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30 lessons I learned in 30 years

It’s amazing how it has taken me 30 years to learn most, if not all of these lessons. While it continues to be a struggle to implement these ideas into my everyday life, I trust that these ideologies will lead me down a positive path. Therefore, I can only imagine what the next 30 years have in store for me.

The following are my truths I hope to live by.

  1. Always choose love. Even if you give it to those who don’t want it, you will somehow get it back ten times over.
  2. You attract what you really want by saying, “no” to things. This is why it’s ok to say, “no.”
  3. Embrace who you are in front of everyone, but be wary of who you attract because of this.
  4. Not everyone who fights to be in your life is good for you.

5. Run toward the people who make you feel good. This will make is easier to leave those that don’t.

30 lessons

6. There are all sorts of ways to connect with those around you.
7. Perspective and gratitude are important practices. You gain perspective and gratitude by stepping out of your comfort zone and meeting different types of people.
8. Comparing your pain to others is the same as comparing your success. Pointless. We are all here experiencing our own versions of the same wins and same losses. No one is no better or no worse.

9. Growth is painful. Fortunately, that pain is temporary.

10. Expressing your emotions and sharing your truth in how you feel is a strength; not a weakness.
11. Pay attention to how things genuinely make you feel. Mentally, emotionally, and physically.
12. Rest is important. Prioritize it or you will pay for it later.
13. Being fit is cool and all but moving your body in a way that feels good; is good for your body, mind, and soul.
14. You can’t truly love someone until you truly love yourself.

30th Bday

15. Take time to understand who you are and enjoy that time.

16. People don’t change on your time.
17. All “no’s” in life lead to a greater, “yes.” The trick is maintaining patience in order to find out exactly what that “yes” looks like.
18. Losing your patience and wanting to control a situation are one and the same.

19. The only things you can control in life are the choices you make daily, and how you react to the choices others make.
20. Don’t lose how you feel while trying to understand how someone else feels. 
21. You don’t need to spend money to show people you care about them. Especially if you don’t have it.

22. At the same time, if you can make time to see those you love, it is always time well spent.

30th Bday

23. Continue to also make time to pursue the things that bring you joy, even if they don’t bring you a paycheck or cost you money.
24. If you have only 24 hours to do something you really want to do, those short hours will be worth it in the long run.
25. Get rid of everything that no longer serves you. Photos, journals, clothes, gifts, everything. That energy stays with you without you even realizing it.
26. You can’t save everyone, and not just because you only have two hands, but because some people don’t want to be saved.
27. Even if you have a “good point,” you don’t always need to say it. Sometimes it’s best to stay out of things, stay quiet, listen, and observe.

28. Oftentimes people are a mirror for you, if you look closer.
29. Don’t hold yourself back from doing something you want to do, in order to make others feel comfortable.

30. Life is never boring. And certainly not your life.

30 balloons

Can’t believe I’m going to 30 in 2020!

Let me know which lesson resonated with you the most in the comments!

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Brownells by the Beach Wedding

This wedding stands out amongst the rest, because it was also a vacation. Two days before the wedding, my friends and I arrived in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I felt even cooler and more privileged to be staying in the same beach house as the bride and groom. Even better, they brought their baby daughter and their dog. Both of them were probably my favorite guests there.  

Before the Wedding

The wedding was designed, created and envisioned all by the bride. (The groom may have helped, but the bride was definitely the mastermind). It was impressive the amount of work she put in to create an event that celebrated herself. While asking for direction on where to place things, in a very serious tone, the bride looked at me and said, “And when you get the choice, to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” There was no melody in her voice when she said this. I didn’t even realize she was quoting a song until about halfway through the lyric. This made it that much funnier.

Before the ceremony, I was instructed by the Maid of Honor to inform the Officiant they would be ready soon. My best attempt at casually interrupting a wedding ceremony, with the Officiant, groomsmen and groom already at the alter felt incredibly awkward. It’s important to note that for the most part, nobody at this wedding had any idea who I was, and the ones that did, hadn’t seen me in at least ten years. Everyone kind of glared at me like I was some kind of idiot, while I smiled back in an apologetic and flighty way. I was tempted to make the declaration, “I’m just following directions!” Then I remembered, I don’t care and sat down in an available seat.

Beach Wedding

As the bride walked down the aisle, I couldn’t help but notice the groom’s cool smile. He didn’t just look happy. He looked at peace.  

Beach Wedding

The Wedding Reception

At the reception, one of the groomsmen’s speeches felt more like a monologue that even turned into a soliloquy. Painfully long, but sweet because it was obvious he cared. He had so much to say that he simply couldn’t narrow it down into five minutes or less. Without knowing this information, I decided to record his speech for him and the bride. I ended up stopping three times, only to start a new video, to ultimately give up before it was even over. He’s lucky I like him. I’m not sure the other guests were as amused as I was.   

Later, I took the bride’s previous advice and hit the dance floor. Some of us dancers re-enacted multiple scenes from Grease, one in particular was the infamous scene where I was Danny Zuko and the bride was Cha Cha Digregorio. After dancing, the bride jumped in the pool with her dress still on and if I ever thought I saw a mermaid, it was in that moment. Her dress flowed around her, with her hair slicked back, and her makeup somehow unsmeared. She was beaming the entire night.  

Beach Wedding

I also hopped in the pool, but I was in a bathing suit. I’ve never done a wardrobe change at a wedding before and I have to say, I think all weddings should allow such a luxury.

Beach Wedding

The Day After

The following day, the bride (and groom) also organized and created a day of fun, full of outdoor games and a bounce house. At first I was reluctant to participate in Capture the Flag. Besides the fact that I had somehow never played before and was unfamiliar with the rules, my ability to understand them was hindered due to my suffering of a minor hangover with a large mimosa in my hand.

