Category: Love


There is nothing but hope for the future. After Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria drowning all of the South and Puerto Rico, half of North America being on fire and a devastating earthquake in Mexico, I have nothing but prayers for those effected and sympathy for anyone who survived but lost their loved ones and the lives they worked so hard to build. The terrorism rampant everywhere does nothing to help us move forward. It only serves to unite against a common enemy – senseless violence.

In connection to the natural disasters, I must commend the communities who rose up and helped one another in an unprecedented manner. Being in Houston amidst Harvey and then watching how people from all over came here just to help us out made me believe in humanity once more. People of every creed, race, color and gender, regardless of their differences, stood together and literally formed human chains in support of each other. The Cajun Navy was AMAZING as were all of our first responders. I thank you deeply for coming and helping the people of my community so selflessly and bravely. Most of all, thank you for saving lives (both human and animal) and giving us all Hope for the future.

This selfless spirit has been spreading worldwide. Houston and all those that came to lend us help have shown the world that we all Can and Do get along just fine. It is simply a few hundred voices in billions who would love to spread discord – they just manage to be heard more loudly at times because of the disaster that often accompanies their agendas. Though these disasters are devastating and continue to horrify with the extent of damage experienced, the results have been astoundingly positive everywhere. I am simply moved to tears at what people can accomplish when they see each other as simply human. The sympathy, empathy and simple humanity exhibited has been breathtaking.

I know that amongst all these monstrously unhappy worldwide events and unrest, my small battles aren’t even minutely important. At the same time, I believe each of us fights a million small battles each day. Many are fighting for survival itself in deplorable conditions. Many are even now awaiting rescue and trying to put their lives together. Many are left to survive without their loved ones at their sides.

My personal drama, in comparison, cannot even begin to compare. I am extremely Blessed to be untouched by this series of natural disasters thus far. I must expound on this for my own personal satisfaction and to relieve myself of emotions that have been making my heart heavy thus far. There are people I have loved but can no longer see myself walking with in life. I am glad they were here with me when it was the right time for them to be. I am also really happy they have exited my life, willingly or not, and taken their toxic influences with them. I couldn’t quite put it into words until now but I think these words below will suffice:

 

When you tell me you love me
You don’t really mean it
Your words are as empty
As cracks in old, worn stone

When you tell me you love me
You expect me to believe it
Though you never let anyone in
Far enough to call your own

When you tell me you love me
You’re trying to convince me
That a repetition of lies will
Somehow make them come true

When you tell me you love me
You just go through the motions
Forcing me to take false kindness
To you, ugly truth is overblown

When you tell me you love me
You leave me aching with a longing,
A wishing that someone
Really would want to call me their own

When you tell me you love me
But poison others towards me
While insisting on your innocence
You are a lying child, overgrown

When you tell me you love me
But you are only here to judge me
I tell you that love is an emotion
You have never felt or known

You tell me you love me
But you only love being loved
To  love, you must be selfless
But you haven’t a single selfless bone

You tell me you love me
But your words ring hollow
Leaving you unable to comprehend
Why your whims I do not follow

You tell me you love me
But my heart knows better
Than to trust a two-faced viper
With even a second more

When you tell me you love me
But are deaf to my feelings
I would rather you leave me
I am much better off alone

 
I have learned the hard way that there are many people out there that do not truly value sincerity and loyalty. They value nothing but, ultimately, themselves and their own petty self interests. They are also blind to the needs of others and feel resentful when forced to face their shortcomings. They refuse to see things in any light but their own. They are in denial about so many things, it is as though they have created some kind of utopia in their mind that no one else can access. Most frighteningly, they slow become the very people they profess to hate.

Such is the nature of life – it brings us lessons in the shape of people who are kind, who are dedicated, who betray, who lie, who are staunch supporters, who are two-faced frenemies, who become family, who stab you in the back, who break your heart, who mend that broken heart. Such is the passage of time – the highs and the lows are inevitable. Change is inevitable but it does not always have to be a crushing change, rather it can be the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to a butterfly. Pain is inevitable but it does not have to be pain without purpose. Growing pains are a thing to be celebrated and welcomed with open arms.  People coming through the journey of your life only to leave is also inevitable. The ones you need will be in your life at the time that is right for them.

There is not one Right way to do things – there are as many ways as there are people in this world (so approximately 7.6 billion views, give or take a few million). This doesn’t mean that I am saint enough or mature enough to simply accept them all with no debate. I would probably debate my stances rather hotly. What this Does mean is that I can respect you while disagreeing with you. What I cannot respect is someone who is duplicitous and will not respect my intelligence enough to be straightforward and true with me in return.

There are many things that can break a person into tiny little pieces that will never be put back together quite the same – human beings are much more fragile and complex that Humpty Dumpty unfortunately. We all experience loss of faith and hope at some point in our lives. In the face of untold evil both within and without, this loss seems quite inevitable. It is what you do after that initial break that truly defines who you are. The moments when you begin to question the fabric of the universe itself and if there was a maker and who that creator is, and the answers you arrive at after that, define you more than anything else. How you acquit yourself in the face of adversity and sometimes physical opposition defines who you are.

