Dollar Flight Club

If you’re anything like me, you dream and fantasize about traveling more than anything else!

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Sintra, Portugal

For years I wasted so much time NOT traveling, because I was worried about spending the money, and taking the time to search for flights. It all seemed like so much effort and I honestly was scared!

But thats the thing about dreams… they have to scare us a little bit! If they didn’t, then they wouldn’t be worth dreaming about in the first place!

The Road Less Traveled… Literally.

Here’s where that sinking feeling of FOMO or regret comes in; thinking about all the amazing traveling and exploring I could have already been doing!

If I only knew what I know today, I could have checked off so many more places on my world bucket list!

And what is it that I know? Keep reading below as I share my (not so secret) ways that you can make your travel dreams a reality… and spend less money doing it!!!

Dollar Flight Club

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The secret is literally in the name of this organization : Dollar Flights! Meaning, you will save so many dollars booking your flights through them!

Now you might be asking yourself, “Is this for real?” or “Will I really be able to save up to $500 on international flights?”

The answer is YES. Seriously!

Dollar Flight Club is an incredible, not to mention EASY, way to save on thousands of flights around the world!

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Lisbon, Portugal

How It Works

Dollar Flight Club is a flight deal alert subscription service that helps 500,000+
people save money on airfare. Subscribers save over $500 USD per international
ticket on average. The goal is to help subscribers see more of the world and enjoy
experiences they wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise!

Easier than checking a bag my friends!

Dollar Flight Club does all the work for you, searching various sources online to find the best deals, which get sent directly to you in your inbox. Literally, your next trip is just a click away!

Why Pick Premium?

So now you might be wondering about whether or not you need the Premium account, as opposed to just sticking with the basic free one.

Honestly, both are great options! Either way, you will be getting amazing flight deals to help make your travel dreams a reality.

BUT… here are a few major reasons why you should consider going Premium.

The Premium Perks

-Every single flight deal for your departure airport… Which means 4x more than Free   Members, and you’ll be more likely to find a flight that works for you!
– The option to filter by specific departure airport(s).
– 4x mistake fares and secret deals (And mistake fares are a MAJOR KEY to traveling for less!)
– Instant SMS text alerts
– Get deal alerts first, before free members
– No ads (just straight flight deals)
– Premium Membership Partner Perks

See? Premium is where it’s at, and I think it’s about time you #treatyoself and sign up today!

Join Dollar Flight Club Now

Joining Dollar Flight Club has been one of the best decisions I’ve made so far in 2019. Not only that, it’s helped me truly make traveling the world a reality!So what are you waiting for? Do you not want to see the places you’ve been dreaming of? Do you not like saving money on flights that you can spend instead on the incredible things you’ll see and do around the globe?

My friends, join me as I seriously start checking off my entire bucket list! Sign up with Dollar Flight Club, I promise you won’t regret it. You have money to save and the world to see!

Pack you bags, buckle your seat belts, and airplane mode on!

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Sagres, Portugal

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Sign up today with Dollar Flight Club

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Home Is In My Heart

I recently went on a trip back home – to the Philadelphia suburbs where I grew up!

I haven’t been able to go back for almost 3 years, and I have been aching for it so much.

So, when I managed to find a $250 RT ticket from Salt Lake (absolutely unheard of!) I jumped on it and was on my way!

Her Heart Is In Our Hearts

I spent my first night back in Wallingford, PA with my mom’s best friend and her husband. We spent hours catching up, and reminiscing about my mom and all of our memories from when we all lived down the street from one another. We laughed a lot, and we cried a lot too.

I needed that, I desperately needed to spend that time with her and feel as if my mom were in the room with us too, laughing at the old stories and remembering all the good times. Being around her, I feel so close to my mom because she carries a huge piece of my mom inside her heart and I needed to be close to that for even just a few hours; it was so healing and so vital.

My heart felt a little less heavy from sorrow and a little more full of joy after I spent that time with them.

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The Court House in Media, Pennsylvania all decked out for the holidays 

Holidays are the Hardest

After Thanksgiving, my heart has been holding this heavy sadness for my mom – I mean, I miss her all the time but the holiday season is always just a little bit harder. After dinner was done and all of my siblings and I left my Dad’s house, I went home alone. But, instead of going straight home and putting on some holiday movie by myself, I decided to take a detour and go visit my mom in the cemetery.

I brought her a Diet Coke like I always do, because it was her drink of choice. It was freezing, about 29 degrees and it was very dark except for the few grave-sites that had lighted fixtures on them around me on the hill.

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Cheers Mom. Miss you everyday.

There in the darkness I cried – and not just some tears, I full on ugly cried. I felt pathetic, but I think I needed to let it out and feel my grief in that moment. Sometimes I try to hold it all in and just deal with it, when in reality I need to own my pain and my sadness and feel it – really feel it. Because the reason it hurts so damn much is because I loved her, so damn much. And that love will never change.

My House

The next day before meeting up with a friend, I had to go see my childhood house. I can’t  go to the place I grew up and NOT go see my house!

I drove down the familiar roads, not even needing GPS even though I haven’t lived there for 15 years; it is all just so deeply ingrained and I remember it all!

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I will never forget this house!

Finally pulling up to my house, I pulled the car over across the street and just stared at it. I wanted to go knock on the door and ask if I could go see the inside of it, but I didn’t want the people who live there (in MY house) to think I was some kind of crazy person.

So, instead, I sat across the street and admired it, remembering so many memories as they all rushed over me. I lived there from 18 months to 18 years old, so almost half of my life! Remembering the girl who lived in that front window, she seemed like such a ghost compared to the girl sitting in the car now.

Feeling so sentimental, and still missing my mom and my family being all together for so many years in that place, I was suddenly crying there on the side of the road. And I’m sure anyone driving by must have thought something was wrong; but I mean, wasn’t there?

And one man actually was worried, and he stopped his car next to mine and waved me to roll my window down. He was a gray haired older man with an incredibly kind smile, although his eye full of concern.

“Are you ok sweetheart?” he asked in his thick Delco accent.

“Oh… yep! I’m Okay, thank you!” I responded, feeling stupid for crying on the side of the road trying my best to wipe my face.

“Are you lost? Can I help you with directions somewhere?” He offered.

I wanted to respond no, because I knew where I was and where I needed to go, but in the moment I responded, “You know, I am a little lost. But I think I can find my way.”

“We all get lost from time to time, but remember there is always someone around that can help you find where you need to go!”

After profusely convincing him I was ok, he drove off, but his words stayed with me.

Lost But Not Forever

I stayed there in front of my old house for awhile, just thinking about life.

That man’s kindness and his words meant more to me that I think he could have known in those moments we spoke.

The truth is, we are all lost sometimes – but not forever. And we even lose pieces of ourselves too – but they aren’t lost forever either; not always.

And just like that kind man said, there is always someone around who can help us find where we need to go.

Finding My Way Back

This trip home for me, I hoped would help me recover pieces of myself that I have lost. This town, and area, was where I was raised, where I figured out the beginnings of who I was and what I wanted.

Important steps and parts of myself were created and developed here; some of my most painful memories also culminated there. But you need the hard times to help you see your own strength and resilience, and to appreciate the good times more.

Going back to your home – to your roots wherever they may be – is important. It is an necessary place to return to occasionally, to feel that part of yourself again. If it’s been lost, you can try to replace it where it all started.

Or if there are painful things associated with your home, you can also go to face those old demons and finally let them go. This is also an important step on the road to self-discovery.

Home Is In My Heart

I ended that portion of my trip to the east coast with a dinner in Media with 3 of my closest girlfriends from high school.

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We laughed, reminisced, and caught up with each other. I hardly ever get to see them, and every time I do it is magical and so healing to my heart. I am continually grateful that we are all still friends and keep in touch, even though we live so far apart.

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3 of the best women on the planet

That night as I lay in bed I thought of that old saying:

Home Is Where Your Heart Is

And as sappy as I always used to think it is, it is so valid and so true; especially now that I live so far from the place I consider home.

My home is inside my heart, I carry it with me everywhere. My friends, my family, the places I hold such fond memories of, the ones I’ve loved and the ones I’ve lost too; they’re all in there in my heart.

So maybe in a way I’m not really lost, I think those pieces of myself are still in there inside me, they’ve just become buried under everything else that I’ve been facing and dealing with.

But my home, the place where the real “me” resides, is always with me in my heart.

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Walking through Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA

 

Life Cleanse

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If you knew something was going to make you sick, or potentially kill you, aka its toxic, would you drink it anyway?

I’m hoping all of you answered no!

So, with that out-of-the-way here’s another question: if you’re willing to avoid ingesting toxic things, then why are you not willing to cut out or avoid other toxic things in your life as well?

There are so many aspects of our lives these days that have become toxic, yet we continue to subject ourselves to them everyday. But why?!

Think about it this way, with my little analogy:

You have an amazing car that you treat like it’s your first-born child. And in this car you spend a little extra to only fill it with the expensive premium gas.

Why then, are you not willing to fill yourself with ‘premium’ too? Premium relationships that uplift you and support you, premium food that nourishes your body and makes you healthy, or premium use of your time instead of wasting it on things or people who don’t matter?

We must detox ourselves from the things that are slowly poisoning our lives, and opt to live a more premium lifestyle.

So here’s my own personal guide on how to detox your life! Keep reading for more 🙂

Identify the Toxins

In order to cleanse your life, you have to know what exactly is toxifying it!

So here are 8 of the most common toxic things in our lives to help you figure out yours:

  1. Harmful friendships
  2. Unhealthy eating habits
  3. Unfulfilling career
  4. Clutter : in your house, your closet, your car etc.
  5. All work and no play
  6. Social media addiction
  7. Wanting what you can’t have
  8. Negative self-talk

Now that you have an idea of what the toxins in your life are, here is a run through of how you can go about cleansing them from your system!

Harmful Friendships

It’s true that we as humans are genetically social creatures, and we have filled our lives with friendships and relationships to fulfill our constant need for communication and interaction; among of course, other needs.

Sometimes, however, these relationships can become negative and even harmful. It happens, not every egg is a good one. Think about the golden eggs from Willy Wonka, the bad eggs happened every so often and needed to be disposed of down the garbage shoots. So, it’s time to dispose of the bad eggs in your own life!

A friend should be someone who loves you and supports you no matter what. The people you can call day or night with your problems, your concerns, your funny stories, and your tears. After all, your friends are the family that you get to choose!

So, why would you choose to be friends with someone who isn’t good for you?

Maybe they’re fun sometimes, and invite you to cool parties or every once in awhile do something nice for you. But, if they are not making you feel good, supported, loved, or happy why bother letting them in?

