Thursday, November 12, 2015

I have a not-so secret, secret that I need to tell you.

“Why are you so tired? You just haven’t seemed like much of yourself.”

Her words pierced my heart because this not-so-secret SECRET I’d been holding onto had finally started to present itself to the world. I remember having endless amounts of energy. I also remember when I was in high school, I went through weeks of less energy than normal, but I always equated it with hormonal shifts. During my early 20s, though, I started to notice extreme fatigue. I figured it was because of all of the added stress I put myself under and the lack of sleep I was getting. Once I graduated, though, I felt much better. I was tired, but not like before. After the birth of my second daughter, though, I noticed I struggled to find energy. Again, I chalked it up to being a mother to two adorable, precarious, and energetic small ones. However, something that seemed to become more and more common was the regularity in which I was contracting strep. I went from getting it once a year, to 3-4 times a year for the past few years.

Then my health continued to shift downward. I had vertigo. I discovered I had a Venus Cavernous Malformation. I have degenerative disk disease, likely cause by a fracture in my lower spine that I sustained when I was 4. I have asthma. And….I’m exhausted. Like I was hit by a truck exhausted. At the end of this summer, I went in to my doctor, with certainty that I had strep, yet again, but detailed everything else I had on my mind. She ran lots of blood work for me, ordered an MRI, and I waited for the results.

Bianca, it appears that you have arthritis in your neck. I’m going to recommend pain management therapy, even though I’m sure you will decline.” She referred me to a pain management specialist, but I declined--for now. Just as I declined for my chronic back pain. I am able to live with the pain, so I don’t want to undergo injections until I really need it. But for now, I am able to manage just fine as long as I keep stretching. My doctor was ok with my decision for now and she was supportive of me. “Just keep moving, Bianca. That’s the best thing that you can do. Move within reason, though. Don’t go crazy!” she told me.

“Bianca, you don’t have anemia, but you do have low Ferritin.” Ferritin is the protein that iron binds to, so if is low, then you have lower iron. I show many traits of anemia, but I am not anemic. She encouraged me to shift my pescatarian diet to one that included red meat a couple of times a week. I tried it and I did feel more energy, but I also felt heavier and slower.

Bianca, you have Epstein-Barr Virus. Actually, you have so many antibodies of it, that we can’t even measure it. Based on what I can tell, you have had EBV since  you were a teenager. Have you ever felt so tired you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck? Have you had a coffee for energy, but it doesn’t seem to work?” I nodded my head. “Well,” she said as she put her hand on me, “you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And right now, you are experiencing a really bad episode.

I was shocked, but calmly asked what I could do, while letting out tiny sobs. She encouraged me to rest, while also smiling knowing that it would be very difficult for me to do that. She said, “Bianca, I’m going to need you to take a diet from life. Just pull back a bit and allow your body to heal, because you don’t know the long term damage that you could be causing by not resting when you need to. Please take a couple of days off from everything as you need to. Yes, I still want you to keep moving, but go at a different pace.” She said diet because no one likes to go on a diet. Change your diet, but not forcibly go on one, right? I like that my doctor knows me well enough to know the kind of person that I am—one that doesn’t want to rely on pills and medication and a person that is always on the go. Because I love to read medical journals and whitepapers for fun, I dove deep into the throes of learning all about EBV and CFS. I know what my indicators and triggers are. I know how to adjust and adapt. I do NOT yet know how to deal with slowing down. While I try to make myself be ok with it, when it is noticeable by others, inside, I’m upset and angry. I’ve run marathons. I’ve run half marathons. I’m a college athlete. I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I work in Corporate America. I’m also a photographer. I’m an event planner. I’m a writer. I’m an adventurer! I don’t have the time to have a diet for life. I don’t want a diet from life!

Here is where I issue a blanket apology to some: I’m sorry for the inner shade I threw at you when you caught me staring at you. Those of you who are absolutely healthy otherwise, but take it for granted and choose not to appreciate your unbroken body, yeah…those people, I was jealous of them. I was envious of their lack of guilt for not exercising, of all of the sleep they were having, of their poor dietary choices---and their lack of enjoyment for eating all of those things they let themselves eat, because dangit, I want to eat 3 honeybuns, too, but I can’t because I will totally feel it later. I’m sorry. I’m not a nice person when I’m hangry. I’m not a nice person when I’m hurting. Really, I just needed a hug. Then I would eat some chocolate and lay down.

Sometimes you meet people at the right moment when you are supposed to meet them.

Last month, I found myself in NYC eating brunch next to a friend of a friend. She and I were talking about various things and I noticed that she didn’t eat sugar, or grains, or even drank alcohol. She monitored her diet very carefully. So I asked her if she was gluten-intolerant or Celiac. She said no, that she suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She told me how it consumed her body and as typical of CFS, it attacked the parts of her body that she used most—her brain and communication skills. You see, she is a writer and she recounted to me how difficult it was for her to focus to formulate a sentence, to have a clear brain to use her language skills. She knew of the words, but she was unable to articulate and recall her vocabulary. Also, she said she had little to no energy to even get out of bed. She also told me of her friend who was a dancer, who lost the ability to to use her legs. She wasn’t paralyzed, but her legs were too heavy, too stiff, too painful to move. So she went into further detail of her dietary changes, which was a supplement to a treatment she’d received back in her native country (not at all approved for by the FDA). We had to depart, but her words stuck with me.

