Wednesday, January 30, 2019

2018 Struggles and Blessings

Hello all! I can't believe it's been this long since I posted anything and I apologize for my absence.
The past year and half has been filled with hard lessons that have kept me away.

I almost feel as if I should introduce myself again, or maybe not myself as I am the same 5-15 yr old bookish, Disney-loving child, only with a few more scars, but introduce where I'm at. Suffice it to say that I really struggled during the second half of 2017 only to move on to 2018 and have to fight for my life.

After having an amazing first half of 2017 full of travel and adventures, the first ones having their own posts here on my blog, followed by Disneyland, a short east coast rod trip and Disneyworld during the summer, I came back home to vacate my beloved apartment in Salem and selling my car 😒

Those Fall and Winter months of 2017 were really tough, forcing me to "adult" by having to work freelance everyday which was literally killing my soul, I felt sicker and sicker each day. And to make matters worst that December my grandpa, a very beloved and influential person in my life, died.
That is not to say that I didn't learn anything during the months of struggle or that hidden blessings didn't happen. One huge blessing, the last one from Grampy was getting almost the entire family together at the same place and time for the first time in many years and having the time to talk things through and repair relationships. I'm convinced you always have to look for those hidden blessings in every situation to help you learn the lesson the "bad times" bring.

But what I really want to talk about is 2018.

In February 2018 it was confirmed that my cancer was back, and this time with a vengeance. Lymphoma, Stage 4 spread to my lungs and liver.
I spent every day from February to September trying every alternative and holistic, natural treatment available to me, some with more effect than others but still none that would kill the cancer. Some seemed to slow it down and I'm sure some helped keep me alive long enough but unfortunately my body was so ravaged by the cancer nothing natural was able to kill it.
Slowly but surely every day I lost more and more of myself, from the ability to go on adventures and produce art to the ability to even go to the bathroom on my own.
By September 9 2018 I was so weak, filled with edema and my lungs were so unable to pull in enough air that I ended up in the ER. A couple of hours after arriving I felt my respiratory system stop and I lost all consciousness, thinking I was dead. I was transferred to the ICU that same night and I've been told medical staff didn't think I was gonna make it through the night. I thankfully and obviously did survive but I spent two months in the hospital with all sorts of tubes coming out of my body, enduring all sorts of physical and psychological torture. I spent the first two weeks in a sort of comma, the rest of the time I had what they call "hospitalarian delirium" and that kicked into gear the worst anxiety ever. By the end of my hospital stay I was cleared for outpatient treatment except for my mental health issues.

The Doctors assumed and tried preparing my mom, who never for a second left my side, for a really long hospital stay, warning her to forget about holidays and maybe 2019. I thankfully beat the odds and even though I did miss Halloween I was home in time for Thanksgiving which I was lucky enough to spend not only with my mom but with family as well.

I'm still fighting, I'm definitely not out of the woods yet. But I went from not being able to even move my head from side to side on my own in bed, to walking and doing almost everything on my own and normal again! I just had a treatment change to a more aggressive one since my last scan still showed a lot of active cancer and I'm suffering from side effects now more than from the cancer itself, but we're keeping positive and hopeful that this treatment, despite having a risk of having me in the hospital again for two weeks at the end, might cure me for Spring!

So 2018 was really hard, and I'm still trying to understand the lesson so this doesn't happen again. If you read my first cancer post on this blog you'll see how I thought I had learned everything I needed to put this behind me. Clearly I missed something important as not only did the lesson come back, it did so a lot harder to get my attention. I'm not gonna lie, I'm struggling to understand what it is I need to learn from all this pain, since I have no threshold for pain whatsoever and I have a terrible fear of hospitals and now I'm stuck in a situation where I get stabbed, poisoned and scared every week. But while I try to understand what all of this is teaching me I'm holding on to all the blessings this situation created.

For starters I got to learn a lot about alternative treatments and I experienced them first hand so I can be of help to others looking at that path. Actually, my first huge blessing is my mom and how not only has she not left my side throughout all of this, but how she has fought for me when I was unconscious so no one would torture me beyond what was the most absolutely necessary.

Before I was in the hospital throughout the year I received the most magnificent amount of letters from the iggles at Geek Girl Pen Pals. Some from my pen pals a lot from others that just wanted to send good wishes. The amount of support I received from the iggle community was overwhelming and I'm forever grateful for their generosity and good will. They were days when a happy letter was all the kept me going. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

Another huge blessing was having friends and family come to our rescue, especially my mom's. I saw a side of my best guy friend I had never seen before, it was the side I had always dreamed of but thought didn't exist ❤️. He made his week here all about getting me better and we managed to have fun despite my weakness.

