Family Vs. Friends

The word family for some is defined by the bonds accumulated over time with blood relatives. To others, it means the strong bonds and relations birthed and maintained with individuals who aren’t of shared descent. In both contexts, we tried our best on Friday to understand the dynamic between the two and tried to understand if one held more weight than the other. Can a bond between a mother/father and a son/daughter ever be replicated between friends? 

Some concluded that it sure can. I believe the natural fabric or essence of family extends beyond blood relatives. It may seem or sound foreign to many people but it has happened and it continues to. I believe a friend can be there to pick up the slack of a lackluster or absent parent to another friend without a doubt if the occasion presented itself. Some argued that limitations may arise and to that I agree. Expecting to receive identical parental treatment of endless patience and love – given to us by our parents – from a friend could be classified as foolish thought, however; it shouldn’t deter us from believing that a friend may be capable of those traits. And if you do come across such a friend, be open and be glad to call them family. In the end, family is what you make of it. I’m sure you’ve all heard that axiom one too many times but it’s true. I stand as an example of someone who has received such treatment from people who aren’t of my descent. These individuals are rare but they exist. 

So in the end, if you already have such a friend, be sure to let him/her know how much you appreciate them for being in your life and make them aware of how proud you are to have them as part of your family. And lastly, if you are that friend to someone else, I commend you for stepping up to the plate and carrying out such an altruist act. 

SDR Wednesday Memo 12/30/2020

Hope this holiday has been treating you all well. Hope you all received gifts you’ve been dreaming of all year and with that satisfaction, hope you all took it upon yourselves to make someone else’s holiday just as satisfactory. My brother and I received flashlights, so we’re patiently waiting for a power outage any moment now.

As we wave 2020 goodbye, a year plagued by a plethora of negative events and sprinkles of positive outcomes, let us look forward to 2021, a year destined to be such a delight – Oh wait: “News just struck that the new Covid-19 strain has officially landed in California and Colorado. It’s much more transmissive, however; there are no current indications that its virulence has increased.” 

WTF!!! Can’t we just catch a break already? –  I hear ya. I totally do. 

All I can leave you all with is a mindset. And what is that mindset? Knowing that you are still in control of your life. Knowing that you are directly responsible for your own happiness and success. Knowing that you can still carve out something out of nothing. Knowing you can still turn this never ending crisis into an opportunity. Knowing that you are not alone in these trying times. Knowing that there’s a new year ahead of you which may bring good or bad times and you’ve begun to develop a strategy to make the most of it. 

SDR Wednesday Memo 12/9/2020

Another week, another hump day coming to a close with a flurry of snow depending on where you live. To be frank, snow has never been my favorite but I can definitely see the appeal, especially for those of you who love winter sports. 
This week, we’ll be piggy backing off last week’s memo regarding the topic of never giving up. I recently picked up this book called “The purpose driven life”. At first glance, it seemed like another self-help, promise to change your life kind of book. Immediately after flipping through a few pages, the author blatantly warns: This is not a self-help book. This book will not help you find the right career, it will not help you achieve your dreams, plan your life or cram more activities into an overloaded schedule.”  Then, he goes on to state: “On the contrary, it will help you do less by focusing on that matters most.” What matters most? – you may ask. 

Finding PURPOSE! 

A handful of statements stood out regarding purpose. To share a few: 1) Purpose always produces passion. On the other hand, passion dissipates with a lack of purpose. 2) Knowing your purpose motivates your life.3) Knowing your purpose simplifies your life.4) Knowing your purpose focuses your life.5) Those without a purpose try to do too much, eventually becoming gyroscopes, spinning around endlessly without going anywhere.
After reading a few chapters, especially note 5, something suddenly clicked. Many of us may feel like gyroscopes at times. As we try to fill our lives with meaningful activities and goals, we may get the sensation that we aren’t progressing at the pace we wished for. So naturally, we become inclined to give up on our goals and pursue new ones. Maybe it’s time we start asking ourselves, why do we tend to easily give up on our goals or newly adopted activities? Do we lack purpose? Do you lack purpose? And if you do, how can you obtain it? 
Just something for your sharp minds to ponder for the remainder of the week. 

SDR Wednesday Memo 12/2/2020

The warm weather is slowly dissipating while winter is brazenly knocking at our doorsteps. But that’s okay, thank God for artificial heat right? Or the Romans, or Franz San Galli, or John Evelyn’s. At this point, you pick, Google can’t seem to give a clear answer.
Jokes aside, this week, we will be briefly brushing on the meaning behind the phrase – “Never giving up”. 

