Home is Your Heart

If someone had told me that the only way I would be earning miles in 2020 was by taking steps around my neighborhood, I likely would’ve smiled and laughed it off. But, here we are. Sometimes smiling. Sometimes wincing. All the time wondering. A year and counting of no travel has been quite the adventure. I could’ve wasted time complaining about my first world problem, but that’s empty on some many levels. Instead I seized the opportunity to make the most of our global hardship. What’s life without some improvisation? My sky miles may have stalled, but my discovery desires did not. Come along with me in my little trip down 2020 Stay Home Lane.

My last trip of 2019 and first trip of 2020 were surprisingly to the same place…the bayou. I always say incessantly pursue your happy. A big part of my happy is in the Magnolia State. I’m even happier as “TT” to my bayou babies. I’ve reminisced about these trips so much over the past year. I’ve never been so excited to have another moment to eat Cheez-Its with a toddler! He shares with TT too!

Before the pandemic officially shut down the world, I stayed in a pretty amazing Airbnb for an abbreviated sorority conference. Our favorite part was the porch. Too much fun was had! We literally had no idea that all of our #roomiesforlife antics would vanish for a while. However, service and sisterhood persists.

Then, it got real. No movement unless it was to look out the window to confirm that for the first time since I’ve lived here, there was no noise from the streets. An occasional walk around the neighborhood to feel the sun on my face and get entranced by nature was the farthest I went for months. I slowly emerged in the safest ways possible…

I found a “Love” sign on a road trip with my mom to bring my dad supply reinforcements. Because…Navy life. Those care packages matter. Please support our troops in any way that you can.

I went daytrippin’ with my mom to a place we like in Annapolis. Because 2020…that same week I also found myself in the ER with an IV after a gastrointestinal episode that literally brought me to my knees. There was nothing fun about being in that room alone in the middle of the night while my mom waited in the car for hours. Again…pandemic. Facility restrictions. While I had great nurses and doctors taking care of me, it’s not a good feeling to only have strangers to lean on when you’re ill. I was more than grateful to be able to walk those cobblestone Annapolis streets with my bestie after all that.

I quieted my mind in a huge open field in a park. I also simultaneously lost my mind when I found a spider in my sandal. Nothing like a good scream after doing sun salutations guided by your extraordinary yogi sister.

Before the pandemic, I spent a good amount of time doing life with my cousin. She’s everything that I’m not; that makes our relationship one of the greatest things ever. While we avoided indoor meet-ups for a long while, that didn’t stop us from socially distanced backyard blasts. It was a lot of crab legs, charcuterie boards, and citronella (I made my own candles and spray! Woot!). When dusk rolled in, we pulled our chairs up to the fire to roast marshmallows on several occasions. You might recall from a previous post that everything was all good until she told me about the neighborhood bear. I’m officially adding extremely vigilant, marshmallow roaster to my resume!

I’d call myself a part-time oenophile (lover of wine) and full-time flora guardian. Wineries helped fulfill both of these roles. Family, friends, flowers, and fermented grapes. All wasn’t lost.

I went to OBX for the first time. I stayed in yet another superb Airbnb and did the coolest things with my mom and best friend’s family like ride bikes, conserve paper towel squares (haha), and let my nephew bury me in the sand. We even caught a rainbow. When I look back at that trip, all I can think about is how much happiness those days brought me. It was the scenery I didn’t know that I needed.

My trips to the city were few and far between over the course of the year. I still chuckle at that considering I used to make the short but extra long trek to the city via Metro several times a week. On the rare occasions when I visited in 2020, I was reminded of everything that the nation’s capital represents for democracy and culture. I didn’t realize how much I missed the monuments, the art, and the many symbols of life with streets abuzz with people, cars, buses, and scooters. Oddly enough, it was in this city that I took my Nana to her first theatre production at the top of the year having no idea that it would be an unknown amount of time before that could happen again. The name of the production was “The Amen Corner.” A powerful gift of song, expression, and truth. I shall never know when I’ll be able to see my Nana sing along to those gospel hymns in a theatre again. A blessing to count numerous times over. Amen.