Amidst all the deaths, the chaos, the unrest, the bloodshed, the sheer arrogance of some to believe they are better than others for whatever XYZ reason, the complacency of most of the world population to do little more than nothing in the face of all of this (of whom I must admit I sadly belong), all the stars that are being born and dying, the waves of humanity arriving in and departing from this life, the joy of accomplishment and living, the shattering disappointment of failure and crushing weight of loneliness, there is One thing we cannot stand to lose – HOPE.

The past is done, unchangeable. The present is already here, we can only barely react to it. The future, however, is both our friend and capricious enemy. The only way to bring it to heel is to plan, to fail, and to learn. We must live in the moment while still hoping for a better tomorrow. We must make a way for this better tomorrow to happen. Sometimes that better tomorrow, that better us, requires a hard decision and a difficult parting of ways. Sometimes it is simply an opportunity to grow and become more, to find someone or something better suited to you.

Look at the glass and see it half full – all the world’s events and your own personal dramas will change into different scenarios before your eyes. Our perspectives hold the keys to our tomorrows. We have weathered many tragedies as a collective of humanity. I believe we will prevail again. Together, we must move forward while walking our own paths to our common end. Meandering or direct, easy or difficult, we must all support one another in moving forward. After all, there is nothing left but hope for the future.

Until next time, ciao!

 

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To quote the quote above, “You are not a backup plan.”

Life has a funny way of teaching us things we usually don’t want to learn. We are consistently harassed by events, people and situations that try our patience, test the limits of our hearts and minds, and, more often than not, require us to either be generous of spirit or to eliminate negative elements from our lives.

I am sure every one of you reading this has gone through most of the above and more. While none of those are the most pleasant, rainbows-and-butterflies kind of happy occurrences, these are the moments that define us – both to ourselves and those who are significant enough to warrant an opinion on our actions and our lives.

It’s so easy to blame someone else for one’s own faults. It’s also just as easy to just lie to get out of a situation you don’t want to be in. Equally simple is just living in denial of the facts and refashioning them to suit your needs. Who needs Facts when there are Alternative Facts, right?

While I have never been the strongest, most honest, most brilliant or most talented individual, I believe I have always been the most sincere and loyal friend, coworker and family member. For those people I have brought into my life and chosen to have in my inner circle of friends, I have always tried to give 110%. Sometimes, or rather often, I am disappointed when this level of love and care are either not reciprocated or are used to put me in a “needy, clingy, wants too much of my time” box. I am here to tell anyone else who has had that happen to them that this is total bullshit (pardon my French but this is a post that requires some bluntness).

 

People often want to blame the person who points out a problem or flaw exists. It doesn’t matter how nicely the criticism is phrased – they just aren’t willing to confront the issue or even acknowledge it exists. Their world is much happier without unpleasant truths and expectations. They prefer a world in which they are as close to perfect as it gets. When someone points out a shortcoming, suggests a change, offers advice that doesn’t mesh with their worldview, or raises questions about the relationship, they are immediately put into the “too needy/clingy” or “attacking me/aggressive” categories. This does not mean the individual trying to be sincere and true is in the wrong. It means it’s time to either move on and get rid of the immature individual in question or to make peace with the fact that this person will never truly value you as you are.

 

For those of you clinging to the notion that maybe ‘talking about it’ with this prideful and defensive individual will make a difference, allow me to disillusion you. They will Always see your sincerity and truthfulness (or in my case, my blunt foot forward) as an attack. You might be more tactful than me but the end result will be the same. Nothing between you will change other than the cementing of the ‘fact’ that you are too demanding. Of course, their demands on your time and energy don’t count. They are never too needy. The neediness is all you. To this, my reply is simply:

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Choosing honesty, truth, and sincerity is a choice I have to make several times a day. It isn’t easy. I may be here writing all this but in truth I’m a very private sort of person. Being reticent by nature, it is hard work for me to appear open and honest. It’s not a lie that I am a strong, opinionated, and independent person. It is just also true that I have a hard time opening up to people, I often regret opening up when I do, I hate burdening others with my problems, I have to try really hard to rely on others, and I often feel apologetic that someone like me exists and is usually the cause of drama between friends. This drama might often be instigated by the inconsiderate nature of some people but I am still sorry for it.

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This weird mix of confidence and humility is who I am. Unfortunately for those who like to put people in neat little boxes, I don’t fit any of them. Most people do not understand this and are not willing to accept it. I also do this thing where I grow and change. For some reason, this is also incomprehensible and inacceptable. I simply cannot do anything about this nor do I think I should have to. I am not here to fit in someone’s worldview. I am here to create my own.

