Expect the Unexpected 

As I was headed into 2015, The Lord told me while I was at church that evening, my theme for the year would be to “Expect the Unexpected.” For lack of a better phrase, I did not know what to expect but my expectations were high. To quickly confirm what He said to me, a woman at church gave me a beautiful bracelet. Needless to say, that was very unexpected and only made me more excited to see what God was going to do for Elise throughout the year. 

Many of you know I was living in Connellsville and traveling to Moon Township five days a week working at Robert Morris University. I had been in this position since November 2013 and was beginning to grow weary. Being in my car three hours a day to get to and from work was beginning to take its toll on me. But I used this time wisely–I spent that time in worship and prayer with God. So I took my problem up with The Big Man himself and said, “Lord. I don’t know how much longer I can do this drive. I’ve done all I can do.” He said, “Continue to work hard and you’ll see your prayers realized.” I said, “Deal.” 🙂
Skip to April 1st around 6:35 am about five miles from my house, I was in a car accident. Simply headed into work, a Dodge truck ran into the right side of Baby Jet (my Chevy Cruze). Thankfully, I was only shaken up and able to walk away from the accident (the other driver did too). Disappointed in myself, The Lord said, “Elise. This is the beginning of your shifting. Out with the old and in with the new.” My trust was (and is) in Him wholeheartedly. My car was so damaged with such high mileage, my parents and I thought we wouldn’t get much for it. Well, Liberty Mutual called and we were given a significant amount of money for Baby Jet. This was used to put a down payment on my 2015 Jeep Renegade, Baby Rev. Expected the Unexpected
April was also the month Blessed Resistance, the Christian Rock band I’m in was assembled. The Lord brought us together and it’s been such a blessing. If someone would have told me 2 or even 3 years ago that I’d have the chance to play drums and sing in a band at Idewild, I would have looked at them sideways. God is good like that, isn’t He? Expect the Unexpected

Fast forward to July where I was beginning to job search. My mentee was beginning to look at Seton Hill for graduate school. When she told me that, I figured I’d look to see what they had posted. As an aside, before I applied to my job at RMU there was a job a Seton Hill that I almost applied to but He told me to wait and so I did. Well, as God would have it, my colleague told me about the position of Director of Student Involvement. Everything listed in the description was exactly what I needed and wanted in my next position. God perfectly orchestrated (as He always does) this for me. By mid-August, I got the call and was hired at Seton Hill University as the Director of Student Involvement. As soon as I got to The Hill I asked God, “Why [am I here] now? He said, “Had you not been through what you’ve gone through, you wouldn’t be able to do what I need you to do while here on this campus.” Expect the Unexpected

My intention is not to brag or boast, but to simply share how my faith in God was strengthened this year. He kept me through snowstorms and construction traffic for almost two years, so that he could bless me with a job where I don’t even have to get in my car to get to work.  He kept me safe even in a car accident, so that I would realize that when I need to get rid of something old, He’ll do whatever he’s gotta do to get me out because He’s coming with something better and more exciting. He put me in a band, to spread The Good News in a way I never thought possible. God is ALWAYS looking for ways to bless us. We just have to make sure we’re expecting. 

 Thank you for everything 2015!   

  

 

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The Importance of Having Your Person

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“Your person” is a phrase that comes from Shonda Rhimes’ hit show, Grey’s Anatomy. Meredith and Cristina often have to remind one another that they are each other’s person.  Each of us should have at least one person who can tell us about ourselves because let’s face it—we are not perfect. We need someone with whom we can be vulnerable, open, and honest about our lives.  Your person can be the one to fill that void.

The catch: You cannot just choose anyone.   Here are five qualities to look for when choosing your person.

Choose someone who has integrity. Information and knowledge is power. Once someone has very personal information about you, he/she has a significant amount of power.  Make sure this person can be trusted and that your talks do not go past the safe space you create.  Both parties should be of the same mindset with the understanding that a certain space is confidential.  Whatever is discussed should not be repeated to anyone else without your permission.  “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” (a nod to Aretha Franklin) should be of the utmost importance.