My best friend from HS stayed here for 3 weeks helping my mom with everything, which was a huge relief and so good for me and our friendship as we drew closer during everything I went through at the hospital. And family members that had never come before up north came to help my mom out while I was at the hospital. And last but maybe as important as my mom, one of my uncles has been the most generous soul ever, showering me with gifts and taking care of both me and my mom, coming every month of 2018 to make sure we had all that we needed. He and my mom have been my biggest angels on Earth.

Also the amount of people know and unknown that had send prayers, good wishes, pixie dust, good vibes, etc our way has been overwhelming and I cannot be grateful enough to each of you that has sent a letter or a prayer. Thank you will never be enough but know that my hear swells in gratefulness and love for each and every one of you.

I hope I can update you more often while I still walk this path and learn the lesson. And hopefully I can soon be back on track on fun adventures to fuel my art and produce new images. In the meantime you might see more experimental, digital art and sketches as well as new editions to old photos on my insta. Just trying to get ready for when my life happens through the travels that shape me.

Love and Light to all.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Letting Go is Not Giving Up, Settling is Not Letting Go

This post was inspired by a recent conversation I had with a close friend about learning to let go and trust that we won’t end up settling.At the moment of our conversation I said what came to my mind trying to bring some perspective and bounce off ideas of each other. However, as the hours passed and I got into a more meditative state where I could clearly hear my thoughts and listen to my Higher Self and my Guides more, things kept popping up for me as well as the need to write them.

We all hear about "letting go" and it is true that in some cases doing that feels like giving up, which is definitely not the same thing! But settling for something that seems ok, or is what everyone tells us to do/be is not trusting and letting go either.Most of us have heard that life isn't easy, that you have to work hard for what you want, that everyone has to grow up at some point, that we all have to do things we don't like because that's what life is, etc… Lies! All lies! That's the illusion and the fear talking, don't give into that. The system is broken and in serious need of a reboot, the only way to do that is by being your higher, most authentic self and allow yourself to go for what makes you really happy. Most people in the system eventually get tired of seemingly going against the current by pursuing childhood dreams and they settle, they get a job and find some romantic partner to get entangled with and accept that that's their "fate" ‘cuz everyone else is doing it. Most people are not truly happy, deep, deep down there's a voice screaming at them, letting them know it's not right but they drown it with substances like alcohol or mindless activities and think that's the highest level of happiness they can get. Others are so good at lying to themselves that genuinely feel they haven't settled even when the Universe keeps yelling at them and throwing curveballs their way (in the form of “random accidents, health issues or bad luck”) to wake up and change courses before it's too late. Still, even when not really happy and fulfilled people hold on tight to their fears, prejudices and judgements, not letting life happen for fear of the unknown. Life is really not meant to be hard or complicated and we didn't come here to suffer, work or be what everyone else wants us to be. We came here to break away from the duality, learn to be love for ourselves and others and just enjoy what is like to have a physical form, without unhealthy attachments and entanglements!

From my level of understanding and how I experienced them all here’s how I see the difference between fighting against, giving up, settling and letting go:

-Fighting against life, is when you put yourself in victim mode, trying with all your might to go against the current unwilling to accept your responsibility as co-creator of your reality and not realizing you manifested your current situation. It is being unwilling to learn the lessons and see the beauty of what you have and therefore being unwilling to make the best with what is being presented to you at the moment to bring forth the outcome you actually want. If we were in an ocean here’s where we kick and scream in a frenzy making our situation worst and we choke on salt water.

-Giving up, just as fighting, is rooted in fear. Giving up usually comes from being exhausted of fighting too much and you end up in a hopeless place where you can’t hear the Universe at all and are unwilling to even put a positive thought forward on your behalf. Instead of realizing we can float or swim with a purpose we begin to drown and let it happen.

-Settling happens again, when we take a lack of responsibility as co-creators of our reality. Being unwilling to believe or unaware of your own powers of manifestation you create a lack of trust. So you don’t really want to drown, but you are believing the lies that life is hard and no one is truly happy, and as you look around your ocean you see people drowning or half drowned and figure “you know? Who cares if I had dreams of something better or if I deserve something nicer than a large piece of rotting driftwood? At least I’m in the same shape or better off than everyone around me”. Settling is loving yourself barely enough to keep yourself afloat, but not enough to go after the things your heart and soul really want. Settling is easy to fall into because it requires very little responsibility and effort on our part.

