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 😊

Travel Series: Ang takes Denver!

We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.

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Well…that was a longer break than I anticipated.

But you can’t fight it, you know? When you need to get realigned, your soul and energy will let you know. You don’t feel inspired or motivated… so in other words, a bih was just NOT feeling it! But we can save the story behind this for another blog post.

Let’s focus on the reason I am here today after my long absence. DENVER.

And Denver is everything your imagination can ever dream and more! At least in my opinion. I took a long weekend trip there with my fiancé and best friend a few weeks ago and I came home with all of this inspiration. A drive filled with the need to share my trip with all of you. 🙂

So before I jump into all the details of Denver, let’s address the elephant in the room.

Yes. I traveled during this pandemic. Yes. I practiced all safety precautions. Yes. I value the lives of others.

I understand there are mixed views regarding the pandemic and the level of severity. I respect the opinions of all. I believe it comes down to a matter of choice.

If you do not feel comfortable traveling, that is more than understandable. However, if you would like to travel, my advice is to ALWAYS wear your mask, regularly wash or sanitize your hands, practice social distancing, and always make your best judgement from circumstance to circumstance.

OK, moving on…

Denver, Colorado aka The Mile High City is located on the west coast of America and offers breathtaking views of over 200 mountain peaks. The city earned its nickname because its official elevation is exactly one mile above sea level. But Denver doesn’t only offer scenic routes throughout the city, Denver also offers a thriving art scene along with an abundance of bars and restaurants to satisfy a foodie’s wildest dreams. And as if all of that was not enough, Denver’s weather during the summer is amazing. Cool in the mornings, hotter in the afternoons, and barely any humidity!

Hear are few fun facts about Denver:

  1. There are currently more marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined. holy sheeet
  2. The very first Chipotle restaurant is located in Denver.
  3. Denver has 300 sunny days a year. That’s more than Florida!
  4. The Denver International Airport has been the subject of conspiracy theories since the finalization of construction in 1995.

Speaking of the Denver International Airport…

Some say the airport was built by the New World Order. Others say that it houses the Illuminati Headquarters underground. Conspiracy or not, you cannot overlook the strange murals and sculptures that are assumed to tell stories of the apocalypse.

We attempted to locate one of the infamous statues, The Blue Mustang, which is a 32-foot horse sculpture with glowing red eyes. Many people refer to the sculpture as Blucifer, an acknowledgment to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful due to lack of time and lack of information offered by the employees at the airport. Coincidence? Maybe. But it seems that the affiliates of this airport are poking fun at us all. Just check out the message here. TOTALLY normal, I’m sure.

While at the airport, we picked up our car rental and was more than ready to hit the open road. So originally, I had a whole itinerary because in my mind we only had three days to explore the f**k out of this city. But you know life doesn’t work out like that. Needless to say, by the time we left the airport with our rental, we had already wasted 2.5 hours. *throw the itinerary out of the window* Seriously, just do it. Definitely research dope places to go but don’t become a slave to the itinerary. As ironic as it sounds, time and travel really don’t go together. Time never seems to be on your side and there’s always delays. I never seem to learn! But I digress. Who cares when you have the opportunity to explore a place you have never been before?? And so, Day 1 was freestyled and nothing but great vibes.

DAY 1:

Pike’s Peak

After the airport, we headed to Colorado Springs, which is about 1.5 hour away from Denver. Our first major destination was Pike’s Peak, the highest summit on the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains that offers views from 14,111 feet above ground. Read more on how to explore ‘America’s Mountain’ at https://www.pikes-peak.com/.

To enter, it’s a $15 ticket but the experience itself is worth it. You have the option of driving to the top on your own, driving mid way and taking a shuttle to the top, or hiking it. We opted for the combo of driving and shuttle because honestly going up an altitude that high not only messes with your car, but it messes with your lungs too! If you ever make it to Denver, make sure that you adjust to the change in altitude before you do any physical activity. I had such a tight heaviness in my chest and felt a bit winded until my lungs adjusted. Most importantly, listen to your body. Unfortunately, several people needed medical attention at Pike’s Peak.

The most amazing part of this experience wasn’t the views, surprisingly. Don’t get me wrong, the views are breathtaking and looks like pages ripped from a nature and wilderness magazine. But my absolute favorite part about this experience was the weather change as we went higher up the mountain. On ground level, the temperature was about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. By the time we reached the very peak, the temperature was recorded to be 41 degrees Fahrenheit and began to flurry. Insane! Snowing in July! Definitely a first for us and such a happy moment. The amazement in our eyes and voices as we realized it was snowing. My true inner child came out in that moment and my heart adored every minute of it.

Pike’s Peak is a recommended must see attraction while in Denver but I do have a few tips for you:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to experience Pike’s Peak. As I mentioned earlier, it’s about an 1.5 hour drive from Denver. Once you are there, you want to give yourself plenty of time to drive and stop along the way before the part closes at sunset. We ended up spending 5 hours there.
  • Get all of your footage of the views on the way up to the top. Once you are at the top, there is not much of a view due to construction currently taking place.
  • Layer up for the temperature change. I didn’t properly plan for this at all lol. All I had was a jean jacket and I suffered.
  • Get the donuts. There’s a café and a gift shop at the very top. Seriously, get the donuts. I still don’t understand how their old fashioned donuts tasted so delectable. I mean, it’s old fashioned donuts. I just don’t get it. BUT GET THE DONUTS.
  • Truly soak up the experience. How often do you get to be over 14,00o feet above ground with those kind of views? Be present and grateful.

DAY 2:

Denver Biscuit Company

We had a full, action packed day planned! Did we have enough time? Lol barely. But it was my fiancé’s birthday and I was determined. Our first stop was Denver Biscuit Company located in the Stanley Marketplace. For my fellow 813 peeps, the Stanley Marketplace is kind of like Armature Works. For those who still don’t know what I am talking about, the easiest way I can describe it is as a really dope flea market of local restaurants and shops.

The Denver Biscuit Company has many great reviews and is often referred to Top 10 best in the area for serving size and taste. The restaurant claims that the secret to their biscuits is love…and LOTS of butter. And they did not disappoint! Definitely come hungry. Beyond worth it and highly recommended. I ordered the shrimp and grits in a biscuit bowl [enter drooling emoji here].

See what the hype is about at https://atomiccowboy.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Stanley-MainMenu-1.pdf.

