Be the One

May He Wash Away All His Fears…

Cleanse

So I’ve been purging.  Sometimes, cleaning various rooms, making the hard decision to separate myself from student papers that are older than some of my children; parting with items that I can no longer validate holding on to; removing relics that I recognize my husband was right in gently sharing with me that they were fairly purposeless and collecting dust, and for very brief moments – trying to soak in some sun, celebrating the most beautiful days, when the heat is not unbearably sweltering.

I’m still working like a queen bee, hovering over countless tasks, enjoying the work.  I’m thrilled about new ideas, blossoming relationships and enthused clients, but I’m still trying to remember balancing business with bolstering memories.  It’s been challenging; in part because the media of late has swirled with realities that I find heart wrenching, and while I want to remain informed, I toil with severing my connection to the tube.  I feel it has betrayed me, offering me more opinions and slanted views than facts and fairness.

Nevertheless, irrespective of my entrepreneurial priorities, I was easily compelled to shut down my office the day after I received my own earth shattering news:  my three year old was going on his first field trip…to Discovery Green.  It was time to celebrate.

Interestingly, when I allow myself to submerge beneath the surface of conversational courtesies and pleasant exchanges of political rhetoric, I engage in quite a bit of self-talk.  I ask myself reflectively for answers that sometimes remain unearthed.  More importantly, I consider the impact of the world in which we live, or rather the decisions we’re making while in it.  And in my queries of how deeply I’m affected, I find myself consistently turned towards those who’ll remain long after we’re gone.  Our children.

It reminds me of countless things, but I’m opting to share a few – some out of mere adoration and others, out of unspoken obligation. Acutely aware that you may find a connection from a vantage point that I’ve not considered at all, it is my hope that my thoughts will at least tickle your fancy, and if not, then perhaps you will still find something for your enjoyment.

That being said, I am reminded first of the purity of love.  Amazing, isn’t it?  That it comes in so many shapes and sizes?  That we can love our spouses; our children; our siblings; our parents; our families; our friends; our pets; our passions.  That it is encompassed in a word so simple, but espouses such emotional depth…it leaves me speechless.

I watched three of my four boys (as the youngest turned four months last week) with incessant affection as they ran through the cooling waters that cascaded over their soft, brown skin.  And all I could think about was how much I loved them.

I think they loved…getting wet; the carelessness of their disposition.  The fact that they had no responsibilities, requirements, regrets, rebuttals.  They were enjoying the soothing spheres of liquid joy and savoring the signs that pleasure was plenty.  And I was elated.

For a moment, I also remembered the plausibility of pain.  I jumped just a bit if they got too close to someone else’s child, hoping there would be no unnecessary confrontations.  I worried that they might stumble or fall on the concrete beneath the water and injure themselves badly.

I was anticipating their disappointment when I’d tell them we’d have to go, knowing they would stay until the park had closed if they could.  I  worried that despite my best efforts, they’d still want to do more than the fun-filled day I’d already planned.  And then I thought a bit more broadly.

I thought about the confrontations I couldn’t guarantee they wouldn’t have – in life.  Not because of how they look, but really because of what they are – human.  And as humans, we will always have conflict.

I thought about the obstacles and incidents that I won’t be able to protect them from years from now.  I thought about when they’ll fall, and I won’t be able to pick them up.  And I won’t be able to hold their hand.  And I won’t be able to kiss their knees or rub their broken hearts, or make the pain go away.  And I felt – scared.  And helpless.  And vulnerable.

But  I also remembered, what my husband and I are teaching them.  I know what we believe.  I know in Whom we trust and how far His reach extends beyond what we could ever understand.  And that comforts me greatly.  Quite frankly, I don’t think I could have peace without Him – because I don’t have all the answers.  And as much as I’d like to be Superwoman, sometimes I think I have more kryptonite than kudos.

I have no idea what will be the future of my Final Four Brown Boys…but I have high hopes and great expectations, whatever their choices may be.  I know life will have its share of obstacles, and I’ll endeavor to do my best to help them through each and every one; but when I can’t, I will pray.  And when I can, I will still pray…because I believe we should pray without ceasing (smile).

And I hope that the love and patience and kindness with which we’ve raised them will wash over their fears of tomorrow.  Moreover, I hope that what they’ve learned from us, they will inherently share – and change the lives of others with the faith that moves mountains.