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Mr. Hemingway could not have spoken a greater truth more near to my  heart. I may not be the ‘best’ person, but I have been vulnerable because of the traits he mentions. I refuse to let my strengths be made into weaknesses for others to exploit. Fear is the only thing holding most of us back from being our real selves. In reality, all of us are just fumbling our way through life, pretending we know what we are doing, hoping we are heading in the right general direction, and praying no one else sees through our façade.

Some of us are trying our best to just be honest with ourselves and with others. It results in people ridiculing me quite often. Even more, it results in me Learning things I would never have known had I not failed. Fail big – there is no better teacher than failure. Get up after you are broken and hurt and frustrated and ruined. Put one step in front of the other. Learn to love yourself. No one and nothing can hurt you if you are not afraid of failure and rejection.

I have also been extremely blessed in that I have found others who share my level of sincerity and do not want me to fit in a box or be the same forever. I am so very grateful they are in my life. I would be so much more broken without them. One of these great people sent me this quote the other day:

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Another of those amazing people took me to a gun range for the first time (LOL) and let me shoot some of my frustrations away. I am so grateful to both of them. Thank you guys for being there for me and adding a sprinkle of magic into my existence <3. I am also really grateful to my family for being there unquestioningly and giving me comfort in the hardest of times.

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We all fight very hard to be our truest selves. Most of us wear masks to get through the day. But we cannot hide from our own thoughts and hearts forever. There are things we would all rather be in denial about. I just find that extremely exhausting and would rather confront reality head on. The reality is that I am not valued in a way that makes me feel valued. I am being taken for granted and treated as a nuisance. My feelings do not matter because that would inconvenience the other party. Truth is powerful and now that I can accept these truths, I can finally begin to let go of something that has been really painful. I can begin to shift my understanding of another painfully warped relationship and begin to heal myself.

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Words are empty vessels if they are not filled with and followed by actions.  I have decided not to let myself continue with this uncomfortable reality and mold a better, more whole one. I have decided not to fall apart due to people who do not deserve my angst and sorrow – they do not value me enough for me to allow them so far into my heart. It is time to say goodbye to the farce I have been fooling myself with the past few years.

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For anyone else out there struggling with your heart, whether it is because of a friend, a parent, a sibling, or a significant other, remember: You are not a backup plan. You are worthy of being loved as you are. You deserve to be valued and cared for if you have been valuing and caring for another. You do Not have to allow yourself to be hurt for the sake of someone else’s ego. Your self worth, self love, and self confidence do not depend on anyone’s opinion of you – they depend on Your opinion of you. You will face rejection, you will face betrayal and you will want to disappear from the earth sometimes. But do not fear, you are Not alone. All of us have been bruised and battered by life and we are still here.

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There is so much more to your life left for you to discover. Be adventurous. Shoot fear in the ass. And remember, love yourself. There is still hope while you still hope. Be free and be hopeful. On that note, happy Monday, and may you all have a wonderful and productive week! 🙂

 

 

Amidst the plethora of 2017 resolutions and “decide who you want to be this year” and how you can “change everything about yourself” articles, I find that this post will be severely out of place. However, that’s why it actually matters. It isn’t about changing everything about yourself or letting something go or accepting a past failure or turning over a new leaf. It is about continuing to evolve with every day we are blessed with, even when it is depressing, lonely, and hard to breathe. It is about forever forging forward despite all the difficulties and challenges we face in order to grow and achieve our dreams.

Achieving dreams is a different process for everyone. For some, it is go to school, struggle, find an internship and debut in the world. For others, there are a lot of detours along the way. For yet others, school is not even a factor. What they love and are talented in doing doesn’t require any teaching, it’s an intrinsic talent that they polish by actually doing what they love. For a lot of people, a dream is finding something to be passionate about in the first place. Sometimes, we have to explore new avenues to search for a dream. We have to do things and experience things that are out of our comfort zone in order to find what it is we have always been looking for. And sometimes, for some of us, we have more than just one dream.

This post is about how one of my amazing friends inspired me to try something I never thought I would do and it has ended up being one of the most unique experiences of my life. It is about how when we have the courage to pursue our dreams, despite countless setbacks, it is possible to fulfill them and become the people we always wanted to become. It is about me doing something I would have been terrified of doing just a couple years ago – and having a blast doing it. This is the story of a dream becoming a reality.

One of my friends decided to pursue a dream. She created her very own photography business called Ember Faith Photography starting late last year. Her Facebook Page and website are just little steps in the journey towards her achieving her dream. They don’t show you her hard work, joyful enthusiasm and absolute passion for her work. While working a full-time, exhausting job (I know because we work together), being a mother to her beautiful daughter Eden, who I will be showcasing below, and her adorable son Oliver, and going back to school at the same time, she somehow managed to not only start a time-consuming business but excel in her craft.

