For the new college graduates…

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With graduation weekend at the University of Michigan upon us, a few new graduates have asked me about what I have learned since college. It is a monumental year for me in some ways, as it has officially been five years since my undergraduate graduation from the University of Michigan and one year since my IMBA graduation from the University of South Carolina.

What can I share with the new graduating class from my alma mater and any other university?

Two words: Be Prepared.

But not in the traditional way you have been prepared all of your life up until this point. There is no studying that can prepare you for the life tests of your 20s. The next few years of your life will likely be less prescribed than ever before. Unless if you are continuing with school, you will no longer be on a regular schedule, anticipating spring break, 3 month summer breaks, and long weekends every month.

Be prepared for the most adventurous time of your life. You will likely move to places you would have never imagined, try jobs you would have never imagined, and have the freedom to travel.

Be prepared that people in your life may come and go, but they will change you forever. The friends will be in your heart forever as they help you laugh and wipe off your tears as you go through transitions and experience the turbulent 20s.

Be prepared for relationships that will succeed and others that will fail, but all of them will help you grow. And it is up to you to choose to stay in the relationships that help you grow for the better and that do not hold you back from your true self or your true potential.

Be prepared for choices that will challenge your values and your vision of who you are. But view the choices as an opportunity to shape who you are and to stand your ground when others won’t.

Be prepared to make mistakes. A cookie cutter life is not always realistic…you may have a plan A, but always have a plan B. And don’t be surprised when a completely different plan ends up taking place. As long as you stay rooted in your values and stay positive, any plan can end up working for you.

Be prepared that everything that happens to you is part of your life experience. Good and bad, your experiences will prepare you for the next decades ahead. I’ve always heard to take risks in your 20s since you will have more time to recover from them. In one way or another, everything you do can be viewed as a risk, but I view it as an opportunity…at the very least to gain life experience. If you remember that everything is life experience, you will be inspired to get through any situation…maybe with a few more wrinkles, but ultimately with a smile knowing that you made it.

And finally, be prepared to not be prepared. Let go of trying to control what happens to you. Plan enough to make sure you are stable and secure in the present and near future, but remember that spontaneity is a beautiful thing. Allow new experiences to come your way on their own schedule. Envision a bright future and truly believe it, and it will come to you. Congratulations to the Class of 2018!

For my fellow wolverine graduates, never forget…for now goodbye, for tomorrow good luck, and Forever Go Blue!

And for my fellow gamecock graduates, Forever to Thee!

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How to Be InspirNational – Greenville Edition

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Thinking back to the origin of my blog…international inspiration in your everyday life…I can’t help but reflect on the number of international experiences I have had while living in Greenville. So many, that I have been wrapped up in “living” them recently and spending less time “reflecting” upon them.

Recently at work, someone described me as an “experience collector,” which I think is a perfect way to describe how I have lived each day for the experiences presented to me. I wanted to pass along a few tips I have learned along the way that have helped me live like a traveler every day and be inspirNational.

  1. Participate in an organization that promotes diversity and inclusion. In Greenville, that has been Upstate International for me. I have had the opportunity to take language classes…I learned a taste of 6 languages (Hebrew, Swahili, Russian, Italian, Japanese, and African French) in 2 hours last month! Each of the teachers came from the locations where the language was spoken, so I was able to get an introduction to not only the language, but the culture. Through the organization I have also attended international film showings, art festivals, and dance performances embracing the diversity of Greenville. Almost every major city has organizations that promote diversity and inclusion, and they are a great way for us to experience the life of a traveler even if we are staying home!
  2. Choose to live in a community with a global presence. That often means the heart of your community (downtown!). Living in Downtown Greenville, I am surrounded by people who work for global companies, such as Michelin, BMW, Fluor, and GE. At any given event with my neighbors, I often hear 3-4 languages exchanged. As a person who is passionate about language and culture, it was been a great learning experience for me to not only practice the languages I have studied, but to learn about other languages and cultures! Through new friends, I have developed an interest in learning more about Asia. Surrounding ourselves by people who are different from us helps spark that interest and grows that travel bug within us.
  3. Practice empathy. Learn about your surroundings and become fully immersed! I have done my best to attend community events and to spend time with new friends who teach me about their unique interests and backgrounds. And one of the most exciting ways I have practiced empathy is by learning design thinking through the Stanford d.School and implementing the tools in my work as part of Michelin’s Customer Innovation Lab. I have spent time out in the field, getting to know people throughout the country to understand and learn their needs and try to meet them with Michelin’s services and solutions. For me, the most exhilarating part of travel is connecting with people from around the world, and practicing empathy is one the best ways to do just that.

