Think - Speak - Inspire

I Bet You Think This Post is about Ice Cream

A cinnamon bubble waffle with cookie butter ice cream, hazelnut drizzle, toasted fluff, and a biscoff cookie.

There are more days than not where I feel like I’m going to snap. And for most of those moments, I can almost always look back, and admit that it wasn’t that serious. Then, come the feelings of guilt, knowing how grateful I should be (and am) and telling myself that next time will be different. 🥴

And here I am. An hour or so ago, I quickly got Braylon out of the house (only after ordering curbside pickup of ice cream – I even got a second one “to go” for tomorrow), hopped in the car and immediately put on the remainder of the most recent “Unlocking Us” episode that I hadn’t finished yet. 🍦🔐

I (and for many people I talk to, especially women) have GOT to find the time to reset. For everyone whose home became their work, and you spend all sleeping and most waking hours there… yikes. I had already been working from home, but there’s obviously something quite different about this version, with the heightened stress, uncertainty and continued regulations for the “outside world” 🏡

Speaking of outside. Being outside has become such an outlet, even if it’s in my own backyard or walking around the neighborhood. As the colder weather approaches, I know I can’t let that go, especially with there being no end in sight for being able to have in person time look anything even slightly like what it used to. ☃️🎉

So, eat the ice cream. Listen to the podcast that makes you laugh until you cry, then makes you actually cry. Move your body. Get outside. Scream… or do nothing at all, and just breathe.💥🧘🏻

Do what works for you. When you can. How you can. Where you can. 🗓

And most importantly, remember your why…and what keeps you going. 💞

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I Need a Hug

I have so many amazing takeaways from the recent episode of Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast where she has both Emily and Amelia Nagoski on to discuss Burnout and How To Complete the Stress Cycle. 🔓🔥

I can not recommend it enough (PS – Brene Brown’s brand new podcast, Daring to Lead, launched yesterday — I can not get enough of this woman!) 🦸🏼‍♀️

For some reason when they were talking about the power of hugging, it was as if I had never heard it before. 🤷🏻‍♀️

That led me to reading an article on Healthline “What Are the Benefits of Hugging?” 🤗

  • Hugs reduce stress by showing your support
  • Hugs may protect you against illness
  • Hugs may boost your heart health
  • Hugs can make you happier
  • Hugs help reduce your fears
  • Hugs may help reduce your pain
  • Hugs help you communicate with others

Of course, the article details scientific evidence to back each of these, and I highly suggest you check it out!

What blew me away, was a quote from family therapist Virginia Satir who said, ““We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” 😮

The article was written in 2018 and notes that, “most Western people today — especially people in the United States — are touch-deprived. Many people live solitary or busy lives with reduced social interaction and touching.” 💯

WOW. This could not be more true to what so many people have encountered over the past 6 months or so. 🏡🔒

It got me thinking about how many hugs (and general contact) that I have with this little guy.  While I may be lacking in the sleep department over the past two and half years (with no end in sight), my oxytocin levels sure must be surging. 💞

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Trapped

Do you ever feel trapped, mentally and / or physically? 🙋🏻‍♀️

Maybe it’s in a physical space, a job, a relationship, thoughts in your head or emotions and feelings in your heart 🧠💞

Sometimes I spend so much time overthinking and running possible scenarios through my head that I become uncertain of what has actually even happened. 🤯

How do you sort through all of the noise from the information that’s thrown at you just about everywhere you look? 🗣👀

How do you find the balance of filling the yearning to stay connected (with minimal physical options available) and embrace all the positivity and promise that still exists and block out the rest? ⚖️🙅🏻‍♀️

If you’re still reading these ramblings, that most likely do not make complete sense… know that on days when you’re feeling all of the things or maybe nothing at all that that is exactly where you need to be – where you are meant to be. ✨💫

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Summer Has Come and Passed

Actual photos of me all day today. All day? Who am I kidding, this is me more days than not. ⚖️

Feeling all the feelings, thinking all the things and maxing out with all of the “over”s. 🙂☹️🙃🤪

Overwhelmed. Overworked. Overreacting. Overachiever. Overprotective. Over-thinker. 🤬

