What’s My Name?

Have you ever really sat and thought about why names are so important?

Historically, last names would tell us what someone did for a living, or even what part of their country they were from.

Royal lineage was honored with the names handed down to them through generations of monarchs and leaders.

Nowadays, names become our image, our calling card, our business. If people know your name, you’re more successful or sometimes you are infamous and less liked. Either way though, those people out there still know your name.

Famous athletes hear their names cheered by thousands of fans in stadiums, or see their names worn on the back of jerseys everywhere.

So, what really is in a name?

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My Name

My twin sister Heather was named after the Heather flower in Scotland, where my dad served his Latter Day Saint Christian mission back in the 70’s. I always used to joke that they had her name picked out, and then just opened a baby name book and looked on the first page and said, “Oh, Alyson is perfect!”

But, it’s just a silly joke. Alyson was my mom’s choice, it was one of her favorite names. Although, for the record, I prefer Aly over Alyson. I feel like I only get called my full name when I’m in trouble.

My middle name is Leigh (pronounced Lee), and Heather’s is Lynn. Our parents wanted us to have twin middle names. I love that my first name and my middle name have unique spellings, especially my middle name. It originates from the Old English surname, which means ‘delicate’ and ‘meadow’. It makes me laugh because I am anything but delicate, but I do love myself a good meadow.

Maughan is my maiden name; my original family name. The name that shaped me through my childhood, and through some of the most important years of my life. I’ve loved being a Maughan, and everything that is connected to the name in my memories and in my heart.

Name Change

When I was dating my ex-husband, I remember telling him all I wanted for Christmas that year was his last name. I was so excited to marry him and to change my last name to his! I do remember feeling a little sad when I changed it legally, letting go of the name that had been a part of me my whole life at that point.

Fast-forward 4 years later, when I was finalizing my divorce. In my decree, it states I can legally go back to my maiden name. However, here I am 2 1/2 years later and I still haven’t changed it.

It might sound strange to most of you, but I hesitated on changing back to my maiden name, because I don’t feel like that person anymore. That name was who I was in the beginning phases of my life, but I felt to an extent that I had outgrown her and couldn’t just go back to being her. Of course I love and cherish the name and everything she went through to get to where I am today, don’t get me wrong; But I don’t feel connected to her anymore.

I also can’t stay connected to the name I changed to when I was married. But I felt stuck and wasn’t sure what to do; or if I could do anything but go back to my maiden name? Was it weird to change it to something completely different and seemingly random

I tabled the thoughts of name changes for awhile, until I received a very unexpected push in the right direction. I finally felt ready to read a book I’d been wanting to read for years; Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I knew it would be a beautiful book, but I waited so long because of her dealing with her own mother’s death would be hard for me to get through because of my own.

If you haven’t read it, please do yourself a favor and do. Her writing is so raw, so genuine, and so painfully honest that it moves and changes you. There were words I felt were written specifically for me, and resonated so deeply in my heart.

One particular part was where she explains how she chose to change her name after her own divorce to a new name, one that she felt connected to; Strayed.

This renewed my own choice to change mine to a different name.

Finding a Name

So, here started my journey a few months ago to try to find a name I felt connected to; a name I would change to. That’s right, I was going to change my last name to something else, something I chose.

Losing control over my entire life while I was married really put me in a tail-spin for years. I’m still trying to pull up out of it completely, but I’ve certainly come a long way. That’s why I want to choose my name. I want to feel in control of who I am, and choose a name that is totally me. And not the “me” from before, the “me” I am today.

I started a running list of words and names that connected with me, that I wanted to consider for my name. Some only resided on the list for short time. Others lasted weeks, others months.

Slowly, but surely, I began to go through each one and cross them out when I knew they weren’t right. I did research on each one; the historical meaning, any bad innuendos associated with them, and even used Google searches to see who else might have that name.

The names that made it to the final round of cuts went through a “Marie Kondo” session, and I thought profoundly about each one with my first name and decided if they brought me joy or not.

Finally, I came to a decision; a name was found.

Wednesday

Yep, Wednesday isn’t just a day of the week anymore. It’s the name I chose.

Sounds random, I know! Keep reading for my explanation:

Tuesday

Our birth mom told us the story about how when she discovered she was pregnant, our birth dad originally said they should name the baby Tuesday. This was of course before they knew we were twins, and before the decision was made to put us up for adoption.

If Tuesday had been the name choice, Heather would have been Tuesday since she was the first born by two minutes. I came out in quite the chaos apparently, feet first and devastating any opportunity they would have had to c-section me (which was the plan.) Apparently I’ve always made my own path even when I was entering this world, and I did so feet first.

Being second born, I like to imagine I would have therefore been Wednesday. Also, funny enough, we were born on an actual Wednesday.

