Intern Life: A Trip to DC

The last time I went to Washington DC, I was in grade school. I remember that my mom and my aunt brought me with them. They were so excited to see all the art museums and monuments.
I hated it.
I couldn’t have cared less about giant statues and boring pictures. I probably made my mom think I was the most ungrateful little brat under the summer sun.
That was our thing; my mom is a teacher, so if we were going to travel anywhere, it was always during summertime. I’d like to start off this post with a big ole, SORRY MOM!
Because for the first time as an adult, I visited Washington DC, and to be in the presence of so much history was exceptional.
I totally get it now.

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As some of you know, I’ve been participating in an internship with a nonprofit that works to end world hunger. Feeding Children Everywhere (FCE) has not only been one of the fastest growing nonprofits in central Florida, but has also opened up my eyes to the opportunities around me; all I have to do is seize them!

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My first adventure with FCE was recent a trip on September 10th and 11th to DC with a bunch of other interns…and I didn’t really know any of them. It was a little nerve wrecking, but in hindsight, absolutely worth it.
We were headed to package 1 million meals for seniors in need through AARP and US Hunger on the National Day of Service.
And did I mention all the new friends I made by the end?

Our trip began with a flight out of Orlando at 5:20 am, which meant getting to the airport parking lot at 3:30 am.
Maybe it was the adrenaline of going to a place with a bunch of people I didn’t know to work my first hunger project that pushed me through, but the flight wasn’t bad at all. TSA was pretty breezy. We also had a lay over flight in Atlanta. It was surprisingly easier flying with a collective of people, despite barely knowing one another.

We arrived in DC around 10:30 am and grabbed coffee. A woman dressed to the nines, and I chatted for a bit while waiting in line. That’s kind of a thing in DC; everyone dresses like they’re really important. She told me about the sights to see and I told her about FCE. It was a new feeling, watching someone else’s eyes light up when I said we were here to package food. Honestly, at first it was kind of awkward, and then I realized we were actually doing something very impactful. Something good.

We piled into a big black chevy SUV and ubered (that’s not a recognized verb yet but like..it should be) to our Hunger Project site for set up. We arrived at the Washington Mall and started slinging boxes, 50 pound bags of rice and lentils and sorted hundreds of wet wipes. Riveting work I tell you.
I kid.
Seriously though, set up was a long day (and remember we all were basically running on no sleep), but we made it through. The jokes were free flowing, conversation was good. We were all finally starting to get to know each other.

I was exactly where I was supposed to be, with the people I was supposed to be surrounded with. It was enlightening and refreshing to be surrounded by all these new personalities and colorful minds.
We went out exploring that night. We shared laughs, snapped pictures and traded stories. It was a night that I’ll never forget.

 

 

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The next morning I was up and ready to go by 6 am. My hotel roomie and I dragged our luggage behind us, and made our way to the Washington Mall. It was go time.

Here we were, in Washington DC and we’d be working together to package 1 million meals for seniors in need.
The enormous white tent on Washington Mall housed 65 tables, each for 12-15 volunteers. It was filled with banners repping AARP and US Hunger. There were 5 shifts ahead of us. Each table had a volunteer in charge, called a table captain, and they would lead the rest of their volunteers on how to package the meals. It was a room of assembly lines unlike anything I’ve ever seen; I’d say it was very well controlled chaos. Each shift would last a little over an hour and then the current volunteers would file out while new ones came in.
For the next 10 hours, we were on.

 

 

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I never thought I’d see myself lugging 50 pound bags of rice and lentils and dancing while I was doing it, but life is funny like that.
The music was blasting from a DJ on stage, a peacock mascot waltzed around the room, AARP employees snapped pictures and even Carla Hall hung out on stage to amp up the event!  Close to 4,000 volunteers worked on packaging meals. Each shift contributed about 250,000 meals on average. We completed and exceeded our goal of 1 million meals for seniors in need.
That’s a whole lot of rice and beans.

When it came time to break down, I was covered in plastic bits, sweat, and onion powder.
We finished up cleaning and decided on one last adventure: The Lincoln Memorial.
It was about 6 pm and we had to be at the airport at 8 pm. We had a short window of time before dealing with TSA on 9/11, so why not?

Between set up, the night out, walking everywhere, hauling huge sacks of dried goods and break down, my legs were beyond over it. Still, climbing up those stairs felt symbolic.
To look out and see the reflection pond, to stand in front of the Lincoln Memorial in a lull of quiet, held so much significance. Those moments made me feel like we had come so far as a country, together. I also felt we have so far to go. But not in a bad way. More like in a way that felt so do-able, so possible.
Together we had packaged over 1 million meals for hungry seniors. If that doesn’t say that we can make a difference, then I should’ve just turned into a lentil and rolled down the stairs then and there.

 

 

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Our uber ride to the airport was light shift in energy. Aka, we sang along to some Beyonce and Neil Diamond.
Sing(read?) it with me…Sweeeeet Caroooliiiiiine, your turn: BAH BAH BAAAAAH
Always good for the end of a trip and just good for the soul, am I right?

We grabbed a bite to eat at the Dulles airport and chatted about things like activism groups, future travels and even some of our biggest fears.  After the flight we bid our sleepy “goodbyes and see ya next week” adieus, and it was finally time to go home.
So what did I learn? What’s the moral? The point?

I learned I am way stronger than I realized. Rice and beans got nothin’ on me. I learned how much I value travel and being surrounded by positive, well rounded beings. I learned that making a tangible difference is something that I desire to accomplish with my life’s work. I have to remember to push myself to be my best, to seize the moment, grasp opportunities as they come and embrace them all to make a difference.

Thanks for reading y’all, until next time. Much love.

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Life’s A Drag; Be A Queen.

Cord Skyla is a personality rising up in the Orlando nightlife scene. By day he models, by night, he drags. However, the road to gigs has been a fairly bumpy one.

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Cord started acting when he was around 7 years old, modeling at age 15, and has loved the feeling of the spotlight since. To preview his recent accomplishments, the Orlando local has walked in Orlando Fashion Week, Aveda Institute Fashion shows, been signed by BMG Modeling agency and has recently begun his journey with drag. Since starting out in October of 2017, he has performed at Parliament House and Southern Nights.

“What really got me into it was one of my friends was obsessed with Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and she did my make up back for Halloween,” said Cord.
“We went downtown for Halloween, and she dressed up in drag. The whole night people thought I was a girl and she was a guy. It was so funny and ever since that night, I just started doing drag.”
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I’ve walked in about 8 or 9 fashion shows. It’s really made me comfortable with who I am. I’m not your basic model, I don’t even look like a model. I’m a little bit on the thicker side compared to all the male models that are usually casted with me. They’re usually all fit and buff and I’m always the oddball,” said Cord.

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Cord has also done photoshoots for Lupus Disease Awareness.

Although he continues to work his way up the ladder of entertainment, he has endured an intricate level of losses along the way.

Cord came out when he was around 21 to his mother who was very religious.

“I was experimenting with my clothes. I was cutting off my jeans into short shorts and cutting my shirts. I was getting really comfortable with dressing like who I wanted to be. (the argument escalated) and I just said “You know what mom, I’m gay!” I slammed the door and went outside,” said Cord.
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“A few weeks passed and I was sitting in the car with my mom during a car ride and she was like “you’ve always talked about wanting to have kids and a family.” And I told her I’d still have kids and a family, I just don’t know if it’ll be with a woman. She accepted me no matter what but she was just really hurt at first.”

Eventually she came to accept her son and their relationship grew even more. Cord’s father wasn’t around much because of his traveling career in baseball. Despite all of this, Cord has remained a stable faith and left judgement of others at the door.
Since I’ve come out, I’m still a believer of God. I don’t judge anyone on religion, I have friends of all different religions,” said Cord.

Cord described his mom as his best friend. She struggled with breast cancer and multiple rounds of chemo. Once his mother reached a state of remission they visited Tennessee for his sister’s wedding. While vacationing in Tennessee, they were in a tragic car accident. Cord’s mother lost the ability to walk and became very weak in the hospital. Shortly thereafter, she passed away.

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This loss had followed another even more tragic loss; Cord’s fiance had died.

He told me about his fiance, Chris and how the two of them were at their friend’s 40th birthday party. He claimed they were having the times of their lives during a photo shoot, when he noticed Chris’ absence from the party.
He walked outside to find a crowd surrounding his fiance. As he picked up Chris’ head to hold, he noticed black and blue bruising around his left eye and a large gash above his left ear. Cord explained this to police and was instead questioned about being an attacker.
During this night, they had even gone on Facebook live because the incident was such an outrage.
There’s still video footage from that night that I cant bear to watch it,” said Cord.

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The police’s lack of empathy ensued as they dismissed the guests from the party and never followed up with Cord about his fiance’s death. Articles came out claiming the death of Cord’s fiance, was due to natural causes. They stated that his blood vessels simply burst in his brain and there was not further investigating into the external injuries that were visible, though camouflaged with make up, even during the wake of Cord’s fiance Chris.

For a year after both of the close losses, Cord moved to Tennessee to be close to his mother’s grave so he could grieve and heal.

Since Cord has moved back to Orlando, he has jumped right back into the world of work.
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“When I moved back in October, I started getting all these gigs. I was in a Disney Live Action Film a couple of weeks ago with Breaking Bad’s Brian Cranston. It’s called One and Only Ivan and it’s coming out Summer of 2019,” said Cord.

During this, he has decided to start exploring in the world of drag. Although he said he gets mostly positive feedback, he hinted that the community of queens is tight-knit and hard to join.
Some of the push back from other queens has included insulting his wigs and questioning his looks.

Starting out, you get a lot of hate but I’ve still kept going,” said Cord.IMG_9716

On the upside, Cord also told me how he has met some of his truly best friends while out in drag.

“Drag is a form of art for me, a way to escape to be someone else and to perform your talents. I just love how the transformation is for people, how different of a transformation that people can make of themselves. Drag has made me really comfortable with who I am personally,” said Cord.

While he isn’t out in drag or performing, he teaches classes on commercial modeling and acting and runway tactical classes to other aspiring talents.

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Overcoming his past has not only thickened his skin, but made him a bit of a role model. When life gets you down, you don’t give up. You heal, and you come back stronger than ever. When considering his past and younger self, he said this-

“I wish I wouldn’t have been so afraid of what everyone thought of me. I used to care so much about what I looked like.
It’s okay to be who you are, God made you a certain way for a reason.”
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Thanks for reading! Much love~
If you’d like to see more of Cord Skyla, click the links below.
Cord’s Instagram
Cord’s Youtube

The Dinner Party Partisanship

I love a good family dinner party. 
Your aunt brings the garden fresh garden salad.
Your uncle brings his famous mac ‘n cheese.
Your cousin makes the best garlic mashed potatoes.
Your grandma bakes the cinnamon apple pie.
Your mom makes the biggest pork roast.
Your spouse makes their winning bacon wrapped scallops.
It’s about coming together, conversation and all the good foods!

Now lets switch gears.
Political parties are the same.
Some people fall on the conservative side of the spectrum, while others land on the liberal side. If you choose to stay between the two, you can always identify as an independent too.
Of course there are other subcategories, but without going to far down the rabbit hole, we’ll keep it to these three sections.

At the end of the day, we all eat together, so why the separation?
Depending on upbringing, personal opinions, virtues, values, and learned morals, each individual is entitled to their own opinions, should it not bring harm to others.
These are the separate dishes.

When these elements dine together,
a cohesive unit of humans should ideally be able to work and talk together.
The only way this won’t work, is when you’ve got that one family member who thinks their dish is the end all be all.
Everybody should only eat what they brought to the table.
Their big ole roast.
No bacon wrapped scallops,
no mac ‘n cheese,
no garden fresh salad,
no mashed potatoes,
no apple pie.

