Favorite Snapshots of 2016

A few days past 2016, but some of my favorite shots from a year that kept me forcing to find the bright spots in the middle of struggle. 

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When Your Best Friends Gets Married

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When entering your mid-twenties, changes will begin happening throughout your social circle at a rapid-fire pace. Careers will be established, moving trucks will be packed to set forth across the country, and friends will begin to take new last names.

There will be many engagement dinners and wedding receptions where you will be in attendance as just the date of their friend, or because of social courtesy for a co-worker. But then there be the weddings that involve your childhood friends, the group of women who continue to share a deep friendship after surviving puberty.

When the group of women who have known each other since elementary school meet for a weekend brunch, the world may see you as mid-twentysomethings who lead lives full of successful careers, motherhood, and marriage. But to each other a time warp still is in place when you reunite no matter how many weeks or months pass by.

In their faces, you see the eyes of a 16-year-old brimming with tears over her first heartache. You hear the uninhibited giggle of a 15-year-old sharing the first time she went to 3rd base during a sleepover.

1933761_9211215062_2583_nThe voice will always echo the days of when you would drive around in your mother’s car blasting My Chemical Romance, feeling the freedom of a driver’s license that can only be felt at 17-years-old. Your arms have wrapped around each other countless times, providing comfort for every situation from drinking too much at a college party at 20-years-old or sitting numbly trying to process the life threatening illness of a parent too young to be so sick in present day.

And sometimes your group will be in the midst of multiple weddings a month apart, while another is preparing for the birth of her first child several months prior to the nuptials. This means two bridal showers, two bachelorette parties, two rehearsal dinners, two ceremonies, a baby shower, and a christening. Oh – and having to change the last name of two of your two oldest friends in your cell phone for the first time ever.

12027512_10155984686620063_8458987793040532901_nIn the midst of experiencing these life-changing events, you are tasked with coordinating schedules and to-do lists, which seemed harder to do than managing arrivals at Grand Central Station during rush hour. In the mix was dealing with future sister-in-laws and mother in laws that were new to your friends’ lives, but now would be bonded to their future in a more intimate way than we would be.While browsing the home good sections of Macy’s to find the perfect wedding gift in the registry, there may be moments of self-reflection involved. Moments of ‘when me’, that questioned if there will ever be a time in your life where the love of your life will be holding your hand while you wield the registry gun for our own wedding registry? Will there ever be a man that takes your breath away to the point where you are willing to commit your life to being his wife? 

1909751_9210780062_1049_nBut those moments of self-pity and wonder about the future goes away the minute you walk into the room of festivities. Your heart will swell when she steps out from the dressing room of the bridal store, making the choice of her wedding dress.

And when helping her lace up the back of her wedding dress, a sense of deja vu will happen because not so long ago you were doing the same thing while getting ready for the junior prom. When finally sitting down after spending hours setting up for her bridal shower, watching your best friend open each bridal shower gift with glee makes every paper cut from hanging decorations worth it.

The twinkle in her eyes as she unwraps food processors and throw pillows is lit up by all of her future plans to create a home with her future husband. Then on the wedding day, you’re standing up at the altar, waiting, as the doors swing open for her to make the grand entrance. Out of the corner of your eye is her soon-to-be-husband, who was once just a guy your best friend called you about gushing after a first date. He is now just part of your friend group as she is and has already been present for his fair share of best friend moments.

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As she walks down the aisle, the past 15 years scroll through your mind at warp speed.

There is the girl that walked the blocks of your neighborhood after school with knee socks sliding down, and a Jansport backpack tied around her back. Who provided comforted when your crush ended up being a jerk, while rinsing out your retainers in the bathroom

She is the one you cried hysterically with after saying goodbye the night before you both left for college, but the same one who is still able to provide a feeling of home when caught between two worlds. She is the one who will drink with you at the bar without judging when your life is so far from what you imagined post college graduation. And now she is a woman who is about to become a someone’s one, a matriarch of her own family. 