Then, less than a week after that, I had a discussion with a friend of mine who went through a dietary detox to reset her health. She actually went through a specific program, but as we talked more and more about the details, I was going to simplify it and determined to give it a try. It gave her great results for her health goals (not weight loss), so I told myself that November 1 would be the day I would start. It would also give me the opportunity to mindfully eat and to consider those who do not have food immediately at their disposal. Leading up to the first, though, was a vacation in Sonoma with friends and family. I ate and drank without restriction and with passion. However, I also suffered as a result from it. I felt so incredibly bloated, slow, and fat. I was exhausted, I had headaches, and body aches. I look at images from that trip and while I am truly happy, I am not at all happy with my shape. On Halloween, I stepped on a scale and was horrified by the number that was looking back at me. But this isn’t about fitness or weight, so I won’t fixate on that. I will, however, say that CFS took a big toll on me in recent months, both physically and mentally.
What was my diet?
  • Vegan
  • No dairy---no cheese, no milk, no butter (aaaack)
  • No animals of any kind. No animal broth. No fish.
  • No rice
  • No caffeine…including coffee
  • No sugar—raisins were ok, but no honey, nothing with added sugar in it.
  • No grains
  • No alcohol
  • Coconut oil for everything.
I had to prepare, yes, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. (I did however miss eggs!) HUGE shout out to my support group who encouraged me by suggesting recipes, trying out juice, or just giving me a thumbs up.


I made my own cereal of equal parts flaxseed and chia seed. I mixed in 3/4 cup of coconut milk and heated it for one minute in the microwave. I topped it with banana.
Kale Yeah juice from Whole Foods: kale, pineapple, banana, orange juice


Salads topped with beets, black beans, garbanzo beans, and half an avocado


the other half of my avocado and plain hummus or sometimes artichoke and olive hummus


Quinoa with some type of vegetable medley
Vegetable soup
The goal was to make it to at least 10 days. On day 8, I caved and ate eggs, but I was strict with everything else! I was happy to know that eggs didn’t bother me. On day 11, I tried a bit of dairy. It didn’t affect me too negatively, but I did notice a change. On that day I also tried a glass of champagne. I took all I had to finish the glass and I immediately noticed adverse reactions. My intestines felt like they were on fire. The next day, I felt sluggish and I had a headache. Immediately, I went for my Kale Yeah juice to see if it would help and it did. But something else happened. I came across this article about EBV. Yes, I saw it was on Goop and rolled my eyes, too, but I strongly suggest you read it, especially if you suffer from CFS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Fibromyalgia. Much of what I took from it was the simple truth that I’d experienced first-hand. I had to change my diet. Yes, I still need rest, but I also need plants---whole, organic, non-GMO, plants as my medicine. I’ve already lost 10+ pounds, but I’m not hungry. I want a piece of chocolate and I would like some coffee, but I’m not hungry for them. Other friends who I’ve known who have adopted a plant-based diet---more than 95% plant based and cutting out all of the other stuff---have also noticed a significant improvement/positive shift in their health.

As for me, I’m gonna keep trying. I want to make it to 80, but not just arrive, but I want to dance and run into 80.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What a Lovely Day: The One Where I Sliced My Finger

What is this? Another post already!

On Sunday, I set out to have an epic Father’s day celebration since our girls were out of town enjoying Camp Nana & Grandfather. The plan was to have brunch, visit the Farmer’s Market, work on the yard, then go to a movie. We had a brilliant brunch, and headed over to the Farmer’s Market where we scored the largest zucchini I’ve ever seen. Yeah, everything in Texas is bigger, apparently!

Moments after this photo, a massive rainstorm hit and we were caught in it. We had parked a few blocks away and the walk to the car felt like we were in the middle of a splash park. The fat rain and strong winds didn’t hurt. It was still plenty warm and the cool rain was refreshing. I was actually laughing, because I love pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. On the drive home, I was literally sloshing in my seat from the downpour, all the while, a stupid grin graced my face from the experience.

When we arrived home, instead of working on the lawn as previously mentioned, I opted for a nap. No sense in attempting to mow during the rainstorm. It was such a glorious nap, too. I slept the hardest I’ve slept in weeks and was so re-energized, I awoke hungry. I remembered I still had my birthday avocados (doesn't everyone?), which needed to be eaten, so a snack of guacamole before the movie sounded like a great idea. The avocados were perfectly ripe, too. I diced the garlic. I had tossed in my salt. I chopped cilantro. I squeezed the lime. I spooned the halves of the avocado that didn’t have a pit into my bowl. Then, I took my Global Chef’s Knife to the pit to take it off--just exactly as I have done many, many times over the years. You know, each of those times I’d performed that same task, I remembered feeling quite proud at accomplishing such a dangerous feat--knife skills can be dangerous, after all! This time, however the pit just slid around in a circle when I tried to grab it with the center of the blade and an easy chop. Instead of just squeezing the avocado to produce the pit, I earnestly shoved the pointed end of the knife to the pit, so as to stab it in place…

….the pit easily tumbled out, the sharp knife easily sliced a 1 inch gash near the joint of my left index finger, and all together, like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, all pieces clashed to the sink! I rinsed knife off, my blood pooled blood under the cool water, my mouth salivated because I was so hungry--all I wanted was some guacamole. I calmly called out saying I needed to get to a doctor, willing my finger to be ok, telling myself no less than 50 times that I didn’t feel the pain. If I can state it aloud and rationalize it to my brain to stop feeling the aches, I can likely suppress it. (Surprising myself with this ability: when we were at the ER later and the triage nurse asked me my pain level, I stated 1 on the scale of 1-10. It was by no means a 10, but I did expect to say something higher, because duh, we were at the ER!)