The International Church of Cannabis

After one of the best breakfast experiences of our life, we headed to another highly anticipated attraction, The International Church of Cannabis. No pun intended. After a bit of research, I quickly realized why this is such a popular tourist attraction and it’s not the obvious reason. This church is aesthetically and visually appealing as its décor focuses on the power of color theory and color therapy. While visiting, we were told that the artist, Okuda San Miguel painted the gorgeous murals inside of the church in 5 days!!! I can’t even imagine that level of dedication!

In addition to the many displays of art inspo, the church offers a guided meditation and laser light show that was really cool to experience. The meditation and light show costs $25 and gives you a full power hour of awesomeness. Feel free to check out more details at https://elevationists.org/.

The International Church of Cannabis have stated that an individual’s spiritual journey, and search for meaning, is one of self-discovery accelerated by the way of ritual and mindful cannabis use. The members of this church are known as Elevationists. Because Elevationism claims no divine law or authoritarian structure, all backgrounds and religions are welcomed with open arms. At your visit, you will not be given anything for cannabis use. The church likes to remain as family friendly as possible so the kiddos can join in on the fun of the meditation and light show as well.

Denver Selfie Museum

After our visit at the International Church of Cannabis, we headed to the Airbnb to freshen up before we went to our next attraction on the list, the Denver Selfie Museum. This was definitely the highlight of the day! As the first and only Instagram pop up museum in Denver, this place offers a selfie adventure like one never experienced before. For a $29 dollar ticket, you can access every corner of the museum that is covered in art, murals, and props for the ultimate selfie. Such a dope concept! 10/10, strongly recommended to visit if you’re ever in the Denver area.

Check out more at https://denverselfiemuseum.com/.

Punch Bowl Social

After the selfie museum, we were way overdue to grab a bite and after a bit of google searching, we came across this gem of a restaurant. Punch Bowl Social offers a scratch-kitchen menu and pairs with a fun zone of entertainment options such as bowling, life size Jenga, pool, karaoke, and old school arcade games. Due to COVID-19, they current offer outside seating only. In my humble opinion, their menu is limited. But then again, I am a pescatarian so that limits the options for me regardless. However, I opted for the shrimp tacos and they were pretty delicious. But my absolute favorite thing I tried on their menu was their Buffalo fries!

Check out the vibes at https://punchbowlsocial.com/location/denver.

Sweet Action Ice Cream

There is ALWAYS room for dessert. If you have a sweet tooth like my best friend and I, there is an ice cream shop a couple of blocks from Punch Bowl Social called Sweet Action Ice Cream. We decided to walk there after our meal. The staff are extremely sweet…again, no pun intended…and vegan options are available. With flavors varying from Stranahan’s Whiskey Brickle to Vietnamese Coffee, there is a flavor to satisfy the most eccentric taste buds. Beware of the double scoop though, it’s A LOT more to take on than you think. See what other flavors that may satisfy your cravings at https://sweetaction.com/. No pictures for this one…I was too busy stuffing my face.

DAY 3:

And so, we are on our final day in Denver! Are you guys still with me? Good. The goal for Day 3 was really about visiting as many establishments as we could, mainly to kill time. We checked out of our Airbnb around 10am but our flight was not until midnight. A full day with an ample amount of opportunities to explore. *swoon*

Snooze, an A.M. Eatery

The Mecca of Breakfast. And to think we almost didn’t make it here. We were running a little behind schedule and after finding Snooze as a breakfast option, we quickly found out just how popular this restaurant is. Please anticipate a minimum of an hour wait if you ever come here. I think the main reason for such a long wait is because they are ensuring they do not reach maximum capacity for proper social distancing (which honestly, kudos to them) and the fact that they do not allow reservations. First come, first serve basis.

We put our names on the waiting list and debated if we should actually wait. We decided no. We found another restaurant 7 minutes down the road called Syrup and placed our names on their waiting list. We were told that it was a wait of about 25 minutes. We ordered coffee and mimosas in the meantime. But 25 minutes turned into 40 minutes and before we knew it, we were receiving a text from Snooze saying that our table was ready. It was a no brainer. We ran to the car and drove straight there as we received threats of losing our spot. But we made it! And OMG, how disappointing would it have been if we did? Cause the food is BOMB.

The bestie and I always like to eat off of each other’s plates, so we strategized what we would order. We decided she would get the OMG! French Toast and I would get the Smashed Avocado Benny, along wit Abri-ca-lav-ra Mimosas to wash it all down. The most satisfying. Delicious. Scrumptious. Love of a meal that I have ever tasted, I could cry. Don’t believe me? Check out the menu here at https://www.snoozeeatery.com/food-menu/. You’re welcome.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Located in Morrison, a city just 30 minutes outside of Denver, lies a concert venue and a park wrapped in one! Here, you can see the celebrity stars and the physical ones with views surrounding you, enhancing your experience all at once. You can either purchase event tickets or you can take the cheap route (like I did) and visit the venue during daylight hours before concert operations commence. And it won’t cost you a penny, only your time. 738 acres of land and an elevation of 6,450 ft. above ground, be sure to fully immerse yourself in the rich, reddish tint of the naturally formed statues that fills the park throughout. It truly is beautiful and a great attraction to add to your field trip while in Denver.

Want more footage of the views? Check out some live cam footage here at https://www.redrocksonline.com/explore-red-rocks/live-cam/.

MCA Denver- The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

After Red Rocks, we headed to the downtown area of Denver to dive into some much needed art and culture by visiting MCA Denver. By the way, they offer free weekend access to all guests. Helloooo. Again, a no brainer. Nari Ward, a New York based artist and whose work is featured in the museum, creates his art composed of found objects from his neighborhood. With these, he highlights issues related to consumer culture, poverty, and race. We encountered so many deep and meaningful installations as we wandered the museum for 2 hours, digesting what our eyes have set upon.

If you’re ever in the downtown area, be sure to swing by their website and grab a few weekend access tickets at https://mcadenver.org/visit/tickets.

RiNo Art District

After the museum, we headed to the thriving art district of Denver. Listen…So. Much. Art. EVERYWHERE. And along with the colorful, eccentric art splashed across the walls of the buildings and streets, you will find the trendiest restaurants, breweries, and bars. It’s hard not to fall in love with this lively area that offers an escape from reality along with encountering the friendliest people you will ever meet.

Here are a few honorable mentions in the area:

The Preservery

We briefly passed by this establishment as we further explored the art district, mainly because they were closed by the time we arrived. However, the staff was so incredibly friendly and offered suggestions of bars and restaurants to visit in the area. Also, they allowed us to hang out and grab a few pictures of the urban aesthetics that seemed to cover every inch of their walls.

