Is Blogging in Your Future This Year?

blog-this-year

As we bid farewell to  2016 and welcome 2017, many people think of goals and dreams for what the next 12 months will bring. This past December, I celebrated 10 years as a blogger. I started blogging because I’ve always loved writing and it was a way for me to express my thoughts about whatever I thought I should and could share.

That first blog was about being the wife of a police officer, a mom of three small children, life’s little emergencies and how we handled them. At the time, I thought I was being vulnerable when I wrote about one child having asthma and another one with an allergic reaction. Little did I know after one year of writing about those things, my world was about to explode in infidelity, divorce, emotional abuse, and those parenting dramas that have a way of bringing you to your knees.

Writing has always been my therapy. It wasn’t until I endured some heavy trials that I realized just how important writing would be. And blogging – this form of writing for internet as a digital journalist or new media specialist – has saved my life three times. Continue reading

2016: One Word

vulnerable

My word for 2016 is vulnerable. If I can be perfectly honest in a nonjudgmental way, this is hard. When I first heard that being vulnerable was actually “in,” I was confused. Brene Brown has written books and been on tv talking about it, and I just couldn’t get it. Why would anyone think that being vulnerable is ok?

In 2007, my ex-husband and I separated after seven years of marriage. With all of the many other things that make divorce hard, there was one thing that I didn’t realize happened in the early part of 2008.

I became guarded. I started to limit the number of people I trusted. No man had a fair chance at having anything that remotely resembled a decent, romantic relationship with me.

My heart had hardened. It would stay that way for the next seven years.

There have been a few times in the not too distant past that I have been challenged to be vulnerable and I have just flat out refused. Well, as much as I could anyway. Let me tell you right now though, I learned that you really can’t refuse to be vulnerable, and trying to do so will just make you feel worse. Let’s look at the instances I tried…and y’all, I tried hard.

1. The divorce. No matter how you slice and dice it, divorce is hard. Even when it’s for the best, even when your not the one at fault, even when you should be rejoicing instead of crying. My divorce was no different. It made me vulnerable and raw to my core. Because the pain cut so deep, I thought that people could see just how hard I was taking the demise of my marriage. To avoid being vulnerable, I kept our separation secret until after we moved. Then, I sent an email to all my friends explaining our current relationship status and made myself really busy when they would call so no one would hear the crack of heartbreak in my voice.

2. The cancer. Let’s take a brief look at my cancer event of 2013. It was exactly two years ago this week that I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. For a couple of weeks, though, we didn’t have the exact diagnosis, we just knew it was cancer and somewhat related to the thyroid. The diagnosis went from thymoma to lymphoma to thyroid lymphoma to finally thyroid cancer. In case you don’t know this, hearing a doctor say, “We need to talk and I need to shoot straight with you” brings nothings but vulnerability to the situation. Except for me, the girl who is anti-vulnerable. So in true Toni fashion,  even though I was scared, sick and sad, I did what I always have done and put on a brave face covered in strength to hide my vulnerability. Now, let me tell you this. I truly believe that two important parts of any health crisis are 1. positive thinking, and 2. eating healthy. However, I can now honestly say that I used my “positive thinking” rule to cover up the vulnerability.

This time, though, my coping plan didn’t work so well. The fact that I physically felt bad and fatigued a lot ensured the fact that I couldn’t cover up a lot of the truth, meant I needed to be vulnerable. Well, at least a little bit.

3. When the seizures came back. When my sweet first born was two years old, we were playing at home one afternoon and he fell over in convulsions . After a lot a medical tests and hospital stays, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. After three years, the seizures subsided and we didn’t see any activity until he turned 13. But six months after I was deemed cancer free, the seizures came back. And this time, I felt since I had just been vulnerable earlier that year, I didn’t need to be vulnerable again.

I’ve learned that vulnerability doesn’t operate on a calendar. You cannot decide how many times a year you should be vulnerable. If you are hurt, you are vulnerable. If you were taken advantage of, you are vulnerable, and if you are in love, you are vulnerable. If you are alive, you are vulnerable. And that’s okay.

While I mentioned three of the big hints in my life to embrace vulnerability, I need to tell you that there were several more smaller hints that I just didn’t catch. Looking back, there were moments almost every day where I choose to hide my vulnerability.

Enter the need for one word.

be vulnerable

 

At the end of each year, I reflect on the word from that year and the  important events that shaped my life during the previous 12 months. I then enter a place of prayer and meditation where I ask God to send me more word or phrase for the coming year. And as He knows my struggles, that phrase was be vulnerable.  Fyi, if you have a good relationship with God, it’s okay to fuss and fight with him over something he’s charged you to do. The key is that you must submit to His will and decide to do it. So after I fussed and cried and fussed some more. I decided to embrace the concept.

Since I’ve opened myself up to the idea and started exploring the concept more, incredible things have happened in my life. Hmmmm…we’ve only been in 2016 for 11 days and I’m already seeing results. And you know what else? Brene Brown has a new fan in me.

I truly believe that this wouldn’t be my word if I wasn’t meant to help others, so I’ve created  a free blog challenge using the hashtag #bevulnerable. I’d really like you to join!

If you want to work through the process of accepting vulnerability and experiencing the shift in the universe that occurs when you are vulnerable, then this challenge is for you.

Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.

