Returning Back to Work After Childbirth: To Be or Not To Be? with Amena Mebane

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[Photo credit: Tristan Quigley Photography]

Through the years I have witnessed many little ones make their debuts on this earth. It’s always exciting to go to a friend’s baby shower or visit a loved one to see their new bundle of joy. I can imagine being a new mother is a very exciting time in life. Though the big question often follows: “When are you returning to work?”. (At least for those who were actively employed prior to giving birth. ) And if that isn’t enough, an even bigger question may follow: “ARE you returning to work?’.

I’m sure these can be daunting yet relevant questions. Questions that one’s career, family and newest little one depend on answers to. At this point in my life I have not had to answer these questions – someday I will. For now, I thought I would pick the brain of someone who has been there, done that and has an inspirational story to share regarding the results of her decision.

In this interview I am speaking with my friend and sorority sister, Amena Mebane, about her experience with making key career decisions after giving birth to her first child. During our interview period she was expecting her second child who has since been born and is now making waves with the cutest pictures alongside his proud big sister. 🙂

I hope you enjoy hearring Amena’s story as much as I did.
9toFlyGirl: Can you tell me about your professional background?
Amena: I went to UC Berkeley as an undergrad and completed my Bachelors of Arts degree in American Studies, Honors. My focus was race, law and social movements. Right after graduating in 2007, I attended Univ of WA law school where I received my JD. During law school I worked at a law firm as a summer associate and I also worked for the King County Prosecutor’s office. I ultimately decided to start my career at the Prosecutor’s Office after graduation because I wanted the trial experience. I worked there for about 5 years before I decided not to return to work.

9TFG: What moment did you decide that you would not return to work?

Amena: My husband and I were expecting our first child in April 2014. Initially, when I became pregnant I was planning to take some time off when the baby came but I was still contemplating returning to work after my leave was over. Shortly before I took my leave, I had a domestic violence trial. I was very pregnant, maybe 39 weeks by the time the trial was over. It was incredibly stressful and I remember having high blood pressure readings, swollen feet, and not sleeping or eating properly. Whenever I was in trial, I usually would only get about 3-4 hours of sleep because of the amount of preparation it required. I took off shortly after the trial was over and I remember walking out the office my last day and thinking to myself “I’m never coming back.”

9TFG: What factors influenced the decision?

Amena: Even though I said to myself “I’m never coming back” as I walked out of the building, I didn’t make the decision right away. I wanted to make the decision after I had some time to be a mommy and when my head was clear. What if I didn’t like staying at home? What about embracing my independence? I have so much more to contribute to society than wifely and mommy duties, right? I’m pretty good at this trail stuff, I shouldn’t just let my talents go to waste, should I? What about having some adult interaction? I’m sure I’ll need a break from being a full time mom, right? These were all the questions flowing through my mind. I needed time to reflect before I made a decision about returning or not.
I took my entire 18 week leave and then ended up extending it for a year. Honestly, my ambitions and goals changed a lot after I became a wife and mother. I really enjoyed my time off and I loved being a mom and also having more time to support my husband and his work. My husband plays in the NFL and as a busy trial attorney, I rarely had the opportunity to go to my husband’s away games and take the time to enjoy the NFL experience because I was so busy with my own work. NFL careers are short compared to other careers, so it was really awesome to take time off to enjoy the games and travel with my daughter to different states to see daddy play. He will only be doing this a few more years and I didn’t want to look back and say I missed out on that experience. I really feel blessed to have the opportunity to focus on family life as I know a lot of families cannot live off of one income.

Now, we have two kids and I’m still not practicing law. But I do other things that keep me busy. We started a small online business that I manage and I also taught trial advocacy at UW Law once a week which was so fun but not too overwhelming. It still gave me an opportunity to be involved without being over worked and exhausted.
9TFG: Did you seek out any particular resources for the transition?

