Her Gift to Me

A treasured cup and saucer from Carmen that hold so much more than tea.

She was always so beautiful. Not because of her pretty face, ebony tresses or her blinding smile. She was – kind. In middle school, of all places. In that awkward time when kids can lose their sense of empathy and scar another human for their frivolous entertainment, she chose kindness. She made me grin on the inside.

I hadn’t seen her in over 20 years, but I was looking forward to our next rendezvous. My last visit home had been just a few months ago, and it was so bittersweet. A speaking engagement and book signing event had taken me there, but I spent the end of one of my longest days shedding tears with her on a painful pew because she had lost her grandmother. Seven years before, so had I. They both shared the same favorite color – fuchsia.

This time, our get together was going to be all fun! And we did indeed enjoy ourselves with food and friendships that felt like family. What stuck out to me the most though, was her gift. Firstly, I wasn’t expecting one. I was happy to have lunch and talk about old times, forging our friendship in a way we never did in middle school, but she arrived with an enormous bag in hand that screamed, “I know you without saying a word.”

An opulent, indigo blanket that felt more like a fur coat than a comforter sent my shrills in the air as I quickly imagined curling up in cold Colorado, buried in its warmth. With it was a beautiful journal, that beckoned for the inklings of my wildest imaginations. And then, there was china. Delicate, fragile, aged. Its iridescent luster intrigued me, and I figured it must have come from an antique shop; but, it didn’t. It came from her heart. From her home. From her family.

I hope you like the gifts,” she began. “I know you’re always cold, and I figured this would be great for your new home with all the snow this winter. And I know you love to write, so you can put all of your stories in there. I kinda imagined you curling up in the blanket and drinking hot tea. This teacup – was my grandmother’s.”

My face went from tickled to touched. I was so delighted when I thought these few treats were a simple expression of well wishes, but in her moment of few words, I realized they were so much more.

Growing up having very few luxuries in life, I developed a distaste for extravagant gifts. I savored a paper moon from a beloved friend over a precious stone from a sworn enemy because I was taught that gifts should be thoughtful and meaningful above all else. Genuine. Authentic, with no expectations in return.

She thought of me. She considered how I felt and what I loathed (to be cold)! What I loved (to write) and who meant the most (my babies’ Nanna). Understanding how much we adored our own grandmothers, she chose to share a piece of her life, a piece of her heart – a most precious treasure.

Her gesture could not be bought nor sold. Her gift to me was priceless.

I still meet people who are wowed by dollar signs. I realize it’s nice to have “finer” things, and I’ve since had my share; but, I am underwhelmed by people who purchase pricey things only to remind the recipient of how much they cost or how fancy they are or how (supposedly) the great expenditure is indicative of their great love.

Uh, maybe not.

I treasure the gifts that wouldn’t mean the same to anyone else. The ones that denote commitment of thought and consideration as they wondered what would make me smile. I didn’t wait for winter to bundle up with my blanket, and I’ve never been so careful with a cup of tea. With each new memory, I’m reminded of the ones we loved – and how fortunate I am for the gift of her friendship, laden with perceptive kindness. To me, that was the greatest gift of all.

#thankyoucarmen #grandmothers #thoughtful #heartwarming #kindness #sisters #friends

I Hear You Now…

Everything was a blur. What started out as what I believed was a random stomach ache left me winded in more ways than one. An initial throbbing I thought I could endure morphed into misery in the middle of the night with debilitating headaches.

If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought that something with talons was shredding the lining of my stomach. My husband urged me to go to urgent care, but at 2 a.m., I didn’t want to wake up my four boys and have them sitting with me for what felt like never-ending hours. I tearfully withstood the pain throughout a sleepless night. After all, I always get through it. Besides, I hate going to the doctor.

Despite my self-proclaimed fearlessness, the intensity became unbearable. Too many Motrin tablets later, I acquiesced to his advice. We made arrangements for the boys the next day and he rushed me to an emergency room, as my anguish had rapidly worsened. I wasn’t stable enough to walk to the room, so the staff immediately placed me in a wheelchair.

