2019 Reflection

Throughout 2019 I asked God to please bless me with “a support system”—that is people who truly care…People who would literally go “out of their ways” to help me achieve my goals. Reflecting upon the year, I can’t help but rejoice at the fact that my prayers were answered…But in a rather unexpected way.

Before my prayers could be answered, I needed to realize something: in order for others to be a support system for me, I needed to be a support system for them! By simple interactions and acts of kindness, I made some of my best, lifelong friends. 💕

The people I met this year taught me some valuable lessons. They taught me about about love—(What it isn’t), health—(mindful eating & Isagenix), and joy in the midst of hardship— (How to “Not worry” and “Be happy”).

I can only hope that the positive trend continues in 2020. Hopefully a full-time career (and perhaps a high-quality relationship with the love of my life) is in store in the new year. 🤞🏼 A girl can dream right?!

I think I’ll start with another prayer. 😉

Valedictorian Speech

For 7 years, I have been looking for the speech I delivered at high school graduation, and finally found it as an email attachment within my “sent” messages. It was written at a time when things were simpler, more innocent, clearer, and much more hopeful. I pray that God allows my heart to return to that status and continues to provide for the future we worked so hard to build together. My speech is written below:

“I would like to sincerely thank everyone who was able to attend our graduation ceremony this evening and express what an honor it is to represent the 2012 senior class as valedictorian.  The most heartfelt piece of advice that I would like to offer my classmates is to embrace the simplicities of life.  Living in a world in which one must compete on the basis of education, pay scale, and social recognition, it is easy to become engrossed in personal gain, make reckless decisions, and neglect time from loved ones. However, by recognizing what motivates us, setting realistic goals, and appreciating what we have, we may separate ourselves from the concerns of the world and experience simpler, more meaningful lives.

By recognizing what motivates us, we become more mindful of our decisions and priorities.  For example, if you are motivated by your family, make decisions that will bring joy and happiness to your home.  Try to eliminate things from your life that may prohibit you from doing that.  Also, to save yourself from a never ending to do list, do not put decisions and commitments off for another day.   Instead, act upon opportunities when they arise.

When setting realistic goals, neither underestimate nor over overestimate your abilities.  Give every endeavor your 100%, and do not be afraid to accept both successes and failures.  Do not dwell upon your mistakes, but learn from them.  Although it would be nice, we are not perfect.  We need to understand there are things we just can’t do, and be thankful for those that we can.

To fully appreciate what you have,make the habit of taking one minute vacations from your busy lives.  Take a moment to admire a flower, or the smell of fresh green grass.  Call up a friend you haven’t talked to in a while, or better yet, send them a hand written letter!  Things like these, although they are simple, are the things we remember.

Lastly, living simply should not be confused with living in leisure.  Rather, simplicity seeks moderation of work and relaxation.  It strives towards being satisfied with yourself and the decisions you make.  It is working hard to achieve your goals, appreciating your accomplishments, and spreading peace to everyone you encounter.

So no matter where your lives may lead you, remember that simplicity is key.  It helps limit your stress, keep your priorities in line, and divert your focus to things that really matter.

And now I would like to conclude with some encouraging words from St. Francis of Assisi:

“Remember that when you leave this earth you can take nothing of what you have received, but only what you have a given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.”

Thank you, and God bless.”

Envisioning Goals and Then Making Them Happen

I read somewhere that the way to reach your goals is to envision that you are already there and TAKE ACTION sooner, rather than later.

For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, envision yourself as your healthiest self– meal prepping in your kitchen, sipping a green smoothie, in your workout clothes about to hit the gym… And then go do it.

If your goal is to develop a relationship with the love of your life, envision yourself with the person you cannot see yourself living without…And then go spark conversation with them.

If your goal is to land a dream job, envision yourself in your work attire, carrying out your daily tasks… And then go apply for it.

Of course, just because we envision things to go a certain way, doesn’t mean that God will necessarily allow for it to happen. We need to be willing to readjust our goals to align with the capabilities God has given us.

However, with that said, we must not forget that our goals (so long as they align with God’s Word and do not lead us to sin and temptation) have been placed in our hearts for a reason. We need to act upon them and see where He takes us with them.

Suffering and Love

The reality of living a true Christian life is that we will suffer. As Our Lady of Fatima puts it: We are not “[Promised] happiness in this life, but in the next.”

Some other quotes about suffering are reproduced below. My prayer is that you not shun or look down upon suffering, but rather embrace it. Use it to purify yourself and console others who may be suffering too. Allow it to draw you closer to Jesus who was inflicted with many sufferings on your behalf. Don’t lie to yourself and act like you’ve got it all together…that everything is fine, when it’s not: Suffer.