Amena: Looking back, I wish I had sought out more resources just to aid me in the transition. But I did speak with a number of women (both those that did return to work and a few that did not). That was incredibly helpful because I was able to get feedback from both sides of the spectrum.

9TFG: What advice would you have for a mother questioning whether or not to return to work?

Amena: I would say just remember whatever decision you make, it does not have to be a permanent decision. I like to think of my life in “seasons.” That helps my brain process change easier. For me, this is the season of being a new mom. I’m enjoying it while it is here and embracing it. I don’t think about my old job much or even miss it because I’m fully engaged in my mommy/wife/family season right now. That may not always be the case. There may come a time when I want to get back in the courtroom, when changing dirty diapers and singing the Wheels on the Bus to my toddler 100 times a day won’t be fulfilling. And that is okay. If and when that time comes, just embrace it.

Embrace the change and the need to transition into a new “season.” I think if we look at it that way, it takes some of the pressure off making the decision to return to work or not. As women, we should support each other’s decision. Oftentimes the stay at home moms criticize the working moms and vice versa. For those that decide to return to work, don’t worry about missing out on key moments in your child’s life. Your children will know you and love you and you will be an excellent mom! For women who decide to stay home, if you start feeling like you want more out of life, you can always return to the workplace and still be a great mom.

Being a mother is probably the hardest job I’ve ever had but it is by far the most fulfilling. I’m loving this season of my life right now!

 

 

5 Items Every Working Woman Should Own

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[Photo credit: Shot by Kelley]

So I got to thinking about my humble beginnings as a young woman venturing into the corporate world after college. I held jobs prior to that time period. Most in retail and food service. So dressing up in a suit or business casual attire was a little unfamiliar to me. My senior year of undergrad I held an office job at the campus bookstore. This required me to dress up a notch above my prior retail gigs. Though it was a more college student version of business casual. Translation: just don’t show up in jeans and flip flops.

When I interviewed for my first full time job out of school I wore a pink button down blouse with a black pencil skirt. They were staples from the professional attire line up I had for sorority business events. (Mind you this “line up” was about 2-3 go-to outfits.) Reality is, when you’re a full time student, there’s little need for “grown up” work attire.

I remember my mom taking me to the mall to shop for work ensembles right before starting my first job in the corporate world. I’m not sure if she wanted to invest in a young women’s future or just didn’t want me embarrassing her. Either way, bless her little heart and her wallet too. 🙂

In addition to work attire, there are a couple other items I think every working woman should (ideally) have on hand. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Though, from experience, I’d like to think it’s a good start.

1) A black suit

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[Photo credit: Shot by Kelley]

You just can’t go wrong with a black suit. Besides being able to utilize it for multiple interviews (which is why I’d advise investing in a good quality suit), the separates (blazer and pants or skirt) provide more options when paired with other items in your closet.

{Outfit details: Suit (Calvin Klien- Macy’s); Blouse (New York and Company); Heels (Nine West); Bag (Aldo) }

2) Black pumps

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[Photo credit: Shot by Kelley]

Besides the fact that they can be paired with just about anything, they also are just…well…classic! A decent pair will last you for years and career ventures to come.

{Outfit details: Heels (Forever 21) }

3) Transitional bag

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[Photo credit: K. Williams]

Think multifunctional meets stylish. A piece that is feminine yet serves the many purposes of the working woman. Something on the larger end is more ideal to fit various items: technological devices (laptop or tablet), sneakers (lunch walk), change of clothes (post work happy hour) and any other necessities. This could be a bag you carry in addition to your purse or as the primary bag with a small clutch inside to carry your essentials (wallet, makeup, etc.).

{Outfit details: Bag (H&M); Suit and Top (New York and Company); Heels (Forever 21) }

4) Flat iron or hair essentials

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[Image as found on Pinterest]

Probably the most vital aspect of a woman’s professional image, second to her attire, is her hair. I highlight the flat iron because it can serve as beneficial no matter if you wear your hair straight, curly or natural. It can give you a quick touch up to a straight style or switch up natural or curly styles.