It’s Not What You Think…

No, I did not choose this name because of Wednesday Addams. Although, for the record, I do adore her and her dark humor. The creator of the Addams characters chose the name because of the nursery rhyme that stated, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” I am not filled with woe, however.

In some cultures, including the Akan people of Ghana, they are literally named after the day of the week they were born on. Have more than one child born on the same day of the week? No problem, they also have a second name (like a middle name) to indicate which order they were born in.

But, I’m not changing my first name, just my last name.

What’s My Name

I want to point out that I am not changing my name to insult, hurt, or confuse anyone. This choice is literally just about me, just for me. Like the way I was born into this world, I am going to do what I want, how I want, and when I want.

That is the beauty of this life, our power to choose and our power to have control over our lives. I lost my control once, and I refuse to ever live that way again.

As I said earlier, I loved my maiden name. Being a Maughan will never leave me, it will always be a part of me. I just needed to choose a new name to represent who I am now. I like to think my new name contains my maiden name in spirit, as well as all the names ancestrally before it too. Every name has a purpose, and has a power within it, and I hope to feel all of that as I go forward with a newly named ambitions.

Wednesday Whys

Wednesday in the Bible is the day that the sun and moon were created; if you know me you know how much I love both the sun and the moon, but especially the moon!

In the Hindu calendar, the word for Wednesday is Budhavara . The root of that word is Budha which connotes the planet Mercury, as well as the Hindu deity who is also known as “the son of the moon.” (Not to be confused with Buddha of Buddhism, just to clarify.)

Wednesday is typically seen as the middle of a work week, and I am currently feeling as if I am finally in the middle of my own life’s work. Wednesday suited the work I plan on doing, and what’s coming in the future ahead.

Mercury was the Roman God of several things including travelers, boundaries, luck, communication, and financial gain, is the namesake for the day of the week from the original calendars. (Mercredi is Wednesday in French, Mercoledì in Italian, and Latin is dies Mercurii which translates to “day of Mercury.”) The things Mercury stood for and helped the people accomplish seem right up my alley.

If you’ve ever dabbled into astrology, there are some interesting things surrounding being born on the day of Wednesday: children of Wednesday are restless and questioning, always searching for answers and can’t sit still. They have a message they want to share with the world. Also, their lucky number is 5; my number all through middle school and high school sports was 5, and it’s still my lucky number to this day. Even if you don’t believe in astrology (…which I take it with a grain of salt but do find it very interesting…) it is a crazy coincidence!

While all the meaning behind the word is fascinating to me, what I went most off of was how it made me feel. Did I feel connected to it? Did I feel like this name could become a part of me, help me do the things I want to accomplish, and could I make something admirable of the name?

The more I thought about it, the more it felt right. I had finally after months of debate, found what I had been seeking.

So here I am world: Alyson Wednesday. Or, Aly Wednesday as I prefer.

Hate it or love it, its up to you. You get to choose how you want to react, but your reaction does not change my choice and my love for my new name. Like I said, this was a choice I made just about me, just for me.

I feel like I am finally getting back to my former self. The one who was in control of her life, and on the right path to where I need and want to get. I don’t have the same name as before, but I’m also not that girl anymore.

I’m honestly not sure if I’ll ever change it again; some people have asked me that. When the time comes and I do marry someone else, I’ll decide then what is right for me. I’m not a psychic so I can’t see into the future how I will feel.

Today of all days I chose to write about this, because 6 years ago this was the day my original name was changed (yep… the old wedding anniversary.) I used to feel sadness, or woe I suppose, when this day came around the past 2 years post divorce. But now, I feel inspired by how far I’ve come and how strong and brave I have been to break away from the things that were holding me back, and allow myself to be myself again. I was broken apart and lost myself under the guise of that name I took on, and I will never, ever be in that place again. With the new name I feel a new beginning. I have so much life ahead of me, I’ll never feel sadness again on this day. Only hope, and a future ahead of me.

I am a newly born woman; once again venturing out on the path of my choice, feet first. It may not be a literal Wednesday, but everyday is a Wednesday from now on for me.

My life, my choices,  my name, and my own beautiful journey. This is what life is meant to be!

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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

 

Show Some Compassion

Do you know what the word compassion means? We throw it around often.. but do you really know what it is?

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Showing compassion for someone or something is literally showing your humanity for them, loving them and caring for them like we all should be doing anyway!

WCD

Today is World Compassion Day, which was started to help make changes towards how all creatures big and small are treated on this planet.

The first WCD was on November 28, 2012, and according to Wikipedia:

The first WCD was held in Mumbai, India in the presence of the 14th Dalai Lama on 28 November 2012. It focused on the need for compassion towards animals and all living things on this planet. It brought to India, Humane Society International, an organization that works in the area of animal welfare.

