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


Be Brave When the Winds Blow

Mutable: subject to change; inconstant

The annual summer concert in the park, played by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, was in peril of not happening because of Georgia’s wavering weather!

A close friend and I had planned a day out in Atlanta to visit a cat cafe (that’s its own story. Haha) and stay out there for a summer concert at which we’d meet up with other friends. I mass texted several friends a few weeks prior, inviting them to the concert, but every time I looked up at the sky, my heart constricted in worry.

Why does there have to be so many clouds!? The weather forecast went from a 70% chance of rain to a 40% chance and now it’s climbing back up again! Was that thunder or an airplane? What if rains out and cancels our plans? Those clouds look really dark…

I’m not even a worrywart, but these thoughts kept plaguing me while I patiently listened to my friend share about her heart matters. I decided enough was enough and that we’d brave it.

After parking and making our way to the lawn where the concert would be, I was feeling optimistic. Granted, the sky didn’t look breezy and beautiful, but a lot could happen in two hours before the start of the concert.

A friend joined us 30 minutes later and with him, brought ominous looking clouds. The winds gained speed, the trees wildly danced, and my heart sunk. Mr. Friend annoyingly pulled out his fancy, virtual weather map and talked knowingly about the direction of the gathering storm. I looked out at the lawn where other spectators had arrived early to claim a spot; some were hurriedly gathering their belongings to flee.

It started to drizzle and then rained steadily.

*looks at phone* 6:15pm. A lot can happen in an hour and fifteen minutes…!

People were wrapping themselves in their picnic blankets and tarps. We jokingly discussed hiding out under the already set-up stage. Or watching the brewing storm through the window of a nearby building. We chose to stay and be brave.

After some time, the weather subsided and the concert wasn’t rescheduled after all. I looked up at the sky during the onset of the live music and noticed the left portion of the sky was blue with light gray clouds and the right side was cloaked in dark, stormy clouds. And you know what? It stayed like that the entire time.

The music played on and we had a blast!

I suppose it does pay to commit and be consistent when your circumstances seem undesirable and flaky, eh?

~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

Retreat or Surmount

Aplomb: self-confidence or assurance, especially when in a demanding situation

A little over a month ago, I started as a Team Member at Chick-fil-A. Compared with my previous office job position, this role was a learning curve and fast-paced. Due to some remodeling being done at a sister Chick-fil-A and a knack for learning fast, I soon was trained on drive-through and there was talk about me becoming a Team Lead for that section (God please no! Hahaha! Well, maybe not yet anyway).

I hadn’t been trained on everything thoroughly before I was asked to take someone’s headset for drive-through during breakfast for a co-worker because this person was going on break. Tentatively and with a big gulp, I did my best only to have a guest who was muffled shout at me for the condiment he wanted after I asked him three times. Soon, I was transferred to another section in drive-through only to press a wrong button, give inexact change, and who knows what else. I felt like a Jenga block had been swiftly removed from the tower and all the blocks were tumbling down.

A little after noon, I was handing a lady her change when the tears welled up big time. I tried to control my quivering chin, but could no longer hold the floodgates back and darted to the bathroom in sobs. I didn’t feel like a failure or embarrassed or scared. I was tired and needed a moment for those “torn muscles to rebuild” so to speak. My Team Lechick-fil-a-fuzzyad came in with encouraging words and gave me space and time to regroup.

My manager spoke some wise words to me after I got back to work. “Lina, everyone has a ceiling or obstacle they run into when learning new skills and improving. Some people choose to retreat while others surmount. I think you’re in the right spot.”

The next day, I bagged for drive-through during lunch. We were in red a couple orders (only meaning we were over our Speed of Service goal) and I didn’t have a passer (someone who puts the appropriate sauces and napkins into the bag and sometimes passes out the window to guests). I was overwhelmed, and I felt my natural tendency to become paralyzed and stop. I couldn’t let my feelings and the pressure get to me. My actions would affect multiple people.

After my shift ended, I thought back to that moment and realized if I pushed through, I could surmount. Staying “strong” and “put together” wasn’t the point. It was persevering and pushing through in spite of the circumstances. That moment didn’t last forever and with God’s grace, I once again realized that anything can be overcome. It was a small lesson but small lessons can aid in learning about life.

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

Quitting an Outworn Dream

Surcease: to cease from some action; to come to an end

“If you don’t know why you are going to college and are just there for the experience, quit. Get a real job and figure out what you like to do.”

