|Posted on July 5, 2019 at 12:35 AM||comments (1)|
It’s been a week since I have returned from Italy. I am still riding high on a cloud. The jet lag has finally left my bones but my mind is 5,686 miles away. I must admit, I am bored. I needed something to do so I decided to blog and podcast about this beautiful place. Italy was filled with rolling hills, quaint towns tucked away in the Earth’s surface, cobblestone streets with remnants of history, and mountains that touched the sky. I can’t put this experience into words but I will try my best. All I can say is, this trip is one for the books. From Rome to Florence, I believe we left an impression in Italy and Italy left an impression on us. Shout out to my personal travel cultivator, Detra Alton and Almeda Travel for believing in my brand to put a trip of this magnitude together. The vision came to life on June 17 as we invaded airports with big hopes and dreams. Twenty-one women traveled safely across the globe and back without any major issues. Nobody ended up in the infirmary, Roman jail, or captive in a medieval castle in a dungeon in the Tuscany hills. That’s huge. Thank you to everyone who prayed for us and prayed with us as we traveled to foreign lands. God’s hand was definitely upon us.
I toured Italy with 21 phenomenal women from different walks of life. Girl’s trips scare me because women can be catty, but these women were mature and professional. Many of us didn’t know each other, but we meshed well together. Our lives, situations and circumstances bonded us together. We laughed a little, cried a lot, shared stories and toured foreign lands until our feet were swollen. Simply put, for seven days we ate, drank and lived in merriment. We started with fellowship and ended as a sisterhood. Strangers were now friends built on organic encounters and experiences. At first, people were skeptical and didn’t have a clue how a trip with 21 women with unexplainable personalities with diverse needs was going to unfold. Guess what, it worked! This trip was planned with free time built in so you can do you! Some women shopped until they dropped, went on private excursions, and ate real Italian cuisine.
It will be an exaggeration to say, I immensely enjoyed myself in the country of Italy. This trip was more than a passport stamp, it was filled with purpose. I learned some new Italian words and saw sights and monuments that were once a dream. The Vatican, the Coliseum, and St. Peter's Basilica. Now, in Pompeii I learned that Basilica means the place of judgment where others believe Basilica means a church. I had the opportunity to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece in The Sistine chapel along with the statue of David, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Forum and the Holy road. There were many more but the sites are too numerous to list them all. Just know I saw a lot, walked a lot and learned a lot.
Through it all with every sight and every ruin, I looked at everything as a lesson. I constantly asked myself, “What is the take away?” What is it that God wants me to learn? What is it he wants me to see? There was so much to digest on a spiritual and emotional level. To be honest, I’m still processing it all.
Here are my thoughts. Some are deep. Some are funny and some are on the surface but none the less, I wanted to share them with you.
- God is real- Duh! I knew that already but I could feel the presence of God as I walked the cobbled stone streets. As I stepped back through time and history, I couldn’t help but to think of my faith and my religion. Knowing that the Romans crucified my Lord had me spellbound. Then to know two of his faithful disciples were executed in Rome while spreading the gospel made me realize how my religion has stood the test of time. At one point it was illegal to be a Christian and here I was walking freely while singing songs of Zion in Rome and in Apollo’s sanctuary. My take away... The word of God will never come back void and shall stand forever more.
- It's good to be missed sometimes- People don't realize the importance of your existence in their lives until you are not readily available to them. Meaningless conversations were almost nonexistent because I was seven hours ahead of those back home in America. My favorite text message was from my mom asking when will I return home because she missed talking to me. That made me smile! Love is shown in action and the smallest gestures can go a long way. My take away... Know that you add value to your love ones lives rather they tell you or not.
- Family is everything- One thing Europe hasn’t lost is the sense of family. It’s truly a unit that is meant to connect and empower. Maybe I noticed that more because I desire a true family unit deep within. It gives me great joy to see a husband leading, the wife serving, the children laughing and playing while the grandmother looks on in silence. That scene warms my heart. The family (la famiglia) is the most important aspect of an Italian’s life. Actually, it is a crucial necessity. They believe the family unit is important because it provides love, support and a framework of values to each of its members. Italians have stronger feelings of loyalty to their family than they have to their country. My take away... Blood IS thicker than water.