Don’t do straight styles? Here is where you would insert the products most essential to your go-to hairstyle. Perhaps perm rods for natural curls, a diffuser for all over curly tendrils or a curling wand for beachy waves.

5) Padfolio

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[Photo by target.com; Exterior]

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[Photo by target.com; Interior]

{See cover photo for the one I own.}

I didn’t realize how essential this was until I got to grad school. I remember being new to a job and two former co-workers each had one to take notes in a meeting. They looked so official. There is nothing wrong with a good old fashioned notepad but I feel like the Padfolio just ups the ante. Especially for interviews. It has a neat and professional look that polishes off a nice suit. In addition to the notepad insert, there’s also a pocket (in most models) that can keep paperwork like copies of your resume.

 

What are your go-to working woman essentials? Feel free to comment below.

Weekend Warrior

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Cheers to the weekend! One of my most anticipated weekend bonuses is dressing down. Some days this can be as casual as jeans. Other days I enjoy the feel of a girlie-girl dress.

The dress pictured is a bit more dressier than the more casual selections I own. What I love about it is how it can go from day to night. I can work it for a day of shopping and a night out on the town.

What’s also cool about this dress is that it can be worn to the office too. In the picture I paired it with platform oxfords and a leather jacket for a fun yet office worthy look. This particular look may be more on the Casual Friday side if your employer is conservative. Though that’s what makes the dress so fun to play with – you can dress it accordingly.

Ready to go from 9 to fly as your own weekend warrior? Let the styling be with you! {In my Star Wars voice. 🙂 }

Please Excuse Me While I Put On My Work Face (Part II): Resilency

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By now you probably had the chance to read Part I. If not, please pause to go read the previous post and come on back over. (We promise to save a seat for you. 😉 )

The purpose of this blog is to inspire. So writing the previous post was challenging. On one hand, I didn’t want to add to the dark cloud many people already had over their heads. Though on the other hand, I hope that others can relate through my transparency. I desired to send the message that they were not alone. The heartbreak was (and still is) at a community level.

So how does one maintain resiliency during this time? Here are a few thoughts on how to bounce back. Keep in mind, I’m not a professional but I have indeed learned from experience.

1) Take care of your basic human needs.
Eat! Get enough sleep!
No matter what is going on…good news or bad news…without taking care of these two needs performance will obviously be lower and mood affected as well. Take me for example, in my previous post I described how I was running on low fuel (and emotions) in the morning but after lunch I bounced back. Even if it was just enough to get through the day.

2) Don’t compromise your mental health.
This one is dedicated to good ole’ social media. It will suck you in and have your emotions boiling like a pot of stew on a winter day.
I have seen a couple of posts promoting mental health in the wake of recent tragedies. They all give common, helpful tips such as knowing when to log off and staying away from heated debates with those that disagree.
My favorite one said something to the effect of “Taking a step back from it all by logging off doesn’t mean you don’t care about the problem. But how can you effectively contribute to the solution if you’re not your best self?”. Golden words.

3) Embrace your co-workers and their variety of conversations.
I saw a few social media posts from people that were frustrated that their co-workers weren’t discussing the issues behind recent tragedies and racial injustice. I can understand this. I longed for someone to vent to as I struggled to get through the work day. (And thankfully I identified someone who was equally concerned.) But in actuality, it could be refreshing to hear a different conversation. Especially if you’ve been plugged into social media where people are outraged, sad and a host of other emotions.
I overheard a group of co-workers talking outside of my office. They were eagerly asking another co-worker about her wedding plans. It was so nice to hear their pleasant discussion. I welcomed the break in my train of thought. Not because I didn’t want to deal with the hard core issues anymore. But because my brain was on overload and if I didn’t regroup I would have been staring at the computer screen lost in deep thought.

