Strong Women Today: Seen & Heard…

When you think of strong women in the world today who comes to mind? Serena Williams? Melinda Gates? Your mom? Your sister? Oprah Winfrey? Angela Merkel? Michelle Obama? Becky Hammon? If you don’t know them, look em’ up. Drop some knowledge on yourself.

If you follow the news at all, you know all about Serena Williams and what went down at the US Open. You might even be able to relate to a certain level of what she had to go through. And some of you will look at it and laugh it off as a female overreacting. Using the gender card or the race card, but the majority of it revolves around the fact that gender equality still isn’t where it needs to be and that men get away with much more than women do.

One of the things I’ve learned in these last few years is that many men are uncomfortable dealing with a strong woman. They aren’t used to them. They’re used to women pretending to be dumb to make men feel superior, playing the damsel in distress, the pretty faced bimbo. A lot of guys want to lead all the time and don’t want to follow. Their ego takes a hit. It’s a power struggle. This past year seems to be a year where I am very blunt and direct when it comes to people and men. It had me riding that line wondering if I’m being a b**** or if I’m just being honest? Because if you’re blunt and honest with guys that’s what they tend to classify you as. But why? ….Because you don’t let them walk all over you? Because you don’t give them what they want or act exactly as they prefer? Because you aren’t acting the way society claims a “lady” should act? Just handle everything with grace.

Be seen, but not heard? It could go on and on, evidence trickling from relationships to the workplace. Accept lower benefits or a salary than the man working next to you in the same job position. Put up with powerful males trying to take advantage of the women working beneath them. Men taking advantage of their power and position. Not all men of course, but more and more are being put into the spotlight within the past year.

SPORTS:

I know that in sports seeing a woman throw a fit out on the court is seen as them being childish and over the top. While men are out there in the refs’ faces, getting in fights, swearing, doing far worse than most women dare to. Not saying that’s the way to go, but the repercussions of each person doing it, are very different. For men, it’s accepted as a part of the game and maybe they get a fine or two every now and then. However, women are held to a different, quieter, more restricted standard. I don’t think the world is ready for this generation of strong women, but they better start preparing because one by one women are finding their voice and one by one we choose to put up with less nonsense every day in our fight for equality. Equal pay would be a good start. Equal rights is getting there. I will say that equality is better than it once was, but it still has a long way to go. And as history shows time and time again, we need people who are willing to push against the barriers we have in place, in order to make progress towards something better. We need people to question the present in order to open ourselves up to a better future. A special thank you to the female professionals who are opening doors for the rest of us and future generations to come.

DATING:

One thing I want to set straight in the dating world today is that it’s not that strong women have attitudes, it’s that they have standards. You hear all the time that you teach other people how to treat you. What you allow is what will continue. “Strong women intimidate boys and excite men.” That’s a fact, my friends. It’s okay to know what you want and not be considered a b****. It’s strong women that help boys turn into men. It’s those women that challenge men to do better, to be better. They are the women who push their man to go after his goals and do all the little things behind the scene. Strong women challenge the people around them to be better and stick up for the people that can’t or haven’t learned to do it for themselves.

This past year and half has made me tired of being surrounded by boys calling themselves men. It also makes me appreciate the men that do live up to the name, but I’m tired of guys disrespecting women because that’s what they’ve gotten away with for so long. I’m annoyed that boys think, “Wyd?” is an acceptable conversation starter or that only sending invites to hang after 9 pm isn’t a slight slap in the face. That if you have a girlfriend, no… I do not want to “talk to you and see where it goes” just because you enjoy hanging with me. No, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. That’s not how it is “supposed” to work….but, that’s what it’s become. We’ve let those little/big things slide and in doing so we created a new, lower standard for so many young women growing up today. I was told a few months ago that I need to be nicer to men. I thought about it, but decided that no, I do not. Could be why I’m single, but I don’t think women should have to put up with some of the nonsense guys throw at them. I fully believe that sometimes they need to be called on it. How else are they going to grow and know how to treat the next lady in line? Ladies, don’t be afraid to be vocal. Your voice deserves to be heard, too. Strong is the new single. Be proud you’re an intelligent, outspoken woman that will find a MAN who’s not threatened by it.

