This Is My Last Thanksgiving

Dear Family and Friends,

Let me tell you about Betty Jean Smith. (see pictures here)

This is my lasssssttt Thanksgiving,” my Grandma boldly declared a couple of weeks ago. The thing is, she may be right. She was just diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that metastasized to her brain.

I’m going to outlive all of you,” my grandma boldly declared a couple of weeks ago. The thing is, she may be right. She was just diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that metastasized to her brain… and she really hasn’t slowed down (relatively speaking).

(If you would like to learn a little bit more about the life and times of Betty J. Smith, you can read this beautiful article about her here:


I was telling my friend, Jhia, this is the best case scenario for letting my grandma transition from this life to the next. She isn’t scared. When we broke the news to her (we did this about 5 million times because her short term memory was faulty after her seizure) she always responded the same, “Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m o.k. I’m going to be with my mother.” She was o.k. with the decision to not treat the cancer. She is slowly accepting that she won’t be able to live on her own.

Maybe it was her last Thanksgiving, or maybe she will outlive us all. Truth is, we never really know how families and extended friendship circles will change from year to year. Now that Thanksgiving (or, awareness of indigenous and turkey mass genocide day) is over, and you had your fill of food that only comes out on Christmas and Thanksgiving, what and who are you still actively thankful for?

I was going to write more about my grandma, but it feels too soon.

Before my grandma got sick I was going to write about my roommate, Faith. If you like me, you would probably like her 10x better. I didn’t write that to put myself down. I consider it a blessing to have someone in my life that I admire so much…. And that will put up with my passive- aggressive living behaviors. Really, truly, and honestly, how many people do we know who make us a better person just by being in our lives?


We ended up as roommates because at the same time I was getting kicked out of my other apartment she was moving up north to start the same nursing program I was accepted into. I can write a million things about her, but there are 3 things that really stand out over the last 4 years living with her.

  1. She broke her leg on Valentine’s Day. That set off a series of events that dramatically changed the outcome of when she would finish school. If it were me, I would have cried and been miserable all day everyday for the last 3 years. I still would have been bitter- just to be bitter- to this day. Faith isn’t like me. She made the most of the situation and set herself up for better things. I witnessed her deal with several setbacks and she push through them all. I’ve learned so much by watching how she deals with the ups, downs, and unexpected plot twists with so much grace and faith.

  2. She gives really good advice. Like, she should get paid for fixing people’s lives in one or two conversations. I’ve gotten good advice from her even when she wasn’t talking to me. I sometimes overhear her phone conversations of her fixing people’s lives without them realizing she is fixing their life. I find it amazing that people still know how to talk on the phone. (A phone conversation with me sounds like uh-huh…uh-huh… yeah… uh-huh…uh-huh…
    yeah… it was nice talking to you… bye). There was also a short period of time where someone moved into the apartment temporarily to cover Faith’s rent as she figured out what to do with her life when she took a year off of school. I was ready to kick the temporary roommate out of the apartment. Faith talked some sense into me and helped me see the situation from a different perspective. One of the things I admire about Faith is that she consistently gives
    good advice and she lives a life, rooted in her faith in Christ, that backs it up.

  3. I can’t tell you what her Kenyan name is (I think the phonetic pronunciation is Ooo-keta). Ok., I lied. I really truly don’t know. I should know, but if she reads this she will text me the answer and I can save it in my contact list. But I do know the meaning of her name: One who is hospitable. She told me that each child, depending on gender and birth order, is named after a quality of a grandparent. I never met her grandmother, but Faith truly embodies ‘one who
    is hospitable’. Not just ‘welcome to my home’ hospitable, but ‘welcome to my life’ hospitable.

I feel like there is a lot more I can say, but the letter is getting long. Plus, I’m writing this from the library computer and I don’t want to start boo-hooing like a baby.

I’m curious. Who in your life are you grateful for and why? And then tell them!  I look forward to hearing from you.


California Fires

Dear Family and Friends,


What comes to mind when you think about natural disasters in California. Earthquakes? Most likely. I recently found out that California has more fire-related disasters than any other act of nature.  This year, both Northern and Southern California made national news when 42 people died in (or because of) the fires, countless more people were harmed or became ill due to smoke and flames, the blazing inferno destroyed over 80,000 structures and over $1 billion of damages accumulated because of two major fires.


I could smell the smoke and the ashes fell heavily for a week where I lived (and I was nowhere near the danger zone). Then my coworker reminded me of something that I had long since put in the depth of my random (usually useless) alcove of things that I heard from other people.


Fires are a natural and necessary part of life. Its when humans start changing the ecosystem that fires (which are healthy for the environment) become destructive to human civilization.


