2016:Focused and Sweet

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Chopping and Assessing: Size Your Assignment

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Mary working in the soil

 

Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.

Richard Wright

One of the other necessary acts my grandfather, Joe, who was Mary’s father,  performed for his garden was the construction of poles for which the butter bean vines would grow. A wood source was needed for this effort. So this required him to venture into the woods adjacent to our house, with his power saw in tow, to use for cutting down a tree. After this massive focused labor, he hauled the tree back to the yard, then used his axe to size the pieces for the poles. So he drew from two implements in the tool shed to use in this effort.

The right chopping movements helped Joe shape the cut tree for its purpose, which was to harness those vines so they could sprout strong. He knew the ‘force was with him’ as he handled the axe, relentless toward his purpose. My grandfather knew he had the ability of physical strength in using this tool, but if needed he used the power saw again, to further bring muscle to this process.

Joe was on assignment, splitting up this timber. As he yielded the axe, he’d occasionally stop to assess if the sizes and numbers were correct—a fit of the poles needed for the rows. Once done with this part of the task, the leftover pieces of wood were stacked as fuel for the stoves or for him to use in rigging up something else needed for the house or yard. So the tree and the axe had multi assignment purposes to help my grandfather with his calling of responsibility.

How do we size up our essential abilities for the assignments in our life roles, careers, and community efforts?  Where do we go to find meaning in where we’re supposed to be—our assignment?

Oftentimes, we respond to a calling, whatever that looks like for each of us. As Dr. King also stated, everybody can serve in some capacity. Whatever that is for each of us, we should strive to be the best at it. How do we get shaped for our purpose?

We are all bestowed gifts through our DNA, our “delivered natural ability,” to be shared with the world. These assets or skills stand to make our actions complete and we tow them around. Coming from our innate talents, good and bad experiences, formal and informal education, these traits sprout forth as our achievements. All of these pieces shape us and eventually we whittle them down to what’s useful for our designed goals.

Parts excerpted from my  book: Tools to Cultivate the Promised Land: Working Wisdom From My Grandparent’s Garden
http://www.amazon.com/Tools-Cultivate-Promised-Land-Grandparents/dp/1489597581

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Don’t Let Up: Moving On After Disappointment

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My mother Mary with her two granddaughters at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in DC, July 2008

People disappoint. Situations don’t always turn out the way we’d like. Folks don’t always do right or treat you right. Family and others take advantage. Whether it’s a friend reneging on a promise, a client cancelling an engagement, a manager not following through on a personnel action or a family member not living up to expectations— these occurrences can sear your soul. Disappointment can shake the foundation of trust and sometimes dealing with it is hard.

It’s also difficult to explain these types of emotional jabs that come with the territory of our trek to kids, but we must try.

My youngest niece wanted to have a 13th birthday party in August of 2010 and posted her invitation on Facebook. Only a few friends responded ‘yes’ and when they saw that others weren’t coming, they withdrew their responses to attend.

She cancelled the party.

Upset, my niece then went on Facebook the afternoon the party would’ve happened and saw that some of the invited kids were online. She was very hurt, posting comments to that effect and lashed out angrily. If they were online that meant they weren’t busy and could have come to the party. The reasons why some of the kids couldn’t attend were probably varied, but it didn’t matter to her. This was a huge disappointment at a special yet challenging time in her life. Turning 13 is a big deal, marking the teenage transition. This disappointment added to the loss of her “Nanny’s sunset” a few months earlier—those emotions still tugging at her heart’s core—made this even tougher on her. I tried to encourage her and she put up a brave front. We also talked about her comments in reaction to the disappointment on Facebook. I pointed out that a forum as large as Facebook was probably not the best place to vent and suggested she put her special emotional thoughts in her journal instead.

How will we settle our spirits after disappointment?

Thoughts such as “well, it happens”, “this too shall pass”, “I may be down but not out” or “every dog has his day” may provide some temporary relief. In my niece’s situation, the venting of her feelings served a purpose—she got the emotions out. I also encouraged her to think about the lessons her “Nanny” had shared with her about growing up. I wanted to support her during this time of need soI gave her a birthday card with a monetary gift enclosed in memory of her grandmother and I took her on a day trip to Virginia Beach. She was elated over my gestures. We had a fun aunt-niece day at the beach. Nothing like playing in the ocean to wash our sorrows off— we both needed it. When we got back from our trip my niece wrote on Facebook about her “awesome time” at the beach.

