Tuesday, March 13, 2018

What I Would Have Missed

The rain was falling softly on my windshield as I cruised in my car rocking out to The Clash. I don't know what it is about driving on a rainy night with my favorite playlist flooding out of my speakers that elevate my peace barometer. 

I experience an unnatural state of happiness in those moments of solitude in my car. Yet, it wasn't always like that. 

As I drove two nights ago in my sublime state I had flashbacks of another time in my car when I felt the opposite. Actually, there were a handful of moments in my car when all I wanted to do was drive myself straight into a wall. 

The memories flooded into my car and mingled with the music. For a second I, again, felt the despair, hopelessness and oppression of being in an abusive marriage that would compel me to entertain the idea of smashing myself into a wall. But that second came and went like the rain that softly dropped on the roof of my car. 

I drove with a deep sense of gratitude for my present life, my present state of mind and my present spiritual journey. It was painstaking work to get here, the road littered with lessons of growth. 

There was a time when my youngest, my boy, was only three-years-old and I almost succeeded in ending my life. Hundreds of memories have faded into the ether but the time I sat in my idling car in the garage with the exhaust fumes lulling me into nothingness remains a technicolor snapshot in my mind. 

Had I not heard my sister's voice calling me in my almost unconscious state I wouldn't be here. It was her voice that woke me to reason and led me to turn the car off. It was only when I went back inside the quiet and darkened house that I realized she and the rest of my family were sleeping. 

I wish I could say that my life became better and brighter afterwards but it actually hit lower than rock bottom. When I say it was painstaking work to reach this half-a-century-young milestone it is not an understatement. As I write this blog post I have a smile of satisfaction on my face. 

It's the kind of smile that shows the world that I triumphed over the effed up mistakes I've made and learned to stop blaming others for them. Taking accountability for my actions unlocked the doorway toward my freedom. It wasn't until I stopped allowing abuse to define me that I began traveling on the path to inner growth. It's not easy and I've learned to forgive myself first before others; love myself first over others; and respect myself first before I extend it to others. 

Today, as I woke up on my 50th birthday I went down the list of everyone and everything I'm grateful for including what I would have missed if I didn't hear my sister's voice that one night in my family's garage. 

I would have missed...

This year my first grandkid turned 10, I turned 50, my mom will be 80 in August and my middle child will enter her 30s in the Fall. My youngest who was three when I sat in that exhaust-filled car almost 24 years ago is going to be a dad in June. His wife is more a friend than an in-law and will be the mother of my second grandkid. My oldest will be getting married next year to a man whom I already think of as a son. 

The boy I had a crush on when I was 15 has been my partner for the past 9.5 years and has taught me more about relationships than any I've been in.

My siblings (in-laws included) keep me grounded in who I am. Without them I would flounder with my head up in the clouds where I always seem to find myself in. 

My gang of nieces and nephews have brought me much joy every time I hang out with them from the littlest to the oldest. 

My cousins who are my closest friends make me wonder what my life would be like if we didn't have each other. 

My family (and the ones I've acquired through my daughter-in-law) remind me that it truly does take a village to raise one another. I don't know what I would have done during my dad's sickness and death without them. 

The friends in my life (y'all know who you are) bring adventure, playfulness, camaraderie and companionship that I look forward to all year. (Shout out to the friends who always invite us over for UFC fights!)

My job, along with my manager and teammates, give me a purpose every day even in the midst of hellacious busy seasons and heavy workloads. 

My activist life has expanded my entire being, first with fighting against human trafficking and now for social injustices in our current climate. 

The unsung heroes/sheroes I've been fortunate to meet who inspire me daily to be a better version of myself. 

My photography journey has been quite an adventure of Alice in Wonderland proportions with me picking up good friends along the crazy ride. It's helped me discover my authentic voice and how to use it to tell a narrative through my portraits. 

My dad's death almost two years ago was an experience most people would probably prefer to avoid. It was a difficult time, yes, but it was his death that helped me see the importance of celebrating birthdays and cheesy holidays. I used to be low-key on birthdays and militant about being anti-Hallmark holidays. But when you see a parent on his deathbed wishing he had more time to live life and celebrate another birthday you learn quickly to have no shame in celebrating each birthday and cheesy holiday. My parents were one year shy of their 50th wedding anniversary when he passed away. 