People’s natural tendency is to try and force life to be perfect by getting rid of things that are unpredictable or potentially dangerous. It makes intuitive sense to prevent all fires and potentially adverse circumstances from entering our day-to-day lives. The disconnect between the purpose of natural fires and the rare times they can destroy life causes most people to (reasonably or imprudently)   fear fires.


The fires we face in life aren’t always literally real fire. Sometimes ‘fires’ are things that come along, shake things up and forces you to start over, or at very least, re-think things. Yes, I know, it is uncomfortable and causes anxiety. But it is also healthy.


Fires are necessary for life to grow. In a natural setting small fires help prevent big fires. According to the California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection, “Established trees have to compete with undergrowth for nutrients and space. Fire clears the weaker trees and debris and returns health to the forest. Clearing brush from the forest floor with low-intensity flames can help prevent large damaging wildfires that spread out of control and completely destroy forests.”  


In other words, even if you were perfect and did everything right in life some things need to be cleared away. Or, (metaphorically speaking) you can live with parasitic elements that will eventually take root and steal your nutrients until a fire comes along.


Nature shows us that small fires will self-extinguish once it is done making the soil healthy. However, the events of this past month show us that big uncontrollable fires will cause destruction (and you better call for help).


So, it’s the end of the month. The letters are always shorter when I send them out on the last day of the month because I’m scrambling to get something out. I’m still trying to figure out what to write about for my theme, “to make love is to make life.” Maybe it will hit me for next month.


As always, I love to hear back from you (especially if I haven’t seen your face in a while). Also, I keep all of my old letters posted here:


Until Next Month,


Do You Know Rebecca and John Kurtz- September Letter

Hello Family and Friends,


Good news! Whenever you get a letter this late in the month you know it’s going to be short. For those of you who are new to my email list and don’t know why you are on the list you should just keep reading.


This month I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the role Rebecca and John Kurtz played in my life. FYI, I’ve never met them before. I don’t know what they look like, what they do, or where they live.


I do know they used to live in my apartment. Four years after they moved out my roommate and I still regularly get their mail. Infinity always sends John offers for internet deals. Rebecca apparently had some animal because Petco regularly (tries) to dissuade Rebecca from shopping at other pet stores by offering her ubiquitous 20% coupons.


I never really thought about the people who inhabited this apartment before Faith and I moved in. With the exception of this letter,  I don’t really care.


Last night I began thinking about how this was their home first. They built many memories in the same space. They probably fought each other and had tasteless decorations. It made me ponder the places we inhabit and what we leave behind.


The Places We Inhabit


Your home. Your job(s). Your favorite chair at the dinner table. Your favorite chair that only you sit in. The driver’s seat of your car. Public buses. Open highways and rush hour traffic.The same seat at church that would make you act unholy if someone was sitting there.The window or aisle seat on a plane (because no one likes the middle seat). Your therapist’s couch.


Your favorite grocery store. Target. Your favorite piece of clothing. The highly coveted position as the middle child. Your assigned locker at the gym. The places you volunteer.


That horrific photo of you. The picture of you with someone that is no longer with us. Your best friend’s shoulder.


The places where you are a leader. The places where you are a supporter. The alone places. The lonely places. Places of influence. The places of hope and faith. The places where you are other people’s hopes and dreams and aspirations. Places where you are the answer and solution. The places of desperation and uncertainty.The circumstances when you intervene on someone’s behalf. The memories of good times. The memories of bad times. The places in people’s heart.


Your name resides on someone else’s junk mail. Your name is on my email list.


What we leave behind


Shoes and clothes we’ve outgrown. High school varsity jackets. Blue eyeshadow. Bell-bottom pants. Childhood. Adolescents. Early adulthood. Late adulthood. Your favorite lunch pail (unless you’re my friend Dawn). Jerry Curls. Jazzercise. Insane collections of trolls, beenie babies, baseball cards and pogs.


Best friends forever and first love. Toxic people. The one that got away. The one that wouldn’t go away. The first times. The last times. Fears and anxieties. Missed opportunities. That one job that would have/ actually had changed your life. Regret. The hope that you will one day become_________.


The fear of losing hope.


And so what?

I don’t know. I really don’t know. If I had to give an answer- or some conclusion with a pretty silk bow- I guess the point is that we are never really stuck in one place.


A patient last night was telling me her life was in disarray. Yeah, it was pretty bad. Even with her hallucinations she was able to get herself together enough to get herself to clinic and ask for what she needed.


If she could do it, you can do it too.


