Vacation Destination: Why Key West is the Best

#vacationdestination

In case you’re trying to determine where you need travel for your next vacation, you may want to consider Key West, Florida. Between the iconic views and endless entertainment, boredom is not an option. There is always something to do on or around this 7.4 mile island. If you love music, bike rides, water sports, or shopping, then Key West is the place for you. One might recommend venturing to Duval Street and/or Mallory Square while visiting. Did I mention the people are consistently nice around the island? After all, it is the southernmost city in the continental U.S.

Watch the YouTube video below for a recap on my Key West adventure with friends. You can then decide if this place needs to be on your vacation list.

Embrace the travel fever

#TravelFever

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.”

When was the last time you took a trip somewhere? This past weekend, my friends and I hit the road for a quick driving adventure to Washington, D.C. It was long and tiring, but thanks to some tips and tricks I’ve learned throughout the years, it turned out to be a rewarding and unforgettable experience.

If you’re planning a getaway anytime soon, here are some helpful tips for your journeys in the air and on the road:

1. Research the local spots.

Whether you’re traveling from the Carolinas to the Capital or down the Pacific coast, your research matters. Plan beforehand and study up on restaurants and the local’s perspectives on popular spots. This will save you time and stress, and help you avoid cliché drive-thru windows and stores.

2. Set a music playlist.

Your travel playlist is key when entering new places. It can help calm you down when plane turbulence occurs, and at the same time opens up a window for jam sessions in the car. Much like an intro song in a movie, the soundtrack sets the course for the trip.

3. Enjoy the sights.

Half the fun of your destination is embracing the sights and sounds. Some of the most beautiful places are not advertised on television, they’re the best kept secrets found along the way. Pack a camera – digital or disposable – and document your trip. Don’t be afraid to let your inner tourist side out for a minute.

4. Choose the right co-pilot(s).

The crew you travel with can heavily influence the direction or mood of the journey. Long trips can take a lot out of you in the car, train or plane, and you may get antsy. But it’s important to be mindful that you’re not the only one experiencing the ride. Choose your co-pilots wisely, because constant back seat driving or “are we there yet?” remarks can make or break your trip.

5. Grab the snacks and sweats.

A backpack of travel gear is key for your trip. Put on your favorite sweats and sunglasses, and grab the snacks. A snack here or there will help your appetite and save your wallet, without the stress of finding a place to eat. Candy bars, fruit, bottled water, and beef jerky are the main essentials you need in your backpack, anyway.

Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the ride. Traveling is good for the soul. It’s something you can’t find in a store. The takeaways and rich memories can’t compare to any money you spend on gas or airfare. Get up and go — you only live once.

Methods to the Madness

#MarchMadness

The month of March never seems to disappoint. Between MLB Spring Training, St. Patrick’s Day, and the first day of Spring, what more can a person want out of life? The answer is March Madness. If you have not gotten into the tournament spirit, then you may want to catch up on your favorite basketball movie or documentary. With Netflix, ESPN and each of the options in television programming, you should be all set for the Big Dance. In case you need to be reminded why March Madness is so exciting, below are several methods to its madness.

  1. Unscripted drama

“Like life, basketball is messy and unpredictable. It has its way with you, no matter how hard you try to control it. The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and open heart. When you do that, the game–and life–will take care of itself.” — Phil Jackson

At some point during the tournament, you will see an underdog prevail in a major game upset. It’s better than any reality show you can find on television. Even if you set your perfect bracket, the chances of it being 100% accurate are still off by a long shot (pun intended).

  1. Love of the game

“We don’t have to be superstars or win championships… All we have to do is learn to rise to every occasion, give our best effort, and make those around us better as we do it.” — John Wooden

It’s tough to find a stronger passion in sports than that of the love of basketball. The pure joy shared between players, coaches, and fan bases goes beyond the court. Players live for this and give it their best, without monetary reward. It’s all for genuine love of the game.