A bad friend is someone who talks about you behind your back, or even talks badly to your face and cuts you down. They use you for your friendship, and only take from you what they want and need; and they never reciprocate. They are fair-weather friends, who only come around when they need something from you and that’s all.

Listen people, this isn’t elementary school where we have to send Valentines cards to everyone in our class, or invite everyone to our birthday parties because it’s the right thing to do; we are adults now and ain’t nobody got time for people who aren’t good for us!

So do yourself a favor and cut those people from your life who are not good for you! Yes, it is important to be kind, always! But this also means you need to be kind to yourself; so they have got to go.

Unhealthy Eating Habits

This one is a tough one – trust me, I know!

But back to my car analogy : why not put premium fuel into your body like you do with your vehicle?

The old saying “you are what you eat” is so much more valid than any of us want to admit on those days that we binge on chocolate, donuts, and all the breads. But, despite our denial, what we eat greatly affects everything inside of us!

Unhealthy eating habits can zap your energy, and also cause you to have trouble sleeping! Quite the bad combination!

Bad food choices can also obviously make you gain weight, hurt your heart, cause depression and anxiety, and overall just make you feel sluggish.

Reading all of that, you can’t honestly be OK with any of those consequences, am I right?

But like I said, I get it! Eating healthy alllll the time is hard! But trying to eat healthy as much as possible, and allowing certain times where you can indulge in treats or having a “cheat meal” is the better route to go.

Start by writing out a meal plan, and trying to stick to it! And schedule the day you’re going to have your cheat meal, to give you something to look forward to!

Eating healthy does not have to be boring or bland either; it can still be incredibly delicious and satisfying! Some of my favorite recipes come from the Whole30 cookbooks, which you can find all of those here. Or, get creative and find a new healthy recipe you want to try on Pinterest or from a friend!

Start fueling your body with the premium healthy food that it needs, and cleanse yourself from all the toxins that unhealthy eating habits can add! The higher quality the fuel, the more miles the vehicle will go 😉

Unfulfilling Career

Now this is one that I personally can testify to. Working in a job or field where you find no fulfillment or passion for is soooo exhausting and demotivating.

It’s hard enough to go to work everyday, but having an unfulfilling job makes that 1000 times worse.

If you find yourself in this situation, take a real serious look into what it is you really want to do with your life and your career.

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are your long term goals for your career?
  • What makes you feel fulfilled?
  • What do you love doing?
  • What are you strengths in a career choice?

After you figure some of those answers out, start looking into what it is you really want to do. Look up jobs, research career options, or even school!

Me? My current dream is to work in the humanitarian field full time. I’ve been researching some schools I could go to to receive a Master’s in global humanities. It will be a lot of work, and most definitely will involve me moving to a different state (or even a different country!) but if I dream big enough I can make it become my reality.

Just like you can! Figure out what you really want to do, and make it happen.

Clutter

We all have it. Its everywhere: in our kitchens, our basements, our bedrooms, our cars, and especially in our closets. CLUTTER!

Have you seen those shows where they go into someone’s home who is a hard-core hoarder?? Now I know most of us are not that extremely infected by clutter, but even just a small amount of clutter and mess can affect our everyday lives.

Compare it to your mind: if you mind is bombarded and crowded with lots of different, and mostly meaningless thoughts, it has trouble focusing on the things that it needs to! Well, the same goes for everywhere we live, work, and exist in.

If there is clutter, it can subconsciously cause stress and anxiety, make you feel lazy and less motivated, and honestly it makes you less desirable sometimes.

Have you heard that saying that says something like “dress for the job you want?” Well, create your space for the life you want to live!

Anytime my room is a mess, I feel like my life is also a mess. When I’m clean, organized, and have no clutter; my life reflects that as well.

Do yourself a solid and de-clutter! Start small, and little by little your entire life will be made-over!

All Work and No Play

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Or, Aly a dull girl.

This proverb, whose origination is unclear, basically is saying if all you do is work and you never take time to relax or do other things you love; your life will be dull and you will be bored and/or boring.

Think about Rhianna’s song Work. The lyrics are so monotonous, basically saying over and over again “work work work work work.” And Rhianna herself couldn’t sound any more bored as she slurs those words in the song! Right?? All work makes even Rhianna a dull girl.

My point is, it’s great to be a hard-working and motivated person; but you also need to take the time for you! Otherwise your work can become toxic to your happiness.

Go do your favorite hobbies, relax and read, go hiking, go to the gym; whatever makes you happy!

Bottom line: take the time for “you” time! Because who wants to live a dull life? I’m pretty sure no-one!

Social Media Addiction

I know I just wrote a whole post about my social media fast here. But I could definitely go on and on about how important it is to break our very real addictions to social media.

Obviously, there are some very great and useful reasons for social media!

On the other hand, there are also some bad things that stem from it as well.

Comparison is the thief of joy, and unfortunately it’s hard to not compare your life to everyone’s seemingly perfect and fun life as you scroll through your feeds. I mean, who are these young attractive people with perfect bodies, who only ever seem to go on vacations and travel??

Well, the truth is no one wants to post the nitty-gritty and bad parts of our lives for the world to see; we want to post beautiful, fun, well edited, and cleverly captioned photos.

So we don’t see the truth.

As soon as we can realize reality versus what is posted on social media, then it can still be something we can keep in our lives. But that’s definitely a distinction you need to make clear within yourself!

Also, it’s addicting as hell! Literally it has become a habit for me to pick up my phone and open Instagram or Facebook without even thinking!

And what an incredible time-waster too! There have been moments, I will admit, where I will open a funny video of a cute dog or some sort of animal, and end up scrolling for almost an hour in a feed of animal videos before I even realize it! Like HELLO! Addicted. But don’t judge me… I know y’all are obsessed with the cute animal videos just like I am 😉

We have to make efforts to cut ourselves off from social media. After my fast of 7 days, I made it a goal to only get on social media during certain hours of the day, and the rest of the day I’m forbidden to look at them.

It’s tough, I won’t lie, but it makes SUCH a difference!

Go ahead and try it, or do a full fast/cleanse of your own! You’ll realize how toxic social media can become, and how much better you’ll feel when you break your addiction.

Wanting What You Can’t Have

Story of my life.

Story of anyone’s life who is dating, has dated, or will someday date.

Story of … well, long story short, of everyone in the world relating to just about anything!

Why do we always want what we can’t have? I honestly think its just a defense mechanism embedded within our DNA to keep us driven; to keep us wanting more and chasing bigger and better dreams.

But, the downfall is sometimes we can end up lusting for things that we can never have; and in some cases, shouldn’t ever have.

It’s ok to dream and to have a goal to achieve something you want, or to try to date someone you really like. BUT, it is not healthy to obsess and lust after something so intensely and so badly when it is something that you may never reach.

Knowing the difference, and having a healthy balance of wanting what you can’t have opposed to what you can have. Just don’t let the appeal of wanting what you can’t have poison your happiness! It’s like baking with vanilla extract; a little bit can perfectly flavor your life, but too much and it’s toxic!

Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is a tough habit to break. That ugly, self-doubting, and ruthless bully in my head started in my early teenage years and still reappears every so often to cut me down. We can be our own worst critics, and it can poison our self-confidence!

Something I have learned to do to help silence the negative voice, is positive affirmations. Sounds cheesy, but they honestly work!

I like to read positive affirmations every morning when I wake up, to help start off my day with positive and motivating thoughts. I really believe that however you spend the first 20 minutes when you wake up can set the tone for the rest of the day!

Here’s a good one I focused on this morning:

I have survived every negative experience in my lifetime so far. I have not only survived, I have thrived.

To heal from any hurt, I must feel every emotion that I need to go through.

I never push my feelings down or try to cover them up. I face them, sit with them, learn and grow from them.

I find my strength through love. I am strong and so very powerful.

Try it out tomorrow morning! Find a positive affirmation, or something uplifting and inspiring, and read it and ponder on it when you first wake up. Let me know what you read in the comments!

The Life Cleanse

Try to figure out even just one or two things in your life that are becoming toxic waste to you, and are affecting you more deeply than you may even realize.

Cleansing your life from things that do you nothing but harm is so important. Take the time to remove things that are poisoning your happiness, and move forward in a new chapter in your life!

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It’s Just a Phase

If you know me, you know something that I love is the moon.

It always fascinated me as a child; I remember staring at it out the car window or my bedroom window, watching the phases grow larger and then smaller.

And it’s the phases of the moon that have particularly become most relevant to me in my life, the deeper symbolism behind it all.

The reason I have come to relate so much to the phases of the moon, is because of my history of cutting (and yes… I promise I will make the two connect!)

For those of you suddenly feeling uncomfortable about the topic of self-mutilation, self-harm, cutting etc… I’m not going to say sorry about it, because mental health needs to become less of a taboo topic and more freely spoken about. So for that reason, I invite you to keep reading. The more we know, the more we can understand and help those in our lives who are struggling!

The Beginning Phase

My own thoughts to cut started back when I was in middle school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My mom had been diagnosed with terminal cancer the year before, and I was still struggling everyday because of it all.

I had no name or even an idea yet of what these internal, emotional issues I was dealing with every day were. How could I? I was only 13 so at the time I still didn’t fully know what depression was supposed to look like or feel like; or that those awful bouts of feeling like the world was ending and I couldn’t breathe and I thought I was having a heart attack were really panic attacks.

Sitting in health class one day in 7th grade we were in the part of our curriculum where we learned about eating disorders, depression, suicide, and self-mutilation (which for the record: suicide and self-harm are two separate things. However, sometimes self-harm can morph itself into suicidal thoughts and tendencies; it’s just good to know they are initially two separate, but both very serious, things.)

There it was, I finally had a name to the dark face I was dealing with.

It was scary and relieving at the same time to finally know that what I was feeling, this urge to cut myself, was called -self-mutilation; and it was something so many people also dealt with! So I wasn’t going crazy like I worried about all the time.

Once I knew what it was, I did some research in the school library (because yes… I’m old and this was before the days of Googling everything…) and I felt more able to handle all of the feelings I was dealing with in a healthier outlet.

Now I don’t recommend this at all, because I think everyone should talk to someone in their family or a friend or a teacher, or whoever if they are feeling the urge to cut themselves, or are very depressed, or having panic attacks and/or anxiety. But just for me, I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about it. At the time, my sister was dealing with her own emotional demons stemming from my mom’s cancer, and my dad was so stressed and busy and sad with it all too, that I didn’t want to bring that on him. My older brother was currently living in France as he served a Christian mission for the LDS Church, so I couldn’t really talk to him about it either. And of course, I didn’t want my mom to know, because she was the one with cancer. And honestly, for most of the time I didn’t even know what the hell I was feeling or how to even express it, even if I wanted to.