And that’s where we are currently in America.

I’m not here to tell you one party should surpass the other or that one is better.
I want a plate full of everything!
Same dinner party, remember?

However, we can’t work on problems equally, when one voice is on full volume,
while the other is getting
quieter

and

quieter

and

quieter.

Currently, republicans control the senate, the house and the presidency.
Until recently, the only area that acquired some level of equality, was the supreme court. However, Justice Anthony Kennedy has recently announced his coming retirement to spend more time with his family.
A simple google search will tell you all about how Justice Kennedy has been the major swing vote in many huge cases.

Now that he is stepping down, President Trump will be expected to hand select the next Supreme Court Justice. Now don’t forget, Justices are expected to serve until they either retire or die.
They’re in it for life; this is a huge decision to fall unto the Presidents’ lap.

Trump has mentioned that he has a list composed of candidates for the opening position. Considering he leads with a conservative hand, we can expect a conservative justice.

Without jumping to too many conclusions,
I would say it’s fairly reasonable to consider the idea that our country will then have a republican house, senate, presidency and team of justices.

This reality isn’t so farfetched.
When Obama was in office, the democrats controlled the senate, the presidency and the supreme court was pretty equal but fell towards the liberal side.
The house was the only part of senate controlled by republicans.

I see a bit of a problem with both instances.
One side is constantly trying to undo the other.
Instead of building each other up, we’re busy tearing each other down. It’s the same cycle with a different party.
The only way to change partisanship is go old school, reach across the aisle.

We don’t have to agree on everything,
some of us want steak and some of us want tofu.
We still sit at the same table, we still eat together.
I know I want a plate with a little bit of everything,
and not just because I was a fat kid growing up!

I want to hear about what everyone has been up to and how well they’ve been doing.
The dinner time conversation can only flow
when we’re all speaking at the same volume and taking turns.
We can’t keep trying to yell over each other, because eventually somebody hits the mute.

Now that I’ve got your wheels spinning I’ve one last thing to say:
Welcome to the dinner party,
what kind of guest will you be?

Behind the Chair and Beyond the Locks

Nicole Grajewski is a hairstylist and business owner planted in St. Petersburg, Florida. Rollie Locs is a brand she created through the branches of the dreadlock community. Her roots in art and hair began in Orlando at UCF as a studio art major, yet have flourished into a love for locks that currently reaches over 40,000 people. She may make her living behind the chair, but there’s much more going on within the locks that frame her auspicious endeavors.
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Her start-up: While Grajewski was in college, she also worked as a receptionist at a local hair salon. As she observed the stylists, her interest in becoming one herself solidified. As for the dreadlock side of doing hair, her admiration began even earlier.
“I found them aesthetically pleasing ever since I was young. I thought ‘dreadlocks make people look sexy,’ so I wanted to wear them. Once I started to wear them I noticed more and more people reaching out to me wanting to wear them as well,” said Grajewski.

I found Nicole a little over a year ago when I asked her to maintenance my own dreadlocks. The is what one of my more recent maintenance sessions looked like.
The before is on the left.

Nicole explained the locking process as a journey that one chooses to take.
“The locking process is a journey, that people take totally knowing it’s a commitment and knowing that it’s going to take time and that it’s going to take patience,” said Grajewski. “So people go in knowing that it takes time for dreadlocks to flourish and be perfect. So it’s usually people who want connection to their hair; people that are willing to go through all that, because it’s not easy like you think.”

One of her favorite parts to creating and maintaining dreadlocks is the transformation itself.
“My favorite thing about doing dreads is starting from soft hair to creating a full head of dreadlocks and seeing people’s reactions. And then pretty much I can only picture that person with dreads ever again,” said Grajewski.

Her most memorable client is Willam, a drag queen that was on Ru Paul’s drag race.
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“I was always a really big fan before she (Willam) reached out to me to make her wigs. I even got to go to her house/studio in Hollywood and I couldn’t believe that that was really happening,” said Grajewski. “She found me through Instagram, which was crazy. Totally reached out to me organically and asked me to make her some dreadlock extensions. I delivered them to her there (in Hollywood) and she sewed them into a wig she already had.”

She has made Willam 2 synthetic dreadlock wigs, and is currently working on another one as well.
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“I feel like if a drag queen approves then you’ve made it,” said Grajewski.

Since Grajewski is a pretty big deal as Rollies2thesky on Instagram, the popular photo centralized social media app. Currently she has over 40,000 followers. I absolutely had to ask her if she bought her following.
“No I definitely haven’t bought any followers or likes, I feel like that would be pointless. Basically when I first started my business, I was making the synthetic extensions, and shipping them. I was working from my house,” said Grajewski. “I reached out to a lot of people that had a lot of followers and asked if I could mail them dreads and if they would wear them and shout me out.”

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The up and up of her business has been growing ever since. Despite the growth, she truly emphasized the client to stylist connection and how important it is to form that trust.
“I feel like the person that’s letting me touch their dreads really trusts me, and I want that. I feel like there has to be a bond.” Fortunately she hasn’t had any situations where she wasn’t able to form that bond.

The biggest obstacle in beginning her business was gaining her parents’ approval.
“I was going to UCF and I was only doing that to please my parents. I knew that I wanted to stop going there and go to cosmetology school. They were supporting me financially at that time in my life so I had to do whatever they wanted me to do,” said Grajewski.

Over the course of four years, she began cultivating synthetic dreadlocks and saving the money she made. From that, she was able to fund her cosmetology schooling all on her own. To further prove her passion wasn’t just a hobby to her parents, she worked as a hair stylist for two years as well. Now her parents see how successful and financially independent Grajewski has become and are quite impressed by the range of clientele she reaches and services. Nicole commented on her mom especially being impressed.
“Now she (Nicole’s mom) sees that I can tell her about my really cool clients. Like she watches the lightning, and I did J.T. Brown’s hair, who now plays for Anaheim, but he was with the lightening. She thought that was the coolest thing ever. She supports me now.”
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During the interview, I brought up the topic of cultural appropriation. With social media at our fingertips and cultures merging and collaborating, it does seem important to show credit and respect as well. Unfortunately, she has experienced a small amount of negative feedback.
“I feel like it really tests me online because of the way people come at me isn’t with educated opinions. It’s usually people attacking the photo or attacking the person that has dreads,” said Grajewski. “I definitely respect that African Americans wear dreadlocks so proudly and have for a really long time. But also I think that it’s just a really trending hairstyle and white people can have them because our hair does knot. I think that’s the main issue, people think that our hair doesn’t actually knot on its own.
Everybody has assistance with their dreadlocks.”

Grajewski listed how all races maintain their dreadlocks in some way; whether they are organizing sections or twisting their roots.
“If anything I would say it’s a compliment to different cultures. I think it originated from many different cultures, not just Jamaica,” said Grajewski.

When I asked what it was like being her own boss, she blurted out how it was one of the absolute best parts of what she does.
“I can do hair while I’m traveling, I can create my own hours. I don’t have to be by a book; nothing is corporate.
I don’t have to follow rules, I can be my truest self. People that come to see me accept that,” said Grajewski.
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Her only drawback was that being only one of her, restricts her from reaching more people in her audience online and in person. For her, traveling is one of the bigger parts of her work. The process basically goes like this:
“If there’s a city I want to go to, all I have to do is go on instagram and say “hey I’m gonna be in this place on these dates” and I get an overwhelming amount of people that want to have their hair done by me. I get a vacation and work out of it. Work to me is always fun,” said Grajewski.

The synthetic dreadlocks that she makes are another interesting aspect of her work. The hair she uses comes from a website http://ikickshins.net/ and once the dreadlocks are made from the synthetic pieces, they are dreaded forever. Although the pieces cannot change in color and are much courser, they are perfect for someone who only wants to have dreads temporarily.

The dreadlock community is a plethora of different beings. Grajewski described it as a community of open minded positive people.
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“Usually people with dreadlocks are living an alternative lifestyle. Dreadlocks come with a stigma. Dreadlocks come with a stereotype,” said Grajewski. “So if someone is willing to live their life knowing they are pushing the boundaries, they going to be more accepting of other people doing different things too.
I live a no judgement life towards pretty much anything. It’s cool to meet those likeminded people.”

Her idea for the name Rollie Locs originated from a Biggie Smalls song. The lyrical inspiration was to “put your rollies to the sky.” A younger and more naive Nicole thought it meant to put a blunt to the sky, so she made her instagram name Rollies2thesky. She later found out the reference was to Rolex watches.
Her laughter during the interview explained that she accepted her mistake and decided to own it.
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“Then I started wearing dreads and doing them and people would be like start thinking that was my name. So I remember one night I was sitting at a bar with this guy named DJ Nigel in Orlando and he said ‘You gotta name it Rollies locks, I can see it! I can just see it!’ And that was the moment,” said Grajewski.

That moment would lead her to creating a business uniquely her own with a goal of one day owning her own space for the dreadlock community to come together.
“I live in St. Pete Florida and there’s a lot of dread heads here. There’s a really cool scene. I would ultimately like to create a space where I can do hair but I can also bring my community together,” said Grajewski.

Her upcoming work includes flying out to Las Angeles to personally deliver yet another wig to the drag queen Willam and she will also be doing another top secret celebrity’s dreads while she is there.
Grajewski wouldn’t disclose who the celebrity was with me because she didn’t want to jinx the opportunity.

Nearing the end of the interview, I asked Grajewski to share something with me about herself that nobody else really knew. I thought this might be interesting because she already leads such an unconventional career and lifestyle. She get’s to travel and party with some of the best and has such a large following. Her answer actually surprised me.

“I’m a really big dork. I guess people think because I have a lot of instagram followers that I care about social media that I’m some like fame crazed person but I’m not that at all. I’m actually like kind of shy, super awkward and I really don’t like talking about myself to be honest,” said Grajewski.
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Her humble tone was highly refreshing. Although she’s been doing hair and dreadlocks for years now, her own actual dreads have been locking for about 10 months. They will be one year old in August.

As a fresh graduate and beginning freelancer, I asked for some advice. I too aspire to achieve the ability to work for myself one day.
“My advice is just to take that risk and if you feel it inside yourself that it’s gonna be a success like there’s a need, desire or demand for it, then just do it. Don’t hold back, give it your all,” said Grajewski.

In a moment of reflection she also added what she would have told her younger self.
“I would tell myself, ride the wave of life, follow your intuitions, and to not be so hard on yourself,” said Grajewski.

That’s all I’ve got folks, you saw it here first. Nicole Grajewski, the future of dreadlocks and what life is like when you take a chance on yourself. Ride the wave of life. That’s surely what I’ll be doing from here on out.
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Thanks for taking the time to check out this feature on Nicole Grajewski.
If you’d like to view more of her work, or get into contact with her, I’ve posted her social media links below. She responds quite promptly and always has an incredibly positive attitude.
Much love!

Rollies2thesky Instagram
Rollies Locs Facebook

Opening Yourself Up to Opportunity

The last year has been one of rapid growth for me. I graduated college, switched to an early morning job, began growing my online presence, started dabbling in freelance work, got into working out and even started therapy to better understand myself as a growing adult.

It sounds like a lot and honestly, it has been. However, we’ve all been given the same amount of hours in every day, and the time passes the same for each of us. The only difference is in how we utilize that time. There have been some struggles and compromises. I don’t go out like I used to. I’ve tightened my budget in many areas. I’ve let go of old relationships that weren’t helping me blossom in the ways that I now need. I’ve learned to pick my battles and to only allow my emotions to guide my choices; my emotions no longer define my decisions.

I wake up much earlier, usually around 5:30 am and I have more responsibilities now. I spend more time with close friends, family and my partner. I have to plan out my days ahead of time and I have more appointments and projects to complete. All these compromises and changes haven’t been easy, but what it all comes down to is how badly I’ve wanted to positively grow in my personal and professional life.
How bad do you want it?

