Rockstar Series 2016: A Woman of Substance

I am beyond excited to be reintroducing the Rockstar Series with the amazing Cindy Lou! She’s a badass professional lady, a wonderful friend, and frankly, something of a force of nature. She’s been cracking me up and inspiring me since 2010 and I’m so thrilled to get to introduce her to all of you!
When I asked her, “who are you?” for this blog post, she replied (among other things you’ll see below), “a woman of substance.” How freaking awesome is that? I imagine most of us strive to be women (or men) of substance, but it’s rarely the first thing that comes to mind. I was impressed that it was so central to Cindy Lou’s self-identity and that she could immediately articulate it  with beautiful simplicity. Since she’s clearly saying it better than I can, I’ll pass the reigns along. Meet Cindy Lou!

Cindy LouWho are you?
Hi! I’m Cindy-Lou. Who am I? I’m an intense, hilarious Afro-Caribbean woman of substance. Some may say I’m a workaholic but when I emerge from that telephone booth you get to see the X-Men/Avengers-loving bestie who’s always up for an adventure (and yes, I’m the friend in the group who’s always talking smack).

What’s important to you?
God and family (yes, I consider some friends family). I have been through many health challenges in my life and those two groups have always been my constant. My spiritual life and desire to be and do better has kept me from many “Madea” moments. Yes, I would love to have my own family and the perfect job ,and maybe one or two kids, but at this time in my life it is important to me to be the best human being that I can be, to love the people that I am blessed to have in my life, and to not waste time focusing on the materialistic or superficial.

I’m into complete well-being: mind, body and soul. Sometimes we allow stress to creep in and this leads to mental and physical imbalance. I truly believe that there is always a way to relieve stress and re-center ourselves so we can be at our peak.

What does a day in the life look like?
Ugh! I get up at 4:30 am and wonder, “Why, why, why?!” did I find a job that forces me to make a five hour daily commute IN NEW YORK! I try to get out of bed by the second alarm, but definitely before the fourth. I do some yoga stretches, and take some time to talk to my maker. While making breakfast I listen to ABC7 (I never leave home without checking the forecast for the day). Then I make and pack my lunch and snacks so I can have control over the things I eat during the day. I usually take either unsweetened applesauce, nuts, select fruit, popcorn or sometimes goldfish crackers. I prefer tiny meals throughout the day rather than a few large portions that  will only leave me lethargic.

After taking two trains and two buses I arrive at work in Long Island. I’m a theater program coordinator responsible for creating activities and workshops to accompany the performances we present or produce. This involves a lot of research, communicating with performers or agents, and the rare privilege of sneaking into rehearsals to get a better grasp of the performance. Recently, I have been going into schools to prepare students for their theatre visit.

I don’t get home until close to 8:00pm. I’ll have dinner, relax for a bit then push myself to do some aerobics before grabbing a shower and hitting the bed, excited to do it again tomorrow. Throughout the day I make time to speak to my sister in Trinidad and Tobago, and to my mom and other siblings on a weekly basis.

I must be honest and confess that I don’t always feel the urge to do any form of exercise by the end of my day, but I am committed to the goals I set for myself and work hard to achieve them.

You wrote a book a few years ago. What inspired you to write it? What do you want people to know about it?
Two years ago I wrote Finding Me: The Journey Continues and last year I started a face book page, Sistah With A Purpose. The book and page were created for the same purpose: to encourage others, especially women, on this journey called life. My sister will tell you I’m a magnet for chatty strangers. People will just start talking to me and sharing their ‘situations,’ so I always share words of encouragement.

I actually wrote the book while commuting to and from work, so I suppose something great came out that long commute. In this book I share my journey as a means of encouragement and to let everyone know. “Hey, we’ve all been through stuff, but we should never give up or stop pushing forward.” S.W.A.P (Sistah With A Purpose) serves to do the same in my own personal sassy way.

3) What do you do when you’re feeling stressed? What brings you peace?
When I’m feeling stressed I reach out to God first, in an effort to understand the lesson to be learned from those stressful situations. Then I reach out to one or two of the wonderful women of my inner circle. It’s always best to have someone with whom you can share your deepest secrets and inner most fears, someone to whom you are accountable. Everyone should have that one person who is both their cheerleader and drill sergeant at the same time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally to alleviate stress and refresh my inner peace, I seek out nature. I get myself to a body of water or park as fast as I can. This is one of the reasons I still live next to Prospect Park (Brooklyn) despite working in Long Island. There is something to being in nature. For me it puts things in perspective. My problems seem smaller when I think of this great big world and all the other things that are happening, especially in recent local and world events. I may take a walk around the park, just sit near the pond, or hop on a bus to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Water has zen qualities that just calm my soul. Who knows, I may have been a fish in another life!