Disheveled and disappointed, I had difficulty answering simple questions because of the pain. Severely dehydrated and mineral deficient, I was later informed that I appeared to have a flu-like virus. After what felt like an endless stay at the hospital, I was released with a prescription for nausea and a mandate for bed-rest.

They said because it was a virus, there was little they could do. I had to “let it pass,” which would hopefully be sooner than later; but, I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t know that my stomach’s sensitivity would leave me unable to eat food for nearly a week. I didn’t know I’d lose weight so noticeably within a matter of days.

I didn’t know I’d bleed internally for nearly two weeks. I didn’t know my muscles would weaken so significantly that I wouldn’t be able to walk up my stairs. I crawled – slowly – instead. I didn’t know after practicing…walking again, that I would struggle to walk at a regular pace in the grocery store on a 10 minute visit. I was devastated.

Per the advice of those I loved the most, I detached from social media, did my best to follow the doctor’s specific orders, and in the many quiet hours I laid in my bed, I listened intently to the thoughts that were screaming in my head. I realized, though some of my choices are healthy, they are not healthy enough. In addition to the things I do well, I have to remember to focus on my weaknesses better. Many of which are simply remedied!

I have to drink ample amounts of water. I have to get more rest. I have to prioritize regular exercise more than I have in the past. I have to remember to take my iron pills – daily. I can still improve my eating habits. I have to address issues with pain before they become debilitating. Why? Because I can never take care of the ones I love the way I want to, if I don’t at least take care of myself. Or as my childhood friend Badria informed me (and numerous others echoed), “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

I hear you now…

Certain choices that I made prior to my bout with this virus exacerbated my sickness significantly. Its effects were so drastic, that it stopped everything else that I had planned and put in progress. I was frustrated that I couldn’t continue with my agenda.

I was disappointed that I had to cancel dates. I was heartbroken that I couldn’t do for my family what I’d otherwise done every day, because I could no longer stand up for more than five minutes at a time. And I prayed and cried every day, because I didn’t know when my suffering would be over.

But, I learned. I am increasingly thankful for my life and the blessings for which I verbalize my gratitude often, but truthfully digest and appreciate…seldom. Like, standing. Lifting. Walking. I am reminded that in our humanity, we are rarely invincible, but constantly fragile. I cannot forget it could be worse. While I suffered for many days, some endure suffering from the beginning till the very end.

Life is precious, and though we feel great today, we could be on our backs in an instant. I am acutely aware that amidst our infamous daily hustle and bustle, we can never underestimate the value of treasuring our time and memory-making with the ones we love. Such things are sacred – and finite.

They’ve told me the years will pass by quickly. “Treat your body and mind well,” they say. “Balance between the musts and the maybes,” they add. “I’ve got more years behind me than in front of me,” they recall. Then they insist I put Him first and live my life to the fullest. I can honestly say I wholeheartedly agree.

You are wise. You are right. Though I was wrong, I am listening. Intently.

I hear you now.

Thank You.

#icandobetter #begoodtoyourbodyandyourmind #everysecondcounts #makememories #makehealthychoices #listentotheonesyoulove #youcantcatchdreamsifyourenotaround #lifestylechange #listening #learning #livingbetter #ihearyounow #carlamichelle #educator #speaker #author #coach

Summoning My Superman

June 22, 1950. Sixty-nine years ago today, he was born in Chicago, Illinois – happy and healthy with what seemed to be many years ahead. He lived a life that was full of family, with a dozen siblings, filled with love, especially from my grandmother (affectionately dubbed “Mama Sugar”) and though I was not privy to his first couple of decades, he would change my life forever. His brothers and sisters called him Baby Bro; but, for me, he was always Superman.

I could never have been prepared for the phone call I received a few years ago, that he would no longer be able to return my calls. Pregnant with my fourth son at the time, my heart ached with an anguish that was previously unbeknownst to me. I’ve struggled to cope with the loss as we spent so many wonderful moments together. I determined that they should not have ended when they did – as of course, clearly I am the ultimate determinant of who lives and for how long – or not…

This time last year, I did decide to make an excursion that was among the best I could have ever imagined. Though I hadn’t been to my hometown of Chicago in over 20 years, I purposed to leave Houston and accompany my mother to their 50th high school reunion. I would be her date, and as her plus one, would represent my dad. I proudly blended their pictures together on my badge to let his former schoolmates know, I was their daughter. The experience was simply amazing.

