Reviews that count

Recently I was thinking about how my publisher really dropped the ball and didn’t get any reputable reviews for my book, Praline Lady. At another time I’ll write about the unprofessionalism I encountered with this publisher but for now I want to talk about reviews.

Reviews are so important for authors, especially for debut books. Most publishers get their books in the hands of reputable reviewers like the School Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, etc. I didn’t get a review from any of those agencies and in fact, my publisher didn’t get any reviews for the book pre or post-publication. So in addition to writing, some of us are expected to do marketing, publicity and get our own reviews!

Thankfully I was able to get reviews from book blogger and fellow authors in my writing group. At first, this was very distressing to me, even now it’s a bitter topic, but I’ve learned to turn lemons into lemonade. The reviews from my fellow authors meant so much to me because they took time out of their busy schedules to read my book and give meaningful feedback. The best review I’ve received is a single sentence from an elder in my community that I deeply admire.

“Thank you for honoring our Ancestors,” Nana Anoa Nantambu.

That one line means the world to me because it sums up my intentions perfectly.

World Read Aloud Day 2021

WRAD 2021 – excuse the tired face it was early 🙂

World Read Aloud Day was on February 3, 2021. I was honored to participate and read Praline Lady at two schools virtually. The first school was Lake Forest Charter School in New Orleans. I can’t tell you how special it was that my FIRST time reading Praline Lady live was with a local school. The second school was Stride Avenue Community School in Canada! The kids were so engaged and intelligent. They asked great questions also!

I was moved by the email sent to me by Ms. Pang at Stride Avenue Community School after my presentation: “There is so much rich history in your story. It was written, illustrated, and told beautifully. Thanks again for sharing with Stride Avenue Community! I am glad they had a chance to experience that, especially during Black History Month.”

Praline Lady word search puzzle and coloring sheet

Attached is a printable word puzzle with words from my book Praline Lady. The publisher also sent me a coloring sheet with illustrations by Kameko Madere. You can download both and share it with your children or classroom free of charge!

Putting your time into something that will outlive you

I hope everyone is fine and enjoying their summer. It’s been hot and muggy here in the “dirty” and I’ve already burned my skin twice! Life has been extra busy with school ending until the fall (YAY!) and other obligations and responsibilities. I’m hoping to have a productive summer and just wanted to check in and say “hi.” 

One of my favorite things is to collect quotes and or sentences from books that really speak to me. I usually text myself the above and meditate on it as a reminder to inhabit that quote, thought or saying into my core being. 

Recently I came across this phrase and it really moved me.

Are you putting your time into something (or someone) that will outlive you? 

For me, that’s a direct reminder that my time, effort and energy is to focus on my children who will outlive me. Sometimes we lose track of what’s important in life and focus on the petty, unimportant things but this quote drives home the importance of living a life that will make a difference. 

If you aren’t a parent are you putting your time into something (your passion, talent, community etc.) that will outlive you? It’s an important question we should give serious thought to. 

Happy Summer!!! 

The Best Things In Life ARE Free

I’m always at the park but today was a really good park day. It was overcast with no sweltering sun rays to cook us. We enjoyed snoballs, fed ducks and relaxed on a bench swing. I closed my eyes enjoying the swaying back and forth, and thought of how something as simple as a visit to the park with your loved ones can be so much fun!
Have you had any free fun lately?

May 21, 2005 – Old Journal Entry

Awesome has slept so much today.

He must be growing. I think he’s over
the stomach flu because he hasn’t vomited anymore.

His toes look so cute.
I am going to kiss them. 🙂

Now he’s got big boy toes that do NOT get kissed, lol.


I stumbled across this entry and smiled from ear to ear. We often forget those special little moments but documenting them sparks one’s memory, which is a huge benefit to keeping a journal. My Awesome was five months old when I wrote this and he’s a big boy of seven now. I love reading back through my old journal entries and remembering such pleasant times. 

Do you journal?

Sistah Retreat

The retreat was held at Ashe Cultural Center and started with a spiritual cleansing with Florida water. It smelled lovely and had petals floating around in it. After the cleansing we were to go to the elder women in the group and touch their knees (honoring them for the time spent on their knees IN PRAYER for all of us) and their feet (showing respect). Many of these acts are African traditions and a way in which we pay homage to the ancestors.

