Get Your Entire Life: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

What’s up, beautiful people? I know your girl has been posting at random for the last couple of years, and I appreciate those of you that have stuck with me. It’s been all kinds of real ’round my way, and I’m finally getting my bearings.

With that being said, I’m posting a book review for the first time in YEARS. I’ve gotten my reading and writing mojo back with a vengeance and I had to share this book with y’all. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult is truly a work of art. It’s cadence and nuances and in your face gritty realness gave me life!

I could go on and on, but I’ll shut up and let you watch the video.

 

Look, I’ll simply say that Jodi Picoult is a white woman with a number one bestseller on the African-American fiction literature list via Amazon. You don’t see that everyday, and you can stay mad, because SHE EARNED IT.

Listen to me carefully: READ THIS BOOK!

You’re welcome.

 

Have you read Small Great Things? What did you think of it?

If you haven’t read it, do you plan to? What do you think of all the buzz?

 

 

Advertisements

Confessions of Faith: Living in the Free Fall

It’s 10:30 on a Saturday night and I’d planned to turn in early after watching a few episodes of Sienfeld. Let’s choose to gloss over the glaring need I have for a better social life and focus on the matter at hand. As usual, when I closed my eyes, the words I’d been searching for while awake, came to me as soon as I was on the brink of sleep. So here goes….

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then I’m sure you’ve noticed a huge decline in the frequency of my posting.  I think I’ve mentioned before that my health challenges were the reason for my disappearing act. But what I didn’t mention was all of the other things going on in my life that demanded my attention.

I spent almost a year in therapy. Not once a week for an hour therapy, but really intense five days a week for several hours a day therapy. I’m pretty sure I was one hop, skip and a jump away from straight up commitment. For real, for real. I was straddling sanity and the worst part was that I had absolutely no idea why. I’ve since learned that a few physical issues were the cause of my angst, but it was a long time coming.

Now, the truth of the matter is that I’ve had my fair share of trauma. But I’ve always picked up the pieces and carried on. I’m strong. Not out of destiny, but necessity. This was different. This was scary. This was crying myself to sleep for months every night without knowing why. This was going to the bathroom at work and stifling my cries and not knowing why. This was suddenly not remembering how to do the job I had done for three years. I was in trouble and totally exhausted from the effort it took to not look like I was falling apart, even though I was.

One thing I know for sure: I was fighting for my life and all the Bible reading in the world wasn’t making it any better. I recited Psalms every night with tears streaming down my eyes and asked God to help me. It was by the grace of God that I found a treatment center about 45 minutes away from my home that accepted my insurance.

So I went. Even though I’m a “strong Black woman” and we don’t do therapy. Even though it meant taking a leave of absence that eventually, among other things, led to me losing my job. Because even though I didn’t know what was going on with me, deep down I knew that I was worth fighting for.

I knew that the state I was in was beyond the few coping skills I had. I needed professional help. The center I went to helped me sort through the major issues I’ve had surrounding food since I was a little girl. They helped me work through the residual grief I had regarding the death of my daughter. They helped me remember my worth and reduce the overwhelming anxiety that nearly crippled me. And yes, they prescribed medication that helped me cope for the few months I needed to be on it.

At the center I learned the practice of yoga, and breathing techniques. I had individual psychotherapy and group therapy. Meditation and drama therapy. Art therapy and music expression. You name it and they did it. I was one of the few specks of color in that cup of milk, but it didn’t matter. What mattered is that I was able to heal in the presence of like-minded women from all walks of life. The women there were housewives and corporate moguls. Artists and college students. Business owners and baristas. It didn’t matter because we all had one thing in common; we were brave enough and fed up enough to go after the help we knew we needed.

To be honest, I didn’t plan to tell you guys all this. What I planned to do was tell you how grateful I am for God’s provision through this season of healing. But as usual, when my fingers hit the keyboard, things went another way….Hopefully what I’ve said will help someone else going through a hard time. You will get through it. I did.

I’m standing on the other side of victory. Thanks to the underhanded workings of my former employer, I lost my insurance, which meant that I had to abruptly end my therapy sessions. And that’s o.k. I know that all things work together for my good, and if God hadn’t decided that it was time to move on, I’d still be there.

