Family and Abandonment: An Open Letter

A little back story about this open letter…

I will not be clear throughout this post as to who I am referring to out of respect and privacy for the family.

A few months ago, I received a text that one of my immediate family members passed away due to COVID-19. This was an estranged family member from my mother’s side, one of many estranged members, unfortunately. My abandonment issues run deep. A large amount of my mother’s side of the family turned their backs on me, since a young age. Not all, but a large amount. I think what has bothered me all these years the most is that I had no involvement or control in their reasonings. I did not have a fair chance. And although I cannot say I am exactly disowned, I would consider myself involved in a worse scenario- ignored and forgotten. I am not really acknowledged as a family member. I have no idea where my deceased family member is buried nor was I considered to participate in a remembrance of life. It is bad enough that I have not talked to this person for over 15 years. A lot of pain and resentment sits in my heart.

When I received the news, my reaction was spontaneous.

At first, I was too stunned to give a reaction and for a split second, I felt unbothered due to my lack of connection to this person. Practically a stranger at this point. But rather quickly, the anger set in. Most of my childhood memories involved this person. This person was a big factor in my upbringing. Why was I not enough? How could anyone watch a child grow and be involved in that child’s growth and then just up and leave and never look back? I could never understand it. Ever. The anger set in when I realized I will never have these answers. I decided I was going to confront my family and I had one member, particularly in my mind.

Below is THAT letter. And now months later, I am sharing it with you all:

Hi [name of family member],

Remember this child? Do you know how long it has been since you have spoken to her? Or visited her? Do you even care how she is doing and what she has been up to the past 15 years?

I wish this conversation was more positive but honestly, I was never given a fair chance. You and [name of deceased family member] decided to walk away and stop calling. Somehow you decided that I was not your [relation] anymore. I never did anything to you. I was a child. You three including my mother, are the main reasons I do not know how to form a strong family bond with any of my family members, my father’s side included. The damage your actions have done on me are borderline irreversible. Congratulations. You did one hell of a number on me.

I was informed that [name of deceased] passed away. I am sorry to hear this and offer my condolences. I was heartbroken and resentful when I heard the news. I realized despite being angry and hurt all these years because you both decided to discard me out of your life like I was nothing to you, I still loved her. Crazy, right? So, I think it is time that I am owed an explanation. What did I do to the both of you to make you decide it was best to turn your back on me? You cannot be that cold of a person. It must cross you mind from time to time. Seriously, why? If this year has taught you anything, I hope it has taught you that time is precious and short. Too short to abandon ‘loved ones.’ I want to make it VERY clear that is what you both did to me. So again, why?

I do not even want an apology. I see no point. But if you can do one thing for me, is to please give me an explanation. For my own healing and closure.

Not that you care, but I have done well for myself despite all the toxic damage that I had to grow up with. I have managed to become an intelligent, strong, and compassionate woman. I was able to graduate with my bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I have a career in Human Resources. I am a published writer. I have traveled around the world. I have an amazing fiancé and we plan to marry at the end of this year. And hopefully, God will bless me with a child who I can raise and love the way I have always yearned to be loved by my mother. I can build my own family.

I would be highly surprised if you respond to this but at least I have said my peace. If you do not respond, I wish you the best in life. I hope you come to terms with the mistakes in your life. And I want you to know that it is never too late. It is never too late to try to reconcile with me. It will not be easy and the way I feel, I most likely will not be welcoming at first. But efforts do not go unnoticed. It is never too late. Goodbye.

If you are wondering…

No, I did not send it. Call me a coward or acknowledge that I chose not to for the sake of my own peace, both explanations would be correct. I decided it was healing for me to write it and that was for me alone.

I often find myself wondering if I will ever truly heal from this situation and forgive my family. It is a long, long, strenuous road. You take 5 steps forward, only to take 10 steps back. I may never truly heal from it. I have thought about going to therapy to address it. I honestly feel like I need to. For the sake of my own future child and the generations to follow. Part of my healing process has been finding awareness that a lot of my damage came from my childhood. The generational curses. I am determined for it to end with me. I have no problem carrying that cross if it means that my lineage after me will be filled with love, compassion, and awareness. It is one of my ultimate goals.

You know, reading this letter again after a few months still stings.

So much anger and resentment in the tone. I find myself feeling guilty for being so cold, especially after a death. I feel all my mixed emotions burning in my stomach as I reread the letter. But I know that this is normal. One of the biggest steps of a healing process is truly sitting in your pain and wholeheartedly feel it. I know that brings me a step closer in my journey and I am learning to find peace in that itself. We all have skeletons in our closet. Family traumas that run deep. I happen to be a little more open about it but that does not mean you have to be. Whether you keep it hidden or open, just do yourself the favor and feel it regardless. Do not ignore it. As painful and difficult as it may feel, it is necessary. If you can relate to my situation, I feel for you. You are not alone, and I am sending you so much love. Be kind to yourself. Here’s to healing ❤

PCOS Awareness Month

Don’t be ashamed of your story. It will inspire others.

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September is recognized as PCOS Awareness Month. A rather complex disorder with limited research for its cause and cure, PCOS affects many undiagnosed women.

The awareness of PCOS is not about identifying the disorder but focusing on the advantages of healthy and holistic living, and the impact it has on your quality of life to promote longevity.

I was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 25. A few days before my 25th birthday, a cyst in my ovary ruptured causing extreme pelvic pain and hemorrhaging. I was unaware of what was happening and let it persist until I woke up on my birthday and realized I was forming blood clots. After speaking with my sisters in a state of panic, they told me to go to the ER and so I did. And on my 25th birthday, I spent 5 hours in the ER, received a referral to a GYN and was diagnosed two weeks later after blood work.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a genetic, hormone, metabolic, and reproductive disorder that affects 1-in-10 women. It is known as the leading cause of female infertility. Currently, the cause is unknown and there is no cure for this disorder. With an overproduction of male sex hormones, the common signs and symptoms can destroy any woman’s self-esteem.

common signs and symptoms:

Irregular periods

Excess facial and body hair

Severe acne

Small cysts in ovaries

Insulin Resistance

Anxiety and depression

Infertility

Weight gain

Male pattern hair loss

But wait, there’s more! If the symptoms are not bad enough, the lifelong conditions that may develop from PCOS are even worse.

These conditions include:

Severe anxiety and depression

Obesity

Endometrial cancer

Type 2 diabetes

Liver disease

Cardiovascular disease

But there is good news…

With the proper attention to your overall health, PCOS can be managed and I am living testament of that! Thankfully, my symptoms are not as severe as other women I have come across with the disorder. But this was not always the case. When I was first diagnosed, the main symptoms I suffered from was severe acne and weight gain. The doctor suggested that I start taking birth control and it helped me lose weight, but the acne remained, and the birth control had a ripple effect of new complications, so I decided to stop using it. Instead I started researching other alternative methods. By changing my diet, replacing dairy milk with almond or oat milk, regularly taking vitamins, and creating an active routine of regular exercise, I started noticing positive changes in my symptoms. As for my acne, I am very particular about my skin care routine and have spent years researching my skin type and the appropriate products to use for my acne prone skin.

Here are some ways to manage PCOS naturally:
Change your diet.

Some tips may include eating whole foods, balancing your carbs and protein intake, and eating foods that are natural anti-inflammatories. PS. Dairy is not your friend. It causes major inflammation.

Take your supplements.
Some supplements to consider:

Inositol- may help improve insulin resistance and infertility.

Cinnamon- also may help improve insulin resistance and regulate menstruation

Turmeric- serves as an anti-inflammatory

Maca Root- can boost fertility and libido by balancing hormone levels

Ashwagandha- balances cortisol levels which could improve stress and other symptoms of PCOS

Balanced exercise.

Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight which may alleviate symptoms of PCOS. But too much exercise or strenuous exercise can disrupt your hormones. Some exercises to consider is low impact ones such as yoga, swimming, and light aerobics. High intensity interval training may be helpful as well.

Make sleep a priority.

No sleep = higher stress levels, which is no good for PCOS. Sleep disturbances are more common for women with PCOS, says the woman who could not sleep for 28 straight hours once. To help with this, I have made my sleep routine a priority. I try to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and I try to wind down for bed no later than 8:30 pm (yes, I need that much time). I also take a warm shower beforehand, drink calming tea, and use a salt lamp and a diffuser by my bed. Lastly, no caffeine past 2 pm!!

Stress Reduction.

Reducing stress helps balances cortisol levels, which in turn, helps alleviate PCOS symptoms. Consider nature walks and yoga for reducing your stress levels. Also, there are other alternative methods such as acupuncture and reiki that may help reduce stress levels. Set time aside intentionally for your self-care.

There may not be a cure but with a healthy, balanced lifestyle, you can manage PCOS effectively and live a fulfilling life. But you still may have some questions…

Does PCOS go away?

