Here, There, and Somewhere

I may not have blogged too much in 2018, but I definitely took plenty of trips!  I scrolled through my old photos this week and was quickly reminded that I didn’t sit still.  I remember having a conversation with someone about my desire to travel internationally in 2019 (already done, so stay tuned!) since I didn’t at all last year.  While I do enjoy globetrotting to other continents, my domestic trips are never without some level of allure.  And judging by the hundreds of photos in my digital collection of landmarks, food, scenery, and people I love, last year’s travels are worth chronicling.  Notable highlights included:

  • Getting a henna tattoo and enjoying a live belly dancing show during a Moroccan dinner at Epcot;
  • Snuggly CNN time with my cute godbaby genius, because cartoons don’t keep his attention;
  • Beignets, étouffée, and po’ boys…enough said!  My bayou adventures are never without all of my Creole faves;
  • A random outing on the Chesapeake Bay for crab cracking and boat watching with my momma;
  • Dining underneath the sunset by the beautiful seashore in Puerto Rico and later being mesmerized by the colorful murals throughout the capital city;
  • Blueberry birthday pie at my home away from home, because cake wasn’t on the menu and peaches were the appetizer;
  • Getting the scoop on all of the best Mexican eateries in San Antonio from my Uber driver’s well air-conditioned car…because Texas…in the summer;
  • Attending the Sisters of Flora art exhibit with stunning floral paintings by a New Orleans native;
  • Trying not to break an ankle on the graveled roads and ogling at the calves on the drive to my friend’s farm country wedding in Indiana;
  • Galavanting around Austin looking for the best spas and BBQ with the one who makes me laugh hysterically and supports my need for delectable foodie finds.

If I gain nothing else by traveling, it’s the pure essence of being comfortable with leaving behind what I know to experience the richness of what I don’t.  That’s life.  That’s wealth.  That’s my happiness.

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!

Monday’s Mantra: Live

It has been a while since I posted a mantra for the week, but hopefully you’re following my blog and have seen some of my recent posts on my Inspire page.  No days off here. 🙂  This week my encouragement is simple:

  1. Live – let your thoughts and actions be productive and good. It’s very easy to become budsdiscouraged or feel depleted when there’s so much going on around us every day.  But, like I’ve said on several occasions before, life is really short.  Get busy doing what brings you joy, shines some light on the somber places of your soul (and maybe that of others’ too), and what makes you feel like a kid again.  Adulthood is taxing and routine.  We forget that life is meant to be enjoyed.  And although I may not know what “living” means for you, I would guess that it’s something you haven’t been doing.  Don’t let the complexities of this life keep you from drawing near to the simplicity and priceless treasure of taking in all there is to your humanness.
  2. Lead – by now, you’ve probably realized that sometimes people will disappoint you.  If it hasn’t happened yet, just keep living!  Even if it takes everything you’ve got to respond in a way that doesn’t defame them or show your disdain, take the high road.  It might not make any sense now, but I promise in the long run it pays to be the compassionate and sensible example.  You’re probably the water needed to refresh, renew, and repurpose someone who has never fully seen what leading with love looks like.  Be the fountain.  Be the spring.  Be the reason new and better buds finally blossom.

Make it a great week, friends!

 

 

Grown Woman

Something happens when you hit 30.  It’s like you’ve spent the first two decades of your life with the lid on who you are because 1) you’re too busy trying to figure out exactly how to find yourself and 2) because planning your adventures with your friends seems more appealing than spending the night dissecting your psyche.  But, then 30 comes a’knockin’ and the lid is pulled back ever so slightly and suddenly you get a wift of wisdom and truth of where you are and who you’re shaping up to be.  Here’s what I know happens after the crossover…

You stop wasting time.  In your 20s, you think you have forever.  Why?  I can’t even begin to tell you.  Then, you realize that just like credit cards, there is a limit.  You start getting ish done so when you’re 40 you’ll look back and see your footprints.

You are okay with spending days (and nights too) alone doing absolutely nothing.  After you’ve exerted a considerable amount of energy trying to save corporate America or resolving vendor issues for your business, you really just want to sit on the couch with a glass of wine and a bowl of spaghetti (make that organic…perhaps spaghetti squash for the homemaker in you).

You tell people how you really feel, especially those you love, because your brain no longer has the space for sugar-coated and censored thoughts to reside.  IRAs, mortgages, gowns, and Gerber have now made a home there.

You stop putting up with the bull.  I think a large part of the reason why we choose to deal with drama is because we think it’s normal to take on someone else’s problems as our own.  It’s one thing to be there for someone, but it’s another thing to perpetuate lies, excuses, and immaturity because folks don’t want to deal with their stuff.  You are not a dump.  Stop taking trash.

