Many people spend almost 1-2 decades of their lives in school…and then it ends. But what few people realize is that once the door closes on that formal classroom experience, the learning process can – and arguably should – continue. I Start Wondering…. is designed to offer some ideas – both big and small –about embracing lifelong learning, especially starting at mid-life. Together we’ll meet people who continually seek ways to stretch and grow as well as resources on which to reflect. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage you to invest in your curiosity and to follow Albert Einstein’s advice: “You have to color outside the lines once in a while if you want to make your life a masterpiece.”
About Dorian Martin
Hi, I’m Dorian Martin – not to be confused with Dorian Gray, who never aged physically. Trust me, I’m aging – but I’m also getting better! I credit that to my penchant for life-long learning. Sure, I have the standard educational background – graduating from high school and then earning a bachelor’s degree (although unlike many these days, my degree’s from a liberal arts university). And yes, I went a bit overboard and earned a PhD in educational human resource development. Don’t hold it against me. All that education has helped me realize how much I don’t know – and want to explore. I’ve also learned the following about myself as I’ve gotten older:
- I hate being put in categories. Our society tends to try to place people in easily identifiable “boxes” such as caregiver, writer or dog owner. But what if a person can do other things – or is interested in learning more? That’s why I prefer to build my own life template based on following my curiosity.
- I love to explore new things. Chalk it up to Mom’s commandment that I had to taste everything on the dinner plate to see if I liked it.
- I like finding the intersections that come between new things. That’s where innovation happens, which is important in our changing world.
- I love hanging around smart people who make me think in new ways.
- There is more than one way to embrace learning, even in our time-strapped world.
About Brenda Nettles Riojas
Greetings, everyone! I’m Brenda Nettles Riojas. Born and raised in South Texas on the border that unites Mexico and the United States, I refuse to let any wall divide my two homes of origin. I consider myself a pilgrim poet who loves to explore the world and capture thoughts and experiences in my writing and photography. I am now experimenting with mobile journalism. It’s amazing what we can do now with our smart phones.
I currently work full-time for the Diocese of Brownsville, where I wear several hats – overseeing the communications department and serving as the editor of the diocesan newspaper. When I’m not working (or traveling), I also host a weekly radio program, “Corazón Bilingüe,” that addresses the dynamics of language and culture and how it impacts writing.
While I am prone to chase butterflies, I have come to appreciate the different directions my attention span takes me. I maintain a sense of awe for the world, for all the possibilities, and for the people God places on my path. On this pilgrimage, I am learning these days to surrender to the divine, thankful for each moment life gifts me. Moving forward I know it is important to continue investing in a creative spirit willing to soar, fall and get back up and try again.
Let’s start a conversation. You can find me on Twitter @brendariojas.
How I come to this place of writing….
My earliest memories surround my deep and intense passion and connection to the natural world. I was the child who caught bugs and raised snails in jars, who fished and rode horses, and who kept aquariums filled with brackish water denizens seined from ditches draining into the bay. These pastimes easily translated into a bachelor of science degree in fish and wildlife sciences. The more practical side of me recognized that a more technical education would permit a lifelong career in the natural sciences, and so in 1994 I earned a PhD in molecular biology.
In over 20 years working as a molecular biologist, it has been my privilege to isolate and name entirely new organisms (bacteriophage) from the environment and to unravel the fantastically intricate machinery responsible for targeting proteins into intercellular compartments. I have numerous scientific publications and book chapters to show for these efforts.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to travel extensively – throughout Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, North and Central America as well as the Caribbean. Probably the most exotic of these travel experiences was free diving off a small boat in the Indian Ocean miles from shore. I was bobbing on the surface in over 10,000-ft deep waters with a pelagic oceanic white-tip shark as my partner.
That is my background. But for I Start Wondering, I come to describe the opposite – which is nature not from the perspective of an objective scientist/observer or as the thrill seeker. Rather, I want our community members to experience nature in the sublime beauty of the overlooked, everyday ordinary – the poorly mowed roadside, the city playing fields, the mega-center parking lot, the run-down vacant lot. How to see the sublime perfection in the quotidian — to be one with the tree — is to hear the wind rustling the leaves, to see the diffusion of light through the branches, to feel the roughness of the bark, and to enjoy the sensation of quiet power and presence. This is available to all, here and now.
Brenda has relied on her innate drive and belief in God to succeed. Throughout her life, Brenda’s ambition, commitment to customer service, and passion for personal growth have helped her continually reinvent herself – and to serve as a role model for other women.
As a young single mother, Brenda displayed an entrepreneurial spirit by driving across Central Texas selling jewelry. Eventually she joined the corporate ranks where she rose to serve as an executive assistant in organizations such as IBM, Dell and the Texas A&M University System.
However, Brenda knew that there was more that she wanted to accomplish professionally beyond serving in a supporting role. In order to continue to evolve, Brenda followed her passion for learning and took the necessary steps to become a meeting planner where she has organized multiple large conferences and meetings with the Texas A&M University System and three programs and departments in the Texas A&M Extension Service: the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center, the Cybersecurity Program, and the Knowledge Engineering Department.
Brenda’s extroverted personality and charisma were quickly noticed and she was recruited to move into training. She is a certified instructor for Franklin Covey’s “7 Habits for Highly Effective People” and currently leads training based on her 2015 graduation from the Disney Institute for Quality Service.
Brenda continues to stretch herself in other ways. She earned a certificate of accounting from Blinn College and is working on an associate’s degree in business management. She also participated in the 2015 class of Leadership Texas, a network of high-potential female leaders.
Brenda is committed to giving back to others. She serves as Vice President on the Brazos Valley Food Bank’s Board of Directors and chairs the area’s Executive Women in Texas Government chapter for the Brazos Valley. She also is an honoree for the Girls Scouts of Central Texas’ 2015 Woman of Distinction Award.
Brenda’s current role includes mentoring other women. She has provided counsel and support to her daughter, who is building a business in Houston, and other women in her church and workplace. She believes sharing her unique expertise helps others see the possibilities within themselves.