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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Try Breaking the Ice Like This…

  • niceice

Ever been on an ice rink?  With ice skates?  It can be challenging.  Ever been on an ice rink, without ’em?  They have.  Don’t worry.  They didn’t desecrate the rink, we made sure to get permission.  Invited to a private party, these boys took advantage of a rare opportunity to do the unexpected.  While there was a previously determined mode of operation, they struggled a bit.

But while many others went with the standard, they broke out of their comfort zones and considered the possibilities.  What a way to break the ice! What transpired next could be only be categorized as relentless excitement; pint-size, but pleasant pandemonium – and an adventure to remember.

So often, we find ourselves in situations that may be foreign.  Perhaps, your background is not the same as your peers or associates.  There are certain elements that you recognize, but maybe you struggle a bit.  Perhaps your challenge lies in the fact that you haven’t considered the possibilities beyond face value.  Maybe there’s another way you could look at it, that would still give you the leverage to excel.

Am I saying break the rules?  No.  I’m saying, explore your options.  Think differentlyPursue diligentlyStrategize incessantly.  Sometimes it’s not asking questions that matters.  It’s the questions that you ask!

I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with a friend on yesterday whom I’ve known since elementary.  He’s a passionate, prolific family man who has a wonderful career and a beautiful wife and children.  While he’s done considerably well in his profession, he’s pursuing another lifelong passion that he placed on a back burner while life happened.

Unregretful of his decision to table it earlier, he’s now ready to pick it up and move forward. So he’s preparing!  My favorite part?  He’s conditioning himself mentally for his new pastime/future career in a manner parallel to how he prepared himself as a middle school, high school and college athlete.  He’s molding his mindset.

He’s allocating designated time to dedicate to the development of his craft.  He’s researching, studying and practicing for perfection…because he has an end goal in mind.  I’m convinced he’s going to get there…because he’s not afraid to step out of his comfort zone and get on the rink with an approach that perhaps others – haven’t seen yet.

If you take a moment to consider success stories you’ve seen and heard, rarely do they achieve the unthinkable by majoring in the mundane.  They think differently.  They pursue diligently.  They strategize incessantly.   I’m positioning myself to do the same in order to catch my dream.  Are you ready to catch yours, too?  Break the ice…and Leap with Me.  Adventures await… #imsmiling

#pursueyourpassion, #betheone, #catchyourdreams, #Leap2017, #breaktheice

Caption:  Brown Boys shattering the status quo.  Mommy Brown to follow suit…

 

 

 


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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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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…


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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.


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Relax. Replay. Relieve.

liquid goodness

I did it again.  I got busy.  Got flustered.  Got overwhelmed, and allowed many of the things around me to drown me in a swirl of “Oh-my-God-I-must-get-all-of-this-done-or-the-world-will-come-to-an-unprecedented-end.”  I think I was “in my feelings,” as I’ve heard many “young” people say.  (Remember when you were the “young” people?  I think that’s my almost-40 something talking.)  Anyway!  I realize most people associate summer with all things care-free, traveling, and the like; but, for many, summer represents transitions, new responsibilities, longer to-do lists, and situations that can intensify a few of our anxieties.  I’d be on List B.

What’s wrong with that?  Everything!  If you don’t handle it correctly.  And I did not.  My key indicators were exhaustion, exasperation, and this morning a sore throat – the kind I only get when I haven’t had enough rest and my body goes back into protest mode and says, “Yeah, we don’t like this.  You make us uncomfortable, we’re going to make you uncomfortable.”  Note to Body:  Point Taken.

I think among my better qualities is that I am constantly reflective.  And after a few headaches and moments of being befuddled, I traveled that familiar journey of asking myself, “How did I get here…again?”  And I realized, I was filtering through the wrong lens.  I am reminded again of that salient serenity prayer:  “God grant me the serenity (peace/calmness) to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”   Yep.  I was definitely missing that big picture.  That being said, when you know better, you do better.  Or so I’ve been told.

So I decided, as a spin on a phrase that I heard when I was still in high school (relax, relate, release), I instead needed to relax, replay, and relieve.  How so?  Very simple.  We need to relax because so often the things that we feel the most anguish about are not nearly as critical as we make them out to be.