  1. Win or lose, heroes are made

“There’s always the motivation of wanting to win. Everybody has that. But a champion needs, in his attitude, a motivation above and beyond winning.” — Pat Riley

You’re guaranteed to see heroes form over the course of the postseason, somewhere in the middle of two 20 minute halves. New heroes are praised and their names go down in the record books. This also involves stories of perseverance, on and off the court. These stories give people hope for the future, not only teaching us about life’s journeys and hardships but about overstepping obstacles to make it to the Big Dance.

  1. Bracketology

“This is what March is all about… we represent a high level of basketball as well, and when you get in this tournament, you get the opportunity to show it.” — Bruce Pearl

Tournament odds and rankings keep fans engaged, even when they are not apart of the fan base. Filling out a bracket is one of the main components that has made March Madness what it is today. Tournament Challenges and competitions are formed and business offices are less productive. However, unity and teamwork go up a level during the process.

  1. History and unity in the making

“The game asks that you work to improve, that you put something into it, and that you also give something back to it. The game is universal. It is a language that unites all of us.” — Jim Calhoun

The school spirit that is displayed during March Madness proves that people of all backgrounds can come together and engage in tradition. It’s a movement across the nation, and all regions are covered. From the east coast to the west, you cannot avoid the thrill of the dance.

Being presented with basketball games non-stop each day, from noon to 2:00 in the morning, is something to appreciate. Two weeks of games that all have the potential to be buzzer beaters. Every play, every banner, every moment should be appreciated. You cannot get enough of the emotion and excitement from this tournament. College basketball made March Madness. Now, let’s all sit back and watch another one of its Cinderella stories commence.

Work hard, play hard

#balancingact

The biggest challenge I’ve had to deal with lately is setting a calendar that gives me a decent work-life balance. There is only so much a person can do to be 100% on top of things all the time. However, if you have a good work-life balance, the imperfections are not as difficult as they seem.

1. Maintain a planner.
Update your calendar frequently so each of your work tasks and social responsibilities fit generously within your 7-day stretch of events. Over-booking and scheduling too many things within a certain timeframe can be dangerous. A well-utilized planner can make a world of difference to someone in need of balance and composure.

2. Prioritize.
Know your “whys” and “why nots” – if this is not buttoned up in your life, then you tend to lose sight of the reasoning behind your whole work structure. Make time outside of work to laugh, think, and cry with people that make life worth living. Isn’t that the reason why you’re working so hard in the first place? To earn a living, pave a future, or show someone that you appreciate the skills and techniques they taught you.

3. Manage the clock.
Time management is easily one of the most overlooked areas in a person’s life. This does not require you to wear a watch everywhere you go, but it does require you to be mindful of the clock. Personal and social down time are a must. Take advantage of meeting cancellations and remember that if an opportunity is missed professionally or socially, you have other doors to walk through in your journey.

4. Appreciate a content-filled life.
Pause and think about everything you have accomplished in the past year, 6-months, month, and/or week. It’s easy to lose sight of your achievements when you’re constantly thinking about what’s coming up next. Even if a situation does not end the way you anticipate it will, appreciate your lessons and takeaways.

5. It’s not all he said, she said.
It’s easy to point fingers at someone when things go wrong, but sometimes it’s not always their fault. You have full rights and ownership over your calendar. ‘No’ is a word in the dictionary, and you are allowed to use it every once in a while. You have a choice to change your circumstance, it may involve other people and their feedback, but ultimately it is up to your discretion. If you’re going to blame someone for your problems and busy schedule, blame yourself.

Life sequences through billions of events every day, just make sure you know how to balance out your schedule. All work and no play is no way to live. If you work as hard as you play, though, life will show you its full potential.