Unfortunately, no. It is a lifelong condition, even if symptoms lessen over the years.

Can a woman with PCOS get pregnant naturally?

Yes, with proper health and weight management. Plenty of women with PCOS have carried pregnancies successfully and without any fertility treatments.

Can you use laser hair removal for the excessive facial hair?

There is no concrete answer for this one. It helps some women and others spend the money with little results. Laser hair removal may not leave you completely hairless, but it will decrease the amount of hair.

Male pattern hair loss??!

Yes, thinning of the hair will occur. You can try using hair products with black castor oil or adding flaxseed into your diet for the promotion of hair growth.

Does PCOS really cause anxiety and depression?

Absolutely, mainly because this is a hormonal condition. Hormone levels are all out of whack and certain neurotransmitters are blocked. Pair that with the insulin resistance and unstable sugar levels, cue the mood swings, anxiety, and depression. It is a recipe for disaster, trust me. More reason to focus on your physical and mental health.

If you are suffering from PCOS, I hope you found this post useful and informational. If you feel you may have PCOS, please get checked out immediately. It is better to know and find solutions on how to manage it, rather than prolong the effects. And if you would like to use any of the tips above, always, always, ALWAYS check with your physician first. I am not a doctor ya’ll! Sending you all lots of love! If you have any questions regarding this post or suggestions for future topics, don’t be a stranger 😊

Quarantini: 6 Habits to Stir Up during a Quarantine.

“The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead.”.

Marjorie Pay Hinckley

None of us signed up for this…

But here we are. I know there is a thick fog of uncertainty throughout the world. I know it looks grim. I know we are all anxiously anticipating when normalcy will begin to creep back in. For me personally, any glimpse of it would give me hope. And although we must process all emotions that we are currently feeling, acknowledging them, and letting them go, we must also figure out how to make good out of a pretty bad situation. This is how you keep your energy pure during a time like this. This is how you stay spiritually strapped. Also, this is how you start to find the positives in any situation, good or bad.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Ironically enough, the habits I am about to list were much harder for me to achieve when life was ‘busy.’ Before, I often struggled and rarely kept myself accountable for some of these habits. Granted, I am not a fan of this quarantine. I long for a mimosa at an actual restaurant for brunch. I long for the day that the slightest tickle in my throat or obnoxious sneeze is not sent back with burning glares from others. Just for the record, people who suffer from allergies during allergy season (like me) are NOT doing okay right now! Oh, the judgement. Regardless, the situation is here. This is our present and reality. Life continues. We have to continue with it; adapt and accept. So why not use this time to truly reflect, do some internal work, and develop healthy habits as coping mechanisms? To relieve the anxiety. The sadness. The loneliness. The stress. All of it. There’s no better time to start. A lot of distractions have been removed. Take this opportunity to reconnect with yourself.

1. Meditation and/or Stretching.

I could never develop this habit before the quarantine. But now, I find myself doing this every morning. Meditation helps with clearing your mind and energy. It’s a great way to express self-love. It’s an opportunity to cater and nurture yourself. It has become a beloved morning ritual of mine. I wake up and after brushing my teeth, the first thing I head to is my yoga mat. I light my Palo Santo, give gratitude for living another day, and grab my energy crystals. I like to throw on meditation music such as a sound bath with singing bowls, and I really check in with myself. Am I feeling sad? Hopeless? Anxious? Content? Happy? I acknowledge whatever I am feeling and I sit in it for a bit. Then I take three deep breaths and let it go. I begin my stretching and by the second stretch pose, my back cracks EVERY TIME lol…the joys of getting old! Stretching allows me to focus on my breathing. It allows me to start my day with some form of movement. And of course, gets all the knots out. Then I just stay still. I welcome the stillness. A lot of people struggle with this particular part but it is the most nurturing. You start to think of something? That’s ok. Let it go and continue to focus on your stillness. I’ve gotten so dedicated to this habit that most times, I easily do thirty minutes without realizing.

2. Daily Vitamin Intake.

I could never remember to take my vitamins consistently. And as you get older, it becomes more important. Besides your typical multivitamin, I never paid attention to what vitamins I should be taking and well…things are forced to be different now. I need my immune system to be in tip top shape, as I am sure all of you want the same! I am not a doctor in any way, shape, or form, so I won’t list all the vitamins I take and explain the benefits. However, I will tell you some of the vitamins you should consider including in your daily diet: Vitamin C, Garlic extract, and Oil of Oregano extract. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that boosts your immune system. Garlic extract not only prevents colds, but alleviates the symptoms. When you have a cold, this makes your immune system more susceptible to viruses. Oil of Oregano extract has been shown to stop the growth of several kinds of bacteria. All of these are great for your immune health and given the current circumstances, I’m sure this is top priority for many of you.

3. Daily Dose of Sunlight.

Depending on what part of the world you’re in, quarantine orders may be a little more severe than others. If you are able to step outside for a walk, I highly suggest it. There is no better feeling than feeling the warmth of the sun on your face. Sunlight is a natural source of Vitamin D. Research has shown that lower levels of Vitamin D has been linked to depression. This is another habit I have built, courtesy of quarantine life. In the past, the only time I really stepped outside was if I had to go someplace. Before the virus, I was already accustomed to working from home. But now, there is no escape at all. No gym. No in person church service. No Ross…I’m suffering without the restock of my candles! The only time I really get to give myself a break from the house is when I go for my daily walks. If you are unable to step out of the house, then open your windows and let the sunlight shine through. It will still make you happy, I promise 🙂 every ounce counts.

4. Move your Body!

Exercise has been a consistent routine of mine for the past couple of years. However, without being able to go to the gym, I am forced to get creative with my workouts. Although I am not a huge fan of at home workouts, I have been able to incorporate yoga and your standard workout routines such as squats, lunges, sit ups, etc. But my favorite workouts are outside. Sometimes I will go for a light jog. Most times I am climbing the stairs of my apartment complex with buildings that are three stories tall. It allows me to enjoy the scenery while I feel the burn. Not a fan of exercise? That’s ok. Find other ways to get your body moving and your heart rate up. You can take walks, you can dance, you can stretch, jump rope, anything! Find something enjoyable to you and apply it into your daily routine. Put the quarantine snacks away!

5. Pick up a New Hobby.

During this quarantine, a lot of creative platforms are offering several of their services for free. There are many yogis that are offering yoga and meditation sessions virtually (I’ve attended a few on IG Live). There are many online courses with waived fees that allow you to pick up a new skillset (I’ve enrolled in a 4-week Digital Marketing course and a 10-week wellness course offered by Yale…I may be doing too much). There are even artists offering paint classes virtually as well (one in particular that I can think of- @thepaintnetwork on IG; they have been doing weekly affirmation paintings via Zoom). We have an abundance of time that will be spent in our homes, so rather than mindlessly scrolling on social media or binge watching Netflix, you can use this time productively. Perhaps you want to pick up journaling? Go for it! And when all else fails, read a book. I have so many books I have collected over the years that are collecting dust…yes, I neglect reading too, even as a writer. I’m looking forward to cracking them open and getting lost in another reality.

6. Budget your Expenses.

Let’s be transparent. We don’t really know how badly this virus will affect our economy. We are getting glimpses but the reality is, it may get worse before it gets better. Now is not the time to spend your money on anything that is not considered a necessity. Many people are forced to not work because there is no proper care for their children while schools are closed. Many businesses have been forced to shut down. Many people are being laid off. Economically, we are not okay and it is very possible we might hit a recession. And I am not saying this to scare all of you. I’m simply saying this as a notice to prepare. To be completely honest, my household has been impacted economically and it’s definitely a wake up call to evaluate our expenses. Now is the time to save as much money as we can. Be mindful. Be aware. And don’t panic. Make a plan and follow through. These circumstances won’t last forever. It’s just a matter of when we will be able to bounce back.

I hope these tips help you weather the storm in the most positive way that is accessible to you. Do your best to create a routine that works for you and brings you joy. Try to stick to that routine until it becomes the norm. Actively work at it and do your best. During these times, we need to shower ourselves with love. Keep those vibrations high. And remember, that despite the negative that may be taking place in your life, you get to live another day. Some people have not been as fortunate. You have a roof over your head and food in your fridge. Some people can’t say the same. And know, that this too shall pass. Find the silver lining and hold onto it. Sending my love to all of you and pocketing some for myself ❤ Happy Quarantine.

Sex on the First Date: Battle of the Choices

Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other.

