Carla M. Brown |Speaker| Writer|Educator|Coach|

We have the perfect words. Write when you need them. Visit us at www.carlambrown.com


2 Comments

When Decadence and Diligence Danced on My Plate

Decadent and Diligent

I almost shamefully admit that I’ve become quite sugar-addicted somewhere between my last trimester and my current motherhood moments.  I think about dessert daily, and I am making an extreme effort to exercise moderation, of course!  Nevertheless, when one of my oldest (and favorite) Nursing clients from the College of Nursing at Prairie View A&M recommended we meet at Grace’s recently (which I’d passed many times, but had never been), I couldn’t help but indulge in the decadent chocolate cake that peered seductively at my table.

It was perfectly molded.  I could see from a distance that the sponge like texture had just the right resistance, and the aroma was intoxicating.  Warm, chocolate ganache cascaded over its luxurious crown, accented with ripened raspberries that were gently kissed by herbaceous mint leaves.  When I finally took a bite, I was in disbelief.  Its deliciousness was unparalleled, but I expected less – because on the menu, it was deemed “flourless.”

Like many of my contemporaries, I’m from the era that feels items with traditional ingredients missing taste slightly different; at times, a little off, at others not quite right, and at worst, simply sub-par.  Nevertheless, I recalled that there are occasions when flour yields rather undesirable results for a significant part of the population.  Apparently, it created enough of a dilemma that certain individuals were determined to create an admirable option – tantamount in culinary delight.

Their diligence is delectable.

I realized that often, the things that we don’t like are what encourage us to make changes.  Should they not? In the workplace, we call them evaluations.  We weigh them against our standards to determine if the results are the best.  If they’re not, we try again; use different approaches, re-examine procedures.  In our lives, we opt to work harder; use greater insight, seek wise counsel.  Why?  Because we are convinced that improving our efforts will lead to a better situation.  And when we do that with consistency, I call that diligence.

Through the diligence of a patient pastry artist unknown to me, a flourless chocolate cake emerged that tastes perhaps even better than its predecessor.  The quality of this taste for me, was more than a sweet treat, it was a delicious reminder that diligence is its own reward.  If you have a goal, a desire, an objective – that hasn’t quite turned out like you wanted just yet – don’t stop trying.  If necessity is the mother of invention, displeasure is the father of innovation.

Let your challenges catalyze your dreams.  #catchthemwhenyoucan

Caption:  A double dose of sweetness, decadence and diligence.  #howsweetitis


8 Comments

My Final Four – Boys, Blessings, & Big Dreams

A Growing Gift

Amidst my former hope of joining #teampink, I finally delivered my fourth (and final) healthy boy – and I am elated. I’m still wrapping my mind around the idea of being in the house with five males; glaring at the toilet seat that is still up at times when I want it to be down; trying to ignore the waning desire for tea parties and tiaras and yet cherishing the throne that remains all my own as the reigning Queen (smile).

What sticks out most however, is that I am thankful.  Like any parents, there have been days when I longed for the serenity that comes with an empty house.  I’ve joked often with my friends and told them my favorite day (pre-Jonathan Paul [the newborn]) was haircut day, because all of the “boys” were gone.  With such an active household, it’s nice to have peace – and to be able to enjoy a dessert alone – something rarely done in a home full of foodies!

Admittedly, I’ve cringed at the rough-housing inherent with little men.  I’ve fussed about broken trinkets and misplaced socks and shoes.  Nevertheless, I’m filled with reflection of what it means to have a family, as I find myself nostalgically immersed in the magic that is motherhood all over again;  but, sometimes, I find it bittersweet.  Why?  Because I see it in so many contexts now.

I consider the baby I lost that will never be forgotten.  I’m acutely aware of the anguish that comes with parenthood – and not being perfect at it.  I’m pained by the hard lessons you watch them learn that you wish they didn’t have to, seeing their missteps with each turn they make, and I am grieved by the tragedies that befall other parents that are simply inconsolable (and there are far too many of those lately).  Each and every element reroutes me to the bliss of being a mom.