As you are making plans for the spring and summer, I hope these tips help you be inspirNational, whether you are traveling or at home! Also, to stay up to date on the “real time” inspirNational happenings in my life, follow me on Instagram @inspirnationallife!

 

What We Can Learn from What We Drink!

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In honor of St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite new inspirNational thoughts…what we can learn from what we drink! Yes, there is something scholarly you can learn from the Guinness you are holding in your hand right now.

While attending the Furman Women’s Leadership Institute this winter, I sat next to an inspiring doctor who told me about me about an interesting book she was reading, “The History of the World in 6 Glasses.” I was preparing for a brewery tour for my birthday, and I thought what better way to be inspired for my tour than to learn the significance of beer (of course it was only scholarly ;)).

Thinking about it….every day you are drinking (hopefully!) 8 glasses of water, and several other beverages based on your culture and preferences. Americans can’t seem to get their hands off a cup of coffee, the British and the Chinese don’t go a day without tea, the Italians don’t go a day without wine, and the list goes on! Each of these beverages comes with historical and cultural significance.

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Image Source: Fine Arts America

 

I’ll give you a taste of what I learned from the book….

  • Coffee represents scholarly pursuits as it keeps us focused and energized.
  • Tea represents colonialism and the daily reminder to pause and relax.
  • Wine symbolizes religion, prestige, and royalty.
  • Beer symbolizes social gatherings…it was one of the main reasons humans began living in civilizations (waiting for the beer to brew)…and to this day brings people together!
  • Spirits symbolize business deals at first, and later a way to calm the mind.
  • Soda represents the American dream…in the pursuit of happiness through a refreshing drink.

So, the next time you take a sip of your favorite beverage whether at home or while traveling, think about what it means! You can learn a lot about yourself, your heritage, and your surroundings by the drinks in front of you. Cheers!

Saying Goodbye to 2017 and Hello to 2018!

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Happy New Year, inspirNational! Throughout the first week of 2018 I have found myself reflecting about 2017 and the goals I have for 2018. I can say with confidence that 2017 was a tremendous year of growth and change for me. I learned more about myself and what I want in life than ever before.

Key highlights were my graduation from the USC International MBA Program, moving to Greenville, South Carolina to start my new career at Michelin, and traveling throughout the country to Detroit, Traverse City, Savannah, Seattle, Bellingham, Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Charlotte, Columbia, Nashville, Asheville, and Atlanta. Another highlight that sparked this post is that I read a few introspective books that have made a significant impact on my view of the world. I decided to organize my year’s reflections based on these books below:

The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle). A common focus area for me over the past several years has been to focus on the present. Reading The Power of Now, which a great neighbor in Greenville gave to me, has put a different spin on “presence” for me. While I am almost always thinking about what happened in the past or what I’m planning in the future, I have realized that thinking about what is happening right now, in this moment, gives me a sense of peace and calm. It also makes me more in-tune with my inner thoughts and hopes – leading me in the soul-driven direction I would like to go. I am making a conscious effort to be more “now” focused than ever before.