Cindy Lou Two4) It’s hard to be a busy professional lady in NYC. How do you make it work, stay healthy and still have a social life?
It is indeed a circus trying to juggle your work and social life in NYC. My job and commute take up a lot of my time, but I have the most wonderful friends who remind me I need to socialize every now and again. I go to brunch, the movies, dinner, and social events/ concerts with my gal pals. There is no significant other at this time (believe me I have tried) but I am focusing on self awareness and growth at this point in my life.

As previously mentioned, I believe in holistic health: mind body and soul. I have struggled with my weight for most of my life, but I never let it consume me. It’s about loving the person you see in the mirror and enhancing what you’re working with (read my book). Confession is good for the soul too, so it’s time to admit: I have always loved aerobics. Billy Blanks’ workout videos to be specific. These videos allow me to work out without having to leave my apartment. I have dabbled with Zumba, but I always push myself more with Billy (and yes, we’re on a first name basis). When I’m not sweating in my apartment I hit the park for a couple laps. I have pushed myself to jog on occasion, but I love power walking.

I used to be a gym rat but after serious medical complications last year that left me hospitalized for over a week, I was forced to give up my membership on the long path to recovery. My doctors blamed gastroparesis for my visit and told me I would never be able to have a salad or raw foods again, including fruits and vegetables. I was forced to stick to a very restrictive diet, but daily I introduced new things into my diet and have now identified certain fruits and vegetables that don’t create problems for me. I continue to watch what I eat and take nothing for granted.

What’s one thing we haven’t covered that you want people to know?
With all the things that I juggle, I still find time to volunteer at my church. I’ve promised myself to have a listening ear to all who feel the desire to share, even strangers. I also strive to make a positive difference in the lives of all the young people with whom I come in contact. It feels good to do good. I know it sounds corny but it’s true. Try it and see!

Continue reading “Rockstar Series 2016: A Woman of Substance”

This time last year

Last summer my world went topsy turvy. I went through a breakup.

We all go through them, and as far as I can tell, they always suck. Even under the most copacetic of circumstances, breakups are hard. To get us all in the same headspace, I want you to go on a little journey with me. You in?

Think about the last time you had your heart broken – by a friend, lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, sibling, parent, whatever. Have that memory at the top of your mind? Does it ache a little bit just to think about it?

I’m sorry, that was kind of a cruel exercise. Here’s a cute picture of some kissing meerkats courtesy of the San Diego Zoo’s instagram (seriously, follow @sandiegozoo – too cute).

Meerkats by San Diego Zoo

In all seriousness though,  I think heartbreak is universal. I’ve had my share (as we all have), and it never gets easier. Each time a relationship is lost, it hurts all over again…even when you know it’s for the best. My first serious breakup wasn’t with a boyfriend, but rather with a best friend. I was devastated. I lost weight, partied harder than I should have, and actually ended up breaking someone else’s heart. (At the time, having two boyfriends seemed like a good way to protect myself from future heartbreak. Spoiler – it did NOT work. Lesson learned.)

Thankfully, I’ve grown up a little bit since then, and I think I’ve gotten much better at breakups. They’re not easier – actually, I think they get harder as you get older and life becomes more complex – but I’ve picked up some healthier coping strategies. One year after successfully surviving a breakup, I present the following tactics.