-Letting Go on the other hand is rooted in Love, Light and Trust. It’s realizing that you’re caught in the tide and even though it is scary at times and everyone around you is madly scrambling for each other or every piece of ugly driftwood and screaming at you to do the same you don’t. You trust that the ocean will keep you buoyant, you let go of people’s expectations of you and of your own preconceptions and float. Letting go it’s smoothly floating knowing that the current will lead you to an amazing place and you don’t have to waste your energy kicking and screaming to get there or avoid it because that’s where you’re meant to go anyway. And in the process you can enjoy the water and the pretty fish and learn from obstacles that might come your way making you stronger and wiser by the time you reach your paradise so you’re ready to enjoy it. 
The best personal example I can give is of the time I had cancer. When you hear you only have 2 days to live it’s a pretty shocking situation and it’s easy to be swept away by fear and listen to the lies (note that I'm not saying people lie on purpose, they are surrounded by so much fear and a mentality of lack that they truly believe all the negativity) of society, and in this case health professionals. But once the shock passed and I committed to stay on the planet, things (physical pain aside) were not that bad. If I had given up I would have died 2 days later and that would have been it. I could have fought my situation and cry all day feeling sorry for myself and complaining about how unfair it was and blame everything but myself and refuse to accept the lessons and blessings that came with it. (You can read all about those here.) I had little energy in those days and wasting it fighting against my condition would not have made me healthier so why even bother? The next option would have been to settle. “Oh this is my life and I’ll go along with what the doctors say, even if my intuition tells me otherwise, and I’ll accept that at least for the next 5 years this will be my life in and out of hospitals.” That would have been awful, who wants that? And yet, lots of people choose that. It's all a matter of choice.
I Instead let go of people’s opinions, fears from others and my own, as well as any need to control life. I peacefully floated, and yes chemo and hospitals were my reality at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t spend my time making plans with my family about trips we would take when I felt ok, nor did that reality stopped me from taking online classes from the chemo chair to better myself and to actually feel happy; I had new camera equipment I was dying to try out and kept focusing on the times when I would be out of the cancer center and strong enough to lug my camera around again. I let go of doctors opinions and prognosis and lived day by day letting go of expectations of the future but also kept showing the universe what I really wanted. 

I guess in the end letting go just means let go of the ego so you can trust and listen to your intuition and no one else. Let go of expectations and time lines but never of dreams and expectancy of something good or better coming your way.
Here are some other examples that kept coming to mind:
When I was going through chemo my mom slipped on ice and had a triple fracture on her left foot. People immediately went to "that's terrible luck, those poor people,” but in fact it was perfectly meant to be. It was something serious and painful enough to get my mom's attention to slow down and take care of herself and not just me before her health was seriously jeopardized, but it wan't bad enough that we were helpless. It was her left food which even meant she could keep driving me to the doctor! If she had listened to the "bad luck" believers she could easily had given up and wallow and make things harder for both of us, she could also have settled for "this is my lot in life and bad things happen for no reason and who knows if my foot will fully heal.” Or she could let go of her need to control everything and listen to the lesson. It was hard for her to do, especially with everything that was happening but she got there, she didn't believe the lies out of fear of age, life's suffering or bad luck, she also didn't fight against life she let go and now we're both perfect!

Now talking about recent events, a few weeks ago I was in a situation where I kept fighting for a specific outcome. I kept investing all this energy into something I thought I really wanted even though I was miserable doing so. I got so tired once I realized that I had been fighting for it for years and getting nowhere that I decided to give up. 
I was so tired and hurt and angry and fearful of other alternatives that I decided I was giving up for good this time, and if that hurt my future self or threw away all the good from the past then so be it! I just wanted to be free. 
I was in this process of trying to give up from a lower vibrational place, which felt like ripping the proverbial bandaid, painful and slow as this particular bandaid seemed to be embedded in my skin, that I was blind and deaf to my Guides and Angels. Then somewhere along the miserable process of drowning I got this beautiful lesson of "Whatever you're ready for is ready for you.” Which means that if something isn't happening how you want it to, it's probably because a part of us isn't ready for it!
Immediately my mindset shifted, I got a sense of peace as understanding dawned on me, it wasn't a new understanding just something I had forgotten but still felt like I had just discovered Light. If something's meant to be it will be no matter how much I struggle towards it or against it, if it's not meant to be, then there's a reason for that and my struggles won't matter there either.
If I'm not ready for the outcome I thought I wanted I can't force it, the best thing to do is let go of all these preconceptions in my mind, let go of my need to control the big picture I have no way of seeing from my human perspective, and trust that the Universe knows what it's doing. Settling for less than I wanted as long as it was loosely related to my desired outcome even though it's not truly making me happy, and on the contrary is really hurting me, is not an option, but giving up on everything is not an option either. Letting go, knowing that things will be what they are meant to be, in their right time and when I'm ready is by far the best choice and the one that is peaceful and full of Light.