Every bit of our days include opportunities. Either we are in the right place at the right time or we realistically manifest them ourselves. To meet the expectations of these opportunities, sometimes we have to make changes and go through the drudgery of hard work. To create opportunities, we have to open our minds.

A narrow outlook restricts us from approaching all possibilities.

Self created opportunities arise from approaching new people, organic networking and simply brainstorming new ideas. Naturally occurring opportunities are the ones that fall into our lap; and they are so rare.
If you really want to make changes and succeed in your work or whatever area in life it is, you are probably going to have to make your own way. Unless you have a rich parent with all the connections to land you a job or spoon feed you what you want;
but who really wants that anyways?

Succeeding on your own and climbing the ladder to whatever your personal goal is, is always incredibly rewarding.

These days, I try to make the most of every situation I am in.
For instance, if I’m at work, and our big boss comes in, I will make sure to say hello and chat him/her up. I won’t go hide in the back or avoid them. Any opportunity to network is useful. Even if it is just to show my face and that I have a great attitude; maybe down the line that boss will remember me and utilize me for some sort of promotion or side gig.
Another example is that even when I’m having a bad day, I live by the saying “Fake it ’til ya make it.” It always pays off, because eventually, I’m able to shift over into a positive mind space and working doesn’t seem as bad.

When we change our mind set, we change the way we view the world. We change the way we approach others which allows us to create opportunities for ourselves. You don’t have to be smiling 24/7, but a generally positive outlook does make all the difference.

When you’re able to focus on the present moment and put your best foot forward, even if it is in a job that you don’t plan on having forever, that will eventually be recognized. Even if you’re doing pro-bono projects on the side or cheap collaboration jobs, eventually that experience will pay off.

As I continue to apply these concepts to my life, I also remember that success doesn’t happen over night. “It’s 2018 though, why can’t I just get a job off of an app and make millions right away?” Because I know that true success takes time and hard work. Although it sounds old fashioned, those principles will never go out of style.

Approach each day with the thought “Today I will work as hard as I can and do the best that I personally can” and you will find that you achieve much more. Even slow progress is good progress. If you do find you’re having a hard time switching your head space to a positive one, maybe change your environment for the time being. Do what you can, and remember that making your own way will eventually lead you to where you should be.

Creating your own opportunities will open up the space in your life for those very rare naturally occurring opportunities to finally fall into your lap. If you do the leg work, the work will reward you.

Thanks for reading, keep doing all the amazing things that you do!

Much love~

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

The day is May 18th, 1998 and Bill Clinton gave a speech that challenged the way health pandemics would be handled entirely.

At Morgan State University, Clinton spoke about the HIV/AIDS worldwide pandemic and how our population in America could make a difference.
“So let us today set a new national goal for science, in the age of biology.
Today let us commit ourselves to developing an AIDS vaccine within the next decade,” said Clinton.

The speech was monumental because not only was progress being pursued, but the pandemic was finally being recognized in all of its horror and need for acknowledgment.

Today, it’s common to hear about safe sex and how to live with HIV/AIDS once one has contracted the disease. Luckily, HIV/AIDS is no longer totally a death sentence in countries with access to healthcare. Therapeutic drugs and treatments are available for those that live with the diagnosis. However, in recent years, there has been a costly spike in price in most medications required for HIV/AIDS sufferers.

In the world of science, the best way to avoid contracting HIV/AIDS is by getting vaccinated. In order to be administered the drug, you must be enrolled in a clinical trial. Although over 30,000 people have enrolled in these trials, the Food and Drug Administration still hasn’t approved the vaccine. Because the trials are so recent and progress has changed so much in the last 20 years, there isn’t a consistent or totally available database of longterm results with the trials.
However, the patients enrolled and administered the vaccine have never contracted the disease. 

As of last year, there was a new mosaic approach underway as a vaccination to prevent HIV/AIDS. The mosaic approach suggests that the vaccine contain genes from all over the world; which would then be more effective and universal.

As the search for a cure continues, the next best thing is get vaccinated. In celebration of 20 years since Clinton’s speech, people around the nation recognize today as HIV/AIDS Vaccination Awareness Day. Staying educated is the best way to stay ahead.
Share your acknowledgement by tweeting #HVAD on twitter
and share this article on facebook!

Thanks for reading friends,
and may we be the generation that finally gets ahead of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Sources:

https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2017/12/new-hiv-vaccine-test-launched-world-aids-day.html

https://www.hiv.gov/events/awareness-days/hiv-vaccine-awareness-day

https://www.fredhutch.org/en/labs/be-the-generation.html

https://www.healthable.org/world-aids-vaccine-day-2018/

 

Wag-Worthy Fact: CBD oil is good for your pup!

Earlier this week, I was driving around town in my little red car.
I stopped at a red light and noticed a sign to my right that read:

“Get CBD oil for your dog here!”

I stared and stared, thinking I was reading it incorrectly.
The car behind me honked; I broke my gaze and drove away chuckling.


I live in Orlando, Fl. The city is a great big melting pot, encompassing all walks of life;
including people who sell CBD oil to pet owners. This prompted me to do a bit of research so that I could share it with you all.

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CBD oil is created from high CBD and low THC hemp product. CBD stands for cannabinoid and naturally occurs in marijuana plants. The most commonly thought of marijuana plants are grown for the purpose of harvesting and drying the flowers (nugs) and consuming them for the effects of the THC, which is what gets you high. Plants that are grown with a high CBD content and low THC content are utilized in various helpful ways.
For example, CBD oil reduces anxiety and stress while relieving pain.

CBD oil has been utilized on seizure patients and those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Another notable fact about CBD oil is that it is non-psychoactive; or in regular terms, it doesn’t get you high. Therefore, it is totally safe for you animal to consume.

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When would be an appropriate time to consider using CBD oil with your dog?
Maybe your animal has separation anxiety or is very sensitive to loud noises like thunder. Or maybe your animal gets aggressive or anxious around other people or dogs.

CBD oil can help soothe your animal, so that they can live their best life as your best friend. CBD oil is even claimed to fight cancer in dogs as well! The oil can help with heart health and greatly improve your dog’s appetite.

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For the best results, a high quality CBD oil will truly benefit your pet. You can adjust the doses by drops or even buy treats for them with the CBD oil already infused.
You dog will be thanking you in a plethora of kisses soon enough!

Thanks for reading, much love!


I do not own these pictures.
Sources:
https://www.medicalmarijuanainc.com/what-is-cbd-hemp-oil/
https://sciencetrends.com/what-does-cbd-stand-for/
https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/cbd-oil-for-dogs/

Tasting, Toasting and Hosting with Ashanti Middleton

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New York’s own entrepreneur Ashanti Middleton,
is a black female with a brand all her own, married to her wife of two years. Her food and drink review channel “Taste and Toast” has gained a following and a prominent internet residency through her website and youtube channel.

What set her a part from all the other channels and reviewers was her distinct passion for the entire process, while staying true to her authenticity.

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“I went to college for business management. I found a passion in film and entertainment afterwards,” said Middleton. “I’m like a self proclaimed food connoisseur. It really comes from a passion of wanting to go out and try new foods. So I took that, in addition to me loving the entertainment industry, in addition to me wanting to help.”

She described to me that her ultimate goal is to drive more traffic into these
cheers-worthy bars and delectable restaurants,
while growing her personal platform.

Her many years of experience in retail, customer service and product management gift her the understanding of creating an entire dining experience.
This gives her a leg up to reviewing all types of eateries.
I asked her to describe the overall process of reviewing a location and to detail her experience thus far.

“We profile the business as a whole, the ambiance, the history of the restaurant, and then of course, the food,” said Middleton.
“My favorite reviewing experience was when I went to go visit a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn called Samui. What I usually do is tell the owners to prepare two dishes and two drinks.
They prepared 30 dishes and 20 drinks.
We were eating all day!”

I had a moment of rethinking what I was doing with my life; free food and drinks? It sounds too good to be true. Of course, I then had to follow up with asking about some of the biggest struggles that parent the experience of entrepreneurship.

“Right now I’ve been able to self finance everything. As you grow and as you become more in demand, you need more money. I don’t get any money for shooting but I’m still paying my videographers,
so it’s like an investment. I don’t want to say I’m losing money, but it is money out of my pocket,” said Middleton.

As a Human Resources manager with a local retailer, she is able to fund her channel entirely on her own. Middleton hopes that her next obstacle can be one building atop her current journey. She aspires to be picked up by a major platform; ie a TV or or major digital channel.
Taste and Toast has even been featured in the Huffington Post.
Click here to see the article.

The idea for the channel Taste and Toast originated from Middleton and her close friends several years ago.

“I have two best friends of 25 years and we were brain storming for maybe 3 days. We came up with a whole bunch of names. And finally I came up with the name, Taste and Toast. I said ‘I like Taste and Toast, because that’s what I want to do!
It was a name for keeps,” said Middleton.

Beyond her personal youtube channel and website,
Middleton has other projects as well.

“I have another venture too, my wine. I have two business partners and it’s called Esrever,” said Middleton.

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“We were at the table, drinking, probably 6 or 7 years ago,
me and my two best friends of 25 years were like,
‘What would it be like to own your own wine business? How do you even do that?”
Middleton shared more on the beginning of creating her wine brand.

“We just started with the basics, what type of wine would we like to taste and then we came up with some names. We were throwing a whole bunch of names out there. They give me credit for the wine name as well,” said Middleton.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the name Esrever,
pronounced Ehz-reh-veer,
is actually
Reverse spelled backwards. The name is catchy and flows well.

Middleton’s biggest inspiration is her friend that she refers to as her younger brother, David; he’s integrated as an actor in the entertainment industry.
“He’s 27 now and I knew him when he was 18. I was around him when he first dibbled and dabbled into the acting field and now he does work for the Food Network and all types of stations. He’s really prominent in his field,” said Middleton.
“So watching him go to auditions, get turned down and get picked up, get paid gigs and just go through this, I began to love it just by follow him to his gigs.
I grew an interest and took it from there.”

Middleton also hosts food related events as well. Her MC persona thrives when she’s hosting and shooting new episodes at these events.

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“I’m happy to say that I’ve been picked up as an
official media partner for Famous Food Festival. It’s this big food festival that happens every year and they go on tour, so they’re coming here July 14 and 15th,” said Middleton.
The festival is put on by Eric and Ryan; Middleton will be their media partner for the festival.

“I’m also the host and media partner for Bronze magazine. They’re having their second annual pop-up event, a pop-up shop, which is May 12th.” Between Middleton’s successes, she unfortunately has received some push back because of her identity. However, she remains collected and unbothered when speaking about it.

“I do have two companies that didn’t want to work with me because I’m gay. I did experience that. But it doesn’t bother me. None of that bothers me at all. It’s their choice, it’s what they want to do. So I just keep going,” said Middleton.

When I asked her about how companies have embraced the gay community, she elaborated.

“Most companies use it as a selling point. Like a a lot of companies. Even if they don’t agree, that’s what’s in now, accepting homosexuality. If you talk bad about the homosexual society, they’ll come after you. So if they find out that your business doesn’t support homosexuality, you have a big battle against you. So a lot of companies welcome it because it just helps their business grow, even if they’re doing it selfishly,” said Middleton.

Middleton’s ambition precedes her persona in the reviewing and entertainment industry. Her hard work and emphasis on direction forward amplifies her strength in character and passion for her work.

The key to this is consistency. There are days where I just want to throw in the towel. Like more than not, honestly. There’s a lot of days that I go through being discouraged, but you have to remain consistent,” said Middleton.

Surrounding herself with positive influences makes all the difference as well.