After school started my niece took another step forward to shake off the birthday disappointment; she ran for and won an election for eighth grade class senator.

You go, girl!

When we feel letdown, wait for the energy to mount up and conquer. The sun will rise again!

Excerpted from my motivational autobiography, Navigating Life’s Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey in print and Kindle eBook http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008FQDPYE

 

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Memorial Day: Honoring The Ancestors of a Different Battle

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With my grandfather Joseph in 1982 at family's 50th wedding anniversary celebration With my grandfather Joseph in 1982 at family’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration

I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.” Harriet Tubman

  My maternal grandfather, Joseph (Joe) Everett Parker, Sr., honored our history and this holiday in a different way. On Memorial Day during the 1960s, the children of the family accompanied him on an ancestral voyage. We went to the burial grounds of his parents and other relatives, some who were born slaves or in the reconstruction era. Here he honored their service. Because they had fought for racial freedom, persevering and sacrificing in the most horrid of conditions. I call them ‘old soldiers’ too, experienced on the battlefield of life.

The grave sites were located way back off a rural road, some 15 miles or so…

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Seek & Know: Your Story as a Way Station

 

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Teachers of my life- the elders- grandparents, mother, aunts and uncles

“He who learns, teaches.”

~ Ethiopian Proverb

             How does life speak to you? Tell you it’s time to move or pause?

Usually an event happens to alert us; there are signs that evoke an awareness and call to take action. These signs are spiritual messages. Maya Angelou is quoted as saying, “Spirit is an invisible force made visible in all life.” Clarity revealed.

Our ancestors relied on these spiritual signs as they walked through the bush of Africa, followed the drinking gourd of the Underground Railroad and marched the trails to freedom of the Civil Rights Movement. Having found purpose in Reconstruction, they trekked beyond their bondage and were led to way stations. There they had time to pause and gather energy, a way to return to their own strength. Passion for freedom continuously drove them forward. Migration up north in search of a promised land, ignited the prize of opportunity in their eyes. They steadfastly recognized these messages and felt the enormity of their power. Risks were taken. Weary, but confident, they forged on. So many stories, plenty of grit, goals achieved.

Do we have to reach that far back for these inspirational narratives? Today our current POTUS and FLOTUS possess significant melanin doses originating from the continent (they’re black y’all). Gabrielle Douglas, gymnast extraordinaire, got Olympic gold. Steve Harvey tells his listeners everyday that he “got a radio show.” John H. Johnson came from his rural upbringing in Arkansas to starting an awesome reading staple of the Black community, Ebony magazine. Venus and Serena dominate tennis from L.A. to London. Ursula Burns went from a NY housing project to heading Xerox.

Your mama, granddaddy, aunt, cousin, YOU did…

Everybody has a story of their past to present, with the mess and miracles in between.

From peanuts to politics, the power of strength, soul, and spirit have covered and propelled our community.

We know these stories, don’t we? Shared through media, family gatherings or books, these precious narratives are plain for us all to see. Can we be guided by this awesome energy of their potent accounts in our life and careers?

Are you attuned to the station to hear the message?

I view myself as someone who uses the wits and gifts God has given me, so I can be of service. The oldest child of a very determined single mother, I was raised in the home of my wise grandparents, and they all embedded in me the importance of a strong belief system. Watching them all persevere with hope for better times that would include more opportunities for our race is not something I will easily forget.

Excerpted from my book  For People of Strength, Soul, and Spirit: Seven Guidelines for Life & Career Success   On Amazon…. http://www.amazon.com/For-People-Strength-Soul-Spirit/dp/1479237019

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Influence Power: Legacy, Service and Leadership

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Uncle Horace and my mother (Mary Parker Brown) pinning my gold 2LT bars at my Officer Candidate School graduation in July 1979.

I often reflect on how my journey has shaped in a variety of ways, taking note of those who’ve impacted my decisions. From our life experiences, a personal victory narrative can take shape, one that becomes solid and surefire.

My late Uncle Horace influenced my decision to serve my country and had such a story which  I had the privilege of seeing it ‘up close and personal.’

He was my late mother’s middle brother. With two years between them, they carried a very similar grit in their personalities—from their best to not so great selves. My mother, a single parent of four—extremely focused and hardworking—often sought her brother’s counsel. A side note of interest here: All four of us— my sister, two brothers as well as I mentioned myself—did stints of varying ranges in the army, with some measure of influence from Uncle Horace.