Yet as the game went on, I suddenly found myself sprinting toward an opponent and leaping over a fence like a track star. Luckily, that opponent cut their foot and had to take a break, because then I was on the verge of throwing up. We both called truce and let the boys run around for a while afterward. Once I got my heart rate regulated, I ended up being the one who assisted the capturing of the flag. What started as a day I was skeptic of, ended up being refreshingly fun.  

Beach Wedding

Happy Anniversary to the Brownells!

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I almost got stuck in Mexico

My alarm goes off at 6:45 Sunday Morning in Mexico, to get the airport shuttle from the resort at 7:15, to catch a flight at 10:25. Tired and anxious to get home, I hand my customs slip to the boarding agent, and look for my assigned seat. The plane accelerates rapidly, preparing my heart to lift when the wheels do. Except the plane brakes. Then my memory brings back the feeling of landing, as we coast down the airway. Immediately, all passengers look around at one another, searching for answers and validation. Over the intercom the pilot explains maintenance is going to come to check something out. A large portion of passengers get up and walk around, as if he announced there is now cerveza gratis (free beer) in the overhead bins. 

Stories of sitting on the airway in an airplane, unmoving, have always been my worst nightmare. Now I was living in it, getting bumped by a family passing a baby around, closing my eyes, and praying to God. My eyes open and watch other people on their phones, updating their loved ones. I stare at my phone like it’s supposed to magically connect to Wi-Fi or receive service in a foreign country. I want to talk to someone. But I can’t. 

The pilot’s voice becomes music to my ears. Everyone takes their seats as maintenance confirms they fixed the issue. The plane accelerates rapidly once more. And then it brakes. And then, I’m pretty sure, I actually say the word, “fuck,” out loud. The issue is worse than they thought and we have to deplane. I weave in and out of more passengers standing in the aisle for no reason and head toward the airplane bathroom. I’m fairly certain I got sick from some kind of water in Mexico and I’ll just leave it at that. 

The Fiasco Begins

Eventually, I make it back through the swarm of humans, grab my belongings, and descend down a staircase out the plane door, into an open field of pavement, displaying large airplanes, and two empty buses waiting to take us to Customs. It is as if we landed in Mexico, and weren’t just trying to leave. The crowd of people feels apocalyptic. All of us stand around lost, tired, and thirsty.

Suddenly, I hear a voice shouting random names. Some in perfect English, others in perfect Spanish. The voice is listing off the plane’s passengers, as if he is a teacher taking attendance, handing back permission slips for a field trip. One by one, people collect their winning ticket and race down the black ropes. A new line forms as I wait to be called. As people leave, the crowd decreases in size and I realize the voice doesn’t belong to an airport employee, but a fellow passenger. Suddenly he looks at a slip and says, “Oh that’s me… Hasta Luego!” He pretends to go and says, “Nah…” and laughs, before reading the remaining slips in his hands. This kind, random passenger, stayed behind to help the rest of the aircraft, and even paused with the best comedic timing to joke about doing so. 

The third time my heart drops in an hour

He stands in front of me with empty hands and announces the slips are done. I stand there with my hand gripped to my carry-on, holding back tears. My name hasn’t been called. Only a moment passes but feels like an entire lifetime before a random employee appears with another stack in his hand. The passenger turned announcer says, “I have more!” Finally, my name is called. Except the line is somehow longer and my stomach is churning.

An employee instructs me to follow someone, and then another employee turns around and tells me the line I’m in, is only for handicapped. There’s a joke there, but I don’t have the energy to find it. The long line turns into a large moving clump. A woman working at Customs shouts at all of us how she needs one line, as if it’s even possible. A woman from the plane shouts back she needs two workers. I can’t argue with her there.

Finally, I make it through the checkpoint, only to go through another security system, to find I am exactly where I was when I landed, just four days ago. I’m in a lobby with a bunch of shuttles to hotels, and rental cars, but no representatives or information on our next, new flight. Desperate for guidance, I check the airlines app on my phone. It informs me my flight doesn’t leave until tomorrow morning now. My heart sinks again. Suddenly, I hear a man arguing with an airport employee. “No, I need a flight out of here today!” The employee nods apologetically as the angry man’s family quietly follows behind him. It is now some time after noon, and I’m alone with nowhere to go. 

Now what?

I find a bathroom and decide to weigh my options while I’m in there, but can’t hold my tears back any longer. In the stall, sobbing, I find that my Wi-Fi connection is poor. I can’t even check for other flights with different airlines, much less, contact any of my loved ones who can help me. I’m fairly certain I can’t go back to the resort I was staying at. It’s an all-inclusive with strict rules and a lot of required documentation. Furthermore, I don’t even know who is still there that I could stay with. All my friends have left, just like I was supposed to. However, I can’t stay in an airport in Mexico for 24 hours either. I order myself to stop crying and figure this shit out.

None of the alternative flights are better. They are all outrageous prices, none of which I can afford, and they still all end with me getting home tomorrow, one way or another. I check multiple airlines, for multiple airports in Florida. Nothing. I try to contact American Airlines on my phone, but a Spanish recording comes on and hangs up on me. I’m assuming she said I was out of area, or something of that nature. I give up and call my mother.

In between my sobs, I tell her my flight info, and ask her to call American to see if there’s anything they can do. I’m still in the lobby full of rental cars and shuttle drivers. I don’t even know where American Airlines is. I call two friends who may know the numbers of other people at the resort. In between my sobs, I ask if they can contact them, and see if there’s any way I can go back if necessary. But I don’t want to go back. I’m already thinking it’s not feasible or smart.

New flight, who this?

