Posted on 25 Comments

You Matter To Me

Featured image shows Victoria sitting on a large rock on the beach as the sun sets behind her

Don’t reduce yourself,
Not for anyone else,
Know your value from within,
Let it radiate through your skin,

~Victoria Claire | Know You Matter
Landscape shot across marshlands with a large boat winch on the left and Victoria walking towards the camera on the bottom right of the picture. The sun sets in the background.
Landscape shot

For the last few days, I’ve been attempting to publish a blog post about my recent experience at a 3-day conference. “To Impress Or Not To Impress” is the title I chose because of the internal struggle I felt. Truth be told, for the past week and a half, I haven’t felt like I’m enough. What it boiled down to was trying to seek validation from others was a very uncomfortable feeling for me. Then this morning, I listened to “Know You Matter” a new single released today by my good friend Victoria Claire.

So many of us are looking outside of ourselves to find what can only be found on the inside—value. Knowing your value, who you really are, empowers you to accept yourself wholeheartedly. When you know who you are you can stand confidently in the knowledge that you matter. Self-compassion, accepting yourself as you are is a key component to loving others.

The Creative Process

2019 was a year of revelation for me in coming to terms with who I am. Serendipitous is the only word I can use to explain my ongoing journey to self-discovery. And I’m so thankful that part of this journey enabled me to be part of Vicky’s creative process. Following is an excerpt written by Vicky, from the upcoming edition of CAPTIVATING! about this process:

The creative process of going into a recording studio is one of building from the base up, from a band perspective the first track to be laid down is always the rhythm section, drums, then bass, after this comes the melody section, keys, guitar, strings, etc. the last part is always the vocals, this means the lead vocal and any harmonies. Once all elements have been recorded it’s over to the editing room to edit and mix, this can be a lengthy process for the producer but probably the most important part. Once this has been done the track then has to be mastered.

~Victoria Claire

Vicky is an extremely multi-talented person who sings, composes, sculpts, speaks, advocates, surfs, and skateboards just to name a few. As an artist, she thinks deeply and feels even more deeply. In “Know You Matter,” you are gifted a rare glimpse into my friend Victoria.

Finding Know You Matter:

Here is the link to iTunes for the song: https://apple.co/35Ftjhg. The song is also available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Music, Tidal, Youtube and more. 

Connecting With Victoria Claire:

Image Descriptions:

  • Featured image shows Victoria sitting on a large rock on the beach as the sun sets behind her 
  • Landscape shot across marshlands with a large boat winch on the left and Victoria walking towards the camera on the bottom right of the picture. The sun sets in the background. 
Posted on 25 Comments

Viewing Life Through 2019’s Rearview Mirror

Rearview Mirror described in the body of the post

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

~LR Knost

As 2019 winds down, reflecting on my ordinary, mundane, and routine life sandwiched between amazing and awful moments I’m grateful. I think the above quote about life resonates so deeply with me is because of its simplicity. Even so, a small part of me can’t help but feel that when life isn’t amazing or awful then something must be wrong. However, when I really think about it ordinary is the sweet spot.

This time last year I was riding high on the first publication of CAPTIVATING! a free, accessible online lifestyle magazine. Then as 2018 neared its end, I went into a deep depression that I thought I couldn’t rebound from. Yet I did, and what’s even better is I’m ending 2019 more enlightened. In my very first post of 2019, I ended it by saying “I’ll continue to hopefully come out on the other side more enlightened.” When I made this statement there wasn’t a map for me to follow to enlightenment but believing in possibilities created the pathway. Here’s a look back, through blog posts, on the timeline of how I arrived here:

  1. 2019 New Year Fresh Outlook
  2. Managing Social Anxiety & Sight Loss
  3. Empowering Young People to Soar With Passion & Purpose
  4. Max Peterson Scholarship Gives Joy, Love, and Wholeheartedness
  5. My Path From Poverty To Possibilities

The Amazing, The Awful & The Ordinary

Photo of Ariella is described in the body of the post
Ariella

At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t have imagined I’d have amazing opportunities to travel. Interacting with people in person was so meaningful and enhanced the virtual relationships we previously developed. Likewise, meeting new people and developing new relationships helped me to grow personally and professionally. Oh, and the most AMAZING thing happened last week when my granddaughter, Ariella, was born.