But, also… Overjoyed. 💞

Dancing along the fine line of acceptance and guilt, patience and losing my cool, and always saying yes until I’m finally forced to say no. 🛑

Being ok with not always being ok. It’s ok to feel and be real. *wait, is it?!*🧍🏻‍♀️

While I (and maybe you) may feel more disconnected than ever before, in some ways it’s allowed for a new type of connection, a different appreciation and some really real conversations. 📱💻

Every time we leave the house, we’re surrounded by people in masks. Yet, we’ve been surrounded by people with masks, and many different ones at that, for far longer than just the spring of this year. 😷

I’m learning a lot about myself. I’m learning a lot about others. I’m learning more about the person I want to be, the kind of mother, wife, daughter, friend and coworker I want to be. 🦸🏻‍♀️

It’s a process. It’s a journey. And one that I am beyond grateful to have so many amazing people, both near and far, a part of. 🌎

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My Privilege

Continuing to try to accept that I can’t do all of the things all of the time and can’t be everything for everybody. 🤹🏻‍♀️

I want to change the world and have a positive impact on as many people as possible in all that I do. 🌍👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

When you set your expectations too high, you may be more likely to be disappointed, but I’m willing to take the risk. 💫

I’m tired, but there are far too many others that have been tired, in a way that I can not even fathom, for as long as they can remember. 💤

We talk about going back to normal. For too many people normal is injustice, discrimination and living in a country where they have never been given the same opportunities or have been continuously deprived of basic human rights. We can not go back to that.

As a white heterosexual female, I have spent more time than ever diving into what this privilege truly means. More importantly, how I can use this to be a part of what the world needs to help use my resources, use my voice and refuse to be silent. 🗣

We need to be ok with asking questions, having uncomfortable conversations and accepting that even small steps and little changes are still moving things in the right direction. We must make it a part of our lives each and every day. ☀️🌙

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I Will Never Be Satisfied

More often times than not, I can not seem to get my thoughts on paper and even more-so, articulate exactly what I want to say. So much so, that I often just hold most of it inside, settle with a watered down version or continue to overthink what is on my mind.

In an attempt to hold myself accountable, become comfortable with things feeling imperfect and knowing that the timing will never be just right… here I am.

After listening to the latest episode of Michelle Obama’s podcast this evening, I found myself listening to the Hamilton Mixtape. Yes, again. I have REALLY overplayed Andra Day’s Burn, and I am still determined to dream about the perfect choreography for a dance to Andra’s out of this world vocals and mind-blowing rendition. Then there’s Sia, Miguel and Queen Latifah on Satisfied, and I can’t decide which artist I want to commit to, so I find myself taking all three. “and she is helpleeeeeess” “doesn’t mean I want him any less

“You will never be satisfied
(I will never be satisfied)
(I will never be satisfied)”

And then, I paused. You will never be satisfied. 

Unsatisfied Dani in her early days.

So many times, I am the one that has set the unrealistic expectations for myself for all of the various roles that I carry. No matter how much I do, I always always feel like I could have done more or have done better. While that is great to always strive to improve, grow and move forward, there should also be a balance where grace is given, accomplishments are celebrated and that I am not so hard on myself. 

I know that I, along with many people that I know, especially women, rarely put ourselves first.

While 2020 has not been the year that I planned for, it gave me a much needed reminder to take a step back, but also a closer look at so many areas in my life, both personally and professionally. While all aspects are still a major work in progress, day by day (some more than others), I am beginning to see and feel small (and sometimes big!) changes. Too often though, I am still focusing on where I fall short, and completely overlooking the positive impact that I may have had on making steps forward in the right direction. 

“When you are deciding on next steps, next jobs, next careers, further education, you should rather find purpose than a job or a career,” he said at the time. “Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history.” – Chadwick Boseman (November 29, 1976 – August 28, 2020)

If you have not yet watched the full video from the Commencement Speech Chadwick gave at Howard University in 2018. I highly recommend you check it out here.