So, brave little 13 year old me decided to deal with things on my own, and I internalized it all. I created ways to calm myself down when I was feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, or the dark thoughts of grabbing any sharp objects in my house and cutting myself. I’m not even sure how I figured it out at such a young age, but I figured out a way of what I can only call meditating, to ground myself when my thoughts began spinning and spiraling to dark places.

Honestly, I can only attribute it to God – hearing my constant pleas for help and peace. He saved me more than I think I’ll ever even know.

The First Cut

Now, fast forward to about 3 years ago.

I was deep in the belly of the beast of my miserable marriage. My husband was a narcissistic, abusive, alcoholic. We had a horrible fight the night before, similar to most nights, and I was feeling worn completely raw from the physical and verbal abuse and trauma.

Standing there in the kitchen, I was food prepping for my new Whole30 diet I had decided to start a few weeks prior, because I felt like the only thing I could control in my life anymore was food. I was cutting some sweet potatoes and I accidentally sliced the top of my middle left finger.

Instantly it hurt and the blood went everywhere on the cutting board. But in a strange way, it made me feel a little better. It sounds so weird and so barbaric, I know, but feeling that sting of the cut and then seeing the blood released from me made me feel better. (Which is actually from the dopamine and endorphins that are released in your brain when you cut yourself. This is your body’s way of trying to trick your mind into not feeling the pain you’re feeling; instead you feel that quick shot of happiness from the endorphins and you feel “good” from the dopamine.)

So… I cut another finger. I only just barely sliced the top of my left index finger, but again I felt that almost euphoric feeling.

Then, I panicked and was like HOLY SH*T WHAT AM I DOING? and I cleaned my hands off and bandaged both fingers. I felt weird, and I felt ashamed for doing that I had just done… but I couldn’t shake the feeling of relief I felt when I did it.

Well, that was the gateway cut for me, to begin a short lived but very dark period in my life. Quite honestly, I think that for sure was my rock bottom. I was beyond depressed, I had been isolated by my partner from my family and my friends, and I had no outlet or way to deal with all the trauma and pain.

I continued to randomly cut my fingers, because it was easy. Eventually, I started using razor blades to cut on my upper right hip, and then moved to my inner left elbow. I’m not sure why I chose where I cut, it was just where I felt inspired to do so in the moments it happened.

And when I say “inspired” it was not an uplifting thing, it was quite the opposite; it was as if my body were taken over by a very dark presence and I was out of my body watching myself do it. It’s so hard to explain.

Finally, one night after I had cut my arm, I broke down completely in tears in the bathroom, and was afraid I would wake the sleeping drunken beast in the room, so I went downstairs. I felt so crushingly alone, as if the entire universe were pressing down on me. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t even think straight.

I texted the one person I knew would answer, and I knew would be there for me in that moment: my twin sister.

I can’t remember exactly what I had texted her, but it was something along the lines of “I’m Ok, but I just wanted to reach out to someone and let you know I cut my arm tonight. I’m just feeling really sad.”

Of course, immediately she called me. It was around midnight from what I can recall. The worry and panic in her voice made me feel ashamed for what I had been doing, because I felt awful I was hurting her by hurting myself. She talked to me for awhile, and listened while I cried, and I promised her I would never do it again; and if I ever felt the urge to do it, I would call her. The most important thing she said, though, was that she loved me and would always be there. That snapped me out of the isolated gas-lighted prison I had been trapped in, and I realized she would always be there for me; and had been this whole time. All I needed to do was reach out. I hadn’t been alone, like I’d been manipulated and controlled to feel… of course my rock, my twin sister, would never leave my side.

Having her keeping me accountable, definitely helped me control my urges to cut. It made me think more logically about what I was feeling, and then of course I never wanted to hurt her again by having to tell her I had cut myself again.

It made me think of this quote I heard once…

If you can’t tell your best friend what you’re                                                                    doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it!

Now, again fast forward to the present. The last time I cut myself was what I just described, 3 years ago. Granted, the urge to do it still rears its’ ugly head every now and again, but I have the emotional stability and strength to not go there again for relief.

Also, I attribute a lot of my recovery to therapy, self-love, and making an effort to only surround my life with positive and uplifting people and activities. I also finally plan on starting EMDR therapy, which specializes in PTSD  and trauma specifically. I will definitely post about that when I start!

Just a Phase

The reason I love the moon so much, is because of the symbolism behind the phases.

The moon constantly fluctuates from being whole, to diminishing into completely darkness. Yet, no matter what, it always phases back to become whole again, and back to it’s full light potential.

This resonates with me, because that part of my life, that uttermost darkness I was barely surviving in; it was just a phase. It was not my forever.

So I have been able to slowly build myself back up, to come back from the darkness, and become whole again in the light. It’s symbolic of reincarnation, a new beginning. An ever forward moving cycle of life.

Because of this, I have been considering for a long time about getting a tattoo in that spot on my left inner elbow (which I briefly talked about here) which would help me remember where I am now, and not remember that dark phase before. I have a tiny scar there, and wanted to put something there that would inspire me and strengthen me, and remind me that I am in a new phase of my life, a wonderful and amazing phase; instead of remembering how sad and hurt I was when I created that scar.

I finally went, a month ago, and got my tattoo. If you’re in the Salt Lake area, Alex Gregory is fantastic and I recommend her to anyone!

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This is the day I got it! Right when I walked out of the tattoo parlor

If you, or anyone you know, are having thoughts of cutting, suicide, anxiety, depression, and feeling impossibly alone… I urge you to please reach out to someone! Don’t deal with it alone like I did, there are so many resources and so many people who love you and want to help you!

Also, if you are in an abusive and/or dangerous relationship, there are resources for you too. There are places you can go to be safe.

I will list a bunch of hotline numbers you can reach out to you, and I beg of you to please do. Also, I know many of you don’t know me, but I am here as a resource too. I will help you as best as I can, and get you directed to where you can go for the best advice or care possible. My email is: aly.paintedwithgold@gmail.com

Remember, it only needs to be a phase. It doesn’t need to be your forever. The darkness can always change orbit again, and you can become full and whole again in the light.

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National Hotlines:

 

Utah Hotlines:

  • The CrisisLine : 801-587-3000
  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition : 1-800-897-LINK (5465)

 

 

 

Rwanda Part 2: Lake Kivu, Kibuye, & Kigali

(Read Rwanda Part 1 here to catch up!)

June 15 Lake Kivu in Kibuye – The Cormoran Lodge

Waking up under the large mosquito net on our king size bed that Heather and I shared, I rolled over and could see the sun poking through the closed curtains from our balcony. I got up and opened them, letting the full views pour into our room.

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View of the other tree houses from our front balcony 

This spot in the city of Kibuye at The Cormoran Lodge, overlooking Lake Kivu, was one of the most beautiful places ever! We woke up quite early (not by our own decision) because Steve and SueAnne were talking pretty loudly out on their balcony below us around 6 am, but with a view like that I couldn’t really complain.

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The view from our back balcony onto Lake Kivu

After breakfast in the resort restaurant again, our group split up: Steve, SueAnne, and Anne headed into the nearby town to do some shopping. Heather, Poppa, and myself walked down to the dock to catch a boat with Mr. Kirenga.

Our destination was: Napoleon Island, so named because of how it’s shape resembles the hat Napoleon famously wore.

The motor boat was small, with a roof overhead, and could fit about 8 people. Our driver was a cute local triathlete named Ken. Hoping to see him in the Olympics someday!

The ride to the island was so great, stopping first to see some local fisherman unpacking their boats from a long night of fishing on the lake.

Then turning out towards the open water, we passed some other resorts currently under construction on a nearby hill, and a gigantic private home which is apparently owned by a man from Germany, and houses the king when he comes to Lake Kivu. It was pretty impressive.

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The private home where the King stays

We stopped at a small island covered densely in trees, when we saw a cute little furry face pop up from a branch. It was an adorable Vervet Monkey, and as we came closer he also came closer. When we reached the shore he hopped right onto our boat and checked us out.

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Waiting patiently for treats

According to Ken, he is notorious for visiting the tourists on the boats because he is hoping to get some treats. He walked around the boat, looking into all of our eyes hoping we would feed him. He sat patiently for a moment or two, and then when he realized we had nothing for him he left looking very disappointed, and watched us pull away from the trees.

As we got closer to Napoleon Island, Ken told us about a local farmer who brings his cows to the island everyday to graze. The amazing part though, is he ties them to the back of the boat and they swim behind it! I had no idea cows swam!! Plus they were really cute cows 🙂

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Blurry from the boat.. the farmer and his swimming cows!

Ken led us up the hiking path, which would bring us to the real reason we came to the island: the fruit bats!! The hike was pretty steep and rocky, but it only took us a few minutes to reach the bats.

But don’t worry, you can hear them the minute you get on the island, because there are over 5 million fruit bats living there!

Once we reach a good enough spot, Ken started clapping his hands and ALLLLLL the bats woke up and started screeching and flying around. It was incredible!

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After watching them for awhile we hiked back down to the boat. I ended up slipping once and fell right on the edge of a rock, which bruised my lower back pretty good. Poppa also ended up falling too! Heather and I were pretty sad we couldn’t prevent him from falling, but he assured us that he was just fine!

Going back to the lodge, we ate some lunch and then all went to take some nice long naps. Heather and I then decided to put on our swim suits and go down the the little sandy beach area and enjoy the sunshine. We didn’t dare swim in the lake though, because Poppa scared us pretty good about the parasites in the water that will get into your skin and cause itchy uncomfortable bumps, kind of similar to swimmers itch.

Everyone eventually joined us down by the water, except for SueAnne who went and took a late nap. The others decided to all go kayaking, so Heather and I watched them from the shore on our lounge chairs.

We met a few girls who were also staying there, who all work for the UN and are stationed in the Congo. I was so inspired by them and their work, and their passion to help those in the Congo.

Later after dinner, when everyone else had gone to bed – Heather, Poppa, and me talked for awhile just the three of us. We talked very intimately about our birth mom Sherri (Poppa’s oldest child) and when we were conceived and then put up for adoption. I had never heard the story from Poppa’s point of view, and it was such a tender and wonderful moment to have with him and Heather. I will forever be grateful for Sherri and her ability to make the best decision for us at the time, which was to put us up for adoption. She and her entire family hoped that one day we would return to find them, and when we did 4 years ago it was such a magical moment I will never forget. The Hales are just another extension of my family now, and I feel so blessed to have all of them in my life again.