Want to find out more info? Check it out at https://thepreservery.com/our-space.

Lustre Pearl Denver

Ici tout est bon. “Here, everything is good.” Definitely one of our favorite bars in the area! It’s seriously a whole vibe. From the aesthetics to the drink selection, to the music that blasts into the street, to the laid back and conversational staff, it’s pretty hard not to have a good time here. We enjoyed our time so much here that as the day started to wrap up before our departure, we came back to soak up the good energy before our long flight. We didn’t eat there but I made sure to load up on the Asher Skye drinks; yum.

What drink would you choose? https://lustrepearldenver.com/drink

Dio Mio

You guyssss. I have never tasted pasta so good. I’m not even exaggerating. It was cooked al dente and everything! And I think what shocks me the most about this place, is that you wouldn’t expect a counter service pasta restaurant to be that good. BUT IT IS. Dio Mio offers a relaxed atmosphere paired with traditional pasta meals that are explosive with fresh ingredients. The portions are huge as well so you get plenty of bang for your buck. I ordered corn fritters for an appetizer and Cacio e Pepe for the main course, which is basically an alfredo pasta dish. My takeaway? Pasta heaven.

Are you a foodie who likes to read the ingredients of the meals, like me? Here, let me help you- http://www.diomiopasta.com/dinner-menu.

And so, our trip came to an end 😦

But the experiences I shared with my fiancé and best friend in this beautiful city, will forever be cherished in my heart. So many laughs, epiphanies, and great conversations, all shared while basking in the aura Denver shares with its local residents and tourists.

If I could summarize this trip in a single moment, it would be the moment as we were driving up Pike’s Peak. Teyana Taylor’s song, “We Got Love” was playing in the background and as the song began to finish, an audio clip started playing…

A lot of people define success differently

You know, for me, you can have everything

You can have all the money in the world

But if it’s not enjoyable, if it’s not sustainable, know what I mean?

If you can’t be a person of integrity while having all of these things

What does it matter? What does it mean?

The value is internal

Your value is internal

Ms. Lauryn Hill

And for a brief moment, I teared up, filled with the upmost gratitude for where I was at the moment, with two of the most important and meaningful people in my life. I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip! It’s good to be back writing for you all and can’t wait to hear your thoughts ❤

An Open Letter to a Single Father: Thank you, Papi.

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.

Jim Valvano

You know, it is truly difficult to put into words how appreciative I am of you.

I will never have enough words. Enough gratitude. Enough love to truly express how valued and respected you are.

Papi…I know I don’t always tell you. I know I don’t keep in touch as often as I should. Or visit more. I know I should do more. You are allotted a certain amount of time on this Earth and it seems like life is constantly moving way too fast. I promise I will work on that.

I know I don’t always tell you, but you are on my mind at least once a day. I know I don’t always tell you, but I pray for your safety and health. I know I don’t always tell you, but I beam when I tell others the story of how my father, a single father, raised one hell of a daughter since the age of 13. I know I don’t always tell you, but you are my hero. You truly are. I am not sure how I would have turned out if you did not play such a critical part in my upbringing. I should tell you more.

Not many people know this story…

but it is the story of our lives and I find myself replaying certain events when I reminisce. I don’t think anyone will truly understand the weight of your sacrifices to raise me on your own. All that we went through together. It was you and me, against the world. I can’t help but tear up as I write this. I owe you everything plus so much more.

Some people may hear this story and feel pity and sympathy. But at my current age, as I reflect on what has taken place decades ago, I do not feel pity nor sympathy. Because I feel this is a story of triumph. And although the story saddens me from time to time, I truly feel it has built me into the person I am today; a reflection of you, a reflection of everlasting resilience. And I pride myself on that every single day.

Nothing could have prepared us for my mother falling ill. Nothing could have prepared us for the very core of the person we previously knew her to be would change. Those years you stuck around when she was probably the most difficult person on Earth to deal with. The years I watched you pull the sleeping cot out of the closet and set it up in the living room every night. She really tried to make your life hell…our lives, I should say. She was not the same mother or wife. For years, I was terrified of her. She continuously pushed you away and you still stayed…until she left.

We were forced to pick up the broken pieces and revise the version of life we have become accustomed to.

I know that was not easy for you. I know that some days you wondered how you can provide for me. Nights you stayed awake racking your brain. The tears spilt from trying to repair a broken home. We moved into a one-bedroom apartment and you gave me the bedroom. You worked full time, yet your presence in the household never lacked. Your guidance never lacked. Your love never lacked. I never went without, ever. Every morning and evening, breakfast and dinner was made. Every homecoming and prom, you provided. You kept a close eye on me, to keep me safe. And although I felt you were overbearing during my teenage years, you never stopped me from having a social life. I just had to abide by your rules. Too many gestures over the years to name. But I remember it all vividly and because of that, I will always be thankful for being blessed with a father such as yourself. You are truly a God sent man.

Not many people know this, but I am positive that my skill of writing came from you.

I am not even sure if you know that I am a writer because I have never directly told you. This is probably the first piece of mine you have ever read…NO PRESSURE, right? I remember the time you would spend on your poems. I still question how you were able to fill up pages; I struggle filling even one page of poetry. I remember you would translate them into Spanish and English.

But writing is not the only trait I have inherited from you. I have inherited your strength. Your common sense, a term I heard frequently throughout the years. I pride myself on being resilient, but I am sure that comes from you as well. I have DEFINITELY inherited your ‘no bullshit’ attitude and mouth LOL. I question everything because you taught me to. I stand up for what I believe in because you taught me to. I do not back down. I stand my ground because you taught me to. I am honest about the good, bad, and the ugly…because you taught me to. You taught me the importance of humility and humanity. You taught me the importance of hard work, that nothing comes in this life easy or free. You taught me that the concept of gender norms is ridiculous because not only women should hold the responsibility of cooking and household chores. You taught me that the worship of God can take place in your very home, a difference between religion and spirituality. But most importantly, you taught me the importance of maneuvering through life with love, dignity, and morale. My level of respect and standards are placed on a pedestal because you taught me from a very young age that I deserved nothing less of that.