  1. Let yourself be sad. I think this is the hardest one of all. There’s a lot of pressure to be happy and be ok, but sometimes you’re not. This is going to suck. There’s just no way around it. I called in sick to work one day last fall just to cry it out with my Netflix account – months after my actual breakup. Emotions aren’t linear and there’s no right amount of time to mourn a relationship. Cancel plans if you need to. Take a break from being the life of the party. Cut yourself some slack and let yourself wallow…for awhile.
  2. Get help/access your support system. Feel all the sad, but if you’re feeling like you can’t go on, can’t pull yourself out of the funk, or are engaging in any kind of self harm (including risky behavior and negative self talk) – get some support! Whether it’s a friend, family member, or mental health professional, reach out – you’re not alone. In fact, even if you do know you’re going to be ok, reach out anyway. Lean on the other relationships in your life – everyone’s been there on some level. You might be surprised at how happy other people are to just be there for you.
  3. Set parameters for your relationship with your ex. Figure out how much contact you do or don’t want with this person. Draw the lines where you need them and respect the lines that the other person needs. It may feel weird, and it certainly won’t be easy, but defining those “lines” for yourself will make it much easier for both of you. Sure they will evolve over time, but check in and be clear about that evolution. Getting drunk and going home with an ex is not an “evolution,” it’s a recipe for disaster. Set parameters around social media too. Checking his facebook profile every hour isn’t going to help you move on with your life.
  4. Set non-relationship goals. Many of us get caught up in the narrative that we’re supposed to find the One, get married, and live happily ever after. When that doesn’t happen, it can feel like we’ve failed. News flash: You didn’t fail, and that narrative is kind of bullshit (and viciously propagated by our carefully curated social media lives). My antidote to failure (even though this is NOT failure), is a new goal. Please, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT make your goal about your love life. Pick a goal that requires only you. Maybe it’s a great time to learn Spanish, play the guitar, run a 5K, or knock it out of the park at work. If you’re super ambitious like me, your new goal will be to keep a house plant alive for a full year. Not even kidding. IMG_3455
  5. Make decisions about your life. While breakups are really shitty, they are a natural pivot point. It’s a good time to reflect and change the things in your life that aren’t bringing you joy. Don’t feel like you have to do it overnight, but be open to making big changes. I moved in with roommates post-breakup (truly awesome ones too!), but months later I was still uncomfortable in my new world. Over Thanksgiving, my parents suggested I get my own place. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but it was like a light bulb went off! I had put my life on hold because I felt so unmoored by the breakup. I was drifting along. Getting my own apartment – while a scary financial decision – felt like the stake in the ground of my life as an independent person. “This is my life, I belong here.” Don’t put off big decisions waiting for someone else to come along. Move abroad, adopt a dog, get your very own Costco membership- just stop waiting to decide until you get into a new relationship. The waiting will make you nuts, and you’ll have to consider what someone else wants. Embrace the freedom.

So that’s what I’ve got folks. That’s how I navigated the dark waters of my own breakup. It was tough, but I can honestly tell you that today I am in love with everything about my life. Yes, I am absolutely terrified of getting my heart broken again (that shit HURTS), but I’m more open than I’ve ever been. Every single time, the love, growth, strength and experience I’ve gained from opening my heart has been worth the pain of breaking it. I hope you’ve all felt the same.

Enough about me. What about you? Want to share your best advice on recovering from a broken heart? Want to share your breakup story? Hit me with some of that untapped wisdom!



I won something and I’m angry.

IMG_0006_2I raced my first tri of the season this past weekend, and it was fantastic. The weather was perfect (overcast), I enjoyed every minute, pushed myself to a level that still felt comfortable, and placed in my age group – a first for me! But today, I’m kind of pissed off.

I’d been doubting how prepared I was for this race because:

-I’ve only been working out about 4 times a week.
-I’m about 10 lbs over what I consider my “race weight.”
-I’ve been really down on myself about the way my body looks right now.

You see, I turned thirty a few weeks ago – which was a blast, and believe me I’m NOT worried about being thirty – but there were photos taken of me in a bathing suit and I was horrified.

Here’s a sample of the offending photos (full disclosure – this sh*t is not touched up):


On the left – my not so chiseled abs. These ones made me cringe a little.

On the right – my big bootie/thunder thigh connection in the full throes of the competing forces of gravity, momentum and muscle flex. I saw this pic, and felt absolutely mortified.

How f*cked up is that?

I have a body. It has fat on it. It also has muscle and skin and hair and is shaped differently from your body, or her body, or my friends’ bodies. Why do I feel badly about that?

Sometimes it’s a little heavier, sometimes it’s lighter. Sometimes it retains water because I’m having a good time celebrating. Sometimes it looks really svelte because I’m only putting great things in it. Sometimes it looks really svelte because I’m stressed and don’t feel like eating. One isn’t better than the other, it’s just the reality of living my life.