My mom calls back and explains I have a new flight to Miami that leaves at 3:45 PM. It is now after 2. I march through the shuttle drivers and see a sign that says free shuttle to terminals. I ask a guy how to get to terminal 3. “Departures?” he asks. Clearly, he is confused why someone who looks like they’ve just arrived would want to go to departures. “First door on the left,” he says. Facing an empty street I quickly realize terminal 3 is behind me. I don’t need a shuttle.

I sprint to the staircase, pick up my carry-on, and race up the stairs, no time for the escalator. As soon as I’m about to re-enter the line at TSA, I realize, I don’t have my new boarding pass. The app hasn’t received my update so I jog back down the stairs and sprint to an available kiosk. It doesn’t work. I go to another one and stand behind the slowest couple in the world. Once they leave, the kiosk’s buttons suddenly don’t want to be pushed. Without my permission, tears fall down my face, as my finger rapidly pushes the same button from every angle I can think of. Finally it works. Then it informs me my record locator number is incorrect. I enter it again, just to be sure. Now the screen informs me I need assistance.

Finding Assistance

My eyes frantically search for anyone who looks like they are heading over to assist me. I see no one. I wipe the tears from my face, but they continue to fall. My hands want to reach for a customer service agent, too far away, but my feet stay planted. The line for customer service is another long one, so I decide to take my chances in front of my broken kiosk.

Suddenly, a man in a red jacket appears. He is also confused, and walks away with my passport. I stand there, realizing if this man doesn’t come back, I’m definitely fucked. Another man in a different jacket appears, asking if I’ve been helped. Unsure, I state a guy came over and I gave him my passport. The man asks if he worked here and I say, “He had a red jacket on.” He assures me the man will be back. That man vanishes too and I realize he was an angel I needed in that moment. The man in the red jacket is now back with my new boarding pass and my passport. He tells me to hurry, and I almost ask him if I can skip the line at TSA. But I don’t. I thank him and run away. It is now 3:08.

Groundhog’s Day

On a Sunday afternoon, it is now the busiest time to travel anywhere, and my indecisive Libra ass looks for the shortest line. I run to the one furthest from me, all the way to the left. It’s moving and now my indecisive Libra ass looks for the shortest line to put our bags in bins. This time I make the wrong choice. My line is the slowest, but it’s too late now. I’m in it, and afraid to move. I remember my toiletry bag got flagged just seven hours earlier, so I take it out of my carry-on and place it in a separate bin. I wait for my bags on the other side. The toiletry bag and now my backpack don’t make it through. My hand shoots in the air as the TSA agent, formally explains who she is and how she will search my bag. Anything she pulls out I tell her to throw away. I’m ready to leave all my belongings with her at this point. But she doesn’t take anything. She hands me my things and I don’t even adjust my bearings. I thank her and run away. It is now 3:23.

I quickly weave in and out of tourists shopping for alcohol and souvenirs and employees trying to upsell them. I repeat my gate number over and over. In my head, or out loud, I’m not even sure. While running, I think to myself, this is why I keep my cardio up, and laugh on the inside. I finally see my gate. Everyone is boarding. I don’t even know what boarding group they’re on, but I get in line anyway.

Leaving my Nightmare

Once, my boarding pass is scanned, I place my toiletry bag in my carry-on, and adjust the straps to my backpack. My stomach clenches for the millionth time today. It is unclear if it’s the same sickness or hunger now. I haven’t eaten or drank anything in over 12 hours. Walking down the aisle, I find that my seat is one that reclines and has a pillow and blanket. I smile on the inside. My phone is now at 1% and my Wi-Fi connection isn’t strong enough to tell some loved ones I’m making it out of there; as long as this plane actually takes off. The plane quickly accelerates but my heart doesn’t lift, until the wheels do. Then I look through the clouds and realize how tired I am. My phone dies, but I don’t even care. I’m going home.

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Six values Chicago gave me

2018 was a great year. I lived in Chicago for the first half of it, completing a little over a one-year contract for work. Living in a new city, I felt as though I was constantly exploring and learning new things. While the first half of my stay in Chicago, in 2017, was the most I had ever used FaceTime, also full of friends and family visiting, I became fearful that wouldn’t be the case in the winter. Fortunately, it wasn’t.

The following is my best attempt at summarizing everything into six separate chunks.

1. Explore

At the beginning of the year, I saw Buddy Guy himself perform at Buddy Guy’s Legends. I had never heard of him before, but quickly learned he is a legendary Blues guitarist and singer. He has worked with some of the great’s, including Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and John Mayer. I was witnessing a true musical craftsman that night.

Out of all of the tourist attractions, the aquarium is by far, my favorite. I have a great love and appreciation for ocean life, but if for some reason you don’t, well then, I’m not talking to you.

Arguably, the best view of the city is at London House. It overlooks the Chicago River and almost makes you feel equal to other tall buildings surrounding you. I went multiple times, wanting to share the view with other visitors. Cindy’s Rooftop and the Signature Room are close seconds. In my opinion, those views are of the city, as if you are a far away observer, while the view from London House reminds you that you are smack dab in the middle of downtown Chicago.

2. Mind

Winter is tough. At a young age of growing up in Michigan, my mental health wasn’t affected by the effects of winter. Well, it may have been. I just have no recollection of it. Perhaps, I blocked it from my memory.

Finding ways to escape and calm your mind I believe to be important for everyone, especially in the winter. Which is how and why I read a lot in my spare time and rediscovered my love for yoga. This was the first time in my life I became on a first-name basis with a yoga instructor. It’s difficult to put into words how valuable that was for me, without even realizing it, until it was over.