You could possibly easily list five things that you obsessed about recently that were perhaps very minor.  In the big scheme of things, I ask myself if what I’m “sweating” would be of any importance to me a year from now.  If the answer is “No,” my new approach to handling it is, “Let’s move on.”

Replay.  I’m of the opinion of late that many of my most challenging issues needed to be revisited in my head before moving forward.  Sometimes, “replaying” scenarios that have occurred helps us analyze them better.  It’s so easy to misinterpret situations when we don’t give enough time to considering what really took place, especially when other people are involved.  Journaling comes in handy here.

Writing down what happened and how we feel about things is a great way to remember what occurred with accuracy and authenticity.  There have many days I reread an entry from the past and went, “Wow.  I didn’t realize I was looking at it that way.  I can see how that happened, but given the circumstances, I would do [blank] now.”

Stepping away from an episode can give significant insight.  When caught in the emotions of intense experiences, you don’t always see things as clearly.  When you relax, you have a physical element to being calm as well as an emotional reaction.  Replaying puts you in the driver’s seat of controlling your feelings when you’re not uptight.

Finally, relieve yourself of unnecessary obligations.  I am so guilty of tasking myself with things I need not be obligated to.  Not intentionally.  Not because I have nothing better to do.  I think more so, just out of habit.  I always strive for excellence, and as such, I come up with many grand ideas of what would make things better.  That would be ok, so long as those ideas don’t leave me overextended.  This is especially true when I add on other people’s unnecessary expectations.  It’s a recipe for disaster.

It is imperative to remember that as humans, our lives will constantly be filled with things we need to do, places we need to go, people we need to see.  This is intensified if we have any significant relationships in our lives, be it family, friends, members of our faith, or colleagues.  What is unhealthy is when we allow these things to combine in such a way that we are pulled in more directions than we can go.

Stop!  Assess your situation and respond to what is most essential.  Relax!  So you can do so with a calm demeanor and save your insanity.  Replay.  Take a good look at what is happening and make sure you’re analyzing what’s important – objectively.  Relieve.  Cut out anything that isn’t required, and thank yourself in the morning.  That’s my strategy for rejuvenation… #haveacupofthat, #pursueyourpassion, #catchyourdreams, #bethe1.

Picture:  A large cup of all things soothing (Cafe Mocha) from Croissant Brioche, my favorite intimate, French Cafe in Rice Village.  The chocolate shavings are mint-infused!  #divine, #thisishowIrelax


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The Wonder Is Worth the Wait

Chrysalis

With a vibrant garden just outside my door, I’m privy to many of nature’s magnificent miracles.  A special patch of milkweed beckons a certain kind of caterpillar so we can enjoy the beauty of the Monarchs soon to arrive; but, as many of you know – it’s quite the process.  Now as a teacher and life science fanatic, I do think there’s something neat about caterpillars.  However, in my old age, I can’t say that I’m nearly as eager to have them crawling on my finger as I was as a 7 yr. old.  I leave that to the zealous second graders, and they’re in full supply.

I am far more intrigued as an adult about – the process.  At select times of year, the leaves are replete with caterpillars of all sizes, feasting and gorging in preparation for the most transformative experience of their lives.  I marvel at their instinct; their ability to survive the deadliest of odds; the simplicity and forthrightness of their objectives – and their commitment.  Despite the many movies I watched on PBS and countless animal books I read as a little girl, witnessing firsthand the creation of a chrysalis is incomparable to any recording – live or otherwise.  Even when I’m the only member of the audience, sitting on the grassy front row – I still hold my breath.

I was reminded of how fascinating this process was on our last trip to the garden.  I peeked over into a small container and saw this tiny chrysalis and remembered how I always liked the ornamental specs of gold that graced the verdant green exterior – I assumed because it seemed reminiscent of royalty.  Enter Epiphany of Brown.  As I peered intently into the digital photograph last night, I recalled a conversation I had yesterday with a seasoned educator, for whom I have high regard.  She wanted me to know she’d finished reading my latest posts, and among her favorites was – “The One in the Back.

As the conversation progressed, we began to talk about the many people we know; and how numerous talented people work tirelessly at doing a wonderful job, in whatever field, but still seem to get passed over.  This can occur for so many different reasons….but, I’d like to speak to those of you who have and continue to work tirelessly, but are doing so with an end in mind.  You are working toward something.  You are feeding your passion daily.  You might be discouraged because you feel like you’re still doing so much “ground” work, but don’t be burdened because you’ve invested so much time and effort into your pursuit.  You are building a foundation.

