Category Archives: Inspiration

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!

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What Can We Learn From An Apple?

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One of my favorite fall time activities is to visit apple orchards, indulging in cider and donuts. Last week, I went on a hunt for an apple orchard since they are less common in the Southeast than in the Midwest. I was lucky to find one of the most beautiful apple orchards I have ever seen in Zirconia, North Carolina – Sky Top Orchard! I was amazed that I had to drive up a mountain to an apple orchard overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nestled near the rows and rows of apple trees was a barn with farm animals and an incredible bamboo forest! I felt like I was traveling overseas when I saw the bamboo forest.

Walking through the rows of my favorite apple trees, I started to think about apple wisdom I have heard over the years. Some of the quotes you may have heard, and some maybe not. Below I wanted to pass along some great messages we can learn from apples:

Apples are a symbol of patience for us to wait for the “one” to come to us (aka our ideal life partner), and to not settle for anyone less. As a woman, I appreciate this quote: “Women are like apples on trees; the best ones are on the top of the tree. The men don’t want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and don’t want to get hurt. Instead, they just get the rotten apples from the ground that aren’t so good but easy. So, the apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality they are amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who’s brave enough to climb all the way to the top because they value quality.”

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“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Apples are a reminder of how much our parents influence us and how we, as current or future parents, have the opportunity to influence our children. As we reflect upon who we are and who we would like to be, we can consider our circle of influences and what values and traits we would like to pass along.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples help us stay healthy by eating them regularly. There are so many ways to enjoy apples and get the nutrients we needed…whether we bake an apple crisp or pie, drink apple cider, or simply eat an apple off of a tree. I took this advice as an excuse to cook apple crisp last weekend…which has been one of my annual traditions (originally with my mom!) since I was born. I know some of you are thinking brown sugar and oats in apple crisp don’t have the same health magic as apples…but they are worth every calorie :).

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“Just because you find one bad apple doesn’t mean you should give up on the whole tree.” This quote is a new one for me, and I find it to be really insightful. We can interpret this in many ways. I am thinking about the people I meet personally and professionally…even if we meet one “bad apple,” we should not lose faith or hope about where we are, what we are doing, or where we are going. Everything happens for a reason, and everyone we meet comes into our lives for a reason.

What other apple wisdom have you heard? Share a bite with the inspirNational community! Happy Fall, Y’all 🙂

 

Reflections from Nashville

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Phew! What feels like gust of wind, and my first three months of my post-MBA career have gone by. It all started with a move to Greenville in July, and has since included two trips to Michigan, visits to Charlotte and Columbia, a month spent in Nashville for field sales training, a quick weekend in Chicago, and now back to Greenville. I have been “on the move” throughout, living out of a suitcase, and tonight is one of the first times I have been able to sit and share some of my most recent stories. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have not sat down for more than 5 minutes to relax (besides sleeping at night) in over a month. That phase is now over though, and I am back to “normal” life.

As the hectic few months came to a close last week, I decided to capture some reflections during my flight from Nashville to Greenville…

Living in Nashville as part of my sales training was one of the biggest blessings for me. On the weekends, I spent some time exploring and learning about the culture, which helped me reflect on the lessons I have learned over the past few months.

My first lesson from Nashville is the power of resilience. I have never realized how resilient I am or can be until facing the past few months of struggles…from a shooting of a colleague in my apartment complex, to family health issues, to going through a new challenging work training, to ending a long term relationship after I learned that my significant other wasn’t the person I thought he was. With each challenge, I felt extreme stress…lack of sleep and appetite and spontaneous tears. At the same time, I felt myself grow closer to God, praying consistently, and keeping my focus on my long term goals of good health, happiness with friends and loved ones, and positive impact in my career. I have bounced back from each hardship, potentially with a few more wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes, but also a wider smile to express my gratitude on the good days.

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Country Music Hall of Fame

My second lesson after spending time in Nashville is…country music is a powerful healer. After watching live music almost daily at my hotel and on Broadway Street, I felt tempted to get on stage and pour my heart out. I toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium, both of which told inspiring stories of the musicians from years past, who are no different than you and me, except for their incredible music talent. If you really listen to country music or just music in general, you realize how much you can connect with the artists as they sing about love, hardship, and daily life. I felt so connected to those performing, and at times empowered by their words, particularly about moving on from those who bring us down. One day you may see a country song written by me after all that I have faced lately :).