June 16 Back to Kigali

The next morning we left the beautiful lodge on the lake to head back to Kigali. We stopped first at the local market to SueAnne and Anne could pick up their dresses they had made by one of the seamstresses. Their dresses were cute!

While in that market, a younger boy, in his 20’s I think, tried to pick pocket me. I noticed immediately, and he was not successful. I just smiled at him and walked away. It was so funny because I wasn’t angry at all, I honestly felt sorry for him that he felt the need to steal from me. I wished I could have just given him some money, but I didn’t want to start pandemonium with all the little kids who were following us “mizungus” around (white people).

About an hour into our ride home several of us needed to pee, so we pulled off into a small village. We each took turns running into the awful, dirty toilet room; held our breath and peed as quickly as possible over the open hole on the ground.

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This lady selling mangos right outside the “bathroom” we stopped at

Walking back to our car, a very handsome local man named Iman started talking to Heather and Anne, and offered to show us the market located just above the bathroom on the hill. We said “YOLO” and followed him, because we wanted to experience a local market without any touristy items.

We were definitely the spectacle in that market! Everyone stared at us immediately, and then wanted us to come look at their goods! Iman kept talking to everyone in Kinyarwanda  and we were pretty sure several times he was making jokes about us because they kept laughing at us! But it was all in good spirits so we couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves too.

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I bought a few of these African bananas in the market.. they were one of my favorite things to eat in Rwanda! Soooo much better than normal bananas! 

SueAnne ended up buying 2 drums covered in spotted goat skin. When she started drumming on them with her hands an elderly Rwandan lady got quite a kick out of it, and laughed so hard at her! We honestly must have seemed so strange and out of place to them!

The drive back to Kigali was beautiful, passing by many villages, seeing so many hills, and a gorgeous waterfall.

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We also made a brief stop to see the famous Hotel Rwanda once we got back to Kigali. Now, it’s actually called Hotel des Mille Collines  and has been renovated since the genocide in the 90s.

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The manager of the hotel during the 90’s, Paul Rusesabagina, helped hide and save over 1000 Tutsi refugee lives. Although now it is just a renovated hotel, it was still important for us to go there and see it.

If you’ve never read or learned about the genocide in Rwanda, do yourself and favor and study it. Just like the holocaust, and any other genocide that has occurred, it is important to educate ourselves about it so that we never forget and change history from ever repeating itself.

I will write more about the genocide in my final post about Rwanda, when we visited The Kigali Genocide Memorial.

We checked back into The Flame Tree Hotel around 2 pm, and decided to go meet by the pool for a swim with Poppa because it was incredibly hot and humid outside.

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However, the pool was ice cold! Poppa was the bravest of us, and went all the way under and swam two laps. I couldn’t bear to go past my waist!

Since Poppa had been the bravest we decided he had earned himself some Fanta Fiestas! He was pretty disappointed when they said they were sold out and only had Fanta Lemon, so he settled for those instead.

We all ordered soup for dinner and called it an early night.

June 17th Kigali

This day was a Sunday, so we decided to go check out the local LDS Church. According to Poppa; the current President of Rwanda, Kagame, had abolished all practicing religions from taking place. This was because there had been many different “pastors” and “bishops” who had come in after the genocide to start new congregations, and took these people’s money and disappeared. As if the Rwandan people hadn’t been through enough! In order to control his people no longer being taken advantage of, Kagame just abolished all publicly practiced religions.

So, in order to continue meeting every church had to abandon their original churches and worship houses, and find other places to do so in secrecy.

For the LDS congregation, they were sharing a space to meet inside a local hotel’s conference room with 2 other Christian churches. However, every month or so they had to change locations so the government wouldn’t shut them down again. These people are faithful to keep moving around just so they can worship together!

The meeting we attended was interesting, but so full of love and kindness. The members of the congregation were welcoming and friendly, and almost all of them made an effort to come say hello to us! I myself was pretty obsessed with this little girl who was sitting on the same row as us, with a matching dress and headscarf just like her mama! She was too shy though and wouldn’t come see me or Heather, much to our dismay.

Leaving church, we went to a few markets. There was not much else to do in Kigali that day, so we thought we might as well shop!

We stopped first at a smaller market, but it was where we ended up all buying things. Each little “store” basically had the same items, but with small variations. I was very picky with what I wanted to buy and lug all the way back on the long flights, so eventually I decided on a cute basket that I would hang over my bed at home.

We went to another market, this one specializing in fabrics and seamstresses. It was an absolute MADHOUSE. It was inside a giant warehouse, and literally from the floor to the ceiling, each small “store” was covered with all different bright patterns and colors. The vendors were almost ravenous to have you come buy from them, pulling you in all directions to come see their stuff.

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It’s super blurry but gives you the idea! Those rows of fabrics go back further than the eye can see! It was insanity! 

Immediately I felt overwhelmed with anxiety, feeling so closed in on all sides. While SueAnne became engulfed in a sea of vendors, Heather and I broke off from the crowd and went into a less enclosed aisle. I ended up buying a cute head band from a local vendor named Tom, who Poppa also bought a cute pair of pants from for Dianne back home.

Figuring the Alders would take awhile, Heather Poppa and I went back to the hotel since Poppa needed to connect with one of the local residents at the Kigali Hospital where he would be working the next week. We ordered some grilled cheeses and Poppa shared some fun medical stories from all of his career in the international  infectious disease medical world, while we waited for the resident to show up. Unfortunately for us, it is normal for Rwandans to add mayonnaise to grilled cheese, so I was worried we would become sick from it. (Spoiler Alert: none of us did!)

Leonardo the resident finally showed up, and Poppa gave him the laptop and cords he had brought for him from Utah. He seemed in awe of Poppa, and was so honored to be working with him. Poppa is just amazing!

Then we helped Poppa pack his things into a taxi, and headed down the street to the MTM building to get some money from an ATM machine, and get some ice cream. Because if there’s one thing you need to know about my Poppa, it’s that he loooooves his ice cream!

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It was delicious! We all chose chocolate.

Dropping us back off at Flame Tree, we said our goodbyes to Poppa. He would be heading to his fancy hotel by the hospital, where he would be working with the residents for the next week.

I knew I would miss him on our next adventures heading to Akagera National Park, and then to the volcanoes to see the gorillas, but I was so excited for what lay ahead for us!

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#sorrynotsorry

Why do we live in a world where we constantly feel like we need to say sorry?

“Sorry I’m late”

“Sorry I missed your call”

“Sorry for if what I said offended you”

“Sorry for telling the truth”

“Sorry I made a mistake”

“Sorry I’m not good enough”

“Sorry I can’t afford that”

“Sorry I can’t make it”

I mean, the list can obviously go on and on.

Why do we say sorry so often? Why has this become a core factor in our communication?

The Bad Day

I started thinking about this the other night, Monday night, after I had an epically frustrating and awful day. It was one of those days where everything seems to go wrong, and the universe seems particularly focused on making you suffer. Things had also been building up for a few days that had been wearing on me, and finally it just broke me.

Because of everything seeming to go wrong, and that had built up, I ended up being in the worst mood. I was easily defeated and frustrated, and had the worst attitude about everything. I snapped at people. To say the least, I was not the most pleasant person that day.

After such a day like that, I felt like I had been an emotional tornado ripping through everything and everyone I had crossed paths with, and I felt this intense guilt and need to apologize for being in such a foul mood and having had the worst attitude.

Later that night, I was hanging out with a few girlfriends and one in particular brought up the subject of how we as a society, especially women, feel the need to apologize too often and when its not even necessary.

She said something so simple yet so profound, and I thought about it so much since then:

Don’t apologize for being human, and for what you’ve done. Embrace who you are, accept what has happened in that moment or in that day, learn from it, and move on. Own who you are, own your choices and your mistakes, and let them refine you.

So no… I did not in fact owe anyone from that day an apology. It is only human to have a bad day, to be in a grumpy mood sometimes, and to every once in a while lose my cool.

In essence I did nothing wrong, but why did I feel such strong guilt about needing to apologize for the way I handled it that day? In reality I just had a bad day, and everyone has bad days. Instead of feeling sorry or saying sorry, I needed to adjust my perspective and just learn from the ways I reacted and move on.

Tired of Being Sorry

So the truth is, I’m tired of being sorry.

Why am I allowing society dictate how I should feel? How I should act, or what I should be doing?

I don’t believe I was given this life, just to have to apologize for it constantly. Should a fire apologize for burning? Or the water for being wet? No. So why then, do we feel like we should apologize for being human?

I’ve made a resolution that from now on I will live unapologetically as my authentic self. At least I will try my best!

No one gets to decide when I’m “too much”; no one gets to tell me when I’m “too loud” or that I’m “wrong”, or decide my passions in life.

It is my humanly given right to make mistakes, to have control and ownership of my choices, to be messy and sometimes reckless, to be a bit wild and untamable; and I won’t apologize for it anymore. This is me, take it or leave it.

That being said, though, of course this does not include instances where I do end up making a choice or mistake that does hurt someone else. Then of course I will own that and apologize to them. I’m not a monster, people 🙂

Things We Need to Stop Apologizing For

I’ve compiled a list of things I think we all need to stop apologizing for, especially we as women. I’ve also included some examples to help clarify the points behind them:

01. Your Personal Priorities

They are yours, and you get to decide what is important and what is not. The end.

02. Your Flaws

We are all uniquely made, and given unique purposes and skills. So something we end up lacking or failing at, shouldn’t be something we have to be sorry for. It just means we are one step closer on our life path to discovering our true selves. So flaws should be celebrated because of that, and not something we should be shamed for.

03. Following Your Dreams and Passions

Just like 01, your dreams and passions are not up to anyone else. You get to decide! So never allow the world to make you feel sorry or ashamed of what you want and how you’re going to achieve them. You want to put your blood, sweat, and tears into starting a new business but your friends/family are giving you grief because you’re ‘never around anymore’ or ‘never return their calls or texts’? Tell them you can’t keep people in your life that don’t support what you’re working your booty off to achieve.

Ain’t nobody got time for negativity!

Or, someone tries to tell you the thing you want most in life is stupid or not worth it? Or that you’ll never be able to reach it? That’s not their decision, and not their right to dictate to you how you should spend your time and effort. It’s your life, it’s your passion, and your dream; never be sorry for going after what your heart wants. Even if you fail, at least you tried, you learned, and you will continue on your life path.