3. Money

I paid off a significant amount of student loans and credit card debt. Those major things alone would have been enough, but I also treated myself to purchasing Beats headphones, something I had desired for months. It is one of the few, tangible items that genuinely add value to my life. Most importantly, I finally got a passport. This year, I’m going to put at least one stamp on it.

4. Work

I finished a complete draft of my book; a goal I had for nearly a decade. Then I queried countless agents, pitching the idea to them as best as I could. Most declined, some I never heard back from, few wanted to read it, and only one gave me constructive criticism. While I have yet to be a published author, I have one goal to be proud of. I wrote a book. Whether everyone in the world read it or not, is irrelevant.

I went through an interview process for a TV show. I never heard back. Not if they went with another girl, the show didn’t get picked up, production was delayed, nothing. If I’ve learned anything from trying to be a part of the art and entertainment industry it’s that nothing is ever certain and to just let everything roll off your back. I’m just happy to be given opportunities.

I killed my improv Level D performance at Second City. Having a lot of support in the audience for that show helped. Having awesome classmates on that stage with me helped even more. Afterward, I saw two Second City shows, a luxury I wish I would’ve taken more advantage of as a student.

5. Play

I was a part of some legendary events, like celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago and being on a float of the Pride Parade. I couldn’t help but feel like I was a part of history experiencing those two things.

Boystown quickly became one of my favorite neighborhoods to go out in. It’s not hard to fall in love with cheap drinks, good music, and people who dance.

I also crashed the bachelor party of my prom date in 2005. At the strip club, I couldn’t help but think, if only we knew then what we would experience together now.

The night before I moved away from Chicago, I threw a dope house party. Something I had always wanted to do was even better because my apartment technically wasn’t mine. Yet it was full of friends I always had, ones I made, and even girls I worked with who happened to be in town. And then we had the simple luxury of walking down the street to bars we frequented. The location was stellar.

6. Family

I experienced the architecture tour with my parents and also went to Wrigley Field with my dad, a place that had been on his bucket list his entire life.

While it’s hard to narrow down all the valuable things Chicago gave me, I realized that career opportunity had given me so many more opportunities. Besides tangible items and things of monetary value, I see things differently. I have grown into a different woman. One that still has work to do, but is adjusting accordingly.

It’s nice to look back, but it’s essential to look forward.

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New York City

This time, last year I was in New York City. It was the first trip I took for myself in I don’t know how long. Maybe ever. Although I had been to the city, at least three times before, it was always brief. There’s so much to see and do there, it’s impossible to get it done in a short amount of time. The following is what I was able to accomplish in a long weekend.

Food I ate in New York City

As someone who is a huge fan of desserts, it has been a goal of mine to indulge in a beignet for years. I’ve always heard how delicious they were, so much so that my friends named one of their dogs after them. When my friend discovered this beautiful, little French restaurant called, Augustine, I knew my dream would come true. This was the perfect place to enjoy my first beignet as it was more delicious than I could’ve ever hoped for.

Later that weekend, I had an amazing Easter Sunday dinner with three very dear friends. We met at a nice restaurant, Dell’anima and laughed endlessly throughout our meal. Our waiter got a kick out of our desire to share a four-course meal, as we ordered one entree from each section of the menu. I can’t remember if we ordered one or two bottles of wine, but I know our mouths were wine stained by the time we got our bill.

Things I Did in New York City

I visited the Oculus building for the first time. Before going inside, my friend and I paid our respects at the 9/11 memorial. Something else I had never seen before and was overwhelmed by the number of names inscribed on the stones. While the Oculus building is mostly shops and restaurants, the design of the building is magnificent.

The Rockefeller Center is another infamous spot. Ice skating can be a bit expensive, so I had fun simply exploring the building and enjoying the view.

Also, I saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Although, I almost didn’t. Someone mentioned something about a boat and as I waited for one in a large building, I got that funny, familiar feeling that I was lost and doing something wrong. Thinking I was going to the Statue of Liberty, I almost ended up on the Staten Island ferry. Fortunately, I had the courage to ask the custodial staff of the building to make sure. They were very helpful while looking at me in amusement. After walking in the rain in the right direction, I boarded an overpriced water taxi, but hey, I saw her.

I treated myself to a Broadway production and saw The Book of Mormon. It was hard to choose which show to see, but I was more than happy with my decision. The show was original, hilarious, well-written, and full of a talented cast. There were so many shows to choose from, but I believe picking that one was the best decision I could’ve made. If you love musicals or the writers of South Park, this is the show to see.

I also saw the Grand Central Terminal and the Roosevelt Hotel. Both of which are exquisitely designed buildings. If you’re a big movie fan like I am, the Grand Central Terminal is a set location for multiple films. Some specific examples that come to mind are Friends with Benefits and the recent film, Second Act. 

Friends & Family

My parents met in New York and lived in a few apartments there together. Although I didn’t get to go inside to their specific apartment, I did see the building, the lobby, and the hallway leading up to their front door. I Facetimed my mom so she could see the building and walk me through a part of her past.

I got to see my Godfather, for the first time in almost four years. He met me at a bar in Times Square after a long day at work. Those few hours we got to spend chatting and catching up went by too quickly but was meaningful and memorable.

That entire weekend, I had the best amount of quality time with such a great friend of mine. Besides indulging in restaurants and dancing at 1Oak, we explored Brooklyn together, for the second time in 3 years. We chilled on the Williamsburg bridge, a reminiscent memory I was fond of with her, the first time I went. It’s interesting that the best view of New York City is outside of it.

New York City Locals

I walked a few blocks with a homeless man. I remember standing on a corner, debating going out of my way to avoid him. But then I was reminded how lately I felt I shouldn’t judge books by their covers, so I stayed put.