~Nicholas (contributor to 20 Things We’d Tell our Twentysomething Selves by Kelli and Peter Worrall)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been that girl who adored school. It reflected in my grades, work ethic, and diligence. Many times I’d sit and dream about what it would be like to attend a prestigious university situated on a pristine, picturesque campus (England maybe?). Admittedly idealized, I’d think about my fellow students who’d be as eager, intelligent, and engaging as I am. We’d all learn, grow, and pursue the privilege and joy of higher education whilst sipping lattes at our campus cafe discussing a science project or typing away on our laptops producing an English assignment not even due until two weeks later (shush, don’t laugh).

In the twelfth grade, I dual enrolled with this fantastic college coaching program called CollegePlus (now Lumerit Education). A Bachelor’s in two years, for only several thousand dollars, taking courses at my pace on my own time, with the benefit of a coach for guidance, accountability, and prayer? Whaaat?

It really was all that and a bag of chips.

I enjoyed my coach and learned to appreciate accountability, openness, and planning. Around the same time she was going to quit teaching due to her first pregnancy, I was thinking about discontinuing momentarily, because of an internship program I was accepted into. I tried juggling the two, but quickly found the feat to be quite difficult (and exhausting). CollegePlus was placed on the back burner for a solid year.

During my internship as a Project Manager at General Electric Energy Management, my boss inquired about my college plans; she spiritedly (and strongly) encouraged that I enroll somewhere, especially somewhere cheaper where I could knock out my cores before moving on to the fun stuff. A year prior I was pursuing HR Management, but after my boss encouraged me to look into Communications programs and then explaining why, I understand her initial implication that I should switch majors. It’s pretty neat when someone directly tells you what to choose because of what they see in you. At this point, I was only toying with the idea of starting school back up. However, her promptings compelled me to truly begin again.

Off I was, registering for school and happy CollegePlus saved my information and previous credits. I had a new coach who I knew God meant for me to have, because she greatly stretched my comfort zone and old ways. She asked pointed questions, kept me accountable, and encouraged me to have an overall vision for direction. I did find difficulty in balancing a full-time job in Atlanta and acquiring college credits simultaneously, but when there’s a will, there’s a way.

Other than College Algebra, which completely beat up my soul, everything else was fairly enjoyable. However, a few months into college, I found myself reeking with discontent and frustration which expressed itself in murmurs and exhaustion. At first I couldn’t nail down what it was (other than my sinful ole nature).

“Should I…*looks around to make sure no mind readers are intensely DSCN0893scrutinizing me*…quit school?” PSH, preposterous! I already discontinued once and didn’t want to be that person who didn’t finish what she started, especially on the second round.

But the thought wouldn’t stop bugging me.

One day, I sat down and asked myself why I was even in school. What was my motivation? What was I striving toward? What would I use my degree for? A startling realization hit me: I didn’t know. I realized my former boss was a huge influence, and I felt urged rather than self-motivated. (Though I’m grateful for her encouragement and investment!) I still felt unsure.

One afternoon with my ears plugged with music and my hands performing a repetitive task at work, my mind had free rein to seriously entertain the possibility of quitting school and think about what I could do with that free time. And I didn’t want to do anything specialized (doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc.), so why? The more I thought, the faster my brain ran, and I felt this invisible load lift from my shoulders. I can’t even describe the lightness of my heart and excitement I felt in that moment.

In short order, I composed an email to my grandfather (aka college patron) and college coach explaining about my final decision. I could hardly wait to rest and come home to open possibilities and not deadlines and study books! Even my coach noted the excitement in my voice on our last coaching call (though I’d definitely miss her). I felt 100% convinced and peaceful about this decision after much deliberation, prayer, and counsel.

Even with welcome transitions come feelings of uncertainty and oddness about novelty and change. I had a moment where I sobbed, my face buried in my pillow, because of the motley of random sentiments. It’s been several weeks since I’ve discontinued school and feel thoroughly rested, but it’s time to pursue a new endeavor. It’s easy to stay complacent and waste time when you get comfortable, but God has created me to be and do so much more than that. For it’s not in ease we grow, but in times of discomfort, pain, and uncertainty.

Understandably, college is placed on a high pedestal in our society. We hear the arguments, facts, and statistics about greater overall earnings and marketability to employers. However, I believe we all have our life paths and there are different ways of doing things, so I’m not at the point that I’m concerned about people’s opinions about my “lack of education” or not doing the normal thing. I believe life is too short to be normal. I’d like to do what fills my soul with joy, gives glory to God, utilizes my interests and gifts, and serves others even if that doesn’t include school. I may go back one day, but right now, I don’t think so. That dream no longer dwells in my heart.

I’ll let the story read on.

~Lina Marie

realFor those of you interested in CollegePlus, here is the link. It’s a fantastic, economical, enriching college route! I would highly recommend this to those self-motivated and disciplined, eager for a way to acquire college credits and a degree faster, cheaper, and better than the traditional way. Check it out: https://collegeplus.org/