On the other hand I have (or had?) A dear friend who seems to have been worn down by family and society's expectations. She's always putting others first instead of herself, which is a sign of the beautiful, generous person she is inside but also of her lower self-esteem, and she now settled into a relationship her family approved of. Since things got more serious between her and this person a string of "bad luck" keeps happening to her. Of course, as co-creators of our own life there's no such thing as bad luck. Everything that happens is FOR us not TO us, the trick is to stop and really listen to the signs. She hasn't and though she claims to be really happy, from the outside it doesn't look like it and more signs keep being thrown at her by the Universe that keep being ignored. She didn't let go and didn't trust she deserved and could do better, she gave up on finding a better spot for herself in the world and settled. And not only does she seem to be unknowingly trapped in this situation, these signs from the Universe are not fun to go through if you don't listen and have brought her a lot of stress, lack of abundance and worse yet, physical and emotional pain.

So don’t fight life, but don’t settle either. It’s never too late to switch things completely, and life isn’t hard. Even simple things like visualization or constantly talking about your new passion is telling the Universe in a positive and affirmative tone where you want to go and what you want to do. Put your best intentions forward and don’t limit yourself to “I have to pay the bills” or “my parents want me to be a doctor” or “everyone is getting married so I must too.” Go for the dreams and life missions your soul and your inner or past child told you to go for. It requires a lot of courage sometimes to ignore programing that has been there for generations but be brave and figure out which "ocean wave" will probably take you closer to your highest dreams and then just float... Life is easy if you let it and it doesn’t have to be less than you deserve. Enjoy your life, live in the moment, never settle no matter what people tell you but don't give up either, letting go doesn't mean you don't pursue your dreams it just means you trust you deserve them and the Universe knows the best way to get you to them. πŸ˜‰

All Images are property of Elizabeth Harper from Sealed with Love

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Recent Creative Developments

After my recent, rather lengthy, previous posts, I'm gonna try to make this one a bit shorter and just give you the highlights of my recent creative life. Just to keep everyone updated and mostly to try and hold myself accountable. So here it is!

As I mentioned on my previous post, my contract with Agora Gallery ended this March and I chose not to continue being represented by them due to their lack of sales of my work, despite the interest shown by the public during my November show. Fortunately enough I got approached by another Chelsea gallery earlier this year that wants to represent me. They seem to work differently than Agora and my images wouldn't be restricted under contract which is great, they also promised to be very focused on artists' sales and museum networking which sounds super promising. Unfortunately the way galleries work is that you have to pay upfront for representation, PR, printing material, etc and then you hopefully get reimbursed, ideally with profit through the sales of your work. As of now I'm waiting for the green light from the Universe to let me know when the time is right to pay for my next representation contract, hopefully one way or another my own art will pay for my this as was the plan all along. Meanwhile, I let the new gallery director know about my situation and not only was she extremely understanding, but she gave me an open invite. Whenever I'm ready all I have to do is fill out the paper work I already have and I'm in! Which is very exciting! So even though I have no active gallery right now, I will soon be back in NYπŸ˜€
For the moment I still have some online representation through ART UpCLOSE and you can see my work with them here.

On completely different news, I opened a zazzle store over a year ago and then decided I didn't quite like it so I never truly advertised it and eventually I completely forgot it existed. But as a wonderful sign of abundance, a couple months ago at exactly 2:22pm the once forgotten zazzle store made it's first sale! So I revived it and have slowly been starting to add more products. It still has a long way to go from what it could be, but it is alive now and hopefully after I'm all packed/moved-out, I'll be able to dedicate some serious time into my designs there. In the Meantime you can check out what I have so far here 😊
After "resurrecting" my zazzle store my brain started working on new ideas again and thanks to inspiration I got for a gift for my otspsecretsister, I got back to making illustrations. Which btw I forgot how fun they could be! Anyway the illustration I made for my secret sis can now be purchased as a print of the original artwork on my etsy or as a mug or magnet on my zazzle!

Getting to work on my e-stores again got my inspiration flowing and I now plan to create a line of illustrations and products for both stores exclusively to help save the vaquita on the second half of the year and into 2018! 50% of my profits will be donated to this worthy cause and after vaquita I plan to create a whole line of art, in any medium that inspiration strikes to help other endangered species. I'm super excited about this πŸ˜„.