As a native Virginian, I grew up hearing about the Shenandoah views. Though I’ve traveled many miles through and around the area, I never stopped to look around. I changed that with a day trip to check out the fall foliage. A park ranger that was directing the ridiculous traffic into the main park provided a tip of a lifetime. I skipped the dreadful line of cars and caught beautiful views with a minimal amount of people. An introvert’s dream!

A llama, or something that resembled a llama, was almost a passenger on my trip to the Zoofari with my cousin and godson. I have video footage. I will neverrrrr forget how hard I laughed and cussed. *shrug* Waffles the giraffe also photobombed us. That’s certainly a cherished moment since I recently learned that a zoo fire claimed Waffles’ life. Thank you for gracing our presence, Waffles. We shall always remember you. Rest peacefully.

Some COVID tests and extra masks later, I closed the year at my home away from home…Nana’s house! Apparently, Lenny Kravitz knew I’d be there. That was glee!

A few things I’ve learned on 2020 Stay Home Lane: Home is a place that I’m fortunate to have. Home is a place that I shall continue to embrace for its warmth, protection, and offering of stillness. Home is a place that you create whether you’re inside or out. Home shall forever be in the openness of your heart.

You Can Choose Nothing

Because sometimes choosing nothing is choosing you!

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Last month, I rested. For two weeks. It was long overdue before the pandemic. My need for consecutive days of nothingness became more critical to my being once we were smack in the middle of it. To some, I’m sure it looks as though I do it all so well. Please know there’s a cost for everything, and life is not always Ben & Jerry’s Dairy Free Cookie Dough ice cream for me either. Sure, I may make things happen, but that doesn’t mean that I’m built to keep pushing all the time. We live in a society where rest is not valued, celebrated, or equitable. At times, I’ve drank the productivity juice too. However, I’m here to tell you that being means resting. No one should feel ashamed about taking time to do nothing. And no one should have to work so hard and never be able to live because the sole focus is always survival. Rest is not laziness or disregard for your future. It’s a necessary and practical act of self-love that every human deserves. Anyone who knows me will likely tell you that one of my favorite words is “no.” It’s my radical way of taking care of myself and those around me, because I’m fully aware that we’re programmed to never slow down to experience our experiences. For two weeks, I said “no” to everything that didn’t give me room to breathe, sleep, chill, observe, and feel lighter. I said “yes” to what did. My “yes” looked like:

napping on the couch

meeting my move goal (hello, Apple Watch friends)

cleaning the fabric softener dispenser in the washer

walking the trail and listening to my podcasts

putting up a new picture that sat on my floor for weeks

repotting two plant babies

making a favorite childhood snack

sleeping in (i.e., no alarm clock)

watching the sunset at a local winery

bathing with rose petal bath salts

writing thank you notes

checking out a nearby farmer’s market for the first time

writing new content for my business endeavors

making my first charcuterie board that looked too good to eat (yes, we still ate it)

not repeating my boundaries to those who knew them but chose not to hear me

roaming the bookstore and leaving with a jigsaw puzzle

celebrating my bestie’s birthday in her new home

trying veggie burgers

daytripping to ‘The Gem of the Chesapeake’ for crabs w/ Mom

making breakfast in the morning

not checking a single work email

closing my eyes to hear the quietest places of me

Though our individual cups of rest may not look the same, they all must be filled. Rest, my friends. Rest. You won’t miss what’s meant for you.

Water Wins

Someone once said, “Stop lighting yourself on fire to keep people warm.” It stayed with me. And I started pouring water everywhere.

For this trip around the sun, things will be much cooler. I understand that won’t work for everyone. The freeing lesson…it doesn’t have to.

This is the year for my softened desires to beam. I won’t waste this shower of renewal.

Chapter 35.

 

 

Monday’s Mantra: Be.

beto have an objective existence: have reality or actuality: live

I suspect this extended time at home has provided many of us with the opportunity to pause and consider our multidimensional essence. Whether your day continues to move at a rapid pace as you steer your way through calls and content, or you’ve found the rhythm that steadies your stride, remember that you matter just as you are right now.

