What Is This Bitterness I’m Tasting?!

Physiognomy: the outward appearance of anything, taken as offering some insight into its character

Have you ever woken up one morning already craving a smoothie? I climbed out of bed, already scouring for fruits and healthiness before making my French press of coffee (let me tell you, that’s pretty rare.)

It wasn’t hard to find what I was looking for. Pineapples. Bananas. Unripe mangoes. (Ehh, we’ll put those in there anyway.) I was reminded we had frozen blueberries and strawberries in the freezer in the basement, so I hauled both bags up.

Our blender sucks. I always have to put the soft ingredients in first to give the other fruits some “lubricant” to get pulverized as well. It makes a whirring noise that sounds like those annoying lawn-care machines you wake up to on a Saturday morning. (Or let’s be real. The one’s that wake YOU up on a Saturday morning. Ugh.) I have to keep shaking the darn thing to mix all the fruit up.

In addition to the berries and fruits, I like to sprinkle in cinnamon, pour in flax seed, spoon in peanut butter, and shake in some chia seeds. They’re all rich in protein and have other beneficial properties.

For a long time, we had a bag of organic Neem powder sitting in our dish cabinet. I had no idea what it was, but when I opened the bag and took a whiff, it smelled like wheatgrass. (I mean, if something says “Ayurverdic Herbs”, it ought to be healthy, am I right?) Shrugging with indifference, I tossed in some Neem powder happy to be extra healthy today.

Once the smoothie was all mixed up, I took a spoonful to see how it tasted.

Hmmm, perfectly sweet and tart and…EWW. Why does this smoothie taste bitter?!

Horror of horrors. I didn’t realize Neem powder was bitter!!! I ruined a perfectly good smoothie out of ignorance. (*long, dramatic sigh*)

Not one to be wasteful, I bore the bitterness, telling myself to be grateful that at least my body was happy even though my tongue kept yelling at me. It wasn’t a bitterness that affected one area of your tongue, but spreads throughout your entire mouth. It probably took me an hour to drink the whole thing.

After a few big mouthfuls, it dawned on me how like life this smoothie was. We hope for sweetness and have a variety of different blessings in life that resemble it. But then we add something to our lives that adds some bitterness and we have to suffer the consequences later. The Neem powder resembled something else I already knew about, so I assumed this imposter would be alright too.Smoothie-neem powder-morning

But you know what? Life is usually never always sweet. There will always be something bitter, undesirable, distasteful that ruins the season or lot. However, we can focus on how frustrating it is or see it as character-building and stretching.

I finished that smoothie like an Olympian finishing a grueling race. You ain’t beating me today! I win.

~Lina Marie

realAre you interested in what Neem powder even is and the amazing health benefits it possesses? Click this link here for more information. Health on!


Floating Epiphany

Notandum: a thing to be observed or noticed

Oh no, her lips are pursed!

Her body language looks like she’s not interested and already has some defenses to make.

MOM! Just give it a REST…

Mom and I were in an office with the two owners, a husband and wife, of this particular business. We had come to pitch some ideas about website redesign, social media upkeep, and other business promoters. They wanted to grow and we were there to help throttle them into a new and exciting time.

Except, I wasn’t doing much pitching. I was just listening to my mom propose interesting suggestions while I was battling my discomfort and hushing my fears.

You see, I’ve never been one to embrace conflict and tend to err on the side of people pleasing. I like to be liked. If I sense a whiff of disagreement, my natural instinct is to change the subject or jump more on board with whomever I’m communicating with even if I disagree. I also don’t like selling people anything. An idea. A book. Myself. Forget it. Getting a “no” sucks, so I’d rather just smile, nod, and agree.

The wife looked like she wasn’t quite following or understanding or agreeing with what my mom was saying, and it took everything within me not to brush over the subject and move unto more agreeable topics. The objections the wife had were fair, but sometimes we cling unto things that gave us success in the past rather than trying new formats that might bring us new successes and opportunities in the future.

And that’s where it clicked.

Here I was internally fighting against my selfishness, my “default” when reagirl-butterfly-statue-kneelinglly, I had no reasons to feel this fear at all. Holding unto old fears, old ways of thinking, old ways of doing things might have had their place at point but need to be re-evaluated for usefulness or benefit.

Conflict is NOT bad and NOT to be avoided. Friction and growing pains may be hard, but that’s where the good stuff happens. New ideas are shared. Relationships are built. Risks are taken. Understanding takes place. Deals are signed.