Focus on Transformation

#changefocus

What is change? It drives us crazy, helps us adapt, and gives us something to look forward to on a daily basis. As told by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, “Change is the only constant in life.” There are three notable points to be mindful of regarding the topic of change:

  • It is demanding
  • It is out of your control
  • It is good for the soul

Change is challenging. It will push you to your highest limits. You will go through phases of constant change, and phases of slow change. From earning a job promotion, to losing someone you love, to moving or relocating from home. Each phase has levels of excitement, hesitation, and anxiety. Change that creates challenges is difficult, which is why it is beneficial to carefully assess its risks and opportunities, in order to fully overcome the transition.

Change is uncontrollable. It’s going to occur even if you do everything in your power to prevent it from happening. Accept the inevitable, and make sure you’re prepared for it to transpire. You have the upper hand by being aware that change is coming so adapt and create a plan of action. Change will run its course, just don’t let it control you, your awareness, and ability to adjust to life’s circumstances.

Change is healthy. Stagnancy can have a negative impact on your overall mental, physical, and emotional health. Under the big three, falls the spiritual, social, and environmental components of health. Each of these require time and effort on a daily, hourly, and weekly basis. Life without action is dead. People need to constantly seek movement for the sake of their health and well-being. Change allows you to put your verbs to use by praying, traveling, and doing new things that enrich your soul.

For each breath you breathe, focus on transformation. The demands, fluctuation, and conditions are constant. However, your ability to process and grow after each situation will help you change for the better.

Super Bowl, special?

#SB49

Two days from now, people of all ages and backgrounds will come together to watch Sunday Bowl XLIX on NBC. You may be watching the Big Game for your favorite team, Katy Perry’s [roaring] halftime show, the $4.5 million commercials, or because you want to participate in the tradition that is Super Bowl Sunday. Which leads me to ask, what really makes the Super Bowl so special?

For some people in America, the Super Bowl is bigger than most holidays. Sports fans, and non-sports fans, are dedicated to this day. There are no Black Friday deals to keep people away from their families and homes, and food, there is lots of food. It is common for the “unofficial” event planners to map out their recipes and grocery lists months ahead of time. People put their creative skills to test with guacamole grass fields and sandwich-made stadiums. No doubt, Pinterest is booming this time of year.

Might I add that people love football? It’s the biggest game of the year. This event unites people whether their teams are competing to win the famous Lombardi or not. Agree to disagree, the Super Bowl offers viewers the best and most-valuable matchup of the year. People get in the spirit, too. Jerseys are worn from across the league with other franchise-themed clothing, and for the die hards, you cannot forget eye black. True fans set up games to play before the game. This can consist of Super Bowl themed bingo, flag football, squares, or hot dog eating contests.

Some of my prime childhood memories were made on nights when the Super Bowl was being played. Much like the Masters Tournament, it is a special American tradition. The media gear their stories around certain players, leaving room for comical debates and discussions. Everyone has all eyes locked in from the pre-game interviews to the post-game trophy presentations. It comes with the territory of being a sports fan, there is always a good story waiting to happen.

Super Bowl Sunday is special. It is the one time of year where Americans come together to celebrate a sport… One that has changed the lives of millions of people. This sport, and day, serves as a positive distraction from life’s stresses. Overall, it represents an appreciation for God-given talent and athleticism, and a foundation of team unity.

People need other people

#GiveaHand

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” — Martin Luther King, Jr.


“What are you doing for others?” Ask yourself this question a few times, and then think about the last time you lent a hand to someone … was it yesterday? Last week? Last year? Whether or not you remember the last time you helped someone, you have today to make moves.

Ring. Ring. Wake-up call. A close friend and mentor of mine called me on Monday to explain why they had been M.I.A. for the past few weeks. Family health scares, loss of a loved one, and fear of the future were all topics mentioned by this good friend. Wake-up call: Things came into perspective for me. Almost 20 minutes prior to our call, I was upset that my evening dinner plans were cancelled. Suddenly, my minor issue seemed like nothing compared to his. The two subtle reminders I took away from this brought me back down to earth:

  • Life does not always go as planned; embrace it.
  • Someone else’s life circumstance is far worse than your current state in life; appreciate all you have.