While traveling, meeting new people, and a newborn fall into the amazing category at the other end of the spectrum is the awful. Devastating news in the form of a broken relationship, a friend’s cancer diagnosis, and another friend’s death were painful. Each of these situations profoundly affected me causing a great deal of introspection, and today I’m still processing my feelings.

Learning to appreciate the ordinary has been a little tough but at the same time rewarding. It’s been tough because I made some difficult but necessary changes in my life and I’m finding this is constant. The rewards, on the other hand, have been less stress, more meaningful relationships, and a greater sense of self.

Enlightenment

In summary, I’ve found life and the journey to my self-discovery a continual, exhausting, effort that requires focus, truth, and vulnerability. Many of us struggle daily with doubts about our worthiness and we try to find the answers outside of ourselves. The thing is, self-compassion which can only come from the inside allows us to embrace our worthiness. When you know who you are, no one else can define you. Owning your worthiness places you in a position where what others think about you is no longer important.

From my heart to yours I wish you the happiest of holidays!

And if perchance, this time of year is a struggle for you please know you aren’t alone.💔 You must know, You Matter!

If you need encouragement, I leave you with a teaser to the song my friend Vicky wrote.💖 You can check out the lyrics here: Know You Matter and be on the lookout for the single to drop in January 2020.

Correction:

In the original version of this post, I included what I thought was the teaser of Know You Matter. This audio clip is the correct file.

Image Descriptions

  • Featured image: Photo of a car’s rearview mirror reflecting the long road behind the vehicle. White transparent “2019” is overlaying the reflection.
  • Photo of Ariella sleeping in her bassinet. She has a little pink knit cap on her head that perfectly matches her rosy cheeks and she is wearing a long sleeve tee
Posted on 4 Comments

Grace Nzomo On Living Positively With Albinism

In this stunning headshot, Grace is wearing a red tam and lip color. The colors are a bold contrast against her thick gold statement necklace.

“Looking into the eyes of a beautiful young lady and providing encouragement is the spark I need to continue in my mission to empower people with albinism. I am very passionate about education and ensuring its accessibility to the disadvantaged.”

Grace Nzomo

Growing Up In Kenya With Albinism

Grace Nzomo, a psychology graduate from USIU-Africa, is a 25-year-old woman who is living positively with albinism. “Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair and/or eyes. Albinism occurs in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world.” While many people are unfamiliar with the term “albinism,” many are aware of the word “albino” (sometimes used as a derogatory remark towards people living with albinism).

Throughout her life, Grace has faced bigotry and injustice simply because she has albinism. When she was enrolled in school her teachers had no idea what albinism was nor how they could meet her needs. In each of Grace’s classes, her mother explained to the teachers why Grace required accessibility so she could receive an adequate education.

Because of her poor eyesight, when she reached the high school level, Grace’s teachers decided she would be unable to learn chemistry, physics, and geography. She was also informed that since she was visually impaired, it was mandatory for her to learn braille. For Grace, this was unsettling as she felt ostracized because of her sight. In the end, she taught herself how to use braille yet because of its complexity she equated its use in mathematics to teaching someone the Greek language.

The education system in Kenya prevents students who use braille from studying among other subjects, chemistry, physics, and geography. Improved braille transcription in Kenya is sorely needed especially as far as the science elements are concerned. Unfortunately, approximately 70% of Kenyan children with albinism attend schools for the visually impaired at primary and secondary school levels. It’s here where they are forced to learn braille yet they are not totally blind. Grace says this approach “narrows down the student’s career choices by 50% which is very unfair and a violation of their rights to holistic education. However, this should not deter persons with albinism from realizing their full potential. Given the opportunity, they can study in mainstream schools and obtain careers in whichever field they desire—be it Business, Hospitality, Banking, Medicine, etc.”