“I really find the most joy in talking to people that are like me, that are like minded and that are in something that they want to grow. I love that. Like regular people that are trying to build their dream.”

Here’s one of my favorite reviewing videos from her channel.
Episode 6 – Sneak Peak #Extra Taste Coco-Roco

Keep an eye out for Taste and Toast, Esrever, and Ashanti Middleton
as she climbs the ladder to all her successes.

You can find her social media platforms here:
Facebook:
Taste and Toast
Instagram:
@tasteandtoastam
Website:
Taste & Toast
Youtube:
Taste and Toast Channel

The 10 Best Ways To Use A Planner

In a world full of technology and online advancements, I still use an old school planner. As a spatial (visual) and kinesthetic (physical) learner, I’ve always enjoyed seeing exactly what I need to do and how I can achieve it.
Utilizing a planner keeps me on my A-game and has transformed my level of productivity from moderate to full speed ahead.
Here’s how using a planner can help improve your life.


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  1. I typically start by writing in what days I work and the hours of duration. Visualizing how much time you spend at work will show you when you actually have free time. Be honest with yourself. Include your driving to and from work to know exactly how much time you are investing. Where can you squeeze in breaks? Can you make calls on those breaks? Write it all down.
  2. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to spend more of your free time, freely.  When you’re able to visualize how much time you need to work , you can then block time for your chores and appointments. Once you see how everything flows, your free time won’t be filled with miscellaneous tasks.
  3. When you see that you have days with lighter work loads, you can plan your workouts accordingly. Physical health typically affects mental health. To make sure you are at your best, be prioritizing some sort of physical activity often. My personal rule is that working out rigorously should happen 3-4 times per week. On the days I don’t work out, I will walk or spend time outside moving around. When I stick with this , my body releases more endorphins which improves my mental state. Planning time for physical betterment will help the rest of your life flow.IMG_2842 2
  4. I try to coordinate meetings and appointments in a cohesive manner so I can remain punctual. This one is really important. Punctuality is important in the professional world. There aren’t many applaudable excuses to miss a meeting, or to be late. An excuse is still an excuse. If it takes you a certain amount of time to get ready and transport somewhere, include all of that in your planner. Schedule it out so you can arrive or engage in a timely manner. Allow yourself more time than you expect in case you go over the regular duration of your meetings so you aren’t scrambling to get somewhere after.
  5. Health related appointments will become a priority when you begin to use a planner. Scheduling doctors/dentist appointments in advance saves you the hassle of wondering when you even went to the doctors last. Schedule appointments a couple of months – even 6 months in advance – and write them in your planner immediately. That way when you look at your week ahead, there are no surprises. If you need to reschedule when the time comes, you can. But at least it will already be a priority in motion.
  6. Once you’ve begun to fill out your planner, you will find that you have more time than you think. Now you can ponder, where are you wasting your time? How often are you mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram?
    To solve this problem, allow yourself a designated amount of time daily to utilize social media and stick to it. You don’t always have to pencil it in daily when you want to spend time on social media. However, if you are able to apply this rule, you will find that you often have an extra hour or two daily to utilize in other ways.
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  7. You will be able to visualize goals and put them on a tangible timeline. I personally love to think about my goals for the week on Sundays or Mondays. Am I prioritizing something in my professional life? Or have I been working really hard, and need to prioritize my personal life? Is there a passion project I want to finish this week?
    Maybe start with a simple goal like setting a regular bedtime for yourself or practicing a hobby 2 times that week. Write it down on two specific days or write down the time that you need to be done with everything daily so you can make it in bed by that designated time. Feel free to review your planner throughout your day as a reference point.
  8. You can schedule in your passion projects and up productivity. Hold yourself accountable. Accountability is the name of the game here.
    If you write down that you will plan your project Monday evening, buy supplies Tuesday evening, work Wednesday-Friday evenings on the project and be finished by Saturday, then that sounds do-able. Schedule yourself a specific time limit to work on whatever “it” is daily. Be realistic and know that you can’t finish everything in a day. Patience and consistency are the keys.
  9. Utilizing a planner will present a clear vision of what needs to get done each day according to your values and positive habits.
    Your values dictate your actions. Your actions become your habits.
    So if you say you value health and wellness, but only cook yourself dinner once a week and never make it to the gym, you’re not really letting your habits reflect your values. If you need to change your actions, write down the ways you can do that. Then schedule them out in a realistic fashion. Once you have your actions dictated, follow through on them. Do this a few weeks, and those actions will become habits. Bam, your habits reflect your values!
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  10. Lastly, your finances will become understood much more clearly. You’ll be able to pay your bills on time, thus also saving you money. This is the aspect that makes it all possible. Sure, it’s easy to say you’ll make time for that vacation or redo your bedroom at some point. But have you looked at the costs or the planning required? Schedule yourself time once a month to go over your budget and analyze how you can get to where you want to be in a financially responsible manner.
    Will you have to work more? Will you need to save more? Incorporate these answers into your weekly goals and then pick the actions to make them possible. Write down bills ahead of time so you know what costs are coming and again, be honest with yourself.


    I have found that my life came together quite well and is still only improving because of the organization that using a planner provides. Time management and consistency are the not so secret keys to success. Sit down once a week, preferably at the beginning, and schedule it all out. I wish you all the most success and good vibes! Thanks for reading. Much love.

The Main Squeeze: Music Monday

Happy Monday!
Just Kidding, Monday’s usually aren’t everyone’s favorite.
Fortunately, I’ve come up with a list of songs to help you decompress after a long day.


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Drip by Cardi B (Feat. Migos)
First of all, Cardi B’s new album is entirely flawless. Since I could only pick one song, I had to pick this one because it’s so catchy. It’s the ultimate hype song. Play this one while your work day is coming to a close. You made it through the day!

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Wake Me Up by Avicii
With the recent passing of Tim, it’s completely appropriate to feel a little nostalgic with this song. This song puts me in the present moment immediately and reminds me that no matter where I am, I am exactly where I should be in this life.
Rest Easy Tim and thank you for all the incredible music you created.

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Take The Money and Run by Steve Miller Band
An oldie but a goodie. This song is perfect for when you feel like you’re hanging on by the skin of your teeth. Stuck in traffic? Your boss is still blowing you up? Kids making you feel like you can’t take it anymore? It’s all good because you can. Go on, take the money and run. Or just listen to some Steve Miller Band and vibe out for a bit.

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Morocco by Moon Taxi
You made it home after a long day but you’ve still got a full list of things to get done. It’s the perfect jam to set the tone for coming back to the present moment and it’ll keep you moving.

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Space for Two by Mr. Probz
This is one of those back roads, in your feels, type of song. Maybe you need to go for a drive after your Monday, so play this song while you do it. The lyrics will fulfill your craving for sappy lyrics with a smooth strumming guitar and a flowing beat. You’ll be yearning for your significant other by the end of this song, or at least Mr. Probz.

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Nice For What by Drake
Drake is here to tell you, it’s alright. You’ll get through it and it’s all good. This song will have you grinding through all your work you had to bring home or get you going for your evening workout and set your mood to high productivity mode.

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Chop Suey! by System Of A Down
So you’re ready to blast through that work out and get the most out of it? Stick your headphones in and just blast this one. A little metal never hurt anyone! Besides, this song will have you push through your sets with all the extra umph you need.

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Marinade by DOPE LEMON
Now it’s time to cool down and chill out. You’ve gotten through your to do list and done all that you can for the day. Take this time to reflect and listen to the spoken word lyrics with the easy-going beat. You’ll be tapping your foot thinking, Monday’s aren’t so bad after all.

Thanks for reading!
Much love.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these pictures. All images from google images.

Thirsty Thursday: The Citrus Fizzy

Sip on this squeeze of the week that I call The Citrus Fizzy.

What I love about this drink is that the bitterness of the grapefruit vodka and lime tonic is complimented by the sweet and dense pomegranate juices. The ginger ale gifts the perfect amount of bubble while the lemon juice keeps the cocktail crisp and tangy.
This spring inspired cocktail will have you feeling fuzzy, fizzy and refreshed all at once.


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Ingredients

  • 2 oz grapefruit flavored vodka
  • 1 oz pomegranate berry juice
  • 1 cap of lemon juice or fresh squeezed to taste
  • 1 oz tonic with lime
  • 2 oz ginger ale
  • Orange or Grapefruit wedges
  • Pure Cane Sugar

Note: Any brand of vodka around 35% alcohol content will be of decent quality. The brand I chose to use was SKYY infusion vodka because it was on sale for $11.99. I knew I was using the vodka with mixers. If I were to be making shots, I would’ve gone with a smoother vodka but this brand will suffice for a mixed drink that is fun and fruity and blends well with the other flavors.


Prep it!

1. Slice the orange and run the slice around the drink’s rim to coat it in fresh juice.
2. Dip the rim your glass in pure cane sugar or any flavored sugar of your choice.
3. Fill your glass with ice to the tippy top.

Shake it!

1. Chill the 2 ounces of vodka, 1 ounce of pomegranate berry juice and squeezed lemon in your shaker with crushed ice.
2. Strain the liquid and pour it over the ice.
3. Top with 1 ounce of tonic with lime and 2 ounces of ginger ale.

Finish it!

Garnish your Citrus Fizzy with leftover grapefruit or orange wedges.

Then sip it and get lit!


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I hope you enjoy this fun yet simple spring inspired recipe.
Much love!

HQ: The Hottest Trivia Game Show App with a Questionable Investor

The latest entertainment trivia app seems to be getting downloaded faster than you can google what it even is. The gameshow style app has absolutely taken off in recent months. Everyday at 3 pm and 9 pm, players can tune in and give their best trivia try towards winning some cold hard cash. It sounds like a simple concept, but the surprise savage questions weed out the weak fast.  As I’ve become a regular player and viewer recently, the app raised a few questions that pushed me to peak around the internet.

First I wanted to know who founded the app. As it turns out after Twitter shut down Vine last year, the creators of Vine, Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll,  funded the HQ gameshow app, according to marketplace.org

My next inquiry was how many people are actually playing?

The game show typically has 1-2 million players engaged when it begins. It depends on whether it is a big give-away or a smaller amount of cash per game. Also, as the trivia questions get harder and players are eliminated from the game, the players don’t stick around. The numbers decline quickly as the game gets harder. If players want to stay and watch, they can; but usually don’t.

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Third: What the hell does HQ even stand for?
Harley Quinn? Hippo Quails? Hey Q-T?
Players engage in the live chat regularly asking this question and the usual host, Scott Rogowsky, marvels in teasing players about this mystery. He won’t disclose the secretive information. The most reasonable answer I came across was on reddit and the thread suggested that HQ stood for “Hype Quiz.”

My last and not least quizzical question was where is any of this money even coming from?

When players win, there can be multiple winners. So if the game awards $5000 in cash or $50,000 in cash, it will still be split up equally percentage wise among the winners. Most recently there was a big winning opportunity, therefore HQ felt it was necessary to up their game and hire a bigger host; literally. They brought in The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, to host the Trivia show. As always, at the vey end there were multiple winners and the money was dispersed via PayPal. So, once again I ventured out into the wild wild internet on a quest to find out where the money was originating from.

This is where it got weird.

Many fans suggested the app was sponsored by certain brands and that is what pushes certain trivia questions to be asked.

For example, if Bitcoin was a sponsor, Scott could ask

“What type of currency can be utilized in the black market and not be traced back to the spender?”

The answer would obviously be Bitcoin, and then Scott would talk about Bitcoin.

According to Bustle, the app does NOT allow any sort of sponsorships to dictate questions. So Yuspuv and Kroll actually told Bustle there is inherently no intentional brand placement.

Some spectators suggested there was an option to buy into the game, however all of it is free to download and play, so that can’t be true either.