You are never completely stuck. You are never your worst failure or biggest mistake. You are more than what you do for work. You are worth more than what you make. You are not beholden to debt forever.


All of that is just one aspect of your life because the places we inhabit now will all eventually be the places we leave behind.


As always, I love to hear back from you when I haven’t heard from you in a while. Every month I like to stop and contemplate something that I’m grateful for. Ever since 2014 I’ve been writing these letters when I realized that I don’t stop to be grateful for life.  


Love Brianna

How Far Can You Go

Dear Family and Friends,


I like to believe that I am an expert in the utilization of public transportation. In the last 16 months, I have mastered  ( *snobby bragging voice* in addition to my  extensive knowledge of MUNI in San Francisco and the Bay Area Rapid Transit), Metro in Washington D.C.; Los Angeles, California; and Medellin, Colombia*. I am also quite familiar with public transportation systems in Hawaii*; Minneapolis, Minnesota; New Orleans, Louisiana;  and Denver, Colorado. I even had a very brief stent (a 10 minute ride) on Iceland’s* public bus.


How hard could it be to use the Masivo Integrado de Occidente (MIO) public transportation system in Cali, Colombia?


I take the T31 on the Troncales line from Capri Station 9 stops to Estadio Station. Very simple. To get to the mall, I can take T31 on the well-defined Troncales line 2 stops going in the opposite direction from school. Or, I can take the P10A bus on the Petrotroncales line for 4 stops. If I choose to take P10A, it’s a little bit harder to navigate because the stops in between my house and the mall aren’t always well defined, but my destination is clear as day. Also, the P10A bus drops me of closer to home and I can avoid crossing this really busy street. The first time I went to the mall, my friend dropped me off at home. The 2nd time I went to the mall I took T31 back home because I couldn’t find the bus stop for P10A (the bus stop are on two completely different sides of the mall). The 3rd time I went to the mall I was absolutely determined to take P10A home- you know, to try something different.


It was dark, but it wasn’t late. It was only 4 stops, and by taking P10A I would avoid crossing the busy street in the evening. Also, I knew the bus route was a straight path home; I was confident I would get off at the right time even though the actual bus stop is not very visible. I got on the bus and there were only 4 other passengers. I took out my book to enjoy a quick leisurely read because the bus was moving very slowly in traffic. I was enjoying my book- knowing that I would be home soon- until the bus made a turn. Now, sometimes busses turn, and then turn again, because some parts of the road are not conducive for the size of a bus. However, the bus usually returns to the same street further down the road.


But this bus didn’t. The bus that should have been driving along the periphery routes (Petrotroncales) was now along the trunk route (Troncales).


I kept riding further away for a couple of stops because I was hoping that the bus would eventually start heading towards my house. When I finally accepted the fact that wasn’t going to happen, I got off the bus and waited for another P10A that was going in the opposite direction.


So why did I tell you this long story?

  1. For posterity’s sake. 20 years from now I’m going to look back at these letters and remember that I was in Colombia at this point in my life.
  2. How often do we knowingly head in the wrong direction… and just keep going. Once the bus made the left turn, even though I knew at that moment I was 86.34% sure I was going the wrong direction, I still stayed on the bus for about 10 more minutes. It’s like when you have an argument and you know you should apologize or forgive the other person but you don’t. Or, you are doing something with your life (an un-fulfilling relationship, a stagnant career choice, a co-dependent relationship, or you’re building someone else’s dreams as you neglect your own) because something is holding you back from changing. How much longer, and how much further, can you keep going until you are ready to change paths?
  3. Escalation of commitment is real. Escalation of commitment is when you realize that all of the time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, resources and energy you put into something is all for naught… so you put in more time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, resources and energy because you are hoping that all of the previous time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, resources and energy wasn’t as worthless as you know it to be.
  4. It isn’t always as clear as getting on the wrong bus as to when you first start heading in the wrong direction. Maybe it started the first time you were asked to work overtime- but you really didn’t want to- but now you feel as if you are expected to put in 50-60 hour work weeks, or worse, work for free off the clock. Big problems usually have a subtle beginning; that’s why you are left wondering, “How did I get here? When did this start?”
  5. I believe that we should all move towards reconciliation and getting back on the right path with yourself, with people, and with circumstances.
    1. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for being beautifully human. Sometimes we really screw up and the only thing you can do is love yourself despite your mistakes. Being kind to yourself is more than enough. I found this quote that I’m going to leave right here for you: I do more acknowledging my emotions than policing them.  
    2. Sometimes you can’t rectify issues with some people, but if you try hard enough I’m sure you can with 98.723% of the people you will deal with in a lifetime. When I said, “try hard enough” that means sincerely admitting you were wrong or you were wronged.  I found this other quote that I’m going to leave right here for you: hurt people hurt people.
    3. One of the reasons I chose Christianity is because I see it as this love story of Christ loving people and rectifying all wrongs. As a Christian, I see my obligation on this Earth is to rectify all that I can. I feel like we should all try to leave things better than what we found them and put as much as we can back into right standing.  
  6. Don’t let how long you’ve been away decieve you into believing you can never return. You’ll will always make it home. I don’t know where/ what/ who/ when/ why is  “home” means to you, but I don’t think we ever really get to far from it. You know the feeling. You go away, or somewhere new, and it takes forever to get there. Somehow, magically, coming back home the same distance doesn’t feel as long as it took to get there. I find it deeply troubling to fathom the idea of not being able to go back to the place (or person, or thing) you feel at home… unless you have a brand new niece and your dad is changing your room to accommodate her and her needs even though she doesn’t live there- then you are like me: homeless, replaced, and orphaned.