Choose someone who can ask you the tough questions.  I always say that the easiest place to see “you” is in the mirror and even that does not show our reflection exactly.  This is where your person can be helpful to listen to what you are truly saying.  He or she can decipher and make sense of what may not be obvious to you.  Your person can ask you those hard-hitting questions that we may not able to ask ourselves. “Do you really love him/her?” “Is this the life you want for your family?” “Are you making this decision for yourself or for others?”  You cannot take offense to these questions either.  Your person is asking these (or at least should be) questions from a place of love.

Choose someone whose life is not in disarray. Your person should be someone you admire and in some ways would like to mimic.  This may be someone you have watched from afar make exemplary choices that led them down great paths. Or it could be just the opposite—maybe you witnessed their resiliency despite making some poor decisions and are wiser for it.  Either way, your person has learned from experience and experience is life’s best teacher.  He/she should be an insightful and thoughtful person whom you believe can speak into your life.

Choose someone whose opinion you value. You know how Oprah can say simply suggest books and products and because she told us, we go out and buy them? Well, we need someone with that same kind of influence. This is someone whose words can inspire us to positively react and then apply what was said.  Your person is of no use if you do not take heed to his or her advice.  He or she should be able to provide you with something to “chew on,” so that the next time the two of you meet, whatever was “chewed” can be your jumping off point or “icebreaker.”

Choose someone who has the ability to challenge you to be better. If you are not growing you are stagnant/dead.  Your person should be challenging you to be the very best you.  Life is about facing challenges and using your resources to overcome.  If your person is only giving you his /her opinion that is not who you want — you want someone that can help you rise above the rest.  Your person is charged with tending to your personal garden; they are planting seeds that will help you by tending to you often and watching you blossom into who you are truly capable of becoming.

Find this person.  No rush because it is a big decision.  He or she will be so valuable if you allow them to be open and honest with you. However, you must also be open and honest with yourself—it works both ways.  We need one another and without this type of person along for life’s amazing ride, we may unnecessarily struggle.  Yes, without struggle there is no progress, but we should not allow ourselves to lie dormant in that struggle.  You are more than a conqueror and learning from the wise will only make you that much wiser for battle.  Good luck in choosing your person. 

Tweet elise at @epiphane32 to share your thoughts! More info. about Elise can be found on her about.me page. Thanks for reading! 

Costly Freedom of Speech

Social media fascinates me. Social media is something everyone loves, but at the same time hates because of the beauty and the ugly it too often displays. It has changed the way we watch televised dramas and sports (e.g. #Scandal). It has changed the way in which we communicate with friends and family that are as far as Timbuktu and as close as the coffee table.

The ugly is what I would like to explore. There is a very bold dehumanization that takes place on all social media platforms, but can more specifically be viewed on A‐list celebrity’s pages that is beyond disturbing. Why does this happen?

The most recent recipient of this dehumanization is Little League phenom, Mo’ne Davis. In case you are unfamiliar with the story, a baseball player at Bloomsburg University (BU) named Joey Casselberry, referred to 14‐year‐old Davis as a “slut” in a tweet. Since receiving national attention, he has apologized and deleted his Twitter account. Then, acting as the more mature person (despite her age), Mo’ne asked BU to reinstate the student athlete because “everyone makes mistakes” and “deserves second chances.” Wow. It’s funny how she used her words to help him after he had used his words to hurt her.

Nonetheless, a young man was stripped of his student‐athlete title for not understanding his words carry much weight, especially in such a public arena. Dismissed from the team, Joey has learned a very hard lesson about the power of words. Here’s the problem: On social media, people say whatever they want about whomever they want and are completely desensitized to people, especially celebrities’, feelings. Merriam Webster’s definition of dehumanize reads, “To deprive of human qualities, personality or spirit.” There’s a complete disregard for the human being. Because a person’s fingers are doing the talking, it’s their account and they want to poke fun and entertain, what should be at the forefront of their mind is not and that is: My opinion of whomever it is I am writing about can be seen by that person and can have a tremendous effect whether it be positive or negative. 

Let’s be real people, the barrier that once stood between superstars and us common folk has fallen like the walls of Jericho. Long gone are the days where you could not possibly land on the evening news because of something you said in public. Don’t ever forget how public social media truly is.  Now, I wonder if Joey had said this on a bus ride to a game, if the same swift action would have been taken. 