After a little more digging, I found that according to Money Magazine, HQ was backed by “venture capital.” Venture capital is money invested into a new and expanding business, typically with high risk. Although the investors are never named in this article, they are referenced as “deep-pocketed Silicon Valley” investors and they raised $15 million. It sounds like the perfect American dream; investing in a small business and it takes off.

What about asking the question of ethics or of morals or just of, where are these millions coming from with these invisible investors? That’s a big risk to take on an app.

I dug a little more and finally found some information on the monetary inclinations of investors and then it clicked. Of course it would be difficult to find out about investors when the investors aren’t always likable. HQ however, is a new app and wants to continue it’s likeness with fans and players so there hasn’t been much coverage (probably because HR and PR offices are smarter than that). Now I’m sure you want to know who the investor is. Keep reading.

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In another article from CNet, Peter Theil is named as the venture capitalist. Peter Thiel also has invested in PayPal and Facebook and go figure, HQ. So what is interesting about Thiel? He’s a techie that’s also a big, big fan of Donald Trump. At the end of this article I will add all the links and you can follow the link to CNet to see Thiel with Trump. Not only this but Thiel is currently under investigation by the FDA for not following regulations and protections for herpes trial medications. Also Thiel is promoting an outdated capital flow theory that apparently hasn’t been recognized as useful in decades, according to Investopedia.

The notable detail here is how players of HQ reacted with a hashtag of #deleteHQ February; similar to the other previous bans that shifted customers choices on apps like Uber.

As the modern day entertainment for the average Joe continues on, I’m very curious to see how much bigger the prizes will get and who else will become involved as an investor. I’m also interested in observing how this pans out with reactions from players. Will the app face an adverse affect because millions of dollars becoming involved that might have to do with politics? Should politics become involved? I’ll leave you with that as food for thought.

Until next time, thanks for reading! Much love.

Links

https://www.bustle.com/p/where-does-the-hq-trivia-money-come-from-well-its-complicated-6786284

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/01/12/tech/5-things-you-need-know-about-hq-trivia

http://time.com/money/5088086/hq-trivia-money/

https://www.cnet.com/news/hq-trivia-why-new-round-of-funding-might-make-you-deletehq-peter-thiel-founders-fund/

https://gizmodo.com/report-fda-launches-investigation-into-research-by-pet-1825211206

https://www.investopedia.com/news/peter-thiel-used-neoclassical-theory-argue-trumps-tariffs/

Make Music Not War

“What are you going to do so you wake up everyday, to be happy?
If you live by other people’s opinions then you aren’t going to be happy with yourself and you’re going to be miserable,” said Laura.


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Orlando’s own singer/songwriter shared this personal philosophy with me. Laura is a graduate from Full Sail University with her Bachelors in Show Production. As a freelance sound engineer, she has made music her life. As her story unfolded to me, I realized she wasn’t the quintessential 22 year old. Creating lyrics and musical experiences for the betterment of others, has become her sole purpose in life.


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Laura, better known as Lauralite, has cultivated this musical existence since diapers.
“I was a little girl, and I was 2 years old saying ‘I’m gonna be a singer when I grow up.’ I had to do it, like this is my calling,” said Laura.

She began her song writing journey as most musicians do; in fourth grade, writing love songs. However, the depth of her intuition to make this her life, bled deeper than some schoolgirl tunes.

“Just like you know your hair is brown, I knew. Like I always felt that. In my heart and in my soul. Like you see those people in the Olympics and you know they took years to do that. So I knew I had to start. I took piano lessons, I took voice lessons,” said Laura.

She told me that music had been there for her in her lowest times and explained that music quickly became her best friend. She described making music as therapeutic and spiritual.

“I think the biggest thing has also been my faith. I’m actually a christian. I’m a spiritual person. I believe in God and I believe that God gives everybody gifts. And it’s like my purpose in life is through my music; to help and heal people.”


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As a refugee from Colombia, it was unlikely that her parents would immediately be on board with this idea of pursuing a songwriting career.

“I’m from Colombia, I was born in Colombia. So I came here when I was 4 and my dad was a Doctor and a lawyer in Colombia. My mom was an industrial engineer and they just like, quit their job, and just moved here. They didn’t know anything, or the language,” said Laura.

She went on to detail how her father owned a farm, and how the bombings started in.

“My parents left because they were bombing my dad’s car and they took over his farm. It’s a crazy story that you wouldn’t even think that that happens but in that time period, people didn’t care. They needed land, they wanted drugs, they were fighting against the government,” said Laura.

I was baffled. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our first world bubble and miss that the person right next to us could have gone through something so traumatic and barely escaped a fatal place.

Her family and her were granted political asylum but couldn’t leave America for ten years. Since that time lapse has ended, she’s been nonstop exploring. Whether it’s road trips cross country, exploring Canada, or flights to LA, she’s always on the go.


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Although her parents, weren’t expecting their daughter to pursue music, they now support her aspirations whole heartedly.

Although Laura considers her voice to be her primary instrument, she also plays the piano, ukulele, guitar and Kazoo. She highly recommends looking up the Kazoo kid on youtube if you never have before.

Her biggest musical influence is Hayley Williams from Paramore.

“She is the Queen. For me Hayley Williams has been this icon of badass, just do whatever you want to do and be proud of it. She’s such a strong feminine character, especially in the rock industry,” said Laura.

Her most significant role model is her Dad, because he has always supported her dreams.
Things got a little personal when I asked what Laura’s family thought about her sexuality. She has been out to friends for a while, but recently went public with announcing her presence as not only a musician, but as a lesbian. She referenced her latest single “Coffee” while further explaining.

“Coffee was officially the first time of me coming out. It’s been interesting.
I felt like I was tired of hiding,”
said Laura.


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Laura told me her family members had this story line of how they wanted her to be and when she didn’t turn out that way, she felt they might not accept her.

“It’s honestly been a surprise. My dad was the most supportive. It’s taken my mom a long time. If I were to be with a man, I would be hurting him. I would never be 100% happy,” said Laura.

“I’m blessed that I have a lot of people that were there for me and supported me and helped me feel okay.”

She then elaborated on her coming out experience from a Christian woman’s perspective.

“When I was 16 or 17 and I was apart of a church, I told one of my friends who was a church member. Shortly after, they completely cut me off. They didn’t want me to perform. They didn’t want me on the stage. Two years later the church shut down. And it’s because they were preaching hate, and that’s not at all what the universe needs.”

Despite her family’s escape from Colombia and the set backs she’d experienced from her peers, Laura still emphasized leading a life true to her authentic self.


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After the Pulse tragedy, she felt she had even more of a duty to become a supporter and proponent to embrace her sexual identification.

“If I look at it now, Pulse was a wake up call for me. There’s so much hate in this world and I’m not doing enough. I started working twice as hard by trying to connect with more people and spread more of my music,” said Laura.

Her opinion as an Orlando local on the shooting was powerful.

“The reality of it is that, yes he (the shooter) was fucked up, but we as a society fucked up, because we haven’t spoken up. We haven’t talked about it. We haven’t communicated the things that are happening.
We have had this prejudiced hate spreading for so long, and our generation needs to step up and talk about it,” said Laura.

Our children’s children are going to grow up in a different world. We need to start talking about this; especially in the southern states where it’s the worst,” said Laura.

So let’s recap. Not only is Laura a refugee, singer/songwriter, instrumentalist, an Orlando LGBTQ staple/activist, she really doesn’t drink either.
I mean she’s practically a God-sent saint.

“The reality is that it (drinking) just brings me to a lower frequency. I do make some exceptions but I don’t like to drink. If I’m gonna drink, I’m gonna be safe about it. A lot of people aren’t safe about it and they don’t realize how easily you can mess up your life,” said Laura.

When I probed deeper on the subject, she explained to me even more so why she prefers not to drink alcohol.

“Alcohol brings out personality traits that you want. Like you want to be confident, but why don’t you just apply that in your actual life? Like is there a lesson I can take from this, and apply it to my regular life? You wanna feel free, you wanna feel confident. So what are the areas you can kind of dissect?”


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Her sobering perspective was refreshing.

With all this mental clarity, it’s no wonder she has a set way to fuel her inspiration.

“I write a poem everyday. I’m very in touch with myself, and how I feel. It helps the words just flow for me. And I love that state, because nothing else matters. That, for me, is when the best songs come,” said Laura.

Her most current obstacle with her music is basically staying out of her own way. When I asked her to elaborate she stated,

“Overcoming myself, staying motivated, my ego and staying humble.
Failure is not an option for me.
I have to define what I’m doing and how I’m going to keep growing.”

A note worthy detail rose up when we started to talk about her freelance work.

My entire industry is male dominated. There is one girl for like, ten guys,” said Laura. “In my industry, I obviously have to work twice as hard to prove myself, but I think being a lesbian has made guys take me more seriously and made me connect with them.”


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Her security in herself seems to be her most ample strength. I asked Laura if she could offer any advice to people coming out.

Nobody will ever understand you better than you, so take that time to get to understand you. Just like you take the time to get to know the people you love, take that time with yourself. Once you do that, it will help you be more secure in coming out and being able to represent who you are,” said Laura.

The theme of self love continued. Her paradoxical album
“Everything That’s Wrong With Me” is her next releasable project.

“It’s basically me learning that there’s nothing that’s wrong with me. It’s like a 7 year long album that I wrote since I was like 14 until now. I recorded it all last year.
This is what I wish somebody would’ve told me or what I would’ve had somebody tell me that it’s okay,
you have to love yourself,” said Laura.


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The album will be an interactive experience for fans and listeners. Once you subscribe to the album on her website, you will be emailed one song per day for a week. Each email will include the link to the song, where you can download it. The link will also bring you to the story behind the song. It’s like unlocking a new level each day.
You can explore her site
here.
You can visit her
Spotify page here.

Laura will also be performing at the Earth Day Festival on April 22nd at 4 pm.
You can view the festival’s 
schedule here.

Be sure to click below for her social media as well so you can follow her!
Facebook 
Instagram 
Youtube
Twitter

Thanks for reading! Much love.

Spring Cleaning: Mental Clutter & Self Talk

Spring is here, so you know that means: Spring cleaning.
I’m not going to give you tips on how to clean out your closet or go through the piles of paperwork on your desk.

Let’s talk about mental clutter and then, how we create it with our self talk.

Just like the saying goes for our bodies- our minds are our temples; they are our personal space among a big and busying world full of distractions. With advertisements and new technology and constant social settings, it’s so important to really worship that mental space. Our headspace can be whatever we create it to be.

Therefore, when we’re negative, we create mind clutter.


Picture stacks of bills, ceiling to floor, that represent taxing emotions.
Picture walls stamped with old pictures of memories harbored, hung crooked and crammed together.
Picture dusty furniture and bookcases overflowing with the phrases you repeat to yourself, shaming yourself.

How can you get anything done in that kind of setting? How do you let the sunlight in again? How do you clear out the room and breathe?

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Mental clutter is all of that. The negativity breeds toxic habitual thoughts. The thoughts become negative self talk. The self talk feeds the worry and clouds any view of the future. No wonder you can’t focus on anything; you’re forgetful and filled with memorized to do lists.
You need to get more done, look better, buy more, get better deals, be smarter, work harder, work faster, get promoted, be a better human, be a better friend, take care of your responsibilities. The mental clutter becomes worse when we internalize it.

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It’s so easy to look at yourself and pinch any excess skin and call yourself fat. It’s easy to second guess your ideas and opinions. It’s easy to self loathe and throw pity parties. It’s second nature for most of us to put ourselves down.
Anxiety feasts on these hams of heartlessness and self hatred. However, this isn’t a death sentence. We can make things better for our brains.



Switching up our self talk.
Gas yourself up, compliment yourself, be a little selfish with your self talk. You really are great, you really are a bad ass.
Positive affirmations are helpful but tend to fall under the umbrella of a future tense with the usage of verbs.