“If you really want to love Jesus first, learn to suffer, because suffering teaches you to love.” -St. Gemma

“And the Lord said to me, “My child, you please Me most by suffering. In your physical as well as your mental sufferings, My daughter, do not seek sympathy from creatures. I want the fragrance of your suffering to be pure and unadulterated. I want you to detach yourself, not only from creatures, but also from yourself…The more you will come to love suffering, My daughter, the purer your love for Me will be”. –Diary of St. Fausina

A cross carried simply, and without those returns of self-love which exaggerate troubles, is no longer a cross. Peaceable suffering is no longer suffering. We complain of suffering! We should have much more reason to complain of not suffering, since nothing makes us more like Our Lord than carrying His Cross. Oh, what a beautiful union of the soul with Our Lord Jesus Christ by the love and the virtue of His Cross!St. John Vianney

One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much, more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer.” -St. Teresa of Avila

The Value of “Presence”

“The success of a manager is dependent on how he or she treats others and the quality of undivided attention that he or she gives to them.“- V.

As part of my interview to be an adjunct professor of management, I was asked to conduct a teaching demonstration to a group of college students.

In the days leading up to the demonstration, I remember wracking my brain over which topic I’d teach about. I could literally choose any topic under the sun, as long as it pertained to management. Why was the decision such a difficult one?

The reason why it was a difficult decision was because of the high expectations I placed for myself. I wanted to ensure that what I taught the students was meaningful, relevant, and memorable. I didn’t want my lesson to be just another business lecture. No, I wanted it to be more. I wanted it to be life changing.

Because I desired it to be life changing, I knew that I must contact the master of life changing experiences (God) for some help. After much prayer, He revealed to me what I should teach, and that was “The most important quality of highly effective managers.”

The only problem was, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what the most important quality was! After a bit of research, however, I found my answer (See Google’s 8 Habits of Highly Effective Managers study and DDI’s study of How Empathy Relates to Job Performance).

Subordinates want to feel like their managers are truly there for them…that their managers have time for them and are concerned about their individual feelings and needs!

To illustrate this important point, I handed a student a wrapped present at the beginning of the lesson. When it came time to reveal the most important quality, I had the student unwrap it.

Inside the student found a mirror.

As the student glanced into the mirror, I asked what she saw. She replied, “Myself.”

“Exactly,” I replied. “You see yourself. This signifies that the responsibility of being a highly effective manager is dependent on you!”

Next, I shifted the mirror a bit and asked the student the same question, “Now what do you see in the mirror?”

She replied, “My classmates.”

“Right again,” I interjected, “…and your classmates are behind you, aren’t they?” I asked.

The student confirmed that they were.

I explained to her that the classmates behind her represented her subordinates, or those who are literally behind her… those who rely on her to be a good manager and leader.

In essence, the lesson signified that in order to be a highly effective manager, one must take responsibility for becoming one. He must not only focus on himself, but on others as well. Only then will the function of management reach its fullest potential.

Perhaps the most important (and meaningful) way to become a highly effective manager is to be present with others. That is, to take time out of one’s day to truly get to know those he works with. Transactional interactions are not enough! One must demonstrate that he REALLY cares about those entrusted to him as a manager.

Healthy Brownies (Gluten Free)

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup gluten free oats
• 1/2 cup maple syrup
• 1 can drained, rinsed black beans
• 2 tbsp cocoa powder
• 1/4 cup coconut oil
• 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp baking powder

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat black beans over stove until soft. Drain. Combine all ingredients in food processor. Add to a greased 8 x 8 pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Top with a few chocolate chips during the last minute of baking for a lovely presentation.

In God’s Hands

Image-5png

As I browse the documents stored on my laptop, I find a lot of little gems, including this essay from 2014. It is a reflection of my experience attending the 2014 Student Leadership Forum in Indianapolis. Reading it now reminds me how hard I worked through college. While my college experience may have been the hardest 3.5 years of my life, I realize it shaped me into I am today and was maybe the most rewarding period of my life. My essay is reproduced below:

“I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2014 Beta Gamma Sigma Student Leadership Forum held in Indianapolis, IN from November 6-9. Each day was filled with unforgettable activities including presentations by notable guest speakers, engaging leadership activities, and networking opportunities.

On the morning of November 6, 2014 I was able to explore downtown Indianapolis. After eating breakfast in the exclusive concierge level lounge, which the front desk person so kindly gave me access to, I left the hotel. I stopped by the Indianapolis State Capitol Building, visited the mall, attended Mass at St. John of Indy Catholic Church, walked through the convention center, and bought souvenirs. After exploring the city, I returned to the hotel to get ready for the opening session, which began at 6:00 p.m.