4) Get some fresh air.
When I went out for lunch I was still a bit dazed and disoriented. But boy did it help to see the light of day. Being outside was such a refresher from being stuck in the office with my thoughts.

5) Connect with a higher source.
As a Christian, I find that prayer and reading my devotional helps ease my mind and remind me of God’s presence. Some may debate because they just can’t understand how God is there and can help us through the heartbreak that follows repeated senseless acts of violence and hate. But my thought is that a higher source provides guidance, wisdom and peace to get you from one level to the next. How can you act upon a solution to the problem if your mind is racing and your thinking is irrational as a result? A higher source is going to ground you in an unstable time.

I hope this post helps and inspires those trying to bounce back from all the negative, hateful and heartbreaking news out there.

Have a safe, peaceful week-end. And please remember to hug your loved ones just a little bit tighter today. ❤️

Please Excuse Me While I Put On My Work Face (Part I): A Reflection

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Last week was pretty intense. You would think it being a short week, with the holiday Monday, would have made it a breeze. Nope…opposite. So much going on both near and far. Allow me to chronicle 72 draining hours.

Tuesday morning I barely got settled into the office when I received a text from a former church member: “Just wanted to share with you the VERY SAD NEWS…”. She was informing me that a young lady from the congregation passed away. After the initial shock I thought to myself “she graduated from high school about two years ago…so that would have made her about 19…20?” (*Sigh*)

Wednesday morning I logged on to Instagram and the first thing I saw was the video of the Alton Sterling shooting. Despite telling myself to get off social media, I was looking throughout the day and night to see what folks were saying about the situation.

Oh and did I mention, while I was on social media I saw a son promoting a Go Fund Me account for his mother who had recently passed away. (*Long sigh*)

Thursday (should have learned from Wednesday to not start the day with social media) began with social media being on fire about the Philando Castile tragedy. My emotions were all over the place. I read my daily devotional…thoughts still racing. Turned to my John Coltrane station on Pandora to ease my nerves. But I still struggled to concentrate. I put on a podcast in the background of my work and found myself turning it off because that only worked for so long.

I decided it was time for an early lunch. I needed to regroup. So I went out to get something to eat. In a daze, I looked up to see a tall, well tailored Caucasian man bending down and reaching his arms out. A little girl was running into his arms to meet his embrace. Subconsciously I wondered “wow…will she ever have to worry about her dad being extinguished due to senseless violence by those who are employed to ‘serve and protect’ him?”. {Praying she never does.}

Yes, this could be seen as a generalization to some. It is humanly possible that this father too could face that situation. But as a Black woman in the aftermath of what had just happened within 48 crucial hours, I wasn’t buying the possibility. At least not that day. As raw and uncensored as those thoughts were, my aching heart was speaking louder than any logic my brain could pull together. And while I love, appreciate and value my brothers and sisters of all races, in that moment I escaped to the tunnel in my heart where a Black woman was on her knees curled in a ball weeping. She was hurting because she has a father…a Black man (unlike the happy little girl)…that she does have to be concerned about.

I ate lunch and having food helped. I took my food in the office, shut the door, dimmed the lights and watched a lighthearted YouTube video. I needed an escape in that moment. It reminded me of the first time I lost a loved one. I longed for normalcy in that initial mourning period. Was I experiencing grief again? Quite possibly.

The afternoon got better. Though my mind was still distant. I stepped out of the office to fill up my water bottle. A co-worker approached me to ask how a new office arrangement was working out. All I remember saying was “it’s good!” with a painted smile. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. My body was present, I was responding but my mind was just.not.there.

I could have jumped when it was time to go home. And not because work was bad or someone had upset me. But because my heart was broken, my mind was troubled.

I jetted out of the office, had small talk with a colleague in the elevator. When I got to my car I had a sigh of relief.

Finally…I could take off my work face…

Makeup In The Workplace: Does The Struggle Have To Be Real?

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[Image credit: Shot by Kelley]

A girl’s gotta look her best, right? Well does that always have to include makeup?

