Get Out of The Way!

Since the onset of COVID-19 Pandemic and all the restrictions that have come with it, I was among the thousands of people who have lost their income due to business closures.  I was also among the numerous yoga teachers/fitness instructors that transitioned to teaching live-stream classes through Zoom.  Even though teaching through an online platform was something I had wanted to do for a while, I was “forced” into this situation sooner than I was anticipating.  I say “forced” because my other option was to not teach at all.  There are several reasons why I was delaying online teaching:

    1. I don’t like hearing my recorded voice (I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this).  When I hear my unrecorded-self talk, I like the tonality and the intonation in my speaking voice… which is not the case when I hear my recorded voice.
    2. I don’t like seeing myself talking in a video.  I start looking at how I move my mouth when I speak, my non-conscious movements, my lack of smile (making me look like I’m mad), my non-white teeth (from many years of tea and coffee drinking)… the list goes on and on.
    3. I wondered if people would actually switch from in-person classes with me to on-line/live-streaming classes.  Being that I specialize in teaching gentler forms of yoga (not necessarily easier, but I focus more on proper alignment and injury prevention), my morning classes consist of mostly women in their late 30’s to 50’s.  Half of these wonderful women are not big fans of technology, so I knew I would lose the number of people I can help by transitioning my classes online.
    4. I questioned my discipline.  Would I be able to consistently teach online every week, or would I start to lose motivation and quit?

It is interesting that it took a global crisis for me to take the leap into teaching classes online.  But before I decided to offer live-stream classes, I had to search in my heart and make sure I wasn’t doing it out of fear (check out my previous blog on overcoming fear).  Once I prayed, meditated and talked it over with my husband (who is often the voice of reason), I realized that this would be a great time for me to take a leap and see what God does with it.

Today is my second week of online teaching, and it’s going great so far.  Last week, I taught three All-Levels Yoga classes, two Yoga Nidra classes (if you don’t know what this is, sign up for my class here), and a Biblical Meditation Workshop (click here for future workshops)… and I’m happy to report that I did not feel self-conscious, and I was able to stay disciplined and organized with my schedule!  The greatest lesson I learned in this whole process is that I get in my own way (and in God’s way) which prevents me from doing and experiencing greater things.

How often do you convince yourself not to pursue a dream or an idea because you think it is:

  1. Too much work?
  2. Too much effort?
  3. Too scary?
  4. Too intimidating?
  5. Too out of your comfort zone?

Next time you feel any of the feelings above, remind yourself to get out of your way so that you can go after accomplishing and experiencing things that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.  And if you don’t succeed in your definition of success (more on this topic next week), know that IT IS OKAY.  You are still wonderful.  You are still loved.  You are still uniquely YOU!

Misunderstood? Me too!

As a kid in the 80’s, one of my favorite T.V. shows was reruns of Threes Company.  Being that I was a preteen and my English was my second language, a lot of the “adult humor” went over my head.  What I found so hilarious about the show was the physical comedy of Jack Tripper (played by John Ritter) as well as all the misunderstandings that caused 99% of the comedic drama among the main characters.  Of course by the end of the epidsodes, all misunderstandings were cleared up, everyone hugged it out and all was good in the world again.  In a perfect world, all misunderstandings would be cleared up in 30 minutes (minus commercial breaks), this unfortunately, this is not the case.

Last year, I wrote and published a book called, Be Still: The Power of Biblical Meditation.  It’s full of true stories from my own life as well as other people’s lives on how biblical meditation played a huge role in helping us heal from daily stressors, people-pleasing, childhood trauma, divorce, domestic violence, and death of loved ones.  The book also contains many techniques to help create stillness through scriptural yoga, pranayama (breath control techniques), and scriptural meditation.  I even recorded all of the techniques and provided links to each of them.  It took me six months to write/edit/design/publish my book (which you can read about in my previous blog, Indie-Author Do’s and Don’ts), and I was so excited to share it with the world!