Marquis de Sade

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free…

SHUT THE EFF UP. Take your opinions, place those opinions on a spiked bat, and shove the bat up your… *breathes deep* I despise this phrase. Why? First of all, it places ‘price tags’ on women as if we are objects instead of human beings. I believe I speak for all women when I say, we cannot be bought. This is not rent to own. There will be no owning, PERIOD! Second of all, it has placed unnecessary insecurities and shame amongst generations of women. So much so, that several women actually question their worth and wonder if they are relationship worthy. They wonder if men will think any less of them for expressing themselves sexually and allowing intercourse to occur on the first date. And can you blame these women for their insecurities? Slut shaming and other demoralizing ways of attacking a woman’s character has been the norm for decades. Third of all, it has placed rules on an action that comes so naturally to us all, men AND women. Why is it better to wait for date #3 to have sex as opposed to the first date? It’s not like you know that person that much more extensively. It’s still a short amount of time in comparison! Trust me, takes YEARS to fully get to know someone. And having sex on the first date does not mean that you will automatically get ghosted. Yet, these misconceptions continue to focus on repressing female sexuality causing many women to feel confused as to what is considered the ‘right’ thing to do. Don’t get me wrong- I am not advocating that all women should have sex on the first date. However, I feel that every woman is entitled to make this decision without judgment from others.

What constitutes as a date?

Personally, I feel any time that is scheduled with another person one on one with the intent of spending time solely with that person, would be considered a date. Can be as elaborate as making reservations at the top restaurant in town or as simple as Netflix and Chill (although this method makes it super tempting to have sex right away!). Honestly, there’s no rules to this shit. You’re attracted to a person, you make a move to hang out, then 9 times out of 10, it’s a date. But of course, if it is established that the hang out is solely for sex, then consider it a booty call…I guess. Oh, the technicalities.

You think you want to have sex on the first date…

You meet this guy. You both go out to dinner. He’s f**king beautiful. He smells good. His sense of style is on point. Conversation is bomb. He seems genuinely interested in what you have to say. He has ideas, input, SUBSTANCE. The chemistry is unmatched. And by the time the bill comes around and he automatically reaches to pay, you’re hot and heavy and wondering what it’s like under the hood. Go for it! I am a firm believer in energy. If the energy feels right, then why not? More often than not, sex is a strong indicator of the connection between two people. Sex plays an important role within any healthy relationship and allows intimacy to flourish. Making this decision should not diminish your chances of forming a long-term relationship, but only contribute to whether or not you could potentially see a future with this person. As long as the feeling is mutual and consensual, don’t overthink it. It’s all about your own comfort levels. And if you decide to take the plunge, I HIGHLY encourage that you use protection. You may know that the chemistry is amazing but you do not know him. Safe sex is still the wave sis.

You’re against the idea of first date sex…

Honestly, that’s okay too! There are many reasons why women decide not to have sex on a first date. Some women want to get to know the person a little more and build a comfort level before sharing intimacy with them. Some request that their partner get tested before sexual intercourse (smart!). Others feel that sex is enhanced once there are solid, romantic and emotional feelings towards their partners, so they rather wait for that connection. There should not be any form of reverse shaming for deciding to wait either. We are all entitled to making the best decisions for ourselves and our bodies and spirits, dependent on whatever circumstances. This choice should be yours and yours only! If you are not comfortable or have any doubts, then listen to your gut feelings. Deciding not to have sex right away should also not diminish your chances of forming a long lasting relationship.

My stance on having sex on the first date…

I’m totally for it! Every time? No. But there has been certain situations where I felt I connected with my date on so many levels and felt extreme attraction to this person, so I went for it. Most times I did not regret it lol. Other times, I ran for the hills and became Casper- the UNFRIENDLY ghost. Super ghosted. And I NEVER feel ashamed, whatever the outcome. I am a grown woman who enjoys sex. I am in charge of my own emotions and body, and I am fully capable of making decisions that I feel 100% comfortable making. When I made a decision to do so, I practiced safe sex and would regularly get tested. Granted my dating days are long gone now…someone found me worthy *insert upside down smiley face emoji* Just goes to show you, a decision like this won’t ruin your chances of finding love and commitment.

What is your choice?

I am curious to hear from all of you. Calling all ladies! Do you believe in having sex on the first date? What are some of your reasons behind this decision? Or are you completely against it? Why? I would love to hear some male perspectives as well. Do you think less of a woman when she has sex on the first date? Do you automatically label her as someone you are unwilling to form a relationship with? Let’s bridge the gap and start a real conversation about this. Looking forward to all of your feedback and stories. Stay assertive, friends.

For more content, please follow me on Instagram at @ang_meets_soul

30 Things to Let Go of By 30.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

George Eliot

So much life to live…

For a lot of us, approaching 30 is one hell of a scary thought. You’re probably freaking out and obsessing over the assumption that time is running out to reach all of your dreams and goals. How many of you have thought to yourselves “By the time I’m 30, I’m going to be married with children, live in a gorgeous home, have the career of my dreams, and take annual vacations to exotic places with my family.” No? Just me? Fair enough. But I can almost guarantee that the majority of you have set unrealistic goals by the time you reach 30. Or perhaps, they aren’t unrealistic at all, but you feel you have not or may not succeed within your forsaken deadlines. I can understand the anxiety over welcoming a new decade of life. It’s almost like you’ve been walking through life half asleep and received the most disrespectful wake-up call of your existence. Life smacks you upside your head and tries to warn you that you really don’t have as much time as you initially believed. Because that’s the thing about time- it keeps moving. We have to be legitimate adults now, right? However, this does not call for a pity party. I see it two ways: Either you grab life by the horns and go after what you want or you drown in your own misery and worry.

So I hope all of you are in agreement that Option 1 is the ONLY way…

If not, bear with me. Your 30s don’t have to be the nail on your coffin. Believe it or not, your life is not over! You can actually be proactive in ensuring that this next decade of life is not only enjoyable and filled with happiness, but equally productive as well. So before I move forward, take a deep breath. Let go of your avoidance. Grant yourself patience (and me because this is a long read!). And be open-minded of the list I am about to provide you- 30 things to let go of by 30.

1. Your Comfort Zone.

29 was a huge “coming of age” year for me. I went through a massive transformation which included many harsh realizations and heartbreaks. In return, I was pushed…well, dragged (kicking and screaming, by the way) to find the silver linings within it all. One of those silver linings was realizing that I could no longer remain in my comfort zone. Ladies and gentleman, this is why this blog even exists in the first place. Stepping out of my comfort zone has allowed me to become a guest columnist for a local magazine. It has allowed me to be open and vulnerable about my inner demons. It has allowed me to connect with so many others on such a deep, spiritual level. It has even allowed me to attend a company retreat in France and present my article to my colleagues about this very topic. So when I tell you, stepping out of your comfort zone is such an amazing step in the right direction, please believe me.

2. Constant Need to Stay Connected.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in our phones these days. I’m guilty of doing the same, so no shame towards anyone. But at some point, we have to learn how to disconnect. You do not have to post everything you are doing (yes, pictures of your meals for IG are included in this statement) on social media. Cherish some memories for yourself and focus on living in the moment. You do not have to respond to your loved ones’ texts immediately. You do not always have to answer someone’s call right away, or even call back immediately if you are not in the mental space to do so! I personally like to leave my phone on silent at all times and tend to put my phone away from me as I start to wind down in the evening. Why? Well first of all, I get extremely anxious with all the notifications I tend to receive. And second of all, I’m adamant about disconnecting at least a couple of hours per day. It is the best form of self care I can give myself. I’ll read a book or draw a warm bubble bath or sip on a glass of wine while I mindlessly scroll through Netflix and catch up on some shows. The opportunities are endless!

3. Unmet Expectations for Others.

Have any of you read ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz? It’s literally one of the most enlightening books I have ever read. Without giving too many spoilers, one of the agreements is not take anything personally. In a nutshell, what others do is not because of you. You can also think of this on the flipside, that what others do not do is not because of you. This simply means that if someone has fallen short of your expectations, do you truly believe it was done with intent and purpose towards you? How others treat or react towards you is a projection of their reality, not your own. Once you become immune to the actions of others, you release cycles of suffering. It is okay to hold a standard for how you want the people around you to treat you. But to dwell and take it personally, no. This is why I believe expectations of others should be thrown out of the closest window you can find. Seriously…find one now. Wish those people well and keep it moving.

4. Dismissing your Mental Health.

This idea has been a slap to my forehead lately. As much as I advocate for mental health, I am ashamed to admit that I have never been to therapy. And trust me, I’m way overdue for it! Last year became this big, neon sign that kept directing me to focus on my mental health. Slowly, I have been taking the necessary steps. And at 30 years old, I can no longer ignore the issues I seemed to have never got around addressing. Therefore, I am looking into therapy this year and I am nervous, intimidated, and excited, all at the same time. So if you feel that you have been neglecting your mental health, it is never too late to start taking the steps to improve your situation.

