May 21-June 21 Goals

Perhaps I should have posted these at the beginning of May but as I think Lara Casey would attest to there is really nothing special about the first of the month. It’s a day that we’ve socially constructed to mean the beginning or starting point but who says you can’t start on the 21st? Throw away nonessential rules!

Nashville Bucket List –My list of things to do in my favorite city this summer. I envy those people who say things like, ” I summer in The Hamptons.” You know folks got bank when seasons become verbs. I haven’t reached baller status so for now #isummerinNashville.

Fruit Name

Update my Retirement Plan–I’m 32 and it’s never too early to get this party started. I have great employer matching benefits and I want to make sure that I’m taking full advantage of every opportunity to save for retirement.

Restaurant Crawl– Dinner at Lockeland Table and I still have 2 reservations to secure for a dinner date and a group brunch. I’m also working on a visit to Biscuit Love.

Sunday Gratitude Time– I have a ton of Thank You Notes and Love Letters to write to special folks in my life. Time to get it started! –Fruitful Summer!

Mail God

Summer Reading List– Diving into Spinster by Kate Bolick and Do Over by Jon Acuff

The Nashville Zoo

The Peach Truck

Fitness Goals

Use my Fit Factory Nashville Groupon. I purchased a months worth of classes. Can’t let that $39.00 go down the drain. IP

Yoga on the Field!

Begin the Barre3 Anywhere Challenge on June 1. The first challenge was the best fitness experience ever for me and I’m looking forward to getting it done again.

– Pick 3 new recipes from Soul Food Love and Oh Gussie! to prepare.

Professional Goals

Present at the National Conference for College Women Student Leadership at my alma mater, University of Maryland, College Park.

Participate in Mid-Level Managers’ Institute taking place right here in Nashville. So thankful to have been selected for this PD experience.

-Hold action oriented meetings for PREVAIL and TEDxVanderbiltUniversity

– Transfer Student Recruitment for EVOLVE

Summer Leadership Challenge! First 3 challenges.

Peculiar Pearl Goals

3 Posts per week

Build instagram following over @peculiar_pearl

Get new business cards

Develop a Business Plan

Email Rachel about training with Liz

– Craft Key messages/services

Orientation at Nashville Entrepreneur Center

Faith Goals

Continue working through the Wholeheartedly Devotional

Attend the Belonging Co.

– Continue seeking and praying about a Bible Study/Small Group

I think that might be enough. I’m excited and tired –is there a word for that?

Krystal

Oh, hey 32.

It’s time for another fantastic voyage around the sun! 32 happened today.

It was grand. It’s Good Friday so there’s way more to be thankful for than my birthday BUT…I certainly celebrated my origin and am thankful others took the time to do so as well.

So, what happens now? Hmm…let’s see…my apartment and car are messy (as per usual), there was a tornado warning, dinner plans were cancelled (totally fine as my spa appointment was running long and I was quite unaware of the mess my hair would be after all of that TLC). I slept in, took a great Barre3 class, and spent from 12:45-almost 6:00 at ESCAPE Day Spa. Now, that was heavenly. Sigh! I also received a litany of the sweetest and most thoughtful messages from family and friends. All in all, it was a perfect day of rest, relaxation, and an increased awareness of all the love I have in my life.

In between spa services, I read Hannah Brencher’s “If You Find This Letter”. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon her but her writing is pure poetry. The depth of feeling is unfathomable which is probably why I began to cry as I read it during my pedicure. My emotions have been pouring out of me like crazy lately…I’m not sure how I feel about that but when you gotta cry, you gotta cry. I’m not sure if the woman working on my feet noticed my tears. If she did, she politely did not mention it and instead made my toes pretty with a polish called “Can’t Be Beet” and brought me a cup of delicious green tea. I think the tears came from a variety of things. Would you like to join me as I psychoanalyze myself?

1. I’m 32 and that’s awesome and scary. On my best day,  I feel 21. I don’t think I’m unique in thinking that I should be further ahead in life than I actually am. Whatever “further ahead” means.

2. It’s a total privilege and I’m overwhelmed by the blessings I have to be able to afford to spend an obnoxious amount of time at a day spa. It wasn’t cheap but was totally worth it. Treat yo’ self 2015!

