The trajectory of my personal life has taken a quatum leap in the past four-days. I’ve departed Tallahassee, Florida; arrived in Jacksonville and enjoyed a splendid gathering with family and friends that served as a celebratory bon voyage; boarded two jets to Texas; moved into a wooded and welcoming lodge; worshipped with the Mercy Ships global brand director at his quaint church; and attended a fabulous brunch at a Hideaway lake house with my new Mercy Ships communications team.
Six semi-colons later, I connected my movement to form a mental title: “Bon Voyage to Brunch.” Not bad, eh? It seems like just yesterday I was feverishly finishing “Tasks” to complete my extensive application and interview process. When I look back at these dates and activity on my laptop, it seems time flew by!
My goal is to make this a quickly penned blog that offers gratitude and homage to my family, friends, and crew who love me, make me smile, and have welcomed me.
Prior to leaving Tallahassee, I wondered why my skinny child (Kelsey Boyer) was so seemingly stressed. Her summer break from teaching ended days earlier, and I was relinquishing her home’s master bedroom back to she and her husband. Kelsey had started a new summer gig, and I was enroute to Africa by way of Texas. Perfect scenario!
Well, she was planning a big surprise for her mom that was designed around dinner at my favorite Jacksonville restaurant: Orsay. Joining her in the dirty deeds of planning was my dear friend/brother Greg McKinnon who is a mainstay in my life and has planned numerous special occasions including a 50th birthday party when I was in Baptist Hospital, my parents anniversary, and probably more. He arrived with one dozen long-stemmed roses, pink/green balloons, and created posters from my previously published feature in the Florida Courier. Just to let you know how far back Greg and I go: in high school, I danced in his troupe, “McKinnon and Company” (serious throwback right there), and one thousand years later, he bought Kelsey’s first pair of ballet shoes.
Additionally, she attended his college alma mater in residence for high school: (North Carolina School of the Arts). He wouldn’t want me to share that he is a mega-talent who is Alvin Ailey trained, was cast as Rum Tug Tuggar in “Cats” (Vienna); he’s a former model; and an accomplished photographer who has captured every good headshot I’ve ever owned. He’s my friend through thick and thick.
Thank you Greg and Kelsey: LOVE and MUAH!
The entire evening was lovely. My otherwise reclusive mother attended, and my oldest sister Linda Herron (a retired army veteran and prospering entrepreneur). She is my #1 mentor and only, only “Road Dawg.”
Kelsey also invited three of my dearest friends who are not only artists, but have remained present in my life at pivotal intervals. I don’t like the term “ride or die” but rather prefer “fly and live.” While schedules and locales have changed for all of us, they are my sisters.
Kezia Hendrix-Rolle (dancer/model/executive director Jacksoville Centre of the Arts). My daughter was her dance student at the age of eight. Kelsey later graduated from Kezia’s alma mater, Jacksonville University (both hold BFA degrees) and prior to graduation, Kezia hired Kelsey to teach classes. As my friend, we’ve navigated divorce, multiple deaths, and desserts!
Amy Cherie Copeland (writer, editor, poet). She is a writing tutor at Florida State College at Jacksonville where I previously taught, but I met her with husband Charlie in tow, at a poetry reading where her friend, our now deceased friend Chris Paige, served as mistress of ceremonies. Amy is mega-talented and loyal as heck.
Sherila Howard Perez (screenwriter and blogger). When didn’t I know Sherila? I’m trying to remember. She’s my heart, my ear, my breakfast/Ross Dress for Less shopping buddy. We talk writing, nonfiction and how our own lives mimic published fiction. All of these ladies support me. With love, thank you.
And of course my granddaughter of jittery joy whom I call, “Journey Bug!”
The most beautiful gift was Kelsey’s picture book. I love you more than sushi and the sky.
Suddenly, as if by magic, I’m in Texas and have arrived at the International Support Center for Mercy Ships where I will serve as a writer aboard the Africa Mercy. I have new global roommates, all of whom are fantastic women who share the same charitable enterprise as me.
I will be volunteering as part of the communications team, a swell group of folks, many of whom will probably never say, “folks or ya’ll or reckon.”
One of the most wonderful among them is Meg Newell, Director of Global Branding (or Global Brand Strategist), who hosted a Sunday brunch at her lake house for the entire team. Meg is uber-knowledgable and has been a tremendous support to me from my first skype interview up until about 11:00 a.m. this morning. She knows “All things Mercy Ships.”
What a house full of warmth and fun and food. Speaking of the food: God bless you Meg. The spread was picturesque and left me insatiable for more.
Meg’s bread pudding slayed. IT SLAYED!
And for kicks and giggles, she quickly prepared a warm rum sauce. I could scream. A second pan of that yummy stuff is both desired and expected before we fly to Senegal. I mean it. (Please?)
Joining me at the lake house was former Africa Mercy (AFM) photographer Shawn Thompson whose extraordinary work is featured in much of the Mercy Ships marketing material currently circulating and archived.
Jitze Kramer, his beautiful wife Stephanie (pictured below), and their three extremely well-mannered children were present. Jitze is vice-president of global branding; he’s from Holland and Amsterdam and Switzerland, yet he’s French. Can the church say: cultural mosaic?
Stephanie is unequivocally French and nonetheless, each are warm, funny, brilliant thinkers, and quintessential global creatures of all things good.
Mark Druesne is a native of Paris, France who was collegiately educated in the UK and joins Mercy Ships as communications director. He’s an intellect to revere and a rather cool guy with an otherwise tempered sense of professional swag. He’s a photo bomber too!
I finally got to meet one of the team’s two Lara’s! “Brunch Lara” is a media liaison whose duties include teenie-tiny-menial tasks like picking up the National Geographic team from the airport, catering to their needs, etc. Nat-Geo is just one example as Lara balances a lofty media list, both foreign and U.S.-based, and it’s my understanding that her father is slightly important to the Mercy Ships organization (he’s the CEO…Shhh).
Kat was in the house (and in the lake!) She’s seated straight down the middle looking like a movie star in sun shades. Kat is a gifted videographer who previously served aboard the Africa Mercy and hails from Miami, but currently works in Texas at the ISC.
This gathering offered an opportunity for me to learn and field questions to the group regarding everything from maneurvering lunch schedules aboard ship to the complexities (and simplicities) of the dress code along with internal/external marketing and public relations as it pertains, or will pertain, to my contributions as a writer. Highly edifying.
Everyone, (EVERYONE), is incredibly smart and talented. I am blessed to be seated among them.
It’s amazing how more relaxed I am after spending months of preparation worrying, pacing forth and back, packing/unpacking, and speculating about too many things that have all had logical answers in the end.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-8 New King James Version (NKJV)
I asked for Mercy Ships. I am here. Thank you God!