What an incredible way to maintain kindness towards all the creatures existing on this planet with us!

How to Show Your Own Compassion

In honor of World Compassion Day, and how much I love all the creatures of the earth, I wanted to give you guys some options as to how you can help! Here are some conservation, preservation, and support organization geared specifically towards animals!

The Ellen Degeneres WildLife Fund

Click here to head to the website to check it out fully, and to donate to this wonderful cause to help save the gorillas!

Here is the mission statement as stated on the website homepage:

The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund was established to support global conservation efforts for critically endangered species. Building a permanent home for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is the first initiative of the Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund. This project will permanently secure the future of wild gorillas in Rwanda by building on successful field conservation efforts, while empowering the people living near the gorillas to thrive in relationship to their own ecosystem.

In 1967, Dr. Dian Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda’s Virunga mountains to protect and study the endangered mountain gorillas.  Although Fossey’s life was cut short, her work lives on in the people and programs of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and its continuing conservation success story.

World Wide Fund For Nature

Click here to check out their website, and to donate by adopting an animal!

From their website:

Support WWF’s global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats with a symbolic species adoption.

Project Aware

Click here to read more about their conservation efforts in our oceans around the world!

From their homepage:

Today, Project AWARE is a global movement for ocean protection powered by a community of adventurers. We connect the passion for ocean adventure with the purpose of marine conservation to create lasting change.

Supported by this growing movement, we envision a world where the ocean doesn’t need protecting. Our local actions collectively protect the most vulnerable marine species and decrease pollution. We work together for a clean, healthy ocean – and we have fun doing it! Join the adventure!

Wildlife Conservation Society

Click here to donate and help conserve habitats around the globe that are threatened!

From their website stating their mission:

WCS’s goal is to conserve the world’s largest wild places in 16 priority regions, home to more than 50% of the world’s biodiversity.

This is outlined in our 2020 strategy, which positions WCS to maintain its historic focus on the protection of species while developing an ambitious plan to engage with a rapidly changing world.

The challenges are greater than ever, but with the focus, dedication, and passion of a committed staff—combined with a unique mixture of field, zoo, and aquarium expertise—WCS will continue to set the bar for science, conservation action, and education that has driven our success in protecting wildlife and wild places for over a century. We hold ourselves to the highest standards, adhering to core values of respect, accountability and transparency, innovation, diversity and inclusion, collaboration, and integrity.

The Humane Society of the United States

Click here to donate and help save all local animals in shelters as well as wild animals living around you!

Their mission statement to help animals:

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s most effective animal protection organization. With you by our side, we take on the big fights to end suffering for all animals.

Save the Animals

At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing: compassion. We each need to do our part to love one another to make this world a better place: human to human, and human to animal too.

We are all co-existing on this planet, so why not make it a better place for all of us to be in? Love makes everything bearable, and better. So show some love today for those creatures who need our help!

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Face to face with one of the beautiful gorillas in the volcano mountains of Rwanda this past summer 

 

 

World Kindness Day

What does kindness mean to you?

Maybe it’s a hug from a loved one when you’re having a bad day. A phone call from a friend just to say hi and check in. A card in the mail from someone you haven’t heard for in awhile (OMG what’s snail mail gasps every millennial reading this!) A nice compliment from a co-worker, or even someone holding the door for you.

Go a little bit further though; what else is kindness?

It’s donating blankets, and winter coats to the homeless. Offering your time to help with a charity organization. Bringing a meal to someone who is having a rough week or is recovering from surgery. Kindness is more than just praying for someone (which is also great); it’s going and checking on them, bringing them food or assisting them with babysitting if they need it. Offering someone a ride to and from the airport just because you can and you care. It’s actually asking them about their life, and then actually listening while they tell you. It’s giving someone a ride home, buying their lunch, or bringing them a plant as a gift; all just for the sake of kindness.

Kindness is so many things, and can be done in so many ways. But the bottom line, the common factor and structural foundation of it all, is love. Kindness is love.

World Kindness Day

Today, November 13, is World Kindness Day. The purpose of having a day set aside for it, is to highlight the good deeds being done around the world for others.

Think about how negative, scary, and just overwhelming things in the news tend to be lately. Pretty much sucks, right?

Something like world kindness is great, because it can give us a positive perspective again on the ability we as humans actually have to be nice and giving to one another for a change.

So let’s focus on being kind to one another! Let’s be good humans!

Be Kind Today

I will keep today’s post short and sweet, but I leave you with some homework; go out today and do as many kind deeds as you can!

Here are some great resources from The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, of ideas of things you can go do!