3. I don’t think that I’ve rested like that in a really long time. I carry a lot around in my head and in my shoulders.  I tucked my phone into my locker and I just relaxed. No work, no family, no Nashville stuff, nothing. Just me, myself, all of these great smells, the sound of water, twinkling stars on the ceiling, fresh cucumber water, and these amazing cookies that look like tree bark but tasted like perfection. No to-do list or goals. Just Krystal and peace.  No striving to get to the next step, no feeling like I’m behind–just sitting, laying, breathing, napping, and praying (all while in a robe). I needed this respite real bad. I needed to not know there was a tornado outside.

cucumber water

4. Hannah’s book is a lot about LOVE. L-O-V-E. Romantic love is illusive in my life. I think I had it once but not since. Having a birthday reminds you of the many types of love that exist in this world and though I don’t have “the one”, I do have many. Many amazing human beings who have love for me in their heart. People who love me for who I am and love me unconditionally. I’m surrounded by love all the time. I can’t discount that love because I don’t have a boyfriend or husband. The love I get from the many is the love that’s kept me going strong for the past 32 years. It’s the love of many that gets me out of bed and is the love that pushes me to be a little bit better today than I was yesterday. It’s the love that makes my smile big and my laughter loud. It’s LOVE and it’s so good. My tears were a mixture of heartache and me simply recognizing again that my time hasn’t come yet for someone to love me in a romantic way and that doesn’t make me less of a person. I’m a whole person. There’s all this magic love around me on a regular basis that makes and keeps my heart full. As my birthday is on Good Friday, I must never forget the ultimate love of Jesus dying on the cross for little ‘ol me. Me not having a boo to take me to the Masquerade Ball can never cause me heartache without my permission because of His  love in my life. It’s hard to understand why I haven’t found the love of my life BUT I can’t let it break me and I can’t let it scar my entry into 32. God’s got a plan. I have a purpose. It’s going to work itself out someday. All of that is worth some tears, right?

So, all in all, it was a strong, beautiful, and cleansing day. My pedi, facial, eye refresher, and massage made it a solid first day of 32 and tomorrow I’m eating brunch and dinner with great folks, trying a new workout class and continuing the celebration into Easter with church, another great workout, and Sam’s Place at Ryman. Then back to the real world…

32 is going to be what I make it. I just want to choose happy and I want to thrive. I want to push fear off a cliff. I want to trust myself more. Ask for what I want and ask again if I don’t get it. I want to keep loving and serving Nashville while loving and serving God. I want to go to concerts and new cities. I want to educate. I want to work out and eat healthy.  I want to grow and I want to make it to 33. I want to make it to 33 with a whole new set of challenges and not the same old mess. I want to change if I need to and hold tight to what makes me the woman I am. I want to believe all of the amazing things others see in me.

All of that can’t possibly be too much to ask, right?

Hope you’ll keep reading as I take on another year of life.

Krystal

Tina Fey To The Rescue

I was presented with an opportunity on Friday. A fantastic opportunity to throw my hat into the ring for a coveted position and one that in the back of my mind I always wondered if I’d ever have the chance to pursue. I still question whether I’m ready for it but I know that I’m more ready than I believe and I have more time to learn what I need to learn. At the end of the day, most of us are just flying by the seat of their pants and faking it until they make it. Sigh…imposter syndrome is real. I thought about it a lot this weekend and I ran across this golden Tina Fey quote.

Tina Fey Quote

That’s about right. I make the commitment and I’ll figure it out. I say a clear yes and I follow through. I know I want it. I know what it means. I know I can do it. Luckily, I’ll have great people around me who believe in me and who want me to succeed.  On a side note, it takes my breath away that people can believe in you to the point that it drives you to tears.

Alright, no need to over think matters as that will drive one mad. You heard it here first, I said, “YES!”– I said “yes” to a possibility and to do the work needed to rise to the top. It is time to silence all of the little devils on my shoulder.

Does this quote apply to any part of your life? What might you just need to say “yes” to and let go of all of the fear, anxiety, and doubt that immediately unleashes itself on your heart and mind?

Oh, you want to know what “it” is? Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading.