At some point in our younger lives, we all set out to achieve an absurd goal. A goal so enormous, your parents and friends looked at you with muddled eyes and inadvertently sat you down and revealed to you how foolish you sounded without truly knowing the consequences and impact of their words. Anyone remember having that conversation? If not, then you’re definitely an outlier. As long as I can remember, I always wanted to play American Football as a profession. I was obsessed with the sport. I recall spending hours upon hours watching games, highlights and film. However; since my parents didn’t approve of my choice, they did all they could to discourage me from playing. So like all teenagers, I’d sneak out of the house after school to attend the practices in the spring. At every school discussion or gatherings, when the question “what do you want to be when you grow up” was brought to our attention, I’d always say year after year – To be in the NFL. I was so obsessed, I’d repeatedly tell myself I’d play without pay if I had to. I was dedicated – possibly delusional – but very dedicated. So much so, I had to get my coaches to visit my house year after year to convince my parents to let me play. They thought I was decent, so they visited only to be politely shown out of the house. Then, after many attempts without real results, the time came and I threw in the towel. I had succumbed to pressure and gave up.

The reason for sharing this story is to smoothly transition to a talk recently given by my kickboxing trainer and his long time friend Bryan Robinson who played at Wesley College, later for an NFL club dubbed the Arizona Cardinals and soon after landed in the AFL (Arena Football League). At every stage of his career, he constantly worked hard, conquered the odds and dedicated his breath and sweat to achieve one goal – being the best at his profession. He never gave up! 
Now that we are all older, a bit more mature, we take on new goals to prove to ourselves that we are capable. That we are more than what society has in store for us. Whatever goal(s) you may have or plan to have in the near future – whether it be to obtain that new promotion at work, land that first job, buy that new car, volunteer for a humanitarian cause, start or save your relationship, buy that new house, grow mentally or spiritually, become a millionaire or billionaire, build a service to the benefit of your community – I hope you take on the initiative to remind yourself to never give up regardless of outside influences or environmental pressures. You are solely responsible for your goal(s). Like Bryan Robinson, make sure at every step of the way, you pour out every breath and sweat to the fullest. 

What are some goals you have set out for yourself? 
And remember – Never Give Up! 

SDR Wednesday Memo 11/25/20

Hump day is coming to a close while thanksgiving day patiently waits around the corner. This year has been a year to remember or to forget depending on who you talk to. Many have lost while a plethora of others have gained. Tears were shed. Joyous moments were found. Yet through it all, a good majority of us will be gathering at a dinner table tomorrow to give thanks. What does it mean to give thanks? What does it mean when we say we are grateful? 

Recently, the company I work for hired a man in his late twenties to support in the day to day operations. We got off to a good start and ever since, our relationship has matured quite a bit. To describe him as a positive and jovial individual would not do him justice. He constantly walks around with a contagious smile on his face and is always on the prowl to spring a laugh out of someone. Then, one day, while discussing with him the implications of Covid-19 and the nagging feeling of lack of freedom hunting most of the population, he opens up and reveals that he lost his mother to the Ebola virus in 2014. A year prior, his father succumbed from a heart attack. You can imagine my facial expression after his confession. I immediately stopped talking and just listened. He went on for an hour. As I drove home later that evening, I began to ponder the true meaning of gratefulness. I began to question if there’s truly weight to the words “I’m grateful” when spoken into existence. We say and preach it repeatedly, yet at the slightest minute sign of struggle or discomfort, we verbally or physically go off the rails. Are we then really grateful? Or has it become just another unquestioned expression to the likes of “Bless you”

As we gather tomorrow with family members and friends, I hope we can find it within us to contemplate on the meaning of being thankful and grateful. As someone once told me, it’s not something you inherently possess. Instead, it is practiced every day. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Beware of the Golden Wish

Sitting behind a white screen embellished with blue borders, I begin to drift once again into a headspace most would deem unhealthy or better yet, unnecessary. “Why waste any brain power thinking about philosophical things when in the grand scheme of life, they may just turn out to be as trivial as the new Smart 4K TV some of us so desperately craved for Christmas,” I catchmyself asking often. Unfortunately, convincing myself to ignore these thoughts isn’t as easy as asking Alexa to play my favorite movie score. So, to quell my thoughts, here I am writing, hoping you get to read this and maybe relate to the topic at hand. Alright, ready? Here’s a question I have for you.

Why do we wish for certain things in life, knowing fully well those wishes are more likely to be offered as a golden double-sided coin? A golden coin which offers you your most desirable need but in return demands a hefty price. Yet, despite all the warning signs, the nagging heart palpitations and the voice in our heads pleading us to re-think, we load the chamber and pull on the hair-trigger anyway.

