That’s Right Neighborly of You

Expressed by: Cassandra Dennis

What was right neighborly?

  • Taking our laundry off the clothes line before it rained?
  • Mowing my lawn because my mower is kaput?
  • Walking my kids home from school because I was running late?
  • Cooking a meal for my family because we were ill or had death in the family?
  • Inviting my sons to play ball with you and your sons?
  • Asking me to carpool with you so we both save money?
  • Stopping by to check on me?
  • Checking our mail while we were on vacation?
  • Bringing us a Welcome to the Neighborhood basket?
  • Helping us pack and load the truck when we moved? Well this might have been because you were glad to see us go. Smile with a wink

This is how I grew up; with neighbors who became friends, then became family.

Do you remember the neighborhood block parties?  When we lived in the city limits our house was the block party house.  My Parents invited the neighbors over for food, good old school music and plenty of board games or outdoor sport activities.  We all got to know each other, which made it easier for us to check on one another.

If there was bullying, the parents addressed it with each another, then with the kids and stopped it in its tracks.  Communication was key.  We were not afraid to talk to, laugh with or even disagree with each other.  It seems this is a distant memory.  Is “neighbor” a bad word now?  Seriously, is it?

I know things have changed, but I believe the heart of communities is still the love neighbors have for one another.  Help me disprove this fleeting thought of mine by sharing your BEST NEIGHBOR story in the comments below.

 

“A hard head makes a soft…”

Of course, I had this deer in headlights expression on my face like, “What? Me? What did I do now?”  If my acting game was on par, …

 

Expressed by: Cassandra Dennis

I see the smirk on my Mom’s face and her index finger on her right hand wagging at me as she exclaims, “Oh, you gone learn, oh you gone learn, because a hard head makes a soft behind, Cassandra!”  Of course, I had this deer in headlights expression on my face like, “What? Me? What did I do now?”  If my acting game was on par, then I might even drop an innocent tear or two to sell my case.  But, my Mother never fell for the okie doke.

The expression, A hard head makes a soft behind refers to a person who insists on learning things the hard way or prefers to make their own mistakes, instead of adhering to the advice of someone who has overcome what they are experiencing.

So, why is that?  Why do we choose the hard ways of life, instead of listening to the wisdom of others?  I know I would have avoided many pitfalls when I was younger if I had stopped trying to be Miss Know-It-All or Miss I’m Grown-You Can’t Tell Me Anything.  There are times we don’t realize our poor decisions also affects those around us.  I know my decisions affected my family and my children, who I brought into the world at the age of 17.

One decision from 30 years ago still lingers with me.  I’ll share a brief snapshot.

After catching 3 buses and 2 rail lines to get home from work, I walked to the babysitter’s apartment who kept my 18-month-old sons from 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm, after the daycare center closed (and before you comment, yes, I researched her before I allowed her to keep my sons, spoke with other parents whose children she kept and made sure she didn’t have any record for abusing her own children).  I walked in to see one of my sons had scratch marks all over his face and upon further inspection I found whip marks on his back and legs. I was confused, angry, hurt and devastated.  I asked the neighbor coming home from work to call the police and my roommate called my parents.  I know sometimes things happen beyond our control, but let’s follow this thread of my decision back to the beginning.

  1. I made an adult decision at 17 to have unprotected sex.
  2. I made the decision to bring my sons into this world, care for and protect them, even though I only had $3k in the bank and at the time of their premature birth, no job.
  3. I made the decision to place my sons in the care of that babysitter.

My sons don’t remember this occurrence but it resonates with me because I failed to protect them both from experiencing the physical and psychological abuse.  Sometimes, we make decisions without knowing or understanding the full scope of what that decision entails.

My parents made the decision that they would care for my sons from that point forward when I needed them to.   As I worked 2 jobs and attended my college courses, my parents took my sons on family vacations with them, along with my two sisters.  My parents helped me nurse my sons when they were extremely ill, all while they continued to work as well.  My sons and my family experienced the growing pains of me maturing and learning how to be a mother, a provider and protector.