It was during this time that I also learned that living life to its fullest means embracing the bad with the good. I finally stopped running away from pain or protecting myself from it. One of the most important lessons I learned in my 49th year is summed up in a quote from the book, The Untethered Soul
The path of letting go allows you to free your energies so that you can free yourself. Right in the midst of your daily life, by untethering yourself from the bondage of your psyche, you actually have the ability to steal freedom for your soul. This freedom is so great it has been given a special name---liberation. 
I've always said that my 40s have been the BEST years of my life but I have a sneaking suspicion my 50s will outdo my last decade so I've buckled myself in and off I go! 

My friend, Isaiah, posted this on his
Instastory last night. It is exactly
how I live my life and will continue on to
this next decade! 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

I Want To Be The Female In My Family Who Stood Up and Stood Out

It was the eve of the Women's March and I could barely contain my excitement as I logged off my work computer for the day. It was time. 

I laid my camera gear around me to charge my batteries, format my memory cards and pack my rolls of film. This year, I was only going to take one film camera and my digital as opposed to the three I lugged around last year. 

While my camera battery was charging and I started cleaning my lenses my oldest spawn sent me a text. 

Hey Ma, excited for the Women's March tomorrow! Are you making a sign? 

Hi, I wasn't planning on it. Were you? 

Yeah, let me send you some ideas from Pinterest. 

I silently laughed when I received her Pinterest examples. I knew they would be the kind of signs she'd boldly display at her first march. The kind that had an expletive in it.This year I was taking my niece, Micaela, again so it was going to be a family affair with my eldest joining us. 

The lyrics of the song, The Schuyler Sisters, from the Hamilton musical replayed in my head. Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now. 

For thousands of us in this country we don't feel lucky with the present leadership. I mean, why would over 600,000 people wake up at the crack of dawn on a perfectly good Saturday morning to march down the streets of Los Angeles standing up for justice if we felt lucky? 

That line of the song was a reminder of the freedom we still have in this country called the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It's the freedom of speech I don't take for granted and I'm grateful we can protest in this country without getting shot at or arrested by law enforcement as in other parts of the world. 

While I hummed along to the song in my head I reached for the white board I used in my photography shots. As if my hand was moved by an unseen force I started to create my own sign and knew that I would be raising my voice more than my cameras at the march the next day. 

I'm no stranger to hitting the pavement in protest against social injustice as I've participated in several walks for My Refuge House and other anti-human trafficking organizations. (Peruse this blog archive and you'll find my blog posts about them.) With the monumental wave of change happening in this country the time for standing up for what's right is crucial. People are waking up, putting on their activist hats and using their voice to speak up for the first time. 

Marginalized and oppressed people, especially women, are fed up and no longer remaining silent. With the advent of the #MeToo Movement that galvanized survivors to finally speak out about their experiences of sexual assault and harassment I knew the number of participants in the Women's March would double this year. 

We are now using our voices to demand respect, equality and fairness. This is not a new fight but it's a battle that needs to be waged instead of brushed under the proverbial rug. I believe that in times of peace we become complacent and I can only find the positive in this tumultuous time by seeing more people rise up and take a stand. 

Then there's the blatant, ugly evil of racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism that has risen and encouraged by the person I can only call #45. He is not and never will be my President. I've had a handful of friends on social media who seemed gleeful that they can finally express their true feelings about certain minority groups. Or, voice their support for this man who is emblematic of dishonesty, corruption, infidelity and hypocrisy. While I accept the differences in others, I know that I can't be friends with people who refuse to see the blatant wrongs this leader has committed. I can tell you that I no longer call them friends.

This isn't the time to tolerate pure unadulterated hatred. We need to collectively stand up and fight against the spread of hatred and ignorance that is perpetuated by #45's actions and words. That's the decree of the Women's March and the reasons I spent a Saturday with my daughter and niece to wake people up, get them to the polls and vote for those who would advocate for us. 

Today is International Women's Day and it's not a day I take lightly. While writing this blog post I saw a tweet from My Refuge House as to the origins of this historical day. 
The impetus for establishing an International Women’s Day can be traced back to New York City in February 1908, when thousands of women who were garment workers went on strike and marched through the city to protest against their working conditions. “Like today, these women were in less organized workplaces [than their male counterparts], were in the lower echelons of the garment industry, and were working at low wages and experiencing sexual harassment,” says Eileen Boris, Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara.
This year's theme is #PressforProgress which is "A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

Today I honor all the women warriors in their homes, jobs, families, schools, churches, etc. who rise up when no one is listening or paying attention. I bow down to the women who are activists in their own quiet, unassuming, yet, powerful way because I know you move mountains. I salute the women who oftentimes felt defeated but nevertheless persisted. I cry for the women who are victims of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual slavery, domestic violence and human trafficking---the ones who are paralyzed with the fear of retaliation. We stand with you and are fighting for you! 