FRIENDSHIPS:

Who is your TRIBE? …..Two of my former ISU WBB ladies, Lyndsey Fennelly & Kelsey Carper, own an indoor cycle studio called CampusCycle over in Ames/Ankeny, IA. Their business morale is built around creating an environment that empowers, inspires, motivates, and builds their community and its members up. They call it their TRIBE. It’s not just for women, but I thought it tied in well with this and was worth the recognition.

Strong women lift each other up. They empower each other. Strong women surround themselves with other women who make them a better person. They surround themselves with women who challenge them, women who are there for them when they need a boost. Strong women learn from other strong women. My other former ISU teammate/friend, Allison Lacey has a website dedicated to empowering women. It is broken into 3 different sections: KNOWING strong women, BEING a strong woman, and RAISING your daughters to be strong women. For any of you who haven’t checked it out already, I also highly recommend doing so! It’s called KNOW.BE.RAISE. I’ll include the link to it and Campus Cycle at the bottom of this page. (And if you haven’t noticed by now, the ISU WBB program produces some pretty BADASS women 😉 Coincidence? Or maybe its the standards we were held to/high expectations of some quality coaches that helped shape us a tiny bit. Idk.)

But for all my ladies out there stop gossiping and spreading rumors. Stop tearing other women down for being different, having a different body shape, or wanting something different for their lives than you do. Stop throwing shade at the women you should be sharing your LIGHT with and in doing so, you give them permission to let their LIGHT shine and burn brighter too. A candle loses nothing by lighting another. Who is in YOUR tribe? Who helps you burn brighter? Who helps you tear down those glass ceilings?

What I really wanted to say is, don’t be afraid to be a strong woman in the world today. Give yourself a voice and stand by your morals and what you believe. Break barriers. Ask questions. Raise each other up. Voice your opinion. Create new standards and opportunities for our young women growing up in the world today. Help blaze the way for a better, more equal tomorrow. Because the world needs a little more good to outshine the bad.

Be POWERFUL. Be STRONG. Be KIND. Be YOU.

Check out KNOW.BE.RAISE & CampusCycle in links below:

KNOW.BE.RAISE- Alison Lacey-Otzelberger

CampusCycle – Lyndsey Fennelly & Kelsey Carper

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The “Pain” Behind Those Carefully Masked Replies….

I’m going to take this time to dig into myself, be a little vulnerable, and write down some my past heartaches and my hurts. It seems so distant, yet so current. That dull empty feeling, I want to call it hurt and I want to call it pain, but those don’t quite describe feelings of such disappointed, so raw, so hallow, yet still healing from bleeding out. Bleeding out. What a funny phrase created for something so physical, yet so vivid in a metaphorical sense. Pain is a word describing something felt. It’s not actually something you can see … or so they say. It’s a chemical reaction from stimuli sent to nerves, firing to the brain letting it know there’s an injury or potential problem. But what about the pain that comes from heartache? What about that pain that is invisible inside you and your mind, but is an unbearable heavy weight you feel daily? What about that pain of depression? Anxiety? Sadness? Hey, even too much happiness can be overwhelming some times because we don’t always know what to do with it (aka “tears of joy”).

If you pay enough attention, you can see pain written on the faces of those around you. If you look close enough, you can see them “bleeding out”. From the moments you see them closing their eyes taking deep breaths. To the dull look in their eye that seems to fade a little bit more each day. That sparkle that stops twinkling. A bleeding out with every action that goes unnoticed or even intentionally ignored. Every twitch. That sad look in their eye as they reply “good” to your “how you doing today?” That robotic default answer everyone gives no matter what, because to say “not good” requires an explanation most might not want to listen to. Or even worse that awkward silence where they have to care enough to ask why? It’s an easy thing to do, it’s easy, yet incredibly hard going through our days giving these robotic answers to avoid these encounters of “caring” because those negative feelings are frowned upon or it’s inconvenient to listen to other people’s problems when we already have our own.