And it doesn’t have to be some big, showy, flashy thing; you could literally just pay for someone’s order behind you in the drive-thru today. Or hold the door for someone and smile and say hello!

Also, keep this kindness thing going; don’t just do it for one day and then go back to being a troll. Try to be nice everyday!

Next week instead of going crazy shopping on Black Friday, instead have it be Random Acts of Kindness Day!

And Random Acts of Kindness Week is officially February 17- 22.

Most importantly, just choose to be kind today; and everyday! Be kind always.

Tell me in the comments some kind acts you did today I would love to hear all about them and get the warm fuzzies!

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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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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.

June 10

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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 

A Cold & Broken Hallelujah

 

Do you ever have those days where there’s a song stuck in your head? And I literally mean days… the same song has been playing in my mind over and over since last Friday.

It’s a song I’m sure you’ve all heard, or at least a version of it anyway (because it’s been covered many times.)

This version in particular I have loved since 2004, the end of my freshman year of college at USU, when the first season of the iconic teenage drama show The OC ended its’ first season. The song , “Hallelujah” plays in the background in the season finale in a really dramatic and emotional ending (… seriously watch it if you haven’t…) recorded by Rufus Wainwright. Or it’s in the movie Shrek, which I’m positive all of you have seen.

It randomly came up on one of my playlists on Friday night, and it’s been stuck in my mind ever since. Especially one line in particular has haunted me ever since:

It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

A Mother of a Weekend

I knew Mother’s Day was coming, because for the past 3 years I’ve been counting down the days until it arrived again with growing dread and mounting emotions.

It never gets easier to celebrate a day for mother’s without mine. Memories rise to the surface, good and bad, and drown me again in the familiar deep pool of sorrow.

It’s not that I don’t want to remember her or celebrate her; I love thinking of all the fun memories and how much time we had with her despite her cancer.

The hard part is when so many others get to go see their moms, or call them or FaceTime with them; I’m driving to the cemetery with flowers and a Diet Coke. I wish I could get just one last hug, or one last phone call. Boy would she just get a kick out of all the dating stories and mishaps I’ve had lately! And the advice she could give me, or support through these strange dark days of re-building my life after my divorce… I miss it all and wish I could have that with her.

But, she’s gone. And so after visit her grave, and spending some time with my sister and her kiddos, I went home to be once again alone with my emotions and thoughts.

And right on cue that familiar song of ‘Hallelujah’ played in my head again. Especially that one line.

And isn’t it funny how sometimes when something is happening in our life, a song will pop up that perfectly correlates with what we are thinking or feeling?

Praise

The word Hallelujah is a translated from a Hebrew word, which can be an exclamation meaning, “God be praised!”

But in our moments of deepest heart break, pain, and sorrow, is it often our first instinct to still praise God?

Honestly, sometimes its not. It’s those times that we tend to push the heavens away, feeling disconnected and alone, and wanting to blame whatever and whomever we can, especially our heavenly parent.

In our painful times we question everything; the who’s, the why’s, the how’s, and the what’s. It’s part of our nature to do so, and as I have been working through my own grief of losing my mom I have seen a different perspective of this side of it all.

Why, in the moments that we need God the most, do we tend to push Him away and lose our faith? Maybe because it’s easier in the moment, and helps put some sort of bandaid over the giant, gaping, bleeding wounds in our hearts.

The thing I’ve realized so far in my life, is that it’s always easier to trust the process during the sunny great times… but when it comes to trusting in the dark times, that’s when true faith is tested.

Cold & Broken

The night that we lost mom, after we had all driven home from the hospital and I was laying in my bed, feeling completely numb and outside of my own life, I remember fighting the inner thoughts of being angry about it.

Her trial that was placed in her life to have cancer, was a long and painful for her. She was such a warrior, fighting through excruciating pain and constant sickness, not to mention hours upon days spent in hospitals at doctors appointments and undergoing treatments.

It was hard for us too. And many times I felt angry that someone so wonderful, and someone that I loved beyond words, had to go through such agony.

That night, as the realness continued to sink it’s sharp blades deep into my splitting heart, I fought the urge to be angry with God, and instead went in the other direction. Feeling to tired to actually get out of my bed and kneel like I normally do when I pray, I closed my eyes and in my head I prayed:

“I’m sad, and my everything hurts, and I’m too tired to even make sense. Thank you for the time we had with her.”

And that was all that needed to be said. It was my own cold and broken hallelujah. I was incredibly sorrowful, and parts of me were angry and questioning about it all, yet I still reached out what I had left to God and gave him the smallest ounce of praise that I could muster. And it was just enough to bring me some much needed inner peace, that in in that moment seemed impossible to feel.

