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The Accountability Conference That Perhaps Should Have Been Called Something Else

My Facebook page and inbox has a life of it’s own. I’m constantly bombarded with stories of everyone’s children, people seeking advice, others who just need to vent. I’m always a listening ear.

I usually take Facebook praises with a grain of salt because half the people who praise me for the transparency of my life are people I either don’t know and don’t half know their intentions. However, there have been many who have reached out to me through the years who I felt were genuinely moved by everything my life has turned out to be, knowing where I started.

A few months back, after taking an inspirational trip home, I was asked about putting together an event in Martinsville, as I had posted of events I was hosting in my current community. I was told “If you ever do anything in Martinsville, be sure to let me know.” So that got my juices flowing and I came up with an amazing concept for a Conference that would be inclusive to all and bring some of the most passionate and inspiring voices back home to a city that deserves so much.

The “It Starts Now! Accountability Conference” was birthed and I worked hard to secure a location, speakers, food, door prizes and a platform that would resonate with everyone in attendance.

It wasn’t long before I realized that not very many people were interested in “Accountability.”

Maybe that particular word was a turn off. Maybe I should have called it a “Jubilee” and marketed it to churches for another event to lift hands in praise but ignore the action it would take afterwards. Or maybe I should have called it an “Empowerment Conference” and created another event where women left with lipstick, posters and excitement but no actual plan that it would take to carry out their visions.

Maybe Martinsville just wasn’t ready for an event with this concept.

Or, maybe I had burned so many bridges through my social media “realness” that so many people just didn’t want to support an event put on by me, regardless of the fact that it had nothing to do with me but everything to do with everyone else living their best lives and reaching all of their potential.

The Accountability Conference would have done just that. Instead, weekly I received messages from people asking me questions like: How many people are registered? Who is coming so far? Can you lower the price more? Can I just come Friday? Do I have to participate in everything?

Accountability for oneself starts with not worrying about what others are doing. It doesn’t put off opportunities because of doubt or uncertainty of others. Accountability has been the most important thing I have learned over the years in order to overcome my failures and be as successful as I have. The friends I wanted to bring were some of the most amazing people who have all been a part of my own personal accountability. I wanted to share this with you. But, you weren’t ready.

Thank you to those of you who showed your interest by registering, entering contests and shared any of the posts. I appreciate you and I promise, you’ll be the first to receive a ticket if I ever choose to do this again.




Being a Source of Support, Not Pain: A Young Mother’s Experience

One of the most profound Facebook disagreements I’ve ever had was the time someone posted a story indirectly chastising a young mother for the way she was parenting her child.

I can’t remember the exact details of the post but apparently the child was “out of hand” and the mother wasn’t doing enough to calm them. Or maybe the child dropped their bottle and kept putting it back in their mouth without washing. I can’t remember but I remember the judgment came when the poster insinuated that the reason she couldn’t handle the child was that she was too young to even have one and didn’t know what she was doing.

As a young mother myself, I took great offense to this since the person who posted it was someone deeply religious and involved in the church. Therefore, my first question was whether anything was done to help her or show her a different way to handle her child.

Out of nowhere, a close, religious family member of mine chimed in with a comment about “babies having babies” and that she shouldn’t have what she can’t care for.

My first emotion was one of rage and anger. I wanted to eliminate this family member from any sentiment I had on what family should mean because surely, that wasn’t it.

Her comment was personal. It was directly to me and how she probably felt about my situation all along. I didn’t know where that response came from but I knew that how far I came had everything to do with people like her who never imagined I’d be where I am now.

A few months ago while at a funeral back home I encountered my Sunday School teacher who sought me out to apologize for how she had once treated me when it came to taking care of my son.

I once brought my son to class and she demanded I give him to her because in her words, “you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Nah, I probably didn’t know what I was doing but, if ever there was a time to show me, it was then, in the church.

I put myself in the place of so many others  who may not know what they’re doing. Raising their kid, seeking a new position, or finding your own identity.

Society’s job, the village’s job, is to show someone else how to make it with the tools you have to succeed.

That day in that office, a young mother could have found a mentor or her place in society, in spite of her inabilities to be the “perfect mother” in the eyes of someone else.

Instead, she received judgment and ridicule from someone who also brought me more pain.

That relative. Not holding grudges is a work in progress for me. I’m not there yet.