Our world is full of hard heads with soft behinds, but unfortunately, many of the behinds have gotten numb to the hard lessons of life.  It is my prayer that we all observe and learn from the experiences of others, and seek advice from those who gained wisdom from their experience.  This is one of the ways for us to empower each other to live a more productive and purpose driven life.

This journey called life continues to teach each of us, we are never to old to learn something new or to receive wisdom.   It is a fool who ignores wisdom, to erroneously justify that their age quantifies them as an adult that knows everything.

What have my life experiences taught me thus far?

  1.  Don’t allow my pride to keep me from obtaining wisdom from others.
  2. Don’t allow my mouth to write a check my behind can’t cash.  (Another good ole saying)!!  In other words, it’s easy to make a decision, but am I able to survive or live with the consequences of my decision.
  3. My support tribe (safety nets) don’t abandon me, but I can wear out my safety nets by abusing them.
  4. My Life is mine, so I choose to own it and not blame it away.

Living inside my mind

Painting: A Bug Free Mind

Expressed by:  Cassandra Dennis

Living inside my mind can be exhilarating and dangerous.

Living inside my mind intertwines you within my brilliant thoughts and stories or can envelope you in my perversion (altering something from its original course or meaning) and fears of the “what ifs” of life.

Living inside my mind exposes me; my strengths unrecognized, my weaknesses exploited, the untapped gifts I refuse to share because of fear.

Living inside my mind keeps the true me secluded, isolated, untransformed without a renewed mind.

Living inside my mind takes you on a ride that no roller coaster in this world could compare.

Living inside my mind – STOP! STOP living inside my mind!  I want it.  I want more than the pseudo life, the unclaimed life I have lived inside my mind.  The life of possibilities unrealized because there was no effort applied to make them a reality.

I peaked outside of my mind one day and saw a glimpse of my heart.  A vital organ created to supply my body with oxygen and nutrients was showing signs of failure because I filled my vessel with the toxins of deferred hope and untruths by existing in a state of laziness and fear in my mind.

My desire to actively participate in my journey began to grow again as I began to speak my truth, know my worth, expand my knowledge, gain understanding and live my experiences out loud instead of cowering behind them in silence.  I take steps daily toward living instead of existing.

Life, my life is to be lived in motion, not on canvas; and I’ve realized my smiles, tears and fears are to create a living story of my failures and successes, weaknesses and strengths, the empowerment to overcome fear even while struggling with it.  Renewing my mind and taking an intentional step daily allows me to live freely, to love and like me; and that my friend is liberating.

And we’re off…

We must remember, this is not a race and we all proceed at our own pace.

Expressed by: Cassandra Dennis

We are 120 days into 2017 and many of us are off and running with our new year resolutions.  Many have started businesses, joined gyms, opened investment accounts, applied for a passport, working on being debt free, downloaded self-help books and so much more.

Or some of us have lost our motivation and given up or started and stopped so many times that we are disappointed with ourselves.  We must remember, this is not a race and we all proceed at our own pace.  The reasons for setting out to accomplish our goals this year must be personal to us; not because someone believes or feels we should do something.  Our motivation must come from within.

Go back to your goal or get it done list and do this for me:

  1. Review your list and decide is this something you want to accomplish or something someone else wanted you to accomplish, and strike through those goals that you know you will not put forth the effort to accomplish.
  2. For the goals left on your list write out to the side your reason for wanting to accomplish this goal, and write out empowering key words or quotes, build a musical play list or audio books or inspirational speeches to listen to when your’re running out of steam.
  3. Write out a mini plan for obtaining that goal.  Remember, without a plan you have already planned to fail.
  4. Place a picture next to each goal.  If it’s losing weight, put a leaner picture of you or a particular outfit you want to get into; if it’s a trip put a picture of that place and your passport next to it, now you get the picture.
  5. Each day refer to your “get it done list” and encourage yourself with what you have written and your visual aids.