I read The Power of Now at an opportune time when facing uncertainty in my previous relationship. The book helped me identify that I was in a toxic love-hate relationship where I was dealing with lies, sneakiness, and hurt. All of this was first of all, unhealthy and harmful to me, and second of all, holding me back from being in the “now.” My gut and my closest peers knew this all along, but reading the advice in a book is what hit me the most. I had an “aha!” moment, realizing I needed to let go in order to live in my “now” and achieve my fullest potential and destiny. This “aha!” moment and my willingness to share some parts of the story with you are inspired by the Time’s Up movement in Hollywood. I am proud of the celebrities who are standing up against harassment and abuse of women. I, too, feel the need to share my “aha!” moment as it has only helped me realize what threats women face and how we often feel stuck in toxic situations. Thankfully I felt empowered to leave and I hope to remind any of you who feel stuck that you are never truly stuck. There are always ways out, solutions, and people there to help you! Don’t lose faith! I am grateful that I have grown from my own situation and realized what qualities I am looking for in others, especially my future relationships. I can tell you with confidence that the number one value I have for people I bring into my life is character. My closest friends and family model good character, and I plan to only date those with good character in the future. By practicing being in the “now,” I will be more in-tune with my gut and will be able to identify more quickly people who should and should not be in my life. I highly recommend that you read The Power of Now, and you may also have unexpected realizations that help you grow as a person.

No Greatness Without Goodness (Randy Lewis). 2017 marked the beginning of my post-MBA career at Michelin. My first rotation in Michelin’s Global Leadership Program presented me with awareness about the challenges that people with disabilities face when trying to enter the workforce. A colleague at work gave me No Greatness Without Goodness, which discusses Walgreens VP of Supply Chain’s experience raising a son with autism and leading the initiative at Walgreen’s to hire employees with disabilities at its distribution centers. I am proud that Michelin is mirroring Walgreen’s efforts and has committed to hire people with disabilities at its distribution centers and beyond. In the fall, I had the opportunity to learn sign language and perform the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance in sign language at the Upstate Salute event in Greenville, honoring veterans. This experience at the beginning of my career at Michelin has inspired me to always seek opportunities for goodness as I develop into a leader. I aspire to be a servant leader, always thinking about how I can help others in my daily work and in my community. If you are looking for inspiration in your career, particularly related to helping others, check out No Greatness Without Goodness.

Toward A True Kinship of Faiths (Dalai Lama). I received this book as part of Michelin’s new Interfaith Group forming in 2018. The Dalai Lama shares his perspective of different world religions and how we can develop empathy for others who may be different form us. Empathy for diversity has been one of my passions, particularly since studying abroad in Spain and France. I strive to learn from others – the more different people are from me, the more I want to talk to and learn from them. Throughout 2017, I traveled to many beautiful cities throughout the United States from coast to coast, which made me realize the beauty in the diversity of the US landscape and people. What makes America so special to me is the variety of people (backgrounds, religions, cultures, perspectives, etc.) who can live and thrive in our country and who make the most of whatever landscape and environment that surround them.

While the year brought a lot of political turmoil and what the media portrays as division between people, I found through my travels that we are much more connected than we think we are. We are especially connected by our desire for community, as Mark Zuckerberg eloquently describes here. I was fortunate to have two incredible communities in 2017, first as a Gamecock throughout the beginning of the year and second as a resident in the best apartment complex in Greenville. I had an amazing experience cheering on the Gamecock basketball teams in the Final Four and attending Darius Rucker’s free student concert in honor of the Gamecock football team making it to a bowl game. I was reminded how important it is to me and how much fun it is to be part of a school with great spirit (especially now as both a Michigan and USC alumnus). Also graduating in the middle of a historic campus (USC was founded in 1807!) and attending the law school graduation was surreal. The next time you are graduating, I recommend that you also attend a graduation ceremony at your school – it is amazing to have the experience from both sides of the podium! My second community through my apartment complex was the best decision I made when moving to Greenville. I couldn’t be more grateful for the international community that surrounds me – at any given occasion I hear 3-4 languages exchanged! The almost weekly social events have introduced me to some awesome new friends who have helped me feel at home in Greenville as we have explored the town and often been the “newbies” together. As inspired by the Dalai Lama, I look forward to continuing to have an empathy for those different from me, especially when joining new communities in 2018.