After registering for the conference, I was ushered into a beautiful dining room, where I was served a buffet-style Italian dinner. Round tables were set up around the room for attendees to sit at. Everyone that sat at my table was so kind, and I made friends instantly! After dinner, everyone was welcomed and we played a networking game. Each student was given a card with sections stating one interesting fact about each member (we had to submit facts about ourselves before the conference). We were then told to walk around the room and introduce ourselves to others. For every person we met, we had to ask what their interesting fact was, and share our own. My interesting fact was that I have my own personal blog, http://www.TeawithV.com. The students whom I met were very interested in it, and one student promoted me to all of her friends via Facebook.

After the game, we listened to a talk by the notable, Tim Clipson. He was a former sailor that now devotes his life to inspirational speaking. As he explained his life from a spiritual perspective, chills ran down my spine. I knew that this was going to be a great weekend and that all who were in attendance would benefit greatly from it. Clipson broke us off into pairs and we were given ropes. He then proceeded to give us directions on what to do with our ropes. Before we knew it, my partner and I were roped together. Next, he told us to try and untangle ourselves. After struggling for about five minutes, we were on the verge of giving up. Clipson handed us a paper with directions on how to untangle ourselves. We were told that this was the only way that would work, and after a few attempts, we believed it: we untangled ourselves! The moral of the exercise was that sometimes we may feel entangled by the constraints our world places upon us. However, we must not lose hope! There is always a way to fix what has been holding us back in our lives. However, it might take a little work and help from others.

After untangling ourselves, Clipson held up a vase. In the vase were flowers. He told us to describe the flowers. Some students described them as colorful, unique, bright, etc. Then Clipson did something no one in the room expected. He dumped the flowers out and quickly smacked the vase across his head! It became a hat. Everyone laughed as we realized that the vase was made from a soft material, and could be transformed into any shape. Then he explained to us that although things may appear to be one way, our eyes can often deceive us. We must remember that things are not always as they appear. The same goes for relationships; often we cast preconceived judgments on others because of the way he or she appears or presents him or herself. However, those judgments can, in fact, be wrong, and we must be open for change and transformation.

Feeling renewed and inspired, I returned to my hotel room to get a good night’s rest. I could not wait for the next day to arrive. Soon enough it did, and I was down eating breakfast with my friends around 8:00 a.m. It was now Friday, November 7, 2014. On this day, my friends and I had the opportunity to listen to the President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and take a tour of the track. We were shown the brick finish line and told a story about how one winner, after struggling to make it to the finish line, bent down and kissed the bricks! I thought it would be fun to imitate this, so I asked my friends to take a picture of me “kissing the bricks.” We also got to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and take a picture in an Indy car. After a day of fun, we ate dinner at a country-club style restaurant. Again this was a great chance to network with the individuals from business schools from all over the world.

On Saturday, November 8, 2014 we were split off into groups based on our results to a personality test. Alyssa Preston, founder and architect for SAGE, LLC, spoke to us about her experiences as a “not so bright,” but hardworking student. She explained how she got to where she was, despite failed relationships and personal struggles. Overall, her story was very inspiring. She also showed a clip from the movie, Evan Almighty. In the clip, the Bible verse, Genesis 6:14 kept coming up in Evan Baxter’s life, to the point that it was almost inevitable! Baxter understood that God was calling him to do something, and realized that it was to build an arc. Although our Genesis 6:14 moments may not be as drastic as that, Preston prompted us to recognize these moments.

What we did next, I will never forget. It was in fact, for me, a Genesis 6:14 moment. Each student was given a large piece of poster paper and a pack of crayons. We were given instructions to put in picture what we feel is causing us grief, or to create a picture perfect future on this piece of paper. I took the assignment from a hopeful approach and drew a road leading to my Tea Room restaurant, Tea with V. Along the road I drew myself and my significant other with a heart. My significant other, I imagined, just got out of work, and decided to stop by to surprise me with flowers at my Tea Room. In the background, I drew our simple, loving home with a cross in the sky to represent God watching out for us. As I explained my picture to my peers, I thought it was funny because all of the guys, including the boy who was sitting next to me named Anthony, responded with a smile and, “Awwww!”

Next we were told to think about who, if we could, we would like to talk to at that very moment. It could be a living person or someone who had passed away. After choosing someone, we were told to find a quiet area to explain why we chose that person and construct the conversation we would have with them. Sitting next to the boy named Anthony reminded me of my favorite saint, St. Anthony of Pauda. I realized that if I could talk to anyone at that very moment, it would be St. Anthony.