Krystal

Show Me Your Shelf

As you might know I’m a bit of a bookworm. Well, I’m a huge bookworm. Huge is actually an understatement. Though I like to think that I’m tech savvy, there is nothing like owning books. I’m privileged to have full bookshelves in my home and know that this isn’t everyone’s lot. This is why I support Book ‘Em/Reading is Fundamental in Nashville. I have a firm belief that children should own books and we should work to help children enjoy reading. If you enjoy it then you’ll do it as often as you can and that means you’ll become good at it. Our literacy rates need some assistance in Nashville and I want to be a part of progress. Putting books in the hands of children and helping them to discover the joy of reading is a plan I can get behind.

Check out my BOOKS! page.

Here’s what tomes are currently blessing my shelf:

Redefining Realness: My path to womanhood, identity, love & so much more by Janet Mock

So happy to have had the opportunity to meet her at a program sponsored by the Vanderbilt School of Divinity and the Vanderbilt University Office of LGBTQI Life.

Mock

The Best Yes: Making wise decisions in the midst of endless demands by Lysa Terkeurst

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Too Blessed to be Stressed by Debora M. Coty

Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

Books

Winter is just the best time to curl up with a warm beverage, a blanket, and a good book. Read things that bring you joy and that stretch your mind. I love a good Netflix binge but there ain’t nothing like a book in my hands. Hope one of these speaks to you.

Thanks for reading.

Krystal

6 Things You Need to Have in Your Toolkit to Thrive as a YP

Moving to Nashville in 2011 was the beginning of a whole new life for me. The YP Community in this city is strong and the city takes an interest in engaging and developing the 23-40 year old population that eagerly roams around this thriving metropolis. Check out YPNashville .

B Cards

I quickly had to learn the ropes of navigating Music City to accomplish my ever present goal of being a “mover and shaker” as well as the specific goal I set upon my departure from Durham, NC to “attack the city in which I live”. I’m a firm believer in giving back to the place in which you live and work and have fully embraced the life of being a “residential tourist”. Nashville is blessed to be changing everyday and I haven’t gotten bored even once during almost 4 years. I’m a total tourist, like, I go to the Tennessee State Museum to check out the new exhibits type of tourist.

During this adventure, I’ve discovered 6 things that will give you a better chance of thriving in a city like Nashville. A place that networks, has junior boards, numerous fancy dress pay parties, over 20 organizations solely for YP, and a city you think is big until you find that you run into the same people all the time.

1. Resume. I know this sounds obvious but you’d be surprised the number of people who don’t have an updated resume. I update my resume on a weekly basis. For many things that you apply to be a part of in the city whether it’s a leadership development program, an awards program, a member of a board or committee, oh, and if you’re applying for a new job, you will need to submit a resume. People want to know your skillset, where you work, what you do, and how you spend your time. If you have a great conversation with a person at a networking event and they ask you to “send me your resume”, it’ll make life a lot easier if you’ve already got that taken care of on your desktop. Check out the link above to get some tips from Levo League about how to make your resume pop.

2. Business Cards. If you’ve been issued a standard office B-Card that’s totally acceptable and you should applaud yourself for achieving that professional milestone. There’s something sweet about receiving a box of 500 fresh business cards that confirm you’re a part of the team. However, for my life outside of my office, I decided to invest in cards that showed off a bit more personal style. The cards contain my personal contact information and details about my Nashville involvement and official side hustles of speaker/facilitator/presenter/blogger. These don’t have to be expensive. Check out MOO.com or VistaPrint. People react well and always smile when I offer a warmer and more personal version of the stale and often tossed white and sharp edged business card. More tips at the link above.

3. Social Media. Have a presence. Keep it clean. You don’t have to engage on all outlets but pick one or two that you can commit to keeping fresh and representative of who you are or what you aspire to become. People will check. LinkedIn is great for professional networking, Twitter, because I enjoy live tweeting events and it is an efficient way to get speedy personal and professional development nuggets as you move throughout your day. 140 character sound bites always add fodder to a conversation. Facebook is my place to affirm my brand through daily motivational posts and it allows me to keep up with the largest extended network from college until the present. Instagram is the preferred medium of most these days. Love the visuals. You’ll never find me on SnapChat. 