Why are we often so short-sighted that we are constantly itching to jeopardize our future for a golden wish to gain an artificially temporary glorious present?

Isn’t it time for us to look inward and truly analyze ourselves for who we are and kindly refuse the golden wish?

Beware of the golden wish, for it brings temporary joy but robs you of your future!

Planeta Proibido Part 3

Later that night

Covered beneath the radiating night sky, the expedition team gathers around a campfire. 

Adding to the aesthetics of the Amazon rainforest is a natural symphony of all sorts of exotic animals. Meanwhile, a handful of souls are nicely tucked inside their sleeping bags. The few who remain awake revel in nature’s breathtaking creation. 

“Isn’t it amazing how there’s a clear link between the health of our planet and the health of the Amazon?” states the woman with silk hair. 

“This place alone houses approximately 140 billion metric tons of carbon. It just blows my mind that we could be so ignorant to want to cut down all life in this amazing garden.” she adds.

The man leading the trek tosses a piece of wood in the campfire and remarks: “My friend, you talk of ignorance yet we are on this expedition to remove life from this forest. Are we not?”

The woman with silk hair pauses for a second. She ponders and analyzes what the man has just said. She smiles and replies: “Point taken.”

“We should get some rest. We have an early day ahead of us.” advises the man leading the trek. He then rotates to his left and nods at the other South American man. A signal of some sort.

The next day

Following hours of marching, they finally arrive at their destination. The forest looks completely unrecognizable. From the missing green lush pastures to the tall magnificent trees, all were swallowed whole by the fires. All that remains is the prize. Staring at them from a few feet away is the plant. Not just one, or two, or three, but five wholesome Planeta Proibido’s. Somehow, throughout multiple hell fires, it had miraculously survived.

“Alright, let’s get what we came for.” announces one man.

“Haha! We’re gonna be rich!” excitingly states another. 

As they all walk closer towards the plants, the man leading the trek advises them to tread carefully. He reaches within his bag and retrieves a full face respirator. He wears it. 

“Have the containers ready for extraction.” instructs the woman with silk hair. “Think we should all wear masks?” she then asks.

“My friend, it is up to you.” replies the man leading the trek with his voice muffled through the respirator.

Not taking any chances, she mimics the man’s actions and also wears a respirator. “By the way, where’s the guy with the same accent as you? The one with the brown camo pants.” asks the woman.

“You mean, Javier. There’s another plant I need from this place. I had him check it out for me. We’ll meet him later.” replies the man leading the trek with a heavy accent.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” the woman inquires.

“I’m sorry my friend.” says the man as she shrugs both shoulders.

 Meanwhile, the others get ahead and with shovels at hand begin to dig.  

“It’s so beautiful!” exclaims another woman as she crouches to examine the plant. Slightly above average for an exotic plant, the fluorescent blue green colors of its petals attracted everyone’s attention. Underneath the petals, attached to the stem are jellyfish like tentacles hanging downwards. A marvelous spectacle to see. Yet, the beauty of it all lies in the center. A perfectly white shaped orb protected by a multitude of red filaments with extremely thick anthers. 

“Is that what I think it is? The heart? Can’t we just grab it?” one man says as he halts digging and hastily reaches into the plant.

“My friend, do not…..” warns the man leading the trek as he watches the man remove the plant’s ovary. Seconds after being detached from its stem, it explodes. The content splatters directly onto the man’s face. He screams. He holds his face with both hands and vehemently screams in agony. To add to their current ongoing dilemma, the other four plants activate their defense mechanism and discharge an unknown gas into the air. Everyone panics. The woman with silk hair rushes to the man’s rescue. With pure intentions, she grabs him and turns him over to help. 

Shocked at her discovery, she screams and immediately falls to the ground, accidentally hurting herself. His facial skin was slowly disintegrating revealing only melted flesh and bone. Not too long after, he drops dead. Those without masks begin inhaling the contaminated air. Nature had brought them all to their knees. A small cough morphed into a heavy cough. Subsequently, a heavy cough morphed into dangerous territories. They all try to retrieve their masks but it’s too late. With swollen and aggravated esophagus, they begin to cough up blood. One at a time, they helplessly witness each other asphyxiate by the fumes released from the Planeta Proibido. 

Meanwhile, the man leading the trek suddenly portrays a different outfit. Not only did he sport a full face respirator, he also had on a full fledged white Hazmat Suit. With orange gloves at hand, he strolls through everyone and retrieves the plants. One at a time, he gently removes them from the ground and places them in a sealed glass container. Concluding his task, he carefully returns the glass vials into his bag. In the process, he takes out a metal object. He stands up, straps the bag over his shoulders and surveys. Everyone on his team is either dead or on the brink. He locates the woman with silk hair and heads towards her. 

