Story Time with Susie – What being Thankful for 30 days has taught me

Can I be real with you guys? This past month has been especially challenging for me emotionally. As you may know, my brother passed away in June of this year, and my dad died back on December 31st, 2013. For anyone who has ever experienced such a loss, you may know that certain seasons, music, and smells can put you right back in that place of loss and bring the most intense emotions. It’s definitely something I’ve been experiencing as the weather is getting colder and the sky becomes increasingly darker.

But I know I’m not the only one to be feeling all the emotions these days. It’s fair to say that 2020 has certainly shed a new light on our lives. It’s unfortunate but true that hardships, and even devastation, help to give us new perspective on our lives. When we gain new perspective, this can lead us to feeling gratitude for what we do have. And I can absolutely say that the loss and pain I’ve experienced has caused me to reflect on all the wonderful things and people in my life. With that, I’ve certainly been holding on even tighter to everything that I’m grateful for, trying not to take any of it for granted.


Now if you’re not aware, Rishone and I just wrapped up the Thankful Days of November, where each day this past month, we put up a story on Instagram sharing something specific that we were thankful for from that day.

Here are my 3 main takeaways of things I learned about this process and myself over these past 30 days of intentionally expressing gratitude.

  1. Sometimes thinking of things that I’m grateful for don’t always come quick or easy. Now I know that I am a very blessed person. I have everything that I need and more. Not to mention I have an incredible support system through my family and friends. But at the same time, I realize that thinking of something specific that I’m grateful for on any given day doesn’t always come naturally. On some days, it really took several minutes of deep reflection to land on something to share. But what that tells me is that I need to do this more often. It has to become a practice, just like anything else – Expressing gratitude is a skill that we can grow through practice. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing moving forward; I plan on restarting my daily, written gratitude practice.
  2. I had many challenging days that I felt heavy and down overall. On those tough days, I realized that it can be really hard to think of things that I’m thankful for. But those are the days that it’s most important to be in a state of gratitude. As you force yourself to reflect on the wonderful things in your life from that day, it naturally pushes you into the direction of a better mood. So even when you don’t want to feel grateful, just do it.
  3. When I’m grateful for someone else, I should tell them! First off, it always feels good to genuinely compliment someone else and express gratitude for them. Second, you will instantly lift the other person’s mood, especially when you’re specific about why you’re grateful. And the world needs more of those high vibes these days.

With all of this being said, for anyone wondering how I’m doing emotionally these day…. I’m not gunna lie, it’s still an everyday struggle. But actively working on feeling and expressing thankfulness on a regular basis has definitely helped.


We hope that you were able to take part in our Thankful Days of November, and that you can use this past month as a launch pad to push you forward with your own gratitude practice. Whether it be something you write down, share on social media, think in your head, or tell someone else… We encourage you to make this a practice for yourself. Like I said above, this is a skill that the more you do it, the easier it’ll come to you and the less you need to actively think about it. Cause I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to get to a place where I simply live in a state of gratitude and that’s my vibe throughout the day. Who’s with me?

Let us know in the comments what you thought about our Thankful Days of November! And if you didn’t get a chance to participate with us last month, let us know if you have a gratitude practice you’re working on.

Story Time with Rishone – My Mental Tricks and Treats

I have been in a rut lately. Like everyone else, the effects of the quarantine, uncertainty of Covid-19, the political meandering and side choosing has either made us disconnect from each other or fearful of what is next. 
I had to mentally make a choice to face that fear and move on with my life as well as my goals. It has not been easy because somehow, as these incredible beings, we have let the creative marketing of the unknown become our kryptonite in owning our awesomeness and resilience to push forward to claim what is truly meant for us. 

Yes I agree, it has been incredibly hard to not lose your mind on a daily basis. Everyday has been a chaotic, domino effect of challenges. When I am not battling with myself, I am battling with my drive, my emotions, my family issues, and most frequently what my future holds. Some days smiling after brushing my teeth in morning naturally prepared me to conquer everything on the schedule and on other days I have to use every mental tool I own to engineer my next move. 

Ye,s I am aware this is some form of depression but in order to be balance we have to learn how to navigate who we are in the messy bashment of our lives. We have to find a way to assess what we are looking at, throw out the unnecessary, unused piles of garbage that we love to hold on to and find a way to organize the mess we created for ourselves to make room for a new version of yourself. 

It is so easy to blame all of this on the restrictions of Covid-19 and be the victim of so many of the programmed victim narratives we feed our comfort driven selves but the reality is that this state of our being was present before the trauma of now exposed it.  To be transparent I was too busy to pay attention to it or I used the too busy excuse to not work through because I knew it would be too much of a challenge. So in some ways I am thankful for this opportunity to be accountable for the parts of my life that need improvement. 

With that said, there is no way to meet a better version of yourself without taking the necessary steps to do so. So for the past 4 months I have been using all the tools to either get started on clearing our my messy basement to make room for my life upstairs. 

I want to share those tools that has been beneficial to my life that is slowly bringing me back to a place where I am inspired to live and evoke change. With the inspiration of Halloween just passing I copied the phrasing as the mental tricks, and treats to a better me as well as a better you. 

First of all it is very important to know your self and the bullshit you tell yourself when things get challenging. Also you need to know what I what inspires you, what keeps you focus, what distracts you, how clear you need to be with my goals, and most importantly knowing what weapons/tools you need to have in your mental tool box to conquer the unknown. Yes, the unknown, something that has kicked everyones’ ass is 2020. 

First in order to be a little more transparent I will share 3 of my personal in three separate areas of my life but they are all significant in my growth to a better version of myself. My first personal and family based goal is to be more be more present in my mother’s journey as she battle some mental illness and also continue to help my sisters navigate the confusion and emotional toll it has taken on the entire family. 

Secondly from a business perspective It is time to take the steps to expand my Plated_Soul Business with the creative ideas I shelved for some time. 

And as self it time to build better habits to learn new things and feel comfortable in that process of uncertainainty and the unknown. This was my goal for 2020 and trust me it has kicked my ass but during the times of getting my ass kicked I spent enough time figuring out the nature of my opponent, how to counter his attacks, and make it through day with just a few scratches.

