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Aside
Fasting in January (from my journal at the time)
This time I tried fasting from something in particular, something that I felt had a hold on me….. (last time it was food until after 6 for one day)…
It’s amazing how when you begin to fast you want the thing you selected to give up more than ever.
I had reinforcements…my friends helped me avoid temptation
I prayed a lot this time…a lot more than I used to….overall I pray a lot more now……Fasting4
How it all worked all a few months later…
I made some really big changes in my life….
The changes are not only attributed to the fasting but an overall process of change and prayer that I am committed to because my spirit is not settled. I want to rid myself of uneasiness more than the thing(s) I thought I needed….the thing(s) I perceived as happiness.
I think the changes will allow me to reach my path of financial freedom as scheduled….You never REALLY know how one big change makes a different in so many areas of your life…..
Share your pre and post fasting experiences. How was your life been impacted by fasting?

Fasting part 2 and starting 3…..

 

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Relocating With Your Dreams

This is a guest post from Keena Stephens

In July 2010, I made a career and life move by relocating to Atlanta, GA. My decision to move was greatly influenced by a trip to Atlanta in May 2010 during a visit to my cousin. My perception of the city prior to this visit was largely connected to the family trips to Ellenwood (suburban Atlanta), AUC Homecomings, and the glamorized view of Atlanta from TV shows such as The RealHousewives of Atlanta. During this trip, I gained a real perspective of the city of Atlanta. While visiting, I volunteered for a career day event at Sylvan Hills middle school. I witnessed the teachers work overtime to develop this event and their everyday curriculum with limited resources while working to reshape the minds of the students and expose them to positive role models and examples of the fruits of a college education. More importantly, the teachers were accomplishing this with within a community where the students were regularly exposed to images that were the extreme opposite. Here I was, in the middle of the beautiful “A-Town” and it looked no different from my neighborhood in Roseland or my dad’s old neighborhood in Englewood in Chicago. These students had the same fears, hopes, and dreams as the kids back home, and unfortunately the same barriers.

Atlanta Skyline

Atlanta Skyline (Photo credit: k1ng)

What I realized most was that although Chicago will always be my hometown, this city that others see as the Mecca for Black Wealth has ghettos, poverty, poor healthcare, violence and disparities in the delivery of resources to poor communities. These are the same issues that you will see in almost any American city. This changed my perspective of community to a more all-inclusive look at poverty across the country. I realize that no matter what a city may look like from a visitor’s perspective, it must be acknowledged that those that dwell in that city may share the same struggles of what you know of your very own city. The grass is not greener. There is work to be done across this country and more, globally. I personally focus my efforts on communities that are impoverished, considered low-income or have a poor school system. Other factors of service for me include- limited access to healthcare and other necessary functional resources. However, the community you choose to assist with should be near in both distance and to your passion. So, as my heart and efforts will still be tied to my hometown and my old Roseland southside Chicago neighborhood, I will not dare overlook and refuse to take part in the Sylvan Hill, Bankhead, West-End areas where those that look like me are suffering like my people back in the most impoverished areas in Chicago.

Tips on relocating or consideration before moving

1- Visit the community for an extended period of time. This will allow you to develop a connection to that community and build relationships. You can become apart of the community if you don’t associate with the people within it. If you have not chosen a neighborhood, this will help you determine which areas fit your personality and interests.

2- Join a volunteer group after moving. My first major activity upon moving to Atlanta was the CHAMPS Health Summit in 2010. I worked with Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory, and the Midtown Urology Staff on this health screening drive for men of color. Not only was this a rewarding experience to be able to coach these men in taking care of their health, but I also met new friends and people that were doing great things in my career field. I later gained a great position working with one of the companies at the Health Summit.

3- Try not to compare your new place to your old city. I find a lot of people who constantly compare their new city to their old city, sometimes end up moving or completely missing out on the experiences that they can gain from relocating. For me, Atlanta is not Chicago, but I have found wonderful things specific to Atlanta that have made my move worthwhile. Every city has its own character, so exhaust the possibilities that your new city has to offer.

4-Try new hobbies and find new friends ASAP. When in Rome do as Romans do. I am a die-hard Bears fan, but I tailgate with the Falcons fans as often as possible….with my Bears shirt on of course! The best thing about relocating is that you have the opportunity to try things that you did not or could not try at home. This may include new foods, outdoor adventures, or anything fun that you may not have done in your old city. A great website to meet new friends and find out what is going on in your new city is Meetup.com. You can find a group that may have hobbies you do or hobbies you have always wanted to do.