5. Horrible Eating Habits.

As important as mental health is, physical health and your overall well being are just as important. Once you hit 30, your body does not operate the same it would have in your teens and twenties. It becomes harder to remain healthy. And so, you have to work harder at maintaining your health. This includes your eating habits. From 30 and on, you become prone to weight and fat gain, high cholesterol, higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, and so on. At this point, you should probably start viewing your body as a temple and become mindful of what you place inside your body. Unfortunately, this may mean no more late night runs to Wendy’s and getting the 4 for 4. Insert sad sigh. Personally, I have been focusing on my eating habits and recently made the decision to become a pescatarian, meaning a diet with no meat and only fish, along with other plant based options. I’m on Day 23; so far, so good.

6. Personal Timelines.

This is our enemy!! It feeds our inner critic and has the audacity to tell us that we are only valued by the work we put out into this world. It’s a lie and we have been conditioned to become slaves to this idea. It is healthy to set goals for yourself. It is healthy to devise a life plan and set out to accomplish it. However, it is NOT healthy to remain shackled to these timelines. Life is a constant rollercoaster and will not always work in your favor. So if you find yourself making certain goals with timelines, and feel that you are not accomplishing them, which in turn provokes feelings of unworthiness, throw the whole timeline away. I’m going to say it again: Your value is not dependent on your work!

7. Unauthenticity.

I cannot stress how important it is to let go of this. It takes way too much energy and effort to pretend to be something you are not. And 9 times out of 10, others will see right through your bullshit. But besides others noticing, imagine the damage you are inflicting on yourself for not being authentic. You may be scared to show your true colors. You may feel judged or misunderstood. But nothing is worse than not remaining true to yourself. Allow others to get to know the ‘real’ you and make their own judgment. If they are not accepting of you, then this simply means that they are just not a part of your tribe, and that’s okay.

8. Procrastination.

Not to alarm you or anything but we’re not getting any younger. What exactly are you waiting for? Want to start a business? Do it. Want to travel overseas? Do it…well, maybe wait until the whole coronavirus is settled. Want to start a new career? Do it. Do everything and anything your heart desires that will bring you closer to achieving your own happiness, autonomy, and success. Procrastination will only hold you back from progressing. There is never a better time than now to do it.

9. Tired Excuses.

I am a stickler when it comes to accountability. This can cover a range of circumstances. Whether it is excuses as to why you cannot do something or excuses to explain how you are not in the wrong. Whatever your excuses and reasoning behind those excuses, just drop it. All this energy that you are exerting for excuses to defend an action of yours, or lack of, could be channeled into motivation for finding a solution for progression. Admitting to yourself that you hold power in the choices you make is a God given right. Sometimes this means you have to look at yourself in the mirror and truly evaluate how you may be contributing to your circumstances. We don’t only have to grow in age, we can grow in our mindset as well.

10. Toxic People.

Dropping these is a whole mood. As you get older, you realize what you are willing to accept and not accept. This includes the people in your life. You will become wiser and more mindful of the energy released around you. And unfortunately, you may recognize that the people you once considered close to you, are toxic blood-sucking demons trying to keep you in a constant space of worry, hurt, and disappointment. Last year, I lost too many ‘friends’ for my comfort. But as I look back and reflect, I have accepted the fact that this was absolutely necessary in order for me to progress in my life. You pay attention hard enough and you will clearly see who has your best interest at heart, who is truly rooting for your success, and who truly values you and respects you for the role you play in their life. Vibes don’t lie, folks. Walk away from these toxic people and send them peace to continue on without you.

11. Acceptance.

It is basic human need to feel connected to others and accepted by all. But if you haven’t realized this by now, you will soon realize that this will not always be the case. Looking for acceptance from others will drag your spirit and keep it stagnant. Here’s a hard pill to swallow: Not everyone will like you. No matter how loving and nurturing you are. No matter how funny or intelligent you are. No matter how beautiful or talented or gifted or successful you are. No matter what you do, some people will just not like you. I’ll let you in on a little secret…has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Sometimes, your spirit will irritate the demons of others, and there is nothing you can do about it. My best piece of advice would be to focus on accepting yourself. There are only two people you have to face and answer to: yourself and God. Everyone else are opinions no one bothered to inquire about.

12. Irresponsible Spending Habits.

Being a responsible, financially stable adult, especially once you enter your 30s, is an important transition in your life. One of the top priorities, in my opinion, is to ensure that you are tucking away money for savings and emergencies. If you are spending ridiculous amounts of money and don’t have at least 1k stacked for a rainy day, please do better. Not for me, for yourself. Now, I do want to clarify, I am focusing on careless spending, not the necessary spending that is poured into your bills. Stop thinking small and spending large amounts of money towards drunken nights, restaurant dates, impulsive clothing buys, etc. You really don’t need a 150k car because it looks good for your image and promotes bragging rights. The compliments are nice but I promise you, at the end of the day, no one really cares what you are driving. Start thinking of a bigger picture- owning your own home, saving for retirement, working towards being debt free. That’s where the real freedom can be found. But of course, if you are spending large amounts of money on the items mentioned above, but can comfortably afford it and are able to save as well, then kudos to you.

13. Avoiding Conflict.

Conflict is inevitable. If you are afraid to address conflict in any area of your life, you are going to experience a difficult time maneuvering throughout your existence. Keeping quiet about what bothers you to keep the peace? Yeah, no. Don’t do it. It will only build resent inside of you until you finally explode because you cannot bear dealing with it anymore. Passive aggressive? Why? Be direct and confident in how you feel and what steps you want to take to resolve the issue. Communicate. Explain. Listen. Be honest. All tools for success in addressing conflict. As you get older, conflict only becomes more difficult to handle. Also, NEVER make assumptions. You cannot truly understand how the opposite party may feel until you ask for clarification. What you might have thought was conflict, was merely a misunderstanding.

14. Lack of Sleep.

Ever heard the phrase “I’ll sleep when I die?” Well, lack of sleep will speed up that process. It is vital to get at least 6 hours of sleep. Anything less than that on a consistent, long term basis will lead to higher risk of disease, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, weight gain, and even depression. Plus, let’s face it. Our 30 year old bodies can’t hang like they used to. Personally, I need a legitimate 48 hours to recover from one night of partying.

15. Over apologizing.

I was a repeat offender of this for a very long time and it is just now that I am being mindful in changing my approach on how often I apologize. I am the type of individual to say sorry if I breath the wrong way and I feel like I’m annoying you. Apologies should not come so frequently that you are doing it every other sentence. Over apologizing can lessen the significance of a sincere apology. If you arrive late to a function and find yourself apologizing, flip it around and instead thank the person for being patient for your arrival and their understanding. Furthermore, stop apologizing for circumstances that does not significantly impact another person’s life negatively. Stop making yourself feel inadequate and feed the need to overcompensate for your unnecessary guilt. In other words, boss up.

16. Destructive Behaviors.

Some of us have created coping mechanisms as an aide for survival, especially during the rough periods of our lives. I hope that all of you are capable of letting these go. Self-reflect, do some soul searching, and try to recognize why you react the way you do. Dig up that pain you had buried for so long. And work on developing healthy coping mechanisms. I hope those of you who take steps to developing healthy coping mechanisms have an amazing support system. Because it is not easy to do alone, nor should you have to feel that you don’t have support in making a positive change for your life. 30 is the year of self-love and care.

17. The Idea that Vulnerability is Weakness.

Being vulnerable and openly emotional is not a sign of weakness. If anything, it is the exact opposite. It takes great amounts of strength to openly express yourself and wear your heart on your sleeve. The idea that this labels a person as weak and overemotional, really upsets me. Not many people have your courage. Not many people have your sympathy and empathy. We have been so desensitized by society that no one knows how to handle authentic feelings anymore. It has become entirely too uncomfortable for the majority of people. And that’s not okay. Don’t bury your feelings. I am here to tell you that some of the most beautiful people I have met in my life proudly expressed themselves and were unapologetic about it. It’s okay to soften that heart of yours and share it with others.

18. Comparison to Others.

Comparison is the thief of joy. I know it may seem at times that everyone else is progressing in their lives and are so blissfully happy, while you remain stagnant and miserable. But honestly, people advertise what they wish to advertise. You never know what demons a person may be fighting behind closed doors. And you want to hear the craziest part? They probably feel the exact way towards you. We’re all so delusional and preoccupied with what other people are doing with their lives. Stop worrying about how the grass appears greener on the other side and learn how to water your own grass to your standards. We are all on different paths. Each designed to our free will and purpose. No need for comparison.

19. Grudges.

Ok, so if I am being completely transparent, have not quite mastered letting go of grudges. But I am aware that letting go of grudges and forgiving others for how they may have wronged you, is purely for the healing of yourself. It is not for the other person. Perhaps this person has tried to apologize but you are so deeply hurt and can’t seem to shake the feeling. Let it go. Let go of the resentment and pain. Keeping it bottled inside of you will not do you any good. Meanwhile the person who wronged you will continue to move on with their lives. Or perhaps, you never received the apology you felt that you deserved. Let it go. Live your life and don’t allow past tragedies to weigh you down.