- Sharing is caring- A famous Italian saying goes “the appetite comes while you are eating.” Therefore, there is a structure to Italian dining. Much of Italian life revolves around the family dinner table. Meals are often ordered in family style. People pass food to one another from serving dishes over a bottle of wine and stimulating conversation. Conversation is just as important as the meal. I didn’t see cellphones on the table or people texting while dining. They were engaged in conversation over a good meal. What does that say to me... Put my phone down and be present in the moment. If I’m not interested, stay at home.
Here is the structure of Italian dining.
• The antipasto: A traditional Italian meal starts with something to nibble on, called an antipasto, which translates into English as “before the meal.”
• The primo: In Italy, pasta is a first course, or primo, served as an appetizer, not as the main event. Soup, rice, and polenta are the other options for the primo.
• The secondo: The main course is called il secondo, or the second course. Chicken, meat, or fish are the usual choices, and portions are generally small. These main courses are usually fairly simple, especially if a rich pasta or rice dish precedes them.
• The contorno: A platter of vegetables usually accompanies the main course. This side dish highlights the simple goodness of the vegetable. The word contorno loosely translates as “contours” and refers to the fact that the vegetable course helps shape and define the meal.
• The dolce: A dolce (or sweet) ends a traditional Italian meal.
- Olive Garden has us fooled- Our palate is truly Americanized. Day one, I had to wrap my mind around the cuisine in Italy. My first encounter with real Italian food made me come to one conclusion… That Olive Garden is not real Italian food. It didn’t even resemble what I was accustomed too. First of all, the pasta is served al dente. “Al dente” literally means “to the tooth” in Italian. That means that well-cooked pasta must have a soft bite, a “snap” that you can feel when you chew. Pasta that is cooked al dente has a lower glycemic index than pasta that is cooked soft. So basically, al dente pasta is better for you. We overcook our pasta, vegetables and meat in America. Our pizza isn’t even authentic. I ordered a ham, mushroom and mozzarella pizza. The crust was so thin, crispy and flakey. It reminded me of pita bread. The tomato sauce was made from grilled tomatoes that was pureed by somebody’s grandma in the back and the ham came in thin slices. It was actually prosciutto and I was looking for Canadian Bacon. We even eat Mozzarella wrong here in America. When freshly made, you’ll often find it served in restaurants and at the family table as an antipasto, or appetizer, to enjoy with sliced prosciutto, bresaola or salami. I learned that mozzarella is not stored in the refrigerator, unless you are going to using it for cooking. The proper way to store it is at room temperature in the liquid it is packaged in when you buy it. Who knew!!! I was like yeah… this is very different but different can be good because it broadens our perspective. Another plus was the food was fresh and my body appreciates that. It didn’t stay in my digestive track long. My happy point... I ate gelato every single day. Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream. It starts out with a similar custard base as ice cream, but has a higher proportion of milk and a lower proportion of cream and eggs (or no eggs at all). It is churned at a much slower rate, incorporating less air and leaving the gelato denser than ice cream. Talk about delicious!
- It doesn’t take all that- We do the most while doing the absolute least at the same damn time. We are caught up in our day to day operations that we forget to live. Take time and smell the roses.
- Rome really wasn’t built in a day- I know its cliché’ but there’s truth behind this statement. Rome wasn't built in a day is a proverb attesting to the need for time to create great things. What does that say to me? As I am building this brand, take my time and build it brick by brick, one layer at a time. I want a brand that will last like the Roman Coliseum and leave an impression on each person that I encounter. These buildings and monuments are STILL standing centuries later. Why? Because it was constructed with purpose and designed with every possible mishap in mind. We learned majority of the buildings in Rome were once covered in marble. Today, there is not a trace of marble due to time and greed but here’s the take away. The removal of the marble didn’t strip the edifices of its beauty. It was still an awesome wonder to behold. We weren’t concerned with the outside. We wanted to tour what was on the inside. So what’s the lesson? Glad you asked. People will try to strip your purpose, tell you what you are doing wrong, attempt to take what rightly belongs to you but it doesn’t affect who you are. People are attracted to what’s on the inside. You are still a site to behold.
