Meditations on running at dawn

I.

I ran in the morning, early.
Early early.

Earlier than usual, or should I say earlier than my new usual, which isn’t that late, but late enough to spy slim fingers of sunlight. Being out there in the quiet, in the darkness before dawn, reminded me why my old usual was so early.

It’s black then. Nearly silent. Almost nothing stirring but, without a doubt, the sun is on her way. I can hear my own thoughts, feel my own feelings, uninterrupted by the ever widening group of passersby.

Each new moment a minute closer to sunrise. Full of possibility.

II.

At 6pm I am brave.

I am energized and full of plans for the morning.

I will run, before daybreak
At the promise of the day
In the darkness before dawn

III.

At 9pm, the sun has gone, and I am second-guessing my big plans.

Surely I don’t want to run first thing on a Monday? Do I? 

But, just in case, I pull out my cold gear – running tights and all the rest.

Because even though my courage waned with the light, there is still time to sleep and wake up brave once more, and smile hello to hope.

So Far, So Good

It’s official. I’m on sabbatical from my job of a decade.

And I know because yesterday was my first day “at work” and I was like, I wonder what I’m supposed to be doing. Just kidding.

Sort of.

More on that in a bit.

In addition to working full time, in 2018 I added part-time author to the mix, which led to 7-day work weeks for months (years) at a time. Can you say burnout? I had it. Bad.

My day job was not time consuming or difficult, but for various reasons (COVID, alignment, household changes, etc.), in recent years I’ve I found it stressful and energy draining. I love the organization and the mission and my coworkers, too! But it was clearly time to step away to find and live my ikigai.

The day I put in my notice was not planned. One day, I really couldn’t take it any more. Between anxiety and extreme fatigue, I had to take immediate action. And I knew it had to be a complete break, not a stepping back or a slowing down.

So I crafted a message and stepped into my truth, fear and all. And after six weeks of knowledge transfer, I put on my out of office in late December, informing anyone who writes me there, that I’ll take a peek again in April (which may turn into… something else).

Before 2023 ended, I began working through the ikigai exercise. Generally understood as your reason for being, your ikigai is the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid to do. Unsurprisingly, writing came up quite a bit (along with teaching and coaching – also not a surprise). As you might’ve guessed, my focus for the next few months will be writing, writing, writing. I will resume coaching (shout out to my newly earned credential!), but on a limited basis for now.

My third book (!) is due to publish in October 2024, and while the hard part is over, there are still a few more steps in the short term. Yesterday, I took the first one. I’m in copyedits, which means I’m polishing the manuscript.

I started with a baby step – one chapter – my favorite approach, just to make sure I knew what was I doing and also to ease myself back into this project that I haven’t seen in about two months. Today I had a bigger goal – five to seven chapters – and met it within two hours, which is great because I allocated four. So that’s my work for the next week – polishing the rest of my new book! I aim to finish this round by next Friday if all goes according to plan.

Soon I will tell you about my first bullet journal, which arrived today. I’ve never attempted this organization strategy, but I’m hoping it will be useful and fun. Have you ever used a bullet journal? How did it go for you?

Happy New Year!

This is the year I turn 50.

More than any other milestone birthday, I’ve found this one to be a north star. Magnetic. Orienting.

A few months ago, I began reflecting on how I was feeling, what I was doing, and what I wanted to be different at 50. I discovered burn out and overwhelm and the profound desire to dig deeper into the work I’ve been assigned.

Freedom and impact presented themselves as key words during the introspection. And while neither is likely to be my one word of 2024 (I’m still mulling on it), they remain as beacons, helping to illuminate my choices this year.

What’s driving you at this moment? And where are you heading?

MG Book Club at Tombolo

Yesterday I had the opportunity to join the monthly MG book club at Tombolo books. It was a small but engaged group and the members (all girls) had great questions and observations about The Many Fortunes of Maya.

I loved teaching 4th grade and one of my favorite things to do was having conversations about books. I do wish I had the presence of mind to ask them more questions (they were asking plenty of me), but I loved the discussion.

Color flyer showing the author holding copies of her book, while standing in front of a
Here’s the flyer from Tombolo!

I especially enjoyed asking the girls if they knew what a people pleaser was (Maya has some of those tendencies) and who she most wanted to please. Many of them surprised me by saying she wanted to please Ginger. As the author, my focus was showing Maya as wanting to please her dad, so the best friend angle caught me off guard.

I want to read it again – it’s been a while, ha! – and see if I can find the clues that make readers think Maya wants to please her best friend.

Have you read the Many Fortunes of Maya? Shameless plug, yes. Did you notice Maya’s people pleasing tendencies? Who did she want to please the most? What about you? Are you a people pleaser? Who do you want to please the most?

On Chapter 50

This thing called life… I’m still here, still living it, loving it, and the older I get, the more I know I can’t take it for granted.

At the beach, celebrating 49!

Today is my 49th birthday, and I’m acutely aware that in ten years, I’ll be the same age my mother was when she died.

So here I am, done with 49 rotations around the sun, 49 chapters in the book of life, and today marks the first day, the first page, of the next.

I miss blogging. The longer form thinking on the page soothes my introverted soul. In honor of this 50th trip, this 50th chapter, I am rededicating myself to this space.

And so it begins.

Promises, Memory and Time

Snapshot of the Tampa Bay near a boat dock. There are houses in the background and bird, perhaps a sea gull, flying low.

Sam answered on the second ring. 

“Why hello there,” his familiar voice rang out. Still warm, still friendly, but softer, frailer than I remembered. 

“Guess what?” I ask.

“You’re coming back.” It wasn’t a question. I giggled to myself at the quiet sureness.

“How did you know?” 

“Well, when you left, you said you’d return, you just didn’t know exactly when.”