I’ve learned that when we ground ourselves in our truth and embrace the tiniest things that we love about who we are, we’ll begin to hear the wisp of the softest wind in the present moment that is given to us as a gift. It’s the wisp that will carry us through our longing to rush or our feelings of fatigue from responsibility and the unknown. More importantly, it’s the wisp that will remind us to be…

focused but flexible,

inquisitive and hopeful, and

evolving yet celebratory of the gift we have to be alive, to be here, to be ourselves.

I Never Said We Weren’t Human

It has been almost three weeks since my original post detailing how some of us introverts are fairing in these weird and scary times. You may be wondering if we’re still singing the same tune given that people have lost track of what day it is and now find that checking the mail is a welcomed relief. Well, I’m here to tell you that many of us are likely still doing okay, but we’ve had to double down on showing ourselves kindness. Humans aren’t particularly good at that. We have to make an intentional effort to halt the negative self talk, relax our personal criticisms and judgment, and stay aligned with the present.

I know many are craving the opportunity to resume face-to-face interaction and to move around town, which is all for good reason. I can’t wait to go to a restaurant again whether it’s a local spot without the frills or a place with menu items I’ve never heard of before. It’s simple…I like food. And I like dining. I don’t need cloth napkins, but I do need a break from my kitchen! When world order is restored, I’ll be at somebody’s restaurant! Before I descend into my sustenance rabbit hole, here’s what I’ve had to do to level my love of solitude with these eerie circumstances and reconcile the fact that I am indeed still human:

I’ve started to temper my angst to create with coloring. I have a propensity to devise new ideas and ride the waves of my imagination. Some of these ideas I’ve executed in real time. You’re now viewing a site of what started as an idea. But, I’ve found that more reflective time has initiated undue pressure about a need to produce. Instead of allowing that anxiety to go too far, I circled back to an old pastime where the only thing I decide is the color pattern I’ll use to bring someone else’s sketch to life. Color. Sharpen. Repeat.

I read a few pages of my book in the middle of the day. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay motivated and focused as the work day progresses. I find that when I put it all down and channel energy toward something that takes me out of a monotonous mental space, I can hop back into what I’m working on with a new attitude. This is likely the way I’m coping with increased work video conferences. Sheesh. That’s a whole thing.

I try especially hard to curb negative thoughts. Several years ago I took a class at my church that was modeled after Joyce Meyer’s book, Battlefield of the Mind. That class and that book changed my life! I remember our instructor saying, “no thought should go unchecked.” I never forgot it, because I recognized how much I criticized and judged myself harshly with my thoughts. If you were to look up “overanalyze” in the dictionary, you’d find a picture of me cheesing. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve played out in my head with the worst endings almost as if good wasn’t possible. Nowadays that’s easier to do because there’s more time for inner dialogue. The minute I find myself going there, I try to shift my brain to gratefulness. That can be in a prayer, a mantra, or even a message to someone saying what I appreciate about them. Moral of the story…even if we don’t share the same religious or spiritual beliefs, how and what we think matters.

I accept when it’s a hard day and do what I want. That part of doing what I want has meant that I’ve curled up on my couch all day watching HGTV, slept, made an extra cup of coffee, or drank a glass of wine. Let’s be clear….not being able to go anywhere is hard no matter if you’re an extrovert, introvert, ambivert, or simply put…human! There have been times when I don’t have much to give besides gratitude for a safe home, my health, and resources. And in case no one told you, that is okay. Why guilt ourselves and each other into believing that every day is butterflies and rainbows? Nope! It’s challenging. It’s disheartening. It’s annoying. It’s unjust. And I still want to go to a restaurant with my friends and leave home without feeling like I need to rush back although I recognize both are privileges. I wrestle with my reality in comparison to others who are risking their lives every day and can’t stay home because of their work, lack of housing, and so much more.

I spend time talking to people I love. Some have been quick phone calls and others have been 2+ hour FaceTime chats. I’ve seen everything from Badu hair wraps at 10 a.m. to the making of vegan mushroom pasta while chatting with family and friends. Nothing tops my godson using my cousin’s body as his personal jungle gym while also trying to show me his loose tooth. Because kids…will be kids! I can’t say that I’m participating in regular virtual happy hours, however I’m still making space to be present in people’s lives.