20. That Job that Makes You Miserable.

Oh, man! I am hella passionate about this one. Once upon a time, I was in a job that did not see value in me. Not as a person, let alone as an employee. And it sucked. Bad. It affected my mental health in more ways than I can list. Everyday I felt like I was walking on eggshells, desperate to keep low and out of sight to avoid ruffling any feathers. But no matter how much I tried to showcase that I was indeed a valued employee, it would backfire and make my work situation that much worse. After a few months, I began feeling inadequate and starting questioning my worth and skill sets. Around this time I decided, I had to make my exit. And it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life! If you are in a similar situation, walk away. I know it is scary. I know you have bills to pay. I know you have a family to support. But if a job is taking such a great toll on you, how are you able to support your family without being in the right state of mind? No job is secure. We’re all dispensable at one point or another. So honestly, you’re not doing anyone any favors by staying in a job that makes you feel this way.

21. Fear of Being Alone.

Nothing is more satisfying than learning how to be content with your own company. Solitude can be one of the top forms of self-love. During your moments alone, you are able to experience introspection. Introspection truly allows you to get to know yourself and share the best version of yourself with others. Learn to find fulfillment and comfort within yourself and not place that responsibility on others.

22. Hating Your Body.

Do you realize how incredibly beautiful you are? Yes, you. Please don’t allow society to convince you otherwise. Those are not imperfections you are looking at. Those are stripes. Stripes and dimples of honor. Your body has carried your soul through life up to this point. And it keeps carrying on. It allows you to keep living. A vessel provided with the opportunity to truly seize life. Take care of your body. Feed it nurturing foods. Thank it for carrying you through life. Be gentle and remind yourself that your body is unique to you, beautiful in its own way. I grew up hating my body. Unfortunately, I was conditioned to think that my body was not only imperfect, it was undesirable. Until one day I realized how much beauty my body carries. Every curve. I hope you all find your own realizations about your body too.

23. Perfectionism.

Say it with me: No one is perfect. Ok, now that we got that out the way, let me provide more insight. Perfectionism creates unrealistic expectations. It will cause unnecessary anxiety. It will cause fears and doubts. Perfectionism will get in your way every time you attempt a new venture. It will prevent you from developing new connects and relationships. Why? Because you will be too preoccupied on how to do it the ‘right’ way rather than throwing yourself in the game. Grant yourself some grace.

24. Taking Things for Granted.

I’m sure most of you know that nothing lasts forever. But are you 100% aware of what this means? Every person, circumstance, situation, blessing, downfall is temporary. Make sure you are holding your loved ones just a little bit tighter and longer. Tell them repeatedly that you love them. Be thankful for the small things, as one day, they will appear as the big things. Express gratitude and let it overpour. Nothing is this life is guaranteed or promised. So while the going gets good, allow the gratitude to take center stage.

25. Control Issues.

For those who know me…don’t come for me! Lol. I am a work in progress, so no… have not quite accomplished this yet. But I am aware and acknowledging I could use improvement in this area and that’s a good first step…right?!! Life has proven to show me how unpredictable and messy it is capable of getting. And each time I am reminded how insane it drives me when I am unable to control a particular situation. So my advice to you would be let go of the reigns and let flow. Don’t cause yourself unnecessary anxiety over something that is out of your power.

26. Doubt.

People will only believe in you as much as you believe in yourself. Law of attraction. What you put out into the universe, it comes back ten-fold. So if you are putting out all of your doubts and insecurities, how could you possibly expect fruits for your labor? It starts with believing in yourself. It starts with putting yourself on a pedestal and becoming your own cheerleader. You are fully capable and worthy, so stop holding yourself back.

27. Lack of Skincare.

Honeeyyyy. When I tell you that beautiful skin will not last forever, please listen to me. 30 is a great age to start incorporating new techniques and products into your skin regime. And if you’re not sure what that looks like, allow me to coach you. Wash your face before bed, ALWAYS! Please don’t leave makeup on from the day and sleep with it through the night. It will cause your skin to age and no one wants premature wrinkles. Exfoliate at least 3 times a week. Get all of those dead skin cells out and allow your skin to feel rejuvenated. Toners are your best friend. I personally like to use witch-hazel because of how natural it is. Face masks are amazing and leave your skin silky smooth. And last, hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE. I like to use a tiny amount of rose hip oil and mix it with my moisturizer. Also, please use sunblock before you go outside or find a moisturizer that includes SPF. You’re welcome (you’ll thank me later).

28. Waiting for the Perfect Moment.

It does not exist. The end.

29. Following Society’s Ideas of How a Relationship Should Be.

What works for your relationship, will not work for others, and vice versa. I think the most perfect example I can think of is Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. They have been married for many decades and have found happy mediums and standards that works for them and their relationship. A lot of their views seem radical to some. But I do have to admit, they seem incredibly healthy and nurturing towards one another. Don’t allow others to meddle in your relationship. As long as the both of you are happy and committed in your relationship, that is all that matters. Tell everyone else to mind their business and kiss your ass!

30. That You Will Never Find Your True Love.

Love has no timelines. Some people are blessed to find their true loves early in life, as others find their true love as they reach their senior years. But both scenarios lead to happiness, so what’s the rush? This does not mean that you are not worthy of finding someone to love you the way you deserve. This does not mean you will never experience what it is like to be in love. And it definitely does not mean that your life won’t feel fulfilled until you find someone. What it does mean is that you have the advantage to truly cater and nurture yourself in the meantime. A preparation stage, if you will. I can almost guarantee that a love you find once you have learned to fully love yourself, is the most gratifying of all.

So, you see, turning 30 is not that bad…

It’s actually pretty exciting and from what I hear, some of the best years to come. Embrace it. Welcome the changes and seasons. Welcome the opportunities to learn and grow. Welcome the light at the end of the tunnel of truly accepting and loving yourself wholeheartedly. Hope everyone is having a wonderful day and if you have any feedback, would love to hear from you!

Check out more content on Instagram at ang_meets_soul ❤

Life After Death: 8 Ways to Cope with Grief During the Holidays

“As long as I live, you will live.”- Unknown

As the temperatures begin to cool and the leaves on the trees begin to change colors, it becomes more evident that the holiday season is quickly approaching us all. Usually a time of year that brings joy to many people, is a painful reminder to those who will not be spending those cherished holidays with their loved ones who have passed. Losing a loved one is never easy, and there are no easy solutions to offer that can heal the pain- only time can do that. And even then, it remains a faded scar engrained in our hearts. However, there are a few tips that will not only help someone to learn how to cope with grief during the holidays but will also allow that person to honor their loved ones during this precious time that comes year after year.

1. Acknowledge that the holidays will be tough without your deceased loved one(s).

Unfortunately, denial will never grant you the opportunity to heal. The first step is acceptance. Mentally prepare yourself for any emotions that may surface during the holidays. Know that it is completely okay to feel this pain; be present in it. It might even help to keep a journal to further explore your emotions and transform your pain into something tangible- to release.

2. Accept that other people may not be grieving with you.

I’m sure this sounds harsh, but it’s a reality. When I lost my baby, all I could do was grieve and then become extremely angry when others did not understand my pain. Please do not do this to yourself. I’m speaking from a survival standpoint. Be mindful that you are valid in your pain, but others may not understand what you are feeling. It is perfectly healthy to lean on another loved one for moral support if you are respectful of the fact that they may not say or do the actions you consider to be the ‘right thing.’ And always say yes to those who offer support or help! It is coming from a loving place.

3. Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one(s) who have passed.

So many times, we focus on the death of someone. We grieve and morn their loss, and this is normal. But it is acceptable to celebrate their life as well. Creating a new tradition not only keeps their memory alive but allows you to continually feel connected to your loved one for years to come.

4. Seek therapy.

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are not okay and need help sorting through those internal issues with a medically trained person. Often, emotions are at an all-time high during the holidays and may not be as easy to ignore compared to the rest of the year. Talk to someone. You deserve to take that load off your back.

5. Visit your loved one’s gravesite.

It sounds depressing, I know. But if you can handle to do this, it might be beneficial. Consider it a way to ‘catch up’ with your loved one. You can tell them about all the amazing things you have experienced this year, your holiday plans, your New Year’s resolutions, and so on. Tell them how much you miss them and are thinking of them. It is also an opportunity to bring a gift for them to leave at their gravesite during the holidays.

6. Join a support group.

Because not everyone may feel the same pain you are experiencing, sometimes it helps to speak with others who can relate. As humans, we have a vital need to connect to others. We crave it. We thrive off it. Not only are you able to vent to others who understand, you may be able to make new, meaningful relationships.

7. Be honest about how you feel.

This tip alone covers so much ground. Be honest about how you are feeling. Be honest with others if you do not want to engage in holiday activities or join others’ events. Be honest about wanting or needing help, someone to talk to. But most importantly, never feel guilty or apologize about your honest emotions! You must heal on your own time, in your own way. Those around you who love and support you will understand, especially considering the circumstances.