He looked at me, alone, and asked, “Are you sure you want to go to this way? It’s kind of dangerous.” Which was probably the last thing I needed to hear. The light changed to “Walk,” and the look on my face must’ve made him regret that statement because he recovered with, “Come on, it’ll be fine. I’ll walk with ya.”

I must admit, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear him say this either. He walked ahead of me at first for a while, talking over his shoulder about the neighborhood, what streets were ok and which ones weren’t. When he asked where I was going, I was hesitant to tell him which hotel I was staying at and acted as if I couldn’t quite remember, speaking vaguely of the street corner instead.

Then he began telling me some of his life story and how he ended up to be where he was. I wish I remembered more of the content of our conversation, his name, or what street corner he said was his post. What I do remember is him stopping in front of my hotel to simply say, “Thank you for not judging me and being afraid. It was nice talking to you.” As if he knew that was my inner conflict the entire time.

I realize he may be the exception, not the rule to such encounters, but it is one I’ll never forget.

Gotta love New York City.

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Baby Erin is 21

I can’t believe Baby Erin is 21. As a toddler, Erin would say the rudest things out loud with the most innocent intentions. She didn’t know she was being rude. She just wanted to know why that lady looked like a witch and the only answer she trusted was our mother’s. It’s funny, but my poor mother. Erin didn’t even have the decency to ask once they were out of earshot of the witch lady. But that’s Erin. She’ll tell you straight to your face what she thinks.

At 21 years young, Erin has evolved from a bossy toddler to a lazy tween who hated brushing her hair and loved wearing the same outfit, to somehow becoming a tall, thin goddess who has perfected a hair and make-up routine.

Best sistahs and Best friends

Growing up, we were always sisters, but I would say we became friends when I moved back from college and she was in middle school. It was at that time when Erin morphed from this silly tween into this trendy, young woman who could do hair and make-up better than I could. While I could’ve watched YouTube videos as she did, it was much more fun and easier to be taught by my cool, younger sister.

The generation gap between Erin and I only exists in moments. For instance, the first time I played the rap song, “Still Fly,” by Big Tymers. While I knew every word, Erin had never heard it before. Another instance is one of the times I picked up Erin from high school. I rolled down my window and quoted Mean Girls, “Get in loser we’re going shopping.” Immediately, Erin lit up, excited that we were actually headed to the mall. I still feel like a jerk for not taking her anyway. Later, I was a chaperone on her field trip. I didn’t do much of anything, to which I was grateful for, because I felt very weird about being a chaperone for high schoolers, but very cool hanging out with my sister at school. It was the only time we went to the same school at the same time.

Watching Erin grow up has been an experience I appreciate more now than ever. I feel so fortunate and happy to have such a cool sister that I am so close with. One who keeps me young.

How I look up to Baby Erin

Occasionally, Erin exercised the word, “no,” when my parents asked her to do something she had no interest in doing. I have always sat back in amusement and wonderment, how this young thing grasped a concept I never even knew I had an option of using. My parents may not appreciate this as much as I do, and it may also be because of birth order, but still, Erin has always had a strong sense of self and a better knowledge of what was actually going to add value to her life, as opposed to what wasn’t.

Being older than Baby Erin

I like to think Erin has learned from my mistakes, or at least has been able to seek guidance that I didn’t necessarily have the luxury of. As the oldest, I was kind of the guinea pig, experiencing college life, heartbreak, losing friendships, and lovely credit card debt. I feel I have watched some older siblings want their younger siblings to figure things out that same hard way. Perhaps out of jealousy, whether it be because of the different dynamic that exists within their household, or simply jealous of their youth.

However, I hope I am never envious in any way of Erin’s youth. I am grateful to have Erin. She keeps me young and hip. I must admit, when people comment we look alike, I more so gush over the fact that I can resemble a hot, young, 20-something, versus that I look like my younger sister.

Favorites of Baby Erin

A few random memories that make me laugh out loud of Erin are the following. When Erin got a pink razor cell phone, she screamed at the top of her lungs with her friend, while simultaneously jumping up and down. She was 9. When Tara and I looked in the hotel mirror, to see another reflection of Erin in a mirror, on top of the hotel room counter, making her underwear look like a thong. She was 3. That one made me laugh as I typed this that I had to pause from the keyboard.

In eighth grade, for a class project, I filmed a short sketch and cast Erin as my mom. Again, she was only 3 but nailed the role perfectly. She actually took direction very well in all skits I cast her in. That’s one of the best compliments an actress can receive honestly.

We worked together at Twistee Treat for a short period of time. It was her first job and very important to me for her to feel comfortable in a workplace environment. Training her felt easy. Not just because she’s smart, but because I could be real with her. Instead of simply instructing her to make a milkshake, I told her the secret trick to work the machine in a way that you wouldn’t end up wearing it.

Exploring Chicago together was fun, as it was our first vacation with just each other. And to this day, witnessing Erin on whatever the dentist gave her when they took out her wisdom teeth, is hands down, the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in real life, in my life.

Michigan Wedding

I am about to leave an entire decade behind that Erin is just beginning to navigate through. Watching Erin grow up has been one of my greatest joys in life thus far. Happy 21st Birthday, to you Erin. I love you so much. You’ll always be my Baby.

Comment below to wish Erin a Happy Birthday too!

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Tom – The Ostrich Man

I have known Tom since first grade. He was my friend that lived the next street over, who for some reason found the stupid things I said entertaining. Often, Tom was the only guy in a group of girls. I have vivid memories of him across the classroom in American History and sitting at our table at Catechism.