So, you see, I turned out pretty great and it is because of you. You did an amazing job and you have very big shoes to fill for fathers to come. I love you, forever and always. I can never repay you. Thank you. Happy Father’s Day. ❤

Author’s Note:

I feel fathers get a bad rep. Many people expect a father to be dead beat, absent, or clueless when it comes to parenting. Maybe the majority of broken homes have shown this. But in my case, it was far different. My mother left and my father handled this ‘single father’ thing like a champ. I felt it was important to shine light on this. For the fathers that are active and present in the parenting of their children, whether it’s co-parenting, in a happy home, or single, I see you. You are appreciated. Enjoy this day, King. You deserve the love and recognition as well.

Land of the Free?

“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”

Kofi Annan

I have debated heavily with myself…

as to whether or not I should write about this sensitive yet very important topic.

Not because I am blind to what is taking place, or scared. I often wonder if I am credible enough to write about this. I would never want anything I say about this topic to be misconstrued. I would never want to appear as uneducated or ignorant. I would never want to offend anyone who is greatly impacted by the disgusting hate crimes displayed in our country.

As I watch what is taking place, more recently with the MURDERS of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, I can no longer remain silent. And I hope that my voice makes a positive impact in a way that it educates the ignorant and supports the oppressed. To the Black community: I hope you read this and know that not only do you have an ally in me but a friend and a confidant as well. To the people of color who are not Black and to the White community: I hope when you read this, you feel so uncomfortable that you have no choice but to no longer ignore what has been taking place and decide to stand up and support those who need us.

I am a Hispanic woman, Puerto Rican specifically.

I am in an interracial relationship with a Black man. We are soon to be married next year. My soon to be step daughter is a young Black woman growing up and witnessing this oppression. My nephews who are half Black will be faced with the harsh realization of what it means to be Black in this country. My future child will also be a target. And although African roots run deeply in my heritage, I refuse to overlook the fact that because my skin is considerably fair, I do hold privilege in America.

You see, as a Hispanic woman, I have encountered racism to a small extent. Racial slurs and stereotypes have been thrown at me like daggers. And yes, it is hurtful. But I have NEVER been physically assaulted without a just cause. I have NEVER been randomly pulled over by law enforcement just because I look ‘suspicious.’ I have NEVER had to fear that my life would be taken because of the color of my skin. And THESE reasons is why I refuse to be blind to my privilege in America. Because of THIS, I will use my privilege to advocate and stand up for the Black community.

I have seen the hashtags #AllLivesMatter splattered on social media like sloppy ink blots. I can assume the people posting it have no malicious intent (although, I do have to be honest- I can assume, but cannot confirm). I’ve witnessed the debates as to why this statement is defended. How one race is not superior to the others. How all lives should matter. Yes…it should matter but it does not.

I have witnessed the hurtful and ignorant comments. The judgements placed on the lootings and protests that have been occurring. I have witnessed the silence. The hesitation to speak up. Speak out. To support our Black people. I am not here to pass judgement on you. Only you know why you are choosing to respond in the way that you do. Maybe your support is silent and through prayer. And that’s okay too. But if the current state of our country…the racial divide, the tension, the pain, the anger, all of it…if this does not shake and rattle the very core of your being, you have some serious digging and self reflection to do.

Let me put this into perspective for you…

For centuries, Black people have endured various forms of slavery. They have endured violence. They have endured the pain of loved ones taken mercilessly away by the hands of White supremacists. Their rights are constantly stripped away in some form. And you may think this went away once segregation did, but it has not. Even when the Black people were declared ‘free,’ they are still being passed for jobs they are more deserving of. They are still misjudged by their appearance. They are still wrongfully accused for crimes they did not commit. And they are DYING on OUR streets in OUR country by the hands of those who are supposed to be protecting the people of this country. They do not have the privilege of innocent until proven guilty. And to add insult to injury, despite many efforts to remain quiet, compliant, and peaceful, once they can no longer do this because of the complete disregard this country continues to show towards these people, they are labeled as thugs, a danger to this society. So let me ask you this, is it really All Lives Matter? Are Black lives included in this?! I would really like to know.

Black Lives Matter is a movement. It’s a stand that says, “I am here for my Black brothers and sisters. I see your pain. Your struggles. The adversity. The injustice. And IT IS NOT OKAY. Change has to happen.” This movement does not take away from the lives of the other races. It is an acknowledgement that Black people have always been and continue to be at a major disadvantage than the rest of us. It’s acknowledging that the Black community needs our support. They should no longer carry this burden alone. THIS IS OUR BURDEN. They are valuable to our country. They need air to breathe. They bleed the same. The color of their skin should not be considered a crime in a country that claims Land of the Free. We must help to ensure that the Black race are given the proper love, respect, rights and LIFE that they deserve. This is a fight for humanity.

Until Black lives matter, all lives do not matter. Actions have to show that they are inclusive in this. And in the year 2020, it is obvious that they are not. We have failed them as a country. So I’m sorry, you cannot convince me otherwise. It is blatantly and disgustingly obvious.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Beautiful Black people:

Who have contributed immensely to build this country on your very own backs, who have fought in our wars, who have evolved and transformed our culture, one of the most resilient groups of people I have ever laid my eyes on- I see you. I hear you. I value and respect you. I love you all so much. You have my full support. And I am so so sorry that you were never given a fair chance in excelling in this country. You have to work twice as hard just to receive the same chances as others. You are so powerful that a country is so adamant about eliminating your very existence. That speaks volumes. We’re way overdue for a change. This has to stop. Let’s all be a part of that change. The solution and not the problem.

Praying for America. Be safe and walk with love, purpose, dignity, and with your head held high.

With sadness in my heart,

How to Manifest Your Goals: Reflections and Tips

Author’s Note:

This is my first collaboration post with fellow blogger, Harumi!

It’s been such a cool and easy going experience working with her, as we bounced ideas around to create this post about manifesting your goals. We truly hope you enjoy it!

Intro: Power of Manifestations

Angie:

So what is manifestation, you ask? The Webster dictionary defines manifestation as “one of the forms that something has when it appears or occurs” or “a perceptible, outward, or visible expression.” However, speaking from personal experience, to manifest is to create. Therefore, a manifestation is your creation. Something that you bring to your physical life by the power of your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Every person has the magical ability and power to manifest.

Harumi:

Manifestation. This used to be a big and scary word to me. Probably because as a high schooler, I had very little idea of what I wanted to do next. Graduate, get a job, get married? Was that the narrative I was supposed to follow? I had no clue. But in came new experiences, new environments, new people and with that the concept of manifestation became much more clear. A fellow blogger and friend of mine, Angie, defined manifestation as “something that you bring to your physical life by the power of your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings.” Today Angie and I will be describing our personal experiences with manifestation and our tips on how to manifest your goals!