 

Swept off her feetNugget lovingMr and Mrs Devan

 

Then after the post-ceremony group photos are finished and party-bus cocktails are ingested, you will stand proud to witness the first dance of the newly minted Mr. & Mrs. Her eyes are brighter than you ever have seen them before. Although her steps and twirls seem effortless while she’s dancing with her husband, you know it has been a hell of a journey for her. And that her first dance is inspirational. This is her victory dance, her reward for never losing her hope for true love.

Being able to be part of the process of weddings of these girls has given you lessons that will stick with you if there is ever day for it to be your turn to be the bride. But out of all the takeaways from standing beside them on their wedding, one is those important and meaning. When watching your best friends get married, it will take your breath away from how much love and pride swells inside your heart for them.

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Cartoon Bears and Dealing with 2016

Huff-Post-WTF-GOPThe world has become super depressing in recent months.

Not that this breaking news for anyone who happens to be plugged into any type of media these days.

Every few weeks the profile photos of my Facebook friends change to pay tribute to the latest victims of devastation. Outcries for justice, law reform and just civilized humanity continues to trickle into all walks of life.

As I’ve shared before, acts of terrorism and public shooting sprees have always been part of my life as I am the generation  that was in preschool during the Oklahoma  City bombing, elementary school during Columbine High and junior high during 9/11. But as a 27 year old living in a major US city, recent weeks watching the evening news as left me nauseous.


orlandoA man (if you can call him that) has become a presidential nominee because of support behind his asinine ideal of building a freaking wall to shut refugees out of our country, in addition to calling for a registry of an entire population based on religion. Apparently he and those who support him are totally oblivious of what happened during World War II.

Innocent young men are being tasered, beaten, assaulted and shot to death by those who are supposed to be charged with protecting our freedom through ensuring safety because of the color of their skin.

Police officers who drastically differ from their disgraceful rouge colleagues now face increased fear for their lives while enduring open hatred aimed towards them, serving as the scapegoat for the sins of dirty cops.  Memorials around blood stained sidewalks are the new norm serving as a reminder of the fate of so many who made the decision to leave their house at the same time a mentally unstable, terrorist acted on plans of destruction.

webarebears_promoWith the heaviness of the news being almost panic-attack inducing, I decided to take a break from the evening news. And what better way to break from reality for a brief moment is to watch the complete opposite? This past week while eating dinner, my television has kept me entertaining with the hijinks of We Bare Bears.

Incase you don’t have any kids or haven’t made a recent break from reality, the 30 minute cartoon on Cartoon Network is about three adopted brothers who are fond of the internet, eating and scheming.

cn_cee_we_bare_bears__cn3__wallpaper_01_1600x900As much as the word lol is written in my daily text messaging, nothing has made me actually laugh out loud like watching this show- so much so Annie Cat was quite startled (we need to work on her sense of humor).

In case you’re wondering, my favorite character is Ice Bear because of my soft spot for polar bears (stemming from the Coca Cola Christmas Bears), and how he refers to himself in third person. Also, he sleeps in the refrigerator and for most of my childhood I tried to come up with a workable way to figure out how to sleep in one without suffocating. Spoiler alert- the puzzle was never solved.
tri-movie-postersDuring the 30s and 40s movies, especially cartoons, were massively popular because of their cheap ability to allow people to escape war and poverty plaguing the world. And while the movie theater has become a site of mass murders, the concept of becoming lost in a clear-cut world for a bit of time still remains therapeutic almost a century later.  

As an active adult who is plugged into to social media and the real world, a full escape from reality would never happen. Besides, in order to be part of the solution there cannot be retreating and avoidance. However for a brief hour each day while decompressing after work and everyday human-being stressors of the 21st century, We Bare Bears is unexpected soul food.

And Somehow It’s July 5th

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Somehow it’s July 5th and my desk calendar is still on April. This pretty much sums up my frame of mind while trying to figure out what the hell has been going on over the past few months. Winter felt as if it was going to be around forever and now Philadelphia is in the middle of a heat wave.