As always, I love hearing from you- especially if I haven’t seen you in a while- whether or not you can make it to the end of these long letters. You can also find all of my old letters here; When I get home I’m going to update the site with some of my favorite pictures from Colombia.




*Truth: I only rode the public transportation system for 1 day; because I didn’t get lost that makes me an expert.

Every Moment Has to Matter, but Then They Don’t. June Letter

Dear Family and Friends,


The other day I was listening to a Death Sex and Money podcast about different people’s experience with being near death. One woman was in an airplane accident. Another woman was holding her sister’s hand as she took her last breath. Another woman had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The host of the show asked her guest all of the big questions. “Do you fear death?” “Is it scary knowing you are going to die?” “Do you have any regrets?” “Does it change you?”


You asked, if it changes you. And for me, it definitely did. And not always for the better. I’d say for me, it’s made me more impatient. Every moment has to matter, but then it doesn’t.


Something about the line ‘every moment has to matter, but then it doesn’t” stuck with me. I think it’s because of the timing. I recently applied for a national fellowship that I thought I was a great fit for and would have been a tremendous opportunity for me. And I didn’t get it. It didn’t feel like the world was over, but it really, really, really sucked. It sucks just as much today as when I first got the denial letter. It really sucks now. Being rejected from this opportunity only conjures up all of the feelings in which I feel rejected from so many other things. But this letter isn’t about that.


I was thinking about the last time something sucky to this magnitude happened to me. I had just gotten the last of several rejection letters from multiple nursing schools and I was stuck at a abusive dead-end job.


Every moment has to matter… I don’t believe in wasted time; how you spend your time is either beneficial or not. I don’t believe that life has a waiting period before you get to the important part. There is no magic age to when you have to act like an adult and get yourself together. Today matters. Nothing just gets better simply by waiting for time to pass.


…but then it doesn’t. You already know the end of the story. I no longer work at that sucky job (I have an infinitely better one now that reflects my values of being part of the community and serving people who need it the most) and I’m now working on my third graduation from the same nursing school (that is 50x better than the ones that originally rejected me).

Cali Colombia 794 1

I took this picture in Cali, Colombia

I think why that quote has profoundly impacted me is because you can simultaneously encompass a single space with two very opposing viewpoints. I guess it’s because big things and small things are equally important. They can equally shift the projection your life at any moment. I think I (or maybe we) put more value and weight on the big changes and opportunities and overlook the small things. I placed a lot of value on getting the fellowship because, in actuality, it is a prestigious organization that is offering a unique opportunity that very few people qualify for. The intention is to create a think tank of doctoral students from minority backgrounds to help create innovative solutions for alleviating the health disparities in our communities. Apparently they didn’t want me, but whatever. What I don’t appreciate is that my friends and I do that all the time. Not to the same level as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, but we are still doing the same thing.


Every moment has to matter, but it doesn’t.    


It has been all of the little things that have gotten me to where I am. It’s the little things, the relationships, the volunteering, the friendships, the consistency, the  places you show up, the impression that you leave on people, the things you do in your spare time and your reputation that matter. And to some degree, none of that matters. They add up and they subtract. They open and close doors.


The big things matter, too. We all know that. But the big things are rarely the end all, be all. Big things matter, but they don’t, because there is this thing call the future that eventually equalizes things out (or at least puts things in perspective).


In conclusion, just keep it pushing. This is what life’s all about. You win some, you lose some. Ebbs and flow. Mountains and valleys. There is really no point in over analyzing everything and writing it down in a monthly letter and sending it out to not so random people. I’ll probably keep doing this until I find a therapist who will listen to my first world problems.

