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

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


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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.


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Sometimes, I Forget… Learning to Love Again

me

I wish I could say, “I can do it all.”  I’d like to.  I’d like to know it.  To see it. To have it.  To make it.  To sing it.  To write it.  To say it.  To play it.  To create it, find it, feel it.  And maybe even fake it.  And sometimes – I can…  Because…I’m a fixer.  I think I’ve been tasked by the Lord to fix every problem known to man – because if I could just find the solution, life would be better for everyone.  Or at least that’s what I’d like to believe… Sometimes.

But, what I’ve learned when I sink back down into my reality of life on Earth, is that not only am I unable to fix everything – I am actually guilty of the unthinkable sin – forgetting.  I forget that in my humanity, I will make mistakes, more often than I prefer and in the times that I’d wish I could make them go away the most.  I forget that even if I sometimes feel invincible, life can go on in my absence.  I forget that when I don’t pull it together, it affects the ones I love the most.

I forget that my minor mistakes will not turn the corporate world upside down.  I forget that some people who say wonderful things about me are only pretending, and I should get over my hurt feelings quickly, because those people are everywhere I go.  I forget that people I love may hurt me by accident, but I must still love them on purpose.

Here lately, I’ve forgotten some things that were more important.  I forgot to remember to chase what I love…

I forgot that in the midst of doing a good job at my job, and doing a good job for my family, and a good job for my friends and a good job for my students and a good job for my clients, to do a good job at remembering me.  And so I’ve watched the dreams that I’ve been attempting to catch, almost wash away.  That was scary.  I forgot to love me.

I forgot, what I loved…because I haven’t made the time to love it the way I used to.

Time up.

So I’ve decided that instead of losing myself in the world-of-being-overwhelmed, I’m going to lose myself instead – in love.  In the people I love.  The things I love.  The places I love.  In loving myself…and the One who loves me most.

*************************************************************************************************************

Every time I learn that someone has “passed on,” I am reminded of how fragile and temporary our lives are here.  Losing my dad…has still hurt me the most, to date.   I know I can’t stop myself from losing anyone else, as everyone has their appointment with Him.  But knowing our lives are limited, it makes me want to love more, and deeply; meaningfully; genuinely.  Because if I don’t, my opportunity to express – or feel – that love, may go away.

So here are my tips and tidbits.

  1. Celebrate every sunset.  Cherish every cloud.  No two are the same.  You should treasure them both – and everything that is equally beautiful!
  2. Say, “I love you,” whenever you can.  You may think they know it, but you don’t say it nearly as often as you should.  It feels so much better to hear it.
  3. Forget about the expensive things.  They’re nice, but overrated.  Remember that things that are unique to the ones you love are the most special of all.  Show them that you thought about them so much, that what you’re sharing wouldn’t be special to anyone else except them.
  4. And lastly, remember that love isn’t just for the person you date or marry.  You have more relationships than you know.  Show everyone you love how much you love them.  It will last for a lifetime.

I know who I love the most…and I’m so glad, they love me.

#thankyou, #catchyourdreams, #inloveagain, #learningtolovemelikeilovethem

Picture:  Remembering one of the many things I love… #thebeautyofnature


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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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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


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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.


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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.


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Shock Yourself: Turning Inhibitions into Inspiration

unleashyourinhibitions

I’m forever lost in my own thoughts of what I want to do next; why are my endeavors important, and how will my work be meaningful.  I realized of late that some of the most important things I may ever achieve are often among the things that I shy away from – because they require me at times to do things that feel…uncomfortable…because they’re different.

Interestingly, I find myself dabbling more in the daring and different of late because I find the end results to be quite in alignment of what I’m hoping to obtain – a sizable positive impact that stems from my best work, and that got my wheels working.

It was a recent invite to speak at a church that first prompted me to update my photos.  The signature piece that I’d used (It’s Time to Take out the Trash)” was adorned with a picture that was almost a decade old.  I intended to take a quick pic and call it a day, unaware that my adventure would blossom into a full blown photo shoot; but, while I was there – something happened.  I was prompted to try some things that made me – uncomfortable.

Different make-up applications were unlike what I’d known in my day-to-day routine.  Different outfits weren’t like what I saw in my own closet.  Jewelry and polish weren’t what I’d find in my own accessories.

I went from remembering what it was like to pose in the bathroom mirror as a little girl to attempting to channel America’s Next Top Model in front of a very real professional camera.  It was initially nerve-racking!  Yet there was something intriguing and mesmerizing about it all.

When I saw myself in the digital pics I was quite shocked.  I thought, “Do I know this person?”  But the answer was a resounding, “Yes.”  Undoubtedly, I ended up enjoying myself far more than I expected, but for me such moments only send me deeper into reflection.

I realized that despite my angst about finding that other part of Carla beneath the surface, the one who actually liked all things fierce, what I was initially afraid of (i.e., not being able to summon the confidence to be unafraid of a “photo shoot”) was surmountable if I’d just relax.

In fact, being honest with myself about who I could be inspired me to work harder at giving it the same energy as other tasks I approach, even when walking in unfamiliar territory.  So I decided to brush in broader strokes…

Since then, I’ve taken on a number of new projects – also in unfamiliar territory – and I have to say, I’m feeling the fondness factor over and over again.  In the education industry, I poured my passion into students this summer unlike my status quo  of before and found it to be the most rewarding of my assignments in academia.

Partnering with an eager entrepreneur and philanthropist, I’m now an integral part and presenter for a cultural heritage festival that’s the first of its kind and on track to engage, educate, and entertain nearly 10,000 attendees in less than a month.

Cultivating relationships with a diverse array of associates, I’m also slated to assist in promoting a premiere wine festival, strengthening businesses ties and alliances that I could never have anticipated.  And my favorite – I’m finally authoring the book that’s been ten years in the making – and I am elated!  Stay tuned for that one!

I list each of these in particular because firstly, they are all undergirded by my passions:  speaking, writing, and food (smile).  But they share another common thread:  I almost talked myself out of all of them due to constant doubts that danced in my head about why they wouldn’t work.

In order to push past my self-induced (and sometimes externally fueled) obstacles, I had to shock myself by doing what I thought I couldn’t…including blogging.  Initial thoughts in that regard?  “Well if I write, what will I write about?”  “How will I figure out enough stuff to say?”  And my favorite, “Who would read it?”  Now nearing 5,000 views over the course of roughly 6 months, I’m happy to say I’ve answered all of those questions!  I’m still…shocked (smile).

Take Away:  There are so many things we are or could be great at that we don’t allow ourselves to thrive in.  We cut off our potential before we even get started because we assume that we wouldn’t get very far.  Sometimes – we’re wrong.  I encourage you to shock yourself.

Count your costs, use your reasoning, and be sensible – but…do something positive that you’ve been longing to try – just to see how it comes out!  If it ends up better than you expected, it may be time to move that inhibition to inspiration.  What’s the age old adage?  “You don’t know until you try.”  I say give it a whirl.  I’m loving my ride…  You might enjoy yours as well…

#shockyourself, #catchyourdreams, #pursueyourpassion, #bethe1, #tryitnow

Picture:  The behind the scenes look that put me in front of the camera with confidence.