I hear parents with empty nests tell me, “Oh baby enjoy them while you can.  They won’t be young forever.”  I realize, unsurprisingly, they are so right!  I laugh about my comparative experience with my first son, now 11, and I almost want to tell the clock to rewind so I could do it all over again.  He’s going to middle school next year, and I’m not ready.  Like many, I’ve put baby pictures side by side, marveling at the similarities and doting on the differences. I’m ultimately thrilled that they’re all healthy, happy, and whole.

I remind myself often of the games I’ve been to; their pivotal moments and fondest experiences, and I’ve endeavored to savor everyone.  Because having gone to more funerals than I would have ever imagined so early in the year -the hardest being my father’s; being blown away by the iconic things my brother has been sending me from the 70s and 80s era that we adored as kids and being thrown back into history with the loss of celebrity greats – I’m proverbially reminded…that our families…are priceless.

*                  *                *                  *             *                  *                *                  *

I dream.  I hope to create legacies that my children can embrace, espouse, and extol.  When my today becomes their yesterday, I want them to recall it with a fondness that would warm the hearts of their great-grandchildren.  I want them to remember the laughter at our dinner table; the feel of their father’s calves as they wrapped around them with their whole little bodies; what it was like to sing and dance in front of the TV with their brush-turned microphones and horrible Michael Jackson impersonations.

I dream that the love that we’ve worked so hard to impart – on their best days and their worst – will flow through them fluidly, not only to their children, but in the form of kindness to others – as they share their faith, their convictions, their fervor and their friendship.

I dream that my boys will share an inseparable bond – a kinship that makes them as much brothers as they are friends – that they will know that what they had with their family is unlike any treasure they’ve ever known, rivaled only by the love of God.

I dream that each reader of this post will not only share in the joy that our family has, but will remember how important it is to treasure – and make right, if you haven’t already – the relationships in families of their own. Life is a gift.  We seldom take advantage of all it has to offer.  While it’s too short to be angry, we wait too long to rectify what’s wrong.  Remember to live life to the fullest, and love the ones who love you most.  Don’t forget, we’re the models for the tiniest of all.  Dream big.

Love, Carla

Caption: Feeling full with my Final Four – and thanking Him for the gift of each and every one.

#pursueyourpassion, #catchyourdreams, #bethe1, #dreambig, #loveispriceless

 


2 Comments

Search, Seize, Savor: Rekindle Your Professional Passion

Search and Seize

When I walked into the room, I couldn’t help but gasp at the pillow that looked dipped in chocolate.  Subtly accented by the accompaniment behind, it seemed to be espoused by a billow of rose petals tied together with care, further accented by silk and satin that begged to be adored.  My then co-worker was giving us a tour of her cute and quaint condo, both simply and elegantly designed – and with every corner that I turned, I was increasingly delighted.  It was divine!

What I didn’t know is that the expert I’d spent so much time with in our profession on a day to day basis was secretly in love with a completely different industry – interior design!  Her face was luminescent as she begin to describe how her passion for perfection with every home essential began when she was a little girl.

As a frequent traveler with military parents, she’d marinate for days on exactly how she wanted her new room to look – and execute it within hours, flawlessly.  Her childhood hobby had fully bloomed into an adult sized admiration – and she was exceptional at it.  Nevertheless, what she truly loved the most – was somehow what she was doing the least…

Have you spent recent hours working in one place, but daydreaming about what you’d really like to do somewhere else?  Are you one of millions whose thoughts often lead them to what they wish they could do – if they only had more time?

Make the time!  To write your book; pen your poetry; make your music; design your app… Whatever it is that you perhaps started long ago and no longer watch the embers glow – or maybe you never blew on the flame – it’s time to rekindle it!

It’s not so late in the year that you can’t make a Spring Resolution.  Spring into action – and pursue what you really love!  Quit your job?  Not necessarily.  Never make life changing decisions on the spur of the moment or as a good friend once told me, under duress.

I say nurture your natural gift and desire to choose to do that which is fulfilling… And if it just so happens to be profitable – with benefits that outweigh the liabilities – then perhaps you should consider making a career change!

Now I will say that I’ve had some readers who expressed they are not necessarily in need of career movement, but they are still repressing a desire to delve into something they’d love to do, but haven’t.  And to them I say, “What are you waiting for?”