04. Saying No

This one is a big one. People always try to convince to me go do something I don’t want to, and then make me feel guilty or bad for not wanting to. Why has this become OK?

If I don’t want to go to a party or an event, no one has the right to make me feel like I’m a ‘bad friend’ for not wanting to go. Doesn’t that seem hypocritical, since they’re technically being the bad friend for trying to shame me into going to something I don’t want to?

Its OK to say no! Never apologize for standing up for yourself, and saying no. Say ‘yes’ to saying ‘no!’ You will feel so much more in control of your life and your happiness when you stop allowing others to choose or tell you what you should do.

05. Telling The Truth

Just like the saying goes, the truth hurts sometimes. But in the end, the truth is more important than sugar-coating things or telling white lies to avoid offending or hurting someone’s feelings.

Now, don’t go around purposely being mean or nasty, but stop lying. Lying never leads to anywhere positive or good. Just tell the raw, honest truth but do it in a nice way. I promise it’s better! But… stop saying sorry when you do it. The truth needs to be said.

06. Loving Someone

And here’s another popular saying, “It’s better to have loved, and lost, than to have never loved at all.”

It sucks, but it’s true, people. We need to allow ourselves to be open to loving others, even when it ends up breaking our hearts, because that is also a continual rite of passage and path of growth as humans that we must travel on.

Yes, we all have at some time or another loved someone we maybe shouldn’t have. Me? yeah, I’ve done it twice. But I won’t apologize for it, even if the world wants me to feel bad or even stupid for doing it. “Well, you should have known better,” the world might say. Or, “Don’t make that mistake again.

But, in all honesty, I don’t regret anyone I’ve loved, even though both of them hurt me tremendously and broke me down to almost nothing. I don’t regret it and I will not apologize for it. The beauty about choosing to love, despite the potential of rejection, pain, heart-break, and sometimes trauma; is that it opens us up to love on new levels that we only can reach through choosing to love someone. It’s the necessary evil our hearts need to experience.

So, even if it ends in a heart break, it is always worth it to love someone, and it’s never something you should apologize for.

07. Standing Up For What You Believe In

This has been one I’ve felt like I need to apologize for my whole life. I am a member of the LDS Church, or better known as, I am a Mormon. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, where the members of my church were far and few between. In high school, my twin sister and I constantly dealt with feeling ashamed or having to apologize for what we believed in because of our religion. “Sorry, we don’t drink.” “Sorry, we don’t have sex.”

Etc, etc, etc….

It’s ironic that as a society we all want to believe in something; yet if that something we choose to believe in is not up to “society standards”, then we feel like we should apologize for it.

Why are we being so straight up #savage to one another guys??

If you believe in something (granted it’s not something hurtful to others, extremist and/or violent, hateful, or anything of that nature,) don’t let the world make you feel sorry for it.

One of the most beautiful things about everyone on the planet is how we all believe in different  things, yet we can (sometimes) find ways to coexist and support one another.

If we all believed in the same thing, conformed to the same ideals and standards and thoughts, this world would be a boring, awful place.

08. Being a Strong, Intelligent, Confident Woman

Historically, we as women have been apologizing since apparently the apple situation with Eve. We’ve needed to apologize for having voices, for wanting power, for wanting to show some more skin, for having emotions, for wanting to vote, for wanting to not need a man in order to have worth.

In more modern day scenarios, we live in a world of business tycoons and a world catered to men, who want us to live in a certain check-listed set of ideals or else we need to apologize for not being that type of ‘woman.’

Just like the whole feminist supportive uprising and #metoo movement that has recently been gaining momentum, we are finally standing up for being assertive, powerful, intelligent women; and we don’t want to apologize for it any longer.

There is nothing wrong with being confident, feeling sexy and beautiful in our own skin, and being a go-getter business woman. Stop apologizing for it.

Ladies, we need to stand up for ourselves, speak our truths, and go do the damn thing! We do what we want, we work hard for what we want, and we won’t say sorry anymore about it.

09. Having Emotions

For some reason, it has become socially normal to make people, especially women, feel ashamed for having emotions.

Personally, in my ex-marriage I was told I could never show my emotions in front of my ex, and that if I needed to cry I could do so in our closet upstairs with the door shut. You’re probably thinking I’m making that up, and I wish I was!

The world, just like my scenario, wants us to hide our emotions as well. If you cry you’re weak and vulnerable,  or if you get upset or angry you’re a crazy bitch.

Emotions are another beautiful part, built into our DNA, that allows us as humans to love, to feel, to enjoy, and to grow. Feeling ashamed of them and apologizing for reacting a certain way or feeling a certain way is literally going against the way we are designed. We have emotions for a reason!

So if you want to laugh at something inappropriate, do it. I do all the time! Cry if you’re sad or hurting, and get upset if you need to about that guy that just broke up with you after a year in a weak, selfish text message (because hellloooo that’s so lame!)

Emotions are beautiful, they are cleansing, and they are necessary. Stop saying sorry for them!

10. For Not Being Perfect

We all seem to be trying to live up to impossible standards, and then feel the need to apologize for not achieving them.

“Sorry I’m wearing too much makeup,” “Sorry I’m not skinny enough,” “Sorry

I’m not smart enough,” “Sorry I’m too feisty,” “Sorry I have too many opinions.”

It’s a vicious and exhausting cycle of empty sorries and never met ideals. This one definitely correlates with 02, and quite honestly anything I’ve listed here, but sometimes it is the hardest one to break the habit of.

If we make a mistake, we feel shame and guilt, and feel like we are no longer good enough. If we can’t reach a certain standard we feel defeated.

We have to stop feeling and saying sorry for not being “perfect”, and instead embrace ourselves the way we are, and celebrate the things we do achieve and the things we do have. Comparison is the true thief of joy, and we can’t keep measuring ourselves up to the social media picture perfect agenda that is constantly shoved down our throats.

Life is not all kittens, rainbows, donuts, and incredible vacations like we see on our feeds; its messy, dirty, painful, and awful sometimes but that is why it is amazing.

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So how do we avoid saying sorry? It seems kind of hard, but that’s because we have habitually been saying sorry for everything. An easy way to try and break yourself

of the habit, is to replace a “sorry” with a “thank-you.”

   –  Instead of saying, “Sorry I’m late,” say, “Thank you for waiting for me.”

   –  Instead of saying, “Sorry I missed your call,” say, “Thank you for understanding that I

      have a busy schedule and needed to call you back when I had time.”

    – Instead of saying, “Sorry I made a mistake,” say, “Thank you for understanding I am

      not perfect, and for helping me learn and grow from my mistakes.”

 

See? I dare you to try it.

I’ve been doing it since Monday and I’ve noticed a HUGE change! It’s very freeing to not feel so constricted within this awful apology society we have been living in.

If we keep saying sorry, even for the things we aren’t even sorry for, we are continuing to enable to societal problem, and digging ourselves deeper into this shame/guilt culture.

Like are you really sorry Carol, that you’re late to lunch? I don’t think so, because

you’re always late! If you were sorry, you would change your behavior and not be late

anymore. How about instead of apologizing every time you’re late, just embrace that

you’re an always-late-kinda-person and just show up when you can and say, “Thanks

for waiting guys!”

Don’t be like Carol, guys. Just own who you are an stop handing out empty apologies.

#SorryNotSorry

Back to my original story about this past Monday, and my awful, terrible, no good mood.

I decided that night as I laid in bed and replayed everything I had done in my head, and all the stupid reactions I had had, that I wouldn’t feel sorry for it.

Instead, I contemplated how I could have better handled the stress, the frustration, and the maddening amounts of flights I had to change and angry emails and texts I was getting blaming me for things that were not my fault… instead I would choose to react differently next time and just let it go and move on. I would learn and grow from it, but not be sorry for how it played out.

 

The only thing I will be sorry for from now on, is not being sorry. I own who I am, and I unapologetically embrace and love the woman I have become. I didn’t walk through the hellfire I’ve experienced just to be sorry for the incredible strength I’ve gained and the places it has led me to. This is me, and I’m not sorry for it.

maybe one day we’ll finally
learn to love ourselves and
stop apologizing for the things
that make us who we are
-r.m. drake

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Fool’s Gold

Have you ever stopped to think about what exactly it is you’re chasing in life? What are your dreams that you are seeking in the end?

I think these days it’s very easy to become distracted by everything that’s going on, that we can sometimes end up chasing something that we might think we want in the moment, but in the end it’s not really what we intended to find.

Treasure Hunters

Pondering over this last night, after a dinner with a dear friend where we talked about what we both want in life,  a story popped up from a memory long ago from college when I was studying Chaucer in one of my Lit classes…

…Particularly, The Pardoner’s Tale.

Basically, there are three men who go out seeking to find and kill Death. They come across an old, sad man who tells them he wishes Death would finally come visit him; then goes on to tell them they can find him in a grove nearby under a tree.

What they find there instead is a large pile of gold. They plot to take it for themselves, but need to wait until nightfall. The youngest is sent to town to buy some food and wine. While he is gone the other two plot to kill him and split the money between them. He has a similar idea, and laces 2 of the 3 bottles of wine with poison.

When he returns, they jump out and kill him. In celebration they both happen to drink the poisoned bottles of wine, and soon join him in death.

Like, real uplifting story right??

The moral of this tale is that sometimes we can become distracted or even mesmerized by the “gold” that may be under a nearby tree, and we become willing to give up everything else for it. But this treasure in the long run might not be worth what we give up for it; and it might not even be treasure at all.

Don’t give up something you want, for something you want right now

 

Fool’s Gold

Just like those men in the story, we can find some “gold” in our own lives and think that we need it, and need to do whatever we can to have it. In the end, it’s fool’s gold because we end up losing things that really matter to us to obtain it. So was it even worth it?

Fool’s gold is different for everyone; maybe it’s wanting to build a giant new home, lusting after an expensive sports car, or desiring to be in a relationship with a certain person.

I’m not saying any of these examples are necessarily bad, but if we are seeking them out for the wrong reasons, they will become our own pile of treasure under a tree that could potentially make us lose more than we bargained for to obtain it.

To me, the gold that I am seeking has drastically changed over the last few years. There was a mental check-list I had when it came to looking for a significant other, and I thought I had obtained it all with my former marriage.

Well, as I’ve gone over before, it was not what I hoped it would be. And that’s not blaming him entirely, it was also partially because I was so obsessed with this idea I had in my head of what I thought I wanted; because it was what socially around me everyone else had and told me I needed too. And I was willing to do anything to make it happen.

Seeking to take that gold from under the tree for myself, I nearly lost it all just like those men did in the story. And looking back now with clear hindsight, I see where I went wrong. And that’s why now almost 2 years out of it, I have made huge shifts in my life as to what I want to chase after.