She has done everything from family portraits, to maternity pictures, to couples photography, to boudoir shoots, to (with me) artsy-ethnic photography, to even a small wedding. I can’t express how fun the shoot we collaborated on was or how mind-blowing the resulting pictures are. I have never seen myself as attractive but Sarah managed to make me feel eclectic, exotic, beautiful and comfortable (even while dancing in an empty parking lot or posing on the street as passerby slowed down to see what was happening XD). I can tell from my own experience that she managed to do the same for all of the people that made a great choice and chose her for their photography sessions.

So, my dear friends, lets go down a road to the realization of a dream and just how beautiful it can be with the pictures that speak for themselves. Here are a few portraits that Sarah did of her daughter Eden, the enchanting flower girl, some time before she began Ember Faith Photography:

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All of the shots of Eden have this certain abstract, almost magical quality to them that make me just get lost in the innocent beauty she has managed to capture here with Eden as the enchanting fairy she is:

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Underlying all those images is the love only a mother can have for her child. Eden being the fascinating model she is certainly doesn’t hurt.

However, there is so much more to showcase that I must move on to these amazing pictures of a very unique wedding photoshoot that absolutely blew me away:

Followed by this great collage of maternity pictures that she made for a friend of ours:

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As well these adorable newborn shots:

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As anyone with any kind of experience taking pictures of children will tell you, it is difficult at best. Sarah, however, makes it look effortless and enchanting as evidenced by the shots of some very different kinds of children below:

Not only is she amazing at making these kids grin from ear to ear and look adorable, she can take the best family portraits I’ve seen in a good long time:

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Not to be remiss, I must showcase her talent for capturing the little special moments between couples of all different kinds as well:

However, none of this encompasses all her talents as a photographer. She and I had the best time collaborating to turn a vision she had into a reality. I was the model, decided on the wardrobe and makeup, and provided some of the looks. She scoped out the locations and brought her enthusiasm and sass. It was absolute magic and I loved every second of it. Here are a few (well sort of) pictures from the shoot we had:

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In front of the wall mural painted by Tyler Kay, a local Houston artist and absolutely phenomenal person: http://www.instgram.com/tylerkay/

I’m sure it is hard to tell from these photos but I’m not normally the type to model on the streets. Sarah made me feel beautiful and valued. I can’t say how much of a confidence boost that was. Below are the pictures where I even danced for her in an empty parking lot:

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After this singular moment in my life, we moved onto another location where we some extremely striking wall art and took a few more pictures that make me question if that is really me in the pictures or if Sarah did some magic and put someone else there in my place:

I think the pictures and their vibrancy speak for themselves. These are all proof of the hard work, the talent, the personality and the artistic eye Sarah is in possession of and is using to the best of her abilities. If y’all ever decide to have a private photoshoot done for yourself, then Ember Faith Photography should definitely be your go-to!

I find nothing as satisfying and humbling as seeing the talents of my friends grow, blossom and stun me with the beauty they produce. Seeing them achieving their dreams and becoming empowered, fulfilled people is such an inspiration amidst the negativity that runs rampant in the world today. I am so, so proud of all of them and am so very grateful that they continue to be part of my life.

A special thanks to Sarah and her amazing work for allowing me to not only feel beautiful for a day but to feel special and unique every time I see the pictures she took of me. Thank you boo!

To all of you out there struggling to make ends meet and feeling down-hearted because nothing ever goes right and you cannot even imagine pursuing that dream you have always had – I know your pain. I know how soul-crushing and difficult and isolating it is. But please, don’t ever give up on yourself. Don’t ever believe the world that assures you that you will never amount to anything. Don’t let your inner demons hold you back.

You Can Do It. I believe more in the power of the human will to accomplish its goals than anything else. May God be with all of you and may you all find success in this new year! Happy 2017!

 

 

 

 

I know this post has been a long time coming and I apologize. I have just been really involved in personal issues and life in general. The recent election is something I’m not going to discuss in this post – I’m incredibly drained from the political and human drama of the moments. Instead, I’m going take this opportunity to talk about my recent trip to the Big Apple.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned I went to Seattle and saw some amazing things in Washington and Vancouver, BC. I learned a lot from that trip and was delighted to reconnect with family I hadn’t seen in almost two decades. That trip wasn’t just about going away from Houston, it was about reconnecting to my roots – I spent several summers in Seattle as a child. However, this post is about my time in NYC and growing as a person through my experiences there (be prepared for a lot of pictures)!

A few weeks after returning home from Seattle, I visited New York City for the first time in my life. I was a little nervous before I left – I would be on my own in a strange and fantastic city and had no one there to help me out. However, the very thing I was afraid of turned out to be one of the best things about my trip. I absolutely loved exploring, getting lost in, and finding hidden treasures from losing my way in NYC. I rode the subway, the ferry and the bus. I once lost my way and ended up in Harlem at midnight. That resulted in me walking through Brooklyn streets at 2 am on my way back to my Air BnB and almost using my taser on someone that was approaching me threateningly. Hence, while there were moments of anxiety and frustration, there was so much More excitement and energy!