Almost six years ago, on October 20, 2014, I had shared a “note” on Facebook which included the following:

“I remember being at a networking event about a year ago and had someone ask me, “What is your passion?”  I had just met this individual and found myself without an immediate response.  When meeting people I’ve gotten so used to being asked “What do you?” or “Where are you from?” but had never been asked “What is your passion?” I had plenty of things that I was passionATE about, but what was MY passion? The more I started to think about it I realized that my passion was to be able to make a positive impact on other people’s lives.  I am so grateful that I have been able to combine my passion with my job.”

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an article from INC Magazine, “To be Successful, Chase Your Purpose Not Your Passion“. For some reason, maybe because it was 11:50pm, it left me feeling more confused. 

Which then led me to stumbling upon (gosh, the Internet is truly something) The Difference Between Purpose and Passion where the author writes:

“Passion and purpose are distinct. Passion is about emotions, the motivation and what makes us feel good, i.e. “do what you love”. Purpose is the reason, or the why behind what we do, primarily for others, i.e, “do what contributes”. Where passion can be all over the place, wild and exciting, purpose is much more focused.  Passions can also come and go, whereas purpose tends to be longer term. Finally, passions are inwardly focused whereas purpose is outwardly focused on the greater impact you have on others and on your surroundings.”

Then, what caught my attention even more:

“Passions seem relatively easy to identify, but how does one find their purpose? Similar to Dweck’s research on passion, John Coleman, author of Passion & Purpose, says that you don’t find purpose, you build it. It is an evolutionary process of reflecting on your gifts, your values and what you want to contribute. The four reflecting questions I’ve found the most helpful are:

  1. How will the world be better off, thanks to you having been on this earth?
  2. What are your unique gifts and superpowers?
  3. Who have you been when you’ve been at your best?
  4. Who must you fearlessly become?

I look forward to truly reflecting all four of these questions (hopefully not at midnight) and really diving in. 

One thing is for certain, I know that I will be a part of the beyond overdue changes that will take place in our country to break down barriers, amplify voices and ensure every single aspect of our society has the appropriate representation. There is still so much work to be done, but I want and need to continue to be a part of it. 

More to come.

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Our Places

I’ve sat down to write this more than once over the past couple of months. I recently stumbled upon Why You Need a Third Place (And How to Find One) by Jordan Harbinger. It was written almost one year ago (8/22/19), which was particularly interesting to consider given what the past five months have looked like. I found myself resonating with just about every single sentence. It also captured what kept coming up in so many conversations that I had been having, or had been hearing on many podcasts, during workshops / virtual events and reading in other more recent articles.

“Your first place is your home, a private and domestic space. Your second place is your work, a structured social experience and where you likely spend most of your time. Your third place is somewhere you can connect with others, share your thoughts and dreams, and have fun.” – Jordan Harbinger

Earlier this year, for a lot of people, the first, second and most likely their third place merged into one overnight.

“No matter how much you love your job or your home life, you need a place to get away from work and you need somewhere other than your home to hang out. And if you work from home or have babies or young children, a third place can be the only thing that gets you out of the house.” – Jordan Harbinger

I’ve worked from home since I moved to Rhode Island in November 2016. Which meant I was used to having my first and second place have the same setting. There’s a number of pros and cons to working from home, but one things for certain, I always struggled with turning it off.

After having Braylon in March 2018, I had no choice to at least get a little better at this. Almost two and half years later, I think I’m getting there 🙂 Before March 2018, whether my third place was heading to the Pure Barre studio to either take or teach class or connecting with a friend over food and drinks at a favorite restaurant it was a bit easier to make this a priority.

In addition to not being great at turning off work, I wasn’t very good at asking for help or taking time for myself. Ironically, right around the time I felt like I was getting better at this, quarantine began. Wait, no! I’ve already been in quarantine. Kidding. Sort of.

In October 2010, I moved to Charleston, SC where I knew no one. Obviously, that’s a normal thing to do, and had moved to Charlotte, NC five years before without knowing anyone. That had felt a little less scary (at least that’s what I am telling myself now) since it was for college and meeting new people felt more natural and a part of the experience.

A few months after moving there, I discovered Daniel Island Hip Hop, and fell in love after my first class. It not only provided me with all the mental and physical benefits of exercise, but it was SO fun and the people there were beyond amazing.