As for me, I want my granddaughters (and future grandsons) to know that I was that female in the family who stood up and stood out. 

I want them to know that I marched and fought for the progress that they deserve. 

I want them to understand that I live my precious life today with their future in mind. 

I want them to believe that I used my purpose and calling to help create a better world for them and their children. 

I want them to see that I paved a way for them to make a difference in their lives and to use what they have to fight for others less fortunate. 

I want them to learn from my actions so that they can pass on to their children the empowerment we're all raising our voices for today. 

The Ancestry tweet today that inspired
my words in this blog post. 
These are the photos we took at the Women's March with our phones, my digital and film cameras. 

My niece, Micaela, is the assistant editor
of her school's newspaper, ZU Media and was
covering the Women's March. You can read her
article here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

My Fight Against Slavery Continues

It's that time of year when I join END IT Movement and people across the country to help raise awareness on modern day slavery. 

I know that drawing a red X will not eradicate the practice that has generated $150 billion for perpetrators who traffic human beings into various forms of slavery. I wish I could say that the number has decreased from the time I made a vow 10 years ago to fight against human trafficking but unfortunately it has not. 

In the years since I've joined END IT Movement during their annual Shine A Light On Slavery Day I've noticed the increase of awareness. Social media is the vehicle that has driven the cause to the forefront of social justice issues. 

Modern day slavery is not just sex trafficking but encompasses a slew of forms such as domestic servitude, child labor, forced labor, bonded labor and forced marriage. It's not only a global issue but one that is pervasive in our cities and neighborhoods. 

The global slavery facts from Free The Slaves show the following alarming statistics: 

In 2007 I attended a banquet for a non-profit organization that my friend created called, My Refuge House. It was during the video presentation when I viewed images of young girls forced to work in a brothel against their will that the seed of the abolitionist was planted in my heart. I haven't looked back since. 

When I traveled to the Philippines to visit the girls living in My Refuge House (MRH) in 2009 my life was changed forever. Since then I've donated my photography services, my time and my finances to MRH, International Justice Mission (IJM), Love146 and END IT Movement. Not a day goes by that I don't stay up-to-date on the latest news surrounding human trafficking and slavery. 

To be honest there are days when the heaviness of the issue threatens to overwhelm me with defeat. The stories I read or listen to don't leave me numb but break my heart daily. Then I see a post like the one from My Refuge House below that reminds me hope will always pierce the darkness. 

Just a couple of days ago, an Australian man and his Filipina partner in the Philippines were sentenced to life imprisonment for human trafficking and child pornography charges. During their arrest in April 2013 "a total of 15 girls, all minors were rescued during the operation." One of the 15 girls, Maggie, is living in My Refuge House and has seen justice served. She knows she matters. 

It's these stories of victory that fuel my fight and keep me going knowing what little I do with what I have can help a girl like Maggie or help others fighting for the same cause. If you're reading this and you're interested in joining the cause, please click on any of the resources below. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My Vegan Lifestyle Is Not A Fad

Being vegan isn't something I decided to try because it was trendy or Instagram-worthy. I didn't choose to live the vegan lifestyle because I could use a hashtag to garner followers. I didn't stop eating animal products because I watched a documentary on Netflix or someone on my Facebook feed spammed it with images of slaughtered animals.

I didn't just wake up one day and decide to annoy my friends/family or be a "douchebag" as someone called me for announcing at a restaurant that I was vegan.

My vegan lifestyle is about choices and a commitment. A lifelong commitment to myself to live a healthier life. That was the initial purpose for changing my eating habits, yet, it led to an awareness of the environment and respect for animals. 

It all started last summer. [ Warning for the squeamish: I'm about to discuss female issues in graphic detail so log off now if that's not your thing.]

Curled up in a fetal position on a narrow cot in my home office racked with acute pain. That's how I spent most of my summer last year. The condition I've suffered with for over 11 years seemed to worsen in a few short months. I'll spare you the gory details because gory, they are. In short, I've suffered with uterine fibroids which entails blood, and LOTS of it. I'm talking hemorrhaging or the medical term, menorrhagia. Let's just say I was bleeding so much a Demogorgon would've climbed out of the walls, swooped me to the Upside Down and gorged hungrily on my poor body.