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Inspiration from the Country Music Hall of Fame

Similar to the country music lesson, I have been reminded how dancing soothes the soul. Nashville has no shortage of places to dance, and I took advantage of many of them. I have never felt so liberated to dance however I want whenever I want. While Nashville is known for bachelorette parties, I was happy to also run into a couple bachelor parties and had a blast. Every kind of dancing you could imagine, from salsa to line dancing to R&B, I was doing it. I have learned in yoga class that our hips carry a lot of our stress, so dancing helps us let go of that negative energy. So if anyone ever critiques your dance moves, just tell him/her that you are relieving stress and there can be no judgement :).

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Inspiration from the Country Music Hall of Fame

And finally…being far away from loved ones has reminded me the importance of a strong support network. I met the best community I could have asked for in my new apartment in Greenville. My friends from high school, college, and grad school have been there every step of the way through phone calls and weekend visits. I couldn’t be more grateful for them and many of you reading this post.

Nashville, and the country music that went along with it, was a strong reminder that I, and all of us, can bounce back from our struggles through the support of family and friends. We are often stronger than we give ourselves credit.

While a few more hours of sleep are in order now that I am back home in Greenville, I feel empowered and eager to start my next chapter. And I can’t wait to share more inspirNational stories along the way. The inspirNational me is back…using travel as an opportunity to reflect, become a better version of myself, and help others do the same.

Day 1, Chapter 1

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Please excuse me as I dust a few cobwebs off my blog page. It has been my longest time in 3 years without writing and boy do I miss it. But that also means I have had one of my busiest, fun-filled summers where I have spent all of my time soaking in every moment with family and friends.

I am writing at the end of day 1 of my new career journey, overlooking my pool from my new Downtown Greenville apartment and drinking my first glass of bubbly in celebration. To think that the last time I wrote a post was the beginning of my summer vacation is unbelievable. It has been a whirlwind – two months of living out of a suitcase between Traverse City and Metro Detroit, Michigan, Seattle, and Utah.

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Image Source: YouTube

Over the past week, I have driven across the country to move and get settled before starting my job today. The moving process (and may I add, all by myself), has been a great time for reflection. I drove from Traverse City, Michigan all the way to Greenville, South Carolina with stops in Detroit and Knoxville in between. The best indication of my incredible summer vacation was how jam-packed my car was. My little-Ford-Escape-that-could fit all of my clothes, geodes and gemstones from Utah, coffee accessories from Seattle, succulents and cacti, linens and dishes for my new apartment, and even a huge wine barrel! Some people thought I had enough things stuffed in my car to open a boutique, a home goods store, a floral shop, or all of the above. While all of these are physical things, what I felt most while driving was all the love I was carrying with me as represented by the trinkets. I am so grateful for all the love that many of you have shared with me over the past two months. I did my best to see as many loved ones as possible before moving, and all of you welcomed me with open arms, reminiscing about the past, sharing in new experiences, and dreaming about the future. The love I felt is what is propelling me forward as I embark on one of my most exciting adventures, and I thank many of you for your amazing support!

Now begins my role in Michelin’s Global Leadership Program, where I will have the opportunity to rotate in various departments and locations throughout the company, focusing on marketing, supply chain, and sustainability, and preparing for management in the near future. I am also going to continue the 1SC2Sustain partnership I started last year with the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and Michelin. I am eager to share my recent trips and my reflections as I start this next chapter, which will be full of introspection and personal growth. I can’t wait to continue pausing to reflect, write, and interact with the inspirNational community. Thank you for following along, and as always, please share any comments or thoughts you have along the way!

How to Make Your Vacation Last Longer

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With spring break recently past for many of us, it is easy to experience the post vacation blues. We may stop and think, “I wish I could go back” or “why can’t vacation last longer?” During my spring break, I spent a week visiting family in Detroit and Northern Michigan and concluded the break with a trip to Savannah with my boyfriend. It was the perfect combination of a family vacation and romantic getaway. 12 days later, and it felt like the trips were like a blink of an eye. Back to reality, back to school, and no more trips until graduation. Fortunately, though, a walking tour of Savannah inspired me to make my vacation continue. While outside the Mercer House, I learned about the book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which made Savannah famous. I decided I would purchase the book when I returned home to see how Savannah became a popular tourist destination.