I dug up some old Facebook messages that I had with the founder, and then started realizing how intense I’ve been over the years when I’ve found things that I like. Whether it was a restaurant, fitness class or a product, I have no problem telling a person or a company how much I love it even if I sound borderline obsessed.

One message in particular stood out to me. It was June 5, 2011 – one week after losing my sister.

“I just wanted to thank you for thinking of me. This has definitely been one very long and difficult week. I am still in Rhode Island and will eventually be heading back to Charlotte with my parents before returning to Charleston. I also want you to know how much you and your class have made an impact on my life. Moving to Charleston in October was a very sporadic decision and definitely one that I do not regret. However, with my job, almost every waking hour was devoted to that. Finding DIHH truly brought so much joy into my life. The energy of the class, from you and everyone else is so inspiring and uplifting. Growing up, dance was one of the biggest parts of my life. In part of my sister’s Eulogy that I wrote, I eluded to the fact of when she quit both dance and piano lessons because she would rather make up her own dances and write her own songs — that was just like my sister to be set on paving her own way and not having to conform to someone else’s ideas. I told my sister so much about DIHH and she was so excited to come to a class with me when she was going to be able to visit me. I plan on creating a scholarship in her name and hopefully, in the future, other programs that will allow children and teens to have more opportunities for music and art programs because that remains my passion and was one of hers as well. With all of this being said, I just want to thank you once again for inspiring so many people and providing a release from this crazy hectic world and allowing people to express themselves while bettering themselves both mentally and physically. I hope to stay living in Charleston – right now, I am just taking one day at a time and seeing what happens.”

Returning to Charleston, and getting back to class, was just as important, if not more important, than going to therapy. While I did that for a bit, and found that very helpful, for whatever reason that I don’t fully recall, eventually stopped going.

Thousands of fitness and wellness spaces have closed temporarily, indefinitely or permanently over the past few months. Many other “third spaces” whether a restaurant, bar, cafe, park or church, even if open, are operating much different and are still at risk of not surviving.

Support your local small businesses as much as you can.

I read an article in National Geographic this morning that said, “COVID-19 shutdowns have pounded Black-owned businesses particularly hard. Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 41 percent of Black-owned businesses—some 440,000 enterprises—have been shuttered by COVID-19, compared to just 17 percent of white-owned businesses.”

In another article, COVID-19’s effect on minority-owned small businesses in the United States:

“The COVID-19 crisis is affecting small businesses across the board. The 1.1 million minority-owned small businesses with employees in America are an essential job source, employing more than 8.7 million workers and annually generating more than $1 trillion in economic output. Women own nearly 300,000 of them, employing 2.4 million workers.

The crisis could disproportionately affect minority-owned small businesses for two critical reasons: they tend to face underlying issues that make it harder to run and scale successfully, and they are more likely to be concentrated in the industries most immediately affected by the pandemic.”

As much as I can, I’ve been trying to use as much time as I can to educate myself, become a better person and have a positive impact on the lives of others. I understand my privilege and want to use it in the best way possible. I also know that if I don’t make the time to take care of myself, that I am not setting myself up to be able to do this.

Last month, the top 5 global concerns were Coronavirus, Unemployment, Poverty & Social Inequality, Financial/Political Corruption and Crime & Violence. On any given day, I open my computer or an app on my phone to be overwhelmed by everything that is going on. I see so many people being too quick to react, jumping to conclusions and not being open to change. On the contrary, I’ve seen people come together, rise to the occasion and use their voice in truly inspiring ways.

Phew. This is all over the place. But, when is it not? Guess that’s just how my brain works especially when I have a 2 year old crawling on me and playing with his new dinosaur to car transformer from his Great Granny.