Something Beautiful

Hello Family and Friends,

As some of you may know, each month I send out an email to all of you about something that has been on my mind. This monthly expression of gratitude was inspired by my niece’s and nephew’s “Best of 2K14” list. Before the close 2014, they wrote out a list of all that was good in their life; I, on the other hand, was thinking of all the things I wanted to fix and make better in 2015. Their moment of gratitude and reflection profoundly touched me and inspired me to clutter your inbox once a month.

I try to keep each letter linked to this year’s theme: Be like water: Fluid, reflective and always tending towards stillness. I didn’t have much to write about this month, so I decided to share the lyrics of “Something Beautiful” by NeedToBreathe.  

In your ocean, I’m ankle deep/ I feel the waves crashin’ on my feet/ It’s like I know where I need to be/ But I can’t figure out, yeah I can’t figure out

Just as there is no clear defining point where the land ends and the ocean begins, there is no clear defining point as we transition from one state of self to another. For instance, I’m not sure of the exact moment when I became an adult (and I’m pretty sure that I’m an adult now) because I know it didn’t immediately happen the day I turned 18. Maybe I have been fooled to believe that there is a rigid dichotomy between “State of Being A” and “State of Being B”. Being grounded and rooted in a firm foundation is, perhaps, not  mutually exclusive from being swept away with dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

Just how much air I will need to breathe/ When your tide rushes over me/ There’s only one way to figure out/ Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drown

I like plans. I like lists. I like schedules. I like a maximum of 48 hours of vacation away from plans, lists and schedules before being without plans, list and schedules scare me. Of course, sometimes all of that is necessary. Other times it’s an anchor holding me back. For you, it may not be plans, lists and schedule, but it may be something else. Can you recognize your safety blanket.  How do you let go of  trying to control life and letting all of its uncertainties overwhelm you with new possibilities? (In “Christian-ese” what areas of your life are the manifestations of having  “let go and let God”?) I love the line “Just how much air will I need to breath?” I understand it as as important  as air is, you only need just enough. “Air” is the stuff we can control. The “tide” is the good, the bad, the unexpected. The stuff that makes you cry, doubt, and laugh until it hurts. Tides come and go with variable strengths- pushing and pulling your life- determine by the natural rhythms of Earth.

And the water is risin’ quick/ And for years I was scared of it/ We can’t be sure when it will subside/ So I won’t leave your side, no I can’t leave your side

The tattoo on my foot says, “Where Faith is fear isn’t”. I’m not saying I never doubt anything in life. I’m just saying that I always have faith that when the troubles and hardships come I will get through them, relatively intact, eventually.

In a daydream, I couldn’t live like this/ I wouldn’t stop until I found something beautiful/ When I wake up, I know I will have/ No, I still won’t have what I need

What is it that you truly desire? Not a $15 million dollar home. Not a porsche. What is it that your soul truly yearns for? That gentle whisper that motivates so many of your decisions. I don’t think the writers of this song intended “something beautiful” as something tangible. I was just thinking to myself how lucky I am to be surrounded by people I love. There is no malice or ill-will. Yes, there are disagreements, hurt feelings, and disappointments every so often. But, there is not a single toxic person in my life. I rejoice when you rejoice. Many of you celebrate when I celebrate. I may not always be the kindest person to you, but I do feel awful when I think (or know) I’ve hurt your feelings. How lucky I am to have full agency and hope for the future and gratitude for the moment. Now, isn’t that something beautiful.

Hey now, this is my desire/ Consume me like a fire, ’cause I just want something beautiful/ To touch me, I know that I’m in reach/ ‘Cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful/ Oh, something beautiful

I’m curious. What does this last stanza mean to you?

So this letter is getting on the long side, so I’m just going to end it here. As always, this is my way of staying in touch with you. It really and truly does mean something to me when I see an email from you. It also really and truly means something to me to know you read it even if you don’t respond all of the time.

You’ve Got Mail

Dear Family and Friends,


Each month I write a letter based on the theme for the year, ‘When we make love we make life’.


I failed. I missed sending a letter during the month of May. Also, I still have no idea what to make of the theme, ‘When we make love we make life’.


So May’s letter (that we are pretending I sent a few days ago) is a short letter about mail.


Do you remember when you had dial-up internet and the only internet browser available was AOL? You would have to go to Fry’s or Best Buy and pick up an AOL internet disc. After waiting 3 minutes to connect to the internet, the AOL voice would say “ You’ve got mail’.


Today, I got mail.