Life can throw us a few unexpected curves.  Sometimes, it’s wise to table things that need our full attention for the sake of greater priorities.  However, we can place obstacles in our own path in the name of procrastination, failure to follow through, or strangely – even fear of success.

I’m reminded of a song I heard on the radio yesterday on the way home from church.  Tickling my fancy, I realized that the commercially professional debut I was listening to I first heard and saw on FaceBook – as an uploaded video, beautifully recorded acapella – in the artist’s bathroom.

In one of my earliest conversations with Erica Shaw Wiley, she’d expressed that while she wasn’t exactly sure of how her music career would play out, she couldn’t squelch her desire to pursue it 100% any longer.  She’s since received rave reviews, celebrity endorsements, and outpouring support from a growing number of fans – and this is just the beginning.

*           *       *           *          *           *

When I reflected on my co-worker’s condo, I saw something very different than the other guests.  The “S” that branded her work for her was a reminder of her name.  For me it symbolized, Search, Seize and Savor.  Search for whatever it is that fills your heart with satisfaction on end, and seize the opportunities to throw yourself into it!

You should wake up in the morning, fanatical about the day ahead – because you know what you’ll do is something that you love – like Bakers Lane owner Tiffany Bell, whose hobby has now transformed into her profitable culinary delight.  With every miniature milestone and actualized achievement, you should relish the fact that you are doing what you do best.  Savor it.  It’s yours!  And the world around you will know you’re the best person for the job.

Time’s a wastin’.  #pursueyourpassion, #catchyourdreams, #bethe1, #seizetheday

Caption:  A simple reminder that seizing the day yields the best satisfaction of all


5 Comments

My Pain, His Providence, My Peace

Love Never Fails

A searing burn charred my heart when I learned that my superhero had fallen from the sky.  Amidst countless gasps of air coupled with painful heaving, I felt absolutely…breathless.  My husband valiantly cradled my collapsed and very pregnant body, fluent in comforting words and encouraging epithets; but, it was a language I couldn’t comprehend.

His admonitions were drowned out by the internal shrieks that were shredding my mind and the audible ones filling my room in my own voice that at the moment, I did not recognize. I crumbled on the floor in pieces.

On so many occasions, I’d consoled friends who had lost the one they loved most with “My condolences” and “sorry for your loss,” and I genuinely was.  Nevertheless, in the thick of my pain I realized that I did not discern the depth of their anguish when that loved one was a cherished parent.

In addition to the countless phone calls received and those that needed to be made, forms to be completed and arrangements to be selected there are also questions to be answered, updates to be given and unanticipated delays paralleled by unresolved matters where time is of the essence. To say that it is overwhelming would be an understatement…and this barely allows moments just for grieving.

The simplest things now seem monumental.  Selecting pictures thrusts me into the throes of agony, relishing the memories I so vividly remember only to feel my heart plummet at the thought that there will be no new memories to create.  I am told the grief will ebb and flow in a cycle of recursive stages and may never end at all (sigh).  I wish it came with warning signs so I could brace myself for impact.  #wishfulthinking.

Even still, in the valley of the darkest place I’ve ever known, one pervading feeling overshadows my most potent pain – love. For every ounce of anxiety, I’ve received a kind word, a warming sentiment or a spiritual lifting.  My faith flourishes with Scriptures that have poured through my phone and devices, championed by friends and family from near and far, spanning the spectrum of youth and wisdom.

I find myself calming in moments of duress.  I am quieted by the peace that transcends my understanding.  The anger and bitterness that was seeping through my soul is replaced with the thankfulness that the illness is gone.  I’m reminded that the One that I love more than anyone else, the One who loves me more than anyone could, the One who will never leave me nor forsake me – is still here – even in my valley…and His love conquers all.

I will never stop missing my superhero or wishing that I couldn’t have one more hug; but, I am elated that I still see his smile.  I feel the grip of his hand and the resonation of the pride in his voice that I am his daughter.  I hear his rich tenor, melodiously singing his favorite songs, and I don’t need a photograph to capture his essence.  His soul may have passed into eternity, but his spirit will strive with me forever.