Personal Experiences

Harumi:

When I was in college, I had a lot of anxiety surrounding what my future was going to look like. What kind of job would I do? Would I be motivated to maintain a job? What would I be doing in 5 years? I knew that I wanted to work in the special needs, but with the little work experience I had under my belt and lack of education in special education, would I even be able to land a job?? 

Once I was done with schooling, I said to myself that I was done with being afraid of my future. I was going to manifest a job in special needs! 

I started with extensive research, worked on my resume, checked the common qualifications and took opportunities that would make me more qualified, filled out multiple applications a day, and then I waited. Suddenly, there was a pouring of e-mails and phone calls. People actually wanted to interview me! From there, I had back to back interviews and soon it was time for me to make a decision between four companies. And though the decision was difficult, I was astounded that I did what I set out to do. I manifested a job!  Fast Forward to a few years later, I am still working in ABA therapy and I am so grateful for everything I’ve learned and experienced.

Angie:

Never did I picture myself landing a career in Human Resources…I have a BA in Psychology. During college, I worked for a small medical clinic as an Administrative Assistant. Fast forward 4 years later and I am the sole person in the Human Resources Department. Please know that I use the term ‘department’ VERY loosely because before me, there was no Human Resources! And although I loved my job and the clinic, I was underpaid with very limited benefits.

I began to feel that I have outgrown my position. Upon discovering that I would never progress with the clinic, I decided it was time to spread my wings. It was time to apply to positions that challenged me and offered room for growth.

I still have the notebook entry. I specifically wrote “Between July-August, I will get a higher paying job with better benefits.” Job hunting mode in full force! I landed an interview with The Women’s Tennis Association and got the job. An increase in annual salary by $7,000. A very generous vacation and sick time package and affordable and comprehensive benefits. My start date was August 27, 2018.

Although I no longer work for the company, I am grateful for the experience because it has led me to my current position and company, in which I have an even higher salary and more generous benefits. To know that I created this opportunity for myself, makes it even more gratifying. UPDATE: I just received a promotion!!

How to Manifest Your Goals:

WRITE IT DOWN

When you write a goal down, it becomes more tangible! I’ve written goals in a journal and put little notes in my hopes/dreams box, but if writing isn’t your thing, you can always create a vision board too!

BE VERY SPECIFIC

When writing your manifestation, you want to ensure that you are writing clear and detailed specifics about your manifestation. What exactly do you want? Is there a timeframe? Vague manifestations can turn into a reality you did not really desire.  

RESEARCH

Put any uncertainties to rest. By researching, you’ll gain a better understanding of what steps you need to take toward your goal.

TIME

Time plays a major part in the journey. It’s important to recognize that sometimes things don’t come instantaneously. This concept can easily be applied to anything we try to manifest, whether that be a job, saving up for a vacation, graduating from school, etc.

PUT YOUR BACK IN IT

Making dreams happen takes a lot of heavy lifting. It means putting in the effort and work, even when challenges arise.

BREAK IT DOWN INTO STEPS

I find that whenever I look at an entire project or a task with multiple steps, I become overwhelmed. Try breaking down your manifestation and recognizing that each step matters no matter how small. 

DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP

We all know how critical we can be when it comes to ourselves. I’ve bullied myself plenty of times. But that’s not mentally healthy or productive. Acknowledge that what you’re doing now is enough!

INTENT IS EVERYTHING

I am a firm believer that whatever you put into the universe, you get back tenfold. ENERGY. Believe that this manifestation will happen! If you have any feelings of failure, failure is what is presented. I’ve been guilty of this and quickly recognized I needed to change my intent. 

Conclusion

Harumi:

Those were some of our experiences and tips on manifestation. It’s an optimistic perspective and yes, there may be hardships while trying to achieve a major goal. So acknowledge the challenges, ask yourself if this is really what you want, and put down those stepping stones towards your aspirations. 

Angie:

Further to what Harumi stated above, the power of your manifestation is truly in your hands. Think about it. Feel it. Believe it. Then watch it come to life! 

Still not a believer of manifestations? Well there’s only one way to find out…give it a try and be sure to let us know the outcome. And if you are familiar with manifestations, what additional tips would you offer to those who are not familiar? Any personal experiences you would like to share? We would love to hear from you all!

With love,

Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Pexels.com

Meet Harumi

A lifestyle and mental health blogger, Harumi has only been blogging for a month and a half. In such a short amount of time, she has made amazing strides in growing her audience, enhancing her site, and connecting with other bloggers. I see great things happening in her blogging future! When I asked what was the purpose of her blog, she stated, “My mission with my blog is to talk about hardships I’ve faced, heal and let go, share guidance to anyone who has gone through similar circumstances, and create a discussion.” Don’t be a stranger and make sure you show some love to her site at https://lifelivedcandidly.com/!

It’s My 1 Year Anniversary!

It’s been one full year…

On April 4, 2019, I released my first blog post ever on my newly created site. I remember how nervous I felt hitting the ‘Publish’ button.

What if I was judged by what I wrote? What if this was all a waste of time? Not to mention how amateur my site looked! For those of you who have been a part of my journey from the very beginning, you know what I’m talking about! That ugly salmon color background with my childish fonts lol it’s definitely been quite the journey.

I am so proud of how far I have gotten within the past year. I took a chance and did something completely out of my character. I finally pushed myself out of my own comfort zone. Not only does it cause for celebration, it also causes for reflection on the past year. Reflecting on my purpose for this all. How far I have come. The obstacles I have encountered along the way. The accomplishments I have achieved.

The beginning…

I’ve always been a writer. When I was 11, I was in my 7th grade English class. Mr. Riviezzo, I will never forget his name. He used to make us do writing prompts with background instrumentals. We would have to create a storyline based on the mood of the music, and then change the events of the storyline anytime the mood of the music was changed. It was in this moment I realized I loved writing.

I kept a notebook of poems all throughout middle and high school. During and after college, people would pay me to write their papers in hopes of getting an A. I never disappointed. But yet despite all of this, I never had the confidence to publish my work for the public to see. I never shared any of my writing. It was my secret to cherish. My escape. And most times, my writing was so emotionally fueled. I just wasn’t ready to expose those demons.