I did a quick check on WebMD to see what to do and how it compared to other lacerations. According to the Internet (ha!), I had between 12 and 24 hours before I needed immediate attention, so I said, let’s try to make the movie*. We cleaned it up the wound, bandaged it and headed out. Nevermind I could see the blood saturating the bandage. I clot well and I had a back up paper towel just in case. However, being Father’s Day, all movies were sold out unless you wanted to sit at the very front row. Dangit! Off we went to the ER, where I was gifted with some Lidocaine and five stitches.

The doc asked me if I’d ever gotten stitches before and I answered honestly, “Yeah, on my vagina.” He was a bit taken aback by my bluntness, and caught his stammering by saying, “oh..well, uh…you were likely numb from an epidural.” I interrupted him and said, “No, I felt it. Both my births were natural and the stitching was well, not pleasant, but after giving birth coupled with the hormone surge, the tiny pricks weren't really a factor. The birth itself was a 10 on the pain scale.” We continued to joke and he showed us proper stitching technique--in the event of the zombie apocalypse (his words!), then walked me through what to expect. As a result, I’m going to miss playing in the annual dodgeball tournament which will be later on this week, but the whole thing made for a great story!

That night, we stayed in and made a plan to go to the movies the next evening.

*The movie was Mad Max: Fury Road and in my opinion, such a clever and fantastic action movie with heart! I was overwhelmed, surprised, in suspense, and felt like I was a small child watching my first ever action film, only there were really strong female characters in search of redemption. I HIGHLY recommend you go see it! It may not be for everyone, but it was DEFINITELY my kind of film. I had been wanting to watch this film since it was released, but we didn’t have a sitter or time. While everyone else is raving about Inside Out or Jurassic World, I’m behind the curve saying, hey, check out Mad Mad, folks, because I agree with Rotten Tomatoes’ 98% rating! Go now, before it leaves the theaters.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Music Review: Joy Williams’ VENUS #JoyWilliams #O2O

“You are so afraid to say anything wrong that you are risking not saying anything at all. You’ve got to be brave. If you’re feeling mad as hell, then we’re going to write a mad-as-hell song. If you’re feeling broken beyond measure, we’re going to write a broken-beyond-measure song.”—Matt Morris on a conversation with Joy Williams


Have you ever been afraid to say what is in your heart? Have you ever censored yourself so much that you’ve forgotten what it was like to truly express an opinion outside of your immediate circle? Have you ever lived your life in a way that didn’t feel like it was authentically you? If you answered yes, then I think you will have an inkling of what Joy Williams is trying to express in her new album, VENUS. I didn’t listen to The Civil Wars much, prior to listening to this album. I knew they had broken up, but their departure from making music didn’t affect me because their melodies had yet to connect to my spirit. Don’t get me wrong, I was curious to know about them more after the myriad of accolades they received, but it was never more than in passing. Knowing that, here is my review of Joy Williams’ next solo venture: VENUS which is set for release on June 29.

At first listen, I could hear heartbreak. I heard sadness. I heard vulnerability. I heard honesty. I heard hope. I heard bravery. I heard courage. But this album isn’t an anthem for overcoming pain, nor is it one championing the heartbroken spirit. It is a collection of songs of one woman’s journey out of her own darkness, defining herself, and accepting her truth—as she defines it. Acceptance of self is a beautiful thing.  Many of the songs are quite relatable and are beautifully arranged.  Initially, I didn’t understand some of what she was singing about, so I dug into her personal history a little more. After twenty minutes lost into a Wikipedia wormhole, I learned that in her time since the departure of The Civil Wars, she’s been enjoying her time as a mother. She remains married to her husband and her former bandmate is married to his wife and has children himself. The duo that made up the Civil Wars met at a writing camp and shared a creative connection. The fruits of their labors were beautiful, but you know what, it was a relationship that had an eventual demise and deserved to be mourned. In the passing of such relationships, there exists a space of full of ache and lamentation, where remnants of all of the broken relationships from your past exist. And so I listened again with different ears. I better understood the pain she was feeling, as well as that optimism. This was especially evident in “One Day I Will.”

“Perfect is just not good enough” is probably my favorite line in this album. You will find it on the fifth track: “Not Good Enough.” I can see “Until the Levee” turned into a dance club remix with the powerful vocals and strong lyrics, like “drink the lonely down” and “stand here in the ache until the levee of my heart breaks.”

This album grew on me more and more after each listen. She has a beautiful voice and one that deserves to be heard. If you give it a listen, I hope you enjoy it, even if it isn’t until the third or fourth time you listen.


