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”

Women I Admire

I am SO excited to let ya’ll know that I’m bringing back the Rockstar Series! Founded in 2013 (and shamelessly neglected in 2014), the Rockstar Series featured interviews and stories from amazing women who live well while busy. It’s the best thing that ever happened to this little blog and I am SO excited to be bringing it back.

This time around, I’m broadening the scope a bit to include more elements of what it means to live well. We’ll hear about professional accomplishments, volunteer work, parenting, travel, overcoming adversity – you name it.

Look forward to stories from incredible women with different lifestyles across the country!

In the meantime, you can check out the original posts: one, two, three, four, five, six and seven. If you or someone you know is a Rockstar, let me know – I’m always up to meet brilliant humans.

 

 

 

 

 

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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):

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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.

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Coming up for air

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Summertime is here at last! I haven’t posted anything in almost a year, but summer means races, adventures, and day drinking in the sunshine. These most blog-able of subjects cannot be ignored. Stay tuned – fun things ahead!

In the meantime, I’ve updated my summer recommendations on the Arts & Culture and Happy Hour pages. Check ’em out!

How it all went down

What a week! I kid you not, I put in a title for this post and promptly fell asleep on the couch. So here’s to take two!

IMG_2009Last Saturday was my birthday, and it got off to a great – albeit rainy – start on the Brooklyn Half course. I joined some of my teammates from Brooklyn Tri Club, and some friends and families of runner buddies to give ALL the cowbell. My ears are still ringing – but it was worth it. Sadly, all of my beautiful posters melted in the rain, but they were fun while they lasted!

P.S. – If you need more cowbell, call me. I’ve gotcha covered.

Afterwards, Charlie and I did super exciting things like dropping off the bags full of clothes we don’t wear anymore at Goodwill, and getting the massive pile of old mail that’s been building up behind our couch since we moved in shredded at NYC ShredFest. I kid you not – I was SO jazzed to get that stuff out of our apartment. #win. I also got in a little birthday run before taking a power nap and getting ready to party.

IMG_2027Huge thanks go out to everyone who came out to help me celebrate last weekend – it was a blast to drink beers and eat carbs with you! If anyone’s in need of a casual venue that can accommodate a large group in Brooklyn, I highly recommend Die Koelner Bierhall. They were so good to us, and made it super easy for us to split checks and such. (My fave pic from the night is to the right.)

In addition, I’m immensely grateful for all of the fantastic donors who made a birthday donation to my fundraiser for Back on My Feet. Your generosity means the world to me, and will make a huge difference for Back on My Feet – thank you! For those of you who want to make a donation, you have until the NYC Triathlon on July 19th!

After a weekend full of festivities, I got to jump right into some professional development on Monday at the American Express Leadership Academy run by the Center for Creative Leadership. I was super skeptical about spending a week locked in a hotel convention center to learn how to be a better leader with a bunch of strangers, but it ended up being an INCREDIBLE experience. I’m still trying to process everything I learned, but I’m confident that my participation in the Academy is going to make me a better leader at the office – and I’m so thrilled to have met so many of my colleagues leading nonprofits across New York City.

I’m proud to say, that in spite of the insanely busy week – that included spending a few nights at a hotel – I got some solid workouts done this week. Nothing impressive, but I got them done. And thank goodness, because I’ve got my first race of the season NEXT weekend. How did that come up so quickly?!?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for next week. It’s my first international distance race, so it’s longer than any tri I’ve raced before, and I have to travel the night before since it’s on a Saturday morning. It’ll also be the first tri I’ll race in a wetsuit, so there’s an added complication to T1. So many things to worry about! But ya know what – I’ve worked pretty hard this year. I could definitely have worked harder, gone out a little less, and gotten up earlier more often, but I’ve been pretty committed. I’m sure I’ll improve throughout the season, but I have faith that I’ll be able to push out a solid race this weekend. Good juju and words of encouragement welcome!

Here’s to a productive taper week for me – and a wonderful week of whatever you’ve got on your plate! I’ll report back with a recap of my first international distance tri next weekend!