Please allow me to start off by saying that I’m not much of a makeup gal myself. It’s pretty much limited to special occasions. Oh…and photo shoots so you readers don’t talk about me too bad. 🙂

I’ve considered taking the plunge of wearing makeup to work. But it just never seems to work out. Take last week for instance…

On Sunday night I thought about dazzling up my Monday with a coat of mascara. You know, so I wouldn’t have raccoon eyes if I got less sleep than required. Monday morning rolled around and there was no mascara in sight. In fact, I didn’t even attempt to pack it in my purse. I had forgotten all about it until I was already on the freeway fighting morning traffic. (*Sigh*)

I once had a boss who would touch up her makeup in the office before heading out to meetings. Some mornings I think she would be completing this routine for the first time because she didn’t have enough time to do so earlier as she scrambled to get out of the house in time. (Ahhhh…the sacrifices involved with am commutes!) From time to time I would watch her so patiently prepping herself in the mirror and think: “Yeah, maybe my woman card needs to be revoked!”. I just don’t have the dedication. Not only did I admire the extra time she put into her image but I also thought she did such a great job of keeping it modest for the office. Electric blue lipstick was never in the rotation. 😉

Seems like so much planning goes into not just wearing makeup but wearing it in the workplace specifically. Kuddos to my former boss and other women who make the process look so effortless.

Ladies, what are your thoughts on makeup in the workplace? How often do you wear makeup to work? How much is too much? Feel free to comment below.

 

 

6 Things To Do Before Summer Ends

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[Image from https://pixabay.com]

It’s 4th of July weekend already! How did that happen? (*gasps*) Part of my brain is still stuck in 2015! Well we’re half way through 2016 and close to half way through the summer. So before summer ends, make sure to put at least one (if not all) of these activities on your to-do list.

1)A Summer Gathering

Let me start by mentioning that this could translate into different types of “gatherings” depending on the attendees. One may refer to it as any one of the following: “a BBQ”, “cookout”, “function” or “turn up”. No matter the term used, the end goal is that a good time is had by all. Typically the more food served, the better the event. Because what’s better than ribs on a sunny summer day? Oh and let’s not forget music, games and being in the presence of good company.

2)Outdoor Adventure

So overall this category refers to taking a solo, duet or group trip which often involves a body of water. I say that in general terms because this could vary depending on where you live. For Southern California residents like myself, the beach is typically the hot spot of choice. If you’re not in a coastal region, a local river or lake would serve the same purpose. And if you’re lucky enough to have a pool in your backyard, apartment complex or neighborhood then you don’t have to go far to get in on the water action.

The common marker of summer seasons across the globe is it can get HOT! There’s nothing like beating the heat with a refreshing dip in the water.

And if all else fails, feel free to break out those water balloons or the make shift slip-in-slide (*cue in the cut up trash bags and water hose*).

3)Outdoor Movies

Watching movies on the outdoor big screen while sitting out on the grass is so, well…”summery”. Here in LA small entertainment organizations frequently host movies at beaches, parks or other outdoor spacious grassy areas. Usually classic or very well known movies are shown because hosts know that while folks are watching, it is still a social event. (Definitely not the time/place to debut a new film.) Some venues also host food trucks and bands that play before the featured movie so you can make a whole afternoon-night of it.

Don’t have these events in your city? Not to worry. With the rise in popularity of this concept, people are hosting their own versions at home. I’ve seen people put projectors in their backyard or on the front lawn and set up blankets, chairs and etc. to host their own movie night. Browse Pinterest or Google for ideas on how to pull off this concept at home. Don’t have a big enough space? Consider pairing up with neighbors to have an epic viewing.

4)Festivals and Fairs

This is one of the summer activities I look forward to the most every year. Between the two, there is always so much to explore: music, food, art. And the vendors…oh the vendors! (*looks in closet at purchases from past summer festivals and fairs*) In fact, I’m not sure which is the lesser of the two evils: the vendors or the fried desserts!