4. Bio. Yes, you’ve got a resume but you’ll often be asked to submit a bio to be used in an event program, to use as a method to introduce you to an audience, or just as a concise way to get to know you. Here’s my bio:

Krystal Clark, M.Ed. is a native of Portsmouth, VA. Her undergraduate degree in Sociology/Psychology was earned at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA and her M.Ed. in College Student Personnel was obtained in 2007 from The University of Maryland, College Park. Upon graduation, she moved to Durham, NC and worked in Fraternity & Sorority Life at Duke University. Krystal came to Nashville, TN in May of 2011 to work as the Associate Director of Greek at Vanderbilt University. In May 2013, she began her adventure as the Associate Director of the newly created Office of Student Leadership Development at Vanderbilt. Krystal is the Vice President of Membership for the Junior League of Nashville, Reader for Book ‘Em/Reading is Fundamental, a member of the Junior Board of Women in Numbers, a volunteer for the YWCA, a former Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, a past member of the Board of Directors for Girls on the Run Nashville, a member of ACPA (College Student Educators International) and currently volunteering for her 10th year College reunion. Clark was a finalist for the Nashville Emerging Leader Award in the field of Education in 2012 and is the 2015 YP Nominee for the Nashville ATHENA Award. When she’s not working at Vanderbilt she serves as a speaker/facilitator at college campuses across the country. In her spare time, Krystal enjoys partaking in the music scene, blogging at peculiarpearl.com, is a Barre3 enthusiast, and strives to be a residential tourist taking in all that Nashville has to offer.

5. A smile. Seriously, when you’re floating around a big-small town you want to be someone that people are happy to see. I moved here without knowing a soul and a smile coupled with a hello got me through a lot of situations and made me some fast friends. A smile and a handshake moved me through my first networking event. A smile and a hug (this is the south) connected me quickly to a cause. A smile and a willingness to help is everything. A smile and a hand raised to ask a good question. A smile and a head nod to signal authentic engagement in a conversation. Smile. It makes you approachable. It makes you interesting. It makes people feel like they already know you. Smile.

6. Headshot. No better way to show off that smile than in a headshot. No more photos with the hand of a cropped out buddy lingering in the background. Most of our senior pictures at this age already look dated. Some companies offer headshots to employees and with the quality of cameras and camera phones these days a skilled friend could make this extremely economical for you. I’ve had three professional headshots taken and they have made all the difference. I feel confident about my appearance, the lighting is great, and a professional photographer knows how to pull the best out of you. Model or not, you can have a beautiful headshot. It just makes your social media and documents look polished. Try not to wear anything that will quickly date the photos. I’m in the market for a new shot due to my ever changing hair. Stay tuned.

Clark119bw

There you go. 6 items that can beef up your journey through the city as a YP. All of these can be done economically or you can certainly splurge if you have the coins. I promise you that all of these items are worthwhile to add to your life toolkit as you’ll come back to them repeatedly.

What did I miss? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

Krystal

Exodus 14:14

ice day

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

As part of #wholehearted 2015, one of my goals is to cultivate calm and stillness. Either I wasn’t doing that great of a job or God is fully on board with living a wholehearted life as he gave me ICE DAY 2015. Today was full of rest, just enough productivity to keep me from not being too behind, good warm food from my kitchen, 2 10-minute Barre3 blasts, and lots of West Wing.

Pottering around in my apartment gives me ample time to think. I’m not often at home and when I am here I’m usually sleeping or making plans to leave. Calmness and stillness makes me go inward and to be honest, I don’t always want to be in my head and I certainly don’t want to be in my heart.

ICE DAY was a good forced reminder of all of the “fights” happening above and below my neck. Negative thoughts that do not serve me. Tugs to control the uncontrollable, unproductive worry and unfounded fears. Hurt that doesn’t deserve me.

As  I looked out of my home office window  and took in the stillness of the day, I couldn’t help but realize that all of these battles being fought in my head and heart have already been won. All I have to do in times like this are remember and believe with all that I am who He is and what He has already done. He needs me to be still so that He can do his work. Every once in a while, I would hear a snow plow come down the street and I imagine that’s one of the many roles that God plays in our minds and hearts. He comes through to clear out all of the excess and those things that make us take our eyes off of Him and His goodness. He protects us from danger even though we might complain during the process; the outcome is always what is needed.