The next time you tweet or make a meme about a celebrity, remember that you are talking about a real person. Remember that you do not know these public figures on a personal level, so you really have no grounds to attack their character. Do you think Joey thought that tweet would ever reach Mo’ne Davis’ iphone? No way! Please learn from his mistake. He went too far and unfortunately, posts of this kind are the norm on social media. If only we weren’t always looking to make someone the butt of our tasteless and inhumane jokes, the world would be a better place. 

As a people, we are all in this together. Your words can make a difference so choose love not hate. A tweet in jest embedded with ignorance could cost you everything. Think before you speak, especially before you tweet. Take it old school. Before you post, just think: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? ALWAYS be the difference and not the norm.

I would love to hear your feedback, comments, questions or concerns.  Please feel free to contact me: Twitter: @epiphane32 Instagram: @epiphane32

For my info about the author visit her about.me.

Celebrate Difference

Let’s begin taking our fate into our own hands. If we truly would like see change in this country, we have to begin doing the little things that can make a significant difference. No longer can we stay quiet when those around us say or do something offensive about any “other.” That ‘other’ can include anything from the n-word or b-word or using rape and gay as slang. If we challenge one another to think differently about these everyday issues, you would see our culture begin to change.

It’s up to you and me to begin helping everyone to recognize what being an other is all about. Really, we are all an other in some capacity, which just means there is something about you that makes you different from the next person. That’s so cool! We all have a difference we can celebrate about ourselves, yet there are many persons who also celebrate that same difference. Take myself for example. I’m a black woman who loves country music. I’m sure there are many black girls who also love country music. There may not be many, but I know I’m not alone.

It’s time we begin celebrating what makes each once of us unique, which will in-turn, teach us to loves ourselves. Thus, appreciating others as well.  To quote Disney’s The Sword In The Stone, “Just because you can’t understand something, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.” Not being able to understand someone’s otherness, should not mean you demean its existence in any way or vice versa.  If we were to take on this perspective and make it an ideal, there would have to be a regard for others’ otherness. See what I’m getting at? By no means will we agree on or about every little thing, but what there can be is a mutual respect. I respect you and the life you’re living. We are all trying to survive in this crazy world and when our paths cross, we should high-five one another on how we are somehow making it work.

Our culture has a lot of incorrect messages being perceived as real and truth. How do we change this? We don’t wait for heartbreaking situations to happen that can divide us even more. Instead we use the past as positive ammunition to work towards something better. We change it by talking about our thoughts and opinions without getting loud or cursing. Who is going to want to listen if your point is riddled with offensive language? No one and what good is that? Share what’s on your mind without all that extra stuff.

If people begin to talk, then we also need to really listen. That means not just being quiet and waiting for that person to be finished with whatever he or she is saying—letting it go in one ear and out of the other. Listening means that not only are your ears open, but your mind and heart are as well. You’re listening not only to reply, but also taking something from the conversation that enlightened or taught you. Hear whatever it is that person is truly saying. What they have to say is just as important as what is on your mind.

It’s not all of our faults that we’re like this. We don’t listen well, we use slang words that offend and don’t celebrate our uniqueness. However, the time is right now for us to change our ways. Put politics aside and let’s embrace what makes us different. Think about how boring this world would be if we were all the same. Difference is what makes this life fun! It’s what makes the world around us. For just one second, consider how there would be no need to travel if every part of the world was exactly the same. There would be no reason to travel to Paris to see the Eiffel or London to see Big Ben. Without difference the world is dull. No need to be dull when we were born to be sharp. Iron sharpens iron right?

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My Fast from Social Media

For the entire month of July, I challenged myself to a social media fast. I knew that it would be beyond difficult for me, but I quickly realized it was more mental toughness than anything else.

Below are my weekly journals about the experience. As usual, some epiphanies took place and I love when I have ones that are life-changing. As you read, I am thankful for having this month to myself and arriving at some great conclusions. Enjoy! 

July 9, 2014

I am one week into my social media fast and feel so liberated already.  I really do not text all that much, so that has been the biggest adjustment thus far: there is no reason to pick up my phone.  My iPhone’s purpose is not being fulfilled, but it feels so good to not be so concerned about who is tweeting and instead enjoying what those around me are saying and doing.  However, when you are the only one of your friends fasting from social media, you quickly notice how much time your friends spend with their faces in their phones. I used to look like that—probably even worse!