He was the kid skateboarding on his half pipe in the backyard, and the friend I couldn’t catch in hide-and-go-seek tag. Seriously, he was freakishly fast and he knew it. He taunted me once, slowing down in speed, allowing me the false belief into thinking I was close to catching him. Each time he casually sprinted away with such large strides that I quickly gave up. It was then that I gave Tom his acronym, The Ostrich Man. I don’t know how I would feel if someone called me, The Ostrich Woman, but Tom was a good sport about it. Again, I am amazed at the dumb things I have said that he found funny.

Since then he has continued to make time to see me even long after I have moved away.

The Infamous Time in St. Pete

Keeping up with Tom, rather trying to keep up with Tom has gotten me into trouble more than once. The worst time, or the best time, depending on how you look at it, is right before going into the new year of 2013. Tom and his family were in St. Petersburg and my sister and I drove up to see them. We pre-gamed during a drinking game called, “ride the bus,” that I haven’t played since and the rest of this story will explain why.

After the pre-game, we danced and drank in multiple bars in St. Pete. Later, I found myself puking outside our hotel and in our bathroom. The next morning I had numerous missed calls and texts from Tom. His third text read, “Bark twice if you’re in Milwaukee.” 

When I met up with him the next day, I didn’t feel much better, periodically going to the bathroom for false alarms. At the worst possible moment, (once my sister was driving on the highway) I had to throw up for the millionth time. Unable to hold it in, I re-enacted Alanis Morissette’s music video, “Ironic” as I leaned the entire upper half of my body out the window and vomited on the side of my car, at 70 mph. I threw up so much I popped a blood vessel in my eye. It was red for two weeks.

That is sadly not the last time I have thrown up after drinking with Tom.

A story I have kept to myself

This is a story I’ve never told Tom. In fact, I debated not sharing it at all. But sometimes the stories you are afraid to say are some of the best ones.

Over five years ago, a couple of us went out in Ferndale and had an afterparty at our mutual friends, Joey and Heather’s apartment. Before Uber, without a car, and at 5 AM, I realized I had no ride and no plan on what I was going to do. Saving me, Tom took me home. On the way, he asked if I wanted McDonald’s breakfast and I agreed, looking at him like the brilliant man he was.

Walking down the hallway to his bedroom, my heart began to pound as I panicked over what, if anything, was going to happen. Suddenly, I wondered how I could’ve been so stupid and found myself in a bedroom of a close friend I had never even kissed. Slowly, I entered, surveying the room, before turning around to see Tom standing in the doorway. He smiled at me and said, “Ok, I’m going to sleep in Alex’s room. He’s out of town. I’ll see you in the morning.” Then he closed the door and left me in a room to myself. I have trusted him ever since.

Partying Too Hardy with Tom

Most mornings after a night out with Tom, I woke up with my hair sticking out from all ends, sweating out alcohol, and feeling like death. Meanwhile, Tom would be sipping coffee, reading the morning paper, and asking what we wanted to do today. I would glare at him like the freak of nature he was and ignore his question. The only thing I was doing that day was dying a slow death.

Once, I stood in Tom’s bedroom doorway, half asleep, half drunk. While he brushed his teeth, I talked about how crazy last night was and how lousy I currently felt. When he laughed I looked at him and realized I was talking to his dad, John.

Another morning, I woke up in his basement. As I sat with my head in my hands, I heard someone laugh and clear his throat. I looked up to find John sipping coffee a few feet away. There was a glass of water and a plate of vitamins on the table in front of me.

Later, as Tom drove me home, I calmly asked him to pull over. “You going to throw up?” He asked as he veered into the parking lot of a miniature golf course. “Yup,” I answered, before swinging the door open. When my vomit was pink and tears came out of my eyes, I heard Tom moan, “Oh, you’re rejecting everything.” The lovely vitamins John lent to save me, were now on the pavement in liquid form.

When Tom Met Meredith

That was the last time I saw Tom before he moved to South Carolina. I knew he was going to meet someone there. I told him that before he left. The immense relief I feel that the person he met, is Meredith, is greater than I realized.

For quite some time I was nervous that my friendship with Tom would one day come to an abrupt end. I feared he would be with a woman who wouldn’t understand our dynamic and vow that he would never speak to me again. Seeing Meredith as this matching light of his feels like a giant exhale. Tom has always been this silly, kind man who is somehow now outmatched by his match. Meredith is this breathtaking relief of a woman who mirrors Tom.

At an after party of a wedding, I watched her attempt to save a moth, that our friend, Joey caught first and ate in front of her. She screamed in agony while the rest of us laughed hysterically. Therefore, I didn’t have the heart to tell her I kill bugs on the regular. Well, until now.

Their wedding is this May in Mexico and I am more than delighted to be a guest.

A Simple Thing That Meant More

After South Carolina, Tom was given the opportunity to travel for work, specifically working in Orlando on occasion. On one particular visit, I showed him my new apartment and we got lunch down the street. Except, the only spots available to my new neighborhood was parallel parking. I failed my driver’s test three times, because of parking. Parallel parking wasn’t even part of my exam. To say I am terrible at parallel parking would be an understatement.

While panicking in the driver’s seat, Tom offered to park my car for me. Much to my astonishment, Tom parallel parked my car, from the passenger’s seat. He literally leaned over me, with his left arm, turned the wheel one way and then the other, while I tapped on and off the brake pedal. It was probably one of the best parking jobs I have ever seen and hands down, the most impressive thing I have ever witnessed to date. Furthermore, it is also one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I could have cried.

Happy 30th Tom. I don’t know how we got here so fast, but I’m glad we are here together. Meredith is so sweet she makes my heart hurt.

Please don’t make me puke in Mexico.

Comment below to wish Tom a Happy Birthday too!

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Without a phone for 24 hours Challenge

For two days before this experiment, I thought I was “relaxing,” because I hardly saw or spoke to anyone. In reality, I was just counting in-person interactions. I wasn’t factoring the amount of times I connected with people through my phone. That realization genuinely scared me. As if I was becoming brainwashed by technology or brainwashed into thinking I was one way, when I am in fact, the opposite. 