June 2017: I bled heavily for 24 days straight. I didn't realize my body could bleed so much for so long. On top of the heavy bleeding, I dealt with the countless accidents at home and in public. Don't get me started on the debilitating menstrual cramps. Or the packages of sanitary pads I bought almost on the daily. At least it felt like daily. Let's not talk about how I'd have to rush into the bathroom every 30 minutes at night which meant sleep deprivation added to the severe anemia I suspected I had.

July 2017: I underwent several doctor appointments, hormone tests, blood tests, lab tests, regular and pelvic ultrasounds and a freakin' endometrial biopsy. What's an endometrial biopsy? Oh, you know, when your gynecologist preps your cervix with anesthesia, then inserts a long thin tool inside to scrape tissue from your uterine lining. Why an endometrial biopsy? To rule out cancer which the doctor said was a possibility. Thank God, it wasn't. It was just the dratted fibroids wreaking havoc on my body and quality of life. Picture my uterus as the Shadow Monster and my fibroids the demodogs of my Upside Down body. 

I was prescribed a three month prescription for Provera to stop the bleeding. "If the bleeding doesn't stop after three months call us and we'll talk about other options."

W.T.F. Three months! Oh, hell nah.

It was the pivotal moment when I took control of my health. I was pissed off and fed the eff up! My body was screaming at me to stop and listen. I finally did.

I conducted my own extensive research on fibroids. Lo and behold, the common culprits of uterine fibroids were: sugar, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. I quit all four bad boys cold turkey. Okay, three since I've been lactose intolerant for decades and stopped consuming dairy.

Ignorance is bliss. My eating habits were feeding the little demodogs I call fibroids. I was drinking Kombucha every morning believing I was benefiting my gut. Wrong! Kombucha is a fermented tea high in sugar and drumroll please...ALCOHOL! Add Kombucha to my all day coffee habit, plus my glass of wine at night and the little beasts were in heaven.

August 2017: I was weeks into my no dairy/sugar/caffeine/alcohol habit when I decided to try acupuncture treatments with Melissa from Little Sage Acupuncture and Herbal Medication. She specialized in female hormonal issues which, in my desperate state, sounded like I reached the promised land. I was still taking Provera but my bleeding barely lessened. Melissa put me on weekly acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbs. I won't lie, cooking and drinking those herbs TOOK a lot of will power. But I told myself, if I had no problem drinking Kombucha, I sure as hell shouldn't have any drinking herbs.

September 2017: I finally felt a difference in my physical and mental states. I weaned myself off of Provera since I noticed the Chinese herbs I was cooking and drinking were helping my cycles. Povera didn't stop my bleeding but the herbs did.

Vegans: In September, vegans crossed my path either in person or on social media. I've had vegan friends throughout my lifetime but somehow the ones who crossed my path this year made a subtle but lasting impact. They weren't the condescending vegans I've experienced in my life. They didn't spam my Facebook & Instagram feeds with images of slaughtered animals while they ate steak "occasionally" at fancy restaurants or sushi when they pleased.

The vegans I recently met didn't look down their noses at me for eating meat. No, they  were excited about their plant-based lifestyle.

My friend, Boye, was always posting pictures of his vegan food and his call to actions weren't condescending. My friend, Kat, whose been vegan for a long time also made an impression on me. My friend Tiffany, always spoke of her daughter who is vegan, and raved about how "delish" her daughter's food was. A good friend, May, has been a vegan for 12 years and I've always admired her. 

All summer my Instagram feed was filled with posts about some documentary on Netflix called, What The Health which converted a horde of carnivores (including celebrities) into vegans. I scoffed. I rolled my eyes. I had no desire to watch it. (I have yet to watch it, actually.) 

But something was happening to me. I still felt sick especially after eating meat. It wasn't like I could blame the horrid-tasting Chinese herbs because that halted my hemorrhaging.

I was always bloated, gassy, lethargic and sluggish after each meal. I still felt sick.

One night in the middle of September, my friend Krystal posted a photo of a colorful and delicious-looking plate of food. It was totally Instagram-worthy with a bunch of greens and what I thought was meat. I vaguely remember her caption saying something along the lines of it was so good you couldn't tell it was vegan.

Krystal is now vegan, too?

My interest was piqued. Krystal made being vegan FUN! Her excitement for vegan food was infectious and it was spreading.