Sister Kimberly & Sister Nana dancing

We sang songs, danced, chanted, meditated, drew pictures and so forth.
One of the chants we started with was

I am beautiful 
                                        Love abides in me

You simply cannot say that dozens of times and NOT BELIEVE it.  

YOU are beautiful and LOVE does abide in you. You did know that though right?

The retreat was headed by Nana Anoa Nantambu – an Earthmother and founder of Wholely Living Simply Living, Inc. She led us in song, dance, visionary meditation, purpose and sister groups. Another sister taught us a walking meditation -something I’d never even heard of before.

One recurring theme was :                   ALL IS WELL

Once again if you tell yourself this ENOUGH you believe it DESPITE your circumstances.

One young sister had survived a near death hospitalization of seven weeks.
She was so glad to be there and to be alive. It was so moving speaking with her. Life- how often we take it for granted yet this twenty something year old had faced death head on and thankfully survived.

Another sister, Antoinette Harrell, who is an African genealogist (RARE find) had undergone an amputation of her leg. She had always visited plantations and cotton fields in her work and research and wondered how she’d ever do that again with one leg, but GOD said she would and she DOES. She shared her heartfelt story and moved my spirit when she spoke of the ancestors who endured the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, had babies snatched from their womb and all of the atrocities of slavery.
WHO ARE WE NOT TO ENDURE, SURVIVE AND THRIVE??

Their stories, strength and testimonies were beyond inspiring and I found myself shedding many tears.

Queen Suma STILL dances at 83 years. It was such a blessing being in her presence.

Mother Suma was like a magnet drawing us all to her hoping to soak up a little of her 83 years of wisdom.

She spoke on LOVE and how people say it’s hard to love someone and takes a long time to love people. She DISAGREED and said LOVE is easy and that she loved each and every one of us. She stated that she
often meets people she instantly feels LOVE toward.

                         That’s the place I want to be in and exist from. A place of LOVE!

We closed with this simple song:

May all be BLESSED

                                     and may all be at Home
Altar with food offering to ancestors
Lunch was basmati rice, bbq tofu, grilled tofu and salad. Super yum!
Bissap Breeze is a healthy beverage company owned by a young lady named Esalima & her husband. It was a delight meeting her and hearing her beautiful voice sing in her native African language. It was VERY good.
                                          Love is All There Is.              
                    

Time Well Spent

For ME time well spent is doing any one of the following:

* Walking/ Running
* Praying
* Reading and growing my mind
* Spending quality time with family and friends
* Meaningful conversations
* Learning something new (recently it was how to make cupcakes & icing from scratch!)
* Reading to my 6-year old
* Doing my daughter’s hair
* Baking cookies (chocolate chip)
* Going on retreat & finding time daily for silence
* Finding cheap fun attractions
* Volunteering

Write down the things you consider to be a positive use of your time, things that bring you peace and enjoyment and don’t forget to schedule time in your calendar to do these things often.

I chaperoned a field trip to the zoo last week w/these 2 cute boys – Time Well Spent 😉

Tips for Individual Day of Prayer Retreat

I’m so excited to have finally gone on retreat. You see when I was a girl attending a Catholic school retreat was a normal part of our vocabulary. I remember one fun retreat with my classmates to Covington, Louisiana in the 8th grade before our Sacrament of Confirmation. That was a long time ago, however the need to get away and spend time with God has always been a strong desire of my heart. I have daily devotions at home but I’ll be honest, I’m easily distracted by the guy outside cutting the grass and the baby in the apartment across from me crying. A retreat center offers you a great measure of solitude because they’re usually nestled away from the noise and distractions of daily living. The only noise I encountered was that of birds and other animals roaming about the grounds. It was very peaceful. Retreating is also a biblical principle. Jesus often went away from the others to pray to Our Father. It’s good for your soul to detach yourself from the worries of this world and retreat.

Anyway, here are a few tips for an Individual Day of Prayer Retreat

1. Many retreat centers are Catholic but anyone of any faith can use them. I am no longer Catholic but I felt very comfortable and welcomed by the staff at the center. You can also have a retreat in a motel room, beach, woods…you name it.  My retreat costs $35.00 for the day (8 a.m.-4 p.m.) and it included my private room, free roam of the grounds and lunch. I added an extra $5.00 as a donation. I thought of going to a B&B but they cost three times as much.  Retreat centers are usually affordable and some only ask for a donation.