At the age of 28, I decided to sharpen my skillset. I took writing courses. I practiced daily journaling. I expressed interest in publishing a book. It was becoming more obvious to me that this is what I wanted to do with my life; write and connect with others.

Soul Searching…

A month after my 29th birthday, my fiancé and I found out that I was pregnant. Hit the panic button! I wasn’t ready…like at all. Neither was my fiancé. But after the initial shock wore off, we welcomed the circumstances and began making plans for our future with the benefit of the baby in our minds. God had other plans…

We walked into my first doctor appointment anxious with excitement to see our baby. The excitement didn’t last long. What was supposed to be one of the happiest days in my life, turned out to be the most heartbreaking. My baby wasn’t going to make it. The pregnancy had been deemed abnormal.

After I lost the baby, I fell into a deep depression. I barricaded myself in the house for 3 weeks, unable to pull myself together to face anyone. I was grieving. I felt ashamed that my body could not do what a woman’s body is meant to do. I failed.

My journey for healing became my first priority. I worked avidly at it. I decided I needed to live my life, on my terms. I searched for peace and happiness like a person searches for water in a desert. But above all, I wanted to honor the memory of my baby.

My site was born…

5 weeks after losing my baby, I decided to create a personal blog. I vowed to always express myself honestly and vulnerably. I vowed to write about topics that were raw, no matter how painful and uneasy. I vowed to connect with others on a level that I never thought was imaginable. Something clicked. Feeling that much pain and anguish puts a lot of things into perspective. If I felt like this, how many others felt the same? Do they feel as alone as I felt during that time?

Healing does not need to be lonely. The power of healing can be magnified through the strength in numbers. Through togetherness. Unity.

Blogging journey…

I’ve made many mistakes and will continue making them. Learning how to create my site was definitely a challenge. I am not that tech savvy. I had to rehash my Myspace skills after a decade…disastrous. A lot of trial and error. Stumbling along the way, deciphering what is appropriate to promote. What is effective marketing? How can I keep my audience constantly stimulated and interested? But I truly love writing. I love blogging. I love connecting with others on a deeper level. It’s enough to keep me motivated and to continue pushing myself towards perfecting my craft.

What I learned this past year-
  • Not everyone will support and that’s okay! Seriously, it’s not personal.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other bloggers. There is no real timeline and everyone has their own journey.
  • Enjoy the process! The ups, the downs, all of it! It’s a true learning experience.
  • Connecting your site to your social media platforms makes life SO much easier.
  • Grow your audience organically. It’s a marathon, not a race.
  • Stop obsessing over statistics. Horrible for my mental health! I’m too analytical and way too hard on myself.
  • Monetize, monetize, monetize.
  • Show love to your fellow bloggers! Gain support by giving support.
What I have accomplished this past year-
  • Over 400 blog followers
  • Created a Twitter account…I never thought I’d see the day.
  • Upgraded my site and created a cleaner theme and layout.
  • Several guest column articles for a local internet magazine.
  • Growing my following on all social media platforms. Key word-ORGANICALLY.
  • Flew to France for a company retreat to present one of my articles on stepping out of your comfort zone.

What’s next for ang meets soul?

That’s a hard question to answer! Definitely focusing on providing more quality content. Looking forward to connecting with more people. Creating more opportunities for exposure. Researching sponsors and collaborations. I am open to any opportunity that might present itself.

advice to people starting a new venture…

Don’t overthink it. Don’t talk yourself out of it. And don’t expect overnight success. Anything worth having takes continuous effort, non stop research, and an abundance of time. Don’t allow yourself to be overcritical and just enjoy the journey for what it is- a learning experience. Learning is half the fun. I know that sounds cliché but it’s a super fact. But above all, keep going!

thank you ❤

From the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank my supporters enough. I know I must sound like a broken record at this point but it is only because I truly mean it. Seriously, THANK YOU. I was in a really dark period in my life and all of your support has kept me above the surface. It motivates me to spread awareness on topics that matter. Because of all of you, I continue to push myself to connect with others in the most positive light that I can. You all really keep me going! I enjoy receiving your feedback and reading your comments. Please don’t ever stop reaching out to me lol. You are all beyond appreciated and I am eternally grateful. I hope you all continue this journey with me and ride it out until the wheels fall off. Happy Friday everyone xoxo.

Enjoy what you read? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to click the ‘Like’ button as well! Also, don’t forget to hit the ‘Follow’ button to receive updates on new posts.

I am available on the social media platforms located below in the icons. Don’t hesitate to connect and say hi 🙂

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

Make Moves: When it’s Time to Escape a Toxic Relationship.

“We teach people how to treat us.” —

Dr. Phil

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression all wrapped in one like a toxic ass burrito. Order up!

You find yourself questioning your worth. The person you see in the mirror is unrecognizable. Every aspect of you is under a microscope, every detail scrutinized. You lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling, questioning what you can do to better this miserable situation. Can you actually do more than what you have already been doing? Honey. Here’s some better questions for you to ponder- Are you tired of crying? Are you tired of feeling less than worthy? Are you tired of feeling insecure, belittled, insignificant, and unappreciated? If these questions are feeling like the status quo, you’re in trouble. Feeling like you’ve not only exhausted all possible solutions, but that you have wasted so much time and energy on someone who cannot seem to grasp the weight of your value. Three words: LET IT GO.

I’ve been there. I spent damn near a decade in a situation that I should have walked away from a long time ago. I’ve been cheated on. I’ve been called ugly. I’ve been called fat. I’ve been called a bitch. Hell, I’ve been called an ugly, fat bitch. LOL. Not funny, but I can laugh at it now. You would think that there was no element of surprise in that last phrase but boy, did that shit pack a punch to my ego during that time in my life. This man was even ashamed to be seen with me in public. He never wanted to go out together to the club or parties. If it wasn’t something intimate or hidden, I was not allowed to tag along. And despite it all, I STILL stayed. I wasn’t perfect, but I loved hard and was willing to do what was necessary to make it work, including constant forgiveness. It took me 7 years to realize that not only did I not deserve to be in a toxic relationship such as this, but that I simply did not want to do it anymore. It’s crazy how one day you wake up and decide “no more.” It’s as if the fog is finally lifted and you can see the situation clearly for what it is. An epiphany, if you will. But some wounds never fully heal. The baggage is still heavy after half a decade has passed. The insecurities are still there. The first couple of years in my new relationship was a major adjustment. I was conditioned to be jealous, unable to trust, and unable to love unconditionally. Because God forbid, I went through this again. God forbid I allow someone to rob me of my dignity and have me look like a public fool. What did Beyoncé say? “What’s worse, looking jealous and crazy? Or like, being walked all over lately? I rather be crazy.” I hear these lyrics years after my previous relationship and still feel it in the moment I am singing my lungs out along with the song. I was so used to being involved in a toxic relationship that I didn’t even recognize what a healthy relationship should look like. My scars run deep. However, each passing day since I walked away from that relationship has been a step closer to healing. To learning new behaviors. To developing trust. To discovering the essence of pure, unconditional love. But I would have never been close to achieving this, or at least working towards this, mentally and spiritually, if I never walked away.