Mental Trick # 1: Visualization – Be clear about what you want to improve in your life. Write it down, make a song about it, rap about it, put it over you bed so it’s the last thing you see before bed and the first thing you see when yoy wake up. Know what is smells like, taste like, feels like, and sounds like in real life. Sometimes you can start without an end goal in mind but the moment you give yourself a clear picture of what that clean basement looks like after you’ve figured how to clean it, the quicker you will find the resources you need to get it done. 

Mental Trick #2 : Plan for your self destructive patterns or bullshit cards. Most of the time we tell ourselves we cant because of this or that. Sometimes they are valid reasons but even then you know better. Just because its uncomfortable or new doesn’t mean you wont figure it out over time. Keep going and create an inner voice that tells the bullshit card creator to STFU because you CAN indeed do it. 

Mental Trick #3: Create healthy Boundaries. I know you have heard this before, but protect your dreams or your growth journey. You have to have boundaries with family, friends, and even yourself sometimes. In order to keep yourself consistent you have to create boundaries for your emotional sanity and productive functionality. What you allow people to say and do to you can derail your progress way more than you could even imagine. So if you share you goals with someone and they seem negative or discouraging about it, then you know you need to leave them out of your process. I mean sometimes it’s hard because things happen in life that can definitely throw things for a loop. However toy have to have a boundary for how far you let it pull you under before you decide to swim. 

Mental Trick # 4: Be Brutally Honest with yourself. I cannot stress this one enough. It is the most important mental trick that gets you through the rough times and helps to to break those patterns you need to go to the next level of self. No matter how painful it is confront it with honesty and the commitment to m work through it. 

Mental Treat #1: Genuinely celebrate your small victories and be thankful for the people or the effort you put fort. The journey of bettering yourself is a long never ending journey. Celebrate the small things you accomplish. There is enough time to evaluate the mistakes because we do that subconsciously all the time. Conscious take the time to say thank you ro yourself or give your self credit for the work you put in. Of course knowing that there is more to do and it wasn’t the best you had in you but you put fort the effort for genuine change and that my friends is what is all about. 

Mental Treat # 2: Seek Experience. As much as I pride myself on being self sufficient, recently I have learned that people are a great resource. We are all battling some of the same things and can be a resource to each other. Find someone you trust, someone with  experience, someone who can be a mentor to help guide you through or a simply someone that understands to challenges of the journey. Even though it’s hard to find people that genuinely care about your well being and your goals to be the best version of yourself, just finding someone who has worked through or is working through the same things you are helps to unload that burden you carry around. 

Mental Treat #3 : Meditate – Find time during the day where you can just sit away from everything and tune into your life force and the life forces in your path that are open to helping you. Or just use that time to recalibrate and release all things that drain your energy. 

Mental Treat #4: Smile and Laugh at your own jokes. Smile when things get rough so you can be reminded of being happy. Smiling resets your emotions and pensive mindset. When you have an opportunity, find memories that make you genuinely happy and use them to help you pick yourself up in the tough times and make your happy moments that much better. 

These are the mental tricks and treats I have employed more intentionally over the past 4 months. Again, it is an on-going journey with inevitable ups and downs that you have to accept. However, as long as you stay consistent and focus on the cumulative growth rather than the momentary failures you will unlock the best parts of yourself that you never knew existed. Also the unknown will also feel a little more familiar and fear will also start to be less and less of a deterrent in going after the things or improving the or relationships you value most in your life. 

Story Time with Susie – Learning the hard way not to take my health for granted

I sat there next to my toilet on the bathroom floor thinking, “how could I let this happen again?” I knew better, but I let myself fall into old habits which led me to this low place, yet again.

Let me explain.

This time last year I started experiencing pain in my stomach. It was a nagging, burning sensation that left me feeling nauseous more times than not. Without getting too graphic explaining the symptoms, it was discovered that I had inflammation in the lining of my stomach which was causing the pain that then led to vomiting on a regular basis. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty horrible. But once I knew what the issue was, I could do something about it. I could take control.

I know what foods lead to inflammation in my body, so I started minimizing and cutting them out of my diet. I eventually started feeling more like myself again! So of course, I felt like I could start eating what I really wanted again, aka, a whole lot of ice cream. Unfortunately, my body reminded me that my food choices came with consequences.
Long story short, for the past year, I’ve been on this roller coaster like cycle of experiencing the symptoms of the inflammation of my stomach back to feeling healthy and around and around again. I’ve been on this roundabout at least five times since last year. It was clear I was taking my health for granted. Every time I felt okay, I would eat whatever I wanted.

But recently, I came to my breaking point. The pain was just too much, so I made the decision that I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that I don’t have to go through that again. The key word here is that I made a decision. When you decide that you’re going to do something, that’s it. No negotiations. Before I was allowing for myself to float back and forth and cross the line of playing with my health.

I’ve now made the necessary changes to my diet to remove the inflammatory foods that are not good for me. And I share all this with you to simply serve as a reminder: do not take your health for granted. It can be so easy to do that when you’re feeling good and well. As I mentioned, that’s exactly what I did. I made decisions to eat things that I knew weren’t good for me simply because I felt okay. But I know for myself that I don’t want to wait until I’m severely ill to take my health seriously.

So I want to challenge you. What is one step you can take today that will lead towards a healthier you, or at the very least maintaining the health you have now? Maybe it’s going for a walk, or having some eggs for breakfast instead of that chocolate chip muffin. Just one thing that points you in the direction of health. I challenge you to pick that one thing, and commit to that for the next month. I know you can do it. I will be right here with you continuing on my own health journey, trying to make sure I don’t take the health that I do have for granted. Cause no one wants to live life filled with pain and sickness. So let’s take control and make the decision to live full and healthy lives, one step at a time.

If you’ve accepted my challenge, I would love to know what your one thing is. Comment below or shoot us a message on Facebook or Instagram. We will be cheering you on!

