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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Look to You

I read my morning meditation from God Calling as I listened to one of my favorite songs this month- I Look to You by Whitney Houston . The song is beautiful and resonates even more with today's meditation. Enjoy my friends and be blessed.

I Touch Your Arm
Thy touch has still its ancient Power

Yes! when you are quiet before Me I lay My Hand upon each head, and Divine Spirit flows through that healing, powerful Touch into your very beings. Wait in silence before Me to feel that.

When you look to Me for guidance My Hand is laid upon your arm, a gentle Touch to point the way. When in mental, physical or spiritual weakness you cry to Me for healing, My Touch brings Strength and Healing, the renewal of your youth, the power to climb and strive.

When you faint by the way, and stumbling footsteps show human strength is waning, My Touch of the Strong and Helping Hand supports you on your Way.

Yes! My children, My Touch has still its ancient Power, and that Power is promised to you. So go forward into the future bravely, and unafraid.

Monday, June 15, 2009

the evolution will be televised triathlon will be televised two months after my race. however, don't feel compelled to watch. my goal is to get through this thing somewhere in the middle of the pack and come out alive. just in case i look like a monkey clamoring for water in the desert, you may want to find other things to do that afternoon. :-)

although, i have no idea how i will perform during the race, i do feel good about the discipline i've developed while training. i'm a better swimmer, cyclist, runner and overall athlete. actually, i've never been much of a cyclist prior to this training and outside of leisure bike rides in the park. at any rate, i'm probably in the best shape of my life and i believe i'm stronger mentally & spiritually too. there are days- like last week- where i have not had the interest, will or mindset to train but i did. i rode over 14 miles on monday (with the encouragement from latoya) despite feeling a bit sluggish. i swam 50 laps on tuesday despite not really feeling like having my head under water. wednesday at 7pm(thanks to melissa texting me), i awoke from a half an hour nap to go to my 7:15 spin class, despite feeling "over" this whole thing. and thursday, i put in a 3.5 mile run even though i was anxious to get out in the city. my point is this, i've learned that it's not always about what you "feel" like doing, it's about commitment, having perserverance and dedication to a goal and continuously working toward it even though it may seem too daunting or feel like an inconvenience. i also was reminded to push beyond my comfort zone and seeing progressive strides i've made during this process. in the end, i know i'm a better person for it.

i've also learned through family, friends, co-workers and my extended network that what i'm doing offers inspiration to others to work on their own goals. that makes me feel good too. thank you all for your support and encouragement along the way. special thanks to my training buddies latoya and melissa, the atlanta tri club, ureka (my swim coach) and ron, my manager, who has been a great support in providing loads of information.

i know my tone in this is note is as if i'm done with the race, but what i really wanted to accomplish has been achieved- proof to myself that i have the discipline, commitment and dedication to train for something challenging. i know what i've learned during this process has and will continue to help me in other areas of my life. so, completing the race will be gravy or for you ice cream lovers- chocolate sprinkles.


Press Release
For Immediate Release
June 9, 2009 (Tampa, Fla.) - Today, Iron Girl, the premiere all-women's event-based brand, announces that the third annual Aflac Iron Girl Atlanta Triathlon will be televised nationally on NBC Sports. The broadcast will air on Saturday, Aug. 23, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. ET. The telecast will showcase a highly competitive professional field as well as a diverse group of athletes varying in age and fitness level.

"The partnership with NBC will highlight tremendous athleticism alongside stories of incredible personal achievement," said Jeff Charney, Aflac senior vice president and chief marketing officer. "Viewers will be inspired by these amazing women and will find their own motivation to live healthier lives."

The broadcast will be shot on location on June 28, 2009, 45 minutes northeast of Atlanta, Ga., at Lake Lanier Islands Resort, situated on the shores of Lake Sidney Lanier. Featuring a 1/3-mile swim, 18-mile bike and 3-mile run, the sold-out event will take more than 1,200 women into pristine Lake Sidney Lanier, transitioning them on to a scenic, yet challenging bike course of rolling hills through Buford County. The run will lead athletes along the natural beauty of Lake Lanier Islands Resort, one of Georgia's most visited resort destinations. "

The team at NBC is excited to televise the Aflac Iron Girl Atlanta Triathlon and is happy to continue growing its relationship with World Triathlon Corporation and Ironman Productions," said Jon Miller, NBC Sports' executive vice president. "We are pleased to add this exciting event to our telecasts that also include the Emmy-award winning Ford Ironman World Championship and the Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3."

Viewers will watch stories of athletes who have overcome adversity, as well as gain inspiration from women who have adopted healthy, active lifestyles, served in the military, survived debilitating conditions and more. In addition, the following world-renowned professional athletes will be vying for the first place title:

Michellie Jones: An Olympic silver medalist, Jones has mastered a variety of distances. Boasting top Ironman and 70.3 finishes, she placed second in her debut at the Ford Ironman World Championship in 2005 and returned the following year to win the title. In 2007, Jones won the title at the inaugural Iron Girl Atlanta Triathlon.

Kate Major: Major's talent at both the Ironman and 70.3 disciplines, coupled with her natural athletic ability, make her a formidable opponent. With multiple Ironman and 70.3 titles, and three Ironman World Championship podium finishes on her race resume, Major is often deemed part of "triathlon's next generation."

Samantha McGlone: The 2006 Ford Ironman World Championship 70.3 titleholder, McGlone has earned multiple Ironman 70.3 victories, as well as a second place finish at the world's most challenging endurance event, the Ford Ironman World Championship.

Mirinda Carfrae: Carfrae is a multiple Ironman 70.3 champion, as well as the winner of the 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship 70.3. In 2008, Carfrae won the inaugural Aflac Iron Girl Las Vegas Triathlon.

Pip Taylor: With a swimming background, Taylor has earned top placements at well-known events such as the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon, Eagleman Ironman 70.3 and the Aflac Iron Girl Las Vegas Triathlon.

The broadcast will also feature participants racing in support of pediatric cancer research, the Aflac Iron Girl National Event Series charitable cause for 2009. Participants are raising funds to be donated to the Aflac Cancer Center, located in Atlanta, Ga. "Iron Girl is an example of ordinary women accomplishing extraordinary things through events," said Judy Molnar, the vice president of Iron Girl. "Our athletes include not only those whose livelihood depends on performance, but also those women who may be your mom, neighbor or sister. Their passion and dedication exemplifies the mission of Iron Girl."

Friday, March 13, 2009

The online registration for Atlanta's 2009 Peachtree Roadrace begins March 15, 2009. If you're in town, I definitely recommend doing it at least once in your life. The letter below is an email I sent about my Peachtree experience in 2007. I hope to get better at posting my thoughts in this blog...real time or at least within the week of my writing. ;-)

Family and friends,

I just wanted to share a photo and some thoughts about the Peachtree Roadrace that I ran with my girls, Wendy and Jeanetta from the PGF crew on July 4th. We got up early in the morning to run 6.2 miles with tens of thousands of people down Peachtree Street here in Atlanta. This was my second time running the race and when I got up at 6 am, the thought of running another 10k weighed on my mind as pointless. I questioned myself, “why I would do such a thing?” I mean, I wasn't racing to win; I wasn't advertising the business nor was there any novelty about the experience. In fact, as the three of us waited with our group to start the race, I was the grumpy one of the bunch complaining about everything it seemed. In my defense, I had very little sleep from a bout with insomnia.

However, as I ran up the first hill (did I mention we ran the whole way!) my mood began to change. It was helpful that music from various bands played along the way and that a few times during the route the roadracers roared with excitement and joy. At one point we even participated in the arm dance commonly done with the Village People's YMCA song. I looked around me and as I observed the people I was sharing the experience with- people of all ages, races, body types and lifestyles- I realized that I was part of something bigger than myself. This was a collective of individuals who sought to achieve some individual or group goal.

We were walking or running examples of the strength of human will, perseverance and determination. There were people walking with disabilities who did not let a limp, walker or cane stop them from participating. There were men and women well within the retirement phase of life, showing us all with their athletic prowess that the body can continue to work beautifully in harmony with our heart and soul even when the world has told us we are too old to matter. There were obese men and women who decided that they weren't giving up on themselves and that despite the world looking upon them with disapproval, they could push pass the discomfort and achieve something difficult. There were babies mounted on top of dads next to mom having their first race together as a family. Naturally, there were those who had trained their bodies either to compete in the race or just to push it to the next level. And to round out the experience we had a host of onlookers that did their part to encourage all participants to keep going…we had everything from a priest throwing holy water on runners that past his church to a drag queen in cheerleading attire on a building shaking what his mama gave him.

In us all, I saw that the human body is a beautiful servant to the human mind and that if we decide with our mind that we will and can do something, the body will obey.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dina Marie as A Reality Show Contestant...

Considering, I've never like seeing my self on video or hearing audio of my voice, the fact that I would agree to be a reality show contestant is huge! Despite what most people think, I am often shy but what I hate mostly is getting lots of attention. Regardless of this trait, my interest in new endeavors and the exciting possibilities they present always lure me. So, here's the story...

In December 2008, I get a call from my friend Carolyn who said her friend- the CEO of the Photography Network, Patrick Jones- wanted to cast a photographer of color for the network's pilot of a new reality show. I sent in my website address and expressed my interest in participating. Carolyn had also recommended another friend. There were no certainties I would be in it but my philosophy is to "give it a shot and God will let you know if it's for you or not"- i.e, rejection. The taping was scheduled for that Saturday but I had not heard from them all week since the initial contact. But on Friday morning I got a call from the producer (Jennifer)telling me that they had received my info after they had made their selections but now she had a spot open because one of the contestants was sick. She said they had been on my website all morning and liked my work. I said I'd love to do it. I had to cancel on my plans to attend my soror's baby shower but I figured she would understand given the opportunity.

I was a little nervous that I didn't have what it took to compete with photographers who had been photographing professionally much longer than I have. I kept telling myself to just be myself and that it would go well if I was authentically Dina.

On my way up to Rome, GA (an hour and a half north of Atlanta), I stopped for some breakfast. When I got off of I-75 and headed west. The sunrise was in my rear view mirror and I could not help but notice how pretty it was. I pulled over on the side of the road and took photos of the sunrise. It was glorious and a reminder of why early morning risings are wonderful for meditation. It also reminded me of my ability to find and capture beauty with a camera- I use God's gift of sight to share God's beauty. And it fulfills me. Below are two of the photos.

So, when I arrive and see the other contestants and all of their elaborate equipment, I remind myself again from the morning's sunrise meditation. And when that wasn't enough, I called Carolyn and voiced my concern that I was "not a real photographer" like the others. She advised me that I was a real photographer with real talent. I don't remember Carolyn's exact words but I do know she gave me what I needed to be myself and to do well.

And well, it went. I had fun throughout the day with the crew and the other photographers. Even though I suffered a mishap (you'll see in the video), my photos weren't so bad. The feedback from the judges was pretty good. I had worried for nothing. The producers thanked me for my participation and said they would like to use me for the real show if it gets picked up. That was encouraging. However, when I saw the pilot, I got a small sample of what other reality show contestants experience. All I will say is with editing, a show expresses the intent of the producers. No real harm done, really. I just would have appreciated a little more of my good feedback from the judges and what I thought were some of my humorous moments to be included in the show . But, hey, it's not my show, is it? Besides, I thought I said I didn't like attention?

I would go on about my observations and some thoughts that went through my head that day but considering I'm picking up and publishing this post almost 9 months after I originally drafted it, I'm not going to write any more. I'll just let you take a look at the video and tell me what you think. You can access the pilot by clicking on the link at the beginning of this post.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Flaws and All...

This year I celebrated my 34th birthday half naked in the streets of Trinidad with thousands of people celebrating Carnival. Lucky me, the celebration came earlier this year and provided a wonderful venue for my special day. If I was needlessly vain, I could have pretended that thousands of people took to the streets of Trinidad in beautiful costumes to celebrate my birth...NOT- but hey with the kind of year I was having, I could have used such a delusional thought.

At any rate, everyone in my group had grand plans of stepping up Project Get Fine so that we would look spectacular in our costumes. Life happens and well, yeah...let me just say, good intentions hardly get you anywhere. Consistency and hard work are just as important...needless to say I didn't feel that I looked my best.

If you familiar with modern-day Carnival celebrations, all you need to know is lots of partying, drinking, and no sleep! As an older Trini woman on my flight explained to me, carnival wasn't always about people dancing half-naked in the streets. There were stories told by each of the bands and great efforts were made by all that participated to create these beautiful productions for their audiences. Today, the bands still have themes, beautiful costumes and some even create routines, but like much of past cultural traditions of any nation, the bands have become more secular with less storytelling and less clothing. Carnival is actually tied to Christianity and I believe more specifically Catholicism but I have not done any research to give particulars. I do find it interesting that what happens today seems to be less religious and arguably less spiritual.

And this leads us to the point of this post, I was able to have a spiritual experience in the midst of the gyrations and drinking. As I believe many people must have some spiritual moment if they are willing to walk and dance in decorated bathing suits, letting all to see them exposed and shaking everything. The spiritual experience is one of no inhibitions and total acceptance and appreciation for your physical appearance regardless of imperfections.

It took me parading around half-naked in the streets of Trinidad for me to embrace the fact that regardless of my physical imperfections, I was a beautiful woman. Despite not having a waistline, a backside or tanned skin that made men do double-takes and women envy, there was nothing wrong with me. I wasn't perfect but I wasn't wrong either. I had become so caught up in tearing myself down in not looking like the models used to display our costumes that I created a whirlwind of negative emotions, turning my party of thousands into a party of pain. Eventually, I found a way out of that sad hormonal cloud and learned to love and accept me, flaws and all.

Today, 6 months later I've made improvements on consistent exercise routines and evolving my diet to something more healthy (read more vegetarian). However, I'm still no Halle Berry but I'm feeling good about the way I look.

By the way, we had a ball. The entire experience was worth the expense. Here are some photos from the trip.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ghana: Passion is born

I'm building my photography portfolio. Here is a sample of my work that confirmed for me and many of my supporters that photography is not only a passion of mine but something in which I may have some talent. I hope you enjoy. I took this trip to Ghana in 2004 and managed to write two emails to family and friends back home. I've included those emails below:

June 17, 2004

Family & friends:

I'm in Ghana on my fourth day and it feels like I’ve been here for weeks! It feels this way because our days are packed with activities. We have traveled to 4 different cities and stayed in four hotels. I have seen much of the country and mountainside. Mom has not received her luggage, yet her spirits remain high. British Airways will have hell to pay when we return.

On our first day, we traveled all over Accra. I have learned much about Ghana's history, politics and culture. Although this is a matriarchal society and women are believe to be the giver of life and the first teacher, women still are not given equal rights...the male enjoys a privileged status here. One interesting saying we learned today is this: "You educate a man, you educate one person. You educate a woman, and you educate a community." This is a testament to the respect that women are given. Traditionally, women work in the home, do the bargaining in the markets, and teach the children. The men fish, build, or work outside the home, and are the primary bread winners. Although, feminist and American women would have problems with this family system, it seems to work without much perceived harm. Though I have to say that I may not see the harm because, to date, everyone who has spoken to us have been men.

Ghanaians are very spiritual people. The country is 70% Christian, 15% Muslim and the other hold on to the traditional spirituality. We met a Chief Priest yesterday and were blessed by him. We had a welcome dinner on Tuesday evening where dancers and drummers performed for us. With the risk of sounding corny, I have to say it was art in motion. We always knew that life originated here in Africa, but it appears to me that dance and music (celebratory forms of life) also originated here. We all joined the dancers later; imitating the moves they taught us.

Yesterday, we visited the Wli waterfall after a 45 minute hike through the forest. So far, we haven't seen many animals. I expect we will see many more when we visit the Mole National Park. We will stay at a motel onsite at the park. We are dreading the accommodations but anticipate the game viewing.

Today we were able to experience a market in Kumasi. The various scents of fish, dried pork skin, musk combined with the heat and humidity made me feel faint. No worries, I didn't fall out. Mom bought some material for her friend James and his wife. She was able to strike a good bargain.

I'm not sharing all that we have done because I don't have the time to share it all in one email. So I’m giving it to you piece meal. However, I will end with some more random thoughts: Ghanaians are warm spirited people. I have seen so many beautiful children beaming with gracious smiles and friendly waves. The food has been pretty good and sometimes spicy. One downfall is we have experience several vendors attempting to take advantage of us. Charging more for food or services- This is no different to experiences in other countries but I still get upset when anyone tries to take advantage of me.

I have to sign off now but hopefully, I can check in another time.

June 22, 2004

Family and friends,

I am back in Kumasi, Ghana. Last night we returned from Mole National Park. It was a wonderful three days! So far, Northern Region of Ghana is my favorite. Where do I start...the Northern region is mostly Muslim...making up the 15% of the entire country. There are many villages throughout the region and it is a more beautiful and relaxed setting than in Kumasi or Accra. The people live in circular, clay huts that have straw tops. Children walk freely throughout the villages often by themselves and eager to welcome strangers from afar.

We went to visit the Chief of Choggu who is referred to as Choggu Naa. He spoke to us and gave us a tour of his village. He had 7 wives and about 70 children...he really couldn't confirm the number of children but it was somewhere near 70! I think he populated most of the village with his own seed. His first wife invited us to view her hut. It was interesting to see this hut furnished with a television, full size bed, and air conditioned! First wife has some perks. The rest of the village was so picturesque. I took some of my favorite photos in the Choggu.