 

Having reflected on 2017, I can now officially welcome 2018. An astrologist in Sri Lanka shared with me that 2018 starts the best 10 years of my life – and I can already feel the positive energy in the air! One of my best friends gave me a “love bell” that she bought in Greece where she got engaged, and as a slightly superstitious hopeless(ful?) romantic, I look forward to seeing what it brings for me in 2018. I also look forward to attending more planned runs throughout the year (hopefully the Charleston Bridge Run!) and I am committed to doing a push-up! My year of travel will be focused on some of my best friend’s weddings in Alabama and Chicago and also some exciting work trips (San Francisco and Montreal to start)! I will continue to share my reflections from my travels and daily life and bring new ideas to you. I hope the new year brings you much happiness, love, new experiences, travel, and inspirNational reflections!

An Adventure to Nepal – Guest Post!

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It is not everyday that we meet someone who traveled to Nepal. And even more interesting, is talking to someone who took a National Geographic trip to Nepal! I want to introduce Dalton George, who is dating one of my favorite new friends in Greenville, Alissa. Ironically Alissa is also from Michigan and we bound over our love for Michigan (despite our Spartan and Wolverine rivalry :)). To show how small our world is, Dalton is also from my hometown, but we never met each other there! When I first met Dalton in Greenville, he mentioned that he was traveling to Nepal and I couldn’t wait to hear about his trip! He was kind enough to share details about his experience, answering my questions below.

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Pokhara (PC: Dalton George)


What inspired you to go on the trip to Nepal?

I am not so sure I was inspired to go to Nepal specifically, I was more inspired to just travel in general. If anything, the decision to go specifically to Nepal was more out of coincidence than anything else. I will explain.

So last June I finished up my Master’s Degree program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and had a few months in between that and my next professional endeavor. Knowing this, and knowing how busy life can get, I made traveling somewhere new an imperative in my life during my “down time.” The logic here was simple: you never know when you will have the opportunity to do something amazing with the people you love most, so seize the day! My mother had already told me she was going “stir crazy” and needed to travel somewhere new, and had asked me if I was interested in taking a trip with her and my sister. So the decision to travel somewhere was easy: I had motivation to do so and people to go with. Time to make it happen.

Coincidence selected Nepal. My mother and I were unsure of where we wanted to go, but we were certain that we wanted to go on a National Geographic tour. To decide on our destination, we flipped open a NatGeo adventure catalogue, and we each picked out our 3 favorite trips that were advertised. Our selections overlapped at Nepal, and therefore we decided Nepal was our destination.

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Trishuli River (PC: Dalton George)

I cannot speak to why my mother selected Nepal out of that catalogue, but I can tell you why I did: lack of knowledge. Seriously, that is why. Ok ok, and I really wanted to see some cool mountains (and my God, were those some cool mountains!). I remember looking at that NatGeo catalogue, reading over the Nepal description, and thinking, “oh my gosh, I literally know NOTHING about Nepal, or Tibet for that matter.” The trip description advertised some exciting opportunities, including a Rhino wildlife safari, Paragliding, and mountain hiking. But the main reason I selected Nepal out of that catalogue was ignorance, and a desire to reverse it. And again, yes, to see some awesome mountains.

Describe National Geographic trips to those who may not know about them.

National Geographic offers curated tours of popular “and some not so popular” destinations across the whole world. The trip usually functions as a two week tour of a region, or in our case, most of a country. You travel with a small tour group, usually 12-20 people, and together you all have an adventure! This was my first trip that functioned this way, and I can honestly say I really enjoyed it. It made Nepal accessible to someone like me, someone who does not speak the language, or as I have previously mentioned, have any clue about any aspect of what the country is all about. The tour group is led by a guide a local from that region or country. Ours was a Nepalese man who was currently living in the country’s capital city (Kathmandu) and had been leading NatGeo tours for 12+ years. His English was excellent, and he was an endless encyclopedia of knowledge about his home country, its religions, and the Tibetan region as a whole. Seriously, we did our best to stump him with questions, almost to no avail. I sort of cheated, half-sarcastically asking him to name all of the gods in the Hindu religion. He could not, seeing as there are over 33 million total…

I would recommend NatGeo trips to anyone. Your group follows a general itinerary, but there is ample time to pick and choose activities that appeal to your preferences. For us in Nepal, we jumped at every chance to do any hiking, as my sister and I enjoy that activity immensely, and decided not to participate in others like the much heralded “Everest Plane Flight” (it was too expensive). This ability to pick and choose gives the NatGeo trips a great balance between structure and freedom, and you are never pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do.