I couldn’t begin to explain the blast I had hanging with the Class of ’68 Englewood Eagles as a Class of ’95 Willowridge Eagle for the entire weekend. From the music and the memories, to the many tunes so prominent in the music I grew up listening to (an obvious homage to their great taste), I savored the opportunity to experience remnants of his life. I ate his favorite foods. I saw his old neighborhoods, his hangouts, his schools, his church, his friends and family – my family. And for me – that was priceless.

The best part came when I was visiting “Uncle Rod,” his childhood confidant, who managed to archive video that was older than me – that I’d never seen before. I tearfully watched my Superman flying by on a motorcycle at a fabulous weather event with festivities, fare and fun. He was there with more family, more friends and his childhood sweetheart, my mom. I cried not because I was sad, but because on his face was one of the happiest expressions I’d ever seen.

It was second only to the wedding video Uncle Rod showed me next. And as I watched my debonair dad come out of the church with my angelic mom, he looked – blissful. Ironically to me, like – a super hero. Like most of us humans, my dad made many mistakes. He told me he made some choices he’d regretted and that there were many things he wished he could change; but, his missteps are not what I remember most.

I remember when he lifted me up with his bionic biceps. I remember when he magically healed my scars, both inside and out. When he taught me to make breakfast. When he told me I was beautiful. When he taught me to draw, to paint, to sing. And when he sang with me as I played his favorite songs. I recall when he was hurting and when he let me help his heart. Though he flew far away, I feel he’s still with me. Admittedly, I sometimes hate Father’s Day – because I feel we should be sharing it together. I have so much to say!

But even in his absence, his voice resonates in my ear. I summon him with my senses. I can smell his cologne. I can hear his tenor. I can see his wry smile and taste his favorite cuisine when I make it just right. I can feel his love so powerfully rooted within me – because as my incomparable, invincible dad, he will always be my Superman.

#heshowedmehowtodreamincolor #IlovemySuperman #whatkryptonite #stillhisnumberonefan #hecalledmecarlamichelle #iloveyoudad #happybirthdaydad #june22isaholidayforme #celebratingroyleeturner #turnerforlife #carlamichelleturnerbrown #hedbeproudofme #imstilproudofhim #loveyourdad #gonetoosoon #alwaysdaddysgirl

Macarons, Memories & Melding

Mouth-watering Macarons that Made My Moments Memorable

My heart stopped. My mouth watered, and I had to refrain from jumping out of my skin. I couldn’t believe they made a special trip just for me after such a minor reference in passing conversation! This was no ordinary confection. This was a French macaron, a meringue-based masterpiece, infused with sophisticated flavors of culinary creativity, boasting a texture and taste that made me swoon!

Anne and Nancy were already among my warmest friends since my recent move to Colorado. From their compelling kindness to their fondness for fare, we were already bonding on numerous levels; but, this was unexpected. At a meet and greet where we were shooting the breeze, we tickled the topics of sweet treats. As they raved of the delicacies not far from Denver, I simply melted.

Savory selections like Black Peppercorn. Pleasure inducing Pistachio. Simply soothing Salted Caramel. Each made me sigh with satisfaction. I vowed to visit the haven soon, eager to explore the little luxuries. Yet, I didn’t anticipate upon our next meeting that they would come bearing gifts! It made me ponder…

So many times, when we’re among family and/or friends, we indulge in random conversations. Some seem minor, others intense, while a few may be simply forgettable. How often do we listen intently, with making it memorable in mind? When do we seize opportunities to couple our character with our caring – without it being tied to a special occasion?

When Anne and Nancy gifted me with my decadence from Honey B’s Macarons, I saw much more than a random snack. I recognized how intently they’d listened to our conversation; their desire to have me experience a pleasure they’d already known; their willingness to alter their schedule, add to their to do list, select the perfect combination and expend their resources to express their affections for our growing relationship. Imagine that.

Among my greatest excitements is finding ways to make others smile. Whether letters, cuisine, celebrations, or surprises, there’s nothing like spreading unanticipated joy! It’s different being on the receiving end. I was not prepared! But I was thrilled. It was a gesture turned joyful that has helped meld us together as even more than friends. For this and many other reasons, we are sisters.