Maybe you feel overwhelmed by all of the other “caterpillars” in your space – noticing that you are not the only one on your grind; perturbed that there’s only so much milkweed, and you’re competing for what you need to survive.  Even still, a transformative experience awaits…  When you finally reach that perfect moment, you will see everything come together that needs to in order for you to be in that appointed place.  Things that must be in sync will allow you to be in the right place at the right time doing the right thing – if you are prepared.  Don’t despise the grind.  Embrace it.  Those efforts that you make to be committed to your cause will be the very fodder you need for your chrysalis.

Despite the amount of time it will take to prepare; no matter how long it takes you to transform, the end result – will be simply spectacular.  We know most people don’t stare at caterpillars and come away with a warm, fuzzy feeling; but, they do seem to be quite smitten with the picturesque butterflies they become.  I was once told by an optimist that, “My latter would be greater than my former.”  I believe that.  For those of you who are putting in the work that seems so tedious on many days, don’t stop feeding your passion.  Ignore the naysayers and do what you do best – invest in yourself and in your dreams.  That chrysalis is coming.  You may step in a caterpillar, but the wonder into which you’ll transform in the end will be well worth the wait.

#pursueyourpassion, #catchyourdreams, #betheone


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The One in the Back

intheback

I thought I was having déjà vu when I saw this crimson version of the same flower I’d noticed in a completely different locale just last week.  I found its beauty to be breathtaking, but unlike the other flower that bears its likeness, something else called my attention to its floral aesthetics.  The one in the back.  Look closely to the right; tightly closed, almost invisible, blocked by those in front.  From the sidewalk, I noticed the broad petals beckoning for sunshine; the stately stamen that dazzled with golden hues; the fragrant aromas that emanated from within – but when I came in closer, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the late bloomer in the back.

You’ll notice that the bulk of the flowers in the front are indisputably gorgeous, but within a week’s time they had wilted.  Following their fall to frailty, the tightly closed bloom shined undeniably – without any interference or overshadowing from the aforementioned stars.  “Ok, Carla,” you may be thinking…”Where are you going with this?”  Well, meeting recently with client Erica Wiley, we were discussing the lyrics of her new single, “The Front.”  As we exchanged stories about similar experiences, it occurred to me that many of us have been late bloomers of one sort or another.

So often, we may not be prepared to take center stage.  Sometimes, we are overwhelmed or overshadowed by others whose gifts or talents seem more prominent at the time.  Perhaps, it’s not an individual that bests us in the realms of opportunity.  It could be a situation beyond our control; unfavorable circumstances, or simply ill-timing.  Nevertheless, I am wildly convinced that many of you – of us – possess beauty and magnificence that are tantamount in quality.  While you may not be noticed for the unique gifts and skills that you bring, fret not!  You may be merely in your blooming stage.

Tightly gripping your core ideals and dreams, know that your time is coming.  How quickly you bloom depends on how you nurture your dream.  Others may not see you way in the back, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone else who’s looking.  You never know who’s watching.  Suppose there are passers by like myself, who will be compelled to take a closer look and notice the bloom beyond the prominent petals.   What should you do?

Get prepared!  Soak up the sunshine that warms you through and through, i.e, the positive things that keep you spirited, encouraged, and enthused about what you’re pursuing.  Water your ideas.  Become deeply rooted in the practices that will give you a firm foundation – and only fill yourself with things that brighten your demeanor and disposition – lose the toxicity that abounds with unhealthy relationships, soured advice, and unproductive tendencies.  They threaten the success you so desperately strive for.  Your holistic wellness is critical.

Things may not happen when we want them, but it doesn’t mean they’ll never happen at all.  Patience is a virtue, and the things that are truly worth waiting for are also worth the investment.  Erica eloquently conveys in her latest single that the time for transitioning from the back to the front is now.  I agree.  You may be the bloom who is set to blossom when those who overshadowed you are wilting in the zenith of your beauty.  Don’t lose sight of your dreams.  Renew your passion.  Reclaim your power.  Refuel your purpose, and allow the world to bask in the magnificence of your gift.  #pursueyourpassion, #catchyourdreams, #betheone

Picture:  Celebrating the bloom in the back, which will one day be the most mesmerizing of all.