Flash forward and I am now a quarter of the way through the book. I am so glad that I purchased it, not only because it has an interesting story line, but also because it helps me relive the memories from my trip to Savannah. I realized that it is possible to make our vacations last longer! Below are a few tips I have to make you feel like you are still on vacation:

  • Buy books, both fiction and non-fiction, about your travel destination! As I mentioned with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, it is so fun to relive the memories of your vacation through books. After visiting a place, you feel much more engaged by reading a book about it because you have more context about the story setting. You can easily imagine where the plot is taking place and perhaps learn more about the destination’s history and charm.
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Source: Pixabay

  • Give yourself time to reflect. Don’t over-plan your schedule when you return from vacation. You will need time to readjust to working again and to living your daily routine. With more free time when you return, you will be able to process your travel experiences and help them be properly minted in your memory. You may choose to write a travel diary or blog, to call friends to share your travel stories, or to create digital photo albums. I often jump to my next task when I return from vacation, which delays my personal reflection process. I have been actively working to not over-plan so that I can spend more time reflecting and reliving the exciting travel memories.
  • Contribute to travel forums such as Trip Advisor or Yelp, giving feedback based on your experience at hotels, restaurants, and on excursions. You will engage in dialogue about your travel destination and will be able to share your favorite stories. You may notice comments and questions long after you make your original post, which helps you relive your vacation each time. I have had this experience based on my Trip Advisor review of a Costa Rica horseback riding adventure. Three years later, I am still receiving messages about the number of “likes” or “comments” on my post. It is so fun to be able to talk about Costa Rica again and again!

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  • Make a photo book through Shutterfly or Apple. It is easy to post photos on social media, but there’s nothing like a photo book that combines digital convenience with old fashioned memories in an actual book. A photo book provides a tangible memory of your vacation and you can easily place it on your coffee table for guests to read. Every time you have guests over, they can look through the photo book with you, and you will be reminded of your trip and feel like you are on vacation again.

What other tips do you have that help you make your vacation last longer? As we all return from spring break vacations and are going on the home stretch of spring before the start of summer vacations, may we relive the memories of our great vacations past. And make yourself a promise…. 😉

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Source: Rachel Wilkerson

Transition to Spring: Lenten Inspiration

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With 17 days left until spring (hallelujah!) and 40 days of lent for those who follow the Catholic tradition, March is a time to prepare for positive change in our lives. Writing this from home with family in snowy northern Michigan, spring seems far away, but I am reminded to have faith that spring comes every year. Spring is a metaphor that new beginnings and positive changes are always ahead of us and should keep us motivated in this crazy thing called life.

I recently read an article from St. Peter’s Church in Columbia, South Carolina (originally from www.upperroom.org) that inspired me and how I would like to be during Lent and the upcoming spring. Regardless of our religious or non-religious traditions, we can look at the Lenten season, or the end of winter and the beginning of spring, as a time to soak up a few more days to bundle up indoors, reflect individually and with our loved ones, and make changes before starting the new spring season. Below I am sharing some Lenten inspiration from The Upper Room and adding some of my own thoughts for how we can be inspirNational and make positive changes over the next 40 days.

Ideas You Can Try for Lenten Season

  • “Try an electronic fast. Give up TV, Facebook, texting, tweeting, e-mail and all things electronic for one day every week (or everyday of Lent!). Use the time to read and pray (or reflect for those who are not religious). Learn more about fasts at http://devozine.upperroom.org/articles/unplugging.”
    • I am committing to spend at least one hour each day fully disconnected, setting my phone aside, and appreciating nature. I find that I come up with my greatest ideas and solutions to my challenges when I am disconnected and in nature. Perhaps this will inspire you to do the same!
  • “Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it (maybe even yourself). Study a book on forgiveness, such as The Forgiveness Book by Alice Camille and Rev. Paul Boudreau.”
    • We should constantly remember to let go of what no longer serves us. Holding grudges only hurts us more and prevents the healing process for us and for those around us. Practicing forgiveness will help us heal and continue to grow as people as the new spring season begins.
  • “Give up soft drinks, fast food, tea or coffee. Give the money you save to help folks in different parts of the world who are in crisis.”
    • Or donate to a charity of choice! We can save so much money by not buying a daily latte – I have found that avoiding extra expenses and making food and drinks at home helps me save so that I can give back in the future. As President of the Moore School of Business MBA Student Association, I am currently raising money for the Special Olympics as part of the Duke Fuqua MBA Games competition in April. Special Olympics is a non-profit organization offering training and competition in 19 Olympic-type sports to 40,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The MBA Games provide an opportunity for MBA programs throughout the United States to compete in field day style games while raising money for the Special Olympics. You can learn more about donating to my Moore Hands team here: https://www.firstgiving.com/team/343067.
  • “Create daily quite time. Spend 10 minutes a day in silence and prayer. See how it can help you add spiritual practice to your daily life beyond Lent.”
    • While prayer is part of my daily life, I also spend time reflecting through yoga, writing this blog, and relaxing in nature. We all have our own ways tospend quiet time and it is important to make it part of our daily routine.
  • “Cultivate a life of gratitude. Write someone a thank you letter each week and be aware of how many people have helped you along the way.”
    • While we may often feel grateful, it is easy to focus on the negative, such as the challenges we face each day or as we prepare for the future. By focusing on gratitude each day, we can feel a glimpse of hope and happiness as we go through challenges. We can also make others feel more appreciated by spending more time thanking them.
  • “Strengthen your faith.”
    • This reminds those of us who are not faith-focused to spend more time determining which form of spirituality heals our souls, helps us grow as people, and helps us contribute most to the world around us. It will make us stronger people and better able to face life’s adversities.
  • “Volunteer one hour or more each week with a local shelter, tutoring program, nursing home, prison, etc.”
    • This inspires me to be more active with volunteering again. As a graduate student with two jobs and school extracurriculars, it is easy to get wrapped in my own routine and forget what brings me the most joy and has the greatest positive impact on the world. I imagine others face a similar challenge. Over the next 40 days, I plan to volunteer for the Special Olympics as part of the Duke MBA Games and will continue to regularly volunteer to help the community.
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Source: themiddlepage.net