Faith in the Darkness

The beauty of it all, that I’ve come to discover over these 3 years since losing her, is that if we offer whatever we have to God (even if it feels like nothing) He will fill in the void with His grace. Circling back to my favorite metaphor of Kintsukiroi here, God’s grace will fill in the gaps that we can’t ourselves, to make us whole.

And it’s nice to know during those times we struggle in the darkness, that we are never alone.

I was reading some of my favorite quotes on Sunday from C.S. Lewis, and these few in particular struck harmonizing chords with what I was sorting through internally:

“Always pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith in God.” – C.S. Lewis

“Hard times, bad times, or tough times, I still have faith in God.” – C.S. Lewis

Honestly, I’ve never lost my faith. Sometimes it has definitely been tested to the extremes, but it’s never been lost.

I do have faith in the plan and the process for me. But as a human, an especially inquisitive one in particular, I have the tendency to sometimes question the why’s and the when’s on my path.

And it can start to escalate quickly: through missing my mom, onto being divorced and alone in my thirties, and even the heartache of not being a mom yet (and possibly never being one due to my infertility issues we discovered during my marriage.) You know, the whole “why me” pathetic thing that we all do.

But if you wallow in the negativity, you’ll eventually be drug out to deeper waters by the emotional undercurrents, and you’ll never be able to swim back to shore without drowning.

The funny thing is about these dark trials we go through, is how deceiving they can be. The darkness wants us to stay there, struggling for as long as possible, and to us we may think it is impossible to come out of it because we can’t see the light at the end of it in the distance. When really, if we just reach out we are already to the other side of it and we just haven’t realized it yet.

For example, when I was 7 my family went on a family vacation to The Outer Banks. We were there right before Hurricane Andrew decimated much of the Florida coastline, as well as further north towards the Carolinas, so the waves were larger than usual and the currents were stronger.

I remember playing in the waves with my sister, and I got knocked over and pulled under a wave. The current was strong and I struggled, and I remember panicking thinking I was going to drown. Then I reached my feet down and felt the sand there, and stood up…. in a few inches of water. I was already out of it, and safe.

Although I may never fully be out of the dark trial of losing my mom, I have faith and hope that I will be able to get through any others along the way.

One Last Hallelujah

As I have been playing this song on repeat the past few days, I looked up the original lyrics to it, which was written by Leonard Cohen. There were some secret verses he would sometimes perform at live shows that were not a part of the original score. This was one of them:

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Sometimes that little Hallelujah, all that I can give in that moment, no matter how broken or lonely or cold it is, is all I can give of my faith.  And it’s enough. And these hardships and trials I will keep facing are just shaping me and molding me into the person I am meant to become. At the end of it all, I will be a better person for what I’ve gone through; the good and the bad!

And on days where I miss my mom (which is everyday) I’ll just keep holding onto everything I learned from her while she was here, and give thanks for the time that we did have. And I’ll let all of these trails and experiences help me become a woman, maybe even a mother one day, just like her.

“God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” – C.S. Lewis

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Photography: Amy Bischoff 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Habits of a Boss Babe

You might not think that 106 degree weather in the Arizona desert sounds like much of a vacation, right?

Well, for me this past weekend in Scottsdale was just that!

Planning months in advance, our annual girls trip finally happened this weekend and I was so excited to see some of my best and closest girl friends. Some I haven’t been able to see in years!

And the time in the desert was just what my heart needed; 106 degrees and all!

Now, this isn’t any ordinary kind of girls trip. These woman, these 7 incredibly strong, brave, hysterically funny woman; they might never know how much I adore and look up to each of them. They are amazing each in their own way, and have all influenced my life for the better. These girls are essential members of my powerful Pride of Women that I explained in this post.

There’s a saying I heard back in the day that the people you meet in college will be your friends for the rest of your life, and with these women it could not be more accurate. I love these warrior women so much and I was so excited to spend an entire weekend with them!

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The real OG’s standing in the lobby of The Scott Resort before we all said goodbye

We were lucky enough to have found an incredible deal on newly renovated The Scott Resort (formally known as FireSky) in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona. Since we were there for their re-opening weekend celebrations, they definitely rolled out the red carpets!

This resort was SO adorable! All of the decors was cute and thoughtful, and had the coolest vibe to it. It was definitely right up my aesthetic alley!

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There were amazing light fixtures everywhere
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One of the fancy pool cabanas

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Such thoughtful decors details all over

If you ever find yourself in Scottsdale, I highly recommend this place. The service was excellent (not to mention they offer a free shuttle service to and from the resort within a 3 mile radius which saved us TONS on money that we would have had to spend on Ubers!) Plus, the location was perfect for everything Scottsdale had to offer.