In between the madness of starting spring by moving into a new apartment, then trying to juggle filming for my freelance project on top of a full time job, capped off by the abrupt hospice/death of my grandmother at the end of the season, summer kind of just appeared.

Honestly, there hasn’t been any exciting plans so far besides the Weezer concert I’m attending tonight (my first concert in three years) and writing. Actually, the main priority for summer 2016 is getting the first draft of my book completed by the end of season. While I’ve been dabbling with writing the book for over a year and half now, over the past two months my commitment to seeing it through with a deadline is has materialized.

13621465_10157017988190063_1506263234_oMaybe it is because I am now closer to 30 than ever before, or that as a writer who has been fortunate enough to be published in a variety of places, there is something inside me that is craving to dive deeper into my storytelling ability. And the fact that I was at Barnes and Nobles the a few months ago and became unexplainably furious to see that Snookie had a book featured in the New York Times Best Sellers section, and I did not.

Despite my silly notion that my brain should be able to write and create quality content at least 17 hours each day, it cannot. Between growing in my abilities as the Digital Content Program Specialist at work, which has been exciting and rewarding, while working on my first (and highest paying) video project as a side hustle- writing for my book has been increasingly hard to manage.

But with the filming complete for the side hustle video (cannot wait to share it on here when it is live), my free time outside of the 9-5 has been redirected to sitting down with my Google Doc and typing. Some days my hands cannot keep up with the thoughts and emotions tumbling out of my head and it is a struggle to get it all down on paper.

Other days it is a struggle to lift up my fingers to write a complete sentence that has an ounce of redeemable quality. But recently, I have made myself slodge through the heaviness of my thoughts and the clumsiness of my fingers to get through the other side of writer’s block. At the moment, my manuscript has 60,000 words that will be become my first book- which is even bizarre to type.

In order to continue to gain momentum and to organize the mammoth of words that have been strung together in my Google Doc, I enlisted the help of Julie Lenard, from The Storyologist. When I attended as session Julie ran at the PHL Blogger Conference back in April, the notion of a writing coach become appealing.

13588799_10157017988140063_1651447305_oAfter several emails and a meeting, we decided to work together to help reach my goal. I’ll eventually go into more detail of how a writing coach has helped me organize my thoughts, and push myself to write topics that may not come as easily to me as others. Also, for the first time in my personal life since I was a kid, I am being held accountable for doing something.

With work, it is easy for me to not drop the ball since my accountability impacts others in the office as well as my potential paycheck. For my own personal work, the only person that is affected by my lack of action is myself which never really matters to me most of the time. But with Julie, there are multiple check ins each week to see if I actually did my writing during the times we talked about, which she can go in and read in our shared Google Doc folder. Knowing that her email will be coming and that she is expecting to be reading new content, there is a refreshed sense of urgency of me committing to writing.

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Other Things That Have Happened So Far This Summer:

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Redefining a Mother’s Love

Originally published on Huffington Post

Happy-Mothers-Day-716527Mother’s Day is a punch in the gut for anyone not celebrating with their mother. The ache doesn’t discriminate against the reason of absence. The social media feeds that will be saturated with Mother’s Day tributes will be downright painful for all of us coping with a void.

The feeling of motherlessness is overwhelming countless times throughout the year, but near Mother’s Day its intensity can be downright suffocating. As the days creep closer to that Sunday, my anxiety level continues to steadily increase to an agitated state. This will be the first Mother’s Day without my mom, since making the decision to cut off contact with her for my own sanity earlier this year. Conflicting feelings are battling inside my heart- dread of the actual day and anticipation of its passing until the next year. While traditional holidays celebrated on my own have been developed over the past several years, the awkwardness of establishing a new way to get through the day is fresh.