8. Remember to enjoy the holidays.

It is easy to become consumed with sadness during the holiday season without your loved one(s). But never forget the foundation of the holiday season- this foundation consists of love and joy. There is so much love and joy to be experienced during the holidays. I encourage you to feel these positive feelings. And once again, do not feel guilty for enjoying this season. Your loved one(s) would have wanted you to do the same. Honor them by celebrating life.

Sending so much love and light to those who are reading this column. For those who felt the need to read this because they are desperate for solutions- solutions to overcome the pain. You are not alone in your grief. You do not have to apologize for loving someone so much that it has completely interrupted your life in the most painful way. But I also want to tell you, that there IS life after death. Life continues; a constant that never stops moving. It is up to you to decide if you want to continue living it and not just existing. I read a beautiful quote while surfing the web that resonated deeply with me and I am hoping it brings comfort to those who need it. An unknown source states, “Perhaps they are not the stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” Your loved one(s) are at peace. With a kind heart and a virtual hug, I urge you to find your peace during this holiday season.

Please follow my IG: ang_meets_soul for more content! Thank you ❤

Guardian of Dreams

“In dreams, we enter a world that is entirely our own.” – Albus Dumbledore

Originating in Native American culture, dreamcatchers has symbolized strength and unity throughout many generations. The purpose of a dreamcatcher is to swing freely above your bed, catching dreams floating by. It is believed that the good dreams know how to pass freely through the dreamcatcher, while the bad dreams get tangled up as if they are insects caught in a spider’s web.

I’m an avid dreamer. My dreams are often vivid and constant. Some nights they make absolutely no sense, as if I’m trying to decipher Morse code. Other nights they are terrifying, causing me to jolt out of my sleep in night sweats. And some nights, they are so comforting that I long to live in the dream world permanently. One of my best friends made me a dreamcatcher as a Christmas gift last year that still hangs over my bed to this day. Earlier this year, I was in a very painful mental space. I wasn’t sleeping. My nightmares haunted me. I often questioned myself…my sanity. I felt as if every layer of skin was being peeled back to expose me. To everyone else, I seemed fine. But internally, waking up each day and participating as a normal citizen in life seemed more difficult than it should have.

I began journaling consistently. I would write down random thoughts, poems, vents, whatever could come to mind. Anything that would allow me some relief and clear my mind. A lot of my journal entries were often sad and filled with pain. The other night, I was looking through my old journal entries. Reading back on them often puts my present into perspective. I came across a journal entry from January 7, 2019. It was one of those sleepless nights. I spent the night sitting in the dark looking up to the dreamcatcher that hung over my bed. It reads:

Dreamcatcher hangs over my bed

Dreamcatcher, work your magic

Catch the unwanted dreams that sink into the depths of my soul

The painful, engrained memories that haunt me when my eyes close

The muffled cries that escape from my mouth and leaves me exposed

The ghosts of nightmare’s past, nightmares I refuse to let go

Dreamcatcher, please do not judge me

Please accept that I am wounded, scarred, and beyond your repair

Please hold my secrets and fears

Please secure them in your netted home

Shower your love and light over me throughout the darkest realms

Dreamcatcher, I am scared

No one has an idea

No one knows that I am darkness itself, disguised as a flower blooming in a field

So you’re wondering what is the purpose of sharing this? To show you that it is okay to be broken. It’s okay to rely on an object for strength. Religion, beliefs. Fantasies, or even magic. Sometimes we need a bit of magic to keep pushing ourselves to carry on. You believe in whatever you need to, as long it’s not self destructive. You see, like a dreamcatcher, we are all connected in our pain. Netted and entangled with our individual problems and situations. And when we realize that we are connected in pain, we become a unity and beacon of hope. We open channels for necessary conversations that will ultimately lead to our healing. We become strength itself. Some nights I find myself awake in the middle of the night, staring at my dreamcatcher. Thanking God, the universe, and my lucky stars that I am not in the same mental space as I was in before. Acknowledging that I still have some work to do within myself, to heal. And on those bad nights that creep up on my every now and then, I close my eyes and vow to release the thoughts to the dreamcatcher, hoping somehow it guides my message to God. Sending all of my love to those who need it and saving some for myself. Happy Tuesday, my beautiful readers!

Feel free to check me out on Instagram: ang_meets_soul for more content ❤

Tips on How to Build a Savings: A Guide to Being a Financially Responsible Adult

Do you often find yourself scraping for coins or wondering where all of your money in your account has gone? Chances are it didn’t disappear- you spent it. And if you have no recollection of what that money was spent towards, then chances are you are not budgeting effectively. As most of us silently exit our twenties, we are faced with the dreaded reality that we are just not in a position to make careless decisions anymore, especially when it comes to finances. Some of us have families to support. Some of us have an overwhelming amount of bills to pay. Some of us aspire to own a home. Whatever the goal may be, it usually requires money. With the way society is currently, cost of living seems to rise in price, but no raise in our salaries to be found. This is where the benefit of savings comes into play.

I know what you’re thinking- HOW? How can you build a savings when you barely have enough to cover the bills? Honestly, it’s more attainable than you think. Here’s how:

1. Process of Elimination:

Many times we don’t realize that some of our monthly expenses are more of a luxury rather than a necessity. Make a list of your expenses and cancel those that are not necessary. For example, that Ipsy bag you invest in monthly is definitely a luxury. By cutting that you automatically have 10 extra dollars to tuck away in savings each month. Paying for a cable bill? DON’T! There are plenty of streaming services that are way cheaper or even free. I personally do not have cable. I have Hulu and Netflix, and whenever I want to watch live tv, there is a free streaming site, ustvgo.tv. You’re welcome.

2. Split Your Paychecks:

This is something I’ve started doing as of last year. I opened a new account in hopes of building a savings that is stored securely. Once I did that, I set my direct deposit to have my net pay transfer into one account (my main one that I use to pay bills) and then designated 10% of my paycheck to transfer into the new account I opened. 10% is what I decided but it can honestly be a smaller percentage as well. Determine what is doable based on your own finances. This has helped me tremendously. Since the transfer is automatic, it’s like I never see the money to begin with. You can’t miss what you do not have. It has trained me to work with the money I do have in my main account, while the money in my other account slowly builds.

3. Cash Stash:

This is similar to splitting your paychecks, just at a smaller and more tangible scale. In addition to having my paychecks split, each paycheck I withdraw $5-$10 and place it in my ‘Cash Stash.’ The money you gain from the ‘Process of Elimination’ step is also perfect for this, by the way. Often, I place this stash in a hidden place in an attempt to hide it from myself. Out of sight, out of mind. Plus, it is always helpful to have easy access to cash in case of an emergency or natural disaster.

4. Acorns are NOT just for squirrels:

For those who are unfamiliar with the Acorns app, it is an app that charges you a monthly subscription and invests that money into multiple stocks within the market. You can set the monthly amount to whatever is most comfortable for your situation (I do $10 a month), and watch the investment grow. You also have the opportunity to do one time investments in addition to the monthly ones. What I like most about this app is the compounded interest and dividends added. Often, this app also has promotional partnerships where you can gain more towards your profit. For example, if you book a flight through CheapOAir through the app, a percentage of your purchase is also invested into your Acorns account. Basically free money! And this app can serve as a savings account. You have the ability to withdraw the money from your account and have it deposited into your bank account. I believe its only a 3 business day process time.

I’m not sure if you’re keeping count, but I have given you 3 different streams of savings… anyways, onto my last tip!

5. Save Your Coins!

It seems simple, right? That’s because it is. My fiancé is constantly dealing with cash and so many times he is left with a bunch of change. I always encourage him to give me the change and drop it into a piggy bank. I keep collecting the change and normally won’t cash it in until we are traveling somewhere. Granted, a fee is associated with Coinstar to convert coins into cash. I’m personally too lazy to go old school, and roll my coins to give to a bank to cash out. However, that is always an option if you don’t want to pay fees. You don’t think that the change adds up, but it really does! The minimum amount I have cashed out is $30. That might be considered a small amount, but that is extra money you did not have before.

I hope you have found this information helpful. I cannot stress enough the importance of handling your finances responsibly. How many of these steps do you think you can start practicing? Are you using any of these tips now? I would love to hear feedback! And of course, if any of you have additional suggestions, I am all ears 🙂 Happy Fri-yay everyone!