The Real Gold

In life there is treasure everywhere, if we choose to really see it. Its just a matter of deciphering which piles of gold are worth our time, and worth our effort. Or, to be honest, which ones we need to just ignore and pass by.

I no longer want to be the idiot chasing fool’s gold that won’t make me any happier, and possibly make me lose more than I’ve already lost.

Last night after returning home, I got out my trusty journal and I wrote out a new list of goals I want to obtain in my life. Some are long term, and some are short.

It was fascinating to see how much my values and ideals have shifted even just in the past 2 years since my divorce. Honestly, I think losing everything and literally starting over on my own with nothing was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Sounds crazy to say, right? But it’s 100% true.

So for those of you even reading this, I challenge you to reevaluate what it is you’re seeking in your lives; what treasure is worth it for you to keep going after, and which ones will end up just being fool’s gold?

Don’t lose a true diamond by chasing glitter

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Rwanda Part 1: Kigali, Butare, Nyungwe Forest

Looking back on our incredible trip to Rwanda, it sometimes feels like a dream that we even went and experienced what we did!

My heart is so full and grateful for what we saw there – and I am forever changed because of it too. Not to sound too cheesy, but this was a place and an experience that changed my life for the better.

June 9, 2018

Heather and I decided to drive ourselves to the airport, since all the Uber drivers close by were charging a ridiculous $75 rate. With that type of payment, we decided we might as well park at the airport ourselves since it would cost us about the same in the end.

We met up with our biological grandfather Devon, or Poppa as we call him, and met our fellow travelers – Steve and SueAnne Alder (very close and dear friends of Poppa and our grandma Dianne) and their daughter Anne.

We didn’t know it at the time, but the Alder’s would become some of my favorite people on the planet, and I think some lifelong adventure friends!

We boarded our flight which was departing at 10:45 pm. I was feeling a little nervous since Heather and I were not able to sit by each other on this leg to JFK, and it didn’t make me feel any better when we took off and flew through some of the worst turbulence I’ve experienced on a flight! The poor Japanese couple sitting next to me probably heard about 20 straight minutes of unadulterated swearing that would make even the most weathered sailor blush.

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Needless to say, we made it in one piece. We landed at JfK at 6 am, had a 3 hour layover, and then boarded our next flight on Qatar Airlines. The flight was 12 hours to Qatar, but it was one of the nicest planes I’ve been on! Even in coach the seats were large, had spacious leg room, nice tv’s with thousands of things to watch or listen to, and more food than I could eat.

I did sleep for most of the flight, thanks to my Xanax. But somewhere along the way my eyes swelled horribly from my eyelash extensions I had done the day before. I seriously looked like an alien, and I frightened the flight attendant to the point where she brought me bags of ice constantly to bring down the swelling.

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I’m in the hat. Trying to hide my swollen alien eyes ha ha

We landed in Doha, Qatar in one the most luxurious airports ever! Apparently it’s the 5th largest in the world! We had a brief 1 hour layover, and then re-boarded and landed 5 hours later in Entebbe, Uganda. We were almost there!

June 11

Kigali

From there we flew to Kigali, Rwanda and landed local time at 2 pm.

Customs was a breeze, and the visas were cheaper than we had originally thought ($30 instead of $50.)

We hailed 2 taxi vans, and headed to our first hotel in the city. Our drive through the streets was so eye opening! I loved the energy of the people, the modernness of the buildings against deep rooted culture; there were amazing people everywhere in bright African patterned clothing carrying enormous items on their heads, lots of traffic of cars and Moto taxis, and sweet babies wrapped in cloth on their mother’s backs! It was wonderful, I couldn’t wait to see more.

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One of the many down town market areas. Lots of traffic and people!
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These Moto taxis were nuts. I would have tried one, but I was worried about getting fleas or lice from the helmets that you have to wear! Also.. probs would have died on one in an accident so there’s that too!
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I was so impressed how the things the Rwandan women could carry on their heads while also carrying a little one on their back!

Flame Tree

We arrived at Flame Tree, and were pleasantly surprised with how nice it was! I honestly had no idea what to expect with anywhere we stayed, but the entire hotel grounds was beautifully decorated and landscaped, and each room was a private town home with 2 floors, a full kitchen, 2 bathrooms, and wonderful AC (it was so humid!).

Heather and I took a brief nap, then showered off from all the traveling. It was one of the those showers that just rejuvenates you (even though Heather’s shower was ice cold!)

We met up with the group for dinner in the dining hall. I ordered vegetable soup and some bread because I was worried about trying anything too risky just yet. It ended up looking like pureed baby food, but honestly was so delicious! Poppa ordered pizza and I also stole a small slice.

And the bread… can we talk about the bread in Rwanda?! It is to diiiiieeee for! The Belgians colonized Rwanda in the 20’s and they must have shared their bread making skills with the Rwandan people or something!

We went to bed around 9 PM. And when I say went to bed, I literally think I passed out as soon as I laid down!

June 12, 2018

The Drive to Butare

We woke up early the next morning around 7 to eat and then meet up with our tour guide for the trip Mr. Kirenga, who would be driving us that day to Butare. I highly enjoyed my oatmeal with cane sugar, as well as some deliciously smooth hot chocolate.

Mr. Kirenga has known my grandparents for several years, since they used to live in Rwanda and went on many expeditions through his tourist and birding company. He seemed like a very nice man, and we packed all of us and our bags into his giant 8-person Land Rover safari jeep, which he had rebuilt from the 1970’s.

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Mr. Kirenga is on top loading things up with the help of an employee of Flame Tree. Steve Alder is waiting patiently to get in the truck.

We were so excited to start our journey!

The drive south to Butare took about 3 1/2 hours, and took us through some beautiful country roads and villages. Rwanda is called the land of 1000 hills, and I could definitely see why with all of the rolling green hills.

Seeing first-hand how these people live in pretty poor conditions was a bit disheartening, yet they were some of the kindest and happiest people! We felt like celebrities, because we stuck out like sore thumbs there and everyone would smile and wave at us as we drove past.

The children started shouting, “Mizungu” at us. We asked Mr. Kirenga what it meant, and he said it means “white person.”

The King’s Palace

Poppa insisted we make a brief stop on the way to Butare, at The King’s Palace. We walked through the reproductions of what these incredible huts used to look like, finding the customs very fascinating. They were also incredibly smart about the way they built and designed the huts!

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While the King’s Palace was cool, I was way more excited to see the King’s cows!

Their horns are MASSIVE!! I wondered how in the world they held their heads up! But they were such sweet docile creatures, and they have the cutest faces! The handler walked around with this sage smudge stick to ward off the pesky flies from their faces. He also sang to them, which whenever he would sing they would all stop what they were doing and walk towards him. It was so cool!

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Gotta take a selfie with these cows! Also.. notice the still swollen eyes…

Butare

We arrived in Butare, which is one of the largest cities in Rwanda with the largest University. It was very busy!

We ate at the famous ‘The Chinese Restaurant’ that Poppa loved when he and Dianne lived there. They lived in Butare in 2014-2015. Our eyes were larger than our stomachs, and we ended up ordering most of the items on the menu! It was delicious but we couldn’t finish it all.

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Heather had the great idea that we box up the leftovers and she gave them to a woman who was begging by the gates of the restaurant with a small child on her back. She didn’t speak any English, but we could understand her gratitude as she kept patting her hand over her heart and had tears in her eyes.

As we walked towards the local market, there was another woman who was literally crawling on her hands and knees because her feet were crippled and she could not walk on them. The image of her crawling through the crowds will forever break my heart.

The market was insane! And clearly they were not used to having Mizungus there! Also, I had shorts on (almost to my knees) and apparently they are not used to seeing that much skin either because everyone stared blatantly at my bare legs!

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The tall building was the inside market; each floor filled to capacity with vendors and items. It continued out back, with food and everything you can imagine for sale.

People sold everything there; utensils, fabric, food, furniture, toilets, clothes, and jewelry. One merchant pulled Poppa aside and said, “Hey Poppa! I have something for you!” and pointed to some extravagantly designed boxer briefs. We had a good laugh about it.

The Drive to Nyungwe Forest

Light was fading, so we needed to head towards Nyungwe Forest where we would stay the next 2 nights.

This drive was one of the worst of our trip. It was 4 1/2 hours through windy jungle roads, most of them unpaved or riddled with giant gaping holes. There was also construction halfway up the canyon that caused so much chaos.

One section in particular has very uneven, dusty, and crowded with villagers. A gigantic dump truck that was filled beyond capacity with what looked like mattresses, drove by us and nearly tipped over on top of us!

The windy roads made us all a quite car sick.

Finally, we made it to our hotel called The Top View Hotel. We were relieved to be out of the car, and at such a nice 5 star resort again!

Heather and I headed to our room, which again was a separate town home. We were in #1, Volcano. Ours was all the way at the end of the walkway, on the edge overlooking a valley down below. It was night time, so we were excited to see it in the morning.

Our large king size bed was covered with a mosquito net, we had a good sized bedroom, and a door that opened onto a deck overlooking another side of the canyon.

As we laid in bed we heard wild African dogs howling all night in the jungles surrounding us, but we quickly fell asleep again; and an especially nice surprise? The hot water bottles placed at the feet of our bed under the covers to keep our feet warm and toasty!

June 13, 2018

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Waking up the next morning at 6 am to see the sunrise was the best decision we could have made. The light coming up over those jungle hills, the sky water colored with red and orange hues; it was absolute magic. I stood there and almost became emotional, wondering how I was so lucky to be in such a beautiful place as that.

In the daylight we could finally see the grounds of the resort too, which were equally beautiful.

We had a luxurious breakfast on the veranda of the main building; more hot chocolate, some African spice tea, toast and jam, and cheese omelettes.

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We drove back into the jungle, to head to track the Colubus Monkeys. At the Nyungwe Forest Visitor’s Center we met up with our guide, Christof. He was a handsome young man from Rwanda who received his education in France and returned back to work.

Back into the truck and towards the large tea fields we went, and turned off onto a small dirt road heading directly towards the jungle. We got out and walked towards the tree line and were very lucky because the family of Colubus Monkeys was right there!

These black and white monkeys are so cute! It was a good sized family, with 2 adorable little babies!

It was apparently time to eat, because they were climbing and jumping around the trees, stuffing as many of the tree fruits into their mouths as they could! It was pretty funny to watch them. The babies were entertaining as well, jumping and wrestling with one another all over the trees. Their tiny squeaks they would make sounded like a dog squeaky toy!