I savor everyday that they linger in innocence, and I hope they take their liquid joy and let it rain over their future.  I think we could all benefit from more of this kind of rain.  It’s time to use it to raise a generation that recognizes what we need most…

Caption:  When loving and laughter are pure and simple. #itstimetocleanseourminds

#catchyourdreams, #betheone, #pursueyorpassion, #cleanseyourmind

 

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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

 

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

“I Speak Human” – I. J. Brown

icopportunities

As I woke up to news of yet another shooting tragedy, I let out a long and pained sigh.  I pride myself in writing about chipper things and look for pleasant sources of inspiration – but, today, I saw media saturated with sadness, anguish, confusion, despair.  Can’t say that’s what I wanted for breakfast.

Nevertheless, you know we do have to talk about those elephants every so often.  I’m still a pretty positive chick, so I first decided to scroll through my pics.  Interestingly, I’d forgotten about this one from last week.  And then, even amidst feeling distraught, I felt a smile ebbing across my face…but not without a few sobering conclusions.

So I took my three boys to the public library, 8, 10, and 2.  The 10 yr. old, my avid reader, gobbles up books in the 600 pgs. realm.  My 8 yr old has discovered the joy of chapter books.  The last time I took my 2 yr. old to the library, he was a bit smaller and had no idea where he was.  But on this day, he was fueled, fast, and furious!

He’s been in school.  So he knows what books are.  He is reading – according to us.  Pictures, which counts.  I’m sure…I’m a teacher (smile).  But he made me nervous.  When he zoomed to the kid’s section, he first ran to a stranger.  He’s so quick, I didn’t catch him in time.

My thinking, adversely impacted by all of the swirling things I’ve heard about race combined with my own experiences made me tense up a bit.  I thought, “Oh God, he’s bothering them.  I hope they don’t get the wrong idea.  I hope he doesn’t do anything to that little girl, he’s so rough.  They’re white.  I hope she’s not offended.

Can I be honest?  I was afraid.  Like so many, I’ve had my share of bad experiences.  Some, I’d really like to forget.  But I’ve had some good experiences, too.  And this was one of them.  Isaiah figured out, that this lady (whose name I don’t remember) was reading.  He ran over to a shelf, deeming himself a helpful assistant, and brought another book for her to share.  Her daughter, who I learned was 1, was receptive to the kindness of this stranger.  I realized…it was because he spoke human.

I’d be remiss to say every experience is like this, but I do wish it was.  Bereft of the strife-filled recollections that I’ve encountered over the years, he didn’t see color; he didn’t see gender; he didn’t see age; he saw – people.  People who were reading.  People who were doing something that he’d like to do.  He saw – an opportunity – to share; befriend; to smile.  Don’t you wish we saw things like this…all the time?

Now I know the concept of children being color blind is not a new thing.  Actually, that’s not my focal point.  It’s something else that I noticed about kids, which many of us are aware of, but perhaps don’t talk about enough.  Whether our kids think like this really depends on what they’re taught…wait for it…by the adults.  These angry grown ups – of all colors – that stir up a visceral hatred – didn’t morph overnight into intolerant men and women.  These ideas were taught, bred, ingrained, seared.

My question for you is, what are you growing in the children you’re impacting every day?  Whether parent or non-?  Because they hear what you say, but they see who you are.  I must say, I was relieved by Isaiah’s act of generosity.  When I saw that the stranger wasn’t taken aback, but laughed, I felt o.k. approaching her.

I apologized for his interruption, which she found quite welcoming.  She was new to the city and happy for some company.  They later crashed the bean-bag section, her 1 and my 3, and I still cringed a little bit – because my boys are rough.  Turns out, she had a pretty tough kid herself!  They all had a blast.

Food for Thought:  So often, we bring our hang-ups into neutral situations, assuming the worst.  On countless occasions, we should leave our biases out the door.  Reality says, not every experience will be a positive one, because far too many have deepened hatred.  However, as we pride ourselves in our cultural differences, let’s not forget to celebrate our oneness.  I think we all still bleed the same blood.  Let’s not speak hate.  Let’s speak human…and teach the language to mastery…

#ispeakhuman, #kidscwhatwedont, #pursueyourpassion, #catchthedreamsofequality, #bethe1whomakesadifference, #thanksisaiah

Picture:  Isaiah sharing one of the greatest gifts discovered by moms and teachers everywhere….a book.

Be in the Moment

I Was So Jealous

I must admit.  As I awakened on my first morning without having to report to work on a weekend, a certain wave of elation trickled over my skin.  I love each and every student in my classroom and have felt compelled since the beginning of the year to offer the optional Saturday Tutorials – that special block of four hours where we pour as much as we can into their tiny bodies with big hearts; but, last week was the year’s end.  Suddenly, there was no alarm clock set.  No little faces awaiting my arrival.  There was just, my warm and cozy bed.  My favorite blanket.  The ebb and flow of early morning noises and…the incessant racing of my thoughts.