Today would be a great day to consider doing one of the following (in no particular order):

  • Sign up for The Ally Nudge with Dr. Akilah Cadet. “For one month, this program will help you continue doing the work to be an ally to the Black community, all via text.” It starts tomorrow, 8/16, and if you miss signing up before tomorrow, not to worry, it will just start the following Sunday! Dr. Cadet provides resources and information on the language of anti-racism, diversity in the workplace, racism in education, voter suppression, talking BLM with non-supporters, COVID disparities, forms of protest and how to empower future generations.
  • July 30th was End Human Trafficking Day. Save the Children has an informative, and heartbreaking post here.
  • Support your local (or not local) small businesses if you want to see them on the other side.
  • Recommend something to me! I’m always ALWAYS open to try new things, be introduced to new ideas, tune into a podcast, support a cause… you name it!
  • Take some time for you, especially if you haven’t in a while.
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Black Lives Matter

Graphic from NPR’s Code Switch (more on that below)

Somewhere around 4am, I found myself wide awake and unable to fall back asleep.  The thoughts keeping me awake were not really anything new. Not only is racism not getting better, in some ways things are actually getting worse.  I am not an expert, and would never claim to be, and I know that I can always do more, be better and take more action.  If you or someone you know are looking for somewhere to get started, I suggest starting here.

I know I will be.

I would be delusional if I claimed to grow up surrounded by diversity.  I lived in a small town and for seven out of my thirteen years of school, I attended small private Catholic schools.  Yet, all I remember was being taught kindness, love and equality regardless of how a person looked, what they had or what cards they were dealt. 

From a young age, I remember getting very upset when learning about our nation’s history.  As I got older, and seeing society try to perceive that we had “come a long way” and things weren’t “like that anymore”, time and time again it became more apparent that we really hadn’t. Too many people holding positions of power continued to sweep things under the rug, tamper with information and evidence, and time and time again acts of injustice took place.  

“It was just a joke.”  There’s no such thing as that; there is truth to any racist remark. Stolen opportunities of all different kinds.  Wrongful imprisonments.  Murders. 

I have never been able to comprehend how individuals get to a point where they have these thoughts and take these kind of actions.  I can only assume that they are deeply rooted in fear.

I am not referring to fear in the sense of an individual fearing for their life, so they murdered the other individual.  Fear that builds over time because an individual continuously feels inferior to a person or a group of people that look a certain way.  A fear that embarrasses them, one in which they can not admit to, so their entire mindset is overcome with hatred as they try to justify their thoughts and actions. 

Officer Chauvin did not fear that George Floyd was going to kill him as he kneeled on his neck, cut off his air supply and slowly murdered him in broad daylight.  He had three other officers there, all of whom were armed, making Floyd clearly outnumbered. 

The three men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery while he was out for a jog, did not fear that he was going to kill them. This was a planned attack.

I realize that not all of the lives that were wrongfully taken throughout history were not done so by a person who held a position of power.  Yet, for the particular type of instances that are being referenced, it’s safe to say that they all did hold “power”; the privilege of their white skin.  

I also realize that we are not just talking about those who were murdered, but EVERYONE who has been and continues to be mistreated because of the color of their skin. 

At what point did they begin being exposed to racist thoughts and beliefs?  Did it come from their parents?  Older siblings? Other family members? Neighbors? Movies?   As they got older did they continue to have encounters to make them feel inferior?  An individual who was better at them in a particular sport.  Someone who got the girl and they didn’t.  Didn’t get offered the job.  Please do not think that I am trying to justify the action of these men.  I am trying to understand how people get to this point, so we as a society can ensure that future generations do not follow down the same path. 

My freshman year of college, I found myself at a random house party near Brown University.  I really don’t know how or why we ended up there, but I happened to meet someone who, fifteen years later, I still call one of my best friends. We only lived in the same city for our freshmen year of college, because after that, I transferred to a different campus.  Over the years, we have maintained our friendship, regardless of where either of us have lived and continued to reconnect in person when we can. Some of my best memories have been made with her.  All fun and good times aside, she has taught me so much about a lot of things.  Most relevant to what I am writing today, would be the racism that she had encountered throughout her life.  

From 2005-2016, I lived in North and South Carolina.  Living in the Carolinas is a little different than living in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  I honestly don’t even know where to begin to try to recap the 11 years as they apply to all of this.  Most of which are not my stories to tell, but suppose the ones that are, are an entirely different post that I will save for another day.  

I do not, and nor will I ever, know what it is like to live in this world as a black man or a black woman.  I can not imagine what it feels like for every time you leave your house (or as we recently saw with Breona Taylor in her OWN house) to feel as if you have a target on your back.   