Once I tucked into this word, all of the fights melted away because I’ve got nothing on any of them. However, my squad is taking care of all of my light work. #squadgoals

Being afraid of calmness and stillness does not serve me or my relationship with God. This is the time I can utilize to make meaning of my life through His word. This is the time that I can pray to him in a regular conversation the same as I do with others that I love. I can give all of the “stuff” inside to Him. This is the time to realize that I am not in control. He is God and I am not. He’s fighting for little ‘ol me and for that I am eternally thankful.

Don’t run from stillness. Let Him wrap His arms around you. Stop, turn off all the noise, and just be.

Thanks for reading, y’all.

Happy New Achoo Year!

sickI’m sick.

What I know about my body is that she has a propensity to get sick around the holidays. I’d push myself so hard during the school year that my body would have no other choice but to give up on my by Christmas. My mom would be ready for me when I walked into the house after a brutal finals schedule in college. When I was younger, I’d bless the whole family with the gift of sick but now that I’m on my own, I luckily only infect myself.

Sickness is often the only way I rest. It is the Lord forcing me to sit down. I’ve got a lot on my plate already for 2015 and I’m not going to be sitting down much at all according to my planner. God already sees destruction ahead and he’s created this hiatus  for me over the next few days as I medicate myself,  drink warm beverages, sleep, watch shows, wrap myself in comfy blankets, and catch up on reading for pleasure. I have no choice but to say “no” to any invitation that might come my way.

I’ve gotten better about saying no and took that leap often during fall 2014. I declined invitations, stepped away from a board commitment, and passed opportunities off to others who I knew could do a great job in my absence.  I had to let go of the fear of the consequences of saying no. This involuntary respite is a reminder that I need to create time to rest and be still in 2015.

God does his best work with us when we’re quiet. When we surrender and let Him do His work. When I’m resting, I can take time to reflect and make meaning out of my life which is how I learn and grow. When I’m well rested, I can deal better with whatever stress may come my way. When I’m rested, I can work on things that matter and give my best effort to make them happen. In Barre3, they tell us to “take a break and come back stronger”. This philosophy needs to be adhered to in our everyday life.

Life is a marathon and not a sprint. Just like a marathon, life needs rest stops and cheer stations to keep up moving towards accomplishing our goals.

I’m thinking that by Monday morning, I’ll be back up and running. Running forward with clear rest stops marked in my planner.

To be honest, as I’ve crossed over into 30, I have found that the thought of going out on Friday nights is unbearable. This has become a time for me to relax from the week and take some Krystal time with my favorite food, book, and/or movie. It works for me.

Don’t fool yourself. You do have time to rest. Make time for it.

How are you making sure to rest in 2015? Vacation? One free day a week? Do you mark off a couple of hours during each day? Maybe 10 minutes of mediation in the morning? A devotional? I challenge you to make room for “Be Still” moments. Schedule your rest stops and enjoy rejuvenation as you make your way to the finish line.

Thanks for reading.

The 2014 Experience

It’s that time of year for everyone to post their Year in Review or Flip-o-gram or whatever other social media gimmick that allows you to review the “most liked” or “double tapped” moments of the year. In one push of a button you can see how others engaged with your posts. Did they share it? Did they comment? The all important question seems to be, “How did others feel about your year?” –Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and I get the same dopamine rush that we all get when someone shows appreciation for whatever visual or philosophical thought I offered to the world. BUT, when it came time to think about my year, I didn’t want to get caught up in what y’all liked. I wanted to be reminded of what I loved and really what I learned from this year. If there’s something I know for sure, we are forever learners and life is the best teacher we’ll ever have in this world.

Over on Instagram @clarkkn, I’ve been posting my Top 10 moments of the year. The moments are not in any specific order. #kncin2014 will take you through the journey of my experiences and why I cherished them so much.