For example you may find yourself saying-
“I will be successful. I will lose weight. I will be happy.”
Change that kind of language into-
“I’m perfect as I am right now. My body is beautiful right now. I am able to be happy and content right now.”

Even if you achieve all those goals and look perfect, you still won’t be able to enjoy it if you aren’t happy with what you’re already working with. And by the way, happiness is fleeting. It isn’t a 24/7 emotion like everyone wants you to think.
Genuine contentment is what you should be trying to attain, its much more reasonable.

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Be reasonable with yourself. The harder you you are on yourself, and the higher your expectations are, the more disappointed in yourself you will be when you don’t get everything exactly right. You are a human; you cannot achieve every perfect task in every perfect way every single day. It’s great to hold yourself to higher standards and have goals, but be reasonable about them. You know your limits, enforce them with yourself.

Stop throwing pity parties.
If you have time to self loathe and feel bad about yourself, you have enough time to turn it around.
You have to choose not to sit in that stagnant pile of shit-pity.
Seriously, you will reek of it.

Your peers can sense when you are constantly downing yourself and feeling sorry for yourself. That isn’t going to gain you any kind of sympathy or change any situation you are currently in. Instead, those feelings will flood your mind with worry and sadness and prevent that beautiful light of positivity from radiating all over you!

Try this: Give yourself 5 minutes to feel down about whatever it is, and then shift your mentality. Turn on some music and focus on something totally separate. By changing your mind from this negative state, you will be able to control your emotions and still understand them, rather than letting them control you.

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Utilize your imagination wisely.
Your imagination is a powerful tool. When misused, it can hoard negative what-if scenarios in the spacious place among your brilliant mind. Instead, utilize your imagination and exercise it positively.

Make shapes out of the clouds or daydream for a bit.
Read a book full of magic and mystery.
I actually just finished reading “The Hazel Wood” by Melissa Albert and it stimulated my mind by taking me away to a landscape of fairytales, mystery and action.

Check out the novel here!>> The Hazel Wood

These things put us in a favorable headspace and keep us from being caught up in the chaos of our surroundings. Mental clutter is a constant project and requires daily maintenance. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and putting yourself down, stop and ask if you would speak to your very best friend in such a manner. If you did, you probably wouldn’t have any friends at all.
So why is it that we think it’s totally fine to tell ourselves such harsh fantasies?
That’s what they are: fantasies.
Quite often, we are much greater than we give ourselves credit.

restaurant-table-sugar-kitchen.jpgChange your phrasing.
Every time you find yourself insulting yourself, tell yourself two good things right away. Not bullshit things either. Really dig in and indulge yourself. If your really feel like you should be working harder at something, change your vocabulary when you think about it.

Rather than saying-
“Wow I really suck at cooking, why should I even bother?”
Try thinking-
“I’m decent at cooking but the more I do it, the better I’ll get.”
Essentially the messages are similar and yes it seems like common sense, but how often do we really choose to alter our personal thoughts and vocabulary? You just went from sucking to being decent. I bet your mom would simply be impressed that you were cooking at all!

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Choose and surround yourself with your role models.
Instead of mindlessly scrolling through airbrushed and face-tuned pictures of instagram models and Pinterest lists of how to be crafty-er, pick  a select few people that truly inspire your positive mindset.

Right now these are my personal role models:
(Click their names to see their instagrams!)

  • Actress/HRC representative Ellen Page
  • Business owner/Author/ex-actress/Lgbtq ally Lisa Vanderpump
  • Actress/activist/Brown University graduate Emma Watson
  • Multi-instrumentalist/Musician/Producer Tash Sultana

    These women are driven, successful, smart, openminded, claim their personal style and assert their presence. I’d rather see what they’re posting than some random chick promoting a tea drink to make your stomach resemble a washb
    oard.
    Nothing wrong with tea or fitness, but do you catch my drift?
    The thoughts we produce become our actions. Our self talk decides our next move. Our mindset is our precursor for whether we will attain positive contentment or the latter. With spring blossoming on your calendar, I wish you the best on your mental decluttering journey. I send you all the good vibes for a more positive self speaking ability and hope that you found this article enlightening.
    As always, much love.

Going with the Flow

Orlando is home to individuals from all walks of life pursuing the most diverse careers in Florida. Jess Harvey, better known by her stage name Jess Neptune, represents this part of the demographic and exceeds  in the variety factor. The performer runs her own entertainment business, Cirque Bishop with her boyfriend and partner, Brad Bishop. The duo hosts events with their crew of 20+ performers that specialize in the flow arts.



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According to Jess, flow artists “manipulate an object to make shapes and dance. It sometimes puts you in a flow/meditative state, that’s where it gets it’s name from.”

Some examples of flowing are juggling, hula hoop dancing, spinning staffs and fans and spinning poi, which are weighted tear drop shaped objects attached to rope or string. Basic flow art objects are called day props and then there are also props that light up, called LED’s. Cirque Bishop elevates the flow art experience by lighting many of their props on fire. Yes you read that correctly; fire.



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Jess began her journey with flowing as a college student, with friends who shared her interest in hooping. I asked her about how Brad and her created their business and what the idea was behind the name.
“Before I started performing it was mainly Brad who was doing it. We tried to come up with a name for him which was, Cirque Bishop, his last name is Bishop. The name stuck and now that I started performing we kept the name as we plan on getting married and I will also be Bishop too one day.” This fiery romance flows better than most.



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Although Jess runs this exclusive and uncommon business, she leads a pretty normal daily life.
“I love cooking and hanging out with my pets and my friends. Listening to music and doing yoga. I like creating art and being surrounded by it.”
She’s a civilian by day and fire spinning funambulist by night.
Jess Neptune claimed that her biggest obstacle with running her own business is to continue pushing herself to work hard for herself; which makes sense when you are your own boss. Something she is working on most recently is stilt walking.



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Despite the fun loving atmosphere that the flow arts create, a lot of blood sweat and tears goes into these effortless-looking flow performances.
“I don’t think people realize how much time, money, and effort is put into performing. Also, people think of flow artists sometimes as ‘lazy hippies’ and that is not what we are. We are hard working performers” said Jess.


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Cique Bishop’s  mission statement reads:

Cirque Bishop LLC is a circus entertainment and equipment business. Our goal is to provide quality and innovative cirque entertainment to people from all walks of life. Cirque Bishop performs and teaches throughout the entire state of Florida, but will travel world-wide. 

To get started in flowing, learning new tricks or even simply meeting other people that flow, she suggested attending music festivals, flow events and fire jams.
“You can find flow artists near you in many different groups on facebook. I would recommend trying all the props to see what interests you the most because everyone is different and everyone’s brain’s work differently.” Each person seems to approach their flow individually and their process tends to vary. So it’s helpful to realize that there are so many different types of flow and objects to utilize rather than be overwhelmed by the amount of options.

 


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Jess Neptune’s encouragement for others to experience the flow arts seems to be apart of her natural energy. She ended our interview with this.
“Follow your heart & dreams. Work hard to make your dreams come alive. Don’t let your dreams just be dreams.”

 


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Her tangible success has been admired by onlookers in Orlando locally and on social media as well. To contact her for booking, you can visit CirqueBishop.com and email CirqueBishop@gmail.com or call/text their office
407-900-3285.
You can also catch up with Cirque Bishop on facebook- facebook.com/CirqueBishop
and view their instagram- @cirquebishop. 

24 Lessons the Year 24 Taught Me

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1. I am my best self in the morning.
You really can be a morning person. I know I’ve mentioned it in past articles. I worked nights for many years, and quit being a night owl- cold turkey. I fully immersed myself in morning rituals and early bedtimes. I’ve found that I truly put my best food forward and I get the most out of my day when I rise with the sun. It has absolutely changed my life.

2. Take care of your mental and physical health.
Get your check ups, dental cleanings and try out therapy. When you feel good, you can do even more good. Mom and Dad aren’t going to make those appointments for you anymore, and you don’t want to be walking around with rotting teeth and a weird mole that you’ve been meaning to get checked out for ages now. All jokes aside, mental health is big now too. You are responsible for your mental well being. Don’t let your emotions rule you; don’t let mental illness take over your life. You can do this.

3. Venting about problems makes things worse.
Very few people actually should hear about your problems. When you complain about your problems, chances are that the other person is either happy that you are miserable like them or they don’t really care. Venting doesn’t make anything change, but it does make your mood worse.

4. Stop living your life to impress other people.
Again, nobody’s paying that much attention. Everybody is usually wrapped up in their own head. Do what you want, when you want and how you want. If it’s going to create something positive, don’t pay attention to anyone on the sidelines. 
You don’t need to prove your happiness.

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5. Do something you’re afraid of.
This year I really got into the flow arts. The flow arts are hula hoop dancing, juggling, dragon staff spinning, fan props and many others. This was fun but I wanted even more of a challenge. So I tried hula hooping with fire. As crazy as it sounds, it was so addicting and a lovely experience. I chose to surround myself with individuals that are educated on fire safety. What I learned is that, trying something scary can usually turn out to be really really exhilarating.

6. Moving will always be stressful.
Moving sucks. It always will. I’ve moved 5 times since I moved to Orlando 4 years ago. The only thing that makes it easier is to start packing in advance. And make friends with/keep in touch with family that have a truck. Other than that, it still sucks. There’s not much else you can do but brace yourself for the stress.

7. Having a savings account for random expenses is important.
You’ll get that unexpected parking ticket. You’ll need to pay those overage charges for when your A/C broke. You might get robbed. And unless you’re a mechanic, you’ll have to pay someone to fix your car when it does some funky stuff. Set aside money to save yourself the hassle of scrounging for change.

8. You will have less friends as you age, but they will be better friends.
This one is tough to accept. As you get older, people will move away for family or jobs. Relationships will change. There’s nothing wrong with that and you are totally allowed to be nostalgic. It’s important to recognize the difference between nostalgia and getting stuck though. Be fond of those old friendships but allow your new ones, or the ones that you still have to flourish in place. 

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9. Pity parties are no longer acceptable. Buy yourself flowers instead.
Self talk is something I struggle with. So when I feel like I’m really getting down on myself, I cut it out as soon as I recognize it. Show yourself some self love and even go buy yourself a cheap bouquet of flowers. It may feel funny at first but those flowers will make you smile when you wake up the next day.

10. You will only make as much money as you are willing to work for.
It’s all about the hustle. If you don’t have a side hustle or side job then you’re probably getting complacent. Unless you are totally established in your dream career and making millions, you could probably be innovating another income. Even millionaires continue to have side projects, why shouldn’t you?  

11. Painting furniture is awful.
This is another inevitable fact I came to learn this past year. It seems like a great idea to say “Oh it’s fine, I can just paint it all. It just looks like there’s four or five sides to it.” Until you realize their are handles and drawers and edges and textures. It’s the worst. Painting always takes long than you expect it to.

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12. It’s important to know what you like to order at a bar; have your own drink. Or be confident in knowing that you don’t like to drink.
If you like girly drinks and you’re a big man, order it with confidence. If you’re a girly girl and you know you like an old fashioned with rye whiskey, you’re probably my kind of girl. Whatever it is, know your drink. It’s your preference and it’s good to get to know your preferences.

13. Establish a style all your own and then refine it a little.
If you like wearing bright colors and patterns, make it work; make it cohesive. Or if you prefer comfy clothing, you can find complete looks with great materials that feel so good on your skin. Even if it’s only an extra 5 minutes out of your day to plan your outfit, it will show that you put in some sort of effort. Let your outfits flow and be an extension of who you are inside. You don’t have to buy the most expensive clothes to wear clothes with personality. Style does not equate to high expenses. Be you and wear what feels like you.