Another reason why I would recommend NatGeo is in the way they set up their tours so that almost all money spent by you and your tour group during the trip is going in the hands of local people. And I don’t simply mean the well off business owners of city hotels. I mean small villages, and in our case, Tibetan refugees. At least on this trip this was the case, I suppose I cannot speak to other trips in other areas of the world. Places that your tour group eats, sleeps, and spends your time (and money) are almost exclusively places run by local people. In this way, NatGeo places a premium on supporting local, sometimes even vulnerable, communities in the places that they send their tour groups. Don’t confuse this with any sort of charity activity, these are businesses like any other, the difference is your money is not going to some rich development company who set up shop on the coast of Jamaica, but into the hands of local business owners who have a much more personal stake in the future of their country. As a tourist, this gave me the feel-goods, and is a business practice in the tourism industry I had not given much thought to until I saw it in action.

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Kathmandu (PC: Dalton George)

What were your favorite landmarks and excursions?

The Himalayas – these need no explanation I’m sure. One of the few times in my life that I can honestly say I had no words to describe the shear awesomeness of a thing I saw…I imagine the majesty of looking up at these mountains is only matched by the view from atop one of them.

The Himalayan Foothills – Like a way, way cooler version of Appalachia. With glacial rivers cutting pathways through the steep, forested foothills of heaven’s cradle, the beautiful scenery provided makes the arduous journey through the bumpy mountain roads of Nepal enjoyable. Well, mostly.

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Farmland in the Himalayan Foothills (PC: Dalton George)

Buddhanath Buddhist Stupa – This 5th century Buddhist religious monument/temple serves as a pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Buddhists around the world. Awe inspiring in its Architecture, one of those moments where you ask yourself “how did people over 1000 years ago build something like this???”

Swayambhunath Buddhist Stupa – Another Buddhist religious monument similar to Buddhanath, but this temple has a very sizable population of Rhesis Macaques roaming the grounds. These “holy monkeys” live at the temple year round, entertaining tourists and stealing from the offering tables all day every day. Additionally, the views from this Stupa of the capital city of Kathmandu are amazing. Absolutely worth your time.

 

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Monkey Temple (PC: Dalton George)

Pashupatinah Temple – A very famous Hindu temple located in Kathmandu. I learned so much about the Hindu religion whilst visiting this ancient temple, both in a cognitive and emotional way. This place hit me harder than most of the places I visited in Nepal. It’s a very spiritual and emotional place. If you are a westerner, be prepared. Oh, and stay out of the way of the roving bands of holy cows that are walking everywhere.

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Chitwan National Park – Rhinos. In the wild. From 100 feet away. And Tigers. TIGERS. We didn’t see one, but the footprints were enough for me to get back into the safari jeep. The farming village of Chitwan is also a lovely place filled with lovelier people. I would go back there in a heartbeat.

How were the people?

From the streets of Kathmandu, to the small farming villages in the Himalayan foothills, the people of Nepal were never shy to share a smile and a “Namaste” with foreign visitors. Never during my twelve days in the country did I feel unwelcome or experience any unfriendliness, and I always felt safe. The Nepali are a very spiritual, peaceful people whose society is heavily influenced by both Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. This latter influence is especially important in understanding their attitudes towards community and people from all levels of society. Without going into extensive detail (because I will surely not get something right!) I can say that Tibetan Buddhist influence has instilled a fundamental sense of living for the community that defines the culture of the Nepali people. They are not (as of yet) a materialistic people, their sense of self is not tied to ownership of land or things. They seemed much more concerned about building spirituality, and social connectedness than wealth and status. Oh, and they very much like to have a good time when the working day is done 😉.

How was the food?

Delicious, unique, and CHEAP. Nepalese cuisine is kind of mix between Chinese, Indian, and Tibetan (no, not Panda Express Chinese, actual Chinese). Lots of lentils, lots of meat curries, lots of fried breads, lots of fantastic uses of spices on veggies, and fantastic teas (Masala Milk Chai in particular). If you choose to, you can have this Dal Bhat style of meal breakfast lunch and dinner: it’s a Nepalese staple, and its amazing. All of the ingredients for most everything you eat are locally sourced from the fertile foothills of the Himalayas, so everything is very fresh.