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They looked SO soft! And they had the cutest little faces

Christof told us that they whole family helps to raise and take care of the babies. But, whenever a male would grab them and try to hold them they would squeak out loudly and wriggle free from them. I asked him if they were hurting them, and he said “No, the males just do not know how to hold the babies and they don’t like it.”

Sounds… pretty accurate!

After watching them to our hearts’ content, we headed back to the hotel for a lunch of sweet corn soup and rolls with goat meat. I of course, declined to try the goat meat.

Heather and I took a 2 hour nap, and then met up again with everyone to go do a jungle canopy walk. Driving an hour further into the jungle we pulled off to the canopy headquarters.

Here we were placed in a hiking group with a cute couple from Denmark, a strange girl from the Netherlands that currently lived in Jamaica, and our creeptastic tour guide named Dauph who would NOT stop licking his lips and staring only at me when he talked to the group. (Like STOPPPPP though!)

The hike was completely downhill to get there, so I knew heading back would be challenging for Poppa and SueAnne and Steve.

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The entire hike was beautiful

Making it to the canopy walk, I felt like we were staring at a bridge that had been constructed in the 1920’s; it looked old and I wondered if we would be the last people to ever walk across it!

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But, our group motto had become “YOLO”, as I had taught everyone the night before. So, we yolo-d our way across. (Or as SueAnne said it, “Yellow!”)

The first section of the canopy walk was shorted and not as high off the ground, so we made it to the first tower no problem. The second section across was incredibly shaky, and about 300 feet off the ground!

It also didn’t help that Poppa was shaking the bridge on purpose (trouble maker!)

My hands shook and I definitely got a little light headed, but it was really exhilarating to walk across there, and to look down into the jungle!

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Dauph told us we could keep going the way we were to get back to the hiking trail, or we could go back across the bridge. We hesitated for a moment and Poppa decided to tell us that “No one I’ve ever brought here has ever taken the sissy way back… but if you guys really want to we can.”

So of course we turned around and went right back over the bridge! We refused to be the sissies!

The hike back up was quite strenuous, and Poppa took it slow and steady.

Then on the way back to our hotel, Mr. Kirenga’s truck broke down. Anne, Heather, Steve, and myself got out and push started it for him then walked the 5 minutes to the hotel. We worried the truck would not be able to drive us the next morning to go see the chimpanzees.

We had another delicious dinner, and then all went to go get some sleep. While Heather and I walked to our room a GIANT moth flew in front of us and I screamed and ran like a crazy person because I was convinced it was a bat! Ain’t nobody got time for rabies y’all!

June 14, 2018

Tracking the Chimpanzees

Waking up the next morning at 5 am was rough. We met in the lodge sleepy eyed, enjoying some hot chocolate, African spice tea, and some butter cookies.

Mr. Kirenga’s car was not able to drive, as we feared, so he rented us a car with a driver. Now when I say car, I mean… a tiny awful thing that we all had to cram into.

It was a Toyota Picnic. What the hell kind of car is that?

The back seat needed to fit 3 people when it was very clearly only meant for 2, so it was not a pleasant 2 hour drive east. We were all a bit grouchy to say the least.

My favorite part of driving through the remote village was seeing all the adorable school children in their uniforms on their way to school. They all waved at us! We were once again the stars in the Mizungu parade.

Despite the uncomfortable driving situation, we were going to track chimpanzees so  we were still excited. We pulled in front of a mall building which had a small store with souvenirs, and this was where we were to meet our porters. Christof was our guide again, which we were happy about because he was fantastic.

A group of porters stood by with walking sticks, all hoping they would be picked for our chimpanzee trek. It is customary for every woman to use a porter, but of course all of the men in our group got one too so they could pay them.

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Anne, Heather, and I joked that we felt like it was The Bachelorette, having to hand our bag to the porter of our choosing and ask, “Will you accept this backpack?” I chose a young man named Varun, and he was very helpful! I tripped quite a lot over the vines and underbrush of the jungle when we trekked through.

And when I say trek, I mean we literally ran at times! The trouble with chimpanzees is they are very wary of people and like to avoid them. So we started out slowly hiking upwards into the jungle to where the trackers were radioing in on the walkie-talkies. The trackers had been following this particular family of chimps since the night before.

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The jungle was amazing! Just being there was incredible

They were heading right for us, so we stopped and waited silently for them to pass by us. It was so interesting how quietly they moved through the trees, because we literally did not hear them coming until they were nearly on top of us!They came within about 20 feet, and the male in the lead turned his head and looked right at us! Then they RAN.

So of course, we ran in pursuit! It was quite exciting to run full speed though the jungle after this elusive little family of chimps. (And this is where I tripped a ton!)

We made it back to the main road, and Christof had us stop because he said the family would be crossing the road to get to the other side of the jungle and we would be able to see them very clearly.

2 minutes later they crossed about 10 feet in front of us, and it was breathtaking to see them! They were much larger than I expected, and unlike the chimps you see in movies or at zoos these ones were all black, even their cute little faces. There were 6 adults and one little baby holding onto its’ mama’s back.

The chase was on again, and those chimps are stupidly fast! We were running full speed again trying to keep up with the trackers, Christof, and doing so while trying to not trip and sprawl out into the jungle! It was so exhilarating!

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This is what we ran through. See how it looks like there’s no path? It’s because there wasn’t! This is why I tripped constantly!

We caught up to one of the males, who had separated from the family and was chilling up in a giant Ficus tree, feasting on the fruits. Apparently they are like oranges, and he was stuffing as many as he could at a time into his mouth.

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I know this is a terrible quality photo.. but it was so shadowy where he was I had to lighten it up to see him!

We sat down and watched him for about 30 minutes, enjoying seeing him in his natural habitat. He put on a show for us, climbing around, hanging by one arm, and even peeing for a steady 2 minutes with an impressive stream off the tree! We were all very impressed.

My favorite part was that Poppa in all of his years spent in Africa had never tracked a chimpanzee before. So seeing his face light up as we watched him in the tree was worth it all for me

We finally left our friend, and made the hike back up to the road. It was very steep going back up, so we sent extra porters to help Poppa.

Heading to Lake Kivu

We packed the newly fixed truck, and said farewell to our resort at the top of the hill.

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Steve suggested to Mr. Kirenga that we find a place to eat in a local non-touristy town so we could see some of the culture without tourist traps.

There was definitely something lost in translation between them, because he took us an hour out of our way to eat at what looked like a country club resort in a ton called Cyangugu overlooking the southern tip of Lake Kivu; right next to a big touristy market.

Steve was very grouchy about it, and to be honest we all were because he added extra time onto our trip to our next destination. But, the food was good and the view over the lake was gorgeous!

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View of Lake Kivu from Cyangugu

Across the water we could see the Congo, and it was mind-blowing to see how many houses and buildings were crammed against one another on the hills.

After we finished eating, we started our 4 hour trip to The Cormoran Lodge, our next resort on a northern part of Lake Kivu’s shores.

The drive was much prettier (and much less car-sick inducing) than the trip from Butare to Nyungwe Forest. we started throwing out our empty water bottles to kids on the road because they want them to use for drinking water. It was a fun way to pass the time, and they were always excited to get them!

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We finally pulled into our resort after the sun had gone down, and we were each led to our amazing tree house rooms. This resort to me, resembled the Lost Boy’s tree house from the movie Hook. You know what I’m talking about?? It was such a cool place!

We enjoyed some dinner in the restaurant (where Poppa discovered his new favorite Fanta flavor, Fiesta) and then we all headed to bed.

I was so excited to see what more adventures Lake Kivu had in store for us!

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(Next Up: Rwanda Part 2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The letter

2 weeks ago, I sent a letter in the mail. That’s right, good old snail mail.

I hadn’t sent an actual letter in quite a long time, but for this particular situation I felt it was the best way to send the words I needed to express.

This was an important letter. Maybe one of the most important letters I’ve ever sent, or will ever.

This was a letter of true and genuine forgiveness… to my ex.

Between Both Worlds

I started to write this letter last year actually. I had this really cool epiphany about it while I was in Sintra, Portugal , last October.

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Looking down from the top of the Initiation Well 

At the bottom of the Initiation Well at Quinta Da Regaleira , I was on top of the tiled symbol of a compass overlapping a Knights of the Templar cross, which was thought to have been Monteiro’s herald and a sign of his Rosicrucianism.

The cross has many different symbolic meanings behind it historically; I see it symbolizing finding one’s truth.

There were 9 platforms we descended on the stairwell, which these represent the 9 circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno. Unlike in the story, I don’t believe we were to “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

The 9 platforms also represent the 9 Spheres of Heaven, from Dante’s Paradiso.

So standing there, between the 9 Spheres of Heaven and the 9 Circles of Hell, you are meant to reflect on your life and your purpose. It is a place you are equally between both ends of the spectrum, and you contemplate the disconnection between earth and the heavens as you peer up to the sky from the darkness below; and also feel the haunting closeness of hell as you are so consumed in the darkness.

As I stared up towards the light, my eyes following the curving stairs upwards towards the open sky above, I wondered what truth I was still searching for. I was drawn to the light above me, but I also felt a heaviness lurking within me that connected me to the dark tunnels of the labyrinth that surrounded where I was.

There were lots of tourists in there with us that day in the well, but for that brief moment I felt like I was completely alone, and was hit with the overwhelming epiphany that if I was to ever feel fully connected back to the light at the top of my own life’s tower, I would need to let go of what was weighing me down to the depths of it.

And that weight, was forgiveness.

I needed to let go of the bitterness and the resentment of what had happened in my past, to truly let myself heal from the pain completely.

While taking the train the next day from Sintra to Lagos, I pulled out my phone and started working on what I wanted to express in this letter.

I’ll be honest, the first few drafts I typed up on my phone were not very positive. In fact, I still only really wanted to convey some pretty bitter sentiments.

So, I deleted what I had and didn’t think about it again, until about a month ago when I was in Rwanda. With all the changes I am working towards making in my life, this idea of forgiveness resurfaced.

To me, it doesn’t seem possible to be able to fully move forward with any aspect of my life until I do officially forgive my ex husband… even though the idea of it sounds impossible.

How can I possibly forgive him for everything that happened?

Writing It Out

When I returned from Rwanda, I got to my apartment at about 2:30 am MST. We had traveled for almost 40 hours and I was beyond exhausted, not to mention a little delirious. But the problem was, I had to be to work in about 5 hours and I was worried if I went to sleep that I would never wake up for work.

So, crazy me, decided to just stay up.