14. Having goals and plans will keep you moving forward.
Stagnancy is a drug. We too often get comfortable and then years pas and we wonder, what happened? Even small goals in fitness or making more time for family are important goals. Big career goals or creative goals are always possible too. Anything is better than not having something to look forward too.

15. But finding love will keep you present.
You so deserve to be loved in a healthy and satisfactory way. Passion does not have to be toxic. Love will greet you as soon as your stop looking for it. Don’t push it away though. There’s nothing cool about saying that you hate relationships. That’s like saying you hate the idea of somebody totally accepting you and celebrating you. Finding love will remind you to take each day as it comes, alongside your partner.

16. Fight with your partner- however, do it constructively.
Name calling doesn’t help. Violence doesn’t help. Lying doesn’t help. Why do we avoid confrontation? Because we connect fighting with these actions. Once you eliminate all the negative actions from fighting, what do you have left? A conversation. You can ask your partner: “How can I do better next time? What can I change to make things work better?” Or you can say “This certain thing upsets me and I would like for you to consider why it does.” A conversation can solve something. Negativity cannot.

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17. Bad things will happen; then more bad things will happen.
When it rains, it monsoons. The best you can do is keep a sense of humor. Breakdowns are normal. Learn from them and you will be stronger.

18. Be Safe.
Don’t drive without your seat belt on or text while you are behind the wheel. Take a cab or an Uber or have a friend pick you up when you’ve been drinking. Don’t walk around the city at night alone. These are all common sense but your safety is important. So there’s your sign!

19. Some of your ideas will be unsuccessful, some will be epic.
That’s why you take risks.You have to get all the crap out of the way to get to the good stuff. And if you don’t even try to get the crap out of the way, you’ll NEVER get to the good stuff.

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20. Taking trips is important. Get in touch with history and culture.
Even if you only go an hour away, give yourself a chance to learn something new and experience a new area. Our brains are wired to take in new information. I’m all about that daily grind, but it goes back to being stagnant. Find that balance between working hard and branching out. History and culture are two aspect of life that feed your soul.

21. You deserve to be cherished and valued.
You are worth a real loving healthy relationship. Sometimes we all need to remember that. Don’t settle. Look yourself in the mirror everyday and ask, “Am I getting the love I deserve?” If you aren’t, keep it moving. I’ve chased after too many people who frankly, just enjoyed being chased. There will be someone out there for you that will chase after you too.

22. Realize when you are have unrealistic expectations and let them go.
Letting go of expectations is the quickest way to find happiness exactly where you are. I struggle with this one everyday. Appreciate everything and simply expect nothing.

23. There’s no other feeling like jamming out to your favorite song.
Do it regularly. Have a dance party. You’ll feel fantabulous. You’re never to old to feel fantabulous.

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24. Good things take handwork and time.
Patience! Patience! Patience! I say this to myself often, but still not often enough. Life will grow and flourish as it should. We’re all on our own timelines, lets make it count and watch all the great things ahead of us unfold as we diligently work hard to reach our goals and get better everyday.

Thanks for reading! Much love~

Hospitality for the Hard-At-Work

I’ve worked in the service industry for long enough to know how easy it is to forget about serving yourself. I’ve delivered pizzas, hosted, bussed, waited tables until the late hours, bartended until the morning hours and now, I actually wait tables in the morning hours on purpose. As someone who is literally making a living by meeting the needs of customers, I often neglected my own.

This applies to anyone who has found their self becoming a workaholic under the umbrella of taking care of other people. Whether it’s a manager calling you in on your day off, having to stay later than usual because a table decided to stay or having a customer complain to you about something beyond your control, we’ve all been there. Whether you are a hairstylist, massage therapist or you work in the food service industry, you know exactly how draining it can be to work weird hours and commit to making everyone else happy behind a forced smile. More often than not, my smile is genuine and that’s because I’ve learned to take care of me.

Here are some tips for how I’ve found it possible to create that genuine contentment and cultivate a life full of good energy while making a living in the service industry.

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  1. Reclaim your morning.
    You might not go to work until 4 in the afternoon or you might get up at 4 am for your shift. It doesn’t matter what time you are waking up; but it does matter that you have a few things that make you feel like the day is yours to own.
    I would say pick three things to do every morning.
    Some examples could be: making a cup of coffee or tea, meditating or praying, making yourself food/packing snacks, playing a podcast, lighting incense, stretching, playing music, breathing exercises, glancing over your calendar, etc. Any of these will work.
    It’s so easy to fling yourself out of bed 20 minutes before your shift, throw on some clothes and go. I say take 25 minutes. Start by adding just 5 minutes of personal ritual to your morning. It will shape your day and set the tone for how you approach your shift.
    *Try this: set up your coffee maker, set out your uniform and write out your to-do list the night before. Transitioning to creating a morning all your own can start the night before and will open up more time for you the next day to do other morning rituals.

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  2. Stretch and rehabilitate.
    You’re always on your feet. I know you want gorgeous legs but if you don’t take care of them, they’ll be decked out in varicose veins by the time you’re 30. Maybe you already have them and you’re looking to tend to them?
    Stretch out before your shift; you’re going to a shift that will have you monotonously walking back and forth but you’ll still be burning calories. Carrying plates on the same arm/overloading what you carry is going to wear on your body. Ask for help at work. Working in the service industry means everything is always in a time crunch, but that doesn’t mean you should break your back to get things done. Ask yourself, is it really worth it to run while carrying this bucket of ice?
    Stretch after your shift too. The amount of time you are willing to spend stretching is the amount of rehabilitation you will experience. You won’t feel as stiff and sore the next day. Even if it’s only 10 minutes before and after, it will make a difference.

    *Try this: lie on the floor with your legs/feet against the wall. This will reverse the blood flow and reduce any swelling. It also will help you wind down, relax and fall asleep after a shift.

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  3. Limit your alcohol intake. And drink some damn water.
    I know, it sounds crazy. There’s unlimited soda everywhere. Plus servers love to get drinks after a tough shift. And there’s usually going to be drugs around you. You’re going to encounter it regularly. Point blank period. Not hating, just stating. I have found that I performed my best at work when I wasn’t hungover; sounds like common sense right?
    That is quickly forgotten in the world of restaurants and bars. There’s nothing wrong with going out for drinks when you feel you’ve really earned it. But did you really earn it the last 5 nights in a row?
    Find something else to do with people you enjoy being around after work or simply go home. You aren’t missing anything new and nothing good ever happens after midnight. If you think you’re forming an addiction, seek help. Chances are you could just be over indulging due to the environment but it’s always great to have support. The people that matter won’t judge you and those that do, don’t matter.

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  4. Have a hobby outside of your job.
    I can’t stress this one enough. This one will motivate you. This one will give you the energy to keep going on those days where it seems like you’re beyond over giving all your energy to people you barely know. It will give you something to do besides shoot the shit with your coworkers on your days off. It will help you form meaningful relationships with others beyond your place of employment. It will give you a general sense of joy and well being that work and money simply cannot offer.
    *Try this- pick one activity, hobby or skill and choose to actively engage in it once a week. Do this for a month. Rather than meter your progress, at the end of the month reflect on how you have changed instead.

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  5. Take advantage of your ability to take time off.
    In most cases, you’ll be able to request a day off here and there or a weekend or even a week, if you give enough time. Maybe this is only your temporary job or maybe this is your forever job.
    Either way, you have the ability to grant yourself free time, which most other jobs don’t allow. Take advantage of that. The money will always be there, the work place won’t crumble without you.
    People that travel/take time off are usually more devoted to maintaining a strong work ethic when they are at work. It’s because travel and time off promotes a more positive state of mind. And if you’re feeling good inside, you’re more likely to put your best foot forward at work.
    *Try this: Request one day off per month. Of course you will have other days off. Yet you should still set aside one day per month, just to play hooky, to reset.

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  6. Get comfortable.
    I’ve worked jobs where I had to wear booty shorts and panty hose and jobs where I wore slacks and dress shirts. I still found it possible to customize my uniform so that it was comfortable for my body. It comes down to wearing fabrics that feel good on my skin, not wearing anything too tight, and getting a great pair of shoes. I’m always willing to spend a decent amount of money on comfortable shoes because if my feet hurt then I’m not in a good mood. If I’m not in a good mood, I’m not going to make money!
    *Try this: essential oils like peppermint and lavender are so relaxing and soothing. You can apply them to the bottoms of your feet, wrists and behind your ears before and during your shift to consistently feel good. It’s like icy-hot but more soothing and smells great!

    I hope these tips help! If you have any questions about my suggestions, feel free to ask.
    Thanks for reading, much love.

Saint Valentine or St. Augustine?

As a Floridian, I grew up hearing all about St. Augustine and the fort. In 5th grade I went on a field trip to visit; however appreciating the history of the town didn’t happen until now, in my 24th year of life.

For this Valentine’s day, I was lucky enough to have a partner that planned a little getaway to the historic and haunted town of St. Augustine. Upon arriving in the town, I felt like I had been transported through a time capsule to an earlier Florida that truly resembled Spain.
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We arrived at our Air bnb, a 1930’s cottage around 2 pm.
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Our first downtown experience included visiting the Cathedral Basilica and the Oldest Wooden School House. Live music lived at each pub and restaurant. Street performing violinists, guitarists and bucket drummers were at home in the alleyways and on every corner.

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We dined out at The Columbia; this location opened in 1983 and the original opened in 1905. We sipped on their famous red sangria and munched on crab and shrimp dip. My main course of cannelloni pasta filled with lobster and scallops was dressed with a sherry reduction cream sauce. The recipe was created in Barcelona in 1836.

After dinner we attended a historic walking ghost tour. The story teller brought us to locations including Flagler college, the local churches, the town square and alleyways, all where people had been killed. Ranging from public executions of pirates to romantically fueled murders, this town was drenched in death. The story teller literally said “If you take anything away from this tour I hope it’s this, you’re walking on a layer cake of dead bodies.”
After our ghost tour, we had a small bonfire and decided to turn in for the night.
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The next morning we were checked out by 11 am and were on our way to try a new restaurant in the historic Casa Blanca. The new restaurant “Brunch” was attached to the Casa Blanca and presented a beautiful oceanside view of sailboats and cloudless crisp skies.
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Did I mention we walked through the haunted gates?
Supposedly a childlike ghost is ever present among them.
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The gates themselves are over 200 years old.

 

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We stopped by the Shell Shop Trading Store to give the souvenirs a once over and also peeked into the wax museum that had once been a drug store. Personally, I’m not a fan of non-moving figurine like people, but I can appreciated a big medicine cabinet. The front room of the museum is worth checking out. There were shelves upon shelves stacked with old-timey medicines and remedies. There was something morbidly intriguing about the old drug store.
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After perusing the many popular prescriptions (and deciding that they all looked like death in a bottle) we stepped into a small garden area that housed The Love Tree. Legend has it that if you kiss under the tree, you are guaranteed eternal love with this person. Not pictured: the kiss. We decided to keep that picture just for us.
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We also found another hidden garden attached to a local shop, decorated with colorful prisms and sun-catchers.

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Our last stop was the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the states. The walls were all made of coquina, a shell found only in the Caribbean and Florida. The tall rounded ceilings housed prisoners, soldiers and Native Americans that were once held captive.

Experiencing so much history in one place was almost overwhelming; it was like you could feel the energy of war and legend throughout the 500+ year old town. My goal for my next visit is to explore the famous lighthouse. If you’re native to Florida or even from elsewhere, I highly recommend taking the trip to St. Augustine to fully submerse yourself in the history and hauntings.
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As always, thanks for reading and much love to you from me.

Fresh Squeezed Friday

Part One.