Not surprisingly, my past several weekly therapy sessions with Dr. R have centered on making sense of the emotional tornado brewing. While working through this, Dr. R has repeatedly encouraged me to really figure out what I needed in order to comfort myself. Pulling the covers over my head with the companionship of pinot noir and Grey’s Anatomy reruns was my first instinct. Or to abandon my smartphone for the weekend and seclude myself at a hotel. To not be reminded of what I am missing on Mother’s Day was the answer I continuously kept arriving at.

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Untangling Myself from an Emotional Rock Bottom

Originally published on Elephant Journal on 1/28/2016.

 

RG-Mermaid-2Not being able to see instant gratification from a newly-incorporated healthier lifestyle can snuff out any enthusiasm for sticking with it.

But sometimes we find ourselves in situations where there is no other choice but to stick it out for the long haul, clinging to the promise of an elusive “one day.” The alternative is to continue down a path of self destruction, whether it be emotional, physical or often times both.

A person does not suddenly wake up one morning and find themselves unexpectedly at rock bottom. The trail is paved by half-hearted attempts to integrate new routines that always seem to be sidelined by discouragement, before being forgotten for tried and true habits. The cycle repeats itself indefinitely until the build up of poor choices leads to a derailment of everyday life, serving as a gut-punching S.O.S.

Hitting rock-bottom is similar to sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool and looking straight up to the surface. At the bottom of the swimming pool, there is an awareness of sound and movement whirling above, but nothing is clear enough to be understood. Although a person may be able to avoid the wave-making commotion and chaos transpiring above, it comes at the price of never being able to experience the direct warmth of the sun.

Two years ago, I had realized that years of unresolved feelings and continuous unhealthy choices had navigated me to an emotional rock-bottom. Continue reading

New Publication: Skirt Collective

SC-icon-5I’m thrilled to have my first essay published on Skirt Collective!  Per their website ‘Skirt Collective aims to be the modern woman’s compass for navigating culture, fashion, and the real world. Nestled between street smarts and book smarts, SC connects readers with practical information and opinions from a diverse array of voices in an honest, virtual space.’

You can read my latest article on their website. 

Hopefully this will be the first of many pieces that will be shared on their website! Make sure to follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

The Weekend I Spent Analyzing My Life Because of the Internet

 images (1)This weekend has been quite different than what I had planed. The majority of my waking hours was spent on Saturday feeling conflicted. Part of me was feeling ecstatic that a piece I had written was on the front of a wildly, successful online magazine. Writing for xoJane had been a writing goal for so long, and contributing over the past 9 months has been incredible.

My goal has as always been to connect with others through my writing- so someone out there going through similar situations won’t feel so alone. As a writer, the fact that the comments have continued to pour in (last time I check it was at 502) is also an incredible win. People are reading, clicking, and sharing my story. Someone other than my grandmother is taking the time to read and talk about what I have to say. 

The other part of me is mentally wrestling with myself. I would say 85-90% of the comments have been uplifting and full of constructive criticism. I have gotten AMAZING online dating advice and can’t wait to try it out. It was the advice I was looking for from readers. There have also been lovely emails sent to me from readers saying their experiencing the same thing, or have in the past. Again- it was a goal of the article to strike a chord with women facing similar struggles. Continue reading

I asked for Online Dating help- and XOJANE Comments Exploded

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 10.12.51 AMWriting my online reject article for xoJane was a shot in the dark- it was a personal experience that I thought a few people would be interested in, or maybe relate to. When it was published yesterday afternoon- all comment hell broke loose. I’m not going to lie- I spent Friday night pouring through the array of feedback in the comments section. Many uplifiting, and full of valid advice. Others made me want to drink tequila and cry into the fur of my mentioned (and must discussed) ‘highly intelligent cat’. 

I woke up to this—all this in less than 20 hours. Continue reading

Back to Basics

 

For the first time since early in my college career, I’m making a commitment to growing in my own voice. Somehow between earning a college degree, writing for publications, and entering the full-time workforce, my ability and craving to pen personal narratives fizzled.

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