Flourishing Evolutions

The thing about water is that it can saturate or sprinkle. Last year, the focus was pouring water on everything that kindled unproductive resistance for my being. Some days the pour was heavy and I instinctively put up the umbrella. Other days I embraced the dew from the mist or soak. Nothing about it was easy.

The world will tell you that watering is simple and you should have an automatic watering system. The part they omitted is that watering is a meticulous process that requires your attention and care to preserve and promote life. Yielding optimal results takes patience, nurturing, and understanding of seasonal water flow to perform the appropriate adjustments that will make the most difference for the gardener and harvest. In other words, you can’t rinse, run, and hope that something grows!

Through the big and small showers, I was reminded that to stand the rain is to summon the rainbow. And for Chapter 36, that means my renewal of mind, body, and spirit changes everything. Shall we bloom?

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!

bella reese

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.

 

 

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.

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.