Now, get moving we both have work to do.

But…

You see, we never actually filled the world with our dreams and ideas;

Expressed by:  Cassandra Dennis

My dreams are beyond images, because I’ve made them tangible.

My inventions are no longer day dreams, because I now hold the patents.

The characters in my head are no longer invisible playmates, because they are now vital roles in my books, plays, movies and television shows.

The rhythm in my head is now noted on paper and being expressed through various instruments.

The body movement and flow I see has danced its way out of my conscious and is now a choreographed number for a major musical.

The good I see in others I’ve now transformed into a movement of #humanitylovinghumanity.

I’m surrounded by so many who are living an imagery of dreams and success, but, yet we have one regret.  You see, we never actually filled the world with our dreams and ideas; but we had good reasons…

  • But I don’t have enough time.
  • But I don’t know how.
  • But I’m afraid.
  • But what if I fail.
  • But it costs too much.

Along the way, the events of life brought us together, and some of us had people to mourn us, but they mourned the wrong thing.  They mourned the loss of the physical body, instead they should have mourned what was loss long ago; dreams not fulfilled, paths not taken, voids we left, stories untold and journeys cut short.

We took time for granted, allowed fear, selfishness, laziness and lack of knowledge to stop us in our tracks, long before death did.  So, our message to you from our final resting place: “The end of your dream is already woven into a beautiful ending, but it can’t happen until you take a step and put in the work to obtain the result you envision. Don’t let that dash between your birth and death become a mournful “but” for those you leave behind.”

Was it as exciting for you, as it was for me?

He climbed, flipped and rolled…

Expressed by: Cassandra Dennis

What an AMAZING and ENTERTAINING NIGHT!!

We learned so much about ourselves and received refreshing reminders about this journey called life.

  1. We learned to laugh at ourselves again.
  2. We realized perfection is overrated; it’s the love for what we are passionate about, love of people and perseverance that reflects a good part of our character.
  3. Wow, how the theme of the night flowed, U n i t y.  The theme spotlighted how it is our similarities AND our differences that bond us uniquely as one, one human race.  It is that bond that drives us to stand as ONE against division.
  4. We were reminded to appreciate the view from where we are sitting or standing in life, but know that we have the ability to change our view.
  5. We saw first-hand that no one knows our journey better than us, so it is up to us to share our matchless story through the eyes of our essential reality.
  6. And please let us not forget The Arts and Music is a common thread that unites us.  It is our commitment to express our journey and the journey of others that lead to well written stories, monologues, lyrics, layered and intertwined musical instruments and beats, fictional and biographical characters brought to life on stage or on the small and large screen.  It is this bond, which embraces collaborative efforts, because we never really walk alone.
    • It’s our collaborative movement that encourages us when we want to quit.
    • It’s our collaborative movement that sincerely appreciates the gifts and contributions of others.
    • It’s our collaborative movement that reminds us to stand tall on the shoulders of those who stood and sacrificed for us.
    • It’s our collaborative movement that empowers us to continue to strengthen and build upon those shoulders we stand on for our future generations.
    • It’s our collaborative movement that celebrates the amount of room there is for all of us to be shining stars.
    • It’s our collaborative movement that is always in forward motion to continue the journey of inclusiveness.
    • It’s our collaborative movement that creates and innovates all that’s relational and binds us to grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.  Our collaborative movement says we each are here to establish our portion of heaven on earth, that our Father has already predestined in our hearts.

Still haven’t caught on, okay, I will tell you, I’m talking about the Grammy Awards.  James Corden climbed, flipped and rolled onto the Grammy stage to begin an extraordinary night with powerful messages.  Watching the Grammy’s is big for me because I don’t normally watch award shows, but I felt compelled to watch last night’s show; and as you can see it left an impression beyond measure.  Change is brought about with humanity standing strong and being a consistent force against division and unjust actions.  I’ve realized what I’m passionate about and have to contribute to humanity, what about you?