Reflection is a high impact practice and we all need to take time to engage in meaning making when it comes to our lives. It would do us all good to not just tumble through life without learning from all of its highs,lows, and in betweens.

reflection

Take some time to think back through your year and figure out what you want to carry into 2015 and what you’d like to leave behind. What are some best practices that helped you be successful? What are those decisions you made that you would not repeat? Who are those people that you want to develop or strengthen relationships with in 2015? Engage in goal-setting. NOT RESOLUTIONS! GOALS! Write them and create an action plan for success. When in doubt, make your goals S.M.A.R.T.

S= Specific–“I’d like to help create world peace.”–Nope. Dig Deeper! What do you specifically want to do?

M= Measurable– “I just want to do a lot of fun things.” –Nope. How will you know that you’re making progress or completed your goal?

A= Attainable–“I want to go to Mars.” –Nope. Unless, you’re one of those small group of people that will actually have this opportunity. –Dream big but think about your resources. Remember, you can’t be anything you want to be but you can be more of who you are.

R= Relevant–Is this goal valuable to you? To you organization? It has to matter. Make the things that matter happen in 2015.

T= Time-Bound –When is your deadline? “Someday.” –Nope. –March 31, 2015 at 10am–Perfect.

smart goals

Others subscribe to HARD Goals and would rather think in terms of the following:

H= Heartfelt

A= Animated

R= Required

D= Difficult

Check out more details here. This might be a great way to shake up your regular goal setting process. It might even work for you to take your goals through both processes.

All of those things that have been on your “to-do” list for multiple years–you know things like, learn a second language, take ballroom dance lessons, go on a missions trip, lose 15 lbs., and read the entire Harry Potter Series–have a sit down with yourself and make a firm decision as to whether that lingering thing is even really important to you. I love that Arianna Huffington in her book, “Thrive” brought us the concept that one can finish a project simply by taking it off the list. No shade shall be given, just cross it off and breathe it out.

Check out my Top 10 list on Instagram and then create your own. What did you learn and how did this year leave a mark on your life? What goals do you have in 2015?

Thanks for reading.

comes to

Music City Dreams

As I was watching The Head & The Heart be amazing at Ryman Auditorium a few nights ago, I realized why I’m deeply in love with Nashville, TN.

Middle school was an interesting time for me, in many ways, including when it came to my taste in music and how that intersected with my racial identity. I’d been introduced to country music during summer camp and around that same time my mom invested in cable television which meant my brother and I had full access to MTV, CMT, and VH1. Not to mention all of the shows about music including those that aired on FX when it was a cool and new network. I can thank FX for introducing me to Sheryl Crow. I remember the moment when “All I Wanna Do” lit up my TV screen. I was a goner. However, where I’m from, country music and Sheryl Crow were not on regular rotation in the African American community.

Up until then I’d only really been exposed to R&B, Hip Hop, and Gospel music. We shopped for our music at DJ’s Records and Tapes for years until my exploration led us to the mall or Wal-Mart for those things that weren’t really ever going to grace the shelves of an urban music store. There was no way that Faith Hill was going to be on those often browsed shelves and I was sure to get a look of shock and perhaps horror if I requested sweet Faith from one of the store clerks.

Country music was changing and women like Shania, Faith, Jessica, and Leann were running the show. I was obsessed with SheDaisy, Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride, Deanna Carter, Chely Wright, The Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, and Gary Allan, etc. I could watch CMT ALL DAY LONG! When Faith Hill told her story about being discovered at the Bluebird Cafe (a place I thought I’d never see) and that she was adopted from MS who grew up wishing that she was black, you could have literally poked me with a hot fork and I wouldn’t have moved.

On top of that, MTV had No Doubt, Alanis Morrissette, Tracey Bonham, Bush, Lit, The Cranberrries, Smashing Pumpkins, The Goo Goo Dolls, Barenaked Ladies, Smashmouth, Sublime, 311, Jason Mraz, and all of these other artists that were completely new to me. Gosh, Aerosmith had this resurgence with Alicia Silverstone as their mascot, and Nirvana confirmed the inner turmoil that I never shared with a soul.