And really, a “no” isn’t that bad. There are a myriad of reasons why someone may say that and that “no” may just mean I need to figure out a new way of doing something.

After what seemed like an eternity, we stood up, gave hugs, shook hands. We toured the floor, happily admiring the amenities and hominess the place provided. As we were leaving, I noticed a statue of a little girl with a butterfly in her palm on the counter near the door. Immediately, I shook my head in amused laughter, because it seemed like a perfect representation of the solution I needed.

Children are so trusting and carefree. They’re inquisitive, explore, and ask “why”. They’re awed by every new experience and new discovery. They learn quickly. They tumble, fall, and may cry, but get right back up and keep running.

The butterfly in that little girl’s hand was once a caterpillar. It squirmed on the ground, on leaves, on trees. But not until it died to itself — essentially becoming a living sacrifice — that it blossomed into its true nature. A butterfly.

I want to die to my fears. My selfishness. My embarrassment. My pride.

And with every new experience, I hope to be mindful of those opportunities to grow. I want to be a like a child, absorbing and contributing fearlessly.

I must take note.

~Lina Marie


Will You Grow or Stay Fixed?

Kibosh: put an end to; dispose of decisively

“Lina, you HAVE to read this book. It totally changed my life!”

I was sitting in a friend’s apartment across the street from Howard University listening to her voice frustrations about internal struggles, grueling hours, and glaring shortcomings. Medical school was being a beast and in encouragement, shared a book about the growth vs. fixed mindset I needed to put on my reading list that helped her through her time.

Shortly after returning home, I requested Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck from our local library. The premise of the book compares the growth vs. fixed mindset and why brilliance and abilities are often overstated/overvalued whereas hard work and humility are better indicators of success.

Growing up, school was relatively easy. I enjoyed getting good grades, turning assignments in on time, and learning. I often attributed my success to my “smartness” rather than hard work (which I did lot of), because my intelligence was often the aspect praised, so I began to believe that was the source of my positive outcomes. However, this only supported my perfectionism, so I hardly took risks. Staying in the realm of what I knew prevented me from experimenting and, heaven forbid, making mistakes. I could NOT seem dumb, unknowledgable, or average. And from this sprang my tendency to not contribute dissenting or differing opinions, so my reasoning couldn’t be shredded IMG_20170605_184043apart. Fear is all it was.

Anyway, I start reading Dr. Dweck’s book and saw my old self. Worried about how others viewed me. Risk averse. Lounging in my comfort zone. CEOs, musicians, athletes, and others from all walks of life have never reached their full capacities, ruined companies, and estranged teammates because of the fixed mindset. This is a tragedy.

Today I choose to let go of the fear of making mistakes, looking silly, and not taking risks. Who knows the experiences we miss out on because of our own pride and ego protecting. Life is a work in progress, and it’s through making mistakes, reaching out, and stewarding what we have now that’ll lead to great and unexpected outcomes. We’re not promised comfort and ease. How we react to what’s thrown at us will make all the difference.

~Lina Marie

realIf you are interested in reading Dr. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, check it out on Amazon here! https://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Carol-S-Dweck/dp/0345472322/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496706431&sr=8-1&keywords=mindset+the+new+psychology+of+success+by+carol+dweck

Faith Trumps Fear

Juxtapositional: the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.

I like to joke and refer to myself as a “tame Type A”. I’ve learned to enjoy surprises, go with the flow, and look forward to spontaneity, but my core enjoys having a plan, being prepared, knowing what’s next. I can take the backseat and let something else make all the decisions (which is nice sometimes, actually), but my friends can tell you I can be pretty assertive and decisive. (I know what I want, dang it!!)

When a dear friend hosted a dinner party several months ago, she had little, glass jars, wrapped with charms and a burlap ribbon placed at each seat at the table. Little did we know she prayerfully placed each jar in front of a seat, beseeching the Lord that each occupant would be matched with the appropriate word to define or encourage their journey.

I got faith.

The crazy thing was, I was led to study the word only a few weeks before as I sensed the Lord desired I come to know more experientially what the word meant.

Anyway, back to “Ms. Tame Type A”, I don’t worry a lot about things or overthink, but I have moments I try to figure out all my finances, habits, social life, schooling, etc. all on my own without praying first or sharing my dissonance. There is no need for me to verbally “throw up” on someone since I can handle it, thank you very much. In theory, the attitude sounds inspirational, strong even. However, I miss out on being vulnerable and involving people in my inner journey. I miss out on being molded by faith and risky ventures. 

