Fortunately I was able to take a few weeks off to share a family vacation with 16 members of my extended family in the Bahamas and Cayman Islands. Sitting on the peaceful, sun-drenched beaches listening to the ocean waves, some profound feelings of appreciation welled up within me. The people with whom we share our lives, I thought, greatly influence the direction, quality and value of our journey.

My journey has been adorned with the greatest treasures of all – treasures of the heart. I’m deeply grateful to everyone who has helped me grow, learn, and become joyful. Throughout the world, past and present, I express gratitude from the core of my being. The list of those whom I’d like to shower praise upon is too long to compile. #1 on the list, however, is easy. “The Best” is my mother. She’s always been there for me as unshakable and steadfast as a mountain, under any circumstance. She’s been my best teacher, my best fan, my best influence, my best confidante. She continues to shine as a great example, a great inspiration, and a great lighthouse for my life.

During our vacation, my nephew Alex captured a candid photo of me in which my mom appears in the background. I especially enjoy this image because I did not realize she was standing behind me when he took the photo. It reflects the reality that throughout my life my mother has always been there, proudly sustaining and watching out for me even when I don’t realize it. Thanks mom! Another favorite photo from our trip captured a magical experience I had swimming with wild stingrays in the Caribbean Sea – a life-changing experience. After playing with the stingrays, I kissed one good-bye, and my sense of appreciation and wonder for this life became heightened evermore.

Jumping in (the dark spots are stingrays)