Why Keeping Your Promises to Yourself is Incredibly Important

There is something supernaturally invigorating about keeping your promises with yourself. The first time I experienced what keeping a pact with myself felt like I was a young adult at the age of 19. I am now 38 years old and I still experience this natural high and sense of accomplishment when I am able to keep my own promises. 
Committing to Running 22 Days Straight with a 9 day layover into September. 

My most recent promise that I have been sharing with social media is a 1 mile run challenge that Mara Morris created to keep herself accountable and active for the month of August, 2020. Now to be honest with you, running is something that I enjoy, but due to the quarantine, scheduling, and race relations of this country, I decided to give it a rest over the quarantine. It is my time to meditate and organize my thoughts especially when balancing so many things simultaneously. 

I have been wanting to get back to running more consistently after the quarantine period, especially after gaining about 15 extra pounds from all the delicious eats I create. This challenged seemed like the right place to start and Mara was the perfect accountability run buddy so I decided to piggy back her promise to herself. 


MY Pre-Quarantine Norm
Before the quarantine period, I was in a really good cardio rhythm. I was running at least 10 miles a week, getting about 30 miles through teaching spin classes, choreographing, teaching, and dancing about 30-35 hrs a week. Some days I would spend about 3 hours choreographing in the morning, then teach a 45 min spin class in the evening, then run 5 miles immediately after, and then teach an hour long dance class an hour later. I would call those days my Be Moved Triathlon day. They were tough and challenging but it made me feel incredible the next day after some good rest. 

However, I just recently I realized I need a little more of an outside boost to get me started back on my goal to get back to the my routine of pushing my limits physically on a weekly basis. I saw that Mara was getting up early every morning and staying committed to her goal and I wanted to get back to that commitment. Therefore, I made a promise to myself that no matter what happened throughout the last 22 days of August I was going to run every single day with the possibility of an additional 9 days to complete running for a full month like Mara. 

The craziest things happen after you make a commitment to something challenging. You learn about your weaknesses, your strengths, and the grit you possess. They are some of the most beautiful things you will ever learn about yourself. Overall it is always a learning experience but I had some personal best days, I had some I have to walk to finish my goal days, I had some you are holding this pace till you finish days, and I had some wow that was amazing days. They all started with some of this possible excuses that could have deterred me from the journey.

My Internal Excuses
First of all, it was not easy. I struggled the first week. I second guessed myself every time I went downstairs to start and complete my run. My mind would tell me to just walk or it would try to convince me that I don’t have to run. Saying things like “You dance and teach spin on a weekly basis; what additional exercise do you need. You are doing too much.” The most reoccurring excuse button that my mind would throw at me was that running was not conducive with me being 100% ready to teach my weekly dance classes. However, if there is one thing I learned over the years about making promises with myself is that during the process my mind will want to keep me in a comfortable/manageable space. It is up to my higher self to break me out of that comfort zone if I want to keep my promises to myself.  


Some External Excuses
During the 22 days of August it also rained, I had some emotional family days that were debilitating, I was exhausted, I had a physically overloaded day, I was overly stressed, I did not eat enough, I was sore, I had shin pains, I had calf pains, I had side pains, I got sick of the same route, I missed my planned run time, it was dark out etc. Regardless of all those actual excuses that I could have used for 22 days I chose to run and because I did I noticed some amazing things about myself.


Results of Getting up and Running Regardless. 
I was happier after ever run. I felt more focused on what I needed to do. I felt accomplished. One of those 22 days I ran a 7min 36s mile and a half. That has been my fastest recorded mile since I started running again. There were days when I thought I did not have it in me but I did it anyway made me feel invincible. Also there were days when I felt like I had it and just could not finish that goal I set from that positive feeling. The most important thing to me was that I ran at least 1 mile a day, anything after that I treated as a bonus. That’s exactly what I did. 

Here Are The Keys to Keeping Your Promises to Yourself.
This is how I kept my most recent promise with myself and countless other promises in the past. So if you are making promises, or setting goals you want to achieve/accomplish, these are the things to keep in mind. First of all, your mind will try to keep you in your comfort zone so do not believe it or give those thoughts life. Always challenge those thoughts or start working on your goal before you have too much time to think about it. Your body will also tell you that what you are doing is too much. Do it anyway! There is a difference between soreness and an actual injury; You will know the difference. Life isn’t going to make a way for you to keep your promise but if you really want to keep that promise you will find a way. The weather is not going to cooperate so be flexible. Plan your day but be flexible in getting it done, especially if you are balancing many different things throughout. If you lack motivation find individuals that are doing the same thing you are trying to accomplish so they can help keep you motivated to fight through your struggle days. Speak to yourself in a positive way regardless of the expectations you set for yourself but still hold yourself accountable. Control what you can control and be flexible about the things you cannot. Lastly commit to executing what you need to do the day before then wake up and do it. Additionally if you know yourself then you know the excuses you make to so plan om the counters to keep you on track. Finally, be connected to the why you want to achieve this goal. For me being in shape, and running every day or as often as 4 days a week, makes me a happier person, a more organized person, my cognitive acuity is sharper, I am more patient with everyone, especially myself, and I believe that I am capable of achieving anything I put my mind to. That is my why so going through a few struggle days is minor compared to the overall result of what completing a promise does to my being. 

Summing It All Up
I could have given up or broken my promise to myself for any of the reasons I mentioned above but because I didn’t give any of those excuses life, there is a level of supernatural belief that grew inside of me that no one ever told me existed. A level of belief that I now know happens when I challenge the comfort zone of my mind, spirit, and body. You cannot cheat it, you cannot make it up, and you cannot lie to yourself about it. You will only find out how rewarding it feels after you’ve kept your promise to yourself. Knowing that you did it, and no one can take that from you because you stayed committed to yourself is a sense of accomplishment I know you cant wait to experience. So no matter how 2020 has gone for you so far, there are still promises that you can keep to yourself to salvage what is left of the year. Its your time. Go get it!