Be better, do better. When someone needs support, be their support. Not their source of pain.


Vontae Davis Did Something Many Of Us Aren’t Brave Enough To Do

By now you’ve all heard how ten year veteran NFL player, Vontae Davis, retired from the sport at halftime and never returned to the game. I guess you can sort of say he quit his job at halftime.

People are saying he let his team down. That he let his fans down. That so many that depended on him were let down by his “selfish” actions.

This man had given his body, mind and soul to a brutal sport for years, which eventually allowed him to play at the highest level, while feeding his family and entertaining us. One has to wonder how he felt all these years while trying to please others.

Like so many before him, when the body tells you, it’s time to walk away. In Vontae’s case, his mind eventually caught up with the weight of his body and it was no longer necessary to keep everyone else happy by putting on that uniform. It was finally apparent that he had to do what he felt was best for him and his immediate family.

So, at halftime, he put on his street clothes and abruptly retired. He retired from a sport that had given him so much but no longer filled his soul. He walked away.

No two week notice. No 30 day notice. No off season announcement. Vontae Davis was done.

Vontae Davis
Official statement on Twitter from Vontae Davis

I once worked at this gym that paid me pennies and required me to follow a script in order to get sales. At lunch one day I had cleaned out my desk and never returned. Like Vontae, I no longer wanted to be there.

While I have mostly given two week notices at jobs I have had, sometimes when I felt I could no longer grow or that I was being exhausted from being in a place that sucked the life out of me, I have walked out. At lunch. On a bathroom break. What I left with was dignity and peace, knowing it was time to move on.

How many of you go into a job day after day, unhappy and unfulfilled? Will going back the next day change anything or will you continue this routine of unfulfillment? How many of us are bold enough to stop living for others and finally walk away the way Vontae did?

Vontae Davis didn’t quit. He decided it was time to move on.

It starts NOW! Instead of repeating the same routine, unhappy and unmoved, change starts today. Whether a relationship, a job, or a destination. Be like Vontae and move on. Now.


When You’re Rich on Life, Finding Random Cash Is Nothing

While searching for my Chapstick today, I found $180 in different sections of my work bag and instead of rushing to the gas station or grocery store, I sat back, smiled, then cried. I cried tears of joy because, in the words of Langston Hughes, “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair”

I have 30 day tags on my new car, almost a full tank of gas and, as minor as it sounds, I had eaten twice already.

I had a flashback of raising my son in Raleigh and in moments of brokenness, I would go through periods of searching seasonal pockets, hoping a few dollars would add up for gas money or to be able to provide enough loose change so at least one of us could have a real dinner that day.

So today, in that moment of finding some money that I was not in desperation for, I received a sense of elation. It gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I never gave up in those times when the lights were off, when I was starving or when I lied to friends about not being able to go out because I really didn’t have the money.

It provided me a sense of humbleness and strength because I saw myself as someone who has been through so much but I now can see the finish.

My life has taken me through highs and lows to journeys and travels. I have been through love and heartbreak and now, love again. I wake up every day knowing that I am surrounded by friends who love and inspire me. I am an entrepreneur who is constantly tweaking my craft.

Now, while I’m in no way financially rich nor do I have an abundance of money in my bank account, I find comfort knowing that I have worked extremely hard to overcome my hardships. I am still a work in progress and no longer do I have to sit in the dark or diet because of lack of food.

The key to becoming rich in life was becoming rich in love of self. I truly believe that everything else follows once you love yourself wholeheartedly.

That $180? I’m sending it to my son to thank him for never letting me feel like I couldn’t provide for him. After all, I owe him for allowing me to sell his games for cash back in the day.


Mother to Son
By Langston Hughes
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.


Hometown: You Are a Gem!

Confession: I’m one of those natives that moved away from Martinsville for college and vowed to never return. The fast life seemed more exciting. Better opportunities were elsewhere. People were different. Experiences were richer. There was a certain culture of people I’d never get to know if I stayed home or didn’t take the chance to see what else was out there.

So I left home in 1995 for college in Raleigh, NC. I met people I once feared because of how they were portrayed on television . I remember on my college application for my roommate request, I wrote “No one from New York or New Jersey.” The only vision of someone from NY or NJ from my rural mindset was scary and full of stereotypes. My entire view of society outside of my comfort zone was based on fear and lack of culture.

