my Designs by DNS collection yesterday! Here are some of the pieces currently available:

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Each of my pieces use Genuine Gemstones and each is created around certain energies. The purse charms are centered around the energies of love, abundance or prosperity. The bracelets are called Crystal Ball Bracelets and have a large stone surrounded by smaller beaded stones. I am excited that to bring another offering to the world and I am looking forward to helping people ROCK their magic as I have done and will continue to do! I’d also like to thank my friend Dana again for her words of affirmation AND for being my first customer! I’m so grateful and appreciate!