The first month, I taught scriptural yoga and biblical meditation classes at a big women’s retreat in Asheville, NC where approximately 900 women from the southeast states attended.  I received many words of encouragement, gratitude and confirmation that I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do.  The second and third months were the same, where I was humbled at how powerfully God was using the book He commanded me to write.  But then January came, and I saw a one-star rating review on my book (you can read them on Lulu.com and Amazon.com).  I felt discouraged at first, not because I doubted the purpose of this book (which all glory was to God) but because I felt misunderstood.  There was a part of me that wanted to somehow contact the reviewer and say, “Wait a minute, let me explain and address all your concerns.  Let me explain to you all of my training and research on this subject.”  But then I took a step back to re-evaluate my heart.  I fully respect the reviewer’s opinions and therefore, I am completely okay with being misunderstood.

Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions whether they believe they are right and others are wrong.  It’s completely okay.  It’s okay that one person is a republican while their friend is a democrat.  It is okay.  It’s even okay that I use Yoga to get closer to God while a friend of mine believes that it is not of God.  IT IS OKAY.  It’s not my job to try to convince someone that what helps me will help them.  They have every right to their own opinions.  We waste so much time and energy on getting worked up about disagreements and misunderstandings.  There was a time when I would lose sleep over such things.  But at the end of the day, none of that matters.  Unless someone is asking me questions with the intention of wanting clarity, it is not my job to debate or provide proof of why I think “I am right and they’re not.”

There’s something freeing about living this way.  There’s such a feeling of lightness within the spirit when you’re not living to prove yourself to others but rather living to move closer to your authenticity.  So this week, I encourage you to practice being okay of feeling misunderstood.  Let other’s have their opinions about you because this does not change who you are.  Continue to shine bright for those who wish to be in your light.

 

With Gratitude,
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Happy Holistic New Year – Pt. 4

For the final part of my series on holistic wellness, I wanted to share about my passion: Using Yoga for therapeutic purposes.  I have taught over 2,500 hours of various styles of yoga, and about 12-15 minutes before the end of all of those classes/workshops, I instruct my students to get set up for Savasana.  No matter how many times I repeat the necessity of Savasana, I have had a student or two sneak out of class quietly from time to time.  Perhaps they had an emergency that they needed to tend to; but usually, people skip Savasana because they think it’s an optional 7-10 minute pose that they could be doing “something else that’s more productive.”  I confess, I used to be that student when I first started going to yoga classes over 20 years ago.

Savasana is also known as the “Corpse Pose” which is generally the final pose in a yoga class.  Savasana is considered the ultimate (and the most challenging) pose in yoga because it is a discipline of stillness and relaxation physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Many people believe that in order to be considered an “advanced yogi,” you must be able to do arm-balancing poses such as Parivrtta Bakasana (“Revolved/Twisted Crane”) or Salamba Shirshasana (“Headstand”).  What’s interesting about this is that I did more of these poses in my earlier days of practicing yoga than my days as a yoga and meditation teacher.  Not that these are easy poses to practice, but

since the main goal of Yoga is to meet your authentic self by using poses (along with ethical living, self-discipline, breath control, sense withdrawal,  concentration, meditation, and enlightenment), each asanas (“physical yoga postures”) become a tool for a greater purpose and not the goal itself.

With that said, the five following asanas are poses that are accessible to most people, no matter what their physical fitness levels are. (Disclaimer: If you have an injury or a pre-existing condition, please do not perform these poses without the approval of your healthcare provider):

Chakravakasana (Ruddy Goose Pose)

Inhale at Table Pose (right photo), and Exhale into Child’s Pose (left photo).  Repeat 5-10 times.  To experience a great (but subtle) low back stretch, stay in Child’s Pose with knees out wide with big toes together.  This allows gravity to gently bring the hips lower to the ground, resulting in a nice low back stretch.
Modifications: If you have wrist pain, come down to your elbows and forearms as you practice this pose.  If you experience knee pain, place a folded towel, blanket or mat under your knees.
Benefits: Warms up the wrists, shoulders, hips and knees.  Also known to relieve low back pain, fatigue and stress.