I do know what it feels like to fear for the life of people that I love.  When you see headline after headline with another black American dead, put yourself in the shoes of their loved ones.  Trayvon Martin’s father.  Eric Garner’s widow. Philando Castile’s girlfriend. Tamir Rice’s mother.

I already fear when one man of my household leaves our home, and fear even more for the day that my son will be doing the same.  

If you can, take 22 minutes out of your day to listen to A Decade of Watching Black People Die from Code Switch on NPR last night.

And in case there’s still confusion around Black Lives Matter.  Here’s 9 different examples to help paint the picture better.

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#RunWithMaud

I’ve never tried running more than a few yards while pushing a stroller, but you know what else I have never done?

Tried running while being chased down, as I feared and fought for my life.

I’ve always been told that people fear what they do not know and do not understand. That does not mean that because of that, that anyone should take it upon themselves to take away the life of another.

I do not know Ahmaud Arbery, but neither did the men who took his life away from him. Took him away from the people who he loved, and loved him, most. Stole the opportunity for him to live his life.

There are so many things wrong about this. There are so many things wrong with the world that we live in, and that we keep seeing this happen time and time again.

I have never feared for my life because of the color of my skin. I’ve never feared for my life because another individual sees me, or someone who looks like me, as a threat. I know that is something that I should be, and am, extremely fortunate for.

I have feared for the lives of some of the most important people in my life. I have feared, and will continue to, for anyone who fits a certain profile, when seen by some, as threatening. I fear for anyone who is viewed as less or that their life is not as important or that they do not deserve equal or greater opportunities.

I’ll never understand, and I don’t want to, how someone could have so much hatred inside of them, especially towards a person they know nothing about. How does someone get to that point? And how can we make sure our youth never get to that point so that everyone can have a better future?

I have so much more that I still want to say, and feel that needs to be said. I wish I had an answer or a solution to make this stop. I pray that justice is served. I pray and hope that we find a way to stop seeing history repeat itself over and over again, and we stop seeing countless lives taken away.

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What’s On Your Mind, Danielle?

I shared this via my personal Facebook page on Saturday morning. It felt like the first time in the past few weeks, where I truly had a moment to pause and try to process everything that has been going on.

As I went to post this, I realized that Facebook asks, “What’s on your mind, Danielle?” Well, since you asked:

On any given day, I (as I am sure many of you do) wake up not knowing what to expect, and what unexpected curveballs life might throw at me. Over the past few weeks, this has been top of mind and amplified more than ever before.

One day blends into the next, and while some hours seem to fly by, others seem to drag on and on. I’ve witnessed the lives of friends, family members and co-workers change in a blink of an eye. Loved ones lost, jobs taken away and trying to adjust to the new (hopefully temporary) norm, and what that looks like for each individual is a little different.

I’ve seen one extreme to the next. Individuals disregarding any recommendations of mandates provided by both their local or national government, and those that are literally paralyzed by the fear to dare to leave their homes in fear of their life or someone they love’s life.

Some people are busier than ever. Individuals who are now trying to work from home, as they simultaneously homeschool their three children and their partner has now also become their co-worker. Small business owners spending every single waking hour trying to save their business, and do anything possible to ensure they come out on the other side of this.

Workaholics that now have more free time on their hands than ever before, which could be a blessing, but when you are confined to your home, it can be quite challenging to see the sunshine through the clouds.

All of that being said, while I always try really hard to not judge a person, and give them the benefit of doubt, cause I never know what they are truly going through – I am truly trying to be that much more mindful during these unprecedented and strange times.

Most people are under so much stress, and it is so hard not to react when a comment that someone says to us, or that we see online, gets under our skin, but if we can pause for just a moment before lashing out, WE rise above and are better for it.

Similarly, before you attack a stranger, assume anything about someone’s life or make a decision that is solely based on you and you alone (not talking about taking some time for self care), maybe write it down rather than commenting on a post or call a friend or someone else that you can talk to get it off your chest rather than saying it to the person you might have said it to you.

A little kindness, empathy and love never hurt anyone. Oh, and a little (or a lot of) extra distance too.

Some days will be better than others. No matter how bad things are, there’s always some good – no matter how hard it can be to find it.

To all of my friends and family – I love you all and I am here, and always will be, for you.