Find her online:

**I participated in the Joy WIlliams Venus album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.**

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Last Day of First Grade

Today is the last day of school for my eldest. We took a leap of faith and opted to send her to a Charter school instead of a traditional ISD. It wasn’t a good or a bad choice, but a choice that we’d felt was right for our family at the time. It is the end of the year and the biggest takeaways for the year have been:
  • she has improved in her Spanish language skills, so much so that she teaches her baby sister
  • she has a genuine hunger for knowledge, especially anything related to science – she has a basic understanding of photosynthesis, can identify different types of plants, knows the different types of clouds and what they signal, is aware of different climates and regions, and knowing all of that, she isn’t threatened by thunderstorms, earthquakes, or tornadoes
  • she has horrendous spelling, but that had never been an emphasis for the year <—not one single spelling test this year
  • she is doing fractions, complex addition, and basic division – this was made even more evident when she could divide food portions based on those fractions and she could estimate her per mile pace based on her finish times
  • she has increased her strength in compassion and kindness
  • she has improved her confidence so that when other kids are mean, she isn’t as bothered by it
  • she is still a dreamer and fiercely independent
Next year, I am unsure if we will go back to the Charter or the traditional ISD. Several months ago, I wrote her a letter to get my thoughts out. Reading it over, those same words still ring true to me.
You've always been a curious dreamer. Your eyes will often stare off and I will catch you dancing in the sunlight when I don't hear music. I am quite familiar with both of those things. I remember when I was a child, dancing to the music in my heart with the wind blowing against my wild hair, the sun kissing my face. I remember pirouettes in the rain. I remember watching the whole world in front of my eyes, with wonder and awe, unaware that mundane things weren't meant to attract the attention that captivated me in that way. No one else saw and heard as me. The colors were more vibrant, the music was louder, the feelings were stronger, but I didn't know how unique and special that was. I wouldn't know it to be special until I was older and some of it had faded, but I did my best to pass it on to you. 

Knowing what I know, I struggle with your school(s). They want to limit the dreaming and the dancing. They need to fit it into a time-box that you can only visit a few times a week. You need to learn and grow into a productive member of society, where, SURPRISE!, closet dreamers make the world go 'round! So many of the successful people I have been fortunate to meet and know had creative energy in common. They saw the world from a different perspective, one unseen by others and they are all very driven (ambitious).
My stress is this: Where should you go for your education? I endeavor to figure out a way for you to learn and excel at important subjects like reading, math, science, writing, all while allowing your creativity to flourish. Standardized tests won't tell me how you are progressing in life. They won't tell me that you are excelling at the things that matter most: because you can't measure the unseen and the unknown. But you must learn to multiply and divide because you will need those skills in life. You must know how to read and write, because effective communication is important in life. You must remain a curious dreamer—that is something you were born with, not taught!

My child didn’t get any fancy awards this year at their ceremony. I’d prepared her, as such. She was ok with it. Her response, “Mommy, that’s ok. I don’t need any awards or certificates.  I have plenty from the other things I’ve done. I am not the best student in class. I am not the worst student. Besides, you told me that I should be better than I was yesterday and that’s all I’ve tried to do. I feel like I am better than I was when I started.” It was a punch in my gut. I am very driven and want my children to be driven. However, their motivation to achieve is vastly different in the way that I measure my own success. She’s right. She’s listened to me. She’s applied it and is happy.
I wasn’t surprised that when they called her name, what followed were: promoted to second grade and reading 1000 books. (Those damn log sheets were such a struggle for us over the past three weeks, I tell you. The child loves books and reads 1-2 hours a night. This is what happens when you aren’t allowed television during the school week and are restricted to movies on the weekends. Every where we went, she had a book! The thing was, she’d never written them down. She didn’t write them down while she was in school, either. When I asked her why, she simply said, “Mommy, I don’t write as fast as the other kids. I like to take my time. Plus, some of the other kids needed help, so I helped them or I just wanted to spend my time reading.”) She didn’t get the best student, most improved, most valuable player, best at music, best athlete, or any other academic award, therefore, she didn’t get a medal from the school. She told me that she was one of three kids in her class who didn’t get a medal, and she was ok with that. She also said she was so excited for her friends who earned their medals and gave them a high five. When I asked her if she wanted to maybe earn one the next year, she looked at me, thought about it, and said, “Maybe, but only if they think that my hardest work has earned a medal. Otherwise, no, I don’t want for them to just give me one. I want to be able to earn it. I am still going to work hard, as hard as I can, but sometimes there are just people who are better and that’s ok. It’s important to tell everyone good job for trying. Like you said Mommy, we all have different gifts and some of us are better at some things than others.”
Yep, some of us are better at some things than others.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Music Review: Madonna’s Rebel Heart #O2O #RebelHeart

Madonna is an icon.

I don’t say that as a supreme fan girl. I say it because it is a reality. She broke rules, stereotypes, and gender norms. She showed that strong is sexy. She proved that dancing unapologetically is worthy of celebration. She balances motherhood and work. Her eldest is away studying at a university and like any parent, she is proud of her. I find myself relating to her and grateful for the road she paved.