Meanwhile, I've been practicing purposefully opening up more to the infinite abundance of the Universe through my art, and entering all sorts of different contests and juried open calls. Even if I don't win, it's good practice because I am letting the Universe know that I am willing and open to receive and by doing so I might even get unexpected exposure out of it.
The contests I'm most invested in now are, as I mentioned on my previous post, with NatGeo and the WWF. The WWF offers different prizes including photo expeditions to see animals in the wild which is my dream! And the people's choice award is a trip to see polar bears!! But for this I need your help, I need your vote daily for any or all of my following images:

I know it's a bit of a pain, but every time you vote, even if it's a 100 times, you get entered to win a $500 gift card, so the more you vote the better your chances of winning also! Voting goes through the end of the month and any votes are greatly appreciatedπŸ’—

Lastly here's my random bit of information. This year I taught myself how to quill. I've always been so fascinated by quilled cards or art so I thought it was about time I learned. It's simpler than I expected by looking at the finished art but it takes a lot longer than I could ever have imagined! For now I'm focusing my practicing efforts on cards for friends and family but I hope to eventually be able to offer some cards through my etsy. If you have any ideas of something you would like to see please let me know!
Those are all my latest creative news, keep a look out for new developments and products on my stores and remember to always consider supporting the artists in your life and conservation issues that speak to you!

Love and Light🌟
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Monday, June 5, 2017

Life in Between Adventures

Wow June already! How can that be? Anyway, now that my big trip recaps are done, I can move on to "real life."
This half of the year has gone by so fast! And so much amongst nothingness has happened...
For weeks and weeks after the trip I felt like all I was doing was playing catch up with life that kept going on in town as I was, well, not in town. But at the same time it's almost as if all my mad scrambling made my perception of time stand still, February 6 was my January 1st ,so I kept thinking I had more time to do things or that it was earlier in the year than it actually was. I kinda still feel that way, especially with the crazy weather we've been having. Weather up until May 31 was very early April, cold and wet, not May at all! Which only helped reinforced my non-calendar perception of time and whenever I look at the "label" of the month I still freak out.
After realizing how much time I had "less," I started getting this feeling that lasted a long time, like I was floundering. I had taken time off school, I am in between galleries, I have no real social life at the moment, I haven't created much for my stores and I'm even behind on my reading challenge, granted that is because I couldn't do a lot of these things while traveling but still, floundering!
                                                I kept going from this -----------------------------------> to this! 
But then it recently dawn on me, all that external "nothingness," or rather, stillness was because I needed that time to myself because a lot of things were happening inside. When life is too crazy we barely give ourselves permission to stop and process all of our emotions. Sometimes we think we're ok or make ourselves believe we've grieved a loss enough and try to move on without truly processing. We fill our calendars and planners and are always looking at tomorrow but we're hardly ever in the today. Living in the present moment was one of the biggest lessons I got from my whole cancer experience and I cannot afford to forget those valuable lessons.
Most of the times when we don't have time to decompress, process, learn and seriously look inside ourselves at what is working and what isn't, it comes back to bite us in the butt. After all, about 90% of all physical ailments are emotional.
So sometimes floundering and being a hermit is more than ok. Sometimes it is necessary to go back to those times when we answered "nothing" to the question "what are you doing?" and actually meant it.

My time of doing nothing matched perfectly with the season and it is a beautiful energetic synchronicity. With the Winter solstice our energies shift from outward to inward, it is the time to "hibernate," take it slow, be by ourselves and look into our shadow self so we can heal it and let the Light of Spring in! Half of this energetic time I spent on a long crazy fun adventure, which makes sense that the Universe will then make up for it by making it stretch into Spring, especially since it's been a very cold, gray Spring. The outside world always reflects our inside one.

My biggest call of attention that I should be focusing inwards was by developing some weird pox-looking hives we couldn't figure out the reason for. But that forced me to look at my whole  emotional and energetic state at the time. Hives among other things develop out of an abandonment-anxiety or a feeling of being treated poorly and unjustly that is not corrected because of a fear of loss. Perfectly enough the first hives developed right on my birthday. How amazing is that? A new cycle of existence was starting and my own body did not permit me to drag stuff from the past into it, it forced me to look into things, bring them to the Light and start healing from the source even though it was a couple months of hard work and a maddening itch. One of the biggest things the hives, along with other minor health symptoms I've had throughout these months, have helped me find, was a very painful relationship that was/is still hurting me. I thought I had mourned it years ago but turns out I just got used to living with the pain, digging deep enough I found I'm still as hurt as I was the first day, so I've been working on healing all those aspects of myself. Allergies were also very present during these times and those are usually a manifestation of some suppressed grief, so I've been working on letting those feelings out, of actually feeling these waves of emotions and rolling with it as well as cleansing and detoxing both physically and energetically. Things we keep in the shadows for long were there for a reason and making sure we are taking care of ourselves as they are dredged up it's super important to make sure they don't get re-stuck on our systems.
Throughout this process I  also got more clarity on what I want out of friendships, out of school and even out of my e-stores.
I've been learning to talk more clearly with the Universe to co-create the things I really want, I've been learning to reshape my words to always attract and leave positivity, though that one is more of a challenge, I've been learning to communicate better with my body and practice self love, which is extremely hard for me, and I've been learning to enjoy the nothingness.
When people ask you what you do and you don't immediately answer with school or a job, preferably one you don't like, people always say "oh so you don't do anything," and you know what? Even if that was the case, then good for you! There's nothing wrong with not doing anything and letting the Universe and the Light fill you up and take care of you, but working on yourself, trying to raise your vibration, making yourself healthier and therefore bringing all those close to you higher on the vibrational scale along with you is a full time job, it requires a lot on your part and it is a lot of the times a lot more important than being in sync with the system...