You find out who your real friends are.  So many milestones can happen in your late 20s and early 30s, and everyone you thought would be there for the downs and even the ups will fade into black.  But, not to worry, you now know that one element to happiness is quality over quantity.  The smaller the circle, the easier it is to “live for the nights with the people you won’t forget!”  Shout out to Drizzy.

You learn how to enjoy yourself.  We are our own worst critics and rarely do we cut ourselves a break.  It’s okay to dance like no one is watching and do what YOU want to do!  You only get to do this life thing one time.  Eat the pizza.  Take the trip.  Tell him you love him.  Just be happy!

You discover your body’s fragility.  You understand that if you don’t take care of yourself physically and mentally, things will start to break and you’ll need more than an herbal detox and meditation to fix it.

You have now assessed the number of times you’ve been extended grace and you clearly see that all of life ain’t about you!  You’re the key to a blessing.  You’ve messed up (a lot!), but you’ve been cleaned up, packaged up, and set up for a larger path to greatness that others will travel.  At some point, you truly accept that God loves you enough to forgive you and He’s just waiting for you to forgive yourself.

You recognize that it’s okay to be less than impressed with yourself sometimes because let’s face it, we’re all liable to be human at some moment.  But, it’s never okay to reduce any part of your character to fit into a job, relationship, or “situationship.”  Everything and everyone is not for you, and whatever is for you, you won’t have to force.

You unearth a bit more patience for yourself and others.  You know perfection to be a lie and convenience to be a privilege.  No one is always right and sometimes you just have to wait on everything – from fast food to apologies.

As the song says, I do sit and wish I was a kid again sometimes.  And I don’t know that I truly believed people when they said your 30s will be different.  But, thankfully I survived the first year of what I hope will continue to be my most productive, stress free, and personal years of slayage.

Monday’s Mantra: Show and Slay

Whew!  I just needed to let that out because the last few weeks have been nothing short of eventful!  I recently wrote about how I was about to be full steam ahead into my travel season that would take me to med schools and conferences across the country.  What I neglected to consider was all the other parts of life that happen in between, the programmatic fires that would have to be extinguished from time to time, and the riveting surprises that bring success with almost always a side of new responsibility.  But, no matter how consumed I am with all the details, I’m somehow invigorated by the challenge.  My continued excitement and energy has much to do with God and less to do with me, but I also attribute it to the fact that I’m right where I should be.  There was a time in my life where I was literally drained by boredom.  I didn’t feel like my gifts, abilities, or knowledge was being utilized effectively.  That was painful…like getting your body hair waxed for the first time painful (eek)!  I felt undervalued and stuck in many ways.  But, thankfully trouble doesn’t last always, and I can now say I’m moving, growing, and building in several arenas.

Last week as I was headed home from a trip, I found myself reciting a phrase that most of us probably know very well…”to whom much is given, much is required” (taken from Luke 12:48)  This came following a sleepless night that was spent reviewing a few dynamic entrepreneurs and change seekers vying for a spot at TEDMED – the premiere conference for sharing creative ideas to transform the way we think and do health.  As a 2016 TEDMED Research Scholar, I have the privilege and difficult task of helping to develop the TEDMED programming!  Super exciting opportunity!  But, as I was trying to wrap-up my usual duties from my business trip and still garner what was left of my mental acuity for the day to write a comprehensive review, I definitely had a moment of “what have I gotten myself into?”  It’s funny how quickly you begin to doubt your abilities when the mountain before you looks steeper than anything you’ve ever climbed before.  Of course that’s easy to overcome with a long prayer requesting angelic toothpicks to hold my eyes open and several bites of a blueberry muffin paired with espresso to keep me hanging on until the final click of the “Submit” button.

You can expect that when you’re in the right place at the right time for receipt of your designated assignments, you will be stretched.  It’s part of the package.  You will learn the true meaning of sacrifice and be detached from your usual patterns.  You will have to do more not just because you’ve been furnished with more, but because you’ve been given all that you need to be more.  The days will be long.  The caffeine will be in short supply (I mean unless you have 24/7 accessibility to a Keurig).  Everything inside you will want to bow out gracefully.  But, the show must go on.  And if you’re blessed to have a role, your presence is required.  In the end, what is given to you deserves your best whether it’s giving a talk, organizing an event, writing a report, or baking for the community fundraiser.  I bet you probably asked for this moment at some point after all.  So, stay up[lifted], perform well (angelic toothpicks are indeed little miracles!), and believe in the possibility of the standing ovation.  You’re only given what you have the ability to slay (you know in the 21st century pop culture kinda way)!

