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). Mountains and money all around me. 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.

All the Places a Plane Goes

Last year, I crisscrossed the United States more than a few times and traveled overseas.  As my Nana would affectionately say, “Girl, you have a lot of miles on your butt!”  Much of my travel is attributed to my professional life, but whether I’m learning about new innovations at medical schools or enjoying time off, I look for the small beauties in new places and things.  That can be anything from –

  • Exotic tree branches or flowers that collectively produce fragrant winds or shade under the California sun;
  • The fullness of the trees along the perimeter of Olympic Park in Georgia;
  • The perfectly aligned bales of hay along the South Dakotan flatlands;
  • The trio of sail boats slowly cruising along the river in Wisconsin;
  • The presence of the sun’s shadow as it radiates among Nevada’s popular skyscraper hotels;
  • The sensory jolt from the Cajun spice, vibrant jazz tunes, and boisterous locals in Louisiana; or
  • The smell of bread and pastry dough from Parisian or Italian cafes along narrow cobblestone streets.

I have definitely been fortunate in my ability to move about the world and explore the definition of life through someone else’s eyes.  In each of these places, I’ve met enthused, indifferent, lively, subdued, and impolite people.  All with a story (perhaps some far too long for my typical abbreviated Uber rides).  All with a perspective.  And all with a personal connection to the geographic location in which I managed to temporarily house my suitcase and carefully organized work binder and fact books.  But, what I take away from all of my recent travels is the greatness of creation – of things to look at, paths to trek, and conversations with other beings.  Because life is not about the number of places you can say that you’ve been but the quality of the connections you make to your surroundings.  Hats off to a great year of discovery…and food!  Phenomenal food!

Gift Small: Businesses That Bring Me Cheer

The holidays are definitely upon us.  The fresh smell of pine and evergreen makes my soul happy!  Although I can do without the copious shopping ads I’m receiving in my inbox every hour, it’s beginning to feel and look a lot like Christmas!

Christmas to me is about honoring the birth of a Savior who is selfless, faithful, and loving even in this present day. His message encourages us all to live in a way where we can cheerfully give, uplift, and support the needs, dreams, and talents of others as best as we can.  So, in the spirit of this season, I wanted to take a moment to highlight a few small businesses created by individuals who I can personally attest are thoughtful, gifted, and inspiring.  I’ve patronized all of these businesses and believe in their vision as entrepreneurs and as givers to the communities in which they live and work.  And while I don’t think that Christmas is all about Santa, presents, and reindeer sleighs, I do think that it’s an opportunity for us to show the small business owners we know and adore that we believe in their dreams and what they have to give back to the world. Together, we can build and spread wealth to our family, neighbors, strangers, and friends.  I hope you will take some time to explore the businesses I’ve outlined below and what they have to offer. I’m proud of all of their accomplishments and look forward to what they’ll do next!

Happy Holidays to all!

Iyabo Alli, Accent Me
Iyabo is a woman of many talents and someone I have the pleasure of calling a dear friend.  Somehow between her responsibilities as an engineer, health coach, and model, she also makes customized bracelets for her jewelry business.  Each of her bracelets are unique to the individual(s) who will wear them because they are designed to represent personalities, promote unity within an organization, and/or bring awareness to a philanthropic, health, or social cause.  I have no idea how many bracelets I have accumulated at this point, but one of my favorites is pictured below with minty green beads!  To browse other designs and/or order a custom bracelet, you can like Iyabo’s Accentme Facebook page or contact her directly via e-mail.

 
Elaina & Alysia Bright, Skin Scholars
I still remember the day when Elaina & Alysia eagerly committed to this venture.  Their zest for creating pure and fun products has not wavered. As sisters who love nature and value the authenticity of ingredients in their rawest form, it’s no surprise that they have developed a skin care line made only with what your skin needs.  I’m a regular user of the The Healer Salve and the limited edition Gingerbread Body Polish.  Both of these products have helped to keep my skin supple and moisturized and are gentle enough for daily use.  There are a variety of other products to choose from that make perfect gifts for family and friends.  You can check out Skin Scholars at the Arlington Holiday Bazaar this Saturday, December 12th or order online at any time on their website or Etsy shop.

 
Kimery Williams, LeMark Photography
As an event planner and my particular love for visual curators of all kinds, I’m always scouting for uniquely skilled, personable photographers.  Taking a photo is so much more than pressing the shutter button on a camera.  To properly capture the creative and emotive essence of people and events, you must be able to genuinely connect to those from all walks of life, adapt to distinctive qualities of individuals and environments, exercise a considerable amount of patience no matter the client or situation, and quickly negotiate postures and props for a quality photo.  Kimery does all of this very well and with an exceptional level of professionalism, which I think is partially attributed to his studies and work as a soon to be criminal defense attorney.  I had the pleasure of working with him for a personal photo shoot this year that was relaxed, delightful, and even educational. It has also been exciting to see the results of his shoots with several of my other friends and colleagues. To view his portfolio and schedule a session for you or someone you love, you can visit his website.