You ever go through those phases where something or someone took the life out of you? Where you dread going to sleep because you dread waking up and doing it all over again? Where every time you open your eyes in the morning it hurts all over again. Waking up from a numbness and light and pain flooding you again as reality hits you. Someone did this to me before or maybe I technically did it to myself. Someone made me, gave me that push to just go numb. They made me feel so much, I felt nothing at all. I laugh now at it, because I drove all the way back from Florida last year to be home with those I love and who truly care about me. I was holding in a lot and I remember just wanting to be held. Just wanting a hug from someone who loved and cared about me. I remember just looking at my dad and saying as tears flooded down my cheeks that I just needed a hug and he didn’t hesitate. It was long enough to make me feel better, yet not long enough to get awkward. Lol And.. that’s all I needed. I explained why I needed it and we joked about guys and stupid stuff. And I can honestly say that I never cried over that guy again since then, but what I realized after that was how blessed I am to have a Dad and even a family who I can be 100% me with. Who I can tell when I am hurting. Tell when I need a hug. Can cry in front of. Can laugh about those things and laugh those tears of “pain” out with, that I’d been holding in for so long.

It’s a huge release of pressure, when you can lay your guard down after you’ve had to hold it up on your own for so long. Who you fight your battles with matters. I now understand the phrase “That’s someone I’d go into battle with”. Because life is a battle. How you get through it depends on the people armored up beside you ready to take it on. I find myself filled with so much love whenever I’m around my family whether they be immediate or my amazingly huge extended family, because I know they’re the people that would go into battle with me and me them. My amazing, big hearted mom would bake me any emotionally driven food item I wanted before I could get “I’m on a diet” out of my mouth and I’d probably still eat it. My aunts would be on the phone with me in a jiffy if I needed them for anything. They’re at the foundation of ME and they’ll always have my back. They’re the people I can show my weaknesses to and they won’t use them against me unless it’s at a family gathering and the “jokes” start coming out. Then it’s all fair game because that’s how family works. Lol We find a way to laugh at the good and the bad (even at each others expense) because we can’t imagine a life without a bit of laugher in the face of it all.

I actually wrote this piece a long time ago, but I’m posting it now to challenge you look a little closer at the battles others might be fighting behind that mask they put on for every day wear. Behind that falsely layered response of “I’m good”. Be a little nicer, care a little more, see the little things unseen because life isn’t all Instagram or Facebook “Posts” to be and everyone’s just trying to get through life a little less damaged than what is already promised. Also, I don’t know about you but I really appreciate it when people notice the little things. It makes things easier when you know you have a few big hearted people out there willing to care a little extra and listen to you more than what’s “convenient”. Like the topic of a sermon I recently listened to talking about how we should to allow ourselves to be DISTURBED. It really made me take a look at how I go about my days and my interaction with others. Go out of your way; Give some love and you’ll more than likely find yourself receiving plenty of it in return. ❤

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

1 John 3:17

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:4

Faith, Family, Basketball… In that Order…

My Swedish adventure is over. First stop back to the states was Gainesville, FL to finish up my 4th term of my MBA program through UF. Second stop, home. Third stop coming up, Australia. When I began this basketball journey I gave myself 3 years. I never thought I’d still be playing, but hey, you love what you love. Though it is a love-hate relationship. Throughout it all I’ve had my ups and downs with all my knee operations, natural disasters, mental trials, living alone in a different country, time away from my family, etc. etc. I love being good at this game I love, but in my time chasing… wait I think I can say living this dream by now; my relationship with it has changed in 3 pretty important ways:

  • First way it’s changed is my perspective and respect for it. As many of you already have come to realize, as you grow up you learn to value your time with your loved ones more than before. Nowadays I can say I miss my time spent with my family more now than ever. That could also be because I have a few, pretty darn cute, entertaining nephews and a little princess beast of a niece who I feel like I’m missing out on while they grow up. I guess you could say I miss their parents/grandparents too from time to time, but mainly those lil beastlings. Haha jk But seriously, when you’re young, exploring the world, and trying to establish your independence, you place less importance on your time spent with your family. As you get older you realize all the love and valuable time you’re missing out on with every second spend away from them. Priorities change, as you grow. Don’t get me wrong, I do still love basketball, but I do also question when I will give it up to enjoy those little ones before it’s too late and they’re all grown up. Before I look back wishing I was around more.
  • Second way it’s changed is my approach towards it is different. My mentality has gone from that stubborn minded, bull headed, play through any/all pain athlete to a more smart-minded, big picture viewing professional. I pay attention to how much I push my body and when it’s telling me I need rest. I’ve had to learn to stand my ground with coaches when they want me to practice or play but my body is telling me no. It’s like pushing a car to drive with no oil. You do more damage than you realize, no matter how badly you want it to work. Your body needs maintenance too. What most people don’t realize is that basketball at this level is a business. Coaches and clubs try to get everything they can out of us. That’s their job as the employer but they will try to squeeze what they can out of you. They paid for a player and they expect to get their money’s worth, but like any piece of machinery, we can break down unexpectedly. We have to learn to walk that fine line between being an athlete wanting to earn our keep, wanting to play, and realizing that our body is our only tool for the career we’ve chosen. Once it’s broken or all used up it’s done. We have to learn that we’re the only ones that are going to take care of our body the way it needs to be taken care of and we have to be smart about it. Learn to rest. Learn to say no. Learn that ball is only life.. until it’s not.
  • Lastly and most importantly, I’ve learned where my career belongs on my priority list. I’ve learned to let basketball take a backseat to my relationship with God. I believe I got knocked down a few times these past few years to be able to see if from a different point of view. Maybe I needed to be humbled a bit. Sometimes we go through the motions of our faith and we don’t realize when exactly we placed God in the backseat. Many of us begin to idolize certain things in our life without realizing it. We get so caught up in our jobs, that promotion, school, running around trying to keep our busy lives together all while let Him fall through the cracks. Maybe we start valuing our Saturday nights out on the town drinking more than we do making it to church the next day. Maybe we fall into a spiral of doing those things that make us feel good but aren’t actually good for us. I think that in the beginning of my career, I let my relationship with Him take that back seat. Basketball became my idol for while; it was my dream. It was that think I wanted more than anything. I got a taste of the WNBA, success, accomplishment, money, and I was putting more energy into that dream than I was into my relationship with God. I was showing more love to that basketball/the plans I had for my life, than I was showing to the man who died for my sins. And sometimes He just has to put His hand on us and tell us to sit down. Like Kendrick Lamar says: “Be Humble… Sit Down.” Lol 😉

On my mission trip to the Ivory Coast last summer we spoke about how easy it is as athletes to begin idolizing our sport. Identifying a huge part of ourselves as “athletes” and when reality hits us and we have to hang up that jersey for a different uniform, it hits us hard. We have to begin learning that there’s more to us than just the sport we worked so hard at. We have to learn that our identity as an “athlete” is a much smaller part of who we are than we thought. I’ve learned that basketball isn’t WHO I am, but it is a big part of who I’ve become. Having that ball ripped from me time and time again was God helping me get my priorities straight. He doesn’t want to be 2nd, 3rd, or anything less. He wants to be #1, because unlike my time as an athlete or your time with that job, hobby, other thing you put so much into, He is everlasting.

So what I’ve personally come to realize, is that ball isn’t actually life… even though it’s a big part of it and what I love doing. I mean, it is my career …but at the end of the day, beginning of the day, and throughout the entire day… God is life. Family is Life. And the love that comes along with realizing that, is worth more than anything else in the world. So while I’m still pursuing my dream, my priorities and my perspective has changed dramatically from when I first started. I haven’t been able to get in the zone and come up with a solid blog for a while, but this is just what came to mind as I tried forcing myself to put a little something on paper. My relationship with God and this sport, the reprioritizing of what’s important to me, and the ability to see the bigger picture beyond what’s directly in front of me.

Faith… Family… Basketball… In that order… ❤

 

Because this is what happens when you’re not around for family vacations…

You get voted off the island and they take cute family photos without you… cool guys…

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Let Yourself Breathe…

Sometimes life hits you hard. Then it hits you again, but maybe not exactly a quick jab. Maybe the next swing is like a punishment drug out. Because you refused to let go of something not good for you. Like water skiing when you’re holding on to the rope too long after you’ve already lost control. Swallowing water and getting drug around, a hurt of your own doing. And then you come up for air, but you’re trying to catch your breath, trying to recover. Finding yourself in the middle of the crash zone. That place where all the waves break coming to shore. A short lived moment of safety, only to find yourself taken out by another massive wave crashing down. Held under and having to hold your breath just a little too long. The waves crashing down as you struggle to get back to calm waters. Somewhere in the middle of it all you lost your breath struggling to stay afloat…

Sometimes life happens to us like that and we find ourselves holding our breath; bracing ourselves for another impact. And we’ve had to hold our breath for so long, we forget to let ourselves breath. They say good things come in threes, but I kind of believe bad things do too. Lol A few things happened in the last 7 months that I think in a way knocked the wind out of me. Had me holding my breath waiting for what was next. Starting with surviving in Puerto Rico after two CAT 5 hurricanes destroyed the island, to some personal things that were drug out too long, and then a pretty miserable experience in Lebanon that had me stressfully getting 3 hours of sleep each night. Not because I was unsafe, but because my intuition was screaming at me that I wasn’t in a good situation. I was in that “crash zone” and Sweden turned out to be those calm waters I was trying to reach.

I write this because I found myself smiling for no reason again and laughing at little things that brought me more joy than they probably should. From walking home after having dinner with my adopted Swedish grandparents, to leaving my church and friends there in Stockholm on Sunday. To walking to our gym looking up at the sky, watching the thick snowflakes fall down. In the middle of taking one of those really good, deep, fill your lungs to the brim breaths, I realized just how long I’d been holding my breath. Not realizing it or what I’d been bracing myself for. But, I was finally letting myself BREATHE!

I think sometimes life hits us hard and seems to keep coming back for more. We sit there waiting for that storm to be over. For the next wave to hit. Often times, forgetting to breath. Living life on the defense instead of taking offense. Sometimes it’s from shock and we take a little extra time to assess the damage done and collect ourselves. But LET yourself breathe again. Let yourself take the freshest breath of air you’ve ever taken and savor it slowly. Get back up. Take control of your life. Control the controllable. Appreciate the little things. Take a moment to see clearly and to take a closer look at the beauty surrounding you. All the beauty that was there the entire time, but was drowned out by all the noise. It’s in that calm after the storm where you start to hear birds chirping again. It’s simply where things restart … or continue going… whatever you choose to see it as.

This blog is the product of just another moment where I’m reminded that it takes your silence to appreciate the sound of your own, genuine laughter over something so simple. It takes darkness to appreciate the light. Being alone to appreciate the company of good people. It takes all those forced, fake smiles to FEEL the fullness of the real ones. It takes losing your breath to realize just how often you took the simple act of breathing for granted. All of that, just to be reminded over and over that your life is fuller than you realize.

Just a little reminder to take a look around and notice. Take a look around and let yourself breathe. Xx

Sweden & a Little Perspective on the Price We Pay as Pro-Athletes Abroad…

I am officially in Sweden playing for the team called Telge, in Södertalje, Sweden. It’s pretty much a complete 180 from my situation in Lebanon. I have a cute little apartment with actual space to move around and a kitchen! Oh the little luxuries… The team’s gym has 6 courts, we have our own locker room, a sauna, and the weight room all in one place. We also get free gear, are Adidas sponsored, and receive massages/treatment the day after games. I real-life felt like I was an orphan they adopted from a 3rd world country (though not literally) when I first got here. Beirut outside of my specific situation was good, but I was just SOO happy to be in this situation here in Sweden. They would apologize about stuff that was completely irrelevant to me. Such as, apologizing that my apartment wasn’t the absolute best. That they didn’t have my practice gear ready or have a water bottle for me. I looked at them like “You can seriously save your apologizes, I’m just happy to be here. “ haha

Anyone who has played overseas understands that it is nothing of the discipline, organization, or professionalism college was. In Poland I slept on an uncomfortable couch made into a bed the entire 4 months (my back killing me) and good medical treatment was hard to come by. Sometimes you don’t even have a trainer to treat injuries or tape your ankles before games. In Lebanon, we had no practice gear, no treatment, and no real access to a decent gym. It was in no way a professional, organized situation. If we wanted shots we could go to this sub-par gym with slippery, rubber floor, loose rims, and broken nets. We maybe, practiced 3x a week which consisted mostly of less than mediocre scrimmaging. If I was just playing recreationally this would be fine but at a professional level, when it’s your job, it’s not a good situation to rise in. Luckily, I’m no longer there.

I’ve played 2 games since being here. We’ve won both. First game, I got MVP with 23 points/13rbs the first game. Second game, I was 18 pts and 10 rbs. Our team has a lot of potential and so many fantastic shooters, but hasn’t had a real post player all season. So it’s a learning curve on building that chemistry and changing mindsets to utilize me. We will be fine though. Everyone is friendly and positive, which is a nice environment to be around and play the game I love in again. I’m blessed to be in the situation I am now, surrounded by good people and like I’ve said before it takes bad experiences to appreciate the good ones all that much more.

ON A SIDE NOTE..  

I know so many people who wish they could play pro ball overseas. They see it as this amazing “dream” and like it’s a life of luxury. Yes, we get paid to see and experience the world. We get to do a lot of things other people could never dream of doing. We get to be fully immersed in the culture and get paid to play the sport so many people love. We get to delay the inevitable curse of growing up and “adulting”. But I want you to understand that that experience and lifestyle comes at a cost. We pay for it through our relationships with friends and family. We pay for it through a lot of time spent alone in a new country, where we are literally all we got. We pay for it through family time spent mostly FaceTiming our nieces/nephews so they don’t forget us while they grow up without us around. We pay for it on lonely nights abroad, becoming game-masters of Netflix wishing we had good, loving people to come home to every night. Wishing we had people physically present who truly, honestly cared about us and actually know us on that level. We pay for it through long-distance relationships that struggle to survive the 6-8 months in an entirely different time-zone. Through blood, sweat, tears, and occasionally physical injury, we pay. One way or another we pay for the decisions we make on the lifestyle we choose to live. It’s important to me to let you know, we pay. We take the good with the bad.

Sometimes the sacrifice is playing in a country with a terrible league where most players don’t share same level of basketball IQ as what we’re used to. Many players have to make the hard decision to either make more money playing in a bad league with bad basketball or play in a good league for less money. The lucky ones are able to make it in to a country with both, but those are the players who have been able to create a reputation for themselves while remaining healthy. We sacrifice our quality of life and sometimes our happiness in order to make a good amount of money in a short time. Or we accept the Goodwill version of the game we love and grind through all while knowing what quality basketball looks life and feels like. The game we fell in love with and chose as our career, watered down. Like nails on a chalkboard, because we know what “flow”, chemistry, discipline, and great clockwork basketball “IQ” looks like.

For women, we already make less than what men make and are put in worse situations than most male players. Men seem to have it better in the quality of what they receive, the way they are treated, and money they get for playing abroad. Though, I know plenty of guys who have seen some pretty terrible situations too, but women get the short end of the stick on this one 99% of the time.

We face a lifestyle that isn’t exactly the “norm”. It’s not the popular route for women because we’re supposed to find a partner, get married, get a good job, and start a family. Most of the women in this line of work don’t follow that or aren’t able to do it well and are forced to retire. Many men have wives and kids they leave back in the states while they play. Some are lucky enough to take them along, but it’s still a difficult life to live for everyone involved. My friends talk about how hard it is to not be with their kids while they’re gone. The sacrifice to play professional basketball abroad isn’t a light one, by any means.

Most people don’t realize what we sacrifice in order to follow our dreams. We risk our health, our relationships, our finances, our families, often times our sanity in order to keep clawing after and doing what we love. We sometimes float around during the summer months not knowing where our next job will be or when. People ask us over and over what’s next and us not having a good answer for them. Players get called up one night and told they have 2 days to pack up and be on the next plane out of town. It’s not a lifestyle for everyone. In a way, it’s a gypsy lifestyle. I write all of this, not to say our lifestyle is harder than others but to give you perspective. To show you that in every decision, a sacrifice is made. Not everything is as it seems. Not everyone is as they seem. Just something to chew on, from someone standing in a different pair of shoes.

For now, I’m just thankful I have been placed in a good situation, with decent basketball, and good people. I made a hard decision, to be in a place where I could be happy and where the quality of life is 100x better than the situation I was in before in Lebanon. Asking for my release wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. From the month spent in Puerto Rico due to the hurricanes, to my situation in Lebanon, I was tired of just simply “surviving”. I wanted to actually do more than exist and be able to begin enjoying it all again. Find my vibrant self, back again. So here I am… Ready to start exploring, start enjoying, and start living again… Simply enjoying where I’m at .. right .. now…

#StillBlessed 😉

“If you can’t sacrifice for your dream… then it’s not your dream.”

“In order to become the 1%, you must do what the other 99% wont.”

“Everyone wants success, until they see what it takes to get it.”

Take a Step Outside…

Since I’ve gone MIA for a bit I figured I should throw an update out there to catch people up on my adventures. I am currently living in Beirut, Lebanon. From what I’m told, the night life here is great and the food is spectacular. So far I’ve managed to make my daily home base a café right down the road called “HOOK” where I’ve made friends with the owner and her family. The area I’m living in is very much a residential community where people park wherever they can find an empty few feet of space and I’m sure a few dozen people get hit by cars on the daily because the lack of sidewalks. It’s definitely a different world but the people are very nice. A few blocks down the way is a more ritzy area where there’s a great social scene. A few low key bars and nice restaurants to eat out at, mostly by myself. Haha One thing I’ve learned traveling, living in a foreign country, and trying to get the most out of every place I visit is to not be afraid to go out and do things alone. Not everyone is as eager to fully immerse themselves in it and some people are just here to play ball and get paid. I find that a bit sad, but to each their own. Not everyone gets this opportunity to get paid to experience the world and not everyone will get to live somewhere completely out of their comfort zone like we do. The other day I went out and had a glass of wine and devoured an entire pizza while onlookers watched me enjoy my table for one and be the fatty my momma raised me to be. Corn fed and Iowa Bred. I won’t lie though, I was initially nervous because I had never been to the Middle East and because of all the tension over here. But Beirut isn’t at all like I imagined and hasn’t in any way made me feel uncomfortable living here. Even though my tall, Amazonian, ginger self gets stared down literally everywhere I go.  I kind of stand out just a wee bit.

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I wouldn’t say my living accommodations are spectacular at the moment but I’m just accepting where I am and working with what I got. On a positive note, I’ve only been electrocuted about 3 times since being here. One while trying to use the washer and another while trying to use my stovetop. Lebanon is already trying to kill me. Lol But overall, I’m not high maintenance and I’ve become very good at adapting to my surroundings. We don’t have a car so our teammates pick up the other Americans and I for practice daily. Which also means I do a lot of walking if I want to go anywhere somewhat close to me. It’s okay I could use the extra exercise and work through all my untapped reserves from not playing consistently for a while. We’ve played two games so far and lost both of them. One of them was to the top team in Lebanon but the other should’ve been easily won. I however wasn’t making anything for the life of me besides 3’s the first game. Makes sense right? Lol The further out you get the more accurate your shot becomes? The second game I played much better but not well enough to pull out a W. It can only go up from here though after every game my body feels like it got hit by a truck. I definitely do not bounce back as well as I could in my college days of taking charges and running around with an endless motor of energy. I’ve been living in compression tights, a knee brace on for walking around, and ice bags strapped to me since day 1 of practice. Haha

My sleep schedule has yet to become regular. It doesn’t help that the other Americans go to sleep at like 3 or 4 AM every night. The first week I was sleeping mostly during the day and awake for most the night. The last few days I’ve had a sort of insomnia and averaged about 3 hours of sleep per night. One would think I would be super productive with all this time but you’d be wrong. Still adjusting. I’m getting better though. I spend my days doing schoolwork at a coffee shop and nights practicing or working out. But boy did I miss this, getting paid to play basketball and have the freedom to explore the world. I get to dedicate my time to learning and investing in myself in the areas I value the most. What more can a girl ask for? J

For now, I’m just enjoying where I’m at and learning from where I’ve been. New year, New you. Not the same girl I started off as at the beginning of this long basketball journey but boy have I learned a lot. If you ever get the chance, step outside your comfort zone. Hang with people you don’t normally hang with. Experience a new restaurant, coffee shop, fun activity, event, or bar. Learn a different language or travel to a different country. What you know, where you’re from, and who you are, is just a speck of what this world is made up of. The world is bigger than you; so take a risk, take a chance, and step outside… I promise you won’t regret it.

Dare To Do More Than Dream…

Anyone who knows me knows that my journey hasn’t been the easiest, nor has it been the hardest anyone’s ever experienced. I’ve been through the ringer in the pursuit of my dreams and still pending…

The funny thing about DREAMS is that a lot of times we are looking at those who are already living their dream, but we don’t see the journey it took them to get there. We don’t see the tears, the blood, the sweat, and often times the unfair, broken moments crashing down around them. We don’t feel  the lonely nights choosing not to do what everyone else does in order to stay on track. We don’t feel the pain, the disappointment, the frustration, the heartache that made the fact that they actually made it happen that much more impressive. We don’t always get to see, read about, or understand the DNA of other’s successes.

For many, a dream is just that… a DREAM. Something unattainable. Something you go to sleep for, so you can fantasize about. Waking in the morning; crashing back to reality. Back to that mundane job you hate with coworkers who don’t want to be there either. Back to that weekly routine of waiting for the weekend. That 9-5 grind on repeat. Something that only those lucky individuals you read about or watch on TV are blessed to be living. Something other people do or live. Like they were “dropped” into that role or won the lottery for it. Praying for that miracle life to be sprung on you.

In my opinion, too many people are just “dreaming” and not “doing”.

Ask yourself: What makes you happy? What motivates you? What kind of change do you want to make in this world? What kind of impact do you want to make in your short lifespan? How do you really want to live it? What kind of work are you willing to put in to get it?

Dreams are meant to be chased. Dreams are meant to be clawed after. Dreams are meant to take pieces, take chunks out of you along the way. Dreams take work! It’s your dream, so why shouldn’t it take parts of you and your time to fuel, to create it?! They say nothing good ever came easy. I believe it.

The pursuit of my dream has broken me physically and mentally. It has tried me over and over again. Most recently, it has put me through not one, but TWO Category 5 hurricanes playing in Puerto Rico. It has left me lonely, staring at the ceiling of a gym at 3 AM wondering what I was even doing. Asking myself, “What am I thinking for daring to dream something so BIG, that at times feels unreachable?” It’s created a lifestyle where having a real meaningful relationship with anyone worthwhile is nearly impossible. Again, staring at the ceiling in a foreign country, where I’m all I have, wondering what’s wrong with me? Taking me to the darkest parts of myself with every knee operation on my resume. It’s left me bawling my eyes out alone in my cold Poland apartment, knee swollen in unbearable pain and heartache knowing another surgery awaited me after a 28+ hour travel day back home. It’s driven me to push my family and my friends away at times so I could bask alone in the crappiness of it all, knowing I’m the only one who understood the heartache I felt. The only one who could see the details unseen or read the language of the pain inside my soul. It’s taken pieces of me inside and out and at times, without meaning to, from those around me as well..

I’m nowhere close to achieving my dream but I do know I’m closer than I would be sitting on my ass dreaming of reaching a destination without the ambition to get in the car and drive. Basketball isn’t my life but it has given me a platform and the confidence to share my struggles with others. It’s given me the ability to help others and motivate young minds. In a way, I guess I’m already living my dream.

In my silence, I found my voice…

In my breaking, I found my making…

In losing myself, I found myself…

In my journey, I found my dream…

The struggle is a part of the dream process. Your steps are the keys pressed down to make the notes, creating the music to the masterpiece of your life.

The question is: How much of that masterpiece are you willing to write? How much are you willing to fail? How much are you willing to fall apart, only to put barely put yourself back together again and again and again?

Dare to DREAM! Dare to claw after them and make them a reality! It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be fast. It’s not going to be instant gratification. You have to climb to get to the top of that mountain. Ever notice that books are written about and movies are made about those people who faced adversity and overcame it? Those are the stories we like to hear. Those are the people who have the best stories and those same people were dreamers once too. Don’t settle to be less of the person you’re capable of being! Whether you would love to open a business, succeed as an athlete, graduate from college, or even just to live your life you want! Make those steps. Get up and start walking! Start working! Just simply START! Wake up from that fantasy every damn day and start living into your dream, until it starts to become your reality. You’re capable of so much more! You’re capable of more than just simply sitting around dreaming.

Start “Doing”…