There are innumerable misconceptions associated with albinism. Most children with albinism in Kenya are kept hidden in the ‘backyard of society’ away from others where they acquire very poor self-concept which later on leads to low self-esteem. Others are raised in single-parent families since the father disowns the mother and child alleging that his wife has been unfaithful to him with a ‘white’ man hence bearing a child with albinism.

Grace Nzomo

Living With Discrimination In Graces Words

In school, fellow students treated me like an object of fascination and the questions never seemed to end. ‘Why is your skin white? Is that your real hair? Can you feel pain? Why are your veins blue? Is your blood blue too?’ and on and on…

In the past, children were left in the sun so as to ‘develop’ pigment so as to be ‘normal’ like the others. Unfortunately, this only led to skin cancer as the child grew older. Nowadays, because of who I am, there is a market for my body parts in neighbouring Tanzania, particularly during the election period because some politician has been told by a witch-doctor to get my hand or leg in order to win that tough election.

It seems people with albinism are worth more dead than alive because when we are born, we are hidden away from the discriminative society and when we grow up and can no longer be hidden. Then we are hunted down for our body parts to make the most potent portion to guarantee wealth, success, fertility… you name your problem, even our bones will solve it. Such violence in its many forms is too close to home and this is the albino mentality by the society that we need to eradicate.

Choosing The Empowerment Route

Supporting the efforts of Dr. Choksey Albinism Foundation is in the interest of my work to improve the lives of people with albinism. As its former programs officer, I still dedicate my time and skills to provide workable resources to children with albinism and their parents who may have never had the hope of living fearlessly in this discriminative society. Looking into the eyes of a beautiful young lady and providing encouragement is the spark I need to continue in my mission to empower people with albinism. I am very passionate about education and ensuring its accessibility to the disadvantaged.

I engage in part-time modelling as I see fashion and beauty a way through which I can express myself and create awareness about albinism in a world which is filled with innumerable stereotypes about it. I believe that when one is comfortable with their own skin colour, then they have the confidence to face the world. In my free time, I engage myself in reading novels, swimming and dancing the Latin dances especially Kizomba which is my favourite.

I envision a society where persons with albinism are fully integrated, appreciated, and empowered to realize their full potential. Being able to brighten the lives of those I come into contact with is only the beginning and accepting opportunities of impact will take me even further.


Image Description:

In her stunning headshot, Grace is wearing a red tam and lip color. The colors are a bold contrast against her thick gold statement necklace.

Posted on 13 Comments

Reclaiming Life By Taking A Stand

Featured image description is in the body of the post.

“Time is priceless, yet it costs us nothing. You can do anything you want with it, but you can’t own it. You can spend it, but you can’t keep it. And once you’ve lost it, there is no getting it back. It’s just gone.”

~Allison DuBois, Medium

Recently I accidentally found the above quote. Well, it wasn’t really an accident since I was binge-watching the Medium series. In my opinion, I felt like this is one of the most accurate statements I have come across about time. For me, just thinking about time is mind-bending. While I understand I only have this moment in time I sometimes get caught up in the past and future.

Time, or rather my use of time these past few months has been very challenging for me. The majority of my time is spent working on social justice issues as it relates to people with disabilities. Because it’s unrealistic to take on every cause, even so, my passion can take me down a rabbit hole of mass confusion. Thanks to stretching myself way too thin I’m now a former scheduling stickler. What this means is I reassessed where I am, tossed my content calendar and I’m starting fresh in September.

Life, Times Three

While there is some overlap, looking at my life today I can break it down into three categories:

  • Home Life
  • Work/Virtual Life
  • Real Life

Home Life

In the following two recent posts, I touch on my feelings of self-worth and work:

  1. Juggling Perfection and Efficiency
  2. Max Peterson Scholarship Gives Joy, Love, and Wholeheartedness

For way too long I’ve confused ‘who I am’ with ‘what I do.’ This formula worked for me most of my life if I felt my work was satisfactory. The problem, however, was two-fold: I had unrealistic expectations and there wasn’t a clear separation between work and worth. When things were going well it was good but inevitably when they didn’t go so well I’d beat myself up. Beating myself up was only the beginning. The guilt of feeling like I wasn’t good enough or flawed sent me spiraling out of control.