How will you make positive changes throughout the Lenten season as you prepare for spring? I hope these insights provide food for thought as you reflect on the winter and transition to spring!

I Love…

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With winter blues and the news destined to make us feel negative, it is a breath of fresh air that we have finally made it to February, the month of love. I am a little biased because it is my birthday month, but I am happy that Valentine’s Day brings us a cheerful holiday to celebrate this winter. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I wanted to share a post about some things that I love, besides of course my family and friends. Hopefully this will help inspire you to step away from the negativity in the world and reflect upon what you love too.

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Source: Cool HD Wallpaper

I love… good health. It is so easy for me to take this for granted because I am healthy on a normal basis. A recent bout of the flu reminded me how hard it is to be sick and how refreshing it is to finally heal and feel better.

I love… cuddling. It is so simple yet so comforting and always brings a smile to my face. If we all spent a little more time cuddling with our loved ones or furry friends, I really think the world would be a happier place.

I love… sunshine. Especially in the winter when it is rare. Now that I am experiencing my first southern winter, I can tell you that it makes a huge different to see the sun regularly even when it is cold outside. The rays soothe the soul and remind me that spring and summer will come.

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I love… day trips on the weekends. So often I spend the weekends catching up, cleaning, and preparing for the next week, especially when I am at apartment in Columbia, SC. It is SO important for me to take breaks though, and one of the best ways for me to make sure that I take a break is going on a little weekend escape. Fortunately, Columbia is within driving distance of many exciting destinations. A couple weekends ago my boyfriend and I took a weekend trip to Charleston and it was the perfect amount of time away. We spent the day wandering the streets, feeling more like locals now that we have visited there a few times. We had a delicious dinner Coast, a seafood restaurant downtown. We spent the evening on King Street, going to some of the swanky bars and enjoying Jeni’s ice cream (the best part of Columbus, OH ;)). If you need a break – go on a day trip!! It makes a world of a difference on your next week.

I love… music. For those who know me well, it is rare for me to not have something playing, especially when I am at home. I listen to all genres of music and secretly love to sing along. I often say that my life is a playlist, because almost all hit songs from the past 25 years I can pinpoint to a particular life phase or moment in my life. I have also made a new year’s resolution with my boyfriend to practice playing piano again (I played pretty well for over 6 years when I was growing up). We have practiced a couple times and played duets, including songs from the award-winning La La Land movie and other love stories. A little music, whether listening, singing, or playing, goes a long way in brightening my day.

I love… free time. My yoga instructor recently inspired me to spend more time pausing, not scheduling anything, and allowing myself to simply be. Every week I am working on allowing myself free time to let my mind wander, relax, and do whatever brings me joy at that specific time. The free time helps spark creativity and refreshes me when I go back to my daily routine.

All of these things bring me warmth this winter and brighten my days when they seem gloomy. I hope that Valentine’s Day inspires you to focus on what you love about the world too. Whether it is your family, friends, home, job, new outfit or that leftover piece of chocolate cake in the fridge – we all have something to love in life!