5) Blast a Summertime Song

What’s the season without summertime 90s classics like Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s “Summertime? The lyrics are pleasant reminders of long, fun-filled days in the sun:

“While the dj’s spinning a tune as the old folks dance at your family reunion/Then six o’clock rolls around/You just finished wiping your car down/It’s time to cruise so you head to the summertime hangout”

Why hello summer anthems! #onrepeat

6)Make Friday Count

I often feel conflicted about whether or not to count Friday as a part of the weekend. Technically Friday at 5:01pm (could be earlier or later depending on your schedule) begins the anticipated time off. Well in the summer season this concept is a little bit easier to buy since the sun is out longer and the weather is still, generally, nice in the afternoon/evenings.

So make Friday count! Get out and enjoy an evening activity. Spend time outside with family and friends.

 

How do you like to spend your summer fringe hours? Feel free to comment below.

 

 

Serving #Lemonade For Summer (mini post)

 

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[Photo credit: Shot by Kelley]

It’s officially summer now. And guess what that means? Bright pops of color to spice up your wardrobe!

Here I’m wearing a yellow two-piece (top and skirt combo) from New York and Company. I love how the pieces can independently and collectively go from workday to evening out. And who can resist yellow with a punch to brighten up any mood or room?! 🙂

What’s your favorite color for summer? Feel free to comment below.

Uber: The Mobile Classroom

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(Image from https://pixabay.com)

I went to Atlanta last week for a little early summer fun. Note: In Atlanta it’s actually summer already compared to the June Gloom low 70s weather situation that’s been going on at home here in LA. 🙁 (sigh) Making the most of the nice weather, I was able to get out and enjoy some fun tourist attractions and visit friends. I usually prefer booking a rental car when I’m away for multiple days at a time. There’s just something about maintaining independence while out of town. Though this time around I decided to go the Uber route for a couple reasons. 1) I just wanted to ride around enjoying the scenery and not the traffic (everyone kept talking about how bad the Atlanta traffic is)…2) I’m typically good with directions but the mere thought of getting lost somewhere in the back woods of Georgia frightens me! (*Cue in the big-eyed embarrassment emoji face.*)

I met a diverse group of Uber drivers that inspired me in unique ways. The car rides during my trips were like unconventional classrooms. Consider it a two-for-one if you will: life lessons plus I was transported to where I needed to go. Uber School of Hardknocks Meets Driving Ms. Daisy 🙂

On to the lessons…

1) You never know who you are talking to. Your next move may depend on it.

This particular driver was pretty quiet at first. I typically like to strike up conversations with folks in these intimate settings. The idea of the 2 of us sitting quietly for a car ride seems a bit eerie to me. Despite my initial efforts to strike up conversation, he appeared to be a bit closed off. He was an older gentleman (not to mention I look like a teenager) so I figured he may have assumed we had nothing in common. Or perhaps he was consumed in the grueling traffic that the ATLiens (Outkast reference) spoke about so frequently.

Well somewhere between disengagement and the rush hour traffic, the silence broke. He pointed out a Muhammad Ali tribute marquee and somehow we went from the boxing champ to careers and beyond!

I mentioned that I’ve been blogging and exploring more creative writing projects. He then told me about a friend of his that does marketing and social media related projects as a contractor for some amazing companies. My Uber driver turned social buddy suggested I reach out to his friend via Linked In to see what career advice he can give me.

As we continued to chat, he shared that he volunteers teaching job search skills to unemployed members of the community through his church. I told him that inspired me to come home and look into a similar opportunity. From there we got into the deep world of testimonies and walking by faith. One might say it was a case of 2 strangers with enough in common to carry on a conversation. But the underlying messages in the conversation were no coincidence. It really spoke to me on a variety of levels – a timely message indeed. And to think, the car was silent for the first 15 minutes of the drive!

2) Learn from the mistakes of others.