When you hear that New Yorkers are always on the go, you should believe it. People are always on their way to somewhere to do something. It doesn’t matter where you go, people are intent on accomplishing a goal, even if it is to spend an idyllic day in Central Park. That energy infected me too. In just three and a half days, I managed to visit the Empire State Building, Lady Liberty, New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street, the 9/11 Memorial, 5th Avenue, Times Square, Central Park, the MET, the MOMA, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and Grand Central Station. Each place was unique, exciting and thought-provoking. Some of the more iconic locations literally made me tear up with happiness.

One of the best things about NYC was the ease of access to everything one might need. It was great to be able to buy Halal food literally everywhere I went. It was really great being able to get basically anywhere with public transport at all hours of the day and night. I could buy anything I hadn’t brought with me at the countless little stores lining every street. And having street vendors made it easy to get nice things for a low price. In short, NYC surprised me by being so easy to navigate and being so convenient for someone a lone traveler in a strange environment. In retrospect, going there became a huge source of both confidence and self assurance for me. And it gave me the courage to go somewhere else shortly after, which I’ll be talking about in my next post (hint, it looks like a boot!).

Now to review all the amazing places I was lucky enough to visit:

I ended up at Wall Street by accident (took the wrong train) and had a surprisingly good time wandering around there on a holiday (it was Labor day). From there I walked to the majestic and awe-inspiring 9/11 Memorial grounds. I must also admit that I fell in love with the mall/train station adjacent to the Memorial. Being at the Memorial was a really surreal feeling for me, especially given the day I went there. The building itself is amazing enough but the names written on the walls surrounding what looks like a waterfall seen from above made me really grateful for the life I’ve been given. Here are some pictures I took to commemorate my visit there:

 

Following my time there, I decided to go to the Empire State Building. On the way, I got lost a couple of times and wandered through 5th Avenue as well as Korea town, but it was totally worth it. The mass of humanity in NYC is almost overwhelming, but at the same time it’s really wonderful to be around people from so many different places and no one gives your race or gender a second thought. In any case, I did reach the Empire State Building and enjoyed a fascinating view of New York City from up high. It looked more amazing the darker it got and I just have to share the view with all of you!

From there, I went where literally every tourist ever has gone before – Times Square! It was everything I’d ever seen on TV and more. The energy was unbelievable, there were countless street vendors and performers, and I doubt a single true New Yorker was in sight. Even so, it was a dream come true to be there and just enjoy the sights! I absolutely loved Broadway though I didn’t catch a show (I just don’t enjoy theater, I know blasphemy but what can I do?). It was a great way to wrap up my first day in NYC.

I started off the next day with going somewhere I had always dreamed of visiting – the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As an art and history buff, I absolutely loved the MET. If I had the time, I could go there every day all day for a week and still not see everything. Thus far, it is the most awe inspiring museum I have had the pleasure of visiting. There was too much I loved there but I’ll just share a few things that really stood out for me.

I know those are a lot of pictures, but I promise you that that these are only a small percent of the things on display at the MET. For anyone who loves art or history, this is a must see!

After spending the whole day at the MET, I decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge and fell completely in love with it. The MET and the Brooklyn Bridge are easily my favorite places in NYC as of now. Walking across the Bridge was both amazing and unreal – it felt like I was in a different world for a little while. It’s one of the few things I would like to do again if I ever go back to NYC. Here are some views from the bridge.

Following that amazing experience, I went onto Rockefeller Center. It was a lesson in grandeur and tastefulness. I had an amazing time going to the top and seeing NYC from on high once more.

My adventure on the way back was quite interesting. I had an almost hour long conversation about spiritualism with a hotel employee on my way out of Rockefeller center, followed by an interesting shopping trip for a hoodie which resulted in a stranger offering to take me to dinner and drive me back to my Air BnB. Such an interesting evening.

I started out my next day in NYC by going on a free walking tour of Central Park – or rather a corner of it. The day started out extremely windy and cloudy so I was afraid it would be a disaster but it cleared up right on time for the tour. In fact, it got extremely warm during my time there. Following the tour, I took a brief walk around Central Park on my own and can safely say I completely loved it there, as is obvious from the following shots I took while there.

I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked as I had another significant trademark of the Big Apple left to see – Lady Liberty! I ended up riding the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island and back in order to see Lady Liberty. I didn’t go to Liberty Island (it was closed) but I did get to see her! No good pictures of that adventure, sadly, but here is at least one of her and one of the NYC skyline as seen from my angle at the time (I love the NYC skyline, if that isn’t obvious yet lol).

Following my trip to see Lady Liberty, I had a disappointing and frustrating time walking around SoHo (I’m sure this is because I’m a clueless newb) and stopped by Little Italy to have some truly excellent pasta and also strolled through Chinatown – it didn’t feel like I was in the States anymore at that point with the shop owners yelling out their wares, everything written in Chinese and the kind of crowds you see on TV when they show you a shot of Hong Kong.