Since I lost my job, I can’t tell you how much joy has been restored to my life.  Don’t get me wrong. Initially, I was absolutely devastated. I was angry and those old familiar feelings of shame and embarrassment came back, along with the thought that maybe I just wasn’t good enough. There was also the fact that I was in the midst of a serious health crisis that required extensive healthcare to treat. Healthcare that I no longer had access to because I no longer had insurance. If you knew where I previously worked, you would be astounded at the irony of my situation.

There wasn’t much I could do. At the time, I couldn’t work. My doctors had me on full restriction. If I worked, I risked permanent damage to my heart. So I had no choice but to cancel some of my doctors appointments and diagnostic tests, then pay out of pocket for what was necessary to aid in my recovery.

There’s something I learned in yoga. It’s the act of leaning into discomfort. When you‘re in a pose that pulls you and strains your muscles, and all you want to do is come out of it, that’s when you breathe into it. That’s what God did for me when I surrendered to Him. It is often at the place of our most earnest surrender, that God’s glory shines the brightest. When we stop resisting and rest in Him, He has the perfect opportunity to show us who He is and what He can do.

I haven’t worked in over six months, but I have lacked nothing. It’s certainly not because I’m so good with money that I had six months worth of savings in my bank account. I wish! I’ve had all that I needed and some of what I wanted. Actually, I loaned money a few times and was able to bless others as well, despite the fact that I was denied unemployment benefits. God provides.

Without the undue stress of a job where I was harassed and my creativity was stifled, my health has improved by leaps and bounds. I literally get better every day. God heals.

I still used the coping skills I learned in therapy and now I know that it’s time to get back to doing what I love, and that includes writing for this blog and creating my novels. God restores.

At my lowest points, God stuck by me. When I didn’t believe in myself, He spoke life into me. Sometimes taking a leap of faith is not an option. Sometimes, you’re pushed. That’s when you get to live in the free fall. It’s breathtaking and exhilarating and freeing in so many wonderful ways. God loves.

I’m living out loud and unashamed. I hope you join me.

XoXo,

Faith

Those who know your name trust you because you have not abandoned any who seek you, LORD. Psalm 9:10 (CEB)

But I have trusted in your faithful love. My heart will rejoice in your salvation. Psalm 13:5 (CEB)

 

 

5 Simple Ways to Increase Your Blog Traffic

I wrote this how-to article initially as a guest post for my girl, Nigeria Lockley.  But, I recently stumbled across it in my computer files, while putting together my  writing portfolio for my new freelancing business. If you haven’t checked out my freelancing services, what in the world are you waiting for? In the meantime, my advice on increasing your blog traffic is still relevant two years later. Enjoy!


Blogging is not for the faint of heart, but it doesn’t have to be super difficult either. At its root, blogging is intended for two things: sharing a person’s personal thoughts on a variety of subjects and connecting with others. That’s it in a nut shell. But we all know that many folks use their blogs as a way to sell products, make a living by working with sponsors and/or building a platform for future endeavors. So whether your goal is to make connections, money or both, you need a steady flow of traffic from online visitors. Here are a few ways to help make that happen.

BE CONSISTENT–Nothing alienates a following more than posting inconsistently. Whether you post daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly do it regularly. The best practice is to clearly state your posting habits on your blog near your subscribe button. But keep in mind that you should under promise and over deliver.

PRODUCE GREAT CONTENT–They say knowledge is power, and blogging about subjects you’re an expert in is a great way to build, and keep, a solid audience. Invest time in researching and sharing relevant content on a regular basis. You should also focus on being entertaining. Plenty of blogs generate a lot of traffic simply because the blogger shares their personal life on a regular basis. If you have an engaging personality and you’re able to translate that with pictures and writing, you have all you need to keep people coming back for more!

TAG YOUR POSTS CORRECTLY–Neglecting to take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) is something many bloggers overlook. Tagging your posts with key words consistently is a great way to put you at the top of Google and other search engines. For example, if you blog about easy quick food recipes, it’s probably a good idea to tag all your posts with the words ‘food’ and ‘recipes’. Then add specifics like ‘easy’, ‘enchiladas’, ‘30 minute meals’, etc. Do this often enough and your blog will be one of the first to populate in specific searches. When I first started blogging I Googled my name and I wasn’t even on the top few pages of the results. Then I started tagging every single post with ‘Faith Simone’. Now, my blog posts span the first couple of pages for that search. It works, try it!