And because water is life, I’m drinking more of it…with lemon. And occasionally with mint. Not because I’m trying to be fancy…mainly because I need a citrus catalyst to keep my skin glow and curb my snacking antics. Plus, it tastes better! #hydrate

When I consider it all, I’m hopeful…alive…blessed. Together, we will persevere no matter our personality traits or how we generate and restore energy. Keep being you. Keep being human. And keep being safe.

Hope: to expect with confidence

 

 

 

Find Yourself An Introvert: We Are Okay

I never thought I’d be living in a time when being an introvert would be valuable. Most people move about every day without noticing how loud the world really is. Because let’s be honest…society was built for extroverts. We construct events, gatherings, workplaces, curricula, sports, and basically everything to help our fellow extroverted friends thrive. Meanwhile the community that fancies quiet, solitude, tranquility, and whatever corner we can find to reflect must figure out how to keep our sanity in tact when we’d rather not talk, brunch, network, or video conference. But, during a time when we’re all being called to “social distance” for the greater good, I feel like my introversion prevails! Despite the horrible circumstances, the introverts are winning out here right now, because most of our friends have no idea how they’re going to make it through consecutive days of little to no in-person human interaction. Because I’ve been practicing how to engage only as necessary for a good chunk of my life, I thought I’d share how I maximize and enjoy my alone time on a daily basis. A few tips from your forced extrovert but seriously introverted friend on getting through:

Be thankful. You’d be amazed how much you have that you haven’t taken the time to acknowledge or appreciate. Whether you pause to think about it or write it down, there’s peace that comes with the act. It’ll stick with you when you’re able to stroll the streets again among your fellow extroverts and must refrain from addressing irrational behavior. Get some peace on reserve now! I have a grateful jar that I add to throughout the year. I read them all before the start of the new year.

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I’m the one with all the Post-its!

Be still. Sometimes I’ll sit on my couch and close my eyes. I love to be one with silence. I’m also known to ride in my car in silence…with eyes wide open of course. Stillness awakens you to your surroundings. It’s also an opportunity to commune with your spirituality. I often use these moments to talk and pray to God. That fosters wholeness and alignment within my soul. Plus, when you stop you can also hear nature. All of this helps me to appreciate the experience of existence.

Cut off social media for a day or two. The noisiest place we visit every day is the Internet! Picking up our phones, tablets, and laptops is such a habit that 20 minutes goes by and we’ve consumed a heap of information, memes, GIFs, and philosophical declarations from our high school and college classmates that we probably haven’t had an actual conversation with in a decade. The Internet is not all bad, but in our current times, it’s probably not ideal to constantly remain connected. It’s. too. much. Give your mind, eyes, and worries a break. And in the sage words of Congresswoman Auntie Maxine, “reclaim your time!”

In a similar vein, stop watching the news repeatedly. While I value freedom of the press and knowing what’s going on around me, the amount of good news you hear in a news cycle is almost nonexistent. Imagine someone coming to your house every day just to tell you that nothing is right and nothing is ever going to be right. That’s the narrative you’re consuming every time you tune in. It’s heavy. It’s depressing. And it’ll make you eat far too much cake, cookies, and chocolate. I do love a sweet, but health is wealth. The point is that you become what you consume. If you don’t want to feel negative and uninspired, then limit the news watching and listening, especially before bed. Since when do we request nightmares? I read The Skimm every morning. You can too. You don’t need hoursssss of all the bad. A daily digest will do.