- Get a tour guide- Often we try to tackle unknown places and foreign lands by ourselves. I am queen of that. That’s how I toured Paris, but Italy was a different story. There are many benefits to traveling with tour companies. They really do suit the needs of a lot of travelers. Traveling with a tour company is safer, faster and efficient. We skipped the line at many museums and walked through like we were VIP, which was a bonus. Another added perk is they provide insightful information that adds value to each and every sight. They know the history. Also, guided tours with tour companies can prove to be a great choice for those who want to see as much as they can in a small space of time. Shout out to my two favorite tour guides: Patricia in Rome and Andrea in Florence.
- Invest more in your flight- We've all been there. Long flight, cramped in coach. To fly overseas it is a minimum of 10 hours. I’m telling you, after a flight like that, you are weary and looking for rest as soon as you touch ground. Upgrade your seat to an emergency aisle or an aisle seat so you can stretch out and move around the cabin. Our bodies are not meant to be cooped up like chickens. If your pocket book says it’s ok, opt for one of those fancy pods that allows your seat to recline with the gourmet food. It’s worth it! They look like they had a good night’s rest upon arrival. I looked into the first class section like you lucky son of a guns! One day Lord, one day!
- Compression socks- You finally land and discover your ankles have swollen to twice the normal size and maybe it even hurts to walk to baggage claim. Traveling is so rewarding but can take a toll on your circulation. While the risk of developing blood clots on a flight is low, it goes up as travel time increases. Get you some compression socks. Yes, really! The first time I noticed that I was swelling was on the plane and I didn't have on any socks. I was miserable because I was in the middle section in the middle seat. Getting up was not an easy option. So add compression socks to your traveling list of must haves. These stockings help increase circulation and reduce the risk of swelling or worse deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and clotting on a long flight.
- Fun Fact I learned- The Margherita pizza was designed after the Italian flag. Red is represented by the tomatoes, Green is represented by the basil, and the mozzarella cheese represents the color white.
Prepare: Before, During and After
- Call your bank prior to your departure. Inform them of the dates of travel so when you swipe your card you are not greeted with a nice decline message.
- Get your exercise and water intake on. That goes without saying. There is a lot of walking involved when visiting foreign lands. We drive everywhere in America and that’s an unrealistic expectation for continents like Europe. Be prepared to get your walk on so prepare your cardiovascular system early.
- Also, get some calling cards so you can call home without putting a dent in your phone bill. I am not ready to look at my cell phone bill at all even though I had a global day pass. AT&T charge $10 a day and they are wrong for that.
- Download the WhatsApp so you stay connected to those back home. You can call and text using this app. While in Rome, my phone worked perfectly but other cities infrastructure was not as advanced as Rome. You never want to lose connection with your love ones. GroupMe is a good app to have as well. That's how the Mr. and I stayed connected.
After you return home
- Rest! I thought I was ready to continue to take of the world. Oh, was I wrong. Jet lag is not fictious and your body must get used to being back home on a different time zone. Proper rest is important.
- Wash your dirty clothes immediately. Don't bring those germy clothes into your home.
That’s all for now… Ciao Bella!