 

Stay in Your Lane

I looked in my rear view mirror and rolled my eyes. At that time another car pulled around the bus coming through the intersection and swerved into the lane…

Expressed by: Cassandra Dennis

Early one morning I approached a traffic light in Avondale Estates at about 6 am. I stopped at the red light as oncoming traffic with the right of way proceeded through the intersection.  Once the intersection was clear, before I turned right, I looked both ways and made sure there was no sign that said, No Turn On Red. I saw a bus in the short distance and I was trying to see if the bus was going to make another stop or if I could make my turn before the bus proceeded through the intersection.  While I was going through this process a car pulled up behind me and blew the horn.  It startled me a little and I almost pulled out into the intersection.  Instead, I looked in my rear view mirror and rolled my eyes.  At that time another car pulled around the bus coming through the intersection and swerved into the lane I would have been in if I had allowed the impatience of the car behind me to invoke me to move against my better judgement.  The car behind me wasn’t in a position to see the bus coming, and neither one of us saw the car behind the bus until it was in the intersection.

Sometimes life is just like that.  We are evaluating what is the better decision based upon our view, timing, finances, and taking into consideration the risks to ourselves and possibly others.  When someone else who does not have skin in the game, the same view as we do or who does not have all the information comes along and attempts to push their opinion or perspective upon us; not based upon any factual knowledge or even personal experience but only their opinion or feelings.  If we disregard our own perspective and act out of fear or upon the ill advice of a random person, we sometimes place ourselves and others in situations that could have been avoided.  If we had just been confident with the information we researched or wisdom we received from a mentor or our inner core relationships the outcome could have been different.

That early morning experience made me think beyond the intersection, it made me realize sometimes I act like the person in the car that was behind me.  I allow my impatience and emotions about another persons decision get me all riled up. Why am I upset over someone else’s decision?  I don’t know their back story, I am not standing in their shoes nor experiencing what they are experiencing or even see what they see.  Did THEIR decision even impact me?  Yet I want to comment or share my opinion about THEIR decision.

Comment: a verbal or written remark expressing an opinion or reaction.

Opinion: a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

I’m learning to evaluate my emotions prior to me verbalizing or acting upon them.

  1. Am I privy to factual information regarding that person, even if I am is it my place to share it?
  2. Since I’m not standing in their shoes, I am not privy to their view of the situation, nor am I privy to any information they may have which impacted their decision.
  3. Did their decision negatively impact me or close loved ones personally?
  4. Since I believe in God and His word is true, He uses me to bring light to darkness, He goes before us to make crooked paths straight, and His second great commandment  didn’t change, I still must love my neighbor as myself, no matter what decisions either of us make in life, sounds good, but it’s hard sometimes, at least for me. (Matthew 5:16, Isaiah 45:2, Matthew 22:39-40)

In this day of active social media blasts, we have access to the reality of other people’s lives in real-time.  However, with anything in life it has its pros and cons.  I believe we must be careful with our comments and evaluate why we are reacting to the decisions of others as though it is life ending or cannot be altered or in such as way that we would not want to be on the reciprocating end of our own judgement.

Getting beyond the surface..

We begin to easily judge and form an opinion…

Expressed by: Cassandra Dennis

https://getting2therootofit.wordpress.com

Root:  a base or support; a primary source; an origin; an essential part or element.

When we see a tree that’s been uprooted for whatever reason, the many roots that were securing the tree in the ground are exposed. The roots unlike the trunk, branches and foliage of the tree aren’t pretty or uniquely designed; they are caked with mud, soil, insects and even the roots or vines of other nearby trees may have intertwined with that tree, but they serve a great purpose.  It is the roots of a tree that invades nearby areas to create a strong foundation for the trunk of a tree that may grow to over 100 feet tall and support the weight of several branches and foliage.  The roots are also responsible for feeding the tree with the nutrients from the surrounding environment.