Even though I can complain about being away from home on work trips, invited to weddings, showers, birthdays, anniversaries, parties, or obligations of some kind, I go because they matter to me. I simply recognize that it can be a sacrifice. I am giving people my time and sometimes my money. I could probably argue I’ve gone broke for the people I love. Somehow I didn’t know that to be true until recently. 

I was lovingly made fun of when I announced I wasn’t going to be on my phone at all for an entire day. As if it were some courageous, noble act. The purpose of the announcement was for my friends and mother to avoid a panic attack when I didn’t answer my phone. While they might’ve been fine without it, I genuinely felt guilt in not letting them know. I can’t figure out what that says about me, but it’s the truth. 

The purpose of the experiment was solely to see what I actually did with my time and how I felt. I wanted to see how important human interaction was or wasn’t to me. I go on and on about how I want to be alone, then sit and stare at a bright screen for attention. It’s absurd. Technology makes my anxiety worse. Staring at bright screens does nothing good for the mind or soul. I need to unplug and genuinely relax. And as a writer, it’s unfortunate that I can only work well in solitude and isolation; yet resist the hell out of it. I truly am, my own worst enemy. 

The morning of this experiment I instantly checked my bank account and email. I lied in bed, not thinking those actions counted. As long as I didn’t go on social media, text, or answer any phone calls, that was fine. Later, I took my dog for a walk, using an app that tracked my distance, while simultaneously listening to music. Afterward, I continued to look at my phone, to check the time. Why I even needed to know the time baffled me. I had nothing to do that day. Time didn’t matter. Yet, I was making mental notes of what I wanted to do with my phone, once I was able to use it again tomorrow. That word slapped me in the face. “Tomorrow.” What about right now? What’s going on in the present? Am I actually living, if I am constantly looking to the future? That was when I put my phone in a bag, in the corner of the room. Then, I opened my journal and wrote this. Which was essentially, the whole point of this experiment. I wanted to see if being present and in my mind would make me write something profound. I don’t think my writing, specifically this piece, lives up to the definition of that word. But yes, basically I wanted to write, and I wanted to write well. That was then. This is now. 

I want to remind you of this. What are you doing right now? What’s going on in the present? Be there now. 

Do you think you could give up your phone for a day? Tell me why or why not. I dare you.

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Women Crush Wednesday: Fit Body Bre

Bre enters the restaurant we decided to meet at with a wide smile on her face and her thick, blonde hair flowing over her shoulders. Upon seeing me she laughs, commenting on the cold Florida weather. It is only 60 degrees outside, but we both are wearing coats we rarely use. She orders the almond butter toast with bananas, and a latte with almond milk and a pump of caramel before we find an available table. She shares her story on what inspired her to become a fitness and wellness coach, as Fit Body Bre.

High School Bre

In high school, Bre was one of the first friends I made. I played sports to socialize, whereas Bre played them to compete. She played volleyball, basketball, and lacrosse. She could’ve run track, but had no interest. Instead, we were on the golf team, goofing off, laughing at our swings, and gushing over our attractive coach. Senior year, she scored both touchdowns for powderpuff football, thus being the only reason we won. So often, I watched Bre sprint from opponents, with her perfect, blonde ponytail swaying rapidly behind her. And each time it never ceased to amaze me. She was someone I was proud to be friends with. Being close to her made me feel cool. Like, hey I might not be the best one on the team, but my friend is. Her Barbie-like appearance contrasted her scrappiness and still does to this day.

Recently, Bre changed her last name, but her maiden name is Fila. I’m a believer in the power of words. (It’s no wonder I’m a Writer). So, it is no coincidence that she has the last name of one of the major athletic companies in the world. She lives up to that brand. She always has.

Looking back on high school, Bre believes she could have gotten a college scholarship to play lacrosse. Except for senior year, the coach we always had left, and the resources to make that happen disappeared with her.

College Bre

Not letting that get her down, Bre continued to play lacrosse on an intramural league. Senior year she heard about tryouts for a lingerie football team. Once she made the cut, it gave her validation and inspiration to move forward athletically. “So many people doubted that I would actually make the team,” she explained. I was shocked to hear her say this until she quickly pointed out that her friends in college, didn’t know her growing up. They didn’t see her for the unstoppable star athlete she truly was. For, Bre didn’t just play sports. She dominated. At that time, “I had to prove myself that I was an athlete,” she said. “People’s doubt is what motivates me.”

It was then that she traded in sports for CrossFit and weight training. With experience as an athlete came the knowledge of scientific factors to enhance fitness goals. Now she helps clients understand HIIT, plyometrics, how to count your macros, the importance of planning and prepping, and so much more.

Auto Show Bre

The thought of becoming a fitness and wellness coach and ultimately, Fit Body Bre, first occurred to her at the beginning of her auto show career. Bre had always been reluctant to open up and was only the center of attention when it came to sports. Now, she was onstage narrating for the Dodge Viper, all over the U.S, alongside other beautiful women. It took her by surprise when these women asked for tips on how to stay fit on the road. These were women she admired, yet they were seeking her guidance while showering her with compliments.

“I was a good balance between healthy living and living it up sometimes.” As someone who also did auto shows, (thanks to Bre’s referral), I also have no idea how she did this. After standing in heels all day, I was exhausted. The only fathomable cure for me was consuming alcohol, indulging in the best local food, and laughing with coworkers. All of which, Bre also did, yet she somehow managed to develop a healthy routine that worked exceptionally well. She was damn good at it too. I can still vividly remember her travel size NutriBullet. That thing went with her everywhere.