Still on the ground showing signs of heavy distress, she can’t stop crying. Finally in close proximity, she looks up and stares at the man leading the trek. “Did you know this would happen?” she tells him while sobbing beyond control.

“My friend, I’m so sorry.” states the man in a heavy accent. Not too long after, a gun sound echoes throughout the forest.

Two weeks later

“Thank you for the wire transfer Mr. Leeds.” says the man in a heavy accent as he stares at an enormous sum of 1.2 million dollars in the company of his best friend, Javier.

“No, thank you! Pleasure doing business with you.” replies Mr. Leeds as he hangs up the phone. Standing adjacent to three Planeta Prohibido, Mr. Leeds is ecstatic. So much so that he can’t contain it. “We are going to change the world forever!” loudly exclaims Mr. Leeds to his fellow researchers. “Decades from now, the acronym HIV will be nothing but a speck of dust in the minds of our people. Let’s get ready for extraction shall we.” further adds Mr. Leeds as he proudly witnesses his scientific team thoroughly dismantle the Planeta Proibido to its core.

THE END

Planeta Proibido Part 2

2 Years Later

Somewhere out in the Amazon

Out in the far reaches of the Amazon Rainforest, dozens of men and women are trekking towards 

a treasure. One which holds a promise of riches to live out a full life and dare say a second. It is 

midday and the temperature is scorching hot. Aggressively pushing beyond 95 degrees, the 

temperature is far from ideal for a long expedition. Yet, these men and women are not only devoted but determined to reach their prize. Surrounded by lush green pastures north, south, east and west, they continue on marching. The forest is brimming with life. Home to over forty-thousand plant species, three-thousand freshwater fish species and more than three-hundred and seventy classifications of reptiles, it is the embodiment of mother nature. As the men and women march forward, you can hear the melodic sounds of birds, the grunting and squeaking sounds of emperor tamarins and goeldi monkeys. 

Suddenly, a man sporting brown camo pants, a white shirt, a machete at hand and a very dense backpack says in an South American accent: “Minha Amiga, how do you know this Planeta Proibido survived the fires?”

“Amiga, they say the plant is the heart of this forest. It can survive any disaster.” replies a man wearing a black t-shirt with a thick accent as he leads the trek. 

“And how do you know this plant will do what you claim it does?” curiously questions a middle aged woman with brown silk hair.

The man leading the trek wipes the dripping sweat off his forehead and narrates with a dense accent: “Once, I was coming from an expedition out of Chile and ended up in Bolivia. I was paid to retrieve a special plant for someone. While in Bolivia, I stayed at this cidade pequena – very small country town. While there, rumors of a witch doctor who cured all types of diseases traveled to my ears. I wanted to see for myself, so I went to look for her. She lived in this remote side of the small town where people visited her only if they were dying and needed a cure. Outside of that, everybody was scared of her.”

Unexpectedly, someone from the group interrupts him and asks: “And you were not afraid of this witch?”

The man leading the trek regains control of the conversation and replies: “Absolutely not Minha Amiga! I do this my whole life. So, I went to see her and she turned out to be very, very old. Older than one hundred years if I had to guess. She had all types of plants in her house. Plants I have never seen before. Some of them even looked alive, like, they were moving. She told me of the Planeta Proibido. She said it cures HIV.  She said if I ever found it, I should bring her a heart.”

“A heart?” replies a man.

“What do you mean a heart?” inquires the middle aged woman with silk hair.

“Yes a heart. She said the Planeta Proibido all have a heart of their own. Apparently, the plant has provided life to this forest for many years.” explains the man leading the trek.

“This is madness!” exclaims another man. “Nobody told me we were searching for plants with hearts. What the fuck kind of shit is this?” he further adds.

“Amiga, you said you only wanted to be paid right? Well, here is your chance my friend.” states the man leading the trek.

“Did this witch tell you anything else? How does she even know about it? Has she used it before? And are there any repercussions if we remove this plant from the ground?” wisely asks the woman with silk hair.

“She said the plant has been around way before her ancestors. She said once her ancestors used it to cure a deadly plague which almost wiped out her people.” replies the man as he continues to march forward.

“You didn’t answer the last question.” points out the woman with silk hair.

“All she told me was – careful of what you forcefully take from mother nature. She has an unpleasant way of returning the favor. That’s what she said when I translated it to english.”