5-Before you move at all consider finances first. This is the number one tip I can give before you relocate. Please do your homework. Actually find out what the actual cost of living is for that city, not just relying on the internet posted prices. Look into all additional costs as well including sales taxes, costs to insure and register vehicles, gas and proximity from home to work, and average utility costs. Finally, research the costs to move from your location to your new destination. These figures will help you to determine if your budget will support you relocating.

Good luck!

Bio:

Keena Stephens is a 28 year-old African-American woman, born and raised in a two parent home in the Roseland Community on Chicago’s Southside.  Her upbringing instilled in her the passion for community outreach and has been a major influence in her work as a healthcare practitioner.  At the age of 18, Keena received her license as a Practical Nurse and worked her way through college, graduating in May of 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Community Health from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Upon graduation she worked at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, IL until her move to Atlanta, GA in July 2010. 

While in Atlanta, GA, Ms. Stephens has worked as a Research Coordinator for Morehouse School of Medicine and more recently as a Research Project Coordinator for the Atlanta VA Medical Center.  Her affiliation with both Morehouse School of Medicine and the Atlanta VA Medical Center has afforded her the opportunity to reach a diverse healthcare population; underserved areas through community clinics and health education fairs as well as Veteran support outreach.  She is currently in pursuit of her Doctorate in Nursing Practice with a specialty in Family Practice.  Her goal is to provide holistic, comprehensive healthcare to patients of all levels of income through evidence-based practice.  Keena is a social butterfly and enjoys spreading her positive energy in and out of the workplace.  In her free time she enjoys traveling, great food, and getting acquainted with her new city.

 

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I Have Yet to Succeed

I have not succeeded in my SMART weight loss goal. Although, I have become more conscious about food, my eating patterns and the emotional process that influences choices regarding my physical health, I have not succeeded. When I compare how hard I work to develop and meet goals in various aspects of my life I must admit that I do not exert the same effort toward exercise and diet.

My workout routine is inconsistent and I have yet to commit to plans for healthy eating (green foods, less sugar, adding vegetables, etc). I do sometimes keep a food journal when I’m trying to be on the right path, but usually give up when it occurs to me that my carb intake and lack of exercise will not prove rewarding.

Despite this “fail” (which it is a fail because I not only didn’t meet my SMART goal, I have gained more than 10 pounds since creating my plan), I did have one win this week. I committed to only drinking water and I did for 6 days so far. I did have milk with my breakfast but that was planned. My reasoning for water only was that I needed a flush and some cleansing.

I haven’t noticed anything big regarding weightloss, but I did notice that my teeth are much much whiter. This was something I did not expect or think about, but I am extremely happy about this. I guess no chemically flavored beverages have tainted my teeth this week and I have noticed the reward……Now, if only one week in the gym could show such promise.

How are you doing with your SMART goals?

Below is an article that provides some questions for you to ask yourself when you fail.

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2011/07/14/10-questions-to-ask-when-you-fail

 

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Families Need to Take Accountability

There have been over 270 murders in the city of Chicago to date.  In smaller cities the numbers may not be as high, but the fear and prevalence of violence persists. Thousands of people silently suffer from mental illness and even other physical illnesses but those closest to them refuse to acknowledge the truth. Who is supposed to acknowledge the illness or the murderer? Who is to be held accountable for the actions of the young? For the apathetic attitudes of our teenagers and young adults? For the unhealthy behavior of those in need of medication?

Families need to begin to take accountability. 

If reading about our current state in a book, I would believe that the people of the world had inherited a psychotic diagnosis that was only getting worse with each birth. I would believe that there was a plague of apathy that spread across the globe. But since I am not reading about the world I live in in a book, I hear stories, experience, and listen to first hand accounts about sadness, hopelessness, and death. To clarify, not just death- murder, genocide, greed, and emotionally unstable individuals that form cliques, formed gangs, formed community, take over. On the less traumatic end of the spectrum, we have mass obesity, rampant sexually transmitted diseases, and students struggling to be labeled literate.

Families need to begin to take accountability.

Why do we ignore the unhealthy behaviors we notice in either ourselves or loved ones early on? Or the learning challenges our children and nieces and nephews struggle with when they attempt to practice what they learned in school at the kitchen table? Who is supposed to love their relative enough to say “you may need to eat healthier…”, “you have to turn yourself in”, “you will never make it if you keep that up”, and all of the dead on phrases and statements that acknowledge the need for help and healing. What do you do when your cousin is the gun man or rapist? I recently read a quote that said “blood makes us related but loyalty makes us family”. This made me think about the term loyalty. Although it is important to be loyal to people, one has to know where loyalty to self, moral and spiritual beliefs, and to the greater good outweighs loyalty to one person.

Families need to begin to take accountability.

Hypothetical scenario: two people I am loyal to get into a fight. Friend A harms friend B. What am I do to as a loyal person?…….Harm is the keyword. Not a simple argument, but damage. Hard one to answer right. Why? Because of cliche terms and phrases such as loyalty that allow us to ignore unhealthy behavior. We become proud of our families reputation for owning the block or controlling the school with bully tactics. We use loyalty to avoid truth and decision making.

Families need to begin to take accountability.

If you and your family struggle with similar issues here are some simple yet may be challenging solutions to begin your plan for accountability.

1- call a family meeting and discuss your priorities for the young people in the family, in particular high school and younger. Ask the hard questions- do we have the resources and internal mentors to help our young people? Do we need to seek out local programs to ensure our young people reach their greatest potential? Whatever you think needs to be discussed- discuss it. If the family meetings are in effective after six months you may need to reconsider.

2- go to family therapy. If you do not have insurance seek a therapist that accepts Medicare or Medicaid. Maybe your family can pitch in $5 per family meeting and once a month have a mediator attend the meeting. This will help ensure you have someone to provide resources and professional assistance.

3- be consistent. Unfortunately families respond to similar situations differently depending on who the relative is and the connection to others within the clan. This sets a competitive tone and makes it difficult for the younger generation to understand family expectations and boundaries. If the family is consistent in their response (both disapproval and reward) system, values will be embodied and passed on for generations to come.
What are some ways that you and your family take accountability?
Below is a link to an article that discusses the need for accountability in a families culture.
I would also recommend looking for a therapy company such as SoulWork LLC. A home-based private practice in Chicago that offers reputable therapy services and accepts various insurance (including medicare and medicaid) and flexible payment plans.
 

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Pushing Through the Rough Patch: I Tried Fasting

Composed the night of 7/26/2011

I just completed my first fast in hopes of gaining clarity on some opportunities that have been presented to me.
Not eating was not as challenging as I thought it would be because I was very busy the entire day; what was challenging during this busy day, was finding the time to pray and remain focused on why I was fasting.

Throughout the day I was in a long meetings that involved my direct participation. I would sneak in
a few moments of focused prayer by excusing myself to the bathroom, or when the other party would do the same. One other activity that helped me stay focused on my fasting wishes during the meetings was writing keywords of the 3 items that led me to fast on my notes.

After my meetings were complete, I headed home. On the way home, I became aware of all the emails, text messages, and phone calls that I missed. Of course I was tempted to return the calls on the commute home, but after the third failed attempt, I accepted that this time was another opportunity to engage in my fasting prayers.

Once I arrived at home, I called a friend and asked a general question regarding fasting (I was advised to not announce or share with others that I am fasting, especially because it was for a specific purpose). My question went something like this:

Me: Suppose I was fasting in the summertime from sun up to sun down and realized that…..the sun doesn’t go down for an extremely long time? Can I just change the time that I end my fast?

Friend: No. But, if you do need to eat, you can-lol. Sometimes when I am hungry at the end of my fast, I take a nap to push through.

Me: Thanks.

Needless to say, I took a nap….the sun is almost in my rearview…..Later my friend informed me that I could have been upfont with my question; I was just not tp publicize my fasting throughout the day.

How do you get the most of your fast and/or spiritual activities?

Below is a link that explains more about fasting.

http://www.howtofast.net/

 

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Taking On A New Project/ Endeavor? Tips for Your Success

Image from Buy Cho Young Tea

Capitalizing on many of my talents, I have officially partnered with a friend and started my consulting business, SydneyMalcome. As I pray and work towards a lengthy and global existence for this new endeavor I have experienced considerable success during the start-up phase. I have created the following tips that are sure to help myself, and others keep going during the first leg (and probably longer) of your new project or endeavor. I will be sure to post more as time goes on.

–       Take care of your health- your physical and mental health if your organizations greatest asset.
During the start-up or busy time of your business, it may seem difficult to manage a healthy lifestyle. Now is the time to create morning, midday, and evening routines. Each routine should allow you to analyze your emotional response to the activities of the day, your mental preparedness for what is to come, and to “clear your space” of obstacles you envision affecting your progress. Examples of healthy living during your business start-up or intense project can include:  advance meal planning, updating your grocery list as you think of
household needs throughout the day, or having a relaxing cup of tea.

–       Organize your operations- Effective operations are the foundation of sustainability and allow for you and your successors to make intentional improvements. If you are like me, you may be reluctant to synchronizing your life with technological advances. Although it took me a while, once I began to implement user-friendly automated systems, I immediately noticed improved processes and increased efficiency in my business and personal operations. I am able to quickly share information with others and I feel confident when going on vacation or taking a day off of work. Google docs, google calendar, google voice, and fax to email, are all good systems that help you remain organized on the go.