Travel Series: Wanderlust takes France

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.” ―Asian Proverb

Whenever I think of France, I think of the city of Paris. Paris was the goal, initially. But you cannot want what you do not know, and all I knew of was Paris. Of course, I would love to see the Eiffel Tower, shimmering in the night sky. However, when a company you work for offers to send you to France to present a topic on one of the articles you’ve written, all expenses paid, you jump on that opportunity! So that’s exactly what I did. I had no idea what to expect, or what part of France we would be. Honestly, I didn’t care. All I knew is that I was grateful to have this opportunity. As a matter of fact, this trip taught me the art of gratitude and the beauty of disconnection. I will admit that this trip was far different than any of the other places I’ve traveled. A pleasant surprise. But more importantly, this trip taught me what it really means to step out of your comfort zone. Ironic- that was the topic I was presenting while in France. I had no idea that I would be pushed even more outside of my comfort zone than I already had prepared myself to do.

Our flight was on a Monday night at 7:45 PM. I was traveling with my manager and her husband. While waiting to board the plane, I overanalyzed my presentation and wondered if it was up to par to present in front of other people, let alone to my colleagues. I wondered if I would remain poise during the presentation. This particular topic meant the world to me because I was currently living it. My life had changed so drastically over the past year, that I am barely recognizable to myself- and it’s great! But still, I wondered if I would be considered ‘good’ enough. I am one of the youngest in the company, so it can be a bit intimidating. Finally, we boarded the plane and I prepared to settle into my seat. After 10 hours, 2 movies, and in and out of the worst sleep I’ve ever endured, we landed in Frankfurt, Germany for our layover. What seemed like a short wait, we then proceeded to board the plane to head to Toulouse, France. So I thought Toulouse would be our final destination, but it was not…in hindsight, now I know why we rented a car. We drove two hours to the small, quaint town of La Salvetat-Peyrales. Way high in the mountains, where civilization is questionable, stores are borderline non existent, with dirt roads lining miles of land, and not one sign of a street light lol. Turns out that one of the big bosses in the company bought a house in France with her husband about 5 years ago after finding it during their honeymoon. Honestly, the house is stunning and very much reminded me of my favorite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. When Belle sung about ‘this poor, provincial town’ she was talking about here. But I do not mean one ounce of disrespect. It is a very simple lifestyle filled with beauty.

The house came with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, an outdoor sitting area overlooking a pool, an upstairs lounge area placed outside of the house, and a family room. Some of us were able to stay here, while the rest of us stayed in a cottage about 15 min. walking distance down the road. I was one of the guests who did not get to stay here, but day in and day out for the next 6 days, we spent the majority of our days here presenting, strategizing, and taking trainings in an attempt to better the company and keep it growing- very cozy and family style. Which speaking of the cottage, I know the country life is not for me for the simple fact that it is way too dark and quiet for my liking. Every night while I was in France, I barely slept because I felt the place was either haunted or there would be some crazed killer out there to get me!

We arrived to the house around 5:00 PM where I met the gracious host for the first time. Between the 6 hour time difference, the long flights, and the long drive over here, I could have used some perking up. And that is when we were greeted with glasses of champagne and wine lol. One thing this trip allowed all of us to do is BOND. And I’m not talking that fake kind of bonding where you try to impress one another and hide all evidence of any flaws. Throughout the trip, we got REAL. And I realized in these moments that I DO NOT work for a conventional company- I loved every minute of it! France has a tradition called apéro which means cocktail hour, served with drinks and small appetizers. We celebrated apéro each day we were there so I ate and drank A LOT. The first night there, while enjoying the cocktail hour outside in their hosting area, I couldn’t believe my surroundings. Candles lit everywhere, a cozy fire burning, and GREAT red wine (I don’t even drink red wine like that unless it’s sweet). Total vineyard vibes.

The next few days we dived straight into work. There was not much sight seeing throughout the week, but in our off hours, we gathered together drinking more wine and champagne, and eating more food lol. This was definitely a social trip, for sure. I was worried I would be pre-judged and stereotyped (which was very possible, since I decided it was perfectly ok to wear my Poetic Justice hoodie with an enlarged picture of Tupac on the front lmao one time for the culture though!) After my experience with my last job, you could say I’m scarred but it was the complete opposite. Everyone was so authentic and encouraged one another to do so. So many jokes and laughs. But anyways, back to the food and drinks!

This is common drink in South France. It smells of black licorice and is definitely an acquired taste. Usually served with one ice cube and diluted with water because it is STRONG. But by all means, if you feeling froggy…

A lot of pork is eaten in France from various hams to salamis to bruschetta. The French also consume a lot of bread, olives, and various vegetables such as tomatoes and lentils. However, all produce has to be in season. Nothing is imported to France, so all produce is locally grown. If it is not in season, it does not exist to eat or sell.

A fig picked from a tree in the host’s backyard

We did venture out to a few restaurants where we ate authentic French food. It was definitely an adventure trying to decipher the menu and then order the items in French lol. Google was my best friend throughout this trip!

We went to a restaurant called L’oustal del Barry. As you can see the portions are much smaller than we are accustomed to in the U.S. However, these are three course meals- appetizer, main entrée, and dessert. Add that with wine and bread and trust me, you’re good and full! I ordered the ravioli, lamb, and a Nutella mousse cake.

When we weren’t going to restaurants, the host was cooking at the house. One of my favorite meals while there was the duck confit. If you’ve never tried duck, you’re doing yourself an injustice. Although I have eaten duck in the U.S before, I never tasted duck so amazing than I did in France.

Duck confit with spinach salad, lentils, and bread…of course!

Another item I tried was unpasteurized cheese…and this is not sold in the U.S. because it is considered unsafe to consume raw milk cheeses. But it is the best tasting cheese you will ever taste in your life!

In France, dessert IS THE LAW. Don’t ever turn down a dessert in a restaurant. I did that once and they looked at me as if I committed a crime. An honorable dessert mention was banoffee, which is basically banana foster pie. SO DELICIOUS…

As the week wrapped up, work slowed down. It was Friday and my presentation was pushed to Saturday due to all of us running behind schedule. In addition, we had to drive two hours to the small village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, where we would tour the Roquefort Caves. Legend has it, that after the Combalou Mountain collapsed and parts of the mountain disintegrated into a giant, chaotic heap of rocks riddled with natural faults and caves. These caves were ingeniously adapted for the purpose of cheese-making. Yes, I said cheese making. Fleurines, which are small tunnels that run throughout the caves makes it the perfect temperature and humidity to develop Roquefort cheese, with the help of microorganisms such as penicillium roqueforti. These caves have been transformed to a cellar that now holds as many as 300,000 loaves of cheese at a time. They had samples of the cheese, in which I tried, but it was a bit too strong tasting for my preference. This cheese is for the brave.

Saturday approached and it was the big day for my presentation. I wish someone could have recorded me or taken pictures. Everyone was so wrapped up in my topic and I had their undivided attention, which is great! My presentation included thought provoking questions that helped others realize the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone. I got amazing feedback and was not mentally prepared AT ALL for how emotional my presentation made everyone. It was a room full of 10 people and not one person was dry eyed. I had stirred something in them emotionally and one by one, they started confessing things they felt they have held themselves back due to staying in their own comfort zones. It became a roundtable discussion with raw and honest answers of circumstances they struggled with. Each one would start crying as they openly became vulnerable and in return, provoked me to cry as well. But it was not until one of my colleagues opened up about her desire to be married with kids. That she felt she held herself back from finding someone to share her life with. That she feels she will spend her life alone. As she approaches her 30th birthday, she feels she has failed in this area of life. And I thought to myself, “maybe she has valid points, or maybe it’s just simply not her time yet.” And in that moment, I felt the need to share a painful truth of my own- the loss of a child. I didn’t share to be pitied. Honestly, it’s been one hell of a journey and I owe it all to my baby in heaven. If it wasn’t for me going through that situation, I would have never had the courage to write again. I would have never had the courage to leave my job and fall into a better one. I would not have the courage to submit my work to a local magazine and score a guest column. I owe everything to my angel. Sometimes, it is just the timing. Sometimes, we need the time and certain situations to happen to force us to learn and grow through. So that’s exactly what I told her. That her time will come, just like it will for me when the timing is right. And then we cried some more lol. I was so raw and vulnerable and yet, somehow poised. I was authentic and I caused others to take a deep look within themselves. Everyone raved so much about my presentation that I caught the attention of the CEO, so that’s an amazing feeling! I don’t want to overkill on this particular highlight of my trip but it was the main purpose of me going to France in the first place. I am just so relieved that not only did I execute it, I connected with my colleagues in ways I could not have imagined having the power to do so. A major accomplishment in my book.

After the presentation (and after we pulled ourselves together lol), we headed into the city of Albi, France for some more sight seeing. Albi was a charming city with streets lined with boutiques and restaurants. It was a nice change to see some civilization lol. We stumbled upon the Sainte-Cecile, a gothic cathedral dating back to 1280. It is considered the largest red-brick cathedral in the world. Every inch of the interior is decorated with extravagant tiles, gold leaf, and frescoes. You can visit the church and attend an audio tour for just 5 euros. It was definitely money well spent. Make sure you click on the slideshow to see inside 🙂

We had a late lunch in the city and continued to browse around in the small shops that paved the cobblestone streets. I was able to snag a cute shot glass that resembled a miniature wine glass, which seemed so perfect coming from France. The trip into the city was short lived and we headed back to the countryside to prepare for our last dinner spent together. We would all leave in the early morning. (Side note: in France, the majority of cars are manual aka stick shift. In order to get your license, you must be able to pass driving a manual before you can even think to be able to drive an automatic).