I concluded my day with a trip to see a place I have dreamed of seeing since I first saw Home Alone as a child – Grand Central Station! I’m not even going to  lie – I happy cried right before I took that selfie down there. It was just fantastic – the energy was unbelievable and it took my breath away. Totally a dream come true for me!

I was due to leave the next afternoon and head back home so I spent my morning at the Museum of Modern Art. I absolutely had to see the Starry Night that was on display at the MoMA at the time. In doing so, I also saw a very emotional series of stories told my illegal immigrants who left home to find refuge or a better life and ended up in different places in Europe and their lives after the fact. I also saw a series of documentary shorts about Napalm and the horror it rendered on so many people. It shook me deeply. However, many of the exhibitions there did not allow photography so I’ll just share what I was able to photograph.

They had a fairly cool sculpture garden that I took full advantage of after I had achieved my goal of seeing Van Gogh’s most amazing painting (IMO). This concluded my exploration of NYC but not the lessons I learned there.

On my way back to my Air BnB to pick up my luggage and head home, I fell hard on the concrete and scratched myself up. My Uber driver showed up shortly after so I couldn’t even clean up the blood properly. We then ran into some serious traffic followed by construction and road closures. I almost didn’t make it to my flight – or that would have been the case had the flight not been over booked and so full that they requested several passengers to check in their carry on luggage.

On the flight back, I sat next to an elderly couple from Pakistan whose daughter lives in Houston. We ended up talking the whole flight back and I had an amazing time learning all about them and their family. They even gave me some great advice – never stop learning and never give up! Find opportunity where people see only adversity. Life will inevitably be difficult and seriously traumatic events will occur. But that is never the end, unless you let it be. Hope springs eternal and as long as there is hope, there is a chance for success. They gave me so much love it caught me off guard. It was a truly singular experience and gave me so much hope for humanity.

Travel has taught me so much – independence (more than usual), ingenuity, the ability to adapt to unexpected situations, and patience. I’ve grown stronger from all of it.

My message today is simple – travel like your life depends on it. Save and travel, no matter what. You’ll have strange and uncomfortable experiences that will help you grow. You will have awe-inspiring, unforgettable experiences that will lift you up. And you will make fleeting but unforgettable connections with strangers that may become a great inspiration for you and may determine how you live the rest of your life.

More than anything, trust your instincts and never stop growing and learning. You will become stronger every time you learn more and see more. So, travel. And travel some more. I certainly plan to!

I know this has been a long post but I hope you enjoyed it and will look forward to the next one! Until next time, ciao!

 

 

 

A strong woman, they say
Forged in the fires of pain
Feeling the salt and blood of rivers
Flowing down the cracks in her skin
Through the warmth that keeps
Her living, slowly becoming her veins

A strong woman, they call her
As she picks herself up again and again
You, and you, and you, and you –
You who were supposed to be
Her brother, her lover, her protector, friend
Turned into the very vultures that
Attacked her even as she writhed in pain

A strong woman, they labeled me
This tired, brittle bag of bones
With each day, it becomes harder
Each trial making me more alone
I did all I imagined possible
But it was never enough to ensure
That I would never have to be strong enough
To weather all, steady as stone

A strong woman, I’m told
Is one like me, racing through
Typhoons, tidal waves, earthquakes
Even the deep dark of a black hole
As if nothing is of consequence
Like no matter how many meteorites strike me
I will simply go on, perfectly whole

A strong woman, I may have become
But with every step, every fall
My soul shattered into jagged glass
My feet slippery from bleeding with
Cuts made each time I broke
And break I did, losing another piece of me
Every time I had to forge myself anew

This strong, independent woman
Was wrung through every pain the world
Could imagine, first taking her innocence
Then her dignity, clipping her wings
To cage her when she would have flown
Slowly corrupting even her smile
Until all that remained was a shell

This strong woman became a hollow husk
A puppet on a string manipulated
By you, her protectors in name
But in truth, you were her jailers
The ones forever claiming you knew
What she could and could not do

This woman, before she was strong
Was in apathetic darkness years long
Eventually, she realized she would die
If she remained caged, unable to fly
So she broke free of her shackles
Finally roaring with rage
Daring the world to challenge
Her right to live, never again enslaved

This strong woman, she made
So many choices, both right and wrong
But she learned her own mind
She learned to stand strong
Believing she could shape her own life
Whether or not she ever came to belong

This strong woman slowly changed
From a girl into a woman older than her age
Along the way, she lost many people
She broke her heart, she failed her dreams
Some people abandoned her, some used her
But with every scar, she learned to go on

This strong woman, she survived
The rush of agony each time
Life taught, terrorized, traumatized
Each time, the dark rose to take over
She learned a new depth of light inside
Growing stronger with every passing night

This strong woman, who knew love once
Came to know betrayal
Came to know abandonment
Learned she could always fail
With every instance she chose perseverance
Her desire to Live grew stronger, she prevailed