When One2One Network gave me the opportunity to review her 13th studio album, Rebel Heart, I jumped on it. I enjoy Madonna’s music. Not every single song, but most of it. I appreciate that she makes music I can dance to, but I love her slower ballads, too (Cherish is one of my all time faves). In a recent interview for Billboard for this album, she says, “Rebel Heart explores two very distinct sides of my personality, the rebellious renegade side of me and the romantic side of me.”

This album is chock full of collaborations and some of the best producers in the industry. My two favorite tracks are Ghosttown and Wash All Over Me. Living for Love punches you immediately in the face and makes you wanna dance. Of course, it makes you ask, what are you living for?  Check it yourself:


Even if you aren’t a big fan of hers, I think you will enjoy this album. The lyrics are very personal and the title seems true to her image…someone with a Rebel Heart. There are explicit tracks, so those of you with smaller ones around be aware of some of the songs—I’m staring at you Holy Water.  There are 19 tracks on Rebel Heart (deluxe edition), for an hour and 14 minutes of listening pleasure. She will have a World Tour starting this August. In true Madonna fashion, the concert is an event you will certainly not want to miss, because she puts on a show, full of dancing, visual eye-candy, and an army of dancers. It is truly a SHOW!

Rebel Heart Track List

  1. “Living For Love”
  2. “Devil Pray”
  3. “Ghosttown”
  4. “Unapologetic Bitch”
  5. “Illuminati”
  6. “Bitch I’m Madonna” (Feat. Nicki Minaj)
  7. “Hold Tight”
  8. “Joan Of Arc”
  9. “Iconic” (Feat. Chance The Rapper & Mike Tyson)
  10. “HeartBreakCity”
  11. “Body Shop”
  12. “Holy Water”
  13. “Inside Out”
  14. “Wash All Over Me”
  15. “Best Night”
  16. “Veni Vidi Vici” (Feat. Nas)
  17. “S.E.X.”
  18. “Messiah”
  19. “Rebel Heart”



  • Aug. 29 Miami, FL American Airlines Arena On Sale Mar. 9
  • Sept. 2 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena On Sale Mar. 16
  • Sept. 5 San Juan, PR Coliseo de Puerto Rico On Sale Mar. 21
  • Sept. 9 Montreal, QC Bell Centre On Sale Mar. 14
  • Sept. 12 Washington, DC Verizon Center On Sale Mar. 16
  • Sept. 16 New York, NY Madison Square Garden On Sale Mar. 9
  • Sept. 19 Brooklyn, NY Barclays Center On Sale Mar. 9
  • Sept. 24 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center On Sale Mar. 16
  • Sept. 26 Boston, MA TD Garden On Sale Mar. 16
  • Sept. 28 Chicago, IL United Center On Sale Mar. 9
  • Oct. 1 Detroit, MI Joe Louis Arena On Sale Mar. 23
  • Oct. 3 Atlantic City, NJ Boardwalk Hall On Sale Mar. 16
  • Oct. 5 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre On Sale Mar. 9
  • Oct. 8 St. Paul, MN Xcel Energy Center On Sale Mar. 16
  • Oct. 11 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place On Sale Mar. 9
  • Oct. 14 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena On Sale Mar. 9
  • Oct. 17 Portland, OR MODA Center On Sale Mar. 23
  • Oct. 19 San Jose, CA SAP Center at San Jose On Sale Mar. 9
  • Oct. 22 Glendale, AZ Gila River Arena On Sale Mar. 23
  • Oct. 24 Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Garden Arena On Sale Mar. 16
  • Oct. 27 Los Angeles, CA Forum On Sale Mar. 16







**I participated in the Madonna Rebel Heart album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.**

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Open Letter to My Sugarbean on Her 7th Birthday

Dear Mari,

Seven! Seven years ago, you came into this world ready. Ready for what? I’m not certain, but ready for almost anything you have been. As the oldest, the bar has been set pretty high for you. We have been firm in your discipline and have been firm in setting expectations. But not matter how firm we have been, you’ve met us, headstrong, filled with your tenacious will to do things your way. At times when you are reluctant to approach something new for fear of failure, you surprise me with how easily you can change your perspective and work through a problem, even more so when I give you the room to figure it out.

This year, you have surpassed me with your speed. In a 50 yard dash, you will win, but I still need to teach you about endurance. During the Santa Run this year, you confided in me that the sun gives you energy and water also gives you lots of energy. At the halfway point, you took a couple of cups of water and finished remarkably faster than I expected. There were tears during the race, where you had doubts you could finish. That was the first time that I tried to explain to you the metaphor of running and life. You don’t give up and quit. It may get difficult. You will want to quit, but you just have to have a moment to regroup. Slow down, get some perspective, take some deep breaths, then start again. I did my best to explain to you why I needed to stop running marathons. You had become so accustomed to me running and running for a long time, that when my training changed, you had questions. Then you touched my heart deeply because you told me that one day you were going to run a marathon for me because I couldn’t. You said, “Mama, you ran your marathons for Nana, so I want to run my marathon for you. I want to be able to run for my mother just like you did!” You turned to your father and asked him to run with you and to help me train you. I don’t know if you will ever run a marathon, but your heart---your beautifully empathetic heart reaches out and connects to people.