I received a plain envelope in the mailbox. The physical mail box that usually only has junk mail in it. To my surprise, there was a $96.67 mileage reimbursement check that I submitted nearly 3 months ago! It had been so long since I submitted the reimbursement form that I forgot that I had money headed (albeit slowly) my way.


It took about 10 seconds from the time I realized that I had money in my hand to the time I picked up my phone to deposit the check. When I went online to check my account I had another surprise waiting for me. Someone got access to my debit card made a $2,800 purchase with my money. Not really my money because I didn’t have $2,800 in my account anyways. But still, someone essentially stole $2,800 from me.


This is life. Sometimes 329% of your banking account gets wiped out to pay for someone else’s shopping spree. Bad things happen. We are not immune to unfortunate events unexpectedly happening to us. We can’t live perfect enough to avoid everything bad in life.


But this is why faith is so important to me.


Faith is like a letter in the mail. Faith is holding on to the belief that something is good is headed your way; that things are slowly coming together in your favor. For my religious friends, it’s the belief that God will never let you fail when you are going through a tough situation. For my non-religious friends, faith is the belief that nothing ends on a bad note. There is always some good, some lesson, some growth, some wisdom, or something that matures you that comes at the end or during the process. Faith is why you hold on through the painful experiences. Faith are the small reminders that the balance of life is always biased towards good rather than bad (no matter how bad bad is).


My wish for you today is that something good and necessary is formulating and and headed your way.

God Believes in 2nd Chances

Dear Family and Friends,


As many of you know, each month I sit down and take a moment to reflect on something that makes me feel grateful. It is an intentional effort to live in the moment. What is even more special is that you are taking a moment of your life to bear witness to my thoughts, my experiences and introspection of life and journey with me as I figure out what my theme for the year, “to make love is to make life” looks, feels, and taste like. Some of you are doing this unwillingly because you have no idea why I’m sending you this email and you are wondering where this email is going.


Sometimes I think about what I’m going to write about all month. And some months, like this February, the process is a little bit more rogue. This is your warning. Forgive the rambling should it occur.


When I think about life I think about Linda, Terren and Sammy. (Click here for pictures)


Linda, a former classmate, passed away in a tragic snowboarding accident. The last memory I have of her was a conversation about being a struggling, starving and nearly homeless graduate student one week and then, magically, having enough money to go abroad the next week. She went to Cuba that year. I didn’t.


Just a few weeks ago I was in Cuba and had this sense of peace rush through me as I thought about Linda. It can only be word it as, “God believes in second chances”. Everything comes back around again. Be ready for it. And go for it!


It also gave me peace when I thought about the opportunities that I hope to come (back) around. Soon. Like now. Any day now. In life we struggle with many unresolved things, things left in the balance, and things that don’t make sense. We ask ourselves real and legitimate questions: “why me?”, “why not me?”, “why now?”, “when will it be my turn?”, “will this ever end?”, and “will I ever get a chance?”


I haven’t been on this Earth for very long, but I do know that all of the things most pertinent to our heart and soul will get closure. Those questions will be answered. The process in answering those questions will transform you. The hard part is recognizing when things have been resolved and it is time to let go and move on.



Many people don’t know this, but I save people’s voicemails. I have a file in my Google drive of old voicemails that people have sent me. I am deathly afraid of forgetting what people’s voices sound like. However, I don’t think I could forget what Terren sounded like.


When I think about life I think about my cousin, Terren, who got into a car one day and didn’t make it to his destination safely.


My memories of Terren remind me of how he filled the space that God gave him. You could not miss Terren if he was in the house or down the street. He was the living embodiment of living the full breadth and depth of life. My relationship to him makes me realize that the breadth and the depth of your life have nothing to do with the goals you achieve or your unrealistic self-perceptions. The breadth and depth of your life is materialized through the many ways in which your love produces life in others, your community and the world.


You see why I chose this year’s theme, “To make love is to make life”.


Lastly, I’ve been thinking about Sammy. I never met him. I would have never known that he inhabited this earth until my niece told me that he had committed suicide.


Any death is tragic, but a child who has found life so unbearable that he would end it is devastating. I wonder what his day was like in the last hours of his life. Who was the last person he talked to? What was going through his mind during his last meal? When was the last time he laughed?


When was the last time I laughed? What was I contemplating while I ate my soup for lunch? What were the highs and the lows of the last few hours? Weeks? Months?


This is such a sad note to end on, but life is but a blink. Who we are is what we impart in people’s spirits once we leave (this includes physically moving away or growing apart). This is why I am going to take a moment each month to reflect on the different ways in which I, and others, produce life from the various ways in which we love.