Since I was my work and my work was my worth home life was practically nonexistent. I’d gotten so good at controlling my environment, that being a single mom and working full time was a piece of cake. The downside? I spent most of my time at work and never learned the value of self-care. As a matter of fact, my first of two vacations was 14 years ago. Needless to say, even when I had downtime I felt guilty because you know, worth and work. If I wasn’t working I wasn’t worthy.

Today, my youngest son lives with me and my grandson stays here four times a week. Then there’s my 81-year-old mother who requires attention, my dog, condo, and myself. While it’s a necessity, things like grocery shopping, gym, doctors, fall by the wayside because you know, worth and work.

Work/Virtual Life

The majority of my work is done at home where my laptop is connected to a large monitor. As an introvert, I work best in a quiet solitary environment with no distractions. Setting up and managing a website isn’t the easiest thing to do if you’re only semi-skilled but I’m doing it.

Cultivating relationships, networking, conference calls/meetings, researching, writing, editing, and scheduling posts can be daunting. Communicating with people on multiple social media platforms along with speaking engagements leaves little time for anything else.

When I closely examine everything I do I really don’t know how I manage. What I do know is when I’m in the zone I get annoyed with having to take bathroom breaks, I know—pathetic. Keeping up with email and text messages can nearly push me to the brink. And let’s not forget all the latest and greatest technology designed to make our lives easier.

Real Life

One of the best things about social media is meeting meaningful virtual connections in real life. When I say this I don’t mean every connection, rather only the authentic friendships that have developed over time. Two examples of connections I’ve met in real life so far this year were:

In October Chelsea, Max and I will meet up once again at the Disability InSIGHTS event hosted by another friend Amy Bovaird.

Real Life isn’t just limited to meeting virtual connections but it involves all those activities outside of the home. Get-togethers with friends, going to the pool, movies, shopping, art festivals, casual strolling or a car ride. Since I was able to travel a little this year I’ve participated in far more activities than ever before. Right now and in the future, I hope to continue experiencing real life.

The Way Forward

After my awakening at the Daring To Own You Story retreat, I knew I had to make some changes. Since I now know I had the whole work/worth thing backward being compassionate with myself comes first. I had already taken some steps a while ago to downsize possessions and tasks.

Social media is a great tool to reach many people but it can become addictive. It also contradicts the reason why I do what I do which is to create meaningful connections. Here are a few steps I’ve taken:

  • eliminating social media apps on my cell including WordPress
  • muting all cell phone notifications
  • not answering then blocking cell calls from unrecognized phone numbers
  • turning off my cell when working on a project that requires focus
  • limiting/canceling email subscriptions
  • sending salesy emails to my spam folder
  • not accepting friend/conversation requests from everyone
  • scrutinizing and eliminating automatic tools “to help make my life easier”
  • no longer use any social media during the weekend
  • limiting the number of social media posts Monday through Friday

For me, the solution to my time quandary comes down to self-preservation. And it’s pretty simple when you think about it, if I haven’t asked for it I don’t want or need it.

To some degree, I think we’ve allowed technology to control way too much of our lives. Am I saying technology is the big evil/bad? No, not at all and I actually love it. What I am saying and it’s something I’ve spoken on before and that is we have the power of CHOICE. We get to choose what we let into our lives. I don’t want technology making my decisions I want to reclaim my life.

Featured Image Description:

A monochromatic look with shades of beige/tan. I’m sitting on a blue outdoor bench wearing a cream-colored skirt with a slightly darker tank top and suede flats. My ball cap is metallic gold and I have on a denim jacket while posing with my black slimline #WhiteCane.