We took a leap of faith and switched your education to a project-based Charter school. While we were incredibly apprehensive, you have really made great strides and are flourishing. You aren’t yet devouring books, but you do enjoy reading a great deal. You also enjoy writing and observing the world around you. You are still very artistic and are happiest when you are painting or drawing.

You are just as happy when you play with your baby sister! I absolutely adore the relationship you two share. Yes, at times you bicker with one another, but the love that you each have for the other, the kindness, the generosity, the willingness to put the other before yourself…that’s what I admire most of all and hope that you continue with that leadership so you can share that relationship for the rest of your lives.

You tell me that all the colors of the rainbow are your favorite, one not more important than any other. You have such a thirst for knowledge and I often have to pull you back into reality because you drift off into your head…what a magical place your imagination must be!

Since you are turning 7 on the 7th, this year marks your golden birthday! You asked for me to surprise you for your birthday. I’ve clued you in on some details, but not many. When you wake up, there will be gold tassels, gold helium balloons, gold glitter tulle, and gold rose petals covering your room into a golden bomb. Out front, there is a yard sign signaling the whole neighborhood of your special day. In the morning, your sister and I will shuttle you off to The Drybar for a birthday blowout. You will wear your new gold sequin frock given to you from your baby sister. Afterwards, we will head home and have brunch with friends and family. Later, you will have your first not-at-home party with your classmates and best friends. It is a bit lower key for us because one of your birthday gifts is a plane ticket to California for later on in the year! You will get to tear into your 3-tiered golden cake with your 7 golden candles and a 7 sparkler, too! At home, we will revisit your birth story and see what else you would like to do for the rest of the day. And a big surprise! You will take a cooking class the very next day with your father with a real chef! You love Master Chef Junior and really wanted to have some basic cooking lessons. You get many lessons and often from your father, me, and your Uncle Simon, but this one will be away from the home and a special time just for you and your daddy. Your father and I are so very proud of you!

Thank you for your laughter, for your hugs, for your curiosity, for your love! I still don’t know how I got to be so lucky to be your mommy, but every single day I am grateful that our God saw me fit to do just that. I love you, Sugarbug, oh so very, very much! Keep flying high my little butterfly! Happy Golden birthday to you!




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Monday, January 5, 2015

Book Review: “After” by Anna Todd #O2O #AfterSaga

I was a reader. I inhaled books, not nearly as quickly as some of my other reader friends, but certainly had a love for getting lost in the written word. When One2One Network approached me to do a book review, I jumped on it! I wasn’t too aware of what I would be reading, I just knew the backstory of this book and how it came to be. (It is a tale of how an author becomes published through technology and social media…intriguing—to me.)  Let me introduce you to Anna Todd:


Twenty-five year-old Anna Todd is a first-time writer spending her days in Texas with her husband, with whom she beat half the statistics by getting married one month after graduating high school.

Anna never thought she’d be an author. In fact, between her husband’s three deployments to Iraq, she worked a number of odd jobs - from a makeup counter to the IRS processing center. It wasn’t until 2013 that Anna combined her love of reading and One Direction to create After on Wattpad, a free social reading and writing app. 
Writing the majority of After from her mobile phone while in and out of appointments and running errands, Anna extended the After story world beyond Wattpad, using Instagram and Twitter to share photos, videos, songs, and art created by readers. By 2014, Anna’s story had over 1 billion reads and more than 6 million comments (and counting!)

Find her on Wattpad as Imaginator1D:
Twitter at @Imaginator1Dx
Instagram at @Imaginator1D

What?? She wrote the majority of this book on her phone??? Talk about some serious maximization of time! I need to be honest here. I don’t know anything about One Direction. I think that one singer used to date Taylor Swift.? maybe? Dunno. (I like Taylor Swift.—Hi Taylor! Thanks for making music that I can listen to with my girls without having to explain things that I’m not usually prepared to explain.) In any case, I looked them up to see a picture of this guy and channeled my inner teen, remembering the time when Joey McIntyre made my 11-year old heart swoon.

When my book arrived, I was immediately intimidated by the size. 582 pages!! So much content and on a phone, no less! Wow! This is a 4-book series published by Simon & Schuster AND Paramount Pictures picked up the film rights to adapt it to the big screen. I am now further intrigued to read--Very cool!  So, what IS After?

The After series tells the story of Tessa Young, an optimistic freshman at Washington State University, and the dark, troubled British bad boy who has stolen her heart.
Since becoming one of the most talked about stories on the internet, the After series garnered attention from Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, who published the first installment of the novel, which went on sale on October 21, 2014.   On Wattpad*, After has over 1 billion reads, more than 6 million comments and the print edition is available in 26 countries.  

Hmm… ok. I chalked it up to being on a similar level of Twilight with possibly more accelerated romance. First off, I like how each chapter is divided up into to bite sized nuggets. I was curious how you would take something from Wattpad and translate it to print. Being a busy person, I was grateful for shorter chapters to read when I only had 10-minute breaks in my day. I didn’t feel like I would have to play significant catch up for the characters. Admittedly, it took me a bit of time to get into it. This is how I am, though. It usually takes me between 50 and hundred pages before I’m invested into a book.