COMMENTS–One sure way to increase traffic and comments is to comment on other blogs. Especially blogs that cover similar information to yours. Bloggers love comments like a mother loves her kids. I’m serious. Bloggers spend time and effort producing content for their blogs and usually don’t get a whole lot of feedback for it. A thoughtful comment makes a blogger’s heart sing. It means that not only is someone actually reading their content, but they took time to respond intelligently to it. Do this often enough and you’re on your way to building a sincere relationship with the blogger whose posts you comment on and with their loyal followers. Keep in mind that comments like ‘Great post!’ won’t fly. Be sincere and only comment when you have something meaningful to contribute.

SHARING– I was late to the party on this one, but I’m so glad that I recently came to understand the gift of sharing content. Taking just a minute to share a great post by a fellow blogger on Twitter or Facebook is an awesome way to build a relationship with fellow bloggers. Plus, it gives your social media followers access to more great content. It’s also reciprocal. Once you share a blogger’s content they’re more likely to share yours. You’re both helping each other reach new audiences. Sharing is indeed caring.

So that’s it folks: consistence, good content, effective tagging, sincere comments and social media sharing. Put those elements into practice and watch your visitor stats grow!


Are you a blogger/influencer? How do you drive traffic to your blogs and social media posts?

 

We Gave Our Baby Sister Away This Weekend! #BeachWedding

 

What’s up, Fam! I had to come through and share some wonderful family news. My sister was a radiant bride this past weekend and her beach wedding in Spring Lake, MI was beautiful. It was a pleasure to serve as her maid-of-honor and stand up with her as she married the love of her life. I’m so happy to welcome my new brother-in-law to the family! I pray that they’ll continue to be very happy together and that God blesses their union. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let them do the talking!

Until Next Time,

Faith

P.S. If you want to see video of my wedding weekend at the beach, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel! I’ll be posting there over the next couple of weeks. 🙂 Also, follow me on Instagram to have real time access to my daily shenanigans. Xoxo!

An Open Letter to the Brokenhearted on Mother’s Day

My Dear Sweet Friend,

What I have to say isn’t for those on a sentimental high of celebratory accolades and recognition. This isn’t your typical Mother’s Day blog post full of ironic humor and adorable pictures of frazzled moms and food smeared chubby toddlers. I’m pretty sure you won’t have a hard time finding something like that elsewhere, if that’s what you’re looking for. But, you won’t find it here.

This is an open letter to the brokenhearted. An acknowledgment of those who may feel as though they reside on the outskirts of society on days like today. Who think that they are alone in their pain. This is for those whose mothers have passed, and the only way they can give them flowers today is to lay them on their graves. This is for the women who have made their homes in the valley of barrenness. This is for those who look into the beautiful faces of their children and still see the ghosts of what could have been, what they feel should have been. This is for those whose arms ache with the emptiness of loss and hope. This is for those who have piles of home pregnancy tests stashed all over their homes, waiting for that confirmation of life. This is for those who are haunted by the guilt of choices that can’t be undone and wonder, what if? This is for those who gave their children away long ago and wonder what became of them. This is for the children of mothers who gave less than they needed and are still left with the void. This is even for those who shrug and think, it’s just another day when, in the space of truth that lies beneath, they know that it’s not. This is for the woman who puts on a brave face and smiles until her cheeks hurt, only to steal moments alone with her head tilted back, fingers gently patting away tears before her concealer breaks and her mascara runs.

I’ve carried a burden for you. Yes, you. I thought of you and your pain and laid it along side my own burden of brokenness, before hoisting it onto my back and wearing it for the last week. I counted down the days till Sunday, sadness tinging each moment, sighs escaping my mouth at will and without conscious provocation.  As I sit here snuggled up on my couch in a velvety soft blanket, my stomach is in knots at the thought of going against the grain and speaking to a population that many people would rather pretend don’t exist. I guess I’m unique in that I belong to both groups. There have been times when I would rather not deal with the messiness of sadness and loss. When I found it easier to pretend. But that’s exhausting and tiresome and debilitating and any other number of words you can think of to explain that it’s no longer worth my time.