What reflections or learnings did you have about yourself, life, and/or the world?

Oh man, I could go on and on for this one. But in the interest of keeping it short and sweet, I guess the one most important thing I learned, or at least got a more concrete sense of, is that different lifestyles and cultures do not necessarily belong on a hierarchy. We label places like Nepal “the 3rd world” and conceptualize it as existing in a lesser state of prosperity (and therefore happiness) than a place like the United States, or some other “developed” Western country. When we look at the GDP of a place like Nepal, or here about how basic its infrastructure is, or shake our heads at its lack of political stability, we are only focusing on the surface and missing the bigger picture, the deeper understanding of what that place is really all about. Only by walking on through the streets and interacting with the people can we gain such an understanding. There are plenty of values and norms of Nepali society I would love to see incorporated into my American one. Love, peace, and community-oriented growth are cornerstones of the Nepali culture, and we as Americans have a lot to gain in understanding how these people see the world and understand their place in it as we journey through our own nation-wide identity crisis. I would highly recommend Nepal to anyone wishing to experience a place unlike any other, with a people unlike any other, before it (potentially) succumbs to the pressures to modernize in the ways dictated by the Western “developed world.”


Thank you, Dalton, for sharing your story! I am inspired to go on a National Geographic trip and to visit Nepal one day too!

The Season of Gratitude

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Has anyone else felt that the holidays came at the blink of an eye this year? It was fall, and suddenly it is full-on Christmastime. I hope my American followers enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to relax, reflect, and spend time with family and friends. My holiday wasn’t necessarily relaxing, but I am happy that I made the most of spending time with family and friends throughout the week – from Ohio (Cleveland and Columbus) to Michigan (Royal Oak, Rochester, Bloomfield Hills, and Detroit!).

While it has been easy for me to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season, from travel planning, to shopping for gifts, to decorating my apartment, I wanted to make sure to spend time reflecting. After all, the holiday season for me is the season of gratitude. I wanted to share a few things that make me feel especially grateful this year and hopefully they will inspire you to think about what you are grateful for as well!

First, I am grateful for creativity. Throughout the fall I have had a huge craving for the arts. If I see or think of something creative, I want to try it! I made candles with my neighbors, which is surprisingly much easier than you would think. You collect old jars you have around the house, melt wax in a pan, pour wax into the jars, and mix in your favorite combination of scents from essential oils or spices (fun fact – turmeric is a great spice to color your candle), and voila – you have a candle! I also painted freestyle with my neighbors in our own version of a “wine and paint” party. This is much more budget friendly and intimate way to paint with your friends – you get to choose the wine, paint at your own pace, and be at the comfort of your own home! I practiced flow painting with family during the Thanksgiving – which was so much fun and also therapeutic. What could be more fun (from an arts perspective) than mixing paint with Elmer’s glue and water, combining colors in a cup, and pouring them onto a canvas in whichever order you would like? You would be amazed how quickly you can look like a professional artist through flow painting! And most recently, I decorated a gingerbread house with my dad so that we could share enjoying the Christmas spirit even though we live far apart. Through all of these experiences, I have found that the arts are one way for me to focus my mind on the present. It helps clear my mind even for a short moment – which frees up space for me to problem solve and reflect in my daily life. It is very rewarding to see the outcome, a tangible and visual example of my work. I look forward to continuing the arts in the new year!

I am grateful for home. I have realized how important it is to have a home – and I don’t mean a physical location. My apartment in Greenville feels like home with all the memories from loved ones, including furniture from my grandma, decorations from my travels, warm candles, and photos of important people in my life. Spending time in Michigan with family feels like home, because my loved ones make it home. Even as my relatives have moved locations, I still feel at home when we are all together. It is the sense of togetherness that makes a place home for me. I can say that my heart feels its best and the most complete when it has a sense of “home.”