Our lives as humans are like the tree.  How we were raised, our environment as a child and our experiences are our roots.  It is those roots that feed how we perceive or understand the words or actions of another human being.  It is those roots that mold who we are, how we respond verbally, physically and emotionally.

Sometimes the many details and distractions of life overwhelm us to the point that we bluntly address the surface issues of ourselves and others. We begin to easily judge and form an opinion (we all have and socially share one these days) about the actions or words of others, because we don’t want to take the time or energy it requires to address what’s below the surface; the beautiful or beastly ideas, disjointed, intertwined, unsubstantiated information, traditions and fears that fuel our thoughts, decisions, words and actions.

At some point in order to bring about continuous healing, growth and a renewed mindset to humanity as a whole we must:

  • decide to be transparent with each other
  • refocus our words, time, energy and love to find out what’s feeding our behavior
  • expose and address the root of the behavior
  • ask questions that helps us to evaluate and redirect the unhealthy behavior to a more positive mindset that will lead to productive behavior.

What’s below your surface that may be hindering you from healthy, productive, joyful relationships or from obtaining the goals you seek each year?  Get to the root of it with productive help from others.

 

It wasn’t clear, until…

…there was a season in my life that devastated me…

Expressed by:  Cassandra Dennis

As I have discussions with people, scroll through social media and read various articles and books I realize I am not the only one struggling with quitting.  I sit down in November or December of each year and I evaluate what I want to accomplish in the upcoming new year and kind of ignore what I didn’t put forth the effort to accomplish in the current year.  I have my list of goals, usually a duplicate of years gone by and become excited about the new me I will see in the mirror at the end of the next year.  On my list I have:

  • a better relationship with God goal,
  • of course I have my lose weight goal,
  • be debt free goal,
  • save money goal,
  • grow my business goal,
  • be a better wife goal,
  • travel goal, etc, etc.

For some of those goals I had a well thought out plan and some I kind of wing it.  So, are you able to guess how many goals I was able to accomplish in 2016?  I accomplished, 3 out of 10 of my goals.  Why?  Because I only put actual work and obtained knowledge and understanding behind the plans I laid out for  3 of my goals.  The others were my, I’ll wing it goals; so I gave up on many of those goals throughout 2016.

So as I sat down to evaluate where I am in my life, I realize somewhere along the way I began quitting many things I set out to do.  When and why did I become a quitter?  My inner core relationships know me as the “come back kid.”  No matter what life throws my way, I keep coming without hesitation.  However, there was a season in my life that devastated me, my divorce.   Maybe not the divorce (2009) by itself but the events (2007-2009) that led up to the divorce.  It really rocked my world and I let go of so many parts of my character that made me, me and helped me to function and accomplish my goals in my life.  Those around me could no longer count on me when I gave my word, heck, I couldn’t count on me.  For nine years, I began a cycle of quitting.  Other than working and focusing my attention on my grandbabies, I was not dependable for anything else.

This year in 2016, I got tired of being sick and tired and fearful, being a spectator of other peoples lives; so I made the decision to change my direction.  I stopped isolating myself, I began to step outside of my comfort zone, I purged some relationships, I surrounded myself with people who were seeking out their passions and acting upon them.  I incorporated new ways of doing things, took classes, served others, and leaned on my husband (marriage restored); all of this was through being obedient to the direction from the Holy Spirit and pushing past easy.