 

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Sitting tall with knees bent, cross the right leg over the left, placing your right foot on the floor by your left thigh.  Place your left hand or fingers on the floor while keeping the arm straight (almost like a kickstand).  Inhale as you lengthen the spine upward and place your right elbow on the outside of your left thigh (spread the fingers wide to keep the hand active).  As you exhale, twist to the right.  Stay for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Modifications: If you have tight hips, sit cross-legged and twist to the right, placing your right fingertips in the front and left fingertips in the back with both arms straight.  Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Stretches the neck, shoulders and the hips.  Promotes healthy digestion and reduces fatigue.  It is also known to relieve menstrual cramps.

Ardha Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog Pose )

Starting from Table Pose, inhale and exhale as you lift the knees off the floor, pushing your hips up and back.  Push your shoulders back into the shoulder socket as you draw your shoulder blades in toward each other.  Keep your fingers spread out and weight distributed evenly in your palms.  Continue to bring the heels down toward the floor with each breath.  Stay for 5-10 breaths.
Modifications: If you have wrist pain, come down to your elbows, forearms and hands on the floor.  If your hamstrings/calves are tight, keep a bend in the knees and heels slightly lifted as you slowly work on straightening the legs.
Benefits: Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and the arches of the feet.  Energizes the body while calming the brain.  Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, mild depression, fatigue, and symptoms of menstrual and menopausal discomfort.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Sit with the bottom of the feet touching and knees out wide.  Hold your ankles (not the toes, as we have a tendency to pull up when holding the toes which can result in overstretching the ankle ligaments).  Lengthen the spine upward while releasing the shoulders down the back.  Flex the feet, peeling the right toes away from the left toes (flexing the feet prevents the knee caps from moving/shifting) Stay in this pose for 5-10 breaths.
Modifications: If you have tight hips, move your feet away from the body, making the legs more into a loose diamond shape.  If the knees are high off the ground, place yoga blocks or folded blankets underneath the knees to create more comfort.
Benefits: Stretches the inner thighs and groin. Improves mobility in the knees.  Stimulates the reproductive organs and blood circulation in the body.  Helps relieve mild depression, anxiety and menopausal symptoms.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Lie down with your palms facing up and allow the feet to flop out.  Inhaling and Exhaling through the nose effortlessly, close your eyes and allow the belly to rise and fall with each breath.  Count from 10 to 0, counting one down at each exhale (Inhale, exhale 10; Inhale, exhale 9; etc.).  With each exhale, notice that your body feels heavier and more relaxed.  Stay in this pose for 7-12 minutes.
Modifications:  Use blankets, bolsters, blocks and even a pillow to get comfortable… but don’t get yourself so comfortable that you fall asleep. 😊
Benefits: Reduces headaches, fatigue and insomnia.  Relaxes the body, calms the brain, lowers blood pressure, and relieves mild depression.

 

I hope these poses help you as you continue to relax and reset for the rest of 2020!

 

With Gratitude,
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Drowning Out Distractions

I’ve traveled a lot this year. Since January, I’ve been to over 30 cities in six states (not including the stopover/layover cities), covering approximately 15,000 travel miles totaling 82 days.  Next year, I imagine I’ll be traveling just as much if not more. I love road trips with my family, flying across the country to visit family and friends, and I even love traveling for work.  Granted, I schedule my own out of town/state work trips which is such a blessing.  I also take work-related vacations in the form of sabbaticals.  This summer, I spent a week at an AirBnB in Denton, TX.  Other than my husband, no one else knew where I was because I wanted to take that time to rest and focus on my writing my book.  I needed to get away from my day-to-day living (aka distractions) in order to accomplish my goals.

Distractions are inevitable.

For a couple of months during the fall, a gardener would come by with his leaf blower to clear out all the leaves… right in front of the glass windows of the studio that I teach yoga classes at.  It never failed that he would come while we were in the middle of a class.  At first, I thought to myself, “Why can’t he come by AFTER my class ends?  Why does he always have to cause so much ruckus when we’re trying to practice yoga?”  And then I stopped and laughed at the irony of my thoughts.  Being that one of my goals as a Yoga Teacher is to help my students take the lessons they learn on the mat (in my classes), off the mat (into their lives), I told my students, “Do you see that man with the leaf blower?  Do you notice the distraction?  I invite you to acknowledge that this is happening at this present moment… and now, let it go.  Let go of the distractions and become present.”