This next driver tickled me. First he was playing a gospel station while T-Pain’s voice gave out navigation steps on his phone (in place of Siri). No really it was T-pain’s voice – no kidding! Then his phone rang while mounted on the wind shield. He was receiving a call from “My Wifey”. He went from the Uber driver to the biggest (metaphoric) teddy bear in the state of Georgia. It was too cute. During our ride he shared how he just got married last year on his birthday. (More cuteness points.) He went on to tell me that this is his second marriage. His first union was for the wrong reasons (too long for this post – plus I don’t want to put all the man’s business out there). He was passionate about getting it right this time.

I could tell that he was committed to sharing his testimony to help others. I’m sure it takes great courage to share relationship triumphs and tragedies with a complete stranger. It was no mistaking there was a greater call within him.

3) Be willing to take a leap of faith.

Now this conversation/lesson was my favorite. The timing of it was pretty interesting as it occurred on my trip to the airport headed home. My final lesson of the trip. I was putting my luggage in the driver’s car and happened to look at her license plate frame which was from a local dealer in my hometown. I hopped in the car. As soon as I confirmed the airport as my destination, my following words were “Are you from California?”. She laughed awkwardly and looked at me like I was a potential stalker and said nervously “Yeah…how did you know?”. I replied “the license plate frame”. She let out a laugh of relief and said “Oh yeah. I forgot about that!”.

Come to find out the neighborhood she’s from is about 5 minutes from mine. She shared how she moved to Atlanta a few months ago and was finally getting settled in. We went on to have a long talk about taking risks and leaving comfort zones. What amazed me was that she’s 7 years younger than me. Just goes to show life lessons can come from someone of any age.

In interviewer mode (unintentionally) I asked her “So how did you feel the moment you stepped off the plane? When you knew this wasn’t just a vacation…”. She laughed but looked so intrigued to be asked the question. In her eyes it looked like she was taking herself back to that moment. She said “I was thinking to myself: ‘Wow! I really did it. I really just up and moved!’ But I kinda felt like I was losing my mind at the same time. It took my mind awhile to adjust”.

It was so inspiring to hear her story. Especially with her being from my hometown; it hit so close to home (no pun intended). Side note: my guess is that her “losing [her] mind” and having to adjust had something to do with that West Coast to East Coast time difference. It still has me feeling a little “cray” (Kanye voice) myself!

The driver’s story not only inspired me but challenged me as well. Four days back in California and I’m still thinking about her story frequently. It translates to the bravery involved in taking leaps of faith from as complex as moving across the country to as less complex as trying a new type of food. Stepping out of your comfort zone takes guts but always results in a new level of confidence amongst much more.

 

Great Reads for Great Women

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(Image from https://pixabay.com/)

I have come to the conclusion that 2016 has been the year of the book worm for me. With only 6 months into the year, I’ve set a record for myself. Though I was an English major in undergrad, I’ve never considered myself to be a big leisure reader. (I know…shocking! Call my former English professors!) I’d say I typically read about 4-5 books a year…in a good year. So much to my surprise, lately I’ve been making more trips to Barnes and Noble than the mall. (Another shock!)

I plan to share more reviews on the books I’ve been reading in the months to come. Though for this post, I want to share 3 amazing books for women of various ages and backgrounds.

Beautiful Uncertainty (by Mandy Hale)

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This is a great book for single and seriously dating women trying to find their way in love, careers and life in general. The author’s perspective comes from that of a Christian woman. Though I believe her story and valuable wisdom has the power to reach women from different faiths and backgrounds.

Hale transparently shares the struggles she faced ending a significant romantic relationship as well as the lonely moments experienced as a result. I especially enjoyed her vulnerable accounts of acting on her faith. One in particular was when God led her on the road to tour, via an RV acting as the tour bus, with her friend to host a young women’s multi-city ministry tour. Her friend, a singer, paired talents with Hale’s position as an established author. (Hale has authored 2 books prior to Beautiful Uncertainty.) Her adventures on the road were quite amusing yet the complete experience was so inspiring to read about.