We spent our time laying out in the sandy beach at their pool, shopping at Fashion Square Mall right down the street, eating at so many delicious close by restaurants like Postino, and just spending some good quality girl time together.

On our last night, we were all hanging out in one of the many cute cabanas they had on the grounds. We were girl talking and taking turns answering questions to “get to know each other’. Even though we obviously already know one another, it’s a fun way to learn more about one another and get even closer. I laughed so much that my abs were literally sore the next morning!

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All but 2 of us hanging in one of the cabanas

One of the questions we asked was for each of us to say what we thought people came to us for, and then we would take turns going around the circle saying what we each went to that individual girl for. As we went around the circle, we each expressed the love and adoration we had for one another, telling each other what we needed and came to one another for.

One we go to for wise advice about health, food, deep convos, and funny embarrassing stories. One we go to for plants and crystals, cool vibes, and is beyond thoughtful. One is generally our leader when it comes to organizing plans and trips, gives logical advice, and is makes everything fun. One is the best listener, and has the biggest sweetest heart; not to mention is funny without even trying! Another has the ability to make you feel like the most important person in the world while she talks about you and learns all about you, and has the best sense of humor. One of the strongest-willed women I know, and despite it all continues to work hard and has the ability to always see the good on the horizon. The last is incredibly sweet, kind, and has a feisty hidden personality that we all love!

When it came to me, I was so touched by the heart-felt sentiments they expressed about me too. I honestly teared up!

As a collective whole, we are one amazing and powerful group of women. My heart was replenished, recharged, and is feeling so full after seeing all of them! I am counting down the days to our next girls trip, just like Stanley counts down until the next Pretzel Day at their Scranton Dunder Mifflin office.

Success Supports Success

There’s a quote I read the other day that I loved:

Behind every successful woman

is a tribe of other successful women,

who have her back

I love this, because we as women definitely need to continue to support and raise each other up! Sometimes girls and women can be so catty, negative and cruel to one another it just blows my mind! It’s hard enough being a woman in today’s world, can’t we all just support and love one another??

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Going along with that quote, my tribe of women all support each other, and have all helped one another be stronger; whether or not we have even realized it! We are total #bossbabes. Don’t know what that is? Here’s the definition (in my own words):

A successful woman who owns a business, or owns her own life ‘like a boss.’ She isn’t afraid to get what she wants, she is in control of her life and makes no apologies or excuses for who she is. 

So, I’ve put together a list of 10 things I believe every #bossbabe woman should be doing in order to be more successful and much happier in every aspect of her life. Each one was inspired from my girl tribe from this weekend!

10 Habits of a #BossBabe

1. Have a Personal Mission Statement

This one may sound a little odd, but if you have your own mission statement, it really does help you be more successful!

Think about it, every company or successful person seems to have one:

Walt Disney – “To make people happy”

Amazon – “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers

can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and

endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”

Google – “To organize the world’s information and make it universally

accessible and useful.”

So, why wouldn’t you, a successful boss babe, have your own equally great mission statement?? Am I right?

The reason having a mission statement helps you, is because it forces you to have a purpose, and to clarify what is important to you. Through it, you express what you value most and what your aspirations are.

Also, seeing and repeating it to yourself everyday helps to drive you towards those goals, and to becoming that boss babe you know you can be!

What’s my mission statement? I’ve been thinking about it ever since I started outlining this post. For now, as it is still a work in progress, I think mine is this:

Redefine Yourself – Recover Your Pieces – Rediscover Your Life

This quote is on my main page of my blog. It sounds more like a mantra, but I think a mantra and a mission statement can be one in the same. I like it, and those are definitely things I want to accomplish in my life, and they are things I value tremendously right now.

What’s your mission statement? Feel free to share it with us in the comments below so we can see it! 🙂

2. Recite Positive Affirmations Daily

I’ve talked about positive affirmations a few times, but it’s because I really believe in them! The mornings that I read them I feel more confident, and feel more ready to take on my day. Sounds cheesy… but it’s true!

Improving your relationship with yourself is a major key when it comes to success, self-confidence, and being happy! And when you literally recite positive things, like affirmations, to yourself, you are making yourself happier by doing so.

According to the CBT (Cognitive Behavior Theory) your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all related. So if you are reciting and implanting those good thoughts and vibes into your mind, you are essentially going to make your behaviors and feelings equally as positive. The result? You are happier!

It’s science people.

What are some of your favorite positive affirmations? Here are some I’ve been reciting lately:

I have the power to create change

I am worth everything

Just be kind and brave. That’s all you ever need 

Know some good ones I can add to my list? Leave em in the comments!!

3. Recharge & Refocus

Life is pure chaos sometimes. So often I find myself feeling like I am in this insane wind tunnel, trying to focus on all the things I have to do and I can’t!