Out of the nine years of my quitting journey I learned:

  • Change requires decisions, sound decisions and actions.
  • I can desire the best out of life, but if I don’t plan and work the plan no matter how hard it gets to have the best, then I never truly desired the best.
  • Know me, know my gifts, seek to know and understand my passions.
  • Don’t compare my journey to someone else and don’t be distracted by the words or actions of others.
  • I must know what I want to achieve. I should not be vague, but be specific enough without being anal retentive in order to create and work a plan.  Does it involve training, a mentor, volunteers, a business plan, what’s the cost, etc?
  • I must be flexible, in case plan A doesn’t work or needs adjusting I need to have plans B, C, D, E & F already laid out to prevent me from entertaining the idea of quitting.
  • I must be willing to purge some unhealthy relationships.
  • Have inspirational quotes, stories, music and like minded people around me to encourage me to persevere no matter the challenge.
  • Most of all, by implementing the above items I have tools to combat the fear of failure.

My life during that time wasn’t clear until I made the decision to get to the root of why I became a quitter and became tired of existing.   This part of my journey led me to a path of truth and transparency.  It is that path that is unfolding opportunities and elevating a restored marriage.  Want to know more?  Keep checking in.

Truth and Transparency…

Man, I was a single parent with two boys to feed and clothe, I wasn’t trying to hear, “Cassandra, we’re going to have to let you go.”

 

Expressed by: Cassandra Dennis

Freedom…. free mindset, free thinking, freedom in the way I speak, free in how I raised my sons.  I even got fired a couple of times from a job, but I went back to work the next day like nothing happened.  Man, I was a single parent with two boys to feed and clothe, I wasn’t trying to hear, “Cassandra, we’re going to have to let you go.”  “Yeah, ok, see you tomorrow.”  I came and clocked in the next day and went on with my shift.  WOW, as I think back to the way I was in my early twenties and thirties, I have a longing for that younger me.  I was bold in my thinking, I lived in motion, there was no such thing as procrastination; if I thought it, I moved forward in accomplishing whatever “it” was.  Lack of sleep, lack of knowledge and lack of money did not hinder me in whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t dwell upon anyone’s opinion, nor did I seek it.  Why, because another persons opinion was irrelevant to the process of me accomplishing what was at hand.  Sooooo….. what happened?

Somewhere along the way my focus changed, I lost my way and I began seeking the opinion of others, and their opinions became the gospel for me.  Why?  At first I didn’t know.  However, as I began to reflect on my life during a period of several years I realized once my sons became young men and I had equipped them to seek God and care for themselves my focus and my drive was gone.  Everything I was previously doing I was doing for them.  So now the question I asked myself was, “Cassandra, who are you, what do you truly like, do you remember your dreams and do you have the unction to accomplish them for yourself?”  The answer was, “no!”

Even though I had not been married long, being married became a chore, so I made it into a project for me.  I began to mimic my parents marriage, tv show marriages and layered in the information from marriage ministry, where we served.  BIG BIG BIG mistake.  I taught myself to wear masks.  I sought the opinions of others and took their opinion of me and dissected myself down to a person I didn’t know and didn’t like.  So I created a walk-in closet of masks; and depending upon the occasion I wore the mask that allowed me to blend in and to become apart of the crowd. What a mess.

Well needless to say, my husband and I began having challenges in our marriage, infidelity, control issues, and so much more.  I spiraled into depression and fear became a big part of my life.  From that time up until this point, approximately 7 years, I’ve allowed fear to paralyze me from living in my purpose, including even seeking my purpose for living.  For the past three years I have slowly begun a sincere relationship with God and an honest relationship with myself.  I’ve gone through a purging of relationships, masks and emotional bondage, PAINFULLLL!!  But it is what it is, it’s life and life is a journey of good and bad experiences.  It’s how I decide to live out and share those experiences that allows me to empower others as I am empowered.

Is fear still there?  Of course, but I have made the decision to live a life of kinetic energy, in motion regardless what’s over the horizon.  This renewed me has new inspiration, bold dreams and the excitement to accomplish it all, with my husband and our family.  Keep your eyes open, some of what’s to be revealed may inspire you to inspire others.  PEACE…