The jar has sat on my desk for some time, but only recently have I used it as a coin collector. I thought it apt as each few pennies, though small in number, over time contribute to something larger and more meaningful.

I watched a TedTalk recently about a guy’s quest for meaning and opportunity. He shared it’s important to write down goals to have a visual reminder of what a per

Let Your Faith Be Bigger than your fears

son is striving toward. And you know what? A funny thing happened. He started seeing opportunities in things he hadn’t seen before. (Reticular activation, maybe?) I do work in a place with physical money handled daily, but I started noticing more coins on the ground (don’t worry, I haven’t ever stolen money!) inside and outside the premises. I started noticing the lone coins scattered in different locations and my pocket started making a satisfying little jingle. Haha.

All this to say, although deposited coins in my faith jar is a visual, when you remember that faith should always be bigger than your fears, you start to see the little opportunities for faith building and growing in life. Deposit them in your heart, because little by little the number will grow, the muscle will strength, and you’ll have an ROI you never dreamed of. A penny may look pitiful next to the bold word “Faith”, but wasn’t it little David that slew a big Goliath?

~Lina Marie

Humorous Intentions Gone Sour

Gauche: tacky, graceless, tactless, rude, boorish, or awkward and foolish

I’ve always struggled with discerning the fine line between conveying information and oversharing personal information. I’m not a reserved person and though I’d hope to not have secrets or embarrassing moments shared freely among friends, I genuinely enjoy people asking about my life, because I’m as nosey as they come (it has gotten better, most assuredly). I don’t share people’s deepest, darkest secrets, but we all have different boundaries of privacy and security.

This past week, a thoughtless incident reminded once again of the need for tact and social graces, especially among people in the same circles. A friend shared with me a joke this person knew I would find funny. It was about someone else, but not in a way that was degrading or backstabbing, but related to something we’ve discussed and this person knew exactly what to say to pique my interest and get under my skin in a playful way.

I casually mentioned the essence of the topic to the person of interest thinking this person would laugh. This person didn’t and was quite flustered, because it was annoying and something this person had made statements about disliking. If something isn’t directly and firmly spoken to me, sometimes I don’t get the hint and forget that I need to be thoughtful in not only what I share but in what someone would find funny.dsc_8539

The simple, shared statement turned into heartfelt (and not the sentimental heartfelt) texts which morphed into two long phone calls and me feeling thoroughly embarrassed. I’m not good with guilt and didn’t sleep well that night, even after receiving forgiveness (sometimes negative emotions linger). I’ve dealt with situations like this before, but it still took some emotional stamina not to cry or entertain less-than-edifying thoughts about myself.

All that to say, in hindsight, I keenly remembered and realized the need to value what others tell us in confidence or not. Relationships are built on trust and in learning what is meaningful to another person. It is not enough to explain away situations with justifications about your seemingly “insignificant” role but take to heart that we don’t often realize how our words sting and could put someone in an unsavory light.

~Lina Marie

Lessons Learned – Rollins Pt. 1

A little over three weeks ago, my contract with my job abruptly ended. This change wasn’t unexpected as a few factors indicated my time there was about to come to a close though  change always take us by surprise to a certain degree. I learned quite a few corporate and life lessons, broken into two posts, that I would like to share with you all.