That million-item task list found its wily way into my head before the sixth hour of the morning and I was powerless against its mental assault.  I begin to think of everything I had to do.  Everything I hadn’t done.  What I could do within the next 13 minutes, what was clearly going to take longer.  Who I needed to talk to.  What meetings I needed to set.  What had to be done by Monday, could wait till Tuesday, what might get done if I got up at 3:30a.m. tomorrow, what should be done before the weekend’s end, and then I began – the dreaded texting.

It was only after my fourth very-important-I-have-to-do-this-right-now message that my husband rolled over in the dark and said, “What…are you doing…?”  To which I replied with an almost innocent, “Hmmm???” I replied, “Oh…just sending a quick message.”  I was then greeted with a deep and troubled sigh that translated to, “Carla, must you start working so feverishly at 6 a.m. in the morning when you actually don’t have to be anywhere but here…”  I’d like to say that after my non-verbal cue that I had an epiphany, but I didn’t.  I finished my texting.  Laid back in my bed, eyes glued to the ceiling and continued to be rattled by everything I wanted to do, but was pretty sure I wouldn’t get done, followed by toiling with how I could get the most bang for my buck.

Sound stressful?  It is… (Sigh) one of the things that I’m working on getting better at.  I’m still under construction, folks.  This is when I’m reminded of how good my husband is for me.  I went from deeply contemplating my best solutions to feeling flustered by all of my misfires.  Anguish spilled over my face as I began to fret about what was completely and disappointingly impossible.  Then two gentle, but firm arms embraced my own.  A warm voice whispered in my ear.  A compelling consoler coaxed me and said, “Why don’t you just do nothing?”  That felt so hard!  I’m a thinker.  A doer.  An idea-r (o.k., that one sounded weird, but you get the point.)

I struggle so much with relaxing because in a warped part of my brain, it equates quite literally with being unproductive.  I forget that relaxing is a healthy thing that really promotes holistic wellness and keeps me from going crazy.  With tremendous effort and a patient husband, I finally did though.  I silenced the thoughts, by replacing them with far more palatable ones from my imagination.  I closed my eyes and saw sandy beaches.  Tranquil waters.  Soothing falls.  A plush bungalow.  Island accents.  Delectable dinners.  And I had some other encouragement…

Lessons Learned:  Our To-Do-Lists will never be fully complete.  For every task that we cross off, many others will surface.  Yes, aim to get done what is most important; but, be not weary of those that aren’t finished in 24 hours.  Pace yourself.  Protect yourself.  Shield yourself from the madness that can consume you by being the one who wants to save the world in a day.  More importantly, treasure the moments of peace and pleasure that fall into your lap or you’ll find them slipping through your fingers.  Remember, love the ones who love you the most.  Be in the moment.  Today I was the student.  I love my teacher.  #happyrelaxing, #takeabreak, #beinthemoment, #catchthatdream, #itswonderfultobeinlove

Picture:  A photograph I stole from my friend’s FaceBook page (Forgive me!).  After he uploaded it, I was so jealous!  But today, it did me good.  Thanks, Kenyatta ;o)

Be the One…

Bethe1

While I realize winter is long gone in Houston, I can’t help my lingering awe with the ever-so-intricate snowflake.  I came across this book in my second-grade classroom this past December and like my own children, was utterly fascinated by how little I knew.  What I did know (and find mind-boggling) is that despite the trillions of snowflakes that fall all over the world, no two are alike (remember hearing that as a kid?).   This beautiful photograph fast forwarded to my memories when I began explaining my latest hashtag to my Creative Director – #bethe1.

As a cohabitant of the Twitter generation, I’ve finally developed a fondness for the hashtag hysteria.  For me, the affection stems from the constant reminders in what’s “trending”.  I like to remind myself that being one of few who chooses differently is a notable thing to do.  I realize that there are people who will opt to take the low road when I don’t, but I’d like to be the one who does the unexpected.  There are individuals who will not applaud my work ethic because it is easier to do what is convenient than what is correct.  I want to be the one who does what’s right anyway.

It is not always popular to disagree in a group when everyone else is in consensus.  My question is, “What is the impact of going along with the crowd?”  If my buy-in is going to make it difficult for me to sleep at my night, then my answer is going to be, “I understand how you feel, and I can see how you came to that conclusion.  However, I’m going to peaceably disagree.”  I will be the one that stands on my convictions because I can’t allow other people’s assumptions to compel me to change my own.