Music 1

I consumed music and tried to balance all of my tastes and make sure that I knew what was important for me to know as a teenage African American and still cling to loving all of the other ear candy that was pouring out of my TV. I remember the nervousness I had when I asked my mom if I could buy the new Fiona Apple CD. When we had to go to a mall 2 cities over to get the one copy of Nikka Costa they had on the shelf and the appreciation on the clerk’s face when I walked in the store after only speaking to him on the phone to request he hold it for me. I had to be careful about how into a song I appeared to be if it wasn’t deemed “black enough” by my friends. However, Britney, NSYNC, BSB, Jessica Simpson, 98 Degrees, BBMak, SClub7, and the Spice Girls were the friends I actually wanted.

Most of my friends didn’t like what I liked and they didn’t care to try. I bopped about in my room and felt all the feels while collecting a CD collection that was eventually stolen in college. I learned what the word eclectic meant and I was thrilled to understand my newfound condition. I just wanted to hear things that sounded good and I wanted to care about the lyrics more than ever before. Music finally connected with my feelings and I needed a steady stream of it to get me through the day.

While all of this exploration was going on, I still loved my roots and when my family wanted to reward us by taking us to a concert, it was always of the R&B and Hip Hop variety. I’ve seen every iteration of Destiny’s Child, Boyz II Men, New Edition, Bell Biv Devoe, Janet Jackson, Blackstreet, M.C. Hammer, and probably lots of folks that I’ve forgotten BUT I always knew that no one was ever going to take me to Trisha Yearwood, K’s Choice, Green Day, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Matchbox Twenty, or Natalie Imbruglia. I accepted that and created my own little music world that I’d escape to as often as possible.

But now, at 31, I can be one of those people that “goes to shows” and I can see any band I want when they come to town. I can be 1 of maybe 5 black people in Ryman Auditorium for The Head & The Heart, Mumford & Sons, and The Civil Wars. I can buy spur of the moment tickets to The Black Keys, I can finally see Fiona Apple in concert, and I can go to a 90’s cover band concert and sing all of my faves at the top of my lungs. I can buy tickets to CMAFEST and cover myself in four nights of country music.  I can finally live my music life out loud.

I’m no longer worried about my race and risking ostracism if my peers think that I’m “acting white” because of what’s I have on my Spotify. Who gives a poop? I can freely say that 99% of rap music is crap. I ACTUALLY met Martina McBride! Nashville has allowed me to engage with music in ways I never thought I’d be able to during my life. Bonnaroo is 1.5 hours away from the city. There is music literally coming out of the streets and I could go to a concert every night if my bank account allowed me to.

music 2

Nothing makes my heart beat like good music. My overall sense of wellness and productivity rides on what’s floating out of my car and computer. I’m fulfilling all of  my 13 year old musical dreams by residing in this city and the feeling of my dreams coming true has bound me to this place in a way that I’ll never forget and probably will never be able to replicate.

Music City fulfilled its moniker in my life. It released me in a way that I still didn’t even know I was holding on to. I guess there are many ways, including musically, to grow comfortable in your skin. I salute you Nashville.

Now, back to the Punch Brothers.

Thanks for reading, y’all.

Sunday Flare & Focus

Everyone always treats Monday poorly when in reality it’s only doing its job.

Rise Up

To help put my Monday into perspective, I started engaging in a Sunday Flare & Focus. My SF&F is a time for me to lay out my week on a sheet of paper brain dump style. By doing this I am able to view my week as an entire entity. From this view, I create a list of tasks that need to be completed, figure out days that I need to pack workout clothes, ensembles I might want to consider this week, clarify any instances of double booking that may have occurred, cancel any unnecessary appointments, make a list of emails that need to be sent and conversations that need to be had, meetings  to attend and preparation needed to be successful, and any fun things in the city that I make plans to do with friends on on a solo mission.

When I lay out my week in this manner, I am able to clearly see all of the bright spots that lay ahead for me. For instance, when laying out my current week I smiled while noting the following:

1.  A trip to ICE! and the Opryland Hotel with my friend Dee who celebrates Hanukkah but desired a bit of the Christmas spirit.

2. My 2nd visit to my 3rd classroom as a reader for Book ‘Em.

3. Barre3 class and a possible exit with enough time to attend a favorite church service that is often beyond my schedule due to a standing Tuesday night meeting.