I liked that this book forced me to take my mind away from all of the directions I am pulled at this stage in my life. I was forced back into my late teens/early 20s thinking. (I am not the only person who gets fully submerged into the books as an observer of the time, right? You do that too!) I was quite frustrated by the relationship that Tessa and Hardin share. Then again, I get frustrated by many literary couples, so there’s that. One thing I wasn’t quite prepared for was the graphic and detailed scenes of passion (sex, people, there’s sex in this book. lots of hot sex.) Wowsa! I’m no prude, but I wasn’t entirely prepared to read some of those scenes. It was a wait, whaaaaaa??? moment. Like, am I reading this? I felt like I’d just seen something naughty on my phone and wanted to hide it, but didn’t feel as exposed because they were written words, but still. Especially the moments when my 6-year old would walk up to me. I didn’t want her reading over my shoulder! ha ha ha! (She just needs see her parents reading and will think reading is cool and will pick up on that. It matters not the content.) I’ve not read the 50 Shades series, but from what I have heard, there are similar levels of lasciviousness to it, so be forewarned. This isn’t appropriate for tweens to read. Also, I understand why it was so popular. You want to know what direction the characters will go. You inevitably have the same questions they have and you want answers. So if you like fiction novels about romance and passion, then give this book (and series) a whirl.

You can find After - Barnes & Noble: | E-reader:

*Wattpad is the world’s largest community of readers and writers. It has connected over 40 million people around the world who share a love of reading and writing. 
Wattpad is a new storytelling experience that’s mobile and social.   Wattpad stories are free. 

Mobile: With Wattpad you can read and share stories from your phone, tablet or computer. Whether you’re online or off, use the devices you already own to carry an entire library of stories wherever you go. 

Social: Wattpad creates direct connections between readers and writers. Everyone participates in storytelling on Wattpad. Some people may not identify with being a writer, but they can share plot suggestions via comments and messages or create original art/music to go along with the stories they’ve read. 

Anyone can share a story on Wattpad. Whether you’ve never written before, or published multiple books, Wattpad offers benefits for writers of all levels. One of the greatest benefits of Wattpad is a direct connection between readers and writers. Readers receive notifications whenever a new chapter of a story is posted. Many writers share their work serially: posting stories one chapter at a time, so readers keep coming back. As soon as a story is uploaded it can be accessed by millions of readers around the world.


***I participated in the After by Anna Todd blog program as a member of One2One Network. I received compensation but all opinions are my own.***

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wonderful 2015

Some compare it to an empty book with 365 pages in it. I like to imagine a photo album with 365 images each with  a different story.

I was fortunate to have had more than 365 adventures in 2014! Embracing my one little word, I feel I moved forward/adelante and found that unknown thing I was searching for, several things, in fact. I had a discussion with my parents the other day. They’d gone to see the movie Wild and it made them think of me. I knew a bit of the story’s synopsis and had wanted to to go see it, but haven’t just yet. My mom said the characters journey of hiking to process things really made her think of me. I didn’t piece them together, until she followed it up with, “You know, because of you running.” Some people run for fun. Others will run because it is like their religion. When I run, especially my longer distances and when I’m alone, I’m processing and chewing on things. I have a lot of conversations with my Maker: attempting to find the answers, trying to let go of hurts, forcing lingering voices in my head to quiet down. I ran a great many miles to push my soul forward, to get beyond the place of where I had been. Reflecting back, I found myself…a happier, less bitter, more forgiving, more engaging person---still in need of caffeine to keep the headaches at bay. ha! I continue to look forward, so 2015’s word is:
  1. inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration; extremely good; marvelous.
Thank you, 2014. Ok, 2015…Let’s Go!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Music Review: Idina Menzel’s Holiday Wishes #HolidayWishes #O2O


It is the Holiday season. I like to think the Holiday season begins in October with Halloween. Immediately afterwards, you have Dia de los Muertos, All Saints Day, Thanksgiving, then Hanukkah, Festivus, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, 3 Kings Day, and then Valentine’s Day will roll right along. Whew…It is a lot of celebrating, but you know what? I don’t mind having something to celebrate, especially on dark days, when the sun has taken a break, the leaves fall, and the world tries to manufacture a bit of warmth to get us through. I don’t know about you, but I get such a overwhelming melancholy in December, I rely on my many traditions to cope. Celebrations with friends, gazing at lights, sending Christmas Cards filled with love to those far away. All the while, trying to curb the urge to spend, spend, spend and eat, eat, eat.

When One2One Network invited me to review Idina Menzel’s new album Holiday Wishes, I jumped at the opportunity. No, I’ve not tired of her version of “Let it Go,” nor do I think her voice is too nasally for my liking. Much like the power ballads of the 80s, I am unashamed to admit I like it when she builds up the song and belts it out.