Find a moment today to cement your kindness and love, by showing someone in a way that they didn’t expect. If you’re wondering how, just listen to their heart! What tickles their fancy? What makes them smile? Send a little sunshine – it will brighten your day. #macaronmagic #honeybsmacarons #meldingandmemories #carlamichelle #betheone #thankyouanneandnancy

To Infinity & Beyond

The Last Love to Make Our Hearts Melt – To Infinity & Beyond

My eyes flutter and my heart skips a beat when I see the dimple sinking into his cheek. A tiny mouth now utters giant words, and a pint-size body houses a personality that overwhelms us all. While I’m enjoying every moment, it comes with a tinge of pain – because there’s a very selfish part of me that wants him not to grow! Can I keep him in a picture frame that freezes his fervor forever?

When I look at the two year old that will soon be three, next to the giant thirteen year old that will be fourteen during the same month, I ask myself, “Where did the time go?” I already want to click rewind. All four of them seem to be slipping into manhood. I am ever reminded that I love each of them to infinity and beyond. Is it possible to slow down the time? In some ways, the answer is, “Yes.”

The closer I get to being half a century (smile), and the more I watch loved ones cross over into eternity, the more acutely I am aware of how precious time is. My body gives me other reminders of course. Unprecedented aches and pains; a stomach that’s not quite as tolerant of the extreme eats it was in high school and college, and here lately, I find words that I’m reading becoming much clearer as I push text away. I put on a pair of reading glasses in a drug store and was frightened to see my grandmother staring back at me.

Nevertheless, it compelled me to examine quite a few things. Among them was treasuring the relationships that mean the most – my children, my spouse, my family, my friends and most of all, my faith which composes my relationship with Him.

I’m convinced that our lives are the sum of many choices. What intrigues me is how many we make that we regret later. I often asked myself, “If the older me could go back and talk to the younger me, what would she say?” Since I consider myself an old soul, I decided to think forward, and apply it now.

I’ve determined to make more time to read stories. Write until my heart’s content. Go to as many games as possible. Listen to the adventures that they think are exciting which may sound crazy and/or boring to me – because it means something to them.

Take pictures every day. Eat at the table as a family in the no-devices zone. Laugh and laugh and laugh about anything and everything. Don’t be afraid to talk about the stuff that seems hard, and always find something new to love about the one I fell in love with.

As much as I adore many things about my life, I don’t always love things I see in the world around me. I feel the hate, the heartache, the heinous and the horrendous. It pains me deeply to know there is so much duress and so many who desire to inflict injury among the innocent.

I pray daily and earnestly for protection and providence, practical knowledge and patience, because I do believe that there is One love that can conquer every evil. In the meantime, I choose to share love with those who deserve it – and even those who don’t. Among them are the ones I love the most – to infinity and beyond.

Cherish your moments to love. They usually disappear far sooner than we’re ready.

#tooinfinityandbeyond #fivebabiesfourboys #IlovetolovetheonesIlovethemost #Iknowthegreatestloveofall #carlamichelle #speakerlife

Brilliance in Spite of Bullying & Brokenness

Celebrated Athlete Turquoise Burroughs Uses Faith & Fervor to Overcome Obstacles

In recent months, I’ve been overwhelmingly grieved to learn of young children who’ve been compelled to tragically end their lives. Bullying – in person, in e-mails and in social-media (and at all ages) – has heightened at an alarming rate with many families feeling devastated and helpless.

After reading about yet another student that was only 9 yrs. old who recently took her life, I was quickly reminded of a conversation I had with an esteemed athlete and record-breaking track star who shared her own heart-wrenching story of being subjected to coarse and unkind actions. Her challenges not only showed parallels in many of their stories, but offered insights into how to thrive amidst bullying and brokenness.

While many 5 yr. old girls are incomparably excited about Kindergarten and playmates, Turquoise was beginning an adventure as a member of the track team that was spearheaded by her parents. Setting records locally and abroad, she quickly proved to be a fiery contender.