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My mother and her middle brother Uncle Horace Christmas 2008

So as a very involved and concerned brother, Uncle Horace filled in the gap, there for me as a father figure—offering a caring guidance in my life in many ways. For that I am grateful. He was pleased when I enlisted in the army in June 1978 and immediately pursued the track for my commission through Officer Candidate School (OCS). I called Uncle Horace for advice as I was making preparations to attend OCS in July 1979—and to borrow money for purchasing additional uniforms and other items needed for this journey (a request which he graciously obliged). Sharing with me on what to expect in his familiar grounds of the US Army Infantry School in Fort Benning Georgia, he told me it would be tough and encouraged me to give it my best. It was and I did. Training in the heat, red clay hills and dense woods of the area tested me in ways I didn’t know existed. But I greatly wanted those Second Lieutenant (2LT) gold bars and felt some of that inherited family grit pushing me on.

Uncle Horace made sure he was there for my OCS graduation to celebrate my completing this defining fourteen week lesson of learning to lead as an army officer. And give me my first salute!

His deep and enduring imprint on mine as well as the lives of countless others is duly noted.

The voyager must necessarily return home.

Nigerian proverb

The time to cement his legacy came on December 7, 2011, when the Lord took him home, after he’d bravely waged a challenging good fight with his health, just as any faithful soldier would. He now serves in the Master’s army, and I’m sure he’s leading in whatever way he can ‘up yonder.’ Uncle Horace’s final jump took him to the ultimate victory— mission accomplished!

Parts excerpted from my book, Hardcore Leadership: 11 Master Lessons from My Airborne Ranger Uncle’s “Final Jump”  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1479324760

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Spring into Growth- You and the Earth

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My mother Mary planting flowers by a local Virginia highway

 

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,

the world, and all of its people.

Psalms 24:1

            Signs of spring and reawakening fill the air! As we come out from winter’s grip with longer and warmer days, now can be a time for continued refocusing and revisiting goals. It’s about change.  Time to spend some time in the dirt…growing gardens! 

My mother knew the value of spending time in the soil. Whether it was digging in the dirt or cutting her grass, my mother created a world of safety and nurture for her soul. She couldn’t wait until the spring planting season. In her yard and flower beds she found a place to de-stress and ignite more of the Creator’s wonder. These moments were truly a ritualistic lifeline for her.

Mary Parker Brown was also very particular about how things were done in her yard— the grass cut followed a certain rhythm, the bushes trimmed at a right length. There was a certain way to take and share this beauty. With her knowledge of when to fertilize and help the process or when nature would thrive on its own, her footprint on this plot of land was most recognizable. My mother passed this learning and loving relationship with the ground on to my sister, who now continues this effort at her own home—a yard rich with the green of her thumbs.

After my mother died, her neighbors sent us a card noting how much they would miss seeing her working in the yard. Many marveled at the color and organization of her space— the flowerbeds spilling over with variety and fullness, a lush landscape of annuals and perennials. As Dante Alighieri a 13th century Italian poet expressed, “Nature is the art of God.” Watering this precious growth at the right time with the right amount consumed my mother’s evenings. She relished the gain and surrender through the seasons of nature. Even though spring was her favorite, each weather change brought its own measure of output to her deed of land.

In planning our mother’s homegoing service, we knew she wanted lots of flowers adorning her casket and the church. We all delivered to make that happen. A myriad of floral tributes poured in from relatives, friends of hers and ours. Special casket sprays from us, her grandchildren and siblings found their right place close by her in the midst of these beautiful expressions for her send-off.

After my mother’s funeral, I was going through some of her papers and found a newspaper clipping with a picture of her planting flowers by a highway. This was a project for a flower club she once belonged to and the local paper had spotlighted their community effort in an article. Her contentment shone solid and passionate in this effort— the photo ‘so her’, spreading beauty with her talent. I now keep this framed clipping of her in my office. It reminds me to stay true to…                         

I’ve realized that everything we need to keep us on track is here. God created it so. One earth—an abundance to share and maintain for the future. There’s so much to enjoy in our natural surroundings.

Let’s examine our role in keeping the earth ‘green’. Through the media and other outlets, we get lots of tips on recycling and minimizing waste. Dig in. Receive and replenish while we grow and go in this land—while creating something lovely from it.

We take care of God’s land—it takes care of us. To it we return. Every day is Earth Day.

Parts excerpted from my motivational autobiography, Navigating Life’s Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey in print and Kindle eBook http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008FQDPYE

 

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