Need help deciding if it’s time to walk away? If you’re even questioning to walk away in the first place, I’d say it’s time. But…

Here are five signs that you are caught in a toxic relationship and need to run to the nearest exit and never return:

1. Lack of Trust.

Trust is everything. A relationship cannot flourish, or even continue on, without trust as a foundation. One of the biggest signs that there is no trust in a relationship is if you find yourself going through your partner’s phone. I’ve done it. I’m not proud of it. Overall, it’s a very lame thing to do (sorry ladies, I am on your side). And if you find yourself doing it, then there is definitely a lack of trust. I don’t care how much you try to sugarcoat your reasoning behind it.

2. Hostile Environment.

Granted, during arguments, voices can be raised and hurtful things may be said. However, if it takes less to nothing to upset your partner to the point of intense anger and hostility, this may be a warning sign. There should be no reason why you partner gets so angry to the point that he or she is disrespecting your space, your character, or even violating you physically in any way, shape, or form. A hostile environment is not only unhealthy, but it’s everything else but love. Not to mention, it is unacceptable for you to feel unsafe in your relationship.

3. Hella Disrespectful.

This is a given. In a relationship, whether it’s romantic or not, respect has to be at the top of the priority list. Calling you out of your name, belittling your opinions and character, putting you down in front of others, or even the slightest sign of disrespect towards your loved ones. If this sounds familiar in your relationship, why haven’t you created an escape plan yet? Disrespect should not be tolerated. Raise that bar for yourself.

4. Control Issues.

No person should be delegating what you should or should not do. Opinions are welcomed, but it should never negatively affect your relationship. I’ll never forget when I was dating this one guy and he actually got upset because I was hanging out with my friends that day. Not that we had plans!!! But I wasn’t sitting at home, talking on phone all day to him. And somehow, that completely pissed him off. Yeah. I’ve never made a quicker exit. Control is not only a sign of a mentally abusive partner, but it opens a gateway of which toxic traits become acceptable.

5. Mind Games and Manipulation.

Oh, the manipulation. It’s a quality, or lack of I should say, that I despise the most. Because this person actually believes that they can pull the wool over your eyes and insult your intelligence. And sometimes, it can actually work! Trying to influence your opinion negatively to justify their own, disregarding your feelings, twisting words you say to defend their own argument, or simply acting like they are clueless as to why you are feeling a particular way despite your many efforts to explain this, are all signs of manipulation. The moment you begin questioning yourself and find yourself overcompensating to keep the peace or changing your views to please the other party, then you are caught up in the game. The question is are you going to remain in this web of manipulation or will you decided game over?

If you continue to accept the toxicity…

I understand it may be difficult to walk away from any relationship. You may love this person, despite how harmful they are. You may feel comfortable and the thought of starting over completely rattles your core. Or maybe, you actually believe that you are not worthy of a better relationship. I get it. For a very long time, I actually believed that no one else would want me. I would think to myself “I’m not pretty enough” or “I’m not skinny enough” or “I’m not interesting enough.” I believed the lies that were fed to me, especially regarding the content of my character, as well as my physical attributes. I can understand how scary it must feel to walk away. But let me tell you what happens if you don’t. You run the risk of completely losing yourself. Your mental health can decline. Your confidence will decline. Even your perception of your own value will decline. And all of these emotions will eat at your soul to the point beyond repair. So which sounds scarier? Losing a person you love, but are not happy with? Or losing yourself and your happiness all together?

You are worthy.

In case, you don’t realize it. In case, no one has told you. In case, you have a hard time believing it. YOU ARE WORTHY. You are worthy of happiness and unconditional love. You are worthy of finding a person who adores you beyond comprehension, even when you’re displayed in the most unfavorable light. You are worthy of being in a relationship that practices trust, understanding, and compassion. You are worthy of feeling safe, not only with your body, but with your mind and heart. And anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, is not worthy of being in your life. Because relationships, whether romantic or platonic, should feel uplifting. Maybe not 100% of the time because we are all human and capable of making mistakes, but 80% of the time should be the norm. The good should outweigh the bad. Don’t allow another person to drag you down. Don’t allow another person to destroy your self worth. No person should hold this power. So if you have any inclination that you are involved in a toxic relationship, love yourself more. Walk away. No regrets. Look ahead and search for what your soul craves and needs. Temporary heartache to a journey of everlasting bliss.

Stay strong, friends. Xoxo.

An Ode to Self-Love.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” —Brené Brown

Where do I begin?

It feels unfamiliarly odd to be writing right now. My ‘mini-break’ turned out to be much longer than intended. A lot of soul searching. A lot of questions. A lot of doubts. And a whole lot of tears. More tears than I ever wanted to experience. And although it felt painful; many sleepless nights filled with overwhelming anxiety, it felt unbelievably necessary. Detoxing is never easy. And I don’t mean clean diets to flush out your digestive system. I mean truly detoxing what needs to be removed from your life all together. Detoxing bad habits, toxic ways of thinking. Detoxing and separating yourself from people who do not have your best interest. IT’S NEVER EASY. I haven’t written in two months because honestly, I was not in a good place emotionally. The holidays were a painful reminder of what could be, rather than what was. I had high hopes for the New Year. A fresh start, a new slate. Instead what I got was a harsh realization that nothing heals overnight. Seems like everyday I struggled with accomplishing simple tasks, such as laundry and cooking. Sleeping became impossible. Weeks and weeks spent being sleep deprived and feeling defeated. I like to think of myself as an over achiever. Not being able to write, focus on work, plan a wedding, or even do simple household tasks had me feeling like the ultimate failure. Nothing brings you down like self-pity. It festers inside of you until it erupts like a volcano. Then before you know it, everyone is looking at you like a hot head and trying to dodge your self-pitied lava that seems to burn everything in sight, including yourself. And you really want to know what’s almost unbearable? Truly looking at yourself and realizing in some way, shape, or form, you have contributed to your own unhappiness. This is what I have been up to in my absence.