Watch a show, movie, TED Talk, or YouTube video. I can watch HGTV for hours and never get tired of seeing lackluster homes transformed into something that I can only afford to recreate on my Pinterest boards. It’s an obsession and therapy for me all at the same time. “The Devil Wears Prada,” “The Intern,” and “Hitch,” are on regular TV every other week and a few of my favorite movies that never get old. There’s also no shortage of TED Talks to pique your interest or expand your perspectives. Similar to how you can watch one video on YouTube (like James Corden’s Carpool Karoke) and then have a never-ending list of related videos, TED is with the algorithms too. Luvvie’s talk is so good and one that I was fortunate to see live! It still blows my mind that God made a way for me to be in that theatre! God also knows I love her life message and spirit, so He later created the opportunity for me to meet her in-person at a local event! Ahhh..inspiration. But anywho…discover your digital delight and get lost in it for a while. Know that you probably won’t have expert detective skills because you’ve seen every episode of “Law & Order.” You will know the show’s instrumental though. Dun dun.

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Me with the NYT Best-Selling Author and Side-Eye Sorceress

Write. A letter. A card. A poem. A list. Your book that doesn’t yet exist. A note in your journal. A blog post. Write something to get what’s in your head and on your heart outlined on paper. An iPad or tablet also gets the job done if you’re too technologically cultured for the basic writing tools. But, if you’re in the office supply fanatic club with me, consider this an opportunity to use your overwhelming colorful pen collection. Fun fact: I once spent 4 hours in one of the biggest stationery stores in the world! My happy place on Earth! You can see some of it here.

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Me standing next to a giant pen

Organize something. It can be a folder, a drawer (you know…the one where you stash all the mail you never opened), your work bag, or if you’re feeling really ambitious go for a closet. While this isn’t necessarily a task that all introverts enjoy, it can spur motivation in small doses. Even if you’re a neat freak, you can find a project. I’ve already rearranged my bathroom cabinet and cosmetic containers. Next up is the t-shirt drawer! Why do we still always have so many?

Curate a playlist of your favorite artists and songs. Too lazy to do that, listen to someone else’s. Music has a way of centering you. It speaks to all of us in different ways and also awakens the creative side of the brain. You’re one song away from creating something we all need and producing generational wealth. While I do believe in miracles, the odds of you winning the lottery are minuscule. Exchanging playlists sounds more feasible. Let me know what’s on yours! My forever first lady has one with more than a few jams. And my president until the end of time does too.

Read a book. Need suggestions? Join the The Little Things Book Club community. We pick a new one every other month. If you don’t like books, read a few articles. There’s always something to learn, and you’ll shock yourself the next time you can answer the Jeopardy clue. If you like magazines and you’re a Prime member, you have access to those too. Knowledge and stories are everywhere.

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March/April 2020 Book Pick

And finally, take a nap. When we were kids we never wanted to take them. As adults, there’s rarely an opportunity. That just changed. If you can find 20 minutes to curl under a blanket, catch your zzz.

I’ll admit these are unpredictable and difficult times for everyone. We must continue  to support, love, and extend kind gestures to each other. To all of my well-intentioned extroverts, please know that this won’t last always and us introverts are available by video appointment to shorten the social distance. Be well. Help someone who doesn’t have your privilege. Take care of loved ones, neighbors, and friends. And be in tune with thyself and our seen and unseen blessings.

 

 

What’s in a Year?

What’s in a year? Usually more than what we remember. My way of recounting the year’s journey involves me scrolling through my photos. I chronicle my experiences through window seat, food, and selfie snaps. After all, it’s the digital age! Smartphones were a gift to photo lovers who made regular trips to the pharmacy or local camera shop to drop off film. It’s hard to believe that once upon a time I used to wait a couple days to see if my eyes were closed or the lighting was right in a picture! Sheesh…God smiled on our lives with iPhones and DSLRs! In my Tupac voice, “I ain’t mad at cha!” And I’m also not mad at myself for saying “yes” to going where I wanted to go this year and packing at the 99th hour for a few business trips. The bills don’t pay themselves!

So, what’s in a 2019 trip?

The blue bridge. 99 islands. Matcha…so much matcha. Shrines. A traditional kimono fitting (it’s layers on layers on layers). Ramen…oodles of ramen. Waterrrrrr. The largest stationery store I’ve ever been to in my entire life! I was lost in there for about 4 hours! It fulfilled ALL of my art supply dreams! Japan was my first trip of the year, and I shall never forget its natural, foodie, and penmanship wonders!