I love you, Dad.

#heartbrokenbuthealing, #pursuingmypassionforyou, #yourethe1, #withmeforever

Caption:  What He reminds me never to forget…


6 Comments

Live, Leverage, and Learn…

Pursue the Possibiltiies

As I sauntered across the brisk, brightened lawn I was mesmerized by the light show that had been so meticulously designed for me and countless other observers.  The enormous tree was strewn with lights that looked like falling rain, so replete with luminescence that the house behind became hidden.  I admit, I wanted to pretend I was eight and run underneath the branches, swinging my hands between the dangling bulbs, pretending that I was in some type of fantasy land.

Like others, we took our share of various pictures, boys with mom,  boys with dad, and we forbade the children from running under so as not to disturb the perfection of the moment for other visitors to follow; but, my most memorable picture came as I walked the farthest away preparing for my departure.  When I turned around and saw the darkened shadows against the incessant brilliance of the lights, I was compelled to take out my trusty camera.  It occurred to me that the picture would capture my first epiphany for the new year.

So often, our lives can be quickly overwhelmed with issues or obstacles that we didn’t anticipate.   Like massive trees with heavily laden branches they can seem to be fixtures in our lives – difficult relationships, troubled finances, confusing situations, lingering ailments, or sometimes just perplexing decisions.  However, when I reflect on my own challenges from the outgoing year, I can’t help noting that some of my most agonizing dilemmas gave way to many of the brightest moments of my life.

Difficult relationships led to new bonds with old friends.  Financial conundrums paved roads for fortified decisions that I would not have considered had I not had the then unwelcome hiccups.  Confusing situations mandated that I take a necessary step back – to focus, question, and clarify.  I was unwillingly initially of course; but, when I did, my future seemed incessantly lit with possibilities.  I later became thankful for all of the insight that came with those heavy boughs of burdens.

If you’re anything like me (or perhaps know someone who is), you join the millions of people who make promises to themselves to be, do, and live better at the onset of the new year.  I love New Year’s Resolutions, but as I’ve become more “vintage” (because I’m clearly not getting old [smile]), I find myself beginning those resolutions towards the end of the outgoing year.  I consider what was successful and what went awry, but I endeavor not only to learn from my life, but the lives of others.

I have a renewed interest in health – not just physically, but spiritually, mentally and emotionally, financially, and professionally.  Often, I think we target a single area assuming that we can’t address multiple areas of our life.  I contend that we can.  Noting the many lives lost of those I’ve known and those I didn’t, I’m constantly reminded our lives are short and our moments are precious.

What is my sage advice for everyone?  Live well, with every fiber of your being!  Take care of yourself from the inside out!  Leverage the knowledge you gain, whether with family, friends, or formidable foes because everything that happens in life is purposeful.  Finally, learn from your lessons.  They extend far beyond the realm of academia.  If you think about them conscientiously, you’ll realize their benefits with greater ease.

You owe it to yourself and those you love to maximize the opportunities you’re so often presented.  Pay attention to the gems that are awaiting your arrival.  I have my eye on quite a few treasures, and most of them can’t be held in your hand.

#preparingtocontinuepursuitofmypassion, #catchyourdreams, #betheone, #happynewyear, #staytuned, #whatswaitingforyou

Caption:  The lights that lit my fire again.


3 Comments

Shooting for Their Success

Shooting for Their Success

It’s not everyday that we get to work at a job where we can actually say we’re thoroughly delighted with our daily activities.  You know how sometimes, you work at a place because it helps you to make ends meet?  However, there are occasions when our place of employment is an environment where we can take those things that we love and put them into practice in a way that is not only beneficial to others, but allows us to thrive in the areas where we shine best – because we love what we do.

I’m pleased to say that when I am not speaking, writing (or eating, LOL), a part of my day is dedicated to teaching two of my favorite subjects of academia (English Language Arts/Reading and Writing) to my 8 yr. old son at the school where he is also learning Spanish and Chinese.

Sharing with him and his 3rd grade peers the art and science of communicating their most vibrant thoughts with the rest of the world tickles me for days on end.  They’re at a point where they still love learning – and sadly, so many of our children don’t.