A fundamental step toward helping someone is to first help yourself. Selfishness, apathy, and bad habits are risky things to have in life. They prevent you from experiencing the full joy of helping others and improving their situation. Once this step is checked off of your list, you have the freedom to think, go and do for other people. You can break free from laziness, self-pity and greed, opening up an opportunity to care for another individual and relieve them of stress.

One of the most misinterpreted perceptions of serving others is that you need money. This is a matter of opinion. All you really need is a good attitude. People need signs of hope and the overall belief that things will be better for them in the future. Sometimes, it’s as simple as giving someone a smile, waving to them when you’re in the car, or telling a person that they matter. If you have the resources of time and money to volunteer or give to an individual or group, it’s an added bonus. Author and comedian, Sam Levenson once wrote, “People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.” Make your move today.

TWLOA

Own your relationship status

Motivational
  • In a Relationship
  • Engaged
  • Married
  • It’s Complicated
  • Single
  • Takin’ care of business

Recent status change: takin’ care of business

With Valentine’s Day coming up in a few weeks, it would be nice to read something that sheds positive light for single people on your social feed. People are done being single. They want change, and the best way to update your single status, is to be in the business of getting things done and making things happen.

These phrases should no longer phase the old singles:

“Another engagement, here we go.”

“I’m going to die alone.”

“RSVP for (1)”

“Name: Third Wheel”

“Forever alone”

It’s time for you to focus on being your best self. Time to travel more, better your current relationships with friends and family, and take risks. Just because you do not have a significant other does not mean you’re alone, you have more than enough R&R (relationships & resources) to accompany you.

Work from 9-5, technology, and the norm of having a significant other can hinder people from enjoying the blessings that are right in front of them. Listen and be attentive to the world around you. The sky isn’t falling like they say it is on television, and you still have air to breathe and goals to fulfill. Appreciate those little things in life, and focus on letting go of insecurities. Enhance those goals of self exploration.

It’s a blessing to get things done on your own. Self-actualization, inspiration, and revitalization — make these apart of your business plan in creating your best self. There will be no settling for the title of being “single.” Find your spark, the thing that makes you tick. You have your whole life ahead of you, and right now, it’s time do things your way. B.T.O. made it famous, and it’s your turn to “take care of business.” I present you with the challenge of setting, changing, and owning this new relationship status today.

God made our farmer, William A. Butler

#OurFarmer

Nearly two years ago this February, the magical voice of Paul Harvey chimed across television screens everywhere during Super Bowl XLVII. The radio legend’s proclamation stopped people in their tracks while his famous “So God Made a Farmer” speech played. In this 2013 Super Bowl commercial, Dodge Ram Trucks set major TV records by allowing Harvey’s voice to remind viewers what it means to be a farmer. Farmers do not often receive the credit they deserve, yet they remain humble and faithful to their crops and communities. There’s a farmer I know, and we call him “Papa.” This post is dedicated to him, William A. Butler of Bladenboro, North Carolina, from “the farmer in all of us.”

William Albert Butler was born on November 9, 1925 to Thurman and Myrtle Hilburn-Butler of Bladenboro. He married Louise Pait Butler on July 7, 1947 and they have been happily married, living in the same house on their 165-acre farm for 68 years. After helping my grandmother raise five children, ten grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, Papa continues to work on the farm at the young age of 89.

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When World War II erupted, Papa went to join the army but officials told him enlisting was not an option. His services were needed to help grow crops, feed animals, and tend to local farms while their farmers were fighting in the war. Someone had to maintain the agriculture and make sure families were provided with fresh food and milk, and Papa was the right man for the job. He went on to owning and operating a dairy farm for 31 years, while also serving on the N.C. Dairy Herd Improvement Association Board for 10. Pretty impressive credentials.