I find this part of her story to be most beautiful. In an industry where it would’ve been so easy to compete with one another, we chose to build each other up. Those women helped Bre see herself for the woman that she is. One that is strong, smart, and beautiful.

Bikini Prep Bre

Last year, Bre took on the challenge of her first fitness competition, the Official Florida NPC Bikini Competition. She placed first in her weight group, and is now nationally qualified, allowing her to compete in an even bigger show and potentially become Pro. She is undecided whether or not she wants to return to that stage. Now, her focus lies with her clients and their needs. Still, when Bre does something, she really does it, and she does it well.

This reminds me of a recent time when I joined her at a CycleBar class. If you’re unfamiliar, there are numbered bikes in the room, which are hooked up to a screen at the front, to show the bike rankings. Halfway through the class of about 25 people, my bike number showed up in 11th place. Bre was in 1st. Determined to push myself like Bre always does, I pedaled my hardest until the screen appeared again at the end of the class. I finished in 6th. Bre was still in 1st.

Fit Body Bre

Now, Bre has created multiple fitness challenges for consumers to participate in. A mutual friend of ours from high school, who lives in a different state took on a challenge. She was successful in losing weight and gaining muscle tone. She lost a total of 19 pounds but more importantly, she created a new lifestyle that reminds her to love herself every day.

In the future, the followers of Fit Body Bre can expect more fitness challenges. Young, business professionals working a full-time job, bride-to-be’s, wives, moms, essentially anyone with a busy schedule, can benefit from her coaching.“I want to show them and educate them how to incorporate a healthy lifestyle.” This means balancing workouts, nutrition, indulging in your favorite foods, and going to happy hour, all while striving to reach your fitness goals.

If you’re in the Tampa area, you’re in even better luck. In the future, she plans to bring the gym to you. She can come to your house, with gym supplies and do a one-on-one training session for 30 minutes to an hour. Friends are also welcome. More than that, she can grocery shop, meal prep, and deliver food for you every Sunday.

Bre is just like you. She often questions herself, sometimes struggles to feel support, but works hard to balance personal life and career goals. There have been periods of her life when she wasn’t as fit as she is now, as well as more fit than she is now. As someone who has known her for nearly fifteen years, trust me when I say, she has always been Fit Body Bre. She just never owned that identity until now.

You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram or join her email list. Be sure to check out her website at www.fitbodybre.com.

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The Importance of Being Present

Earlier last year and even into the year prior, I came to the conclusion that I was rarely present. I lived in a different city and felt I wasn’t even taking full advantage of it. When I was asked questions like, “How do you like Chicago?” or “What are your favorite things about Chicago?” I felt like my answers sounded like I was listing off a resume for an interview. I began to ask myself, “Is this my life or what? Who am I? What am I doing?”

There would be days I had off work, particularly in the winter, where I would take a personal day. I’d set everything aside for “me time,” but felt as though I hardly enjoyed it, because I was thinking of other tasks I should’ve been or needed to be doing. For someone who claimed to be exhausted and needed rest, I was a walking contradiction as I worked myself up to the point of inner anxiety. It was as though I forgot how to relax. The entire time I was “relaxing,” I was in my head about something. Something stupid, I might add.

I felt as though there was never enough time. As if I didn’t even know what I was doing or where the time went. I always hoped to be utilizing it properly, but found it rather difficult. I was constantly thinking about what was to come, or what happened in the past that shouldn’t again. Yet by doing so, I wasn’t serving myself or anyone else properly. I was coming to the realization that moments spent in your head, filled with worry and distractions, especially while with your loved ones, are times you don’t get back. They are time wasted.

MegazineTheImportanceOfBeingPresentParents

Falling asleep at night was the only way I found peace. By losing consciousness I was no longer thinking negatively. Whether I was worrying about my career moves, guilting myself for being alone and not hanging out with friends, obsessing over a man who didn’t care, or scolding myself for not being as fit as I imagined for my body. Only to wake up and start the vicious cycle all over again. I began to see how much I exhausted myself and understand, that I truly was my own worst enemy. I knew I was trying, but I also knew I could do better, a lot better.

Thus, I dedicated my time at work to be the most productive, and my time at home to relax. But as my writing process and submitting to agents for my book came to an end, I suddenly felt like I didn’t know what I was supposed to say or do anymore. I felt stuck. Then I understood I should surrender to that. I don’t need to be doing something all the damn time. Waiting is something.

MegazineTheImportanceOfBeingPresentWork

The unknown after Chicago loomed over me. How my job wouldn’t be the same, as well as my environment. Then what would I do?  What was next? I would have months ahead of me to figure this out, but the obsession continued. Until I finally realized, I don’t even know why I care. Why am I worried? I continuously remind myself that I never know where life is going to take me, but I trust and know something will happen, as it always does. After all, I was living in Miami, without Chicago on my radar when the opportunity presented itself. That’s why being present is so important. For life is always changing, mine especially so. It’s impossible to focus on the future, because I genuinely don’t know what it may bring.

Now I appreciate how things take time and those things are based on the choices I make. So, I’m happy I’m trying to make good ones.

Right now for me, I need time to truly focus on myself. Not think I am, or tell people I am, but truly enjoy my time alone, and not in such a way that I’m searching or waiting for something. I’m no longer in a rush to find answers and know everything. I know I have a lot ahead of me and that I’m doing my best.  That’s all I can do. I need to enjoy this time of working on my own. Working on my self, my relationships, and my craft. I have everything I need.

Life is good. I am blessed. I am at peace. I am present. I am here. This is my time. This life is mine and mine alone. Being present is a good feeling.

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Let me know if this resonated with you at all in the comments below! Feel free to share, if so!