I am grateful for flexibility. There is no better feeling than when I have options and I don’t feel “stuck” – whether that means in my life decisions, my daily schedule, or my travels. Flexibility and free time are incredibly liberating and are helping me as I plan for the future. I feel lucky that my job allows me to have work-life balance – to flexibly schedule my commitments at work and at home. I just started the book, “The Power of Now,” and through that I am already realizing that time is imaginary and we should never feel stuck in a situation. Everything can be much more flexible if we separate ourselves from time pressures and worries and focus on the present and what we truly want. I have a feeling I will write a post about “The Power of Now” based on how much it has inspired me in just the first 50 pages of the book.

I am grateful for friendship. As I have moved every year since officially being an adult, and often multiple times per year, I could not be more grateful for the friendships I have made along the way. New and old friends along the way have helped me explore new places, laughed with me on the good days, cried with me on the bad days, and reflected on life. Together we have shared experiences that have helped me grow and prepare for the next phase. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without them – thank you to everyone who has been a friend along the way – can’t wait for more adventures together!

What are you grateful for? I hope these reflections help all of us remember to pause and think about the season of gratitude. May the holidays bring you much happiness, joy, and peace this year!

Symbols of My Grandma

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October 13, 2017 will forever be a date that I remember. It was the day that I learned that my grandma, Nene, passed away. I was broken hearted because I had gone through so many life milestones with Nene and I couldn’t imagine her no longer being in my life. I had the opportunity to write her eulogy, along with my mom, and share stories about Nene’s life from a granddaughter’s perspective. I wanted to pass along my words about Nene to you as she was a person that I, and many of us, can aspire to be.

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“I have spent time reflecting on what Nene has meant to me. I wanted to share a few symbols of Nene with you that will always remind me of her.

First, the rosary. Nene was one of the most faithful people I knew and was also an inspiring model of church principles, treating everyone with love and compassion. I am blessed to have a grandma who guided me in my own faith, encouraging me as she was my sponsor for my confirmation in the church. She answered my questions along the way and was the best sponsor I could ask for.

Second, a deck of cards: Nene always knew how to have a good time and was the best friend to those around her. She played cards regularly with her friends, often going out to lunch or planning get togethers. I was blessed to join her in some of those get togethers as a little girl, where she taught me Pinochle, Old Maid, and War. She was so caring that when I would cry about the prospect of losing a game, she would make sure I won by the end. I can say with confidence that not many people would do that for others, and that’s just how caring she was.

Third, French anything, starting with French toast and more recently with the French language: Nene made the best French toast I’ve ever had, and I remember vividly eating it at Nene’s black kitchen table, sitting between Nene and Papa Ed, when they would babysit me on weekends. To me, French also symbolizes exquisite taste, which Nene definitely had. She always dressed stylishly and classically like the French. And most recently, while I spent time in Paris and FaceTimed with Nene, she could understand my host mom speaking French in the distance and would respond with “oui oui.” I hope to continue to embrace the French culture that Nene demonstrated to me for the rest of my life.

Fourth, candy: Nene was infamous for her candy cupboard, which was like the holy grail for our family growing up. When all of us would visit Nene, from Sprucewood in Farmington Hills, MI and even in the nursing home, we knew we could find candy. Nene always made sure her guests felt welcomed with treats, and the candy again reinforced how sweet and generous Nene was. She has inspired me to always have treats at home for when guests visit me as well.

Last but not least, chardonnay or vodka, depending on the occasion: Every day was a celebration with Nene. Every time I got together with Nene, we would toast to something, whether I was having apple juice as a little girl, or a glass of Chardonnay as an adult. It always felt like a special occasion. I’ll never forget having my first shot with Nene when I turned 21, or when I made vodka gummy bears for Nene to share our love for vodka and gummy bears. Nene was the perfect example of living life to the fullest and enjoying each day. She was always ready to toast with a glass of Chardonnay or vodka!

As the days pass and we come across these symbols and others, may we be reminded of Nene and the strong faith, love, care, and joy she shared with us. Nene – I know you are already having a great time in heaven and I can’t wait to share a glass of Chardonnay with you there in the future!”

I hope that these words inspire you in the same way that Nene inspired me!