A strong woman can never be weak
Even as you choke the life blood from her
No tear will fall from her eyes
No sign of pain will show through her mask
She will only scream silently, praying for help
She never gets an answer that
She didn’t have to create for herself

A strong woman should never be lonely
That is the mantra she repeats to herself
Every time she sees someone happy, whole
She wonders who her happiness stole
She became so strong that the weak majority
Became afraid and intimidated
Now she walks alone because
No one of equal strength walks nearby

A strong woman they call me
As if it was so easy to become me
As if I didn’t have to struggle down
Every path I chose for myself
As if every scar didn’t tell another
Festering, heartbreaking story
As if, somehow, this title I have earned
Were just a casual note in a Symphony

This strong woman, every time she starts anew
Digging out a new path, carving a new trail
Becomes a little stronger with each drop of pain
Becomes harder with every scorching flame
The pressure of hardship and expectations
Slowly turning her into a diamond untamed

Let me start, once again, by the wonder invoked in me by an art exhibit as pictured below:

Kusama Exhibit MFAH

A room of floating lights, a platform surrounded by water, and only a minute and a half to enjoy the wonder of being suspended amongst the stars. A minute and a half that completely captured the kind of Universe I want to live in. A minute and a half of complete joy in the wonder of the human imagination.

The amazing world Kusama created is further expressed in the other half of her exhibit as pictured below:

Kusama Exhibit MFAH

I loved the mirrored room with giant lava lamp-likeness, the kind of place I imagine exists in Alice’s wonderland world.

However, God continues to take my breath away with the beauty He created in this world for us to discover and revel in. I had the pleasure of visiting the Seattle area recently and what struck me most was the majesty and absolute glory of the natural beauty in the area. Hiking up Mount Rainier, I was awarded with these breathtaking views:

The beauty I saw there dwarves anything I have seen created by the hand of man. However, I was further blessed to have seen the extraordinary art on display at the Chihuly Gardens in Seattle Center. I believe each piece speaks for itself.

The Gardens also afforded an incredible view of the Space Needle which I went up and thoroughly enjoyed.

What I discovered most of all is that ultimately the more we see, the more we grow. It’s important to leave the norm behind and experience the extraordinary and the overwhelmingly majestic in order to keep flourishing.

To all of you bound by the chains of expectations and daily pestilence, I advise you to act wisely and plan for days that allow you to experience the beauty that can be life. I know it can be really difficult to work in to your busy and financially draining life. However, what is life without adventure? In that vein, happy future travels mi amigos! Until next time, I bid you adieu.

In the land of Dreams, it seems that you have once again become the source of all my glee. Everything I remember about you that was good rolled together in one scene, like when you and I once seemed to fit together so well. In the dreams, we make each other laugh and feel joy in once another, even though time has moved forward and you have not. Even in these dreams, you never chase me or reach out to me first. In fact, you just smile and laigh happily because I complain to you that you don’t but somehow, I still don’t let you go and we are happy…somehow. When I wake up, I feel fluffy like I’m on a cloud and everything is good in life. And then, I remember you as you really are. I remember you the way you were at the end and I feel as though I betray myself every time I dream of you. I feel as though the only way I’m at peace is if I’m at peace with you but that will never happen again, not in the waking dream that I call life. Will you never let me feel peace again?

You were only a dream, one that lasted until it burst in the bubble we had created around us, carefully not allowing reality to intrude upon us. Had you stayed true and never burst that bubble with the heartless cruelty only you know how to inflict upon my soul, I would have stayed true to that dream, to my love of you. Yet you couldn’t even manage that. You couldn’t stay by me. Or rather you wouldn’t. I wasn’t good enough or you weren’t. It was the perfect catch 22 between two incredibly different and highly imperfect people. There was no end but The End.

Why doesn’t my dream self remember the soul shattering pain you caused when you betrayed everything she stood for and had fought so hard for? Why doesn’t she recall how callously you abandoned me once you had no more use for me? Or how your family and you never once turned back to even speak to me after that? Why doesn’t she remember the anguish you caused her, her family, and her friends? How does she forget how easily you threw away a relationship that could overcome anything, anything but the betrayal of your heart, or how it makes her wonder if you were ever true at all?

Come to me in my dreams no more. Abandon me in that land, too, as you once did before. Even my dreams warned me against you, but like the fool that I was, I paid no heed. I have paid for that willful ignorance in full.

I wish no more to remember you or anything of you. I wish no more to find you once again, to have you beg and apologize and do anything to get me back. I wish no more to walk with you in life, I could never trust the fear of your own failures that seems to guide your every action. I wish, most of all, to make you disappear from the parts of me that feel happy at the thought of you. I hate that the you in my dreams makes me so utterly overjoyed and at peace. That the only time I wake feeling so peaceful is after a happy dream of you. I hate you. You hurt me more than I knew was possible.