We stayed at the Mole National Park we expected, the accommodations were lacking. There is no water plant anywhere in the area so our water supply came from the same waterholes that the elephants, crocodiles, antelopes, etc bathed in without filter. Needless to say, none of us used the shower/sink for anything. Instead we all were taking Dasani showers. Thank God for bottled water!

At any rate, other than the water issue, I loved my stay in Mole. Our room was situated on a cliff that overlooked the forest. So we woke up every morning with a view of elephants at the waterhole or grazing through the grounds. We went on 2 walking safaris- one in the evening and one the following morning! Being the nature girl that I am, I was intoxicated the entire time. I was 20 meters away from elephants, warthogs, antelope and baboons. Actually, a baboon ran right pass me as I was walking sitting outside my room...crazy, yet exciting! My time at Mole completely relaxed me and I am grateful to have had this experience!

We also went to the Larabanga village. We saw the one oldest mosque in West Africa (built 15th century). It was beautiful and I had a personal tour guide name Fataal. He is 13 years old and very knowledgeable of the village history. Later, the village children danced. It was so amazing to see the similarities in their dance moves to our own. Of course, we were asked to join in the dancing. Based on what I saw, everyone was able to hang with the natives. Mom even got up and got her groove on.

The cities of Ghana are not as picturesque as the villages of the north. They look like impoverished metropolis. The people are more aggressive and not as polite.
We've done some shopping in several markets and boy is that nerve-wrecking. The vendors are SOOOO aggressive and bargaining is key. This is perfect training for New York City. Things are so inexpensive here...especially if you bargain. I have been proud of my negotiation skills but not so proud of the few times I had to yell at folks for being too pushy. It was necessary though to manage the sometimes rowdy crowd.

Well, I think I will sign off. By the way, mom finally got her luggage on Friday.

Thursday, we are going to Elmina castle, which was built by the Portuguese. We will see the dungeons, holding cells, and other structures used to facilitate the slave trade. I’m not sure what to expect. I’m sure it will be haunting. Especially, considering my malaria medicine makes me have awful or violent dreams every night.

Well, I hope all is well with everyone. I apologize for the mass emails, but I don't have the time to write personal emails.

The Sabor of Cuba

I wrote this after my 2 weeks studying conga, salsa and afro-cuban dance in Havana,Cuba in 2003. The photo is one of my first photos I took with my Fujifilm Finepix.

When I first I arrived to Cuba my soul was encircled by the warmth of the people. From the customs personnel to airport security to the taxi driver and eventually to the streets of Habana., I was home. Images stirred memories of “mi abuelo.” And for a moment I was sad- sad not to have him with me longer than I did and sad not to have all the answers about my family-,my heritage. I came to Cuba looking to discover its mystery…to taste its “sabor.”

Cuba…where children play outside all day of stick ball played in the yards of the Capitolio, the streets of Centro Habana, the playground of la escuela...talent cultivated by the desire of enjoyment

Cuba...where strangers invite you into their homes, their lives...offering their stories, their food (arroz christianos or arroz blanco y frijoles negros, platanos maduros and flan), asking only for friendship in return.

Cuba… where men adorn women with compliments and offers of love- wanting to find a foreign vessel to carry their passion and their love to places their bodies will never be.

Cuba... where the ambitious are morphed into street hustlers...selling anything from tobacco to amor …"pudos, taxi…novio?" dancing between the rhythms, singing notes of instant friendship, stroking the strings of material expectations receiving a little of something you have plenty of…the American dollar.

Nationals represent true citizenship: believing in a revolution that the world see as false…living happier than those that seek to judge oh blessed Cuba…. the aroma of music seeps into your soul as you walk through the streets of habana vieja.

Africa found its home in Cuba... intertwined its religion, art, and language into that of the Spaniard…I guess slavery’s extended stay in Cuba allowed Africa to plant its roots deeper…depositing nutrients of rhythms, drums, celebration, worship, faith and community…Or maybe the isolation brought by the Revolucion nurtured its gift of Africa while other lands sought to eliminate the African.

Cuba…you have transformed me yet I do not know my new form. Perhaps the love you have filled me with has yet to take shape in my spirit… My soul had a longing that only Cuba could satiate. And so I have a love for Cuba that has never existed for America. I have a memory of Cuba of a life I never lived. Cuba is my home…the place where I was born…

I went to Cuba to discover its mystery…yet I believe I may have only started to unravel the mystery of me.