Upon hearing the witches revelation, everyone pauses and stares at one another. Suddenly, the sense of adventure and excitement slowly dissipates from their bodies. Completely frozen in place, they deeply ponder within. Out of the blue, the sound of a macaw shakes them out of their paralyzed state of mind. By the time they all turn around, they notice the man in the black t-shirt had slightly left them behind. Panickingly, they all sprint ahead to catch up.

“C’mon my friends, we can’t slow down. I can’t slow down. We are on the clock. The Planeta Proibido is waiting.” states the man leading the trek.

Planeta Proibido Part 1

1 Year Ago

International Health Award Conference

“Ladies and Gentleman! Nurses, Physicians, Surgeons, Doctors, Researchers, welcome to our annual  International Health Award Conference. You know, every year I get up here, I have this aching sensation that this should get easier. Yet, here I am, fifteen years later and it’s still nerve-racking as the first year. It goes to show the passion and love infused within the preparation of this event. It proves how much care and compassion you all imbue into your workplace, into your patients and into your research. So, every year I stand at this podium, I am replete with emotions because I know the meaning of sacrifice. I wholeheartedly know the meaning of holding the life of another in the palm of your hand.” addresses the director of the international health committee. Sporting a black tuxedo, a white shirt and a black bowtie, both his hands are glued to each side of the laminated wooden podium. Adjacent to the director is a large room housing heaps of round tables decorated with intelligently designed ruffled white sheets. At the center of each round table lies a mid-sized radiating orange and green swarovski crystal paradise tulips crystal sculpture. Surrounding each round table are delicately dressed women and men from all over the globe. Within this venue housed the most brilliant and reputable minds in the world. 

Meanwhile, the director at the podium carries on with his introduction. “Before we begin our award ceremony, I’d like to invite on stage a man who has taken the world by storm this past year. A man who’s medical team has not only achieved the impossible, but has repeatedly defied all odds. If you have not been living under a rock these past few years then you all know whom I speak of. Ladies and Gentleman, Johnson Leeds!” announces the director while the entire room is permeated with the joys and claps from the crowd. All eyes are fixated on Johnson as he stands from his seat and buttons his blue tux. He leans over, kisses his wife on the right cheek and confidently takes strides towards the podium. 

Now facing the director, they firmly shake hands. “You are an inspiration to us all.” compliments the director. 

“Very flattering Sir. Thank you!” politely acknowledges Johnson. 

Johnson then turns towards the podium and gives his undivided attention to the crowd as the director makes his exit. In a still position, he surveys the room and locates his wife. She smiles at him and gives him the thumbs up. Following her positive reinforcement, he clears his throat. “Earlier, the director mentioned how nerve-racking it is for him to stand up here every year. Truth is, I wouldn’t know exactly how it feels since I’m not that famous to give out speeches on a yearly basis. Maybe one day.” playfully states Johnson as he makes eye contact with the director. A light smile forges on the director’s face while a short burst of laughter is heard from the crowd. “With that said, I do however understand what it feels like to have to be on your toes year and and year out, always aiming for a breakthrough in a field that has for a very long time left many hopeless and speechless. Well, I can humbly now say that we have finally found hope. A year ago today, our forty year old patient who has been at war with an immunodeficiency virus is now victorious. In our care, he had undergone a special bone-marrow transplant. The stem cells we used for the transplant were from a donor who had a relatively rare genetic mutation that confers resistance to HIV. After many trials and errors, we can finally announce that we have found no active viral infection in his body. Although remnants of HIV’s DNA can still be found in some cells, we remain hopeful in the inability of the virus to replicate. With utmost confidence, I can say that he has been in remission for twelve months.” Suddenly, a shroud of emotion envelops Jonhson. Droplets begin to form from his tear ducts. He pauses to clear his throat once more and adds: “To wrap up, I can’t stress enough how grateful and proud I am of my team and my wife who has stood by me through thick and thin. And most of all, I am grateful and proud of every single of one you. I thank the wonderful people who have dedicated hours to birth this event. I thank our sponsors and donors. Together, we form an unbreakable shield. United, we shall eradicate human kind’s number one enemy – Disease. Thank you!”

The room erupts with claps as every person adopts a standing position to acknowledge Johnson’s breakthrough. 

“This is the guy I told you about. He’s gonna get us the clearance for that plant.” shouts a brown 

skinned man wearing a black long sleeve shirt standing at the far edge of the room as he points at the podium. 

“What did you say, I can’t hear with all this noise.” points out another man.

“That’s him! He’s gonna get us the proper clearance so we can go after the Planeta Proibido. Millions are gonna be made my friend. Millions!” repeats the brown skinned man with a dense accent as she claps along with the rest of the crowd. 

A standing ovation. A magnificent act of acknowledgement to a renown pioneer.