September 27, 2017: I was working at my local coffee shop in the morning when the first thing that popped up on my Instagram feed was Krystal's picture of a medley of vegetables, vegan cheese, vegan meat and fruits. I immediately messaged her to let her know I was trying to go vegan but needed sources for iron and asked her for resources.
Krystal's post that was the
catalyst to my vegan lifestyle.

Krystal didn't hesitate in supporting me in my decision with the information she provided. She pointed me in the right direction (check out @veganbodybuilding on Instagram) and I've been a vegan ever since. I feel reborn as if I shed an entire skin that no longer served me.

I don't call my plant-based lifestyle a diet as diets imply a temporary state. A few years ago I tried the Paleo diet for three months which helped me lose a ton of weight. Yet, I never felt 100% healthy. I also tried cutting out carbs that also temporarily helped. Then I went on a pescatarian binge until an allergy panel showed I was allergic to ALL seafood.

Can you hear how loudly my body was screaming for my attention?

It was time I listened to my body. I've received mixed reactions from people which I expected. Ridicule, scorn, support mixed with skepticism, defensiveness and encouragement. I've been told not to be a douchebag vegan who annoys meat-eaters just because I said not eating meat has made me feel lighter. The few people who've supported me in this are my treasures.

I've been told it's hard to go vegan which I understand but it wasn't for me. My body, mind and spirit were ready. When you experience copious amounts of blood pouring out of your body for a month, trust me, you're ready to make a commitment to a healthier way of doing life. I refused to go on prescription meds, continue my narcotics or have surgery. I was determined to heal my body with food.

It's been four months since I've been on my vegan journey and a lifetime to go. For the first time in over a decade I FINALLY have normal and regular menstrual cycles with minimal pain that only last a maximum of five days! FIVE! A stark contrast to the 7-10 hellacious ones I've had for over a decade. My PMS went from severe on the crazy scale to just a few days of irritation. The constant mood swings decreased, too. I no longer suffer from daily headaches, bloat, or lethargy.

I feel like a whole new person. Sounds extreme but when you've suffered with so much pain and discomfort for over a decade it makes sense.

Here's the thing, what works for me may not work for you. So don't be throwin' shade at me like my spawn does for being vegan. When I live long enough to see my grandkids have their own kids then maybe, just maybe, they'll know why my vegan lifestyle was the choice to make.

Someone told me I can't call myself a vegan unless I've been one for a long time. It's been almost five months. I'm vegan, b*tch. 
One of my favorite vegan dishes I crave
is vegan pho. I don't miss meat at all. This
one is from Pho Zip in Fullerton made with
vegetable broth. 
If I could eat fideo every day I would!
I was recently introduced to this Mexican soup
by my family and have yet to make it myself.
When I go insane with cravings I go to
Colonia Publica in uptown Whittier and
build my own with vegetable broth
and all the vegetable toppings I want. 

If you're curious about going the vegan way here are a few people to follow on Instagram: 

Of course, I'm going to say follow my friend, Krystal: @burgerwithoutthemurder

My friend, Boye: @veganboye

For vegan fitness and nutrition: @veganbodybuilding

For vegan food inspiration: @veganfoodspot

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Reflections Over Resolutions

I took this image with my film camera
in Carbon Canyon. 
It's the last Saturday of 2017 and the penultimate day of this eventful year. This is the time of year when almost everyone reflects on what 2017 brought in their lives: love or heartache; pain or happiness; joy or grief; losses or gains; highs or lows; rock bottom or top of the world.
In my Instagram post a few days ago I captioned one of my film photos with: I stopped making New Year's resolutions a long time ago. Instead, I treat each new day as a beginning, embrace the good w/grace, face the bad w/courage, experience the pain without running from it & roll with the unexpected surprises Life throws at me. 2018, I surrender to you.

A few years ago, I finally learned a valuable nugget of wisdom. New Year's resolutions are bullshit. This lightbulb moment hit me in the middle of one year when I was confronted once again with a handful of failed resolutions. I used to beat myself up for it.

I never questioned why we painstakingly wrote down resolutions at the beginning of the new year until that moment when I sat defeated in my failure to complete them. I turned to the good ol' internet to figure out how resolutions started.

Lo and behold, History.com did not fail to enlighten me.

"The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year—though for them the year began not in January but in mid-March, when the crops were planted. During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor—a place no one wanted to be."