Laundromat soap and stale cigarette smoke both flushed my nostrils as I peddled past the plaza. The buildings were old and you could tell because the wall stucco was cracking in a fashion that didn’t look like it was meant to have a rustic feel; it just looked shitty. I paused at the crosswalk until a pickup halted and honked for me to pass. I pressed onwards to the trail ahead of me. It was like being a kid, like I was flying. This bicycle below me wasn’t just a vehicle forward but one of time travel. At least that was what the flea market vendor sold me. Maybe it was a metaphor and I fell for it. Regardless, I had the wind on my face and I felt like a humming bird buzzing past the tree stumps below me-until I really went flying. Face first, elbows grinding the pavement, hips over my head, flying.

What kind of time travel bullshit was this? I could hear the chain still spinning and the tires rotating at maximum speed. I saw my phone was 20 feet away as I inch-wormed up to a sitting position. Blood trickled to my wrists and my knee caps mirrored the red ribbons. I felt flushed and light headed; and so so angry. That kind of anger that bubbles beneath the surface for days, the kind of anger that steams your throat and worms up to your eyes through tears that weren’t supposed to be there. My face was wet; I started laughing. Uncontrollable and inconsolable laughter spewed from my lips. A bike gang of ten year olds sped past me yelling out misused curse words; clearly they didn’t know dyke wasn’t offensive anymore.

It was in that moment that I got it- nobody ever grows up. There is no real adulthood. I got up and hauled my bicycle off the trail to lay sunny side up in the grass. Cloud watching was my favorite pastime as a kid. I had this giant bouncy trampoline growing up. Half the time I’d bounce, and the other half I’d lay. I’d lay and look and ponder. I found myself drifting off into the blue haze above me. I blinked and blinked and felt something was off. I wasn’t in the grass anymore. I wasn’t in my body, not my adult body. I wasn’t bleeding either. My limbs were stumpy and short extending from my chubby midsection. I slinked upwards. A woven black canvas stretched beneath me. My giant trampoline. My childhood trampoline.

I began to panic. I could feel the sweat beads forming like little pearls rolling down my spine. Why was I here? Where was my bike? How would I get home? Something else was off. I could hear explosions. Far off in the distance there were sharp flashes and a thick layer of smoke. I was pressed to find out who’s backyard my trampoline was in. I stumbled down, feeling significantly shorter. I heard a woman screaming and figured that was my cue to run. I launched myself up a rusted chainlink fence and my denim rhinestone shorts caught at the top. How old was I that I thought it was okay to wear rhinestones? I fell forward, flat on my knees, pushed up and continued running. The woman slammed the wooden door to the back of her olive shack of a house; I barely caught a glimpse of her. I kept running into the thickening smoke. The booming grew deeper but I felt like I was being pulled by a magnet. I  slowed my pace to get a good look around.
To be continued.

Thanks for reading!
Much love~

Trending on a Tuesday

What’s causing blips on my Tuesday radar?

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If you go on Twitter, #TuesdayThoughts is trending. Tweeters different and alike all share their positive and occasionally negative current thoughts, pertaining to Tuesday. Most tweets were positive inspiration to focus on oneself-which I totally dig. Some tweets reverted back to the ongoing political climate. My favorite tweets were those that steered clear of anything too controversial; not because I don’t love a good controversy but because seeing twitter users spread a little love was pleasant. Why spread extra love today?

It’s Bob Marley’s birthday!
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He would’ve been 73 years old today. Born on February 6, 1945, the Aquarius that spoke to and continues to reach many of us, passed away in 1981. His messages of love and harmony still feel like a relevant overarching theme in today’s ever changing world. My personal favorite songs of his are “Redemption Song” and the ever classic “Could You Be Loved.” The real question is- could you be loved? Are you loving yourself and others today? Turn up some good ole Marley and spread the love today.

In other news- read that with your best imaginary anchor voice- NPR published an article posing the question “Can computers learn like humans?” And I am totally perplexed.
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The article goes over artificial intelligence and the exponential growth in recent years. The main idea is to get computers to be self sufficient in learning new programs but the biggest obstacle is granting them that ability and being able to create the experience. How creepy would it be to have your laptop converse with you and your spouse about the weather?
But how dope would it be to have your microwave tell you that your leftovers smell absolutely delicious? Here’s the link if you’d like to explore the article more, because as much as I love to share my fleeting thoughts, the facts are much more intriguing.

https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2018/02/05/583321707/can-computers-learn-like-humans

Now you’ve got an entire day ahead of you! Tweet something sweet or political with the hashtag #TuesdayThoughts, turn up Bob Marley and salute him with your choice of burning flame; candle or otherwise. Maybe even go chat up your microwave.
Don’t worry, (I won’t tell anyone) and be happy.

Thanks for for reading, much love.

Feat. image from Rolling Stone originally.

Pulse: 2 Years Passed

If you know about the Pulse tragedy that occurred two years ago, June 13, 2016, the word pulse may mean something different to you now.

It could represent a heartbeat, beating or ceased. It could represent a past place, once thumping with jubilant and alive electricity. It could represent a current place of empty space and quiet handmade alters with wilted flowers.

It could represent a feeling; one of anger and confusion. Or it could be one of strength sprouted and flourished from the concrete actions of a misled soul.

It could represent a tattoo, if you had one inked on you to show your support. It could represent a community you’ve been a part of, that slowed its pace in the peak of the horror. It could represent friends gone, family lost and those forever scarred physically and mentally by an act of hatred.

The word pulse could bring back memories put away, either of good days or not. It could conjure up questions of how and when and why and what could I have done? It could be a word that numbs the senses.

The word pulse means something very dynamic and shrewd to me. It carries a terrifying spectrum of reality and hopefulness along with it now.

To me, pulse is not just a word or picture or a memory or song or sadness. Pulse is a number.

49.

49 times does the word Pulse ring in my ears.

49 times does the word echo on the ground, when I stroll the cobblestone streets of my neighborhood.

49 times does the word stop my thought process and slow my pace, 2 years later.

49 times do I say to myself,

“Don’t you dare complain about any type of tiresome or trying time, when you know there are souls who will never get the same chance.”

49 times do I wonder, what if it happens again? What if something worse happens? What if I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time? Should I hide my sexuality? Should I remove myself from my community?

And twice as many times do I say no.

I say not one bit. I say never.

I will never shrink, or shadow my personality. I will never hide my being or sugarcoat my life. I will never slink out of a room that makes me uncomfortable.

I will never sit down because my stance is too tall for a short girl with individuality. I will never cower from or ignore the crude reality of the world we live in.

There is hate, and I cannot change it all at once.

There are people who spread that hate, like black mold.

Hate is quiet. It is easy. And most of all, deadly.

How can I fight a quiet and sly killer?

Hate can live in us all, if we let it. It holds potential to grow in the darkest corners of our minds.

But the thing is, love holds that same potential. It is the yin and yang of life. The darkness is equally met with the light. The scale that teeters and totters during our years of existence is weighted by whatever we pile onto it.

Because each and every one of us holds potential for both hate and love, we can fight the hate equally with just as much love.

You don’t fight fire with gasoline.

You don’t hide from fire either, because the smoke will eventually seep into your lungs.

You face the fire, and you saturate it until the water has washed away the char.

You listen to opposing views. You listen to the groups of people that preach hate. You listen to the anger and the sadness. You don’t spew venom. You just listen.

And once they feel heard, you can share your love. Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to be loved. It is instinctual, deeply rooted and almost primal. It acknowledges the other as equal, and that paves the way in the right direction.

That is the first step to stopping another shortcoming; the first step to saving the next life.

It has to start with us. We have to think about it consistently; be it 2 years later or 200 years later. 49 lives are gone from this world, but they are not gone for nothing.

This time has built the Orlando community tighter and stronger than ever before. There is a steady backing that says “I’ve got you, I’m here for you.”

We have to share that with each person we encounter. It won’t be easy, it won’t happen quickly. But we have to show courage and patience, and we have to show how much love our community holds for those with us and against us.

If you take away anything from this article, it is this:

Nobody is born hating the world, but holds an equal potential for hate and for love. What they are shown they will mirror and mimic into their adult life. In our adult lives, we still hold that same potential for hate and for love. Regardless of any dispositions or disadvantages, the potential does not disappear. Will you choose hate or love?

Thanks for reading, much love.

Kate Spade: The Speculation Spam

Why are we so obsessed with the fall of the rich and famous?
Is it because we crave a lifestyle that many of us will never experience? Is it because we look at the rich and famous as invincible and untouchable?
They aren’t so unlike us.

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Part of me wants to say the oversharing is due to much admiration of Kate Spade’s many accomplishments as a designer.
Yet, part of me knows, that there hasn’t been an inkling of privacy granted to the Brosnahan and Spade family; because as a society we are obsessed with the details of what could have happened inside a seemingly perfect life. 

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It’s easy to google Kate and find out the details of her suicide.
She hung herself with a red scarf from a doorknob in her Park Avenue apartment. Found by her housekeeper, there was also a note left addressing her daughter.
The note allegedly said “It’s not your fault” and “Ask your father.”
13 year old Francis was at school.
It’s everywhere. We get it. So why are we probing for more?

An article was published on Kate’s husband, (linked at the bottom of this page)
Andy Spade, that he left his apartment in a mouse mask, shouting at paparazzi,
begging for privacy.

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Another article was published on Kate’s niece posting a video of her aunt dancing at a Christmas party with a Mariachi band playing in the background.
Why do I need to know these things? I don’t.

This is called, being intrusive. Am I being a hypocrite for further illuminating the subjects? Maybe. However, I’m doing it to present a counter perspective:
We’re diving too deep into a sensitive situation.

Image: Kate Spade
SPECIAL PRICE. American accessories designer Kate Spade.

I love seeing the articles celebrate Kate Spade and her successes.
She graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Journalism.
Her beginning at Mademoiselle Magazine in the fashion department grew her love for fashion. Eventually she would team up with Andy Spade, her future husband, and create a designer line of handbags named Kate Spade New York.
Her first boutique would be only 400 square feet, but would graduate into a 10,000 square foot unit eventually. She’s since been named in the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Neiman Marcus Group developed a grand interest in Kate Spade’s line and bought 56% of the company.
Following suit, Liz Claiborne would buy the rest, then sell to purse and accessory line, Coach. At 55 years old Kate Spade was not only a billionaire, but also a mother. Her daughter, Frances is left with the designer legend of her mother.

Kate’s family has contradicting stances on her mental state.
Her older sister, Saffo, although upset by the news, said that the suicide wasn’t unexpected. Saffo said that Kate suffered from anxiety and depression, and asked Kate many times to seek help. While these claims were made, Kate’s brother insists that Kate would never do anything like this and never seemed unhappy.

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However, the fact of the matter is that Kate did take her own life. Instead of speculating on the perfection that had once been presented, I think it’s worth noting the phrase “More money, more problems” are pretty damn relevant.
You never really know what one person is battling with daily.
It doesn’t matter who they are, or what they have.
Before you share another viral article or video online delving into the depths of the Brosnahan or Spade family, think about what you would want in you were in their shoes. Maybe go ahead and share something that celebrate’s Kate’s life, but maybe pass on the darker speculations.
Hug your loved one’s today, call your mom or do a good deed.
As the cliche goes, life is just too short.

Thanks for reading, much love.

I do not own any of the above pictures.
Sources:
https://pagesix.com/2018/06/05/kate-spades-suicide-note-had-a-message-for-her-daughter/

https://www.refinery29.com/2018/06/201040/kate-valentine-spade-name-designer-fashion-career
https://people.com/style/kate-spades-family-disgusted-after-designers-sister-claims-suicide-not-unexpected-suffered-mental-illnes/

https://pagesix.com/2018/06/07/kate-spades-husband-emerges-in-bizarre-mouse-mask/
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/06/style/kate-spade-husband-andy-spade.html