Want to learn more... Listen to the Bellissma podcast available on every podcast platform.
|Posted on September 15, 2015 at 6:50 AM||comments (0)|
Once in our lives we have the opportunity to encounter an out of body experience that we will never forget. If you are mature enough, that one experience changes your perspective. Sometimes the experience can be so powerful that it becomes rapidly clear through your emotional barriers or that one experience can sabotage you. Recently, I posted your troubles are a part of your training. Little did I know I would have a close brush with trouble sooner than later. I try to avoid trouble at all cost, yet it hunts me down like I am prey. I didn't see trouble coming. Boy, did it hit me like a car accident. It came out of nowhere and in a split second I was fighting for my life. We were looking for fun in the sun, but what I received was a supernatural ass whooping. God troubled the waters for a reason. I realized in the mist of this unforeseen circumstance, there was a valuable lesson to learn. God speaks clearly to me at the most inopportune times. He is the teacher and I am his student. I truly believe God does things to get our attention and that he did. As I rolled on the river like Ike and Tina, I had no choice but to reflect on the whole situation. This ordeal became a spiritual cleansing. TD Jakes once said, “Even a skillful swimmer can drown in shallow waters.” Spiritually, water represents revelation. Even though, I didn’t physically drown this experience had a purpose. The water was shallow but the knowledge that I gained fighting for my life was deep. Through this revelation he revealed his Devine wisdom that I had been wrestling with internally. This was a much needed awakening. At first what seemed like sure maddness, gave me enlightment for my journey.
1. Life is precious. We take life for granted thinking our next breath is our own. In a split second, my life flashed before my eyes. Do not ignore its value; do not squander it in trivial pursuits; do not let it slip away and leave you unprepared.
2. Get rid of your dead weight. Sometimes the load that we carry is too heavy that it pulls us down. We carry each other's burdens and stress when in the end it has nothing to do with us. Cut the strings and let it go. With dead weight you can't travel light.
3. Everybody can't go! We want to carry everyone on the journey, but it's not for everyone to experience or see.
4. Follow your gut instinct. It will never lead you wrong. Other people think they know what's best for you when they don't. They are operating from their vantage point and not your reality. Trust yourself and nobody else.
5. Panic leads to paranoia. Paranoia is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically leads to a pandemonium. It's hard to find solace in this state of mind.
6. You can never prepare for uncertainty. No matter how you prepare yourself in every possible way imaginable, God is in control.
7. Continue to fight even when it seem like the end is near. Easy goals don’t exist. Easy dreams don’t exist. Easy relationships don’t exist. A goal is a point of achievement that requires effort and sacrifice. Fight for your dreams. Anything worth having is worth working for.
|Posted on August 14, 2015 at 3:50 AM||comments (2)|
It’s not going to work out! What are you doing? Are you serious? Your family and friends don’t see the point, but you see the purpose. This person is different. To you it is worth the effort no matter how many miles may stand in between the two of you. Ahhh… Long distance relationships! Something that I am too familiar with. It is said, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” but the real question is does it make the heart grow stronger? Some people find it hard to commit when you reside within the same city. Adding distance to the equation can wreak havoc on an individual’s soul; especially when you really like that person. Questions often run marathons in your head when you don’t have the usual face to face relationship all access pass, such as, are they fully committed to the process? Are they entertaining anyone else? What are they doing? Why wasn’t my call returned? Long distance relationships are catch 22. When it’s good, it’s amazing, but the moment things shift it’s hard to save. Here is the craziest part of all. When it’s over, it’s over. You never have to see that person again because distance is a factor. Crazy huh? One can really fall off the face of the earth never to resurface again if it ends on a sour note. Consistency is key when your relationship is geographically challenged. Without consistency being present insecurities will begin to fester like a sore making it harder for the relationship to thrive. No relationship is fun when it is full of insecurities, doubt and tears. Talk about a recipe for disaster. It takes creativity, effort and sacrifice to keep those home fires burning and your spirit churning when there are more miles than minutes that separate you. If not, the distance will not work for you, but against you.
Today, I dedicate my blog to my long distance lovers. I have worn those shoes proudly a time or two. I get it and understand. This is not going to be easy, but ultimately you will choose what’s best for you. Here are a few tidbits to help you in the quest of a successful long distance relationship.