I’m a real person, living a really spectacular life. That means I’m not going to look like something in a magazine every time I take a picture.

So yeah, I’m pretty pissed that I KNOW all this – I know I’m strong and healthy and frankly, kind of a badass – and I still see a picture like this and feel bad.

TIMG_0011_2his is my stand. I’m so happy to see so many body positive messages and more body diversity in the media. It’s awesome. I genuinely hope that all the young women growing up today feel like their bodies are beautiful.

But this is for all the ladies in my generation. I know we all grew up feeling like we should be as waif-ish as Kate Moss. I know we all know better. I know we all still feel the pressure in spite of everything. We hit a tough time. We were raised in a world with increasing quantities of processed foods, a huge jump in rates of obesity and type II diabetes, yet the media presented us with an ideal that was desperately thin. I know my body’s never going to look like that of a 90s supermodel, but there is a part of me – however tiny – that will always wish that it did. I’m not proud of that, but it’s ok.

My imperfect body – second thigh/butt and all – is f*cking awesome. Yours is too. Whether you’re built like Kate Moss or Rosie O’Donnell, your body is awesome. Take care of it and try to love it as it is. I will too! Let’s be real – we’re worth a lot more than what we look like anyhow.

And oh yeah, here’s my big butt bringing home a third place finish.



The Places that Make Us

A little exposition: I wrote this post months ago and never went live with it, but it feels like a nice little tribute to Global Running Day, so you’re getting it now🙂

I’ve been thinking a lot about place lately. Places we’re from, places we live, places we go. I never thought I was particularly attached to places. In my parents house, there’s a framed piece of embroidery with the lyrics of Billy Joel’s You’re My Home: 

When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow
Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That’s all right, my love, ’cause you’re my home

It’s apropos, because when they were first married (and in the first few years of my life), they moved a lot. I don’t rIMG_2502emember most of our moves – actually the only one I remember was when we moved from Raleigh, NC to Bucks County, PA when I was 9 – but I’ve never associated home with a place. Home is where your people are. Simple.

But lately I’ve been thinking about how much place has shaped me. I might not be “Straight Outta” anywhere, but I don’t exist in a vacuum.

Since I don’t do things by halves, I decided to feed my fixation. So I visited some of my places. And I bought a book about places. And I mulled over the places I choose, and the places that chose me. Do you know what I figured out?

I’ve left pieces of my heart all over the place.

In the same way that you leave little pieces of your heart with your people – you can leave them in places too. And in the same way that you’re filled with joy when you see your people – you’re filled with joy when you’re in your places. Places have changed the shape of my heart.

Lucky for me, since I’ve been running for awhile, I’ve got miles and miles of places. I may not know where I picked up the 5 different weird accent elements that my family busts my balls about, and I may not belong in any one place, but I can always feel at home on my own two feet on an open road.

Challenge Accepted.

IMG_2115Hi friends! I have been the worst and raced two triathlons and made the switch from training to off-season without reporting back. Sorry! I’m still hopeful that I’ll pull together a NYC Tri race report for you before the summer’s up, but don’t hold your breath.

Frankly, it’s been a summer of total upheaval in my life and it’s left me with little time or inclination to write. My very long term relationship ended, which meant I had to move out of a place that I’ve considered home for the past few years and learn how to be an independent lady again. All changes for the best, but as you know, change is never easy.

But today I killed a giant water bug. All. by. my. self.

And I didn’t freak out about it or lose my shit.

Would it have been a whole lot nicer to be able to grab someone else to kill that sucker? Hell yea. Do I wish there was no bug at all, and I could carry on in my delusion that I found an apartment in NYC with absolutely no bugs? Uh, yes.  But it does feel pretty good to have done something that scares the bejeezus out of me (no matter how trivial). And so, I’m feeling pretty damn proud of myself.

I am a bug-killing, triathlon racing, early morning running, getting it done at work, badass grown lady.

While this summer has been one of the most challenging of my life, it’s also been one of the most gratifying. I’m learning what I’m capable of, how resilient I can be, and am consistently reminded that I have the world’s most amazing friends and family. (Seriously, I am SO, SO grateful for all of you – THANK YOU!)

I know I’m not alone here, so if you’re struggling out there, know that that you’re definitely not the only one, and if you need a listening ear, you know where to find me. Here’s to taking on new challenges, taking chances, and learning to be the very best version of ourselves!