One way in which you can produce life is by emailing me. I really love hearing from you even if it is only once a year. I’d like to know how you are making the world a beautiful place. (I know you are making the world a beautiful place because you are on this email thread!) Until next month… or whenever I see you… or get an email from you… or when you call/ text me (because you know I don’t make the initial call or text).


You Will Never Find Happiness

Hello Friends and Family,

‘Tis the season to be told all of the secrets of life. Every blog, magazine and momma will tell you the:

10 Ways to Bring Joy in Your Life

9 Ways to be a Great Team Member

8 Reasons to be Grateful for the Season

7 Steps to Being Victorious in 2017

6 Tips to a Better You

5 Communication Techniques to get People to Like You

Success in 4 Easy Steps

3 Tenants of Prosperity

The Only 2 Things You Will Ever Need in Life

How to Survive Thanksgiving if Your Family Voted for tRump (yes, this is a real title)


You could easily believe that all of your hang-ups and disappointments are because you only did 6/7 required steps of being victorious. Or, you only have 3 of the necessary tools to communicate effectively. It insinuates that life is a perfect formula. Do the required steps and you will get the anticipated results. Put a dollar in the vending machine, punch a few keys and get a pack of skittles. Boom! Happiness delivered on demand. It is just that simple. If life sucks, it’s your fault for not following the formula.

What is happy? Happy Birthday. Happy New Year. Happy is a weird word and the title of a painfully annoying song by Pharell.

Being happy is a temporary state of good cheer and having your basic needs taken care of. ‘Happiness’ is more like the semi-permanent state of wellbeing and your more complex needs are met. Happiness is achievable… sort of.

After much thought and reflection, I will share the secret to finding happiness. I have traveled the world and have spoken to ancient spirits. I have dreamed prolific dreams and I have read every book. I have done it all and I will share my countdown on, “How to Find an Abundance of Everlasting Happiness in 6 Very Easy Simple Steps.” It’s free for you, but I’m going to charge the low, low price of 7 easy payments of $49.99 for the 1st 100 callers.


1: You will find happiness after you shoot the messenger. Who told you what happiness is and how did you conclude you are unhappy? Did it come from people bragging about their life (facebook or instagram)? Did it come from the thousands of images we see on T.V. that tell us what success, happiness and fun look like? Go ahead, shoot the messenger. Challenge any and every idea of what happiness is and where those ideas came from.


2: You will find happiness once you ditch the road map. There is no road map that will help you find happiness. Accept the fact that life is one big question mark or highs and lows, mountains and valleys, triumphs and failure. You will go forward, you will go backwards, you will go left when you think you should go right and right when you think you should go left. Sometimes you will stop and question yourself. Sometimes it looks like you are in the wrong place. Sometimes you will think you have arrived. And then, out of nowhere, you will realize that you haven’t arrived and you are lost. You will question the journey. You will question the process. You will question yourself, your beliefs, and your purpose.

If all of that is going on in a cyclic pattern, it is a sign that you are on the right path towards happiness. If there are more lows points than highlights in life, or you lows are really low, find someone to help you guide you back on the right path. Never doubt the power of the black hole. It will suck you in and make you think the only way to get out is to isolate yourself even more. People may not understand everything that you are going through, but we can all empathize with that experience. No one can tell you how to not be depressed, but there are people to hold your hand and help you heal.


3: You will never find happiness if you can’t recognize happiness. In order to find happiness you must recognize what happiness looks like. Happiness is the things you hope for within experiences that re-affirm your spirit.

Happiness goes unrecognized because we often place unrealistic ideas and expectations on people, places, things and experiences. I noticed that people (yes, that includes you) often are disappointed because people don’t meet your expectations. Or, we do things but the emotion that we thought we would have isn’t quite there. We buy things to make us happy, but they lose its appeal as soon as the newness wears away. It’s like having $900,000 in your bank account and being unable to enjoy it because 1) you are focused on the fact that you are not a millionaire, and 2) you focus on the bills (for all the things you enjoy on a daily basis), mortgage and rent (that allows you to sleep comfortably at night), and student loans that will drain your bank account.


4: You will never find happiness because happiness is not lost; therefore, it isn’t something that can be found. The Wizard of Oz teaches us more than ‘there is no place like home’. The people Dorothy loved the most in Kansas were really similar (hint hint wink wink) to the friends she found in Oz. Also, Dorothy had the ability to go back to Kansas at anytime. She didn’t have to get apples thrown at her, get her dog stolen or kill a witch just to get back to Kansas. Glenda, the so-called ‘good’ witch could have saved her the journey, drama and the trauma.