A lot of my conversation is typically driven by what people are saying on Twitter or Facebook, so because of the fast that has drastically changed.  I have been reading more and that is really what I should be keeping up with: the stuff that actually matters. This is not saying that what my friends have to say is not important (because I value the opinions and jokes of my friends), but I should be more concerned about the bigger world around me rather than the immediate.

When I first thought about fasting from social media, I was not quite sure I would be able to function without it. That is sad. I mean, that thought really crossed my mind. That in and of itself means that it was TOO big a part of my life. I have not broken yet to check either Twitter or Facebook and I have to admit that I am quite proud of myself.  Let’s see how the rest of the time goes!

July 15, 2014

I just so happen to be reading the story of Esther in my Bible app. In the story, she goes on a fast to have God move on her behalf. The story was unfamiliar to me, so finding out that a significant part of the story was that she fasts was definitely one of those God ordained happenstances. This 10-day daily devotion on the story of Esther has really been encouragement to me while abstaining from social media.

Another thing that this fast has freed me up to do, is reach out to people that I genuinely care about because I cannot connect with them on the social media front and vice versa. It is interesting to see who I text/converse with often by looking at my most recent text messages. Texting is definitely more intimate than a public conversation anytime.

July 29, 2014

This past Sunday The Lord woke me up at 3:33 am and spoke about 4 pages full of notes to me about By Faith. He was talking about the importance of worship and prayer. It was absolutely awesome! I was beginning to think my fast was something I wanted and not a “me and God thing,” but the way He spoke was confirmation it was indeed a “me and God thing.” At the beginning of last week He also spoke to me about some personal things I was really seeking Him about on my way to work.

Some pretty cool things have happened while on this fast, but my social media fast has inspired some other people to fast from it as well. One friend told me yesterday he went on a five day social media fast. Another one is considering doing it for a week in August. This is what I LOVE to do: inspire people to think differently, change old habits and simply be a better person as a whole. It is one of my favorite things about being Elise. I have lots of passions, but at the core is inspiring people.  By them telling me that they either went on a fast or are even considering doing one too, was encouraging for me.

Now I’m just trying to figure out how I am not going to become as dependent on it again when it is technically time to break the fast this Thursday at midnight. I have enjoyed not feeling obligated to say something, “like” something or know exactly what everyone is doing or saying.  Yes, I have a heart for sharing with people what is on my mind, but there has been a freeing feeling that came with doing this fast. I realized how much I relied on something that I really do not need. Now that the pattern of behavior has changed, I think it is important to map out a game plan in order for it to change back.

To Fear or Not to Fear is No Longer A Question

 Only thing we have to fear is fear itself. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

At times our fears get the best of us. Our comfort zone is where it is,  for the lack of a better word, comfortable. One of the many acronyms I have heard for ‘fear’ is “False Evidence Appearing Real.” That phrase puts what I want to discuss into perspective. We all are afraid at times and it is hard to place ourselves into the “unknown,” but at times it is necessary. When we begin to let those trepidation hold us back from anything that would allow us to flourish, this is what could potentially be detrimental.

We should encourage failure. And what I mean by that very bold statement is that failure gets looked at as a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with failure.  We want our support system (family and friends) to think highly of us so no one wants to be associated with a ‘failure,’ right?  Well, fortunately my family and friends have stuck with me despite my many failures.  I am positive I am not the only one who has the pleasure of saying that about her family and friends (If you cannot, we have gotta sign you up for new family and friends). If anything, they should be the ones to encourage you to “try, try, again”.  It is what you do after coming up a little short that makes failure good because now you know what does not work.  Failure has purpose—and contrary to popular belief, it does not necessarily have to be negative.

Everything has a process and very often (especially when trying something new) failure plays a part. I would argue that some of the world’s most successful people had a fear of failure, but knew how to cope and conquer their fear(s). That is the key!

Elise, you ask, “How do I deal with fear?”  I’m so glad you asked.


 

1. Call Out Your Fear(s): Write down your fear(s) of failure; your “What Ifs.” Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen. Be open and honest with yourself. Really think about it and try to list each one of them. Once you have thought about and considered your worst fear, the hardest part is out of the way.