I did all my laundry from the trip, tidied up my room, binged some Netflix, and finally took a luxurious shower.

By that point it was almost 6, and I was struggling to stay awake. Needing something to do to keep myself occupied and alert, I drafted my forgiveness letter. It was probably the best time I could have written it, because I was in such a delirious state of mind that I had no inhibitions and I wrote freely from the heart.

I was surprised with that I said, and how naturally it felt to write out such forgiving words to someone who had completely broken me.

But also surprising… was how much relief and weight I felt lifted from me just from writing them.

What To Do With It Now

Initially, I never intended to send the letter. I wrote it out for me, to release the toxic emotions from inside me and let them go.

But, as the days went by and I continued to look over the letter… I felt a strong urge to actually mail it.

I wondered if maybe he needed to know that I forgave him; maybe to help him on his own journey of recovery from his past and from his addictions.

I’m sure maybe some of you will argue that he didn’t deserve forgiveness, and that it was stupid for me to give it to him. But I think (depending on the situation obviously…) everyone deserves a chance to be forgiven. Who am I to choose who does and doesn’t forgiveness?

Back when I first left him, and was living in my dad’s basement, the nights were long and painful. I literally felt as if my chest was going to explode open and the shards of my broken heart would tear through the walls of the house.

In my moments of what I can only express as absolute Godly sorrow, the only thing I could do to find relief was to crawl to my knees and pray for peace and strength. But in those moments of some of the worst emotional pain, I surprised myself by not praying for myself, but praying for him…

…my soon-to-be-ex.

I knew ultimately  I would survive the pain. I had family and friends who loved me and supported me locally and all over the country. I had survived and escaped the depths of my own personal hell, and I knew I would recover and resurface from those dark moments. But for him, I wasn’t sure what would happen, or what he might do in his very fragile emotional existence at that point in time.

I knew it wasn’t my responsibility to take care of him or enable his addictions any longer, but I still loved him and I hoped he would survive me leaving. So I did the only thing I could do in that moment, and I prayed for him – I sincerely, and whole heartedly begged God to help him, and to give me the peace of mind to not worry about him anymore because I literally and physically couldn’t handle it anymore- and it was mercifully lifted from me.

Sending It

The urge to mail this letter lingered within my thoughts, but in a good way not a bad one. I knew I needed to send it, maybe more so for him than for me. But whatever the reason was, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

So… I mailed it. Without a return address.

I’ll never really know if he received it, or if he even read it. But all I know is I feel the peace in my heart now where bitterness used to reside. I decided to forgive, because holding onto it all would never allow me to move forward. There is so much hate and negativity in the world right now, I didn’t want to harbor any of that inside my own heart for anyone.

I think my ex needed the letter too. Even if he never reads the letter, at least my good intentions are out there in the universe, and maybe will help guide him on a better path.

All in all, I never hated him – I hated his disease, his addictions. I hated the choices he made, but I never hated him.

Truly, I hope he can find his way to sobriety and recovery. Just like everyone else, he deserves to live a happy life. And I honestly, genuinely hope he can find that happiness.

I may have forgiven him of everything, but I will never forget it. The fact is those things have changed and shaped me and my life into what it is now, and that’s something I will never be able to ignore. I am forever altered and changed because of it all.

I can’t say I’m grateful for what I’ve been through, as some people tend to say after a big trial; but I am grateful to have realized my true strengths and seen my ability to survive whatever is going to get thrown at me.

And the most beautiful thing out of this is, I can no longer claim that my heart is dead inside like I used to joke about all the time… because I finally allowed it to be revived to open itself to forgive the person who had deadened it in the first place. If there’s a silver lining in all of this, this is it.

I won’t share the letter completely, because most of it is too personal. But, I will share this section that struck me after it came out of my heart and onto the paper:

“Despite all of it, a part of me will always love you, because the heart can’t just erase what was real, true love; even if it was not meant to last forever. And it is because of that, I have been able to come to the place where I am now, to tell you something that I think both of us need:

I forgive you.

I hope someday you can forgive me too, for the ways I’ve hurt you and wronged you as well. I hope one day you can understand why I had to leave, and I hope you will always remember that I loved you.

Go be happy, because that’s all I ever wanted for you; even if it wasn’t with me. Most importantly, love yourself and forgive yourself – of everything in your past and finally let it go. Because you do deserve to be happy.”

Forgiveness is a powerful, incredible thing.

What is most important about it, is that choosing to forgive someone –  even someone who has hurt you and broken you – allows us to break free from the darkness that can weigh us down, and prevents their choices and behaviors from destroying our hearts.

If you take anything away from my ramblings, choose to work towards forgiving someone that’s hurt you, and let it go. Even choose to forgive yourself. I’m working on that part myself, everyday.

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PC: Alejandro Araos 

Balancing Act

Do you ever find yourself sitting at a table at a restaurant that is super wobbly?

Like so wobbly, that you’re worried  if you move anything, it will tilt and all the items will fall into your lap?

The problem, usually, is that one (or more) of the legs of that table are too short, and not even with the others. Without all legs being even and sturdy, the table will never be fully balanced.

Table Talk

So why am I talking about tables? It will make sense, I promise.

A few weeks ago, I started to feel the unbalances in my life completely taking over. Everything seemed unorganized, chaotic, and all over the place. It was stressing me out!

I knew something needed to change, but without knowing exactly what the problem was, I couldn’t fix it.

That’s when I started writing out to-do lists. For me, seeing it written down on paper makes it easier for me to focus on what needs to be done; and then check it off as I do! (Plus I’m old school and I love writing things in my planner instead of in a note on my phone.)

As I was working on compiling things into lists, I noticed there were 4 groups kind of forming on their own; 4 categories if you will. So then, the huge nerd that I can be, I decided to instead make my lists into a big chart, showcasing each category.

Modern Backyard Cookout

And isn’t that so weird? It looks like a table… with 4 legs. 🙂

In order for the table (you) to be fully balanced, you need to care for and make each important category (table legs) even.

The Legs

As you can see from my image, my “table” has 4 legs, or categories. Each of us is unique, and so there’s not right or wrong amount of categories you need or want to attach to your table, as well as no expected category types.

I’ll run through my own categories to explain how I work on making them balanced, to give you an idea of how to balance your own!

Physically

My entire life, I have been a very physically active and relatively healthy person. I was a tom boy growing up, playing in the woods and the dirt, and doing every sport on the planet that I could possibly do!

Now, I make physical fitness and health a major priority. Here are a few things I focus on:

  • Currently I am on a meal plan and fitness plan catered to me, through L8r Lifestyle. Check them out, they’re amazing!
    • I work out 5 times a week, with heavy lifting and HIIT cardio. 2 Rest days.
    • My meal plan is catered to my height, weight, age, and what I want to accomplish. It’s real food, and meal prepping is a must!
    • I make sure I eat enough of the food my body needs, and also every once in awhile throw in a cheat meal. Because #treatyoself
  • I am a total grandma when it comes to sleep. I aim to be in bed by 10-10:30 pm during the week.
  • I’ve thrown my back out 3 times in the last 6 months. Yes, I absolutely feel like I’m old and falling apart!
    • I’ve been very smart about listening to my body, and when something is injured or hurting I rest and try to stretch, and do what I can to let things heal.
  • I stay active as much as I can outside the gym:
    • Hiking
    • Sand volleyball
    • Cycling
    • Basically anything outside!

Spiritually

This category in all honesty has felt a little depleted lately for me.

With everything I have dealt with the past few years, I hope it is understandable for me to feel this way.

And no, I wouldn’t say I am having a crisis of faith by any means; I’m just working on more ways I can feel closer to God in my personal life. It isn’t a crisis, just a phase of my life where I am transitioning and growing in this area – kind of like spiritual Feng shui, where I’m just moving things around inside myself to rebalance and feel harmonized again.

And it is just that; personal. Each of us will feel that spiritual closeness and balance in different ways.

  • I feel spiritual closeness in nature. Hiking alone is one of my favorite things to do, where I can go reflect in God’s beautiful creations about everything I’m feeling and wanting to feel.
  • I also feel spiritually close to God when I engage in very honest personal prayer. We have some real talk. He knows me and He loves me despite all of my flaws and shortcomings; and in my earnest and humble nightly prayers with Him I feel so much love and peace.
  • When I am doing service for others, I feel so spiritually balanced and my heart is so full. I feel the tiniest, most minuscule, fraction of a fraction of how much our Creator loves each of us. It is an incredibly overwhelming feeling.

If spirituality is one of your categories, do what makes you feel centered. There is no specific right or wrong way to go about it.

 Psychologically

This category has been a rough one. Anyone who has been through any sort of traumatic event, will understand.

As I’ve explained before about PTSD, it’s not something you can just flip a switch and be done with. It takes time, patience, and lots of work. Feeling psychologically unbalanced has many different repercussions, such as anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and fear of something triggering a past traumatic experience.

Self-care and self-love are two of the biggest things I have been focusing on to recover and rebuild my life after everything completely shattered.

  • Positive affirmations are amazing, and really do help! Read about them here.
  • I started going to therapy. I honestly believe anyone and everyone can benefit from therapy, but especially someone who has been through anything traumatic.
  • I take time everyday to meditate alone, even if it’s just for 10 mins. Finding that time to really zone in on my inner balance makes a huge difference.
  • I love to read, and have been reading any book I can get my hands on in regards to recovering, finding my true joys and passions in life, chasing my dreams, and overcoming the trials that I’ve been given.

Socially

If you know me, you know I also struggle with this category. Ever since being thrown head first with weights attached to me in the deep end of dating and being in the singles scene again, I have had to make a real effort to be social. It’s so hard guys!

But I’ve made some progress.

  • I only do what makes me happy. If I don’t want to go to something, I don’t. If I do, I go!
    • Why let anyone force me to do something I know will not make me happy? Life is too damn short to let other people decide it for you!
  • Hang around positive people who lift you up, instead of bring you down
    • A few years ago I hung out with a crowd that was negative, and they were so mean to me! Once I broke away from them, I was a lot happier.
    • Remember that it’s ok to not hang out with someone if they are toxic to your happiness in any sort of way.
  • I’ve grown to appreciate quality friends over quantity. The ‘popular’ ‘cool’ crowd is not always going to make you happy!

Balancing Act

So there you have it, my 4 table legs. When each of these categories feel balanced, then my life in general does as well.

If you keep focusing on balancing your life, than it will become so through your effort. It’s the whole “if you build it, it will come” mentality reminiscent from Field of Dreams; If you believe you can balance your life than it can happen!

Stay positive, prioritize what’s important, and focus on balance.

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PC: Vino Photography