Another thing I got clarity on was where I want my art to go, I got a new gallery offer (more on that later) but more importantly as I floundered and drifted I found several photo contests I applied to, a couple with the WWF and Nat Geo and doing this not only helped me practice opening up to receiving abundance but also clicked with a part of me that had been ignored for the longest time. When I was little I used to draw cards and "buttons" with animals on them and sell them out of my garage to people passing by to be able to donate to the WWF, Greenpeace and other legit organizations that are helping animals. Conservation is HUGE to me and I kinda put it on the back burner to pursue a more "selfish" art for years. Which is ok, everything has a reason and a purpose but now I'm ready to return to my entrepreneurial 5 year old. I have some good ideas I hope to put into practice on the second half of the year to work more with and for endangered species and help animals closer to home as well πŸ˜ƒ
I'm so excited about it, because I've long felt that usually what we dreamt of as little kids holds the truth to what we should be doing always πŸ˜‰

Lastly, here's a nice full-circle story and big news I'm leaving you with. When I first moved into the apartment I'm at now, I had a very good friend that was perfect for me. She is older so she was able to help me with adult things like grocery shopping, cleaning, etc. But not that much older that she didn't want to play with me. So when my mom wasn't in town, I always had someone around I could trust and she became my unofficial roommate as she spent 4 out of 7 days in my place at some point. We had the best of times, and she got to see the apartment in its early days. After she graduated college she moved away and we slowly lost touch, we saw each other twice in some years I can't even count with my lack of time awareness. We still had each other's numbers and would text to say hi every few months but we didn't seem to connect beyond that. When I got cancer she offered to come see me before the holidays but my mom was so overwhelmed with family coming and chemo appointments, etc. that we asked her if she could postpone her visit 'till January 2015. She couldn't make it then and stuff kept getting in the way until this February. We reconnected when I went to see her in Pittsburgh on the January-February road trip and we realized we have even more in common now than before!
And a couple weeks after my visit to her town she told me she would be visiting me to celebrate my birthday for a week! It was awesome, it's like time hadn't passed at all and we had the best of times again. And talking with her in my living room like old times, it clicked. It all made sense, the Universe kept throwing stuff in our way because it wasn't the time for her to come, she came when things became full circle. I moved here with her constant presence and support and now that I'm moving out she came to close this particular cycle of my life. My social life and the most insightful times in this apartment started and now ended with her πŸ’œ
So I'm moving!!! It's so bittersweet, things with the building's current managing company are horrible and we cannot keep living with them and I have also overgrown the space, but this is the place I've lived the longest in my entire life and I loooooove it. I do understand it is perfect timing though, that the Universe has allowed me all this time to flounder, introspect, let go of old wounds and people that no longer resonate, to release old baggage and come full circle to say goodbye in the best possible note to home so I can start fresh in a new place!
On to bigger and better things! A new chapter is coming and the calm before the storm is about to be over! Haha. I'm planing to continue living in Salem, I refuse to let my zip-code go unless I'm moving out of New England, I love my town and I want to continue to be a part of Witch City! But while the place I have in mind becomes available, I'm living in the moment and open to the millions of wondrous possibilities and probabilities the Universe has planned for me!

* I'm redirecting all my mail to my mom's just to be safe during this transition period. So if you're reading this and you're a pen pal then get at me on social media for the new address πŸ™‚

Monday, May 29, 2017

January/February Trip Recap (Part 4)

Finally! The last leg of the trip πŸ˜ƒ and arguably the busiest one! My mom and I took once again to the road to make our way back up the coast, but this time, we veered a bit west so we could hit new states different from our usual route.
Our adventure back north started with St. Augustin, which strangely enough we had never been to. It's super weird because it's only 2 hours away from Orlando, so I don't know why we always veered more towards Tampa or Miami 4 hrs away than venturing a bit further north from Daytona. Anyway, after seeing insta posts from people I grew up with having an amazing time in St. Augustin, I pushed for a detour on our last day in central Florida to go see it for ourselves and it was better than expected. We only had a few hours to explore the area and it definitely requires a second visit but it doesn't feel very Floridian. St Augustin is the oldest city in America and with the beaches and quaint little streets it's definitely super fun, it just feels a lot more like Puerto Rico than the US. The fort and some architecture, the spanish-colonial history and their pirates stories are all very similar to PR, so if you can't make it out to sea and to the Caribbean, you can totally go check this city and play pretend, I doubt you'll be disappointed 😜 We missed a lot of the famous sights because of our lack of time but we did get to have great beach views, go into the old fort, and "go to school" in the oldest school-house in the country, it's a super cute museum set up just as it was when it did have students there in the 1800s, and once you're done exploring you get to pick up your diploma at the exit, how cute is that?!