What happened then, I truly believe was God’s working. Before I began writing out my explanation and conversation, I visited the restroom. As I was washing my hands, my phone began to ring. It was a number I did not recognize. When I answered the phone, I asked politely, “who is this?” and heard the voice on the other line answer, “this is Anthony.” Right at that very moment, I realized who I was speaking to: a very nice individual I had met over the summer and exchanged numbers with. He was a visiting seminarian from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. This was the first I had talked to him since the summer. He told me that it was his day off and he had just called to see how I was doing. Because most of his family is living in Africa, he enjoys keeping in touch with the friends he meets in America. He asked how I was doing and I explained why I was in Indianapolis. We also talked about Thanksgiving, and overall, had a relaxed, genuine conversation. As our conversation ended and I hung up the phone, I was hit with a divine realization. For a while I had been considering entering the religious life, as a devoted sister of the Church. However, in my heart, I knew that I wanted to find someone who I could not see myself living without: someone I could love and start a family with. It took a simple conversation with a seminarian to realize that I could still live a devout Catholic life as a married person. Previously, I thought that to stay grounded, I had to turn to a religious vocation. But, in the case of Anthony, it was someone with a religious vocation turning to me. He was sincerely interested in how my life was going. Even though I thought what I was doing was insignificant when compared to a religious vocation, my friend was interested in hearing about the everyday things I was up to. I truly believe God works in mysterious ways and this was his way of telling me that the sacrament of marriage is just as sacred as a religious vocation. We are all given certain gifts and abilities and I realized mine is to be a good friend to others and serve Christ as a lay person of the Church.

Returning to my table, I noticed that the “Anthony” I was sitting next to was gone. I am not sure where he went, but I thought it was ironic that he was there at the right place at the right time to spark the thought of St. Anthony in my mind.

That evening, after dinner, we were given a night off. I went to see a Pacer’s game with my friends and had a great time!

On the last day of the conference, we wrote thank you letters to our sponsors and said goodbye to all of our friends. The final session ended at 12:00 p.m. After it was over, I visited the Indianapolis War Museum and watched an Irish step dance performance at the local theatre. I ate dinner at California Pizza and attended Mass at St. John of Indy Church. Later in the evening I returned to the hotel, got a snack at the concierge lounge, and packed up my things for my flight the next day.

On my flight home, I had the chance to reflect upon all of the happenings of the trip. I realized how blessed I am and thankful to be attending Bloomsburg University. Although the going can get tough at times, I must not lose hope and remember to trust in God. After all, He is the one who can untangle my “knots,” and lead me to success and happiness.”

Loving Beneath the Surface

img_5283

I wrote this post a few months ago and forgot to post it. Even though it’s a few months late, I wanted to share it. It may be exactly what you need to hear right now:

Have you ever had something (a quote, a song, a speaker) that completely resonates with you? It’s like this thing was placed into your life for a reason, so you can’t help but to give attention to it. Lately, for me, it has been the line from the song “Meant to Be” where Bebe Rexha sings:

“Tired of the fake love, show me what you’re made of. Boy make me believe.”

It’ll pop into my head randomly sometimes and I’m just like “Man. I wish I wrote that.” It’s a line that speaks to my very soul.

I am tired of the fake love. (Aren’t we all?) We engage in these surface-level relationships… ones that are so shallow they only penetrate the very surface of our hearts and leave us craving something more permanent. We yearn for commitment. We want honesty. We long for something real! If you’re a girl, don’t you want a man to help you believe true love exists? And if you’re a guy, the same for a girl? Trust me. You are worth that kind of love! And do not settle until you find it!

For months I’ve had the opportunity to go on numerous dates, but haven’t wanted to. When people say to me “You are too picky. You need to give him a chance,” it’s like “No I really don’t.” It seems like when you get to a point when you love God and entrust Him to give you His best, you can easily sort out the winners from the losers. I’m not wasting my time or any one else’s. If the feelings aren’t mutual… If I don’t find him attractive in body and spirit, I’m not going to date him. I want what is real and I am not settling until it is just that!

I’d like to think my winner is out there somewhere. Perhaps I’ve already met him. If I have, he is obviously confused as to whether he wants to pursue a relationship that’s more than just the surface.

For this reason, I pray for his sincerity and clarity from this day forward. May his pursuit of me seem just as natural and loving as God intended it to be. May he cut out all distractions in entirety and pursue me with pure intent and purpose.

Balsamic Chicken (Gluten Free)

Ingredients:

• Boneless skinless chicken tenders
• 3 cloves garlic (minced)
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
• 1 1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
• Salt to taste
• 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Directions:

Cut chicken into cubes and place in container. Combine all other ingredients. Pour over chicken, cover, and allow to marinate in fridge for 1 to 24 hours.

Cook on stovetop over medium to medium high heat.