As a dedicated athlete, she pursued her love into middle school and high school. Initially believing she was embraced by peers, she later recognized she was targeted for bullying. At its worst, she was even placed in a life threatening situation with a fellow team member and was later banned from participating in the sport as a result of a coordinated plan to bar her from competing.

Nevertheless, Turquoise persevered with unwavering passion. When life seemed to throw hurdles into her path, her parents and her faith provided the strength that she needed to soar past each one of them with greater resolve than before. She outperformed her rivals while breaking records, silenced the naysayers without saying a word, and amidst her most challenging year, still mesmerized scouts, cementing a full ride scholarship to UCLA.

Her successes were frequent, and her travels were many. Her personal performance catapulted her to Trinidad, Jamaica, Brussels, Hungary and the Cayman Islands among others, and her talents led her to compete with athletic heavyweights and to be trained by icons like Bob Kersey (husband of famed athlete, Jackie Joyner Kersey).

With the Olympics in mind, she set her sights on the highest goals. Debuting with the same diligence she’d committed to the sport throughout her life, she was devastated to discover a fierce contender in her personal life – debilitating bouts with Sickle Cell Anemia. Her original goals there remained out of reach, so she later determined to change her path in a new, positive direction.

Turquoise experienced heartbreaking setbacks and was crushed by experiences from unhealthy relationships. Nevertheless, she bathed her thoughts in Bible study, processed her life with prayer and maintained open and extensive communication with her parents who became her personal heroes.

Anchored by these ideals, she was able to transition into inspiring and motivating others through various industries, blogging, speaking and social media. Still an American sweetheart, she reminds audiences everywhere that bullies are not to be believed. Their actions should be conveyed and countered with the help of the appropriate authorities.

She also expresses that though life may leave you feeling broken, an unfailing faith and supportive family remind you that you are beautiful and loved. Turquoise has a timeless testimony that illustrates to everyone that their is hope even with heartache. Celebrate your successes and never forget, there’s always a better way.

#listentothequietvoices #rememberyouareloved #faceyourfearswithfaithandfervor #turquoiseburroughs #trackstar #trendsetter #lifechampion #catchyourdreams #carlamichelle #speakerlife

Celebrate The Simple, The Serene & The Surreal

Photo by Edward Eyer on Pexels.com

A look into the past of anyone who had love for their grandparents would yield a wealth of fond recollections. Old stories. New loves. Precious memories, and something that for many of us may seem uncommon these days – a little peace. Nevertheless, it sheds light on an imperative we often overlook – the importance of celebrating the simple and the serene. In hindsight, it today feels…surreal.

I am one of those who nestles into the nostalgia when I see things that remind me of the grandmother who helped raise me. Deep in the South, her vignettes of Memphis, Tennessee’s sun drenched summer days and wonderful watermelon patches filled my heart with excitement and envy. Born near the turn of the century, she certainly endured her heart-wrenching struggles: ostracism, racism, classicism and unthinkable tragedies. While she educated me on the inhumane and the importance of kindness, she never failed to overshadow her obstacles with stories of her optimism.

Life today is filled with challenges. Change is a constant, but it seems, so is trouble. When I find myself at a loss for the ills I see in the world, I remind myself that among the simplest solutions – is love. The most special, I believe, comes from the Father. It is this simple and unique love that I believe will ultimately be the answer to the problems that are otherwise, inexplicable. It is this love, this solution, that I celebrate. It is grounded in simplicity. It leaves me serene, and when I compare it to all of the failed solutions that so many have tried to devise on their own, it seems surreal.

I wish at times that I could fix the world’s problems. I haveth not the capability to do so; but what I can help, I do. When I can alleviate pain, I try. I’m convinced the most powerful thing I can do, is pray, and endeavor to demonstrate in my own choices how to show love in a world that is too often unkind. As you consider who and what you treasure, remember not to get lost in the chaos of conflict. Instead, reflect on the simple – those things that are often the purest sources of our joy. Find your serenity in knowing that one day, things will be better than they’ve ever been. It won’t be surreal then. It’ll be a reality! #keepliving #keeploving #keeppraying #Hecanfixanything #dreamcatcher #carlamichelle #speakerlife #Istillhavehope #gettoknowHim