I am the mother of a stillborn. An oxymoron of an existence. Do I count as a mother? Do I ignore the pain that fills me like air on days like this? Do I pretend that I don’t feel the undercurrent of pain that my eyes were opened to the moment tragedy struck?

I won’t do that. I won’t pretend that I don’t see you. I see you, I feel you and I care for you. For lack of a better way to put it; it sucks to be us right now. The truth is that if we’d had a choice, none of us would have joined this club.

But we’re here now and I found myself asking God, “What do I say to them, Lord?” I didn’t feel that I had anything to offer until I remembered that we don’t have to keep carrying our burdens . It’s a choice we make. I’m not going to give you a Christian cliche and advise you to lay your burdens down. I prefer to think of it as simply letting go. That’s what I did.

I gave birth to my deceased daughter, and had her cremated. Then, I had no choice but to learn how to live in The After. Some things forever change you, without fanfare, quietly and totally. This was one of those things. I railed against God. I was consumed with a simmering rage that only seemed to grow as, even in my grief stricken state, I realized that I needed Him. And the whole time, He was right there. Through my rage, my numbness and my years of insidious resentment. He was right there.

Because you see, the Lord is near to the brokenhearted* and binds up all their wounds**.
I know this, not because I read it, but because I lived it. He was faithful to walk with me through sorrow, and I came to know Him in the fellowship oLetting Gof His suffering. My point is that I never had to lay my burden down. I eventually let it go because it’s hard to hang on to your stuff when you’re constantly in the presence of the Almighty. It really is darn near impossible. Trust me, I tried.

He bound up my wounds, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still hurt. Pain is a part of the healing process. I had surgery months ago, and I still hurt at the site of the wound when it’s going to rain. I’m still healing, and those twinges are part of that healing. I might feel those twinges for the rest of my life, but that’s OK. The pain that led me to the surgical table was far more excruciating than the twinges I feel now. The same is true for the emotional and spiritual trauma we can’t see. Over time, you will still feel sadness. You will still shed tears.

But, you won’t be broken forever.

When the pain is overwhelming, when you can’t see past it and wonder how you’ll go on, just remind yourself that it won’t be like this forever. Shed your tears, remember the good, take a few deep breaths and know that you can go on.

He said, “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21

XoXo,

Faith

*Psalm 34:18, **Psalm 147:3

This Weekend…

What’s up, beautiful people?! It’s been more than a minute since I actually wrote something, rather than posting random videos. I’ve missed y’all!

I’ve been on kind of a total self-care journey. It’s been challenging, to say the least. I’m the sort of person who likes to believe that I’m superhuman. You know, that basic things like proper nutrition, rest and taking time for myself, are optional. It took a series of health issues to make me come to the realization that I’m far from a super hero. I’ve retired my cape and put on my glasses. Which is why I can finally clearly see that I’ve got to take care of me, because no one else is in line for the job. And that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than just ok. It’s a privilege I’ve been given by virtue of simply being alive and grown!

With that privilege comes choices. The choice to do things that feed my mind, body, spirit and soul.  I invite you all to do the same and to that effect, here’s a list of things you can do this weekend to remind yourself that YOU MATTER. I hope you find something that resonates with you and decide to gift yourself with it. You deserve it!


Do you, Boo:

  • Pick flowers in your backyard and display them around your home.
  • Buy a bouquet of flowers and put them on your nightstand. They’ll be the first thing you see when you wake up!
  • Binge watch your favorite T.V. series or find a new one to fall in love with.
  • Go for a walk that’s purely for pleasure.
  • Paint your toenails an obnoxious color.
  • Create a spa in your bathroom. Spend the evening soaking in a tub and reading a book by candlelight.
  • Sleep in without guilt.
  • Send your kids to a family member or friends’s house and do whatever you want this weekend.
  • Go to a matinee with a friend or by yourself!
  • Light a scented candle a do a breathing mediation.
  • Go get a pedicure or massage.
  • Experiment with a new recipe you’ve been wanting to try.
  • Invite friends of family over for game night.
  • Eat something decadent without feeling guilty.
  • Make it a Staycation weekend and explore your city/town.
  • Go for a scenic drive/bus ride and allow your mind to wander.
  • Go for a nature walk at your nearest national park.
  • Sit outside and look at the Sunset or count stars.
  • Read your daily devotional outdoors and take time afterwards to reflect on it while sitting in the sun.
  • Make a picnic and take it to the park.
  • Participate in a group sport or exercise class.
  • Find a yoga practice online and try it out.
  • Go to bed early.
  • Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while and talk for hours.
  • Get your hair done.
  • Try a new hobby you’ve been putting off.
  • Go to a fancy restaurant and only order dessert.
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Spend some time talking to a five year old. They know everything.
  • Write a letter to your younger self. Then write one to your future self. Pick any ages.
  • Write a letter to a loved one who has passed on.
  • Allow yourself to have a good hard cry if you feel like it.
  • Allow yourself to laugh ’til it hurts if you feel like it.
  • Allow yourself time to dream.
  • Allow yourself time to plan for those dreams and convert them to goals.
  • Play in your own make-up.
  • Snuggle up with someone you love and watch a tearjerker or rom-com.
  • Read a book cover to cover in one sitting ( and don’t dare think about the laundry, dishes, etc)
  • Organize something, if that floats your boat.
  • Tell someone you love them.
  • Make a list of your best qualities and refer to it every time you feel like you’re not good enough.
  • Write an affirmation to yourself in lipstick on your bathroom mirror. ( Don’t worry, it wipes right off!)
  • Dance like everyone’s watching and you got all the moves, even if you don’t.
  • Sing at the top of your lungs.
  • Lay on your couch and just listen to music.
  • Put your phone on silent and take a much needed break.

This list could go on and on, but you guys get the picture. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, or even any money, to take time for yourself. Remember, if your tank is empty you don’t have anything to give. Now, I’m off to binge watch Parenthood. I’m on a mission to find out if there’s a single episode where nobody cries. I’m halfway through season 2 and it hasn’t happened yet. See y’all next time!

What’s your favorite self-care act? Tell us about it in the comments below!

 

Ummm, So I’m Kinda Really Feeling This YouTube Thang…

What’s up, y’all? Your girl has been slacking. I haven’t been sharing my thoughts and encouragement here lately, but it’s not for lack of the desire to do so. I’ve just been dealing with a lot of things related to my health, and one of the side effects of that is brain fog. Like, serious “what’s my mama’s name, again?” brain fog. I send text messages that need Google Translations to decipher. Writing this post alone is taking me longer than I care to admit.

Me being me, I decided to make an effort to connect with you all, no matter what. If I can’t write like I want to (at least for right now), I can still flap my gums! So, that’s what my YouTube channel is all about. In some ways, connecting with you on that platform provides a unique opportunity for me to share my life with you in a far more intimate manner than this blog. I think that’s a good thing, and I hope you guys do, too.

But, don’t worry. This blog is my baby and I’ll definitely get back to going hard on it again once I get my health in order. If you’re curious as to what kind of health issues I’m dealing with, check out my videos. I’m not shy about operating in full disclosure (as you might have noticed by now, lol) but I go a little deeper on my YT channel.

My goals there will be the same as my goals are here: to transparently share my life and thoughts for the purpose of encouragement. I promise to keep it all the way real (like FO’REAL) because I’m learning that perfection has no place in my life. Plus, if I can continue to put one foot in front of the other, despite the hardships of life, someone watching will see that they can, too.

You all are my people. My tribe. My fam. It is my hope that the community I eventually discover on YouTube is as awesome and inspiring as the community that I’ve found here. I have a feeling that adding that platform to my repertoire is going to result in a wild ride. A beautiful mess that I can’t wait to share with you! The blessing that is our future is waiting.

Let’s get it.

XoXo,

Faith

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1: 1-4

Oh and before I go, don’t forget to subscribe to my channel, so you won’t miss a thing. I’ll continue doing my Conversations with Faith, but I’m adding weekly vlogs as well. Plus, soon there’ll be a series called Confessions of Faith, where I talk about the MANY mistakes I’ve made in the past and explain how God’s grace brought me through. Don’t be a stranger, come holla at me over there. 🙂