 

 

Monday’s Mantra: Look Up

My travel season for work is now in full swing.  That means plenty of airplanes, a strategically organized carry-on, and pre-arranged Apple Music playlists as I move about the country doing my part to improve the medical school experience for current and future medical students and faculty.  Airports aren’t necessarily one of my favorite places although I do enjoy traveling to new places, particularly if the exploration is not on my dime  😉  However, it always seems as though most people are in a rush, confused, and allergic to smiling.  And for the life of me I can’t figure out why people who have assigned seats on an airplane will crowd the gate just before it’s time for them to board?!  Yes, I know you want to make sure there’s a space for your carry-on, but you’re in Zone 3!  Ma’am…sir…what are you doing?  There are like 75 other people boarding before you that you’ll be standing behind on the jet bridge.  Rest yourself and please stop obstructing my perfect view for people watching.  Ok, back to the post…

Most people are in their own world when in an airport and in life in general, which makes it easy to miss opportunities that can leave a meaningful imprint in the present surroundings.  On a recent trip, I was seated next to a gentleman who was gracious enough to introduce himself and exchange a few kind words before we took off.  I must admit I was surprised since I’m used to only hearing complaining passengers and the boisterous voice of the flight attendants over the intercom directing my attention to their safety presentation.  But, I appreciated this guy’s conversation, because it meant that he was wise enough to not take life too seriously and capable of setting himself aside to acknowledge the worth of those he encountered along the way.  That was light in the middle of my extra long day of flight delays, gate changes, and overpriced sky snacks.  The best part about it all was that I had the opportunity to return the kindness.

As we reached our cruising altitude among the cumulus clouds, I saw that he was reading notes printed in incredibly small text.  I was engaged in the same enriching activity so I was using my overhead light.  Earlier I noticed he had reached up to turn his on as well, so I assumed the shining light on our row was from both lights.  After a few minutes of reading, something told me to look up, which is when I saw that the light above was only coming from my side.  He had been reading for probably about an hour trying to share my light!  Part of me felt badly because I hadn’t noticed sooner and couldn’t do anything to save this guy’s pupils, but all I had was now to make up for it and let him know that I did indeed care that his light had blown out.  I proceeded to readjust my light so that it was shining directly on his manuscript.  He smiled and expressed his gratitude, and we both continued our in flight activities, which by that time mine had switched to sleeping for me.  Although sharing my light was a small act of kindness for someone I’d probably never see again, I knew it was the right thing to do.  It was also a good lesson.

We should all be mindful of those opportunities we have to brighten someone’s outlook.  So, whether it’s to help someone see what they’re reading or maybe see where they’ve gotten off the path, be the one who illuminates this fast-paced, and sometimes brash world with your light of tenderness, joy, and thoughtfulness.  Seat backs and tray tables up.  We’re ready for takeoff toward another week of an amazing journey!

Desert Dreams

Have you ever dreamed you would ride a camel?  I didn’t either.  In fact, that thought had never crossed my mind until I found myself sinking in the sand of the Dubai desert!  I ventured to the United Arab Emirates in 2012 to visit my mom who spent a year overseas for work.  Of course when she first proposed the idea of coming to Dubai I was elated!  Then, after the plane ticket was purchased and I realized how many hours I’d be in flight, I was slightly anxious about how I would entertain myself for that long 30,000+ feet in the air.  But, somehow you have a way of figuring things out when an opportunity arises that you just can’t let pass you by.

I still rave about my trip to Dubai.  It was one of the most best experiences of my life!  My mom did everything she could to ensure that trip was amazing.  You remember in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York when Kevin first walks into the Plaza Hotel and stands there in awe.  That was me at the front door of the hotel we were staying at for the week.  I honestly had never encountered splendor of that magnitude.  Meanwhile it was almost midnight, and I’m wide awake and jet lagged trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I’m actually in the Middle East.  The next week I found myself cruising the Dubai river, perusing gold souks, admiring the beauty of mosques, dune bashing, shopping, and even meeting a few new friends.  That was also my first exposure to desert temperatures, so I learned a new meaning of hot!  The funny thing about life is that sometimes you get opportunities you don’t even dream of.  God is just that good.  I’m a small town girl from a single-parent home.  While I had my share of field trips to museums and local beaches, traveling internationally was not always in the family budget.  So, I’m grateful to my mom for all the sacrifices that would ultimately place us across the world for this journey.  The best part about this trip was not all the glamor and opulence, because just like any other city, there is a certain level of disenfranchisement.  Traveling to Dubai helped me learn how to dream bigger and expect greatness in all things, because no matter where I’ve been, there’s always something more to blow my mind.