With narrowed eyes and flared nose I almost hissed like a demogorgon at my computer screen. Every year, we kill ourselves over resolutions because some old ass people thousands of years ago made promises to pagan gods at the beginning of the new year which, by the way, started in the middle of March! And no one questioned this? Ever? No wonder we all fail or suck at getting our resolutions done!

For me, 2017 was about making each day a renewal of my life. I practiced letting go of what no longer served me every night before I fell asleep so that I woke up each morning with a sense of rebirth. Sure, there were some days I let my anger toward Ray or my mom or my kids flow into the next. Full disclosure: I let three days go by giving Ray the silent treatment for what, I don't even remember.

I lived those days in mindfulness knowing my behavior was SO wrong and against everything I learned. Yet, I gave myself permission to be there at the moment instead of beating myself up for failing to be an enlightened and saintly creature.

It's a beautiful way to live without having a bunch of crappy resolutions holding me captive. It left me open to whatever the Universe had in store for me that I would have been blinded to if I solely focused on my list of resolutions.

In my Passion Planner , each block of day in the monthly calendar I've written one thing I'm grateful for so I'll always remember what filled my heart with gratitude every day of the entire year. In these last few days of 2017 my daily gratitude practice fuels my reflections of the past year instead of creating stupid resolutions.

Below are the highlights of each month in 2017 that I've taken from my Passion Planner and they're not all good. I've also taken the lows and learned from them, too.

January 21, 2017: Grateful for marching in the Women's March with Micaela and Gabby.

February 27, 2017: Grateful to drop Ray off at LAX for his P.I. trip & spend time at Lu's. (Lu is my sis.)

March 2017 (all month): Grateful for my family & friends who helped celebrate my birthday; for the silence/solitude while Ray is in P.I., for Ray's safe return home.

April 19-23, 2017: Grateful to visit Maricelle/Ben in New York with Ray.

May 5, 2017: Grateful for family who supports Tristan/Becca during their second miscarriage.

June 3, 2017: Grateful for marching w/Ray for the 1st time at the March For Truth in L.A.

July 27, 2017: Grateful for biopsy results---no cancer! No surgery!

August 25, 2017: Grateful for starting acupuncture and for rest!

September 25, 2017: Grateful for Tristan/Becca who told me they are pregnant.

October 19, 2017: Grateful for my new car I bought without my ego!

November 24, 2017: Grateful for Becca & baby okay and healthy. (They were at the E.R. for bleeding.)

December 18-20, 2017: Grateful for spending time w/Ray in Las Vegas: ziplining Fremont st, watching KA, riding High Roller.

Obviously these highlights were only a few of many throughout the year. It goes without saying that my family, friends, health and job are daily reasons for gratitude. My oldest got engaged in Bali while she was on her monthlong travels with her fiancé. My middle finished three classes while juggling her single mom duties.

In 2017, my life revolved around my health and the condition I've suffered with for over 10 years. It was a debilitating condition that put the brakes on my livelihood every month but I refused to let it run my life. (I'll explain more in a blog post later.) But this condition led to the major changes I made in my life that six months later I can say have been a journey of healing.

I know that every year we make resolutions to lose weight, get fit and healthier. This year I dumped all my preconceived notions of getting fit into the trash. Instead of feeling bad for not being able to run, or afford the stupid gym or lift heavy weights I was open to other fitness options. Enter, zumba. I mean, who knew zumba would help my middle aged body get fit and lose weight? I've been stuck in the mindset that running and weights were the only way to go. I'm looking forward to more zumba in 2018.

On the eve of New Year's eve I look back and know that I lived my life in the best way I knew.

In 2018, I intend to live my life like the untethered soul we are all meant to be. I will often go back and reread Michael Singer's The Untethered Soul to guide me through the year and to remind me that life can be lived with an insurmountable freedom.

  • I will accept that "life will unfold in accordance with forces far outside of your control, regardless of what your mind says about it." 
  • I will remember that "it's the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems."
  • I will remind myself that "true personal growth is about transcending the part of you that is not okay and needs protection."
  • I will make "a commitment to explore your capacity for receiving unlimited energy." 
  • I will work on not closing my heart because it "does not really protect you from anything; it just cuts you off from your source of energy. IN the end, it only serves to lock you inside." 
  • I will "embrace life with all your heart and soul." 
  • I will be "willing to experience the gift of life instead of fighting with it" because "you will be moved to the depth of your being. When you reach this state, you will begin to see the secrets of the heart." 
May you all experience this beauty in 2018! That is my wish for you.