Monday, October 27, 2014

Discontent at Allume

After a very busy fall, I had been looking forward to an upcoming trip to Allume, a Christian bloggers conference which I have twice attended before. I was looking forward to connecting with other like-minded ladies and learning from authors and publishers to improve my writing. As I drove north toward Greenville on Thursday morning, yawning and eyes involuntarily shutting, I realized how dog tired -mentally, physically, end of my rope tired-I was. The tires I had been running on were going flat and I had been riding on the rims.

Stress, lack of consistent sleep, over extended "to do" lists and a life out of balance, had taken its toll. Instead of being excited about Allume, I found myself longing for deep, restful sleep.

As I sat in session after session, my brain could not comprehend much of the information being shared. I did not have a desire for worship and fellowship. I could barely register the themes of the keynote speakers. I wanted to gain new insights, be inspired, share more stories and grow in the craft of writing, but the spark of inspiration was dying out within. I even skipped the dance party to retreat to my room. This was not like me at all. The Type A, love to party and be social person had fallen to a level of exhaustion only to be matched by the first weeks after a child is born.

Sitting there, reflecting on life, I realized I'd slipped into a state of constant production mode. I had become a soldier constantly on a mission and fighting on too many fronts at once. I could not recall a recent time I could just be still, rest, and remain in the moment and be with my people. Instead, I have been rushing through interaction in order to take care of the business at hand. The list.

My desire for sleep and rest, is being battled by natural tendencies to "do." I think to myself, "maybe if I plan each day right, I will find the margin I need for adequate rest, exercise, prayer and connection and get everything checked off the list."

In that moment I began to understand that this constant state of alertness and action and performance is wreaking havoc on my body, my soul and my relationships. Something has to change.

I need to learn to love and depend on moments of freedom again.  I need to be present, to make a connection with my children, my husband, my parents, my neighbors without internally obsessing about what needs to be done. I need to soak in the life that is passing by without feeling guilty.

However, work does need to be accomplished, things need to be taken care of for school and child activities, the house needs cleaned, meals need cooked, financial obligations need to be met and the kids need coached in reading, sight words, letters and handwriting. Weight needs to be lost, so exercise and meal planning needs to happen. Is it possible to get it all done and not come undone? Can there be margin? I have not yet figured that part out.

Maybe I was at Allume this weekend to hear the words of Leanna Tankersley speak about our need for Breathing Room. Maybe I was just there to get a few night's sleep with no little persons waking me to play musical beds. But all weekend, I was in a state of discontent and searching for the answer to balance.

I was also a little disappointed with the conference this year. In the past three years, Allume has gone from blogger conference with lots of sessions related to all aspects of blogging and writing, to spiritual conference with blogging almost as an afterthought. Additionally, the order of the sessions did not seem to be organized with much thought to what attendees might want to get out of the conference. For example, there would be several writing specific sessions at the same time slot rather than spread out throughout the day. I would suggested that each session time have at least one writing choice, a technical/blog choice, a marketing choice, and a life balance/spiritual choice.

And while they answered our request for more free time, Saturday was almost a waste with only one session in the morning and lots of eating (early lunch, panel, tea time, dinner, after party) and a gathering event with the sponsors in the afternoon. Even the sponsors began packing up by lunchtime.

I was happy that my friends at Shazzy Fitness seemed to have a good conference and a good response to their awesome dance fitness DVDs. And working out with them twice did a lot to help increase my energy level for sure.

While the women behind Allume have big hearts for God, and are seeking to do mighty things, I think I will next invest my professional development time in a more traditional writers conference or a content marketing conference because I really want to take my writing to the next level. However, if you are looking for a place to be spiritually challenged and uplifted among women who have a heart for God and love to write and be creative. Allume is worth it for sure.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Dare

Dare to love big. This summer as I embarked on a new leg of my career journey, the Lord prompted me to love big when he expanded my heart beyond the love for my son who has Down syndrome, and even for other individuals with Down syndrome, to encompass a desire for dignity, justice, meaning for all individuals with developmental disabilities when I went to work at All About Developmental Disabilities. 

I have met amazing individuals with a strong spirit who seek inclusion in a world that still wants to exclude them. These people seek employment, desire community, want to be known and most importantly have immense worth. I am so honored to come alongside them and, with my words, help the world know that they matter. To encourage people to fight for inclusion, support and acceptance. I hope you'll join me and dare to stand up, include others and exclude the "R" word from your vocabulary.

Monday, October 20, 2014

He Did It

This month we celebrate Down syndrome Awareness month and Developmental Disabilities Month. We honor the month by walking in Buddy Walk Atlanta put on by the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta. (You can still support our team!) 

The day is like a giant family reunion of the close community of people who know what it is like to love, care for, be challenged and inspired by a person who has Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21. We walk in support of our son, Joey.

Each year, I learn more about life from my son. It was the day before Buddy Walk this year when I had an occasion to observe the sweet tenacity that I know will help my son achieve great things in this world. 

Tenacity, or sticktoativeness, is a character trait I admire a lot and I believe it can have a huge impact on how your life turns out if you don't have it.

It was late in the day, and the crowds had thinned at at our church fall festival. We wanted to have the kids expend some energy, so we went to the bouncy houses. They all love them.