Next on the itinerary was Tallahassee. Because of it being a larger city and our having had a longer drive after St. Augustin we gave it two nights. Unfortunately I cannot tell you much about it. It's definitely more Southern, culturally, than central and south Florida, so it was fun to get to know my home state a bit better and see the changes as we made our way further North on it. However it was the off season and no tours or attractions were opened. We tried to do our own thing but that is harder to do in a big city when most tourist friendly things are closed and we didn't get to do much. After a couple hours we gave up on doing it alone and my mom found a segway tour which was personalized so we could see all the highlights without having to drive around. I had only tried segways once before in the Caribbean but it had been fun, so off we went on our adventure. Except we didn't really. As it turned out, these were the smaller, less stable segways made for cities instead of the huge ones they use in the Caribbean. So on a practice run at a parking lot I went over a horrible bump and the thing flipped me over, threw me to the curb and ran over my leg!😒 Other than shock my first concern was that I had fallen over an icky ants' nest so I was worried about that and the throbbing pain along my arm, everyone else was worried about the fact that my helmet had broken from the impact, so thank goodness I was wearing one! After some fussing and confusion as to what to do I managed to get back on the thing, although I refused to go over any more bumps; but as time went by I started feeling a trickle inside my shoe and my leg was burning. We stopped at a public restroom and sure enough I had a puncture wound in my foot, which was bleeding and the back of my leg did not only had a bad road rash, it still had bits of rubber from the segway running over it stuck to it and unwilling to go away! Needless to say our tour was cut short, my mom was freaking out and I could barely move. The rest of the night was spent getting gauze and antibacterial solutions and washing and dressing the wound😞 It sucked! For days I had to change the bandage twice a day and could not walk or sit normally. So who knows how Tallahassee is really like? Lol. Also, we didn't know it but this was our last warm day...

From Tallahassee we drove to Louisiana so we could spend the next day and a half in New Orleans, which I loved! We did not expect the weather so far south to be in the 40s and windy so I was freezing after the 80 degrees day we had the day before but NOLA was so fun. Definitely not at all like what people have described to me; there is so much art on the streets and lots of cute touristy boutiques... I was a bit disappointed that not all of the architecture looks like the real life Princess and the Frog but there's a lot of that too and the fact that we're not in the 1920s/30s was also brought to my attention.
For our adventures we had beignets at Cafe Du Monde which tasted as good as Tiana's look like!! And had vegan po boys and gumbo in the garden district. We enjoyed the views to the Mississippi river, walked around the French Quarter and its market, took a quick bus tour around the modern areas of the city and had fun seeing all sort of tv and movie location spots!
The next morning we went to Lafayette Cemetery and when I started looking at everything through my lens: Wow! No wonder this is such a popular place for Hollywood filming. It totally made me want to watch Princess and the Frog, Vampire Diaries and the Originals again! I was disappointed that I didn't find any voodoo shops thoughπŸ˜• Not like I would even go into a real one, but I wanted to see the fake ones for tourists, however all I found was regular souvenir stores selling the classic t-shirts and mugs sort of dressed like a voodoo shops 😐 At some point while wandering I did see a magick shop in the French Quarter, but my mom didn't like the vibe and didn't let me go in so I have no idea what kind of magick it was...
We also just saw Burbon street in passing, during the day we just drove by it and didn't have time to stop and during the night is almost impossible to drive by it. It was nice to see everything lit up but there were drunks everywhere and who wants to deal with those vibes? It's worst than the voodoo, my mom didn't even let me get out of the car for pictures because you never know with drunks... Vampires might be better and safer lol.