So I left. Decided not to come home unless I had to. Since 1995 I have traveled so far and met so many people of all cultures, I decided I didn’t want to return to the place that made me question others’ existence. The place where I learned pieces of history but not it’s truth. So what all their jobs were gone. So what they’re stuck. So what they’re struggling. I know when I come home, my parent’s house was comfortable and I had no reason to go outside of it. This wall I built was for my peace of mind, to tell myself I was better off gone.

But social media has its way of sucking you in and making you see things you try to dismiss. What I have not been able to dismiss for some time is the beauty that is truly my hometown.

So I decided to head home for a weekend and spend as much time as I could, visiting some places I had been following on social media and taking in the place I called home for all of my formative years.

The first place I had to visit was “Dippers Ice Cream”, a local ice cream spot that surely has to rank as one of the best ice cream makers in Virginia. I had planned to visit Dippers for days and knew exactly what I wanted until I got to the window and saw everything else I wanted. I settled on the amazing Peach Dumplings topped with ice cream while my dad got two scoops of strawberry ice cream in a cone. Y’all, peach dumplings? If we weren’t already on the bypass when I finished, I would have returned for more. Nothing about this visit disappointed. Despite some people’s warnings of costs, Dippers deserves every penny they charge. Take all my money, I’ll be back!

Another place I had been following for a while is “Hamlet Vineyards.” There is nothing better than spending a beautiful day at a wine tasting and what a beautiful day it was. From the moment we arrived, the friendliness and service we received was exceptional. We opted to do the tasting that consisted of seven wines, all of which was delightful. For food, they had options of dips served with breads from another gem in the city “Rising Sun Breads.” They also have a “Sunday Special” seasonal option. We knew we were going somewhere else so we didn’t order anymore food, only more wine. We ordered the sangria and shared a bottle of wine before we finished our visit purchasing wine and souvenir glasses. One thing I forgot to purchase was the signature dark chocolate truffle from Cocoa Trail (another hometown gem) mixed with Hamlet Petit Verdot wine. Guess I have to return to try that. And I will.

Since we were so close, mom recommended we visit Fairystone Park, a place we used to come to often when I was growing up. I don’t think I’ve been here since I was a camp counselor on my Summer breaks from college and I never thought I was missing anything. I was. Fairystone is our beach away from the beach. On a day like today, the park should have been filled with families and friends sharing snacks and smiles. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected but I was happy to see those there who are aware of it’s glory. Not to mention, the camping potential and Yurts available. Yurts! Fairystone has yurts! I read there will be trails soon and that should be a great addition. In the meantime, pack up the kids, phone your friends and meet the family at Fairystone for an inexpensive day in the sun.

Finally, I received a recommendation to visit “Shindig, An uptown Bistro.” Being the greedy person I am, I went to try something on the menu. Without having much time to spare, I only ordered the garlic wings and truffle fries to share. After ordering shots of tequila, our food arrived to perfection. If this was any indication to what the rest of the food on the menu would be, I don’t know how one could be disappointed. I can’t wait to return for the Chilli Glazed Salmon. FYI: get the rum soaked banana pudding. You won’t be disappointed 😉

The thing about coming back home is that no matter where you eat out, someone at home is always waiting to feed you more. That person was my dad who had been waiting for us to return to the dinner he had prepared. Ribs, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, green beans, and corn on the cob. I had no idea where I would put anymore food but when you’re home, you have no choice but to make room.

Hometown, I see your beauty. Your strength, your character, your work ethic and your determination. You have taken some hits but you refuse to quit. Part of that is what actually made me who I am. As a small business owner myself, I see your potential. It is up to your community to see it as well in order for you to survive. I hope my story and experience can contribute to your success. Until then, I’ll plan my next trip home.


Other small businesses to support:

Books and Crannies, Uptown Pinball, Mountain Valley Brewing, the Daily Grind, Finish 1st Motorsport and Mini Golf, Tammy’s Grill and many others.

Upcoming events:

Art at Happy Hour at Piedmont Arts, June 19, 5pm

Weekly Farmer’s Market

Summer Concert Series, at the Farmer’s Market (check listings)

Please don’t wish me Happy Father’s Day

As Father’s Day approaches, it is important that we recognize all the men in our lives who have been remarkable fathers either to you or your children. My son didn’t have a father but, …

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