Reality sometimes seems cruel, but not so in this instance. Reality is a necessary reminder that dreams only last so long. Eventually, they disappear into nothingness if they are not treasured and nurtured with care by everyone involved. Even a small crack in the bubble can lead to the deterioration of all hopes and dreams in the bubble. All that is left behind is devastation and, for the survivors, the inevitability of the passage of time. All the strong have left to them is the absolute determination to go on and never give up.

I am not the strongest or bravest or smartest. But I am, and always have been, a survivor. Being a survivor has left me with no other choice but to grow, to become braver, smarter, stronger, more. I am not who I was just a few months ago and I will never be her again. I am glad I am who I am in this moment. I will not succumb to the empty bliss of ignorance. The past is full of lessons both learned and not. The future is full of experiences I cannot even imagine today. The present is my only concern because this is where I build everything I am going to be and verify all that I am today. That is enough.

I realize this is my second post today but I’m feeling fairly prolific at the moment. And this moment won’t be denied. So here it is.

The little things in life sometimes mean more than the more obvious and seemingly more important things. Let me illustrate.

My sister is an amazing person. She works hard, thinks deep, could probably win Jeopardy, loves pandas and the outdoors, takes amazing photographs and has a tendency to be a night owl. All of these things and many more make her who she is. She is also so very kind and generous that she has had to build a wall to protect herself from the cruelty of a world that tramples kindness and takes great advantage of generosity.

But the little things she does for me really mean so much to me. She brightens up my days with a series of little surprises that keep me grateful for having a sister like her. She did it again today and really brought a smile to my face. I would like to share some of these little things she has gotten me that nean so much to me with all of you.

Let me start with this:

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Beautiful cacti

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My terrarium…sorry for the bad lighting

This, my friends, is the sweet little terrarium my sister built especially for me. I absolutely adore it! Just look at that vibrant cactus flower and the other artistically arranged cacti! Totally love it (and her of course).

Going further, I present to you exhibit B:

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Yes, I am a proud Who! I’m 11th Doctor will always have both my hearts ❤❤

She was so generous she bought me both the 11th Doctor from Doctor Who and Deadpool!!!! As is apparent, I am a bug fan of both the characters and the people who portray them. I was incredibly delighted to receive both!

Today, she surprised me with these beauties:

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Left: intricately embroidered cloth cover notebook. Right: an adorable story of a kitten 😍

I am seriously in love with journals and notebooks and pens and nice paper…you get the picture. However, I don’t normally splurge on any of it because I am practical enough to realize that I don’t use it on a normal basis. I love leather bound journals and unique and artistic notebooks, so this was the best of surprises. Pictured on the left above is a gorgeous little notebook bound in thick embroidered cloth and held together by a wooden spine. The pages inside are good quality as well. I am going to preserve it forever. It’s soooo cute.

my-precious-meme-4893

If you are a LOTR fan you will understand 😁

Next to the fantastically gorgeous notebook above is a little storybook about a kitten that didn’t want to let the owner knit mittens. I swear I died and went to soft kitty heaven. It’s so skdhrieokngueomgn Adorable!!!! 😄

All of these little things are Things, but I see all the love and care and thoughtfulness put into each and every one of these and today I just wanted to appreciate all she does and is. There are many other things she has gifted me with but, for me, the greatest gift of all will always be having her for a sister. Love you 4everzzzz lil sis! ❤

I had a really long, tough day at work today. I got home feeling like a zombie, run over and killed and then run over again for good measure. I got home ready to collapse into a grumpy mess. But a really sweet gesture from a really wonderful friend turned my night around in an instant.

I present to you my friend Monique Pham’s blog, a testament to her culinary poweress and a great place for amazing recipes! 

In my head, she is the Baking Queen, a sweet sister and an extremely thoughtful friend. Today, when I was ready for my horrible day to stretch into a horrible night, she did something incredibly sweet – she brought me a cake she had baked earlier today. And it wasn’t just any cake either. I give you the Spring Cake, as beautiful as it is delicious!

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Gorgeous spring cake, complete with chocolate,flowers and edible herbs! Noms!!!

This gorgeous creation is one in a long line of many innovative, delicious, aesthetically outstanding culinary achievements.

She has made many cakes, tarts, truffles and macaroons in the years I have had the pleasure of her company but occasionally she out does herself as evidenced below by the few I have stopped to take a picture of before diving headfirst into the bliss that is her baking.

I simply don’t enjoy anyone else’s cake as much anymore. I have good reason not to. Look at all these goodies in this screenshot from her Instagram @momobakescake. Please do show her some love if you love what you see as much as I do!

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Monique, I know this blog wasn’t written with your knowledge but I just had to tell the world how amazing you are. Thank you dear friend, you and your love of food have really brought so much light into my life. Your love and caring really makes our lives so much brighter. Thank you!

For all you foodies, order a cake or two from her. She bakes a large variety of other desserts too. I promise you won’t be disappointed!