4. Attendance at my first Leadership Educators’ Institute in Ft. Worth, TX where I’ll be presenting my first educational session at this conference to my new pool of colleagues.

These four bright spots now stand above all the rest of the “stuff” that makes up my week and because I can see them shining, I am more excited to attack my week with the constant feeling that whatever I’m wading through during the day, I’m on my way to a better place. Bright spots are the, “I get to ____________ moments.”

My Sunday F&F allows me to get excited about my week and it also allows me to plan for my success. After I brain dump all of the week’s happenings, I then go back and chunk prioritize the items by day. To make sure that I can get it all done on the target day, I  go into my calendar and block off time to attend to each task. With this plan in hand, I walk into my office or wherever I’ve chosen to set up shop on Monday with an action-oriented demeanor. I know what I need to get done and I can easily track my progress. If I only get those 3-4 things checked off my list then I’ve had a good day.

today

One of the many things that I’m working on in my life is showing gratitude to God in the good times and the bad times. He’s good ALL the time and I must honor that He has a plan. My pastor recently stated (maybe not in these exact words) that “in bad times we talk to God and in good times we talk about God”. I’ve got to do better with doing both regardless of my circumstance. Laying out my week gives me a better sense of what to be thankful for and for what I need to be praying. I know He is always by my side BUT sometimes I need His strength even more depending on the meeting  ;).

gratitude changes everything

The Sunday F&F gives me a reminder as to how I’m spending my time. Am I truly engaging with people and organizations that are helping me achieve my life’s mission? Do I need to make more time to connect with people and things in my life that feed my soul? Perhaps something or someone that I really don’t value or does not value me is taking up way too much of my schedule. I can adjust the picture and make the necessary changes with accurate insight collected from the F&F.

We live in a world of people who loudly sing, “I don’t have time.” in their overcommitted and poorly prioritized show choir ensembles. The F&F forces me to take a regular time audit to help me determine whether or not I am prioritizing my time in a way that aligns with my values. Show me how you spend your time and I’ll tell you what you value.  For the majority of us, how we spend our time is a CHOICE. A choice is not just something you have; it is something you do. CHOOSE HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME WISELY.

tomorrow

One does not need a fancy planner to conduct a Sunday Flare & Focus. All you need is paper and a writing utensil or you could be fancy and use the computer. I’m not able to plan my life on a screen so I kick it old school. Try the following:

1. Brain dump your entire week onto a piece of paper. Lay it all out there from the oil change to the Ugly Christmas sweater party and everything in between. This is the Flare part.  The rest is all about Focus.

2. Highlight the Bright Spots. “I get to do/go/be/wear/hug/cook…” –> Practice gratitude. Use these as your sanity guideposts throughout the week.  Make notice of those Dim Bulbs–those things that you really aren’t looking forward to that week. Maybe it’s a tough conversation with a colleague or maybe everyone is going on a cruise but you realize that your finances aren’t going to allow you to make that monetary sacrifice. Thank Him for both Bright Spots and Dim Bulbs but keep those Dim Bulbs at the top of your prayer list.

3. If you’d like, Organize items into thematic lists such as emails, phone calls, meeting prep, items to pack, and items to buy, etc.

4. Assign a Target Day/Deadline. I tend to just put M, T, W, R, F, S, Su. –We used ‘R’ in undergrad for Thursday at my school.

5. Put time in your calendar to address the item(s) on the Target Day. Be aware that 1 task could have 8 steps and you’ll need time to complete all the sub steps of any task. This is why chunk prioritization is important as it helps you not overwhelm your day. You have an idea of the estimated time each task will take and you can in a sense “balance” your day with heavy and light tasks. If I don’t put it on my calendar, it isn’t going to happen.

6. Do it! Check it off the list and get you a hit of dopamine :). Read Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek if you don’t get that reference. 

It has changed my life for the better to not hurl myself into Monday without a plan of action. If I skip my Sunday Flare & Focus, I feel it and immediately regret not spending a few moments getting myself prepped for the week.

Own your week and give your next Monday a big smile. Thank your Sunday Flare & Focus for giving you a new lease on life.

Thanks y’all for reading.