1. Face It or Fake It- Ask yourself, “Is being in this long distance relationship worth my time and effort.” You have to be honest with yourself. We are settled in our ways, cities, and age. If you know there is not a possibility of either one of you considering a move, why stay? Don’t waste your good years trying to convince someone you are worth the chance. Someone will eventually have to make a move. Hopefully it’s a beneficial one for both parties. Face the reality sooner than later.
2. You need a strong support system. I know your family and friends may find it strange that you want to commit to someone that lives on the other side of the world. Tell them to save the ridicule and join forces with you. How? By encouraging you, keeping you busy and their prayers. You will need their support when things become uncertain in your relationship. Yes! You may make a fool of yourself, but tell them to get on board until you get off the train. Now, if the lack of support is because they believe he is not right for you, that’s a different story. Other people see things that we tend to overlook. You may want to take heed on that. Don’t completely ignore it.
3. Technology is your friend. Skype, Snapchat and FaceTime are an absolute must. Turn those miles into seconds by being one click away. Don’t overkill it though with outlandish expectations. Every conversation cannot take place through social media accounts because life must go on. But a few sprinkles of FaceTime will do your soul wonders and keep you grounded.
4. Everything matters. The small things and the big things. Include them in everything so they can feel like they are a part of your life. What that says is that you care and you wish they were there to share those precious moments together. Remember sharing is caring.
5. Seek every opportunity to see each other. Live for the weekends, and holidays. I truly believe that people will make time for things that are of importance to them. Plan those visits out accordingly, so by the time the separation anxiety kicks in the visit is right around the corner.
6. Expectations are a must. Lay the foundation and have clear expectations from the beginning. When you are dating long distance you need to know if the both of you desire the same outcome. For instance, will you be exclusive or will you see other people?
7. Communicate, communicate, communicate- Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Being in a long distance relationship is complicated, so save the attitudes, drama and antics. I can’t stress that enough. You have to build bridges and remove those guarded walls of your heart. Let them in! It’s pretty pointless to be in a one way relationship. Learn to be open and communicate effectively.
8. Mutually agree to make the commitment. In order for anything to work, you must be committed to the process. FULLY committed. 100% on both individuals. The moment that commitment waivers the relationship will too. Stick to it, especially if you know that this relationship has potential.
9. Avoid temptation- Tell yourself that you refuse to entertain anyone that can sway or temp you. If I think the guy at work is super fine, I will not accept his invitation to lunch or happy hour unless it is work related. Don’t put yourself in compromising positions that you will regret later. Run far away and don’t even give it a second thought. Keep the long term goal in mind.
10. Use your own judgement- Trust your gut instinct. No need to be suspicious, jealous, or asking belligerent questions smudging your lipstick. What happens in the dark will definitely come to the light. No need to go searching for what you “think” has happened. Eventually, lies can’t replace the truth. It will come to the forefront.
This blog comes from an honest place. At one point in my life, I actually preferred being in a long distance relationship. I loved that my heart was isolated from the dating madness. I had somebody to fill the void but he wasn’t physically here. No long walks in the park every Sunday, intimate touches or weekend dates. When he was here, it was explosive and meaningful. Moreover I relished in the opportunity to truly miss someone and someone missing me. The anticipated countdowns, long hours on the phone, cute text during the day, and waiting on plane tickets to go on sale were a part of my regimen. Despite the discouragement, I pressed on when it came to “him.” He was special to me but he wasn’t here. Then something changed. It ended suddenly and I was left with unanswered question and a bruised heart. Maybe he was tired of the distance, met somebody new or no longer interested in the pursuit. I don’t know. He disappeared like a vapor in the wind. The realization that it was over was realer than real. As I reflect I can’t help to ask myself, did we fully commit or did we flat out quit. We quit! Instead of growing stronger, we became weak and gave way. We quit trying. We quit caring. We quit making an effort. The distance couldn’t sustain the need any longer. His need to be fulfilled as a man and mine to have defining boundaries that I didn’t establish in the very beginning. Looking back, he was not a complete waste of my time. He served a purpose. He gave me hope.