2. Plan for your retreat the night before. I ironed my clothes and set aside my bible and writing materials so that I wouldn’t be rushed in the morning. Dress comfortably. My room was very cool so next time I will bring a light sweater. I also wore flip flops but would have been more comfortable in sneakers since I spent a lot of time walking the grounds and praying.

Besides planning physically be sure to plan spiritually. Make a list of the people and causes you purpose to pray for during your retreat.

3. Pray on your drive to the retreat. I said a simple prayer asking God for a good retreat and that the Holy Spirit opens my heart up during the experience.

4. Bring water. There were water fountains in the center and even a vending machine but my large water bottle was quite sufficient.

5. I found this tip on another site and it really helped. It stated to have a verse or promise you to memorize so that when your mind wanders during praying or meditating you repeat that verse to bring you back on track. My verse was “God maintains my right and cause.” Pslam 9:4.

6. Enjoy the experience and congratulate yourself for making the time to do something so important for your spirit. The bible states that God looks down from heaven upon the sons (and daughters) of men to see if there is one who seeks Him (Psalm 53). I’m so glad when he looks down and sees ME seeking HIM.

Retreat Part I
Retreat Part II

Retreat Part II

Front of Cenacle Retreat house

I didn’t arrive at the retreat center until 10:20 a.m. and was quickly led to my room which was quaint and simply decorated. There was a bed (many people on a retreat like to take spiritual naps :), desk, sink, towels and a comfy chair facing the window with a lovely view of the greenery. 

Before I go on to the tour of the center I have to share how IN-TUNED God is to me and what I’m going through. On the desk was a magazine and on the cover was the word I loathe the most because it has plagued me this past year like NEVER before in my entire life. The word was VULNERABILITY. There it was, God speaking to me again and letting me know that HE knows how I’ve been feeling and HE’S got me covered. I was so moved by that and wouldn’t you know someone left an insert on how one’s emotional needs can only be met by God and not man inside of the book?

Vulnerability – a feeling I dislike immensely

I was given a tour of the grounds which included a parlor on the floor of my room, a rooftop area with seats and lounge chairs also overlooking the beautiful scenery, library, chapel, and cafeteria. After the tour, I returned to my room, turned off my cell phone and took off my watch. I didn’t want any reminders of time. 

I spent some time on my knees praying and then I walked the peaceful grounds where squirrels scurried across the grass and even pelicans flew above. The retreat center is located right by Lake Pontchartrain. There were so many beautiful trees and the grass, although cut, was still very thick. I should have worn sneakers instead of flip-flops – the only negative. 

I was the only person at the retreat center doing a day of prayer, therefore, I was by my lonesome in the cafeteria as well. A little old lady wheeled over a cart with my lunch which consisted of broccoli cheddar soup, toasted circular bread, salad, chocolate eclairs for dessert, iced tea and water. She went over to the radio and turned on a classical music c.d. and left me in perfect peace. The music, ambiance, the atmosphere was all so peaceful and overwhelming I nearly cried. (I guess my eyes were already dried out from crying earlier – you see I get REAL emotional when I lay it all out before my Awesome, Forgiving and Loving Father).

After lunch I walked the grounds and even climbed the levee to look at the lake. It was so nice out and oh so quiet. I found a small garden with the stations of the cross and smiled inside. I had wanted to meditate on the cross and here was my chance. There HE was again making sure to fulfill my heart’s desire as the psalm says.  As I slowly moved past each station I felt emotion building up in me again at this perfect sinless Jesus loving me soooo very much that he took my sins upon him to the point of death. 

The triangular wooden structures each have a station of the cross beneath it. There were many places to sit and reflect on the grounds.

I returned to my room and spent the last thirty minutes praying for me. I’ll share that my constant prayer is that God works in me, through me and mold me into the woman HE desires me to be. 

I took many pictures of the grounds but unfortunately, my camera has a mind of its own and only five pictures remain. 😦 However, if you’re interested in viewing the grounds you can look here online.