Listening to the album, I know the words to the songs because I grew up singing many of them. If you are someone who likes to sing along to music, then this album will be for you, even if the arrangements may not be too familiar. Her duet with Michael Buble for Baby It’s Cold Outside is fun, but then again, I loved it when Buddy the Elf sings it, too. It is a great song! I will also say that I was not happy about her performance for All I Want For Christmas. It is a much beloved favorite because of Mariah Carey in her heyday.  I think my favorite on her album is What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? This is the song I can sing in my car, pretending I’m in a glittering gown on a stage, singing with a piano accompaniment. Immediately following, December Prayer…this is the one you listen in the dark of night when fat snow trickles down from the unseen clouds above. “Hear the song within the silence. See the beauty when there is nothing there. Sing a song within a silence that hope and love are everywhere…” River is also a tremendous favorite of mine. I’ll let you take a listen and form your own opinion. Overall, I know some of her songs will make it to my playlist and my girls will grow up listening to the songs I heard as a child, but they will also hear her voice, too. You can check out her album now at  iTunes : and on Amazon: (or you can listen on Spotify, too!)

About Idina Menzel & Holiday Wishes

Holiday Wishes, a Christmas album recorded by Tony Award-winning singer/actor Idina Menzel, is out now on Warner Bros. Records.
The album was produced by Grammy Award-winner Walter Afanasieff (Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey) and features such classic favorites as “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” as well as Joni Mitchell’s Christmas-themed “River,” one of Menzel’s favorites. Another highlight is a duet with international superstar Michael BublĂ© on “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” An exclusive Target edition of Holiday Wishes features two bonus tracks, including “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”.

Idina’s career has traversed stage, film, television, and music. She was most recently heard as Elsa in Disney’s global box-office smash Frozen, in which she sings the film’s Oscar-winning song “Let It Go.” After her performance of the multi-platinum song at the 86th annual Academy Awards, she made history as the first person with both a Billboard Top 10 hit and a Tony Award for acting.

Idina currently stars as Elizabeth in the original Broadway production of If/Then.

Holiday Wishes Track Listing

  1. Do You Hear What I Hear
  2. The Christmas Song
  3. Baby It’s Cold Outside (Duet with Michael Buble)
  4. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  5. All I Want For Christmas
  6. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
  7. December Prayer
  8. When You Wish Upon A Star
  9. Silent Night
  10. River
  11. Holly Jolly Christmas
  12. White Christmas

Bonus Tracks on Target Exclusive
  1. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
  2. Mothers Spiritual


Online Presence:

* iTunes:
  * Amazon:
* Official Idina Menzel website:
* Twitter - @idinamenzel
* Facebook -
* YouTube -


**I participated in the Idina Menzel Holiday Wishes album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Album Review: Mary J. Blige The London Sessions #TheLondonSessions #O2O

If you were of some kind of age in the '90s, then you are intimately familiar with that melodic and enchanting voice filled with so much heartache and pain that oozed soulful hip hop. Mary J. Blige personified that era perfectly as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. She remained true to her roots. To this day, her tracks Real Love and pretty much anything from What's the 411? is iconic, classic and music for now. 

When I was given the opportunity to review her album by One 2 One Network, I jumped at the chance. Are you kidding me? Mary J. Blige has once again confounded expectations and ventured into new musical territory by crossing the Atlantic to collaborate with some of this decade’s most celebrated UK musical talent – including Disclosure, Eg White, Emile SandĂ©, Jimmy Napes, Naughty Boy, SAM ROMANS and Sam Smith – and recorded a new studio album, The London SessionsThis extraordinary new collection will be released December 2 on Capitol Records. 

With a track record of eight multi-platinum albums, nine Grammy Awards (plus a staggering 31 nominations), a 2012 Golden Globe nomination, and four American Music Awards, Mary J Blige is a global superstar. And in ensuing years, the singer/songwriter has attracted an intensely loyal fan base – responsible for propelling worldwide sales of more than 50 million albums. I am among those fans. 

I have given the album a thorough listening a few times. I can't listen to the lyrics for some of those songs without feeling an overwhelming sense of melancholy, but the beats, the groove, her voice, all of those things combined get me going. Dancing to the beat, I find myself singing along. I can definitely foresee many of these tracks being remixed to play at clubs around the world. 

Off the bat, Therapy is a reminder of been there, done that in relationships where you hit the tipping point of where you need to leave because neither of you are doing anything about making the relationship better. However, it still hurts when you are gone. If you've ever suffered a broken heart from that kind of relationship, then you know what I'm talking about. That first song also reminded me of how her lyrics are always tough, but optimistic, too. They are like an internal dialog of feeling worthless, but then a reminder to pick yourself and keep going. That's why I like her music. Then there is Right Now, a groovy beat of self-empowerment, not taking the bad any longer. Finally, with Whole Damn Year there is reflection of a relationship gone bad, but then surviving the heartache. 

Overall, I enjoyed this album. I have it playing while sitting in traffic, singing along to her, because let's face it, she has a good voice and I can feel like I'm singing along with her. This  is quite a change from constantly singing Let it Go with my girls. Singing grown up music makes me feel more like an adult and helps the commute go faster. The album releases on December 2 and you can find it on iTunes : and  Amazon: or view some of the videos on her YouTube page

Online presence located here: 
* iTunes:
* Amazon:
*Official Mary J Blige
Twitter @maryjblige
Facebook -  
* YouTube -   

Track Listing1. Therapy
2. Doubt
3. Not Loving You
4. When You're Gone
5. Right Now
6. My Loving
7.Long Hard Look
8. Whole Damn Year
9 .Nobody But You
10. Pick Me Up
11. Follow
12. Worth My Time

**** I participated in the Mary J Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own. ****


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