Sadly, what’s widely accepted often determines the decision making for all.  People are ostracized for thinking differently, labeled, and criticized.  I have never fit the status quo, so being the oddball is not foreign to me at all.  I am more concerned for my children – and our children – because when we don’t choose to stand out for what we believe, we send a message to them that it is better to go along than to champion what we feel from our hearts.

You will come across many snowflakes in your life.  Some will be a bit flakier than others.  In actuality, all will be beautiful because they come from the same source.  Nevertheless, many will blend in so much that they will only appear to assimilate into a blanket of snow.  Even still, remember that every part of your make-up makes you uniquely different.  Despite their best efforts, no one can be a copy of you and you shouldn’t be a replicate of anyone else.  When you feel like the tide of public opinion is pulling you under, don’t be afraid to ride the wave.  Stand up.  Stand out.  Be different.  Be the one…

Picture:  The one that was so beautiful, it took the photographer’s breath away.  Be the one who’s captivating the crowd because of your confidence.

Standing Alone: The Power of One

Stand Alone

As humans, we’re very systematic about things that we like.  We design them in a certain fashion and place things where they are most visually appealing.  Executives lay out a barrage of concepts intended to saturate viewers and listeners for a mere 60 seconds with the objective of compelling them to surrender their hard earned dollars.  Our economy – and our most lucrative opportunities – stem from framing objects, ideas, and concepts in a manner that induces desire for the insatiable consumer followed by prompt acquisition.  However, with this spending fury comes with some side effects, one of them being a proclivity to attaining the status quo.

But, what are the benefits of going against the grain?  How often does that occur?  What does it look like?  What are the results?  As I walked along the side of this house, something caught my attention.  While I’d seen many of the grassy and ivy-like foliage every day, I had not recalled seeing the vibrant, tangerine petals that were now commanding my pause.  My first thought was, “Wow, those are beautiful!”  My second thought, “Where did they come from?”  And third, “How did they get there?”  Followed by, “Hmm.  It doesn’t look like it belongs.  It certainly stands out among everything else along this wall.”  And therein lied the Brown Epiphany.

In our immersion in the flow of the public at large, we often lose our sense of self – because we’re so eager to ensure that we are among the haves vs. the have nots.  I’m not against having, and I’m not an antagonist of prosperity.  I do question however, how we define which passions to pursue.  I am inclined to think that there are many pursuits in which we can make a more powerful effect when we first – stand alone.  I daresay I’m compelled to believe that this principle applies in faith, family, finances, philosophy, and even our professions.

For those who embrace Christianity, today marks a quintessential reminder of the impact of a single decision.  The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ changes the face of humanity’s eternal destination, making real the opportunity for endless fellowship with God in the hereafter.  In nearly every culture, leaders – official and non – have made individual choices that turned their communities upside down, at times causing them pain, but later, eliciting the pride of their people.  Was yesterday not the anniversary of one such leader’s death, who stood alone many days before being joined by the masses?

With our financial choices, professional pursuits, and  business decisions – we may see fit to pursue an option that is unpopular, uncommon, and unwelcome.  My questions are, “Is it valid?  Is it attainable? Is it sustainable?”  If what you’re doing is not illegal, unethical, or immoral, I believe it is something to be considered.  I’m constantly learning from the #dreamcatchers in my life that the road to success can have many failures along the way.  Among the darkened days are moments when you are in fact, standing alone.  Crowds don’t come overnight.

Nevertheless, when you’re standing alone, something’s happening.  Unbeknownst to you, their is a vibrance growing within; a fervor so spectacular that when it blooms in full fruition, passersby will stop and take notice.  They will be smitten by the beauty of your thoughts.  Intrigued by the intensity of your passion.  They’ll be captivated by the splendor of your ideas;  befuddled by how you arrived there, when no one knew you existed…  And then they’ll recognize how starkly different you are from the status quo.  That yields a profit you’d be delighted to measure, and not all of it is counted in dollars….

#catchthis – I am not of the opinion that every journey you take should be one in solitude, although there is a time and place for singularity.  I do contend that standing alone on your core beliefs and convictions is critical to the pursuit of your passion.  Stop caring so much about what others think that you allow it to deter you from achieving your most important goals.  It is the antithesis of success.  Adhere to what matters most, and seek it with unquenchable thirst.  When people see you at your best, they should marvel at your mastery.  The power of one person can change the destiny of a nation.  #pursueyourpassion, #catchyourdreams, #betheone

Picture:  The one that made me stop, look, and listen.