  1. Communicate: This seems like an obvious thread that must be woven into every relationship and job, but I learned the importance of communication on a whole new level. Whether I was working on a project and wanted to put questions to rest with updates or needed to leave early due to an unexpected happenstance and my boss wasn’t in the room, letting someone know what’s going on cultivates trust and assurance.
  2. Clarify, Don’t Assume: Instructions, due dates, and expectations can sometimes be vague. It’s up to you to clearly understand what needs to be completed. Or else things will have to be reworked and end up taking longer in the long run. I recall an instance in which I was to add additional locations to a spreadsheet of call center agents in California. I meticulously worked through the list only to be told later I added too many and had to go back and remove unnecessary locations. What a waste of time!
  3. Make Mistakes: It isn’t pleasant having someone reprimand you for a blunder, but you end up remembering for next time and can more thoroughly learn how to accomplish something. Sometimes, I would experiment and make errors on purpose to see how a process worked and why it couldn’t be done certain ways. No one is perfect and when an action is a big deal and negatively affects others, having a teachable spirit makes the learning curve so much easier!
  4. Don’t Take Things Personally: At the very beginning of each month was Month End Close which basically meant each branch closed their books, ensured certain reports were in, etc. Our trainers, for the new documentation system, would be at the branches to be converted to the new system, hence I’d be gDSC_7614iven a list of the trainers beforehand and what branches to add them to. I hardly missed a trainer or their respective location. One go round, I received an email from the training manager about a few trainers who weren’t added properly; she came on aggressively and highly annoyed. Instead of reacting defensively, I went back to the list to double check the list that was provided for me to find that the three names highlighted weren’t even on the original list! I realized the manager was probably stressed, overworked, and overwhelmed, so I calmly stated my case and she apologized. Misunderstandings and emotions are part of the human experience. People will accuse you of things that may be grounded in partial truth, but as long as you have your tracks covered don’t worry about it.
  5. Be Assertive and Proactive: Being kind, engaging, and agreeable has its place, but sometimes you have to firmly make decisions and set boundaries about your workload and you’re willing to do. Employers like to see genuine initiative and self-growth and development. When you do so, you make clear you’re willing to work but you value your time and yourself.
  6. Learn to Deal with All Types of People: I could entertain you with a long tale about drawn out interpersonal conflict with one colleague in particular and the emotional turmoil it caused me. However, I’ll just leave you with this. People are different, emotional, impassioned creatures that will get under your last nerve and try your patience big time, but they’ll only help to grow your character, endurance, compassion, understanding, and grace. There were many times I drove home in tears from sheer exhaustion and frustration with the situation. However, in hindsight, I was grateful for the emotional skin I built. It’ll only make you stronger and take you further.

~Lina Marie

Hiding Exposes

Parry: to turn aside; evade or dodge

A sticky incident with a friend who chose avoidance rather than assertion reminded me of an unwise set of choices I made a year and half ago that backfired. Needless to say, it set the precedent for future change.

During my six-month internship at GE Energy Management, I showed up late, by choice, almost every day. On top of hardly liking being confined in an office, I didn’t see the point of being there eight hours a day when my work could get done in less. It seemed wasteful and unnecessary. {In hindsight, I realize this was stupid and selfish, and God knows what I was thinking.}

I was put on a fair remedial plan that lasted about a month. The requirements included showing up on time, having a one-hour lunch, showing up to SAYU (internship support) after a certain time. Easy stuff. It put me back on track and jolted me toGE Post Pic reality that I could easily be fired. This wasn’t school, and I wasn’t surrounded by people who knew and trusted me for years.

My boss said after the expiration date of this contract, we’d have a meeting to process and assess. In my head, I did pretty well. In order to save face and protect my feelings (all of this was a kind of awkward and embarrassing…), the day after the end of the contract, I sent her an email stating it was the end, I had done well, and stated my new work hours. I breathed a sigh of relief and resumed working. It’s so much easier to hide behind a screen. All was well!

Or so I thought.

I received a meeting request from her that morning that seemed ominous. My mouth went dry mostly because I was nervous if I met the contractual agreements in her eyes. Turns out she was completely peeved by my audacity and fear.  This meeting could have merely been about my remediation. On top of an already embarrassing factor, I further humiliated myself by the way I handled it: avoidance. I was a little intern with virtually no work experience stating to my boss, via email, about my decisions without her say-so? She was my authority and contained the power to decide my fate. I didn’t give myself the chance to negotiate or process with her.

I should have swallowed my pride and fear, admitted to and apologized for my dreadful decision, and faced my fear with courage and humility rather than thinking I could wiggle my way out of it. By focusing on how the sticky situation would make me feel, I made it about me; it wasn’t respectable nor mature. From that point on, I resolved within myself to face anything no matter the consequence. I’d receive the tears, disappointment, and correction from others. At the end of the day, even though it will be difficult, it only builds character and repute.

Although my boss had a reputation for being a mighty influence and force, praise God she gave me more chances than I deserved and understood I was still learning. We need people who are candid about our bad decisions even if it makes us feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, if we are recipients of evasive behavior from a loved one, friend, or acquaintance, we need to lovingly and firmly express our feelings about how it made us feel and offer constructive criticism for next time. Hiding and avoiding anything only builds up friction for the future and reveals inward motives, intentions, and character. For “better are the wounds of friends than the kisses of enemies.”

~Lina Marie