Oven grinders (think huge pizza in a bowl). Art. Colossal pancakes. Virgin Hotel hospitality with waterfall showers. And the Bean! I made it to the Bean…also known as Cloud Gate. It was raining so hard that night too. I posed anyway!

Rolling hills. Mountain tops. Fermented grapes. Clinking glasses. Did I mention fermented grapes? Sisterly love. I checked out a somewhat local winery with dusty pathways but serene views. So much for my car wash. But, grapes…fermented! 🙂

Snowballs. Po’ boys. The cutest tiny tots. Fleur de lis. Cajun catches. Another baby for TT to spoil. I surprised my Bayou sister just after giving birth. One of these days she’s going to figure it out before my arrival. Louisiana holds my heart.

Cool closet quotes. Delectable fried chicken. Community murals. Dedicated doctors. It was another successful year for our national awards committee as we learned how our medical schools are making a difference in their communities in Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Scores of yellow erratic taxis. Late night pizza. Mellie from Scandal sitting next to me on Acela (I understand the value of peace. I saved her the selfie inquiry.) Color wheels. Paintings. History. It had been a while since I was in NYC. It’s still the city that doesn’t sleep. There’s no shortage of culture and overstimulation.

Clean air. Picturesque mountain scenery that doesn’t end. Nature photography wins. Serenity. Major flight delays (all the private jets now make sense…I could see them all from my commercial flight that waited on the tarmac for far too long). Mountains and money all around me (emphasis on “around” because my pockets aren’t fit for the level of swank I encountered). Cool conference swag. That was Aspen. The place is breathtaking. I may have been there for a conference, but what I actually remember is the equanimity every time I looked up.

Childhood friend reunions. Acai bowls. Fireworks. Family ties. The longest I’ve ever waited for shrimp and grits at OLG. Trap. Makeup and music by my godsissy. Because forever I love Atlanta!

Big bus. The needle. Distilleries. A Niagara shower. Cute and cozy towns. Yup, fermented grape tours. Food tours too. Fun house. Street art. Escape room. Extra fancy celebratory birthday dinner. Visiting Canada has been on my list for a while. This year, nothing was going to stop me! The #Blackgirlglow crew hopped on a plane with me to Toronto!

Dinosaurs. Uber ride. Ocean creatures. Incredibly energetic kids. A butterfly garden. Lobster on a buttery roll for lunch. I sometimes take for granted that I live next door to a city with world-renowned museums. Thank you to the Smithsonian for the educational day.

Stacks on stacks of cha gio. THE yummiest pho made by the matriarch. Boisterous laughter. New friends. Special green drinks. Wine. Loving family. I took another local trip to the home of the woman responsible for my amazing nail designs. It was a Vietnamese immersion of love in so many ways. I treasure that invitation from her and her family.

Lily pads. Affirmations. Coffee chats. Lake views. Fermented grapes yet again…for some of us! Priceless memories. Highway overlooks. A road trip accompanied by a miracle baby. Frederick, Maryland. It represents love. And that’s why it made for the perfect day.

Cacti. Car snacks. Red rocks. PJ Morton. Medical education excellence. Dream catchers. Indigenous beauty. The vastness of God. Family dinners. The GRAND Canyon. Wrong trail directions. Naps. I worked an unknown amount of hours at our largest convening of the year in the name of tomorrow’s doctors, and then took a 6 a.m. road trip with friends through the peaks and valleys of Arizona. Beautiful! That state doesn’t owe me anything except sleep!

Baby giggles. Cranberry crostinis. “iPack” viewings as declared by my god baby. Meche’s. Surprise birthday cookouts. A Creole Thanksgiving. Cypress trees and leaps. Daiquiris. UL apparel updates. Presence. Po’ boys…always! I capped off my 2019 SkyMiles back in the Bayou. I didn’t plan it that way, but it’s really no surprise. It’s my happy. It was the fitting travel wrap-up for this decade.

My life motto, “Joie de vivre,” is a nod to my Acadiana affection. It means “celebrate the joy of living.” And I surely did just that with my 2019 treks. So, I ask again, “what’s in a year?” Might I suggest it’s wherever you have the heart to go.