On January 29 we got to play in Nashville and we fell in love with it! At least with the first half we saw; I think we did it "wrong" though haha our experience had very little to do with music and cowboys and everything to do with Greece.
We spent the bigger half of our time in the city exploring their Parthenon which even had Percy Jackson's script on display, so now of course I want to watch it again also! Lol. Their giant Athena was a photographer's dream and even though it was freezing outside, it was so nice to be walking around the different parks after having spent some time in just urban settings. We visited both, Centennial and Bicentennial parks and went up hills to look at Nashville from above as well as then go visit the state capitol up close. The Greek influence everywhere was not what we expected out of "Music City". Because we only had a day there and it was the off season we didn't have any country concerts or anything, we did our best to drive or walk past and get a picture of the Country Music and Musicians Halls of fame as well as the Symphony center and in the morning during breakfast at a little organic cafe they had open mic with some really nice girls singing country. I guess that counts right? Speaking of cafes and food during our stay in Nashville we managed to eat twice at one of my new favorite vegan places Graze! Food was pretty spicy because apparently everything in the South is spicy! But so worth the pain!!!! LOL
The only downside to visiting Nashville in the off season was that we went to Broadway street to look at all the neon signs and souvenir shops after sunset, and apparently only locals that want to drink are around and there's a big homeless problem in the areaπŸ˜• So as we were walking down a street pass a street musician, a man shoulder-hit my mom tying to get her to drop her purse and kept walking by really fast, fortunately the bag was a cross body, we have very active guardian angels and we were safe with nothing worse to tell. We were extremely shaken up though and couldn't enjoy ourselves after that, so after collecting ourselves in a shop we went straight for the car drove to Cincinnati earlier than planned.

By the time we reached Ohio the temperatures were incredibly cold, we didn't have a buffer "middle temperature" as we had naively planned, and so my body never got adjusted to the sudden winter 😣 Freezing as we were we couldn't really spend time outdoors and it was a Monday, the time when museums and botanical gardens close, it was the off season and combine that with the fact that we're not that used to big cities that aren't giant tourist magnets anymore, we found hardly anything to do! So in Cincinnati we just drove by the Gaslight district because the houses are really pretty, found a bookstore-cafe where we could hang out for a bit and continued through to Pittsburgh. The same story as the day before repeated in Pittsburgh, mainly because their day to close there for some reason is Tuesdays. Pittsburgh's lack of fun didn't really matter though, as we had only added it to our itinerary so we could visit my friend Marianne. I hadn't seen her since 2011 despite her trying to come see me when I had cancer, but nothing ever seemed to work in our favor and for the longest time she lived out of the country, so now that she had moved back to the states and was on the same coast we had to go se her! That was the biggest highlight of those two days, we had dinner, reconnected and talked for hours, we really had a good time, although strangely enough despite her being a photography major, me being me and us switching phone screens constantly to show each other pictures of different things we forgot to take pictures of our reunion! Fortunately we made up for that a few weeks later for my birthday when she came to see me, but more on that later.
Right after dinner with Marianne, my mom and I started the drive to Niagara Falls! It was a longish drive, and according to my mom a stressful one since it started snowing and apparently there were areas with white out conditions. I missed all the scary parts because I was looking down at my Nintendo 3DS' screen and belting out Moana songs and thanks to my mom's mad skills we got to our hotel just fine and I was none the wiser πŸ™‚...

Niagara Falls was freezing but so beautiful! I loved seeing all the snow around them and the bits of frozen water at the top of the river, it was such a magical experience. The only thing that was sad was how close Canada built their city! They get the best view because even if we have some houses and stuff nearby, there are not towering, glittering buildings so you do get the views of Nature right there. From our side is hard to try and get Nature shots, stupid Toronto is messing up the shots more than half the time! I don't understand why people don't have any respect for natural wonders or ancient marvels. Leave some space! Stop encroaching and endangering it! UGH!
But ok, other than that it was a great time πŸ’— We had almost two days which during the off season is a lot of time apparently, but it was so worth it for my inner photographer. We were even rewarded by a rainbow going up from the water to the sky. It was Breathtaking! Part of our adventure there was making me making us go out at night again to capture the falls with the light show on. I froze my hands until they almost fell off and I endangered my camera by dropping it on the other side of the fence to get the right shot haha, but every icy second was worth it. Being so close to something so magnificent is nature is extremely healing. Now we need to go back in the summer to get to the actual adventures of exploring the caves and going on the Maid of the Mist! 
After Niagara, that was it for our adventures. Everything was like a movie-ghost-town except, instead of tumbleweeds there were snow flurries! We hit Saratoga and Buffalo as the last sleeping stops before heading home but found nothing worth a detour for the Winter. On the last drive back we went through lots of different areas in Vermont, we tried mapping a route that would take us through a National Park, I wanted to make our road trip last as long as possible and since we were already in the area why not get more photo material? But even though the GPS clearly showed us crossing the park, there was nothing but houses and road and no signs for anything! So we just drove through without finding the woods lol and we eventually made our way to NH and to my mom's place where I rested and helped unpack, etc from Feb 3 to 6. Once the adventure was officially over, sad as I may have been, and once I was totally settled back home on Feb 7 that's when my year actually began 😜. And now you're all caught up!

✵For more pictures and random trip details from my traveling bear's perspective you can follow their insta account. If you scroll down enough you'll see the trip day to day. