Category Archives: It’s so K

Day 8 – Countdown Challenge – what does Service through Leadership, Integrity, Character, & Confidence mean to me?

So simple and elegant yet so profound and complex. An organization attracts people to it through its mission and actions – the USA Ambassador Pageant is a charity driven organization that promotes Success through Leadership, Integrity, Character and Confidence (S.L.I.C.C.) in today’s women. (and if you are not into pageants, keep reading – it applies broadly)

Leadership. One of the best compliments I ever received was by overhearing a comment about me. The group was talking about people who “go against the flow.” One said “Like K” and another laughed. She responded “K doesn’t go against the flow, she doesn’t notice the flow. She sees what needs to be done and does it. The rest of us just follow in her wake.” There have been times when I sought leadership, others where it was put upon me and I had to learn to step up, and even others where I did not realize I was leading. Leadership can be learned, although some people seem to naturally step into the role. However, leadership should never be about yourself. Leadership should be about the other people, the community, or the issue being addressed.

Integrity. Integrity is being true to who you are as a person. This takes knowing yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This can be a painful journey to be brutally honest with yourself and some of us only get there through a valley of fire and legos.  One of my personal brand words was selected not because of what I thought/think, but because of how others have described me: authentic. What you see is what you get. Yes, I can be diplomatic, but I will always be authentic. And authenticity is my integrity.

Character. When the question was asked in our group to identify which of the S.L.I.C.C. words to which we each closely identified,  I chose character.  It means “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” So without character, we have no integrity; we cannot be leaders; and we have no confidence. Plus, I am generally “a character.” Somehow, methinks that may not always be meant as a compliment, but I can choose (and do choose) to see it as one.

Confidence. Whew. This one. Well, did you know that it is possible to have high self-confidence yet low self-esteem?  I am very confident in my skills, abilities, and talents, but I still feel like a little lost, unworthy, poor girl from the South. But I am working on this. It’s actually one thing that brought me to competing in pageants as a nearly-50-year old woman. I wanted to build my self-confidence in myself as a person. And yes, pageants give me that. I am confident standing with accomplished women on a stage, being judged on many different factors, and frankly reveling in my womanhood.  It;s fun and I am becoming more confident.

To me, S.L.I.C.C. embodies the philosophy I try to live by – living out loud. I learned to live out loud because of my success or vice versa: I succeeded because I learned to live out loud.  S.L.I.C.C. is a standard to live by and one to strive to reach, whether in pageants, in business, or in your personal life.

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Day 6 – Living Out Loud! My platform

K pic.pngA pageant is not just the crown. To paraphrase the latest Spiderman movie – “If you’re nothing without the [crown], then you don’t deserve it.” My platform is Living Out Loud, from the Lupus movement encouraging those with Lupus to be advocates and bring awareness to the devastation of this disease. I take it further.  Living Out Loud (laughing out loud, loving out loud) means to be uniquely and unapologetically yourself.

Women (successful women) in particular suffer from the “imposter syndrome” where they don’t feel that they deserve the role, position, salary, responsibilities that have earned – that any day now, someone will recognize that they are not good enough.

As a single mom, poor, on welfare, struggling to earn a nursing degree so I could support my two girls (1 and 3 years old), I had a dream. I dreamed that I could go into the local corner store and buy a coke without having to balance my checkbook first. Dream accomplished, I went on to dream more, but there are thousands of women / minorities who dare not dream.

Researching success metrics is disheartening in male-dominated fields – women are not considered successful because they don’t hit the metrics that were defined by men as indicators of success.  My theory is that women define success differently – it’s not the c-suite title that matters, it’s the salary and position that they aimed for and the time to pursue other interests.

My view on life was included in a recent book “The She Shift” – issued this week. How inspiring to see that my story inspires others. Living Out Loud means being vulnerable, but being authentic. It took me years to learn how to be me, and who “me” is, but I am honest in expressing who I am and being true to myself – making life more …. everything for my family. Once you do live out loud, you will find that you become an advocate for yourself and others.

