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

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


5 Comments

Don’t Stop Here…

dont-stop

It was a clear message.  Beautifully adorned.  Simply written.  Unable to be misinterpreted.  You were not to park in this designated space.

It didn’t pertain to me so much, as I wasn’t driving.  I was on my sabbatical – walking, perusing, relaxing, but as always…deeply thinking.  And as I stared at the sign, I had “A Beautiful Mind” moment, where I saw less of what was immediately in front of me and more the analogous layers of complexity that nestled beneath this sign.

“No Parking” for me holds a different message.  It’s an admonition for those who are going into the upcoming year with all of the baggage that weighted them down in months prior.  It’s a declaration for others who are planning to be sidelined because of obstacles they’ve encountered and battles they’ve already conceded.

It’s an expectation for those who are determined to realize unachieved goals.  It’s a declaration to those they insist on bringing along.  Their encouragement is for more than themselves, and they won’t allow the naysayers to be the dreamslayers.

As I hear about (what seems like) another death everyday, I cannot help being thankful for each breath of life.  The year is not yet over, and there are many who still won’t see 2017.  Who’s to know who will be counted in that number?

But if it isn’t you or me, then what?  What do we do with the precious lives we have left to live?  Spend it wisely!  Live it loudly!  Do what we love the most!

Among my self-determined expectations is to ensure that I submit to “No Parking” in areas where I need not stay put.  I won’t park in depression, dismay, delusions nor disdain.

I’m not going to park anywhere that’s going to deter me from my focus, shifting my energy to draining instead of gaining.  I am going to plow forward; work fervently; learn greatly and fight passionately.

Reflectively, 2016 has certainly been the most trying of my life.  I’ve cumulatively lost some of my greatest loves, which has shaken  me to my core.  And unforeseen obstacles in people and places have also left me spinning, shocked at how calamity can be so rampant in what was perceived to be community.

I’ve hurt in ways that I didn’t know was possible, often angry at myself for having human emotions.

Nevertheless, I will not wallow.  I will not wish.  I will want it (my dreams) badly enough to make it happen, and when I can’t find the way I want, I will find another way, like so many amazing achievers before me.

I will draw from the strength of those who loved me most, and  I will listen to what my family, friends, readers, and clients need before I consider what I’ll say.

I am confident that as I Leap into 2017, there’ll be no idling for me.  Time is of the essence.

Let’s get ready for this road trip.  Where are you going?  Send me a map.

#noparking, #joinmeonthejourney, #journalchallenge, #catchyourdreams, #pursueyourpassion, #betheone

 

Caption:  A reminder that I’m scheduled to ride a road to remember.


2 Comments

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

 


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


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.


6 Comments

“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.