Self-love does not always look like bubble baths and candles. Sometimes self-love requires you to sit in your own darkness and push yourself to find the light. Here comes the transparency: I’m not there yet. But I am taking great strides in reaching that light. My form of self-love was disconnecting and spending time in solitude. I uninstalled all my social media apps from my phone. I suffer from FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. I would scroll and scroll and compare myself to other people in their pictures. They all looked so…happy. And I would think to myself, “What do I have to do to feel what they are feeling?” Cue even more self-pity. I have this incredible knack of putting myself down. Sometimes I find myself wondering why certain people are not accepting of me, or why I constantly feel like an outsider. I can be in a room full of people and still feel utterly alone. It really is a curse. During the month of January, I barely talked to anyone or even went outside to events or hangouts with friends. Everything felt too hard, too overwhelming. I would look at myself in the mirror and think, “wow, you really look how you feel- miserable.” I began questioning my self-worth and competence in almost every area of my life. What’s even worse, I started questioning those around me. And because of this, I isolated myself because I was convinced that no one would want to be around me like this. I finally decided it was time to go to the doctor. Not only because the lack of sleep was affecting my mental health but because it was affecting my physical health as well. I had a hard time concentrating. I would struggle with migraines daily. I began having neck and back pain. There were even a couple of times when I would get so lightheaded that my vision would fade. I went to the doctor and although I haven’t received a definitive answer as to why I cannot sleep besides the obvious reason of struggling with my anxiety, one thing was confirmed by the doctor- I am moderately depressed. He prescribed me medication, which normally I am against, but it was time to throw the white flag and accept that I need help and no longer have control. Self-love is recognizing you need help and cannot do it all on your own. I still need to get blood work done and I am looking into therapy, but for now, I seem to be sleeping better these days. I have been diving into reading more. A book a month is my overall goal. The clarity about disconnecting from social media is the realization that you have this abundance of time to do other hobbies and really connect with yourself. So that’s exactly what my focus has been on. My form of self-love is realizing that I am not okay and that’s okay. It’s okay to put certain things on hold in your life to make sure you are catering to your own well-being. It’s perfectly okay to take some time apart from your normal activities. If you don’t show up for yourself, how can you expect yourself to show up for others. Self-love is recognizing that you can no longer neglect yourself.

I turned 30 on January 30, 2020. A new decade of life. My 20s were filled with lessons. I am sure my 30s will be no different. The only difference is the realization that I have the power to truly love myself and be unapologetic about my flaws. I am imperfectly perfect. I am a 30-year-old who suffers from anxiety and depression but that does not make me a victim. It’s only an acknowledgement for the purpose of continuing my journey of healing. I am intelligent. I am beautiful. I am strong. My capacity to feel does not make me weak. It does not hinder me. I will always honor the compassion within me. It’s what makes me, me. No one can do me like me. That is what separates me from the next person. Our qualities are what separates us from others and makes us so special. But in the same respect, self-love is acknowledging the areas of yourself that could use improvement. I told myself I would return to social media on my birthday. I had it all planned. A fire selfie with a caption filled with nothing but positivity. Reposts of my birthday shout outs. It was all so…ridiculous. Like why? Why did any of this matter?! It didn’t. Ego is a scary and powerful quality within us all. It will have you feeling so entitled and will make anything seem overly important, even if it isn’t. What was even worse is that for a moment, I thought the validation of others would make me happy. Why did I need this kind of validation to feel loved? How can genuine love come from a social media app? I should have the ability to feel loved and valued regardless. Furthermore, I should not feel the need to post to show others that I am having such a great time on my birthday. I really had to put myself in check that day. In the end of my whole thought process, I decided to enjoy my birthday to the fullest. To be present in the moment and express gratitude for another year of life. And that’s exactly what I did. I took myself to the spa and got a deep tissue massage and facial. I met up with one of my best friends and we had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. I celebrated life with my other best friend and met her new baby, who was born just 5 days prior. And then I went home and packed for a weekend at the Smoky Mountains. Me and five other friends had a blast in Tennessee. I couldn’t think of a better way to welcome a new decade. I am excited for what the years will bring. Like fine wine, I only get better. I vow to accept change, to accept love, to accept the obstacles, to accept whatever life throws at me. I will work at accepting it all. But most importantly, I vow to accept myself wholeheartedly, with all of my flaws and imperfections. And that ladies and gentlemen, is the true essence of self-love. It takes constant work and effort. You will fall and rise and then fall again. You will have to brush the dirt off your own shoulders. At times, you will have to be your biggest cheerleader and your own support system. But if you always do your best, you cannot fail. I’m excited to be back into the flow of writing. Only time will tell what will happen from here. The poem below was written by me a few months ago, but never published. The irony is that I resonate with it so much more now than I did then. Sending everyone so much love and pocketing some for myself.

An Open Letter.

Hey Ang,

How have you been? I heard you was uneasy and that you needed a friend.

I heard you haven’t been sleeping. I heard you just stay up. Worrying about everything you cannot solve because nothing is ever enough.

I heard you cry when no one is looking because others ignore your pain. So, you stand there with a smile hoping the pain will fade.

I heard you show up for others and often forget yourself. Because being labeled ‘selfish’ is not what you want to be about.

I heard you fear judgement because this world can be so cold. You have abandonment issues that won’t go away, no matter how old.

I heard you have resentment issues. Issues resent you back. I heard the biggest resentment issues you struggle with, stay tied to your back.

But hey, who am I to judge? I’m only a reflection of what you can be if you learn how to just love yourself.

I can show you. I can offer my help. But you are going to have to stop acting like you have everything under control.

Sit down and listen- this is what you do. Get up every morning and remember to always do you.

Remember how far you have come. Give yourself a break. Grant yourself some grace and let all the doubts escape.

You are beautiful. You are intelligent. You are loved. Your value is not based on anyone’s opinions because you always rise above.

You are resilient and brilliant. You have gone through so much. Do yourself a favor and start showing yourself some love.

And if you ever need a reminder, I’m always here for you, love. I’ll always be your biggest supporter to boost you all the way up.

One day you won’t have to look for me in the mirror. One day that self-love won’t feel like an impossible thing to do. And in that moment, you’ll remember the rose that bloomed from the concrete. The rose that became you. 

Love always,

Your Reflection

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 ❤