People complain that long distance relationships don’t work. As far as I can see, relationships within the same geographic confinement struggle as well. Why? Because no one is willing to commit fully to the process. One foot is in this door and the other one is where it wants to be. In order for it to work, one must be fully committed to the process. The moment there is a change of heart, please share it with the other partner who’s keeping their heart stored away from the irresistible temptation.
|Posted on July 31, 2015 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
Where oh where has Ms. Charlie gone. Oh where oh where was she... About a week ago, for 5 consecutive days I was away unplugged, unattached and unbothered with the hustle and bustle of life. That hustle and bustle stresses my nerves to the max, literally. Besides, I needed this break. Touring, book signings and speaking engagements has kept me busy this summer. I'm not complaining just thankful for the experience. With my plate being full I needed to unwind for a moment to take in the blessings he's bestowed upon me. Not in Dallas, or a spa day in Austin but away from every worry or matter of business that keeps me going.
Wheels up and I was off... To an island in the middle of the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic was absolutely beautiful, but they are light years behind in infrastructure. There was hardly any excess to technology, cellphone service or social media. Telephone calls were $2.85 a minute and internet access was only in the hotel lobby. Wouldn't you know it, my bungalow was near the beach about a half a mile away from the lobby. This resort was massive. To get around easier on the resort one caught the tram. Yep, have you figured it out yet? In order to use the internet, I had to leave my bungalow near the beach, get on a tram and to go to the lobby. Well, that decision was rather easy to make. To keep people updated or save my cellphone bill from roaming charges? I think not! In hindsight, it wasn't that serious to me. No one needs an all access pass to every step or one’s whereabouts anyway. I forewent technology and relaxed. That’s what I came here for anyway.
Now, I can't lie. That first day nearly drove me crazy not being able to plug in. I'm so used to updating tweeting, posting and texting that the simple joys of life have started to pass me by. The beauty of God’s craftsmanship, a peacock perched on a branch, a flamingo in a lagoon and a hibiscus flower budding for the first time are the few things that amazed me. While unplugged, I had to get reacquainted with me; not Charlie or Charlie Marcol but CMJ. I get lost in the shuffle trying to juggle it all that I forget to make time for me. I learned some important lessons that weren't taught in school, tried new things, detoxed on an ocean, had an experience with Mamajuana, (Mamajuana needs a blog all by herself) let fish feast on my feet, and I moved at my pace. Time was not a factor on this vacation. Thank God because it's never on my side. More importantly, I remembered why the best things in life are free.
A smile, laughter, a good soul cleansing cry became the theme early on. I didn’t have to act tough or have it all together in the Caribbean. These people didn’t know me or my story. They could hardly say my name, instead they embraced me and was happy that I came. Watching these people work tirelessly day in and day out, singing a song from their heart without complaining, I rediscovered what it means to be in a peaceful place in your spirit. They were thankful to see a new day, tips we left and things we take for granted such as family, being alive and the facilities of our body. A peace of mind is priceless and it is nothing in the world like it. We are so busy chasing unrealistic dreams, impressing others with wealth that we don’t’ have and putting on airs that we too forget about that real peace. Peace that allows one to sleep at night and productivity throughout the day. Finding it didn't cost me one red cent, a credit card swipe, or a check cashed. It is that peace of mind to be free, to love and accept me for who I am, and to release those things in life that don't matter that cause stress. Many long for sweet peace that passes all understanding. As I walked along the fluffy white sandy beaches, lined with crystal clear waters deep in my thoughts, I made a choice not to let others control my emotions or their thoughts of me. On that beach I freed myself, and forgave myself for some mistakes that I brought upon myself. One of them being my failed marriage. I made peace with that decision as I walked those blissful shores. I released my disappointments on the sea to study war no more within myself. It was important and necessary that I did so. I have a testimony to share and I didn’t want that weight to keep me in bondage anymore. As I reflected, I have the peace of knowing God has me and this was a part of the journey to get me here. I even made peace with cutting ties that bring stress into my life. Being unplugged from the world, wasn’t so bad after all. It actually set my soul free.