2. Face the Fear(s): Now consider how you could work past those fears. When you have already set up a plan of attack, it is easier to deal with the problem once it arises.  Maybe your plan is just promising yourself you will give up. For me it is inspirational at times of being in the valley, to think of the payoff or the big picture.  (I had to tell myself this many times while in graduate school.  If you need help, ask someone you trust to help you think of some ways to stay motivated when failure happens. The buddy system works in most instances (Choose wisely, young warrior).

3. Fear Happened: So yeah, that fear that I had…it just happened. Well good! How did you react? Whether you reacted positively, negatively or you are still trying to figure it out, process it in some way.  Talk about it with that friend you chose, write about it, or go for a jog; whatever works for you is fine, just make sure that you do process what took place. Ask yourself how could have prevented it or was it out of your control?  One way to get better at dealing with not succeeding, is drumming up a better game plan for whatever you are looking to accomplish.

4. Ain’t No Fear is High Enough: Because I know you are going to conquer that fear, you have to celebrate! Note what it took to get there (I’d suggest doing this along the way), so if need be, you can repeat the necessary steps. More importantly, use those conquered fears as inspiration to take on others risks and opportunities.

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Situations…Will Arise

Life is not always going to deal you the winningest hand of cards, so having the capability to use those cards to the best of your ability is an important skill to possess.   Naturally, we would like for every situation that arises in our lives to work in our favor, but it fortunately does not. Why do you say ‘fortunately,’ Elise?  If everything was handed to us on a silver platter, our stories would not be worth telling, much less empowering.  We would never learn how it feels to have hard work pay off if we could have everything we wanted.  For example, let’s say everything you made a decision to pursue since the age of eighteen went exactly as planned.  There are things in your life at this present moment that would not exist if it had not been for some “no’s” along the way.

There are plenty of ways the no’s (old and new) in your life were and will continue to be used for your good.  Those no’s have either been the fuel to a lot of fires that have led to your current success or maybe given you the chance to grow by thinking about things differently.  Most of the time, when something we thought was going to work out does not, the next opportunity is typically better than the last.  Isn’t it funny how that works?  Therefore, do not be discouraged when Plan A or Plan B does not pan out. If it is Plan G that finally works, lean something from each of the plans that did not and keep progressing.

All things work together for your good. There will be times when keeping a phrase like that in mind will be more than difficult.  If you can, keep an inspirational quote written somewhere to remind yourself everyday that you can handle whatever life throws at you. Even the worst storms end at some point, right? Sometimes, there is even a rainbow!

Make the best of any and every situation, no matter what it looks like on the surface because just below is your victory. –Elise Michaux

 

Write Right No Matter Who is Reading

I am both blessed and thankful for all of the opportunities my education has and will continue to afford me. Thus, seeing and hearing people bash education or say it isn’t necessary, makes my stomach turn. As an educator, I realize that school is not for everyone. Heck, my own brother is one of the most well spoken people you’ll ever meet and he only spent two years in higher education before deciding to stop out. However, I also appreciate that deciding to stick it out sets you apart from the masses.

One simply cannot brag about not being educated, then speak or write in a way that says it without requiring their bragging. In other words, those among you who are educated can tell you are not educated by the way you both speak and write. Now, I do have to admit, that there are some folks that graduated from college and still speak like they attended Backwoods University. Thankfully, that is only a small number of people. Frankly, all that means to me is that you were not completely invested in your time spent at college. Also never forget that self-education is where true knowledge lies.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh, E! You only care because you were an English Literature major in undergrad and grew up with an English teacher in your house.” While all of that is true, I’m not the only one who still cares about grammar. A professor at my job just asked me if we had someone in our office who could help one of her students work on his basic writing skills because an email he wrote to her was subpar. Even punctuation and grammar still matter in little things like emails.

Just this morning I stumbled upon a blog post by CNN anchor, Fareed Zakaria. He was asked to be the keynote commencement speaker at Sarah Lawrence in New York. He wrote about the power of a liberal arts education, realizing very quickly that anyone can memorize and regurgitate stuff they’ve memorized, but expressing his own ideas was altogether different. “Whether you’re a novelist, a businessman, a marketing consultant or historian, writing forces you to make choices and it bring clarity and order to your ideas,” says Fareed. See my point? I’m not the only one who thinks this matters.