And even if you don’t join the challenge, I’ve got a little gift for you. Click here to access a free printable with a quote on the importance of vulnerability. If you do join the challenge, I’ll send our daily tasks and items for exploration via email. I’m also creating a secret Facebook group for us to work in and there will even be videos and other fun items I am sharing. To sign up for the challenge, click here.

The biggest fear I faced when I decided to allow myself to #bevulnerable was that I would be judged by others. That was really hard for me (and frankly it still is) because I try so hard not to judge other that when I feel judged, I feel attacked personally. So needless to say, this challenge is a judgement-free zone. We are going to do the work and see what manifests as a result of it.

Tell me in the comments below, what impact does the phrase “be vulnerable” have on your life?

If you’re a little unsure about this whole vulnerability thing, I would suggest you start with researching the work of Brene Brown. I started by watching this Ted Talk and eventually reading this book. Good luck!

 

Debunking the Myths

Click here to read my series on simple social media

This week alone has made the most intelligent of people seem really, really naive. I may have wanted to say something instead of naive, but let’s just stick with naive. Today we are going to talk about common myths of social media.

A myth is a widely held false belief or idea.

Social media is full of them. Here’s the knowledge you need right now.

  1. Facebook does not charge, will not charge, and writing a statement telling them not to charge is not going to change that fact.
  2. Facebook is finally working on a dislike button, but it will be free. That means it will not cost anything. We don’t pay to like things, we won’t pay to dislike them either.
  3. If you take a photo and post it on Facebook, it’s yours. It’s not Facebook’s, and they can’t do anything with it. The only exception to that rule is if the photo is vulgar or profane in any way.
  4. No matter how good they look online, photos posted to social media are going to be low resolution and oftentimes do very little good printed. There is no point in even trying to make this work. It won’t. Leave photos from social media exactly where they are — on social media.
  5. Social media can track you, no matter where you are. The truth of this statement is that anytime you use a computer or computing device, you can be tracked. Check-ins on Facebook are not automatic, they are user-initiated. Smartphones are enabled with tracking devices, but those are the phones, not the actual social media apps.
  6. Businesses only use social media to stalk their customers. Not quite. Social media is a form of marketing. Businesses use social media to gain more customers. And believe it or not, Facebook protects the regular folks from business scams. In order to get their messages seen by actual potential customers, legitimate companies have to pay for advertising on Facebook…and it isn’t cheap.
  7. Facebook is full of teenagers. It really isn’t. According to a recent article in Adweek magazine, the majority of Facebook users are between the ages of 18 and 44. Thirteen – seventeen year olds are using Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. If you using social media to keep tabs on your teen, Facebook won’t tell you anything.
  8. Social media is full of gossip. Well, that statement might be true. But, it is also riddled with untruth. Leading news outlets now use social media to report the news. And the American Press reports that 88 percent of Millennials — those born between the early 1980s and 2000 — get their news from social media. Not celebrity news, not random news, but real, legitimate news that their parents are getting from the major television networks.
  9. Social media is not a science. That’s probably one of the biggest misconceptions out there. Social media is a science that is governed by metrics and statistics for the digital world we live in. There are people behind the science, but to understand social media is to understand how the networks are connected to the world — through data and scientific measures.

While this list is a good start, I’m sure we may uncover some more this month.

Have you seen or heard any social media myths that are worth sharing?

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Cancer Remembered: The Kids

This post is part of a month-long series on my cancer experience of 2013. They originally appeared on my blog at http://www.caringbridge.org.

After the initial shock of “my news” the first questions I’m asked is “How are the kids?” I initially told them that I had an illness that could be very serious if didn’t seek medical attention. They know that this disease is called cancer. It made sense for me to tell them because they witnessed the first asthma attack, they knew I was having back pains, they hear the snoring, and to not offer them an explanation didn’t feel right. And well, let’s face it…CJ turns 13 this year…they would know something was up.

But enough from me…let me let you hear it in their words.
“When I first found out, I was really, really, sad. I didn’t want to go to school.Then I decided to learn more about cancer, so I did research. I looked it up on Google, but now I know enough. I don’t really like talking about it much, but I know there’s a good prognosis. And now I know why my mom is hyper all the time.” — C.J., 12
“I don’t think cancer is right, and it’s not fair. I’m mad at those cancer cells. I like talking about it at home and I ask my mom a lot of questions, but I don’t like talking about it with other people.” — Jada, 9
“Sometimes I’m sad about the cancer, but my mom said we need to teach others about the disease. So, I’m making movie called, “My Mom Has Cancer” for our school digital fair and I’m doing a research project about cancer in class.” — Tyra, 11
So as you can see, this is definitely a journey and it’s challenging for all of us. Some days are better than others. I have cried the ugly cry, I’ve shed the dignified tears, and I’ve laughed at it, I don’t think I’m in denial, but then again, who does? The sheer reason you are reading this is because you know me well, and that means you also know I’m a “glass half full” kind of girl.
Many of you also know that my divorce took me to a really dark place. So far, this cancer is not as dark as the divorce place. Interesting huh? And while the divorce was so painful I couldn’t talk about it, this cancer is not. As a matter of fact, I think I should talk about it. Too many people in the world are diagnosed with cancer for us not to talk about it.
I’m still working at the college, and plan to be as my health allows, throughout the semester. Y’all know how much I love the Dallas County Community College District…I think I would feel worse if I couldn’t work at all.