One of my favorite days at the school is Friday – not because I know it’s going into the weekend (although that is an added plus), but because each Friday the staff focuses on emphasizing the importance of college, and the students are enamored.  Uniforms are gone and college apparel abounds.  There are speakers, special presentations, and surprise guests – all with the intent of stirring up their enthusiasm for post secondary education.

Now, I don’t knock the world of sports, but to say I’m a fan of any team in particular would be quite the leap.  Anyone who knows me realizes my fandom is reserved for all things culinary.  That being said, I was delighted that on one of those recent Fridays my son’s eyes lit up when he saw this mascot (and massively tall) basketball players from The University of St. Thomas immediately following a presentation that again shifted his view towards his future.

I spend my afternoons with high school students who have not had such success in their academic careers.    Many are over-aged, some have been to three to four different schools already, prior and consistent failures from the past are common.  Nearly a third are homeless, some have single parents – and are single parents – but what I zone in on is the one thing that I can use to help their learning experience be effective:  desire.

There exists among them students who long to be successful, despite their circumstances.  More than a few of them possess the same desire as my third graders – to learn.  I share the common enthusiasm of wanting to teach them…things that perhaps they never knew or hadn’t considered.  Whether the eyes are oooing and awing in an 8 year old body or an 18 year old body, I hope and pray that the lessons developed – both from classroom and life – will inspire them to change their future in a way that is incessantly rewarding.

I’m no athlete by sports standards, but every day – I am shooting for their success.  All of them.  We each have the ability to touch lives with our talents, but are we really scoring the way we should.  What are you shooting for?  It’s not limited to a classroom…  I’d love to know.

#pursueyourpassion, #catchyourdreams, #bethe1, #athletesarentjustonthecourts

Picture:  Christopher and the mascot from The University of St. Thomas – feeling excited about his future.


5 Comments

I Can’t Forget…

thankful

I never cease to be amazed at how life can seem to swallow us up when we delve into more and more projects, past times, and personal endeavors.  I feel that I’ve been swimming in them of late, so much so that I had an unanticipated hiatus from blogging (smile).  Nevertheless, exciting highs and disheartening lows have compelled me to retreat to one of my favorite havens – the blogosphere and the many readers that I heart endlessly.

So about a week ago, I had the honor and pleasure of emceeing a historical event, The First Annual Salute to the Stars of Service, spearheaded by Tessy Windle of Artistic Celebrations in Pearland, Texas.  Dedicated to those who have and continue to protect our freedoms, I was captivated by heartwarming testimonies and adorations rightfully esteemed upon our patriots and duly reminded of how many things for which I have to be personally thankful.

Despite their individual experiences of service, triumph, and tragedies, they were each connected by a love for what is wonderful about our country and appreciation for the benefit of their collective sacrifices.  Truthfully, I felt a bit guilty about how quickly we overlook how these men and women have made our home such a wonderful place to live.

I’ll admit – when I hit a few bumps in the road, there’s a part of me that wants to wallow about what’s not fair, what’s not right, what should be different, what I wish was better.  However, I can’t overlook my many blessings.  Of late, I’m most excited about my newest edition – we’re five months in and Baby Brown’s gender is still a surprise (just four months to go) – I’m determined to find out in the delivery room!

Nevertheless, a highlight of my event, was seeing the little girl pictured above.  I couldn’t help, but hope that my fourth (and final) Brown will come with a pony tail!  Regardless of whether boy or girl, I am thankful to have the blessing of parenthood bestowed upon me again!  It’s uniquely special to be able to provide the sacrifices that come with loving someone other than yourself.

Additionally, I am not only thankful for the sacrifices that were provided for my country, but the most important Sacrifice that was made for my life.  Through Him, I know I can endure all of the ups and downs, and more importantly, a wonderful adventure beyond anything I could imagine.

As we celebrate our service men and women, and saunter into the season of Thanksgiving, let’s remember to be thankful for what matters most – faith, family, and friends.  After being carefully reminded of who and what I love most, I know #Icantforget.

#thankyou

Picture:  Another reminder of why I’m thankful.