If you find yourself in a “when will it be my time?!” season in life, I highly recommend this book. Perhaps you find yourself asking (or shouting for some) that question in regards to getting married, achieving career goals or just in between periods of getting settled in life. This book is great reassurance that, as cliché as it may sound, you are exactly where you need to be right now and the rest will work out in time. Hale has shared her testimony of how God has shaken up a few situations in her life to illustrate this point.

Again, this book caters more toward women pre-marriage. So married women interested in reading may not be able to relate in the moment to her journey in singlehood but perhaps can connect with the lessons learned in past dating experiences. If nothing else, her unwavering faith and courage is inspirational for women of many life seasons.

#Girlboss (by Sophia Amoruso)

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I wasn’t sure of what to expect from this book when I first picked it up. To be honest, I feared that it would be overrated. To my pleasant surprise it was amazingly insightful yet humorous. Amoruso is the owner and creator of the extremely successful online fashion retailer Nasty Gal. Though she is a successful entrepreneur, she does not force her brand nor does she drill the reader with business advice in a “know-it-all” manner. She admits from the beginning of the book that it is not a guide for how to be an entrepreneur. Though the transparent details of her journey, insight on her business decisions and tips for young professionals certainly provides valuable wisdom to any woman (and even men) looking to achieve continuous career success. She admits that the first item she sold online was a stolen book. However, she later turned a vintage clothing eBay shop into a $100 million (and counting) online fashion retailer. Talk about a story of redemption!

I especially enjoy how she notes the humble beginnings she came from. Having departed from her parent’s home at a young age, she had to learn how to make it on her own. Despite her poor choices along the way, from multiple shop lifting stints to hitch-hiking, she managed to land on her feet. I also find it interesting how she shares the financial beginnings of her company. She explains that she started with her own (limited) funds because no one would give her a business loan.

Now how many people does that fact alone inspire?! To think, what if you don’t need to save thousands of dollars or take out a gigantic bank loan to start your business after all! Yes, this can vary upon many factors and may not be the case for everyone. Amoruso’s attestation goes to show just how powerful drive and determination can be. In her case, so powerful that the money came as a result.

Year of Yes (by Shonda Rhimes)

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This book is empowering, motivational and inspiring yet funny and refreshing at the same time. I would highly recommend purchasing the audio book read by the author, Shonda Rhimes, herself. Many are well aware of the terrific writer she is based on her “ShondaLand” series of hit television shows: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder. She is also an amazing speaker and has an incredible sense of humor which is captured so well via audio. Another perk to the audio version is that it includes sound bites from some of her most notable speaking engagements (within the time period covered in the book) such as her Dartmouth College commencement speech of 2014.

One of the most powerful takeaways of the book was that Rhimes always found herself saying “no” to invitations and opportunities out of fear and at times unresolved insecurities. In the “Year of Yes” she challenged herself to say “yes” to more opportunities. As a result, she gained a greater confidence, established more business opportunities and found herself to be happier overall.

Rhimes also gives examples of how we often create our own barriers. She speaks of her fear leading up to delivering the Dartmouth 2014 commencement speech. She shares how fearful she was upon walking out on stage until she recognized the same fear on the graduates faces. Rhimes saw herself in that fear and gained confidence as a result.

She also discusses how insecurity can be a significant barrier. Rhimes tells of her high school obsession with trying to get her hair to be perfect like Whitney Houston’s. She spent hours with a curling iron and multiple accounts of tears trying to achieve the look. Years later she would learn that Whitney Houston’s highly adored hairstyle was in fact…a wig. The takeaway I got from this particular story within Year of Yes was that it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to be yourself.

 

Have you read any of these titles? If so, I’m excited to hear your reviews below. J Also, let me know if you plan to pick any of them up after reading this review post!