Humble, steadfast, strong, selfless, benevolent, and honest are words that his children use to describe Papa, and I don’t think many people would disagree on these characteristics of him. He loves his community, the town of Bladenboro, and the farm that has raised ostriches, pigs, and cows over the years. Butler farm has opened the door for several elementary school field trips and community gatherings, making way for lessons that teach us about nature, the gift of life, and the true essence of hard work. Papa is a willing individual who has always followed the motto “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

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Papa Butler has achieved so much in his life; former Bladen County Commissioner, North Carolina State President of the Soil and Water Conservation Commission, 1995 Governor’s Award recipient for Outstanding Service in the Community, County, and State, and an Order of the Longleaf Pine recipient, among other accomplishments. Each of these honors are remarkable and represent years of service and commitment. However, what I love the most about Papa is the fact that faith and family are, in his eyes, the biggest awards he’s achieved. He’s the wealthiest man I know because of his wisdom, resilience, and faith. These are the makings of a true farmer; and I am so, beyond thankful, God made our farmer.

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Simple Steps for the New Year

#Happy2015

The New Year holiday tends to bring out the cliché in everyone. I think we can all agree that the “new year, new me” resolutions are old news. Take life as its given, one day at a time, one moment at a time.

So, with the kickoff of 2015, I offer you ten simple steps to help you in the New Year. Happy 2015!

1. Reflect.

Evaluate the past 365 days. Browse through your iPhotos and think back on the memories you made in 2014. Write down the moments that impacted you the most. Think of the times where you laughed the hardest (perhaps to tears) and realized how blessed you were in 2014. Step back and reflect.

2. Set goals.

Set goals, big goals. If you accomplish them, great. If not, re-write your strategy. Every day that God gives you presents another opportunity to be better and try harder. Take advantage of free time. Realize that you’re never too busy to stop dreaming about your next move.

3. Pray for wisdom and understanding.

One of my favorite bible verses is Colossians 2:2-3, “I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” There is no time like the present to get on your knees and pray for a better world. However, results do not happen overnight, wisdom and understanding are key in getting through life’s circumstances.

4. Empower others.

Find someone to empower in 2015. Everyone needs an extra word of encouragement to make it through good times and hard times. Push someone to suit up and make a difference.

5. Travel.

See the world, invest in a trip far away from home. Go somewhere you have never been before to experience the scenery, local dining, and culture. Your wallet may be lighter when you return home but your soul will be more rich.

6. Throw fear out the window.

So, you’re afraid to swim with sharks in the ocean? I am too, but it’s on my bucket list. Go hang gliding, climb Mount Everest, do something new that you’ve always been hesitant to do. If it scares you, it might be a good thing. The only way to get over your fear of something, is to run through it and let it know you’re an overcomer.

7. Stay humble.

Hold yourself accountable for your achievements and mishaps. Take ownership of your mistakes and give credit where it’s due. Remember you did not get through steps a), b), and c) in life without a support system. Whether you’re climbing the social or career ladder, praise others for helping you.

8. Downsize.

One of my mentors once told me that all you need in life is a suitcase. She also said that if you have too many items to pack, then you need to downsize in order to fit them all into your suitcase. This person traveled around the world and lived in over six different countries. Clean out your closet, let go of the boxes of old clothes you have not been able to give away. Find a local crisis center to donate to and avoid using your credit card in replacing those items. Get organized and free yourself from clutter.

9. Say “I love you” each day.

Each day presented to you is a blessing. Let the people around you know that you love and appreciate their presence. Take advantage of long car rides, family vacations, and the power of technology. Use that face time and remind someone that they are loved.

10. Celebrate.

Save your pennies and plan a big get-together. Go to your favorite place in the city with your best friends. Count your blessings and leave lee-way for the growing list of promises that God has set for you in 2015. Make it a year to remember and celebrate life.