I smiled at his recollection. At the truth of it. 

City of St. Petersburg welcome monument. Tall, blue figure with pink tiles.

It’s been nine years since I left St. Pete for Atlanta. Even though I’d only lived there a couple of years, St. Pete is the only place I’ve truly felt “home.”

When I departed in 2013, I was excited to leave, to start a new life in my old state. But I told folks on both sides of the GA/FL line, that I’d return to the sunshine state one day. 

“I’ll be back,” I’d told my Floridian friends. “I’m not sure if it’ll be five years or ten, but at some point, I’ll be back.”

Sam remembered. 

At first, I actively counted down the years until we could go back. But eventually, I found myself in a groove, no longer X-ing days off my calendar.  

Sooner than I expected, opportunity and circumstance coincided, and we decided that the time was now.

So here we are, surrounded by boxes and tape and markers, finalizing all the things one must make final before picking up a life and moving it elsewhere. 

In just over two weeks, we’ll be making our way back to the land of sun. 

Fast Five: Fun with and8 Fitness!

I put a call out on Twitter, asking folks for dance-based cardio recommendations, and and8 Fitness made the cut. Who or what is and8? In their own words:

“Taught by twin sisters Danielle and Dominique Gillyard, and8 Fitness is a dance-based cardio workout designed to get your heart pumping and your whole body moving.”

I found their YouTube channel a week ago, and today I tried out a fun-looking 22-minute routine.

Get Ur Freak On: The ULTIMATE Missy Elliott Dance Workout // Full Body Cardio

I had a blast! My lungs could keep up just fine, but my legs weren’t so sure. They were already tired from full body weights two days ago, and a few miles yesterday.

Still, I kept up as best I could jumping, bouncing and twerking, with modifications as needed, lol.

Highly recommend. I’ll be doing this workout a few more times before scouring their site and see what else gets me energized and ready to dance.

Have you tried and8 Fitness yet? What’s your favorite dance-based cardio?
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Fast Five rules:
Pick a topic
Set a timer for five minutes
Write

Sub 60 10k – Revisited

Today was the first day of my new 10k training program. My goal is to run 6.2 miles (10k) in less than 60 minutes.

Day 1: 20-minute “easy” run, with 5-minute warm up and cool down.

The first time I trained for a sub 60 10k, which also resulted in my 10k personal best, was in 2016. For a lot of reasons I really needed to push far outside my comfort zone and commit to something new and challenging. I spent 16 weeks, very focused, never missing a run, even when I traveled to Colorado for work. Talk about tough. I did the best I could even in that mountain air and on those steep hills, because I really wanted to see it through.

I set a lot of personal records during that time and ended up finishing the solo race at 57:58. Sub 60, yes! I was proud of that run, and still am. I’ve never beat that time, nor have I tried to. I’m not necessarily trying to now, either. My goal is to hit sub 60 with composure.

By the end of that 2016 race, I was walking and sprinting and walking again, holding on for dear life to eke out the finish. It was many things, but it was not pretty. As it turns out, the training program had a fatal flaw, but since I was such a novice, I didn’t know to be alarmed.

Predicted race times after a 9 minute benchmark run.

These days, on older yet wiser legs, I’m up for the challenge. Blue just registered for a marathon and his training program begins, this week. So I’m starting one in solidarity. My current “race predictor” thinks I can beat my personal best. But as long as there’s a 5 in front, and some breath in my lungs, I’ll claim the win.

Do you have any fitness goals underway right now? Let’s do it! See to it.

…but how do you want to feel? (revisited)

I first heard this question, posed in this particular way, in 2013. I was attending a Black women’s wellness conference I’d help to program, and keynote speaker Akilah Richards, invited us to ponder this.

The “but” is intentional. You may be busy, accomplished, getting shit done, but how do you want to FEEL?

Me, feeling silly in the sunshine.

The question struck me quite deeply at the time. I was busy, accomplished, getting shit done, but wasn’t feeling great, and hadn’t been for awhile by then. I know now that part of the issue was likely anemia. But the other part was change. Everything about my life and surroundings was different, and I no longer felt like myself. 

That question pushed me to think differently about my life and my approach to it. 

I’m coming back to this question now as I’m in the middle of reviewing and revising goals. Specifically I’ve been wanting to engineer my days so they are more fulfilling. 

In recent years I’ve focused on what I want to do, or accomplish, but I’m realizing I’ve neglected to focus on how I want to feel.

I’ve started jotting a list of the ways I want to feel. So far I have:

  • Energized
  • In flow
  • Happy
  • Proud
  • Relaxed
  • Day dreamy
  • Smart
  • FREE

I plan to add and subtract and play with this list for a few days, and once it feels right, I’ll brainstorm things I can do (or am already doing!) to feel them more often. I think this will help me find or better use small pockets of time and prioritize certain tasks in more meaningful ways.

What about you? How do you want to feel?

WIPs

My current work in progress (WIP) is a contemporary middle grade novel like my debut.

Main character Maya is a Daddy’s girl, just like me. And in Maya’s world, everything goes like she plans. Except when it doesn’t….

Daddy and me, in the mid 70s!

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MAYA

Maya J. Jenkins leaves nothing to chance. Even the daily spins on her handmade Wheel of Fortune land exactly where she puts them. She avoids improvising, preferring to play it safe, and usually plans her way to success with school, friends, and sports.

All of that seemed to change by the end of the school year when almost nothing went her way. Maya vowed to make up for it by having a perfect summer.  She had it all figured out – even down to winning MVP in her soccer camp.  

Just as summer begins, her parents announce a trial separation. In a summer of surprise, Maya learns to take risks, embrace change, and understand that love and family don’t always fit in a neat box.