It’s amazing how the brain is able to drown out distractions that we choose not to pay attention to.  Both my husband and daughter have the ability to study and work in the middle of a busy Starbucks and other places where there’s lots of noise.  I, on the other hand, prefer silence (or at least my earplugs) in order to focus; but there have been many occasions where I’ve engaged in deep conversations in the middle of a public space with many potential distractions.

According to an article in the Journal of Neuroscience (cited in Scientific American), the brain will intentionally weaken its response to things that seem less important so that it can become more sensitive in reaction to what you choose as the focus.  This is great news!  Since we now know this fact, all we have to prioritize and figure out what is truly important to us.  Once we establish our priorities and make conscious efforts to make those things important, the brain will do what the brain does by drowning out the distractions.

Just as I do in my yoga classes, I invite you to take a moment to drown out the distractions by sitting still, focus on your breaths by becoming aware of the rise and fall of your belly as you inhale and exhale.  Continue to observe the breath as you close your eyes for several breaths.  Once you open your eyes, continue to sit still and make note of how you feel.  Notice the beauty of living in this moment.

Namaste.

 

With Gratitude,
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10 Year Challenge

I’ve been seeing a lot of these “10 Year Challenge” posts on social media lately.  I’m sure you also have seen your fair share of photo posts of your friends (and maybe strangers) of what they looked like in 2009 and what they look like now.  Here’s mine:

Other than gaining about a dozen gray hairs, a few wrinkles and having less elasticity in my skin, I don’t feel like I look too different in these photos; but the person that I was in 2009 is definitely not the person that I am today.

In 2009, I was working full-time as an Analyst for a Fortune 500 Company, songwriting and recording at night, singing in a Christian band… and exhausted, insecure, and unhappy with a lot of things in my life.  I was dealing with feelings of inadequacy in all aspects of my life (feeling like I wasn’t good enough of an analyst, a musician, a wife, a mother, a friend… the list went on and on).  I had gone down from a size 12 to size 2, but I still felt like I was too big. I was obsessed with working out, losing weight, putting strict restrictions on food, etc.  Needless to say, 2009 was a very trying year for me.

2010 was a year of rebuilding myself.  With the support of my husband, I left my comfortable, well-paid job to focus on spending more time with my family.  I decided to do contract work so that I can take summers off to spend with my daughter instead of sending her to summer camps.  I made sure I only worked when her school was in session.  I also started taking Mixed Martial Arts class to work on my inner strength (the outer strength came with it naturally).  I also returned to practicing yoga more regularly.

2011-2012 were spent soul-searching.  I tried my hand at being a consultant for an MLM company (which I realized that I was pretty good at but was not passionate about).  I tried starting a resume-writing business and an event planning business.  I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to put my energy into professionally.  I experienced a lot of highs and lows those two years, but by the end of 2013, I had successfully gotten back into the fitness industry as a Zumba Instructor and Dance Fitness Instructor.  I also decided that I was going to become a Yoga Teacher.

In 2013, I completed my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training.  This changed everything for me.  I experienced a transformation from within that shaped the way I began to view life.  I became more calm and grounded.  Life stopped being about DOING but rather BEING.  My relationship with God began to become deeper and more intimate.  I heard God’s voice through His Word (The Bible) so much clearer.  I became more in tune with the Holy Spirit.  I felt more connected to Jesus.

2014 was a year of experiences.  I completed an aerial yoga instructor certification and opened Dallas’ first Aerial Yoga Studio with two business partners.  I learned how to run a studio, train the staff, do payroll… all the while homeschooling my daughter and spending time with my family.  I had to kiss my social life goodbye, but that year was a pivotal time for what was to come.

In 2015, I experienced transitions of many kinds.  The lease was up on our aerial yoga studio, and we had to relocate due to a change in landlord who wanted to use our space for his business.  We tried so hard to find a new location to reopen; but after looking and negotiating with various building owners/management for months, we decided to close our studio.  Around the same time, my husband was offered an opportunity to transfer to their Charlotte office.  After many prayers and a visit to North Carolina, we made the move to North Charlotte in October.