They immediately gravitated to one that had an obstacle course, climbing wall and slide. My son made it through the obstacles, but I was worried he would not be able to climb the ladder.

You see, people with Down syndrome have lower muscle tone. This means they often have to work harder on physical tasks and it may take longer to learn physical skills. 

So when it came to the climbing wall, Joe had a challenge. He faced it head on trying several times to get past that first step, each time with determination and hope. After getting a little help by his sisters, Joe was eager to try again, on his own. 

He climbed without worrying about who was behind him, who was passing him (accomplishing the task better than he) or who was watching. When he slipped, he started climbing all over again with a big smile to boot! It did not take him long to literally learn the ropes and soon he was climbing all on his own. As he neared the top, he turned and said "I did it!" Yes, buddy you sure did!!! 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bouquet of Love Smells Sweet

As a Revell book review blogger, I had the opportunity to review a light-hearted Christian romance by Janice Thompson titled A Bouquet of Love.

Set in Galveston Texas, it is the story of a Greek family, led by a patriarch who moves his family and business to the island to open up a second family restaurant. 

Already entrenched in the island is a large and vibrant Italian family who owns the pizzeria across the street.

Conflict ensues when Pappa Pappas decides he will steal all the customers away from the popular Italian restaurant across the street and declares its owners, the Rossi family mortal enemies.

Cassia Pappas is s dutiful daughter who followed the family to Galveston even as she should be embarking on her own course. With a desire to go into the floral business, Cassia's dreams are poised to come true when she is asked to help out at the local floral shop. It is here she meets and befriends several members of the Rossi family.

A third source of tension comes from the budding romance between Cassia and a Greek nursery owner who supplies flowers to the shop.

A sweet romance, with plenty of tension and comedic undertones, the book explores themes of independence, following self or staying within family expectations, friendship and family. 

The book was engaging and reminiscent of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It would also be appropriate for teenagers. 

Have you ever taken a path different from what was expected of you? 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Blessing of Allume

Wow. I have taken a break from my blog routine these past months because of major changes in our life at home. In May, my husband went back to work full time and I left the PR agency I thought I would be at until I retired for a new opportunity God had in store. I launched Sheran Communications with a focus on helping causes communicate and within two days I signed my first client working as a contractor 20 hours per week managing web and social communications for All About Developmental Disabilities (AADD). Now, you may know this subject is near and dear to my heart as I have a son who has Down syndrome. 

I cannot tell you what a blessing it was to spend the summer working part-time for AADD and having so much home time with my kids. As summer ended, I began to take on more clients and more responsibilities. I recently went on board as an employee with AADD as its director of marketing and communications, and with a flexible schedule, I am able to keep my business going to and have been learning to juggle my work responsibilities and all the kids activities. Needless to say, the past nine weeks have been a blur of activities, deadlines and craziness! 

I am writing a lot! But I haven't been able to nurture this blog or my business blog or quite honestly myself and my family. With change, comes chaos as we figure out how the new pieces all fit. While it seems to be coming together, I am really looking forward to next week, when I leave for a three day Christian blogger conference called Allume. It will be my third time attending and I'm really looking forward to the friendship, teaching and challenge I will experience over the weekend. 

I know I'll be refreshed, inspired, I'll meet amazing women and make new friends, I will grow in my writing, I will be challenged, I will find great causes to support. These are just some of the things I am looking forward to about Allume. This year I am attending with my friend Kristy McCarley, founder of Shazzy Fitness, a Christian Hip Hop Dance DVD series and the lead choreographer of the series Apollo Levine. I am ready to get my groove on with them and share the hospitality of fitness with the women of Allume.

For my Allume friends who are packing, here is a packing list that should help you out. And don't forget to pack your dancing shoes and follow #ShazzyFitness for pop up fitness opportunities during Allume.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September is Build A Better Breakfast Month

September is noted as "Build a Better Breakfast Month." Since we are also back into a season of hectic schedules and I have embarked on a 90-day fitness challenge, I thought I'd share one of my breakfast secrets. I like to make egg muffins in advance on Sundays so that I have a protein-packed, quick breakfast for us to grab and go on hectic mornings.
First, I combine eggs, a little water (some use milk), salt, pepper and whatever veggies I have on hand that I can dice and chop. Whisk until blended. I sometimes include some ham, turkey or bacon as well and sprinkle cheese on top (Feta is great). 

 Pour mixture into a liquid measuring cup and then pour into muffin tins (I like using silicon muffin cups). Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.

The egg muffins just pop right out. Store in fridge and they are ready when you need a quick breakfast or snack.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

I'm Going to Allume with Shazzy Fitness

I am very excited that I get the opportunity to go to Allume again this year through my sponsor Shazzy Fitness. I have posted a review on the Shazzy Fitness Christian Hip Hop DVDs previously. You can learn about its creator Kristy McCarley on the Allume Blog this week.

I recently began two 90-day fitness challenges (any help I can get right?). One challenge is through my work and I have teamed up with a co-worker. We have the incentive of the opportunity to win cash if we are a finalist. The second challenge is the Bikini Body Mommy 90-Day Challenge. Bikini Body Mommy sends 20 minute workout videos via email everyday that I am committed to doing but for fun and stress relief, I am adding in some Shazzy dance sessions, as well as yoga, to the mix.

I'll share more about my diet plan in an upcoming post. The holidays are coming. Time to get your groove on!