–       All tasks need a rapid response – Make it a habit to respond to everyone, even if the response defines how many business days it will take to provide a complete or definite answer. Although there is a difference between urgent and important matters, you and the people/orgs you interact with may not see eye to eye on which items are important vs. urgent. Rapidly responding has proven to be respected and
appreciated by a variety of clients and colleagues. Expectations are clear for both parties, and you avoid feeling as if you are being forced to give an incomplete response for the sake of responding.

–       Commit to frequent engagement – Keeping your clients engaged (in communication or with information) serves as the dialogue that helps build your professional personal relationship. Frequent engagement helps build trust on both ends. For example, if I see information about fundraising suggestions, opportunities for start-up businesses, or other information that may be substantial to my clients personal or professional goals, I share it with them. Sharing useful information is often a click away with conveniently located share buttons on almost all internet sources.

–       Schedule free time– Scheduling free time leads to a better work-life balance. YES, I do schedule my free time. To clarify, not every single moment of free time, but boundaries or slots that allow me to have guilt-free leisure time. Many people work a day job and then spend their evening hours pursuing their goals, including starting their own businesses. Therefore, I often have to adjust my consulting schedule to meet the needs of my clients. With this being the case, I plan out my days atleast 24-36 hours in advance. This allows me to create a schedule that I am comfortable with while limiting the addition of last-minute meetings or activities. Last-minute additions can add a lot of stress and headache that I aim to avoid.

–       Don’t skimp on the preparation period– When possible, take an extra 10 minutes to do the thing that you are telling yourself can wait until tomorrow. Yes, I do try to avoid last-minute additions to my schedule, but at times they are unavoidable. Also, the last-minute add-ons are not always business, they may be family/friend emergencies, relationship emergencies, or even burn out. Over this past weekend I had intentions of completing a lot of business work, but I was invited to fun outdoor events that delayed my work. Fortunately, I was able to wake up this morning and still post this blog entry, having already prepped and prepared for success!

Like it or not, your personal practices and business practices both have a major effect on your life. By accepting this, you can create systems and routines that allow you to be in control of your life and your future success.

Please share some of your tips for success when starting a new project or endeavor.

Below is an article about that provides some tips on remaining focused while trying to reach your goals.

http://www.articlesbase.com/wellness-articles/5-tips-to-increase-focus-and-concentration-to-help-you-reach-your-fitness-goals-940382.html

 

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Oh Yeah….The S.M.A.R.T. Weight I Was Supposed to Lose….

Image from weightlosssolutionsweb.com

Attempting to lose weight has been a personal goal that has proven to remind me of how much I do not know. To get it out of the way, I humbly want to state that, in the 3 months I have worked to lose 25 pounds, I have only kept off 4 pounds. 

6 pounds was the total of my greatest loss. Alack of self-control, especially over the weekends, and simply, not knowing enough about foods and their effects on the body, proved to be a hinderance to my weight loss. I was ill-equipped to meet my goal. 

I am not giving up though. I am revising my timeline and I have called in reinforcements. Below are the steps I am taking to get on the right track.

–          A member of my creative vision team has provided me with 3 days worth of sample meals. Before creating the meal plans, I first sent her a list of about 6-8 meals that I regularly eat. She created the 3 day meal plan using what I am already comfortable cooking and meals that I enjoy. Her suggested meal plans focus on adding green vegetables, smaller portions, and cutting out (white) carbs.

–          Making exercise a habit. During the initial stages of my weight loss activities, I was working out about 10-20 minutes a day, some time more. After skipping experience for a few days, I ended up STOPPING altogether. I am now making it a habit to get back on the elliptical daily.

–          Lastly, I have to send my weight loss coach (member of my creative vision team) a daily journal of what I am eating. My weight loss coach is an extremely good friend of mine and she knows all to well, the in’s and out’s of my life patterns, daily routines, emotional triggers, and taste buds.Yes, I have been tempted to lie, but I realize the only person I would be cheating is myself. 

What I love most about my S.M.A.R.T. goal, despite not having made the progress that I was aiming for, is that I had a measurable outcome to keep me motivated. Most importantly, this is MY goal. It is not the goal of a client, another business, or my significant other; it is mine to adjust and make happen. 

Creating S.M.A.R.T goals for my personal development has allowed me to see drastic improvement in other areas of my life. 

How are your S.M.A.R.T. goals progressing?

 

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