The thing that we forget to do is to recharge and refocus ourselves, so that we can have the energy and the dedicated mindset to focus on our tasks. If you are on 3 hours of sleep and needing to write a well punctuated and grammatically correct email for work, is that going to be easy for you? Probs not.

That whole “I can sleep when I’m dead” mentality may have worked when I was 21 in college and pulling all-nighters, but now in my ripe old age of 33 I know I need more sleep. Otherwise I can’t function, and I may as well be dead; but more like the walking dead because I’m a zombie.

It’s not just about sleep either though; recharging and refocusing can also be personal mediation. It’s important to take time for yourself very single day, to do some mediation. And it doesn’t need to be literally sitting cross-legged on a yoga map with your eyes closed chanting things in your head (although sometimes that is definitely needed and so helpful!)giphy-1

No, you can honestly just take the time for yourself everyday to just stop and slow down, and re-organize yourself. Think of it as a time-out during a crucial final quarter of a football or basketball game. Sometimes it gets a little hectic and they take the time out to regroup the team, and figure out their next plays; as well as going back in the game with a fresh mind-set.

So, take a time-out! 

Use time for yourself everyday to refocus your goals and your priorities, and recharge yourself!

4. Invest In Yourself

The most important investment you will ever make is in yourself.

That’s right; you need to invest more into Y-O-U!

For example, think about investing into buying a house. You shopped around and finally bought your dream home! You’ve poured so much money into filling it with beautiful furniture and things, making an necessary repairs or upgrades, and up-keeping it so it stays beautiful and feels like home forever!

Well, you are like that house. Except much… MUCH… more important!

So, to fully utilize your important investment in yourself, you need to take the right steps to keep up the value of said investment. How do you do that? There’s a lot of different things you can do:

  • Never stop learning! Take education seriously, even if you never go to college or earn a degree, just never stop learning! Because knowledge is powerful! And the more powerful you are and the more things you know, the more confident and successful you will be.
  • Fill your heart and soul with lovely, positive things. Pray, meditate, recite mantras and affirmations… whatever makes you happy!
  • Learn how to shake off the shame culture. Forgive yourself more easily, and move on. You’re going to fail and you’re going to mess up; it’s a part of life and it’s not worth holding onto. Let it go!
  • Take care of yourself on the outside too! Workout, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and sleep!
  • #treatyoself. That’s right, I said it and I meant it! If you want to treat yourself to hair extensions, lash extensions, or splurging on some expensive clothes or shoes… DO IT! Not all the time, you must have self-control, but sometimes you need to treat yourself! It will make you happier to every so often treat yourself to something nice. Also? Life is short.. so eat the damn donuts.

The bottom line here, is you are an amazing and wonderful investment, but you have to believe it and take care of yourself to continue adding more and more to your already incredible value.

Invest in yourselves boss babes!!

5. Read More – Screens Less!

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If you know me, you know I love to read books! I currently have about 5 books on my night stand I’m trying to read simultaneously… because I’m a nerd.

But, reading is important for your sanity and for your success! Here’s a list of 24 books successful people read just for some examples if you’re looking for something to read!

According to this article about Reading and Life Success :

The act of reading, particularly engaged reading, as opposed to the mechanics of reading, is a powerful predictor of life success by any measure. It is the best predictor of who goes to university regardless of socio-economic background. It is the best predictor of life income, career options, even life partner choices. And neuroscience is proving that reading fiction is one of the most powerful means of developing sympathetic individuals, with better social skills and higher levels of self esteem, resulting in increasing self improvement and prosocial behaviours.

My new goal lately has been to read more books and use my screens less – meaning my phone, laptop, and tv. It’s tough sometimes, I’ll admit it! But isn’t it scary to anyone else how reliant we are on just our smart phones alone? It’s like we can’t function as humans without a phone glued to our hands anymore.

So read more and use screens less, and you’ll find more success! It’s honestly that simple!

6. Accept Your Challenges Head On

This weekend my one girlfriend reminded me of one of her most recent Instagram posts about challenges and trials. Here’s the link if you want to see it, or below is part of it quoted:

I am going to take a lesson today from how buffalo and cows handle storms in Colorado.
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Only the strongest storms come over the ridge of the giant Rocky Mountains to the east. When a storm comes the cows see it & start to run from it. Seems logical, but the problem is they don’t move fast enough & before long the storm is over them, moving in the same direction as they are maximizing the pain & hurt
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Buffalos react much differently. They see the storm, gather together, and turn HEAD ON STRAIGHT into the STORM. Seems illogical at first thought, BUT they go the opposite way the storm is moving & make it out of the storm faster with less harm taking it head on in the long run.