Let me be clear. In no way am I saying that everyone should be like Maya Angelou when it comes to writing; no one can be like her because that was God given talent. Nor am I saying that I am the bees-knees when it comes to writing/editing. What I am saying is that having the ability to write (and speak), sets you a part from a whole lot of people. Like Fareed Zakaria said, Whatever you do in life, the ability to write clearly, cleanly and, I would add, quickly, will prove to be an invaluable skill. I could not have said it better myself.

This piece is dedicated to Maya Angelou. I find it uncanny that I would need to write something off of my chest the day of her death. She has inspired myself and so many other to tell his or her story. May she rest in power. 

Lighting that Comes From Within

As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.  –Mary Anne Radmacher

This quote immediately brings to mind both Oprah and Ellen.  Each has amassed fame and fortune owing to, I believe, their heart’s propensity to be generous, lighting an eternal flame.  One can only imagine the millions of dollars these two have donated to families in need, schools, and charities.  While you and I may never have bank accounts that look like Oprah’s or Ellen’s, we can agree that giving is a reciprocal and precious commodity.  In fact, it yields the keys to happiness.

Do you volunteer a Saturday each month at the local food pantry? Do you mentor a young adult who has taken an interest in your profession?  Taking advantage of these kinds of opportunities will benefit everyone involved.  When we take a genuine interest in things like this, something deep within us begins to develop. That “something” may turn into a passion. What if you discover that your talent makes the critical contribution to the local junior high musical?  What if teaching a cousin to play basketball leaves a smile on his face long after your game of “horse?”

I hear you saying you don’t have time.  Just make sure your heart is part of whatever is your chosen contribution.  If you do what you love, the time spent will not feel like work and you will be more likely to do it again.  Step outside of your comfort zone; outside of your comfort zone is where you discover yourself, and on a larger scale, the world.

This is meant to simply encourage you to look at the plethora of benefits in giving.  It may help you to connect with someone you never thought you would have, had you not struck up a conversation with that person.  Maybe it will be so powerful that it inspires you to start an organization like TOMS.  He got that idea from some kind of service, right?  Taking us back to the quote we began with, I think we can all agree that it has brightly lit his way.  Make a pledge today that you will find a way to create light for others.  There will be nothing that compares!

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Finding Your Voice

I am beginning to realize the importance of finding your voice.

Once an individual has found his or her voice, the true self begins to emerge.  In my opinion, taking the time to understand who you intrinsically are, is one of the most important first steps in being successful.  Why? Because there is so much power in knowing who you are.  Negative influences are less likely to distract you.  By finding your voice, you become a more confident and genuine person, whose persona is attractive to those with whom you interact.  You’ll also like yourself a little more.

A confident person talks and walks in way that makes you take notice.   His speaking voice is strong and you don’t have to cup your hand to your ear to hear him speak. His walk is upright and exudes gracefulness. His presence demands to be felt and commands any room. This person has most likely done some soul searching.  I guarantee he has spent some invaluable time getting to know what makes him tick. That is what finding your voice requires;  you must examine yourself on a level so profound, that you figure out things that even family and friends don’t know about you. You won’t figure it out in one sitting, but frequently having “me time” is how you begin to see the value.

There is a plethora of ways you can spend that “me time.” You can go to the gym or go for a run.  Maybe you decide you’ll just read a good book or listen to some music. All of that is great, however I also encourage folks to keep a journal. Keeping a journal is one of the sure ways of finding your voice. There is something very cathartic about writing.  The same came be said about running/exercising, which is just a different kind of catharsis. Documenting in some fashion what happened on a certain day or writing about whatever is on your mind, is a great way to begin understanding what you care about most.

Don’t over think.  Just write.  Write what’s on your heart because by taking notice of what makes your heart beat or what makes it ache, will change your life.  We know that smoking can cause damage to our lungs because the surgeon general has examined smokers’ lungs.  Do you see where I am going with this?  Well, how would you know what is good or harmful to your heart if you don’t examine it every once in awhile?

Last Thought: You find your voice by understanding who you are and what makes your world go ‘round. Once you have a  pretty solid idea of who you are and make the commitment to continue to grow, you cannot be stopped.

I promise.

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