Living out loud is not easy. It takes courage to dream, to expose your inner self (if only to yourself), and to shoot for that dream, to define your own success, to be true to yourself – whether that means standing up, standing out, or standing still.

Day 2 – USA Ambassador – Favorite Headshot

Oh picking a headshot…. I have been so lucky to have amazing photographers and hair/make up artists (at times) for some of my favorite headshots. (you can tell, I generally like to wear bright pink/ fuschia!). The first two are my current ones – my USA Ambassador Pageant headshot and then one with my amazing crown.

Headshots are critical. And in the legal field, most headshots are in the boring black and navy outfits. So. Not. Me. Being able to be me is so vital to being successful, happy, and accepted. I took a chance with the last one, to see if I like black – and in this dress, heck yeah, I liked me in black. I felt sophisticated and gorgeous! Thank you in bunches to Vanessa Menendez for seeing me through a lens that I could not see myself and to the magic of Kelly Wisniewski for hair and make-up.

Day 1 – USA Ambassador – All About Me

20160227_123608It is now one month till the USA Ambassador Pageant starts in Florida at the Innisbrook Resort! So excited! Every day now, we have a challenge. Today is “all about me.” When I think of this question, the ending of the Breakfast Club comes to mind: “. .  each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.”

The USA Ambassador Pageant believes in Success through Leadership, Integrity, Character, and Confidence – SLICC. This foundation is what truly calls me to this system – because I have succeeded / am succeeding because I have taken on leadership roles and strive to be the leader my community needs me to be, however large or small that community is – living my integrity, building character, and gaining confidence.

Who am I?

Passionate. Authentic. Vibrant. 

Whatever I do, I do it with everything – when I cry, I am bawling like a baby. When I laugh, it is a full, belly rolling, sometimes to the point of tears laugh. I am an excitable personality. . . some call it “way too perky” while others keep feeding me chocolate and caffeine. Like the country song says, I am “unusually unusual, absolutely unpredictable” (song by Lonestar).

But that may be wishful thinking. At my core, I am a southern girl, born and bred – and proud of my roots. I am mom to two amazing young women, who are my heart and soul. Unfortunately, my gene pool must be a swamp, because I passed down my autoimmune issues to them both. If I ever asked God why I had to have so many problems (systemic Lupus, et al), I learned why when my baby girl was 11 years old, then her sister at 13 – both diagnosed with autoimmune, incurable and life-altering. I had it so I knew how to help them through it. Theyoungest is now just past one master’s degree and about to finish the second. My oldest has a master’s in education, specializing in STEM, and teaches elementary – and about to give birth to her first child. I am blessed.

Additionally, I love animals to a fault (seriously, I have six dogs and a cat).  And the light of my life is my beloved spouse, Tim.

Last year, when I was honored to be named an Outstanding Woman in Business, we had to pull questions to answer on stage. I was in the latter part of the group and was so envious of the women who could answer so eloquently.  My question was “Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would go back and advise your younger self to do differently?” My response was immediate. “Well, yeah. I’ve changed careers three times and am on my third husband. I wish I had gotten it right faster, but I’m Southern and we take things slowly. But at least I finally did it right.”

I’ve learned to be open about my struggles and life experiences. Maybe my story resonates with someone and helps them in some way. Having survived domestic violence, rape, near-death, and still struggling with self-worth, incurable diseases, and depression – I thank God every day I wake up and every night when I lie down to rest.  I have fought to get where I am, but only succeeded because of the people who helped me. It is my calling in life to serve others and to help make this world a better place. If I only impact one person, then that one person can impact another. We build our future, one step at a time, one small act at a time. Through the Presidential Volunteer Service Awards, I have been awarded bronze, silver, and gold for many years – and Lifetime Achievement for my volunteer work and have currently recorded over 10,600 hours. Why? Because people helped me. People need help. Lawyers are in a unique position to give to the community in a way no one else can – and all attorneys should do so.

In the end, I am a successful woman, happily married, bursting with pride over my kids, working as a global privacy consultant (attorney), still pursuing my Ph.D., who cherishes my experience as a hospice nurse, dreams of being a talk show host, and frankly – welcomes every day and glories in the small blessings in life.

 

Depression / Suicide

Depression and resulting suicide have gotten a lot of media lately, thanks to social media – we’ve seen mega-stars (Heath Ledger, Robin Williams, Kate Spade) and with young kids subject to bullying / cyber-bullying. We’ve seen comments about how it’s a selfish act, to traumatize loved ones, to abandon children, to only think of oneself. That’s a selfish thought itself. The person is pain is generally so swallowed with pain (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) that they can literally see no other option but to escape the pain. True, there are cases where pain is not the issue and the motive is something else altogether, but the overriding majority feel they are in an inescapable situation and this is the only way out.

It is mental illness. It is depression.

Not only have I worked with mental illness when I was a child mental health case worker in rural Mississippi and later a counselor for adults, but I also worked with patients as a registered nurse.  People have real problems and if they get to help in time, these problems can generally be addressed.

If someone comes to you for help – and the cry for help manifests in many ways – don’t do the wrong thing. Do not make it about you – how it would hurt you, how stupid/ silly / wrong they are to feel this way, and especially not “But you have so much to live for.” If they thought they had so much to live for that it overcame their feelings, they likely would not be feeling this way. Suicidal thoughts and actions are not logical.

Below are steps to take if someone is suicidal, from Mayo .

For immediate help

If someone has attempted suicide:

  • Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room yourself.
  • Try to find out if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or may have taken an overdose.
  • Tell a family member or friend right away what’s going on.

If a friend or loved one talks or behaves in a way that makes you believe he or she might attempt suicide, don’t try to handle the situation alone:

  • Get help from a trained professional as quickly as possible. The person may need to be hospitalized until the suicidal crisis has passed.
  • Encourage the person to call a suicide hotline number. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.

However, aside from immediate help in an urgent situation:

Start by asking questions

The first step is to find out whether the person is in danger of acting on suicidal feelings. Be sensitive, but ask direct questions, such as:
  • How are you coping with what’s been happening in your life?
  • Do you ever feel like just giving up?
  • Are you thinking about dying?
  • Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
  • Are you thinking about suicide?
  • Have you ever thought about suicide before, or tried to harm yourself before?
  • Have you thought about how or when you’d do it?
  • Do you have access to weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?
Asking about suicidal thoughts or feelings won’t push someone into doing something self-destructive. In fact, offering an opportunity to talk about feelings may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings.

Look for warning signs

You can’t always tell when a loved one or friend is considering suicide. But here are some common signs:

  • Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
  • Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
  • Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
  • Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
  • Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
  • Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there is no other logical explanation for doing this
  • Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
  • Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above

I have attempted suicide, starting when I was in my early teens. I am taking medication for depression now and it will likely be lifelong. Is this painful to admit in public – yes. Very much so. I am considering deleting this as I am writing it (in fact, I deleted it twice, but maybe the confession will help someone else). And I anticipate two responses – 1) comments from people in support (which in a way, I don’t want because it seems I am looking for sympathy – I am not; the focus should be on recognizing and understanding people who are suicidal) and 2) backlash in either a personal or professional context.  I have Systemic Lupus Erythematosis and was told at 19 years old that I had 5 years to live – surprise!  I lost over 2.5 liters of blood with my first childbirth and should’ve died – surprise. I had sepsis and acute renal failure and could’ve died – surprise. You think I would get the memo from God that it’s not my time. I have children I have passed this incurable crap down to, who are now faced with a lifetime of it (praying for a cure). With nothing else, that is enough to drive one to depression.

I almost feel like we will see another “Me too” campaign, this one around depression, suicidal ideations, and mental illness. It does help people to know that what they are going through – others have too. It’s also sad that so many of us have such unbelievable strife in our lives. And most of us recognize that there are others worse off. But, when one sees no viable escape….

Help them find an alternative route. One that leads to life and wellness or at least management.

Intl Pageant Day – why do I do pageants?

168425-I-Need-A-CrownI needed to get into shape (or so my doctor kept saying). I’m very competitive, but not at all athletic. So why pageants? Well, Mrs. pageants generally have an age range from 19 or early 20s till….. whenever. So put my middle-aged, overweight self next to a 23 year old who just left the Miss America Organization, and well… I’ll get into shape.  I am still working on it.

It’s not easy. My entire life (up until about 32), I was skinny. We’re talking 5’7″ and less than 100 pounds. In my late 20s, I was about 110 pounds – after two kids. I never tried to lose weight. I never exercised. And I durn sure did not eat healthy.

I have some wins though – I lost about 30 pounds. I went from osteoporosis to osteopenia. I came completely off Plaquenil and Methotrexate (considered lifetime meds once you go on them for Lupus / Sjogrens). Getting diagnosed with Celia Disease made me straighten up the nutritional plan, as did having a high A1C (shows blood sugar over time – diabetic….). My A1C is normal now. If I can do this, so can others with disabilities.

So I walk and I work out (I kinda fell off the working out, sorry, David Ashley, the Pastor of Pump). I eat healthy (most of the time). I have a hard time eating healthy when I travel, although I do manage to keep exercising.

But there is something else – the reason why I keep competing. The women (and men) I have met are in general, Fantastic. They get it. They are people of strength and beauty, goals and dreams. People that work to help others. I have met very few shallow, back-stabbing, pouting, shallow, what-you-think-are-pageant-girls people. Okay, there are some, but I am pretty oblivious to backstage politics. I just like everyone. And I try to help everyone and assume others do the same.

If you’ve every wondered….why does she do this? This is why. For my own health. To encourage others. To Live Out Loud. To be uniquely and unapologetically myself. To be among strong people who are helping the world.

Lots of love,
K Royal
your Mrs. Arizona, USA Ambassador 2018

A cat has 9 lives…

cat

Just over a year ago today, I was hospitalized for sepsis and acute renal failure – just after I had a kidney stone. It’s not the first time I have faced death and laughed in its face (okay, it’s really been more exhaustion, but laughter sounds better). Most of these have been due to Lupus and its natural complications, but at least one was not. If I were a cat, I think I would be dead already. 

 

This does tend to make cherish life even more.

As a hospice nurse, I learned a lot about living and dying; regrets and memories. My patients taught me a lot and those lessons stick with with me. Humility. Worries about family. Responsibilities. Joy. 

But somehow, when faced with it myself, I don’t think I portray those heroics or acceptance. I don’t want to go gently into that good night. I’d like to claim that I raged and raged, but found myself without the rage, as well. Having survived them all (so far), I find that I slip gently back into “normal” with a few more conscious moments of what life should be about.   

Life is messy and chaotic, fraught with emotions – both good and bad. Living is being present – day-to-day, planning, reacting, regretting, rejoicing – in things both small and tall. Life is what we make it. And if we think that facing death has an impact on us; well, it does. I thank God every day I wake up. Pain is merely a symptom that I am breathing.

People often ask where I find this unceasing energy and “perkiness.” It is not unceasing. My family can attest to that. But there is some truth in it. No matter where. No matter what. No matter when. There is always something good, because I am still there to experience whatever it is that is happening. It may not be a pleasant occasion (the death of a loved one comes to mind), but I knew that person, loved that person, and was loved by that person. That is a blessing.

So I am grateful to experience this thing called life. “Electric word LIFE it means forever and that’s a mighty long time.” No matter how long or how short a time we have on this earth, it’s a mighty long time to immerse ourselves in living. Don’t just survive. Thrive.

 

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at the Heart of Privacy

K Royal (@heartofprivacy)