Story Time with Susie – Running from Conflict

In the past, if someone said the word conflict, I would run the opposite direction as fast as I could. I had no desire to confront someone if I thought that they did something wrong or that I didn’t like. I just kind of hoped that it would go away, and we could all live happily ever after. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that things don’t just magically disappear, as much as we want them to. We can try to sweep the dirt under the rug, however, at the end of the day, that dirt is still there. As Rishone puts it, it’s just going to be a bump you keep tripping over, and as soon as you lift that rug up, it all shows.

Growing up, I honestly don’t remember ever working through an argument in a positive manner. If I was ever fighting with one of my siblings, the fight would be immediately shut down by my parents, and we were told to hug, “make up”, and move on. And unfortunately, any conflict that I had witnessed by my parents did not end with a meeting of the minds, but instead with a verbal argument with someone leaving while the air was still hot. Apologies would be given afterwards, but the “I’m sorry’s” were just the rugs placed over the dirt. They didn’t actually solve anything.

Now fast forward to my college years and beyond. This is when I met Rishone. For any of you who have known him for some time, you might realize that he has no problem with conflict. He actually enjoys it, because he knows that it’s natural and at the end of it will be some type of “positive” result. So as we met and became friends, of course we had many things that we disagreed on, especially as we discovered that we are completely opposite individuals in practically every way possible. So when there would be a ruffling of feathers, Rishone would initiate a conversation with me to work through it, however, I would just shut down. I had no experience with diving into a conflict with an intention to solve it, especially when it felt personal to me, so I had no idea of how to productively respond to him confronting me. I am thankful for my friendship with Rishone, because he has been patient with me and essentially guided me through how to have a conversation to work through a conflict instead of shying away from it. He’s taught me the importance of speaking up for myself.

Through all of this, I’ve realized that part of the reason I didn’t want to respond when presented with a conflict was because I was afraid. I think an important question is, why was I so afraid of conflict? Looking back now, it’s all very clear. I was afraid of the unknown, I didn’t know what was going to happen due to us experiencing a conflict. How was he going to react? I may have thought that it could end our friendship, and that was a scary thought for me. So instead of having that as a possibility, I would hope it would just go away. However, the reality is that the more you don’t work through it, the more things bubble up to eventually explode. And normally when things explode, they don’t end well.

So how do we actually work through a conflict productively? If you are someone experiencing an issue with someone else you care about, it’s so important to bring it up to them. But something that I’ve learned over the years when initiating one of these types of conversations is to always start with questions. When you start from a place of trying to understand, the person on the other end is more likely to be open and not shut down. Respect is crucial, and remember that that person that you are talking to is someone that you love and care about. It’s good to know your perspective and stand strong in it, but it’s also important to share it in a way that’s transparent and vulnerable that leaves room for the other person not to feel attacked.

Now let’s say you’re on the receiving end of the confrontation; how do you react? It can be so easy to be on the defensive when this happens. But if you want the relationship to remain in tact, my suggestion is to try to put your emotions aside for a moment. Our emotions can cloud our vision from being able to see the other person’s perspective. Be open and listen, not with intent to respond but to try to understand. It’s ok to apologize. At the end of the day, we just need to be real and transparent. We have to remember that there’s a person with feelings and a different life and perspective on the other end. Both perspectives can be valid at the same time, and when we try to understand where the other person is coming from, that is when we make true progress.

The process of working through conflict peels back those superficial layers to get to the real people behind the friendship. Trust me, sometimes it can be so uncomfortable. But I’m learning that it’s worth it, because whenever we work through the conflict, it makes our relationships stronger.

Do you have any tips for better conflict resolution? We would love to hear your experiences and opinions on the topic! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Story Time with Rishone – Fear Prevents You From Moving Forward

Over the past few months I have faced a few car issues. At first I reached out to my good friend, who has been my trusted mechanic for a while, to assess and repair the squeaky noise(belt related noise) and all the lights that popped on my dashboard. For all that dont know I drive a 2010 Volkswagen Jetta. German engineering is one of the best but also a challenge to find compatible parts to do repairs. 
While driving to Wegmans after finishing up our funny video to I like ‘Cabbage’, a funny spin off of Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage, my car started overheating on a moderately  cool day after only driving a few miles. Almost all the lights popped up in the dashboard starting with the battery light. 

That night I left my car at Wegmans after the video shoot and procrastinated to have it towed because I knew my mechanic was not back in business yet due to Covid-19 and he wasn’t entirely sure when that would be. So rightfully so, Wegmans had my Jetta towed to a lot for violating the overnight parking. Luckily I went back to that very same Wegmans the following day it was towed so the cost did not balloon for sitting on the lot for an extended period of time. To shorten an already long story, I paid the charges but again luckily I learned from the owner of the shop that a portion of the towing was reimbursable by my insurance provider given the circumstances. 

Anyways I picked up my car, replaced the battery in the parking lot myself because it was indeed ready for a new battery and drove it home only to recognize the overheating issue was still a problem. So I had to be very careful driving home. However, I got home with the help of Susie safely tailing me to ensure I had no major issues. When I pulled into my parking lot I knew what I needed to do next but I was literally scared to do it because I had never done any engine related work. 

I have always wanted to learn more about repairing the engine of my own car so I started doing some research on what the possible issue could be. I spent almost 2 whole weeks researching and writing down diagrams, looking at my engine from above and under the car. 
Then I recognized that the lower belt tensioner and serpentine belt were completely shredded. Both these parts are important to drive the accessories in the car. Accessories like the air conditioning, alternator(generator), and power steering. Well my engine has 2 of them and I learned what both did independently as well as together. 

Bad parts removed from the side of the engine

So after learning all that I had to convince myself to actually do it. I worked through this mentally so many times in my head. I even had to use some inspiration from my uncle Mark, who is a self-taught mechanic. I went ahead and ordered the parts from Autozone and had my brother James Levy Jr.​​ pick it up for me the first time. 

Similar parts but not the same

Now I knew there were issues in foreign versus domestic cars but this 3 week journey of fixing my own car definitely made it even more evident. I traveled back and forth to Autozone and Napa Auto Parts on a bicycle in the heat to get it done. Yes, once I start something I am extremely determined; plus I secretly enjoyed the cardio workout versus being cooped up and scared to go running the past 3 months. I think within 8 days I rode close to or more than 120 miles. 