In the city square of Albi. I couldn’t help but capture this photo of these beautiful flowers splashed with the background of charming architecture.

France was not a typical wanderlust trip for me. I spent more time eating and drinking socially, connecting with my colleagues, and re discovering the importance of being present in the moment and putting my phone down. And in the nights that I spent alone in the cottage, I re discovered the art of solitude. I discovered that I am a force to be reckoned with. That I can stand powerfully in my truth and connect with others through shared pains. I learned that I have a voice. I learned that I never have to doubt myself again. This trip was for the soul. I opened up in ways that I have never allowed myself to before, especially when it comes to coworkers. I always felt I had to keep a certain level of professionalism. To prove that I am competent enough as a minority woman in what tends to be a white privileged corporate America. But the moment I displayed that authenticity, I was applauded. And I will forever carry that beautiful feeling in my heart. You see, often we think the action of traveling is meant to learn about the places we see and yes, to a certain extent that is true. But what about the things you learn about yourself being placed in an unfamiliar environment? I think this realization was my favorite part of this trip, after all ❤

Generational Curses: Forgive us, for we have sinned.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis

What do you consider a generational curse? It’s typically based on ministry teachings that you are able to inherit misfortune based on the sins performed throughout generations in your family. Some examples to consider are depression and other mental illnesses, addictions to drugs and alcohol, marital problems, even incest. Since a child, I was exposed to the majority of these things, particularly on my mom’s side of the family. I would like to put the disclosure that I would never want to disrespect or offend that side of my family. It will never be my intent. However, it’s hard to ignore the circumstances I was exposed to so young. The term ‘generational curse’ has me thinking of the concept of nature vs. nurture. The difference of what is embedded in us since before birth and what has molded us as we continue to grow in life. This is my story. It has no end goal like the majority of my blogs do. I cannot offer advice how to overcome this because I still live with it everyday- I am still figuring it out. But because I remain true to my need to be as vulnerable and raw as possible, not only for my own healing but for others’ as well, I am here to share this part of my life with you.

Since a very young age, I was well aware of what mental illness looks like. I’ve seen it in many of my family members. Cases in which they physically harm themselves to shut the ‘voices’ out. Cases in which they committed suicide. Cases in which sporadic episodes appeared in numerous family parties, frantically trying to make sense of what is taking place in their own mind and body. Heavy alcoholism took place. There had been several times when I saw family members stumbling and unable to hold themselves up. I’ve seen extremes of family members being carried away in stretchers and placed in the ambulance to be treated for alcohol poisoning. I’ve witnessed incest…cousins marrying cousins. And for a while, all of this seemed normal as a child. I honestly knew no better. It never impacted me much…at first. Not until my mother got sick. It hits differently in your own household. Before my mother got sick, my household was a healthy environment. My mother and father were happily married. It was a two person income, I never needed for anything. I was spoiled with all a child desires plus love. My parents had a healthy routine for me and kept me protected from all that a child could be exposed to growing up in Bronx, NY. They laid the foundation for my education, exposed me to libraries and museums, took me to day trips out of the city on the weekends. I say this to elaborate on the fact that despite what I witnessed growing up from other family members, I was pretty sheltered and protected. But then when I was 8 years old, my mother got sick and life became unrecognizable.

My mom suffered from migraines for as long as I could remember. It turns out she had a brain tumor that acted as a ticking time bomb. At 35 years old, she suffered a brain aneurysm, which caused her to suffer from a stroke, which left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. She had to have brain surgery to remove the tumor mass. She stayed in the hospital for two months trying to recover. She became epileptic and will be on medication for the rest of her life. She will never be able to move the fingers on her left hand. She has to wear a sling for support of her left arm because it is literally dead weight. She has to wear a brace on her left leg to be able to walk, and even then, her balance is so unsteady that she has to use a cane as well. As I approach my 30th year on this Earth, 35 doesn’t seem so far away. She was so young and her life changed COMPLETELY. She had to stop working all together. She needed help using the bathroom, bathing, and changing. She was not allowed to be independent anymore because she was no longer capable of doing so. I place myself in her shoes at my current age and honestly, I’d probably become clinically insane. Just like that, so much was taken from her and she had to process and figure out a new way of living. Not to mention, living in constant fear. If she falls and hit her head, she is likely not able to survive that. If she has a seizure and it lasts more than 3 minutes, she can have extensive brain damage. And even with knowing all of this, in my heart, the way our relationship changed for the worse still hurts. My mother was the first person to ever break my heart. And decades later, I’m still trying to come to terms with it.

After suffering the stroke, her behavior changed drastically. She became isolated and paranoid. She started having hallucinations. My dad attempted to help her in any way he could, but her behavior was mean and nasty. He felt we needed a change in pace and scenery, so we moved from NY to MO. My grandfather lived there at the time and my father felt this would be beneficial for my mother. But her episodes only got worse. One time when I was 10 years old, we visited my grandmother in NY. While sleeping in bed with my mother, she woke me up in the middle of the night, hysterical. She accused me of trying to suffocate her in her sleep. She said she saw me on top of her with my hands around her neck. Needless to say, whenever I got around her, she shunned me. Called me all sorts of ugly names, even attempted to physically remove me from her sight. The episodes would come and go. Some days were unbearable and other days were tolerable. You could instantly see the switch between the moods in her eyes. There were nights when she woke me up, told me to help her cover the air vents in our home, because she felt someone placed cameras there to watch our every move. As the years passed by, her behavior became more unusual. Hiding random food items in the cabinets of our bathroom. Some days it was as if she was an empty vessel. Sitting in her beloved rocking chair in the living room, rocking back and forth, staring into the distance. By this point, my father and I were used to not being acknowledged. Sometimes we even preferred it that way because when she did acknowledge us, it was never in a pleasant manner. At this time my dad was kicked out of the room, subjected to sleeping on the couch every night. Eventually, he gave in and purchased a cot to sleep on. My dad would work nights and during those nights, I would lock my bedroom door because I felt unsafe alone with her. This way of life became normal for me…at least I thought. But unfortunately, I began suffering from anxiety attacks at age 11. I experienced full blown depression at the age of 13, particularly after my mother leaving my father and I, moving back to NY. The year to follow, I didn’t hear from her. And honestly, you would think that I would be happier after she left because at least she wasn’t around to treat me the way she did, right? No. Her leaving felt like rejection and abandonment. It was as if she gave up being my mother. To this day, Mother’s Day stings…now for more reasons besides my relationship with my mother…but I have always craved a mother-daughter relationship. I still do and it makes me sad that I will never genuinely experience that.

Sometimes I think that my mother was a product of a generational curse. My heart hurts for her. For me. For us. But then I find myself challenging that idea because in the end, we have the power to determine our reactions despite the obstacles. Over the years, I’ve kept in contact with her. The relationship is not as toxic, but it’s definitely strained. I haven’t completely forgiven her in my heart. I constantly struggle with letting go of what has happened between us. It’s an internal battle because I know she has pushed everyone away and is completely alone, and that thought alone breaks my heart. I don’t know what to do for her because as much as I want to open up and restore that relationship, I am guarded and feel the need to protect myself from her. Time never seemed to heal us. After all these years, it’s still not easy. I can’t cling to the good memories because my heart is flooded with the bad ones. Too much over too many years. It has left me damaged and distrustful. Anxiety and depression is a constant in my life…it makes up the majority of my core because I am conditioned this way. I am proud of where I am today mentally, but the work is never done. I know at some point, the pain will creep up on me again. I told a friend something today that reminded me I am on the right path. I said, “Life is filled with hard times sprinkled with happiness, not the other way around. What has helped me cope is realizing that for every bad moment in my life, a good one follows. I’m always looking forward to that next happy moment.” That’s what it’s all about right? You have to be this constant in an everchanging life. You have to be resilient. You have to fight and be okay with the fact that the fight will never be over. 50 cent said it best, “Death gotta be easy cause life is hard.” Life IS hard. It’s inevitable. But you owe it to yourself to create happiness within you. You owe it to yourself to overcome the obstacles. You owe it to yourself to break generational curses. Perhaps generational curses are not out of your control. Maybe you allow a generational curse to continue because you have been conditioned to do so. Maybe it is simply the concept of nurture. I’ve learned that in some of my darkest times, the most beautiful circumstances appear shortly after. Little specks of happiness within our reach. The question is, are you willing to reach out and grab it?