If only we could be brave like the buffalo, and head straight on into our trials instead of trying to outrun them and avoid them for as long as we can.

In the long run, it’s better to face them head on. Sometimes its not easier to do so, but it is better and makes us stronger.

Just like in this post here I quoted, “What challenges you changes you.” At the time it may suck, and it might hurt, but in the end we will become a better and more successful person because of it.

Through challenges we grow, we learn, and we become stronger. So be a buffalo, not a cow, and handle those challenges like a successful #bossbabe.

7. Make Socializing a Priority

I will be the first to admit that I am the worst lately when it comes to being social. In fact, I always warn people about how I’m anti-social and to not take it personally! I’ve talked a lot about how much easier it is sometimes for me to stay home and not go out (with all my PTSD anxiety and such I explained in this post) but I know I need to be more social because it’s for my own good.

Not to mention, the more social you are the more successful you will be in life!

As humans, we need connection, affection, and communication to feel normal and happy. If you tend to be more like me, Ms. Hermit McHermitsen over here, you will feel more detached from the world the more anti-social you are. It’s just not good, you need friends and interactions!

Part of being successful in any aspect of life is having the ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, and to make connections with them. Networking is not just some word people throw around for fun, it’s a real thing! And it’s really really important for success.

Apparently your success depends on the people you know, and that could not be more true! The more people you socialize with, the bigger your network reach is, and the bigger your success potential is!

So go socialize already! Make new friends, go outside your comfort zone! Network outside of your own work circle, be spontaneous, and build up your social network! All you’ve got to lose is that dent in the couch you’ve been making thats forming around your body every night you stay in and binge watch shows.

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Successful people socialize, and they’re happier too!

8. Focus on One Thing at a Time

Easier said than done these days, right? There’s always so much happening at once.

But, if you can, try to just focus in on one thing at a time.

This weekend in our round-robin of girl talk, we each said one thing we wanted to work on in our lives. I said I wanted to start making smaller goals to accomplish at a time, instead of trying to focus on one huge goal that seemed impossible to ever get to.

I think I nailed it with that, because too often we have our eyes on the big prize at the end, instead of realistically focusing on the smaller prizes that will each act as a stepping stone to get us to the end.

In the wise words of Bob (Bill Murray from the movie What About Bob?), “Baby steps!” Or can we actually change it up? How about “boss-babe steps.” Sounds better 🙂

If we can take the time to re-prioritize our goals into smaller, more realistic and obtainable goals, we can get ourselves to the bigger ones later.

And, don’t forget to celebrate yourself when you hit your goals! Go back to #4 and TREAT YO SELF!

9. Smile

I know what you’re thinking, “Smile? That’s it? That’s so easy!”

Well yes, my friends, it is that easy.

Smiling makes you feel better, and gives you confidence, and it can be shared! Have you ever done the simple test of smiling at everyone you see? Every time I do it, they almost always smile back at me. And you know what? They probably keep smiling at other people too, and so on and so forth… therefore,  a smile and create hundreds maybe even thousands of other smiles!

Once you’ve mastered the whole smile thing, then you can go about the rest of your day feeling that boost of confidence. And what do confident people do? They succeed!

Yassss.

10. Have a Big Heart

One thing that I have tried to do ever since I lost my mom 3 years ago, has been to serve others to help my own heart ache to hurt a little less. And, after my own abusive marriage and broken heart, I have reached out even further to try and serve and help others as much as I can.

The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity — Leo Tolstoy

In today’s society I feel like treating each other with kindness and love is quickly becoming an outdated habit. The world can be mean, dark, and selfish. What better way to help bring back that light than to have a big heart towards others?

I also want to continue to serve others and give as much as I can, because so many people in my life have lifted me in my own times and helped me through desperate moments. I feel I must pay it forward and do that to others, to pass it along and help brighten up the world.

Each of those girls in my tribe from my trip this weekend has helped me so many times. They give without thought, they love, they support, and they comfort. It is so inspiring to be around them, and their loving energy. It made me want to come home and do more!

And that is how a true successful boss babe should be; always humble enough to remember that she was once in the shoes of the ones who need the help.

Despite my heart being previously crushed, I will never let my love to serve others be diminished. It’s through that service I can truly heal it back to being whole again.

Total Boss Babe

Really, what it all boils down to, is you are the average of the 5 people closest to you. Looking at that aspect now, how successful, how powerful, how happy are you on average??

This weekend, my cup was running over with a 100% boss babe success average. And in my life I have so many other incredible and powerful women in my pride that fiercely love me, and inspire me to push through anything that comes my way.

With everything and everyone I have in my life, and I have no choice but to keep going towards becoming the total boss babe I know I can. And each of you can too, I believe in you!

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