Happiness, just like home, is not lost. It is not something you have to search for. It is not something you win or accomplish.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the journey is necessary. There is something cathartic about being in motion. Get up, try and figure it out, do what you can, stop and reflect, and repeat tomorrow.


5: You will never find happiness because it doesn’t exist.   I have come to the realization that I am deficient. I am limited to a language that doesn’t have the correct words to describe my emotions. Rarely do I ever feel one emotion purely. Except for right now. I am tired. This is probably the longest letter of the year. Besides that, I’m rarely just angry, happy, sad, or excited. I usually feel a mix of things at varying levels with subtle undertones of extra emotions that are driven by the context of the rest of my life.

Happiness doesn’t exist. It is a generic place holder for deeper and complex emotions that don’t have names.


6: If you are still looking for happiness you will always miss the mark because…

  •         There are other perfectly good (harder to feel) emotions that you may really be hoping to experience, such as: joy, wonder, excitement, hope, togetherness, being understood, and fulfillment.
  •         Anything negative is not the antithesis of happiness. We know this because we have the ability to cry tears of happiness. We often appreciate the good when we go through the bad. The problem is that we don’t have a word that captures the fullness in the range, fluidity and continuity of our feelings.
  •         You really are looking for something else, or you are running from something else. You are using the pursuit of ‘happiness’ as a distraction from the real issue.
  •         Happiness may look like something anti-stereotypical. It may look like being more discipline, creating traditions, turning off electronics.
  •         You are going through the motions and not enough of the things that you do on a daily basis reflect the things you value.
  •         Something inside of you has died, become stagnant or has been left unresolved for far too long.


I don’t pretend that I am the repository of all wisdom. I have no answers for anything. I have thoughts and time to write. I would love to hear from you. Maybe you have found happiness and I need help.


As most of you know, each year I pick a theme to capture (what I hope to be) the essence for the upcoming year. Each month I write a letter to help me pause, reflect, and re-center my well being. This year’s theme was “Be like water: Fluid, reflective and always tending towards stillness.” I’m not sure if I figured it out, or have some deeper understanding. I’m almost as aimless about the theme as I was a year ago. But that is o.k. It sits well with me.

My Grandparents Hands

Dear Racism, I am not my grandparents. Sincerely, These Hands.

“Sincerely, These Hands.” Do you know what that means? I don’t. I was scrolling on my facebook newsfeed and I saw this ad for a t-shirt with this message inscribed on it. A week or so later I saw an article criticizing the shirt that thousands of facebook users scrolled passed. Apparently, the author thought the designer of the t-shirt was insulting previous generations for not fighting hard enough against racism, oppression and state sanctioned violence. “These are not my grandparents hands” meant that this generations of activist aren’t as passive and forgiving as their elders.

I spent this Remembrance of Indigenous Sacrifice day (also known as ‘Thanksgiving’) among my extended family. Before I was able to indulge in a combination of macaroni and cheese/ yams/ stuffing magnificence I had to stop, pause and participate in the yearly ritual. I’m not sure if your family is like my family, but every year before the Thanksgiving dinner we have to go around the table and say what we are thankful for. We actually don’t go around the table. We have to go around the entire room so that all 500 of us can say something prolific and meaningful. However, most people just repeated the same statement, “I’m thankful for my friends and family”. Keep it classy. Keep it quick.

This year I am thankful that my hands are my grandparents hands.

I am the product of my grandparents hopes and dreams. I am the manifestation of the triumph over their fears and their struggle. I am the answer to every tear cried and opportunity that was denied to them. I am my ancestors wildest dreams. I expand into places they couldn’t. I am their legacy after enduring Jim Crow, the Great Depression, and other horrific life events that I can’t even imagine.

This Remembrance of Indigenous Sacrifice I am beholden to and thankful for the sacrifices of my great grandparents and my grandparents: Lucious Sr. and Plurel, Ora Lee and Ocie, Pearl and Ocie, and Betty Jean and Roy. I just realized I don’t know my grandmother’s parents name. I’m pretty sure she (or one of my aunts) is going to read this and call me sooner rather than later.

And since this is my list of being thankful for all of the elderly people in my life I’m also going to include Aunt Gladys, Aunt Mildred and Uncle Edgar (the man who makes us go around the room and say what we are thankful for).

I am also thankful for James and Loretta McBride, and Joan and Jerry Moss. I keep trying to type the perfect sentence to express how I feel about them. I just can’t. I don’t have the language or the words to express my sentiment towards them. Every term of joy and endearment that I can think of just seems too shallow to capture the love and admiration I have for these people.

Every month I write a letter about something that I’m thankful for. If you receive this letter it means that you are someone that I appreciate. I would love to hear from you.