I started to become known as the “Aerial Yoga Master Trainer” (training future instructors) as I began to certify instructors in North Carolina (as well as Texas) in 2016.  By this time, I had “perfected” my aerial yoga teacher training manual as well as my teacher-training skills.  This was the first time since leaving the corporate world that I started to make a decent amount of money.  I loved traveling to Texas to certify instructors while making a lot of money in the process.  I realized that year that I had a knack for training instructors; so I started to pray for greater things for the upcoming year.

I launched my own 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in the beginning of 2017.  It was challenging to write the manual, teach while learning and researching, but I was eager to meet that challenge.  I learned a lot about myself and others while I ran my 200-Hr YTT and 30-Hr Aerial YTT in 2017 and 2018.  I felt that I found my calling professionally, and I was convinced that teaching, training and certifying future yoga/aerial yoga teachers was what I will be doing until it was time for me to retire (although I don’t think I would ever completely retire).

2019 became the year of accomplishments.  God had placed a desire in my heart to write a book about biblical meditation in 2017, but I pushed that desire aside for two years because I didn’t think I knew enough to actually write a book about it.  But after wrestling with whether or not I should author a book for a couple of months, I started writing it in the beginning of March which the publication goal date of October 1.  I actually ended up publishing my book in September all the while completing a certification training to become an IMX Pilates Instructor!

From 2009 to 2019, I was able to experience many challenges that sometimes tested my character deeply which helped me to mature and become stronger.  I also experienced some amazing things such as going on a 17-day roadtrip with my family (which was the beginning of many long vacations we have been blessed to take), choreographing and leading flashmob dances for high profile events, moving to a new state, gaining wonderful friends, mentoring teenagers, taking a short sabbatical, writing and publishing my first book, teaching yoga and meditation at retreats in beautiful places…  This decade has been awesome!

I may wake up with more aches and pains than I used to; but this has been the most favorite decade of my life because I was able to trade in some of my youth for invaluable experiences, much growth, wonderful memories, and a zeal for life that I have never felt before!  I am in a place in my life where I can decide to be still, listen to God, make some tea, and enjoy everything life has to offer!

As you reflect on your “10 Year Challenge,” I hope you’re able to recognize all the blessings that have come out of this decade.

 

With Gratitude,
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Little Reminders of WHY

As a yoga/meditation teacher, author, writer, homeschool educator, teen ministry leader, business owner and — more importantly — wife and mother, it’s easy to lose focus and forget the reason why I do what I do.  I start each day by thanking God for giving me another day here on earth, and I ask Him to help me to live each moment for Him and to remind me of why I do what I do.  I had one of those great reminders through one of my clients last week.

I showed up to teach a private yoga session that morning with a yoga practice that I had planned for her.  I customize each practice for my private clients according to what their needs are so I always come knowing what I’m going to be teaching; however, I felt led to do something different with her that morning.  When I asked her how she was feeling, she said that she was having some low back pain and that she would prefer to do something more relaxing that day.  I sensed that there was something deeper, so I agreed that she does need something more restorative.

One of the methods that I teach is a myofascial-release technique, so I incorporated using a foam roller into her yoga practice.  We worked on releasing tension in the upper body first which she absolutely loved.  But then the minute we started working on the hips, she took a quick, guarded inhale and proceeded to hold it.  I asked her to slowly allow herself to exhale.  As she released her breath, tears started to well up in her eyes and an apprehensive sigh came out.  I explained to her that when we hold on to unresolved emotions that do not serve us, they get trapped in the hips (which I learned during my yoga teacher training).  I told her that it is completely normal and okay for her to cry, that she was in a safe place to let her guard down.  I felt honored that she trusted me and allowed herself to release what she had been holding on to for years as she allowed her tears to flow.  At the end of our session, she gave me a big, unguarded hug that reminded me of why I became a yoga teacher.

It’s easy to forget why we do what we do day in and day out.  In the middle of running errands, responding to e-mails and text messages, checking our social media, going to work, meeting up with friends for coffee, driving kids to and from school/friend’s houses/activities, etc. etc. etc., we miss so many opportunities to see the blessings in all these things.  We miss opportunities to experience moments that remind us why we do what we do and the reason for our calling.  We get so busy planning for the next thing on our schedules that we miss the quick smiles of thanks and the moments that make us laugh, proud, grateful, and at peace.  I believe that anytime something touches our hearts, we need to pause and allow ourselves to experience that moment so that we can plant it deep into our souls.  When these seeds of reminders are planted, they will be embedded so deep that when distractions and discouragements come (as they always do), you will quickly be reminded to persevere… because your authentic self is counting on you to hear the WHY to what you do.

I’m grateful for moments when God uses the universe and the people in it to remind me of why I do what I do.  That one morning last week, God used my client to help remind me of my authenticity as a yoga teacher.  There are reminders everywhere; you just have to silence your mind and be still in your spirit to notice them.

 

With Gratitude,
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Dream Killers (And How to Overcome Them)

There are many things that fuel a person’s dreams and passions, and most of us start out strong in running after those dreams and passions. We make plans and goals, and we dream big and envision what the end goal will look like. If you’re anything like me, the excitement and motivation doesn’t last too long.

I have dreams and goals that never came to fruition because I would get discouraged, distracted, or disillusioned:

  1. Discouraged
    I would allow those negative self-talk to stop me from continuing the tasks required in order for me to get one step closer to achieving my goals. I would tell myself, “It didn’t work before,” “You don’t have the discipline to stick with it,” or “You’re not talented/smart enough.”
  2. Distracted
    I would lose sight of my dreams by focusing on tasks that wouldn’t bring me closer to achieving the goal. For example, when I was writing my first book, I would often get tempted to blow off my writing times that I had already scheduled into my day so that I can meet up with friends for lunch or go bargain-hunting at different stores (I usually ended up not getting anything anyway).
  3. Disillusioned
    I found that novelty wears off on everything. Once we see past the “glamour” of a dream, what we’re often left with is all the behind-the-scenes things that aren’t enjoyable. When I co-owned an aerial yoga studio in Dallas about 5 years ago, I was in charge of the operations, training/staffing and payroll. There’s a lot more to owning a brick and mortar business than just showing up to work everyday.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As I mentioned in my last week’s blog, it’s important to know WHY we do what we do. Without having a concrete reason why we want to achieve that dream, it is highly unlikely that we will succeed. But even with knowing our WHY to our WHAT, we must come up with a plan that will help achieve our dreams and goals. Through experiences, trial and error (and through my former training as a project manager), I’ve learned to always do the following five things to set myself up for success:

  1. Write it down
    Dreams and goals must be written down on paper to make it official and real.
  2. Set a completion date
    Without a completion date set, you won’t be able to manage the next two steps (#3 & #4).
  3. Set milestones within the time frame
    These are small accomplishments within the goal. For example, when I was going through the planning phase of writing my first book, I knew I was going to start writing my book in March and have it published by the beginning of October. So my milestones were to finish writing the book by August 1st, finish editing by September 1st, finish creating the book cover by September 15th, and have it published by October 1st. After meeting each milestone, I celebrated by taking my family out to dinner.
  4. Set tasks within each milestone
    From March to July, I blocked out two hours of writing time twice a week  and even took a week-long sabbatical so that I can focus on getting as much writing as I can. I also scheduled all the interviews as well as the photo shoot for my book (the photo shoot took place in Atlanta, GA and at my home in Charlotte, NC) during that time frame. I dedicated the entire month of August to editing my book over a dozen times (In hindsight, I would never recommend editing your own book even if you’re an editor like me. I will cover this topic in next week’s blog). I finished creating the book cover in one week (I’m good at graphic design, but it still was not an easy task).
  5. Identify the required resources for each task
    As you write down the tasks required within each milestone, it’s important to figure out what you will need to complete the tasks. For example, I knew I needed to be away from my house whenever I would write because there were too many distractions at home (comfy couch, cute dog, my awesome family, Netflix, etc.); so I became a regular at the local library and Panera Bread twice a week. To prepare for my writing times, I would make sure I took my ear plugs so that I wouldn’t get distracted from conversations going on around me. I always took a jacket or a big scarf in case it got cold inside. So my resources during my writing times were my laptop, ear plugs and jacket/big scarf.
“Four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.”
William A. Ward

Dream big and plan accordingly!

 

With Gratitude,
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