Removing the guard from the bottom of the car to gain access to the side of the engine

Unfortunately both auto part stores have generic parts, and though they are the same part numbers they are slightly not compatible with my foreign car. I spent days frustrated taking parts out of my car only to install the new part only to learn they were micro inches off. So I finally decided to bite the bullet with the cost and call Volkswagen to get the right parts associated with my vehicle’s identification number(VIN). 

They were a little lost too even though they have my vin number and my car has been repaired at their location a couple times. That made me even more frustrated because they should know more but again foreign cars are just a challenge. Regardless, with installing, uninstalling parts, and checking functionality. I realized I developed a vocabulary that provided clarity and also an understanding when I needed to further validate where the parts department fell short in knowledge. 

I finally received the correct parts and it literally took me 15 minutes to complete the job. I also realized because the car was running hot or over heating the whole time before so the coolant liquid in the tank was below the sensor. I refilled the coolant tank to clear the last light that was blinking and that cleared all the lights on my dashboard. 

Over the past few months I have faced a few car issues. At first I reached out to my good friend, who has been my trusted mechanic for a while, to assess and repair the squeaky noise(belt related noise) and all the lights that popped on my dashboard. For all that dont know I drive a 2010 Volkswagen Jetta. German engineering is one of the best but also a challenge to find compatible parts to do repairs. 
While driving to Wegmans after finishing up our funny video to I like ‘Cabbage’, a funny spin off of Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage, my car started overheating on a moderately  cool day after only driving a few miles. Almost all the lights popped up in the dashboard starting with the battery light. 

That night I left my car at Wegmans after the video shoot and procrastinated to have it towed because I knew my mechanic was not back in business yet due to Covid-19 and he wasn’t entirely sure when that would be. So rightfully so, Wegmans had my Jetta towed to a lot for violating the overnight parking. Luckily I went back to that very same Wegmans the following day it was towed so the cost did not balloon for sitting on the lot for an extended period of time. To shorten an already long story, I paid the charges but again luckily I learned from the owner of the shop that a portion of the towing was reimbursable by my insurance provider given the circumstances. 
Anyways I picked up my car, replaced the battery in the parking lot myself because it was indeed ready for a new battery and drove it home only to recognize the overheating issue was still a problem. So I had to be very careful driving home. However, I got home with the help of Susie safely tailing me to ensure I had no major issues. When I pulled into my parking lot I knew what I needed to do next but I was literally scared to do it because I had never done any engine related work. 

I have always wanted to learn more about repairing the engine of my own car so I started doing some research on what the possible issue could be. I spent almost 2 whole weeks researching and writing down diagrams, looking at my engine from above and under the car. 
Then I recognized that the lower belt tensioner and serpentine belt were completely shredded. Both these parts are important to drive the accessories in the car. Accessories like the air conditioning, alternator(generator), and power steering. Well my engine has 2 of them and I learned what both did independently as well as together. 

So after learning all that I had to convince myself to actually do it. I worked through this mentally so many times in my head. I even had to use some inspiration from my uncle Mark, who is a self-taught mechanic. I went ahead and ordered the parts from Autozone and had my brother James Levy Jr.​​ pick it up for me the first time. 

Now I knew there were issues in foreign versus domestic cars but this 3 week journey of fixing my own car definitely made it even more evident. I traveled back and forth to Autozone and Napa Auto Parts on a bicycle in the heat to get it done. Yes, once I start something I am extremely determined; plus I secretly enjoyed the cardio workout versus being cooped up and scared to go running the past 3 months. I think within 8 days I rode close to or more than 120 miles. 

Unfortunately both auto part stores have generic parts, and though they are the same part numbers they are slightly not compatible with my foreign car. I spent days frustrated taking parts out of my car only to install the new part only to learn they were micro inches off. So I finally decided to bite the bullet with the cost and call Volkswagen to get the right parts associated with my vehicle’s identification number(VIN). 

They were a little lost too even though they have my vin number and my car has been repaired at their location a couple times. That made me even more frustrated because they should know more but again foreign cars are just a challenge. Regardless, with installing, uninstalling parts, and checking functionality. I realized I developed a vocabulary that provided clarity and also an understanding when I needed to further validate where the parts department fell short in knowledge. 

I finally received the correct parts and it literally took me 15 minutes to complete the job. I also realized because the car was running hot or over heating the whole time before so the coolant liquid in the tank was below the sensor. I refilled the coolant tank to clear the last light that was blinking and that cleared all the lights on my dashboard. 

I realized there are many things that I could have done differently from the moment I experienced there were issues with the car. I could have immediately had it towed to a shop when I realized there was an issue. However, because I didn’t I learned how to change both my serpentine belts, a tensioner and if needed the alternator as well. 

Now I understand why repairs take so long sometimes with my foreign made car specifically. Even for mechanics it is a ‘trial and error’ thing and sometimes it’s a quick fix if you can find the right part but if you try to find parts from an Autozone or NAPA or any other well known auto parts store you will be frustrated over and over again. 

New part installed, ready to drive

How does this story apply to phasing back into normalcy. Well, we are all facing some level of fear of the unknown as we return back to life we knew before the Covid 19 Quarantine. As this nation is continuously experiencing a rise in Covid- 19 related cases, racial injustice tensions, the uncertainty of returning to work, or working through some personal challenges. What makes this story very similar to what we are all experiencing, is that everything new. We have never encountered a virus that we had to quarantine, racial injustice is not new but the realization that we still have more to do has been renewed. Also some of us may need to find new jobs and new positions because the company that existed before did not make it through the quarantine. And finally this quarantine has made us all confront some areas of our personal lives. However if we want to move forward we need to do sufficient research, educate ourselves, secure the right tools, give ourselves a pep-talk, and take it one day at a time till we repair our lives and this nation. Only taking an educated action towards the unknown will help to remove the fear that keeps us from driving forward with our lives. Recognize that you don’t know everything and be opening to learning something new. Trust yourself on this journey of growth as we all choose to act rather than surrendering to fear. 

Story Time with Susie – Less is so much more

It was the Wednesday night before the launch of our brand new Burlesque Intentions class. At this point it was after midnight, and I was getting exhausted. I had already choreographed a whole routine to our song, ‘So Anxious’ by Ginuwine, but I had to scrap everything and recreate from the beginning, cause my first version of the routine turned out to be a little “too much” for a beginner level class. (Yes, you read that right. I created an entire routine that I ended up not using at all.)

So in my second version of the routine, I was trying so hard to make sure that not only was it a beginner level choreography, but also a fun and visually interesting dance. I was stuck on this one section for probably an hour, and when I say section, I mean literally 4 counts. I kept trying to make the movement fit a certain framework but couldn’t come up with anything that seemed to fit. I had several times where I momentarily gave up and sat down to give it a break, hoping to come back with a better idea. But everything I tried didn’t work. I was frustrated and spent, to say the least.

I decided to go to bed, hoping that a few hours of sleep would give me a fresh perspective on a new way to finish that little section to complete the entire routine. When I came back to it in the morning, I simply made a small adjustment in the direction that I was stepping and it solved the whole problem! Praise the Lord! The routine was complete.

I share this with you now because I know that I’m not the only one who has struggled with trying so hard to make something work/come together but still feeling so stuck and not being able to progress forward. Sometimes all we need is a fresh perspective and a new angle to make everything click.

It seems that we often think that we have to do “all of the things” and everything needs to be extravagant and intricate to make something good. But there is beauty in simplicity. Take dance for example; if every single step of a dance was on the 1-e-and-da, 2-e-and-das for an entire routine, it would all start to look similar and blend together as if it were all one note. But it’s when we switch up the timing and create moments that make us appreciate those intricate movements even more.

So if you have been feeling stuck or major friction on something you’ve been working on for a while, how can you look at it from a different perspective? Are you doing too much to try to make it fit into a certain box? Cause maybe what you’re creating isn’t a box at all… maybe it’s a triangle. So take a step back to gain new perspective, take the pressure off from trying to do “all the things,” and let what’s genuinely supposed to happen flow through.

P.S.. If you want to see the final routine that I taught in our first Burlesque Intentions class, click on the Instagram Post below.

Story Time with Susie – Hello there, Gut!

There I was, faced with making one of the biggest decisions of my entire life, and I was in emotional shambles. I could not make it clear decision. Should I buy this condo now? Or should I turn it down and have to renew my apartment lease and continue my search for a new home? Spoiler alert: I didn’t buy the condo.

This was in March of 2019, and now one year later, I am glad to say that I’m in the process of purchasing a home. However this time around, I was not in emotional distress with tears falling down my face trying to figure out if this home purchase was the right decision for me. I have felt at peace every step of the way with my decision of purchasing this home, and that’s how I know this is the right decision for me at this time.

So now with this new experience underway this year, I have to think back and compare it to how I felt last year when almost purchasing that condo. My internal being is completely different. At this time last year, I didn’t realize it, but the fact that I was so emotionally unstable and unable to decide was actually my gut trying to tell me not to buy the condo.

Also with decision-making, I think that we put too much stress on ourselves to make the “right” choice. Cause the reality is that with most decisions, there’s always another decision that can follow it. Meaning that even if the decision you make right now turns out to be not the most ideal next step for you, you always have an option to make a new choice after that.

I know I’m not the only one who has trouble making decisions, whether they’re big or small. What I’m coming to learn is that when it’s the right decision, you will be at peace with it overall. So if your someone who has a history of indecisiveness, have no fear! It’s not a character trait; you CAN become decisive!! If I could simplify it into easy steps, it would be this:

  1. You have to know what you want! This does entail some soul-searching. And in order to do this, you have to get away from all the “noise.” By noise I mean everyone else’s opinions; your mom, aunt, the Facebook group your in, society… You’ve gotta deny the urge to look to everyone else’s opinions to help make your decision and spend some quality time with yourself.
  2. Listen to your gut! Pay attention to how you feel when presented with an option. Do you light up? Do you feel scared? It’s OK to have some mixed emotions in there, but for me, if I’m going to decide to do something, my overall feeling has to be excited. Once you’re able to get in tune with yourself and know exactly what you want, all you have to do is listen to your gut.
  3. Do a “test run.” If you’re still struggling to decipher what your gut is trying to tell you, have someone make the decision for you. Now I say this not for them to actually make your decision for you, but for their response to give you some type of knee jerk reaction. Again, pay attention to how you feel when you think you’re going to go with one of the options. If you felt excited and lit up on the inside, then there you go, that’s your choice! If you wished the person would have picked the other option, then again, there you go! Now you know what you don’t want.

Do you make decisions easily? Do you have any tips you want to share that make offer another perspective of how to be decisive by listening to your gut? We would love to have you share your thoughts in the comments below!

Story Time with Rishone – Just Do It

Let Fear Excite You To Act on The Things You Really Want In Your Life.

We have 2 main choices when it comes to experiencing fear.  You can either choose to compound it until you become incapable of taking action or you can use fear to excite you take action. The fear of the unknown is what causes the most debilitation when it comes to pursuing or taking action towards accomplishing anything worthwhile.

The Dream of Learning From The Best.

I had a dream of being a top 10 finalist on So you Think You Can Dance. It absolutely scared me to my core just to think about dancing live on national television. This is how I knew it was something that I had to do for myself. I wanted to improve as a dancer and the only way to do that was to learn from the best in the business and that was through this show.

It was the end of 2011 and I was 29 years old, only 8 months away from the cut off age of 30. So I was either going to let fear tell me I’m too old and not good enough to audition for this show or I was going to let it fuel me to be a top 10 finalist and become one of the best dancers to ever be on the show. 

At the time they had already completed 8 seasons of the show and I made the decision to be on the 9th season. I originally wanted to audition for season 5 but I tore my ACL playing basketball that summer right before the audition season. Obviously I was extremely devastated and unsure I would ever actually get that opportunity again. However, with determination and discipline I spent the next few years rehabbing my knee myself.

After rehabbing my ACL injury, I felt physically ready to finally do what my heart always wanted. I went back and forth in my mind with so many negative thoughts of inadequacy until I finally said ‘F@#$ it; It’s time to make my mark!” So in that moment I decided that no matter what, I was going to be on season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance.

Action 1: Find the Ideal Open Audition City.

The first order of operation was to find the right city to audition. Open auditions were held in these cities: Brooklyn, Boston, Memphis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Salt  Lake City, and Atlanta but I knew immediately what 2 cities I would audition in. The first city that was a strong possibility was Brooklyn, NY New York but I felt auditioning in that city didn’t give me enough time to prepare. The next option was Salt Lake City, Utah. That city’s open audition gave me enough time to prepare, plan financially, request time off from my job, and prepare my solo Routine.

Action 2: Choreography my routine and Practice!

The audition was February 4th and I took care of all my necessary pre-requisites so it was now time to choreograph and perfect my routine. I chose the song ‘Lets Go’ by Travis Barker ft. Busta Rhymes. I chose this song because It was faster than any other routines I saw on the show and if I could display a level of control that I knew I could achieve It would impress the judges.

 I spent all my time when home creating the choreography and my lunch time working on perfecting it. I would go to the far left corner of the lunch room and put my head phones in. Most of my co-workers would laugh when they saw me practicing but as I got closer to February and I received a promotion to my new position I finally told them why I was doing it. They immediately became incredibly supportive. It felt great to finally feel like I wasn’t on this journey alone.  

Action 3: Landing In Salt Lake City Utah.

After the connecting flight to Salt Lake City Utah and watching the view of the Colorado Mountains from the window seat of my Flight, I landed in the late evening of February 3rd 2012. I took a shuttle to my hotel and checked in. After checking in, I asked the receptionist to point me to a room I could practice. She sent me to the meeting room upstairs. After I was settle in, I went to that meeting room and continued to work on my routine. After an about an hour and 20 minutes I decided it was time to get some sleep to prepare for the early travel and audition.

Action 4: The First Day Of Auditions

This was by far the best part of this entire experience. First of all, the experience of pulling up to the Capitol theatre in Salt Lake City and seeing the long line of dancers willing to give everything to be on the show gave me chills. It was also very cold so that could have also been a reason I couldn’t stop getting goose bumps. However, I got out of my taxi and took my place in the line of dreams. As I stood in line I saw dancers stretching, practicing their routines, others were eating breakfast, and I was just in awe of the moment admiring my spot in the line.

The Sun started to make its appearance and about 30 minutes later I heard a roar of screams and there she was miss Cat Deeley. She was interviewing Winner of the previous season’s 4th runner up Tad Gadduang. This overwhelming energy source came over all the dancers in the line and as the camera zoomed by you realized the level of talent that you were now in the presence of.

At that moment I did what has always made me comfortable, I joined the freestyle cypher and gave some of my best moves for the camera. After Cat and the camera crew was done with interviewing each dancer, I asked Tadd to take a photo with me. No I didn’t get to ask Cat because it all happened so quickly. It was an incredible experience waiting with all those amazingly talented dancers but it got even better when I finally entered theatre.

As the line got closer to the SYTYCD staff I saw the sign in table. We were assigned numbers and groups like: Jazz, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Ballet, cultural etc. Obviously I was placed in the Hip hop category. I did my background video interview, completed my slow motion dance move, and headed to my hip hop section in the theatre.

Action 5: My first time on Stage.

After we were separated into our specific genre of dance, we were then seated in the theatre in groups of 10. I sat in the audience and watched anxiously as each group of 10 got called on to the stage.  Each dancer was given 10 seconds to freestyle and leave a lasting first impression on the judges. If they didn’t make an immediate impression they were cut and that was the end of their journey.

On average, 3 out of every 10 dancers received a yellow ticket to the next round of auditions. That made me even more nervous but I kept reminding myself that I was born to do this. After about 2 and half hours of group auditions, it was now time for our group to go up to the stage. I literally danced up the steps like I belonged there.  As I got to the top of the stairs i gave a fist pump to the audience as they directed me to my designated spot. I was number 6 in my group. The song that was chosen for us to freestyle to was song ‘yeah 3X’ by Chris Brown.  It was a song I was very familiar with so I was excited to show my stuff.

 Dancers 1-through 5 went and then one judge leaned into to his mic and yelled “number 6.” I slid out of my spot like James Brown to the center of the stage smiled at the judges (2 producers 1 female 1 male, and Tadd) and danced like the song was made for me. To my surprise, they gave me an extra 10 seconds to dance. I saw them smiling and grooving with me and then they called #7. I felt like I was on top of the world because the only did that to about 20 dancers out of hundreds that came before me.

After all 10 dancers gave their best improve to the selection, they quickly called 4 number and one of those numbers was number 6. I think I exploded with joy when I heard it. The names that were called were directed to step forward to received a ticket to come back the next day and audition a second time for Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe, and a former top 10 finalist.

Action 6: The 2 Day of Auditions:

I left the theatre shortly after seeing some more of the SYTYCD staff to register my ticket. After completing that critical step for day 2 of auditions, I grabbed my belongings and exited the theatre completely overwhelmed by this accomplishment. However, I knew I had to get some food, get back to the hotel, practice my routine and get some sleep.

The second day of auditions made me realize what the magic of TV was like in person. Like the first day, all remaining dancers were placed in groups of 10 and seated in the theatre according to their time on stage. This time I was 6th group to get on stage. All of a sudden we heard a roar of cheers, movement, and whistling. Nigel and Mary walked into the theatre and took their seat beside a former contestant from previous seasons. At that moment I realized this was it. This was the real day of auditions. Even though  made it through the first day of auditions, this was the day that the world would see. The cameras were live, the audience was live, the dancers energy hand a new level of focus, and the judges were ready to watch us dance.

They went through the groups quickly as they got on stage to dance. Again, like the first day of auditions, every dancer had 10 seconds to impress the judges. As my group was called, the camera swung around to watch us get up on stage. The lights were almost blinding over the judges as we made our way to our designated spots. They played ‘Lets Go’ by Neyo and called the first number. This time I was number 7 in my group.

I watched as each number was called and I got lost in the gravity of the moment. So when my number was called I had some nerves so I started with the Carlton just to loosen up. I danced super hard after being silly. This time I only got the 10 seconds and the next number was called.

After they called all the numbers the music stopped. They asked each of us couple questions. Then they called out the numbers that made it to the solo portion of the audition.  I was disappointed in the moment that my number wasn’t called but Nigel and Mary explained why clearly. I was not chosen to move on to the next day because I was looking down during my freestyle and they could not see my face under my fitted hat. Then surprisingly they asked me to smile so I did. Then Mary said “There is no way we could have said no to that smile if you gave us some of that during your dance.” At that moment the disappointment dissipated and I felt encouraged about what I did.

My audition ended there; we exited the stage and the next group was called up. Though I didn’t make it to the solo auditions, I felt incredible about what I did on that stage, in front of the cameras, the lights, and the judges who I got to know well from watching the show. It was surreal to see them in person and to actually have them ask me questions and give me feedback. It was certainly not the result I was looking for but it made me even more determined to improve as a dancer and a performer.

This experience allowed me share the stage with so many courageously, talented dancers. Upon leaving the theatre I got to know a few of them a little more and we hung out for the rest of the day together. One of the dancers from Salt lake City, Utah, Ms. Ruby Chase, gave us a generous tour of her city and invited about 7 of us back to her house for a celebration dinner with her parents. That made the trip to Salt Lake City an experience that is still fresh in my mind today. I still keep in touch with most of the dancers I met from this experience and it is always great to hear how this experienced has inspired them to do great things.

The wrap up

Accomplishing anything worthwhile takes a choice of using the emotion from fear to direct you towards taking the actions you need to make your dreams reality. I may not have accomplished my goal of becoming a top 10 finalist but I gained so much.

 To put things in perspective, about 99% percent of your first time at doing something that evokes some level of fear will be a learning experience. A learning experience that will help you grow and learn what you need to get to the desired results you dream about. The only thing that takes you closer to that dream is taking actionable steps that excite you on your journey to making it a reality. You will learn that not only do you do yourself a humongous favor but you also meet some incredible individuals in the process.

Taking the steps to audition for Season 8 of SYTYCD provided an unforgettable experience that taught me so much about myself. For those 30 seconds I was on stage I felt more alive than ever before. So if something scares you enough, it probably means you should get excited, make some plans(or take action) and go after it like you were meant to have it. Fear is not a bad thing, it can be an incredible tool when it is used to help you grow. So whether it is something small or something big, think about how much you want it and make up your mind to take the actions necessary to make it a valued accomplishment.      

Story Time with Susie – A mistake I couldn’t seem to shake

Do you ever look at something you’ve done or created and thought, “holy crap, I seriously messed up” which is then followed by a series of thoughts about how you’re not good enough or how could you have let this happen… I experienced this a couple weeks ago when editing photos I took from a recent shoot…


I’m on my laptop in the process of editing the photos. The photo shoot had gone great, and my client had a blast in the process of letting her genuine self come out to be captured by the camera. She was fabulous. By the end of the shoot, I felt confident that I had captured her true vibe in her photos and that she would love the finished product.


So I’m looking at her photos (literally hundreds of them) about to begin the editing process,  and I’m in shock. I start feeling anxious and a little sick to my stomach. So many photos were blurry.

Now I’ve been taking photos long enough to know that you will get many photos that are not “good” due to the person blinking or their mouth is in a weird position. And yes, it is also normal to have some that are simply out of focus. I’m fine with all of that. BUT THERE WERE SO MANY THAT WERE BLURRY. TOO MANY.

I didn’t properly adjust my shutter speed (which basically controls how fast the photo is taken). It wasn’t fast enough, and at this point, there’s not much you can do about it. I immediately went from feeling so positive about this shoot to suddenly feeling nauseous. I didn’t even want to look at the photos any more. I felt myself cave in emotionally and not want to talk to anyone.

I closed my laptop and decided I would revisit the editing process another day. Thank God I did. A few days later, I opened my laptop again with fresh eyes. As I started to go through the photos again, from the top, I began to realize, I took so many photos. Over 500, easily. The reality was that they didn’t all need to be great. 50%, heck even 25%, didn’t necessary need to be “usable”. If I was able to produce at least 50 quality photos for my client, that was more than enough, and I did my job.

But I was being so freaking hard on myself. Why? Well for one, I didn’t want to let my client down. But it was more than that. I realized that the real reason I felt so horrible about many of the photos not turning out the way I had expected was because in that moment, I felt like a fraud. Here I was, boasting about the “amazing photographer” that I felt I was, but I felt like such a failure.

Realizing that I was in an emotional state and stepping away from it all gave me the space to not only see the reality of the situation (that I had more than enough “good photos” to give to my client), but also allowed me to dig deep to figure out what was really going on with me emotionally (aka me feeling like a failure).

I’ve taken some more time, have had many conversations with myself and am finally at peace with what happened. What I’ve learned from this is that I’m not a fraud. I’ve never claimed to be a “perfect” photographer. And I have always delivered on what I’ve promised. I am simply being hard on myself, which I think is actually a good thing. But instead of wallowing in sadness about my own perceived failure, I can use this emotion to drive me to practice more, learn more, and be better.

Anyone who is considered “great” at what they do is guaranteed to have a string of failures that has followed them and built them to who they are today. And I can also guarantee you this; they did not wallow in their mistakes. Instead, they chose to learn and grow.

So as we enter a new year, what can you choose to grow from? Not feel sad for yourself or even sweep under the rug so you don’t have to deal with the emotional pain of something that may not have gone as planned. But instead, what can you learn from it

For me, I learned that I need to perfect my craft and that a mistake doesn’t make my a bad photographer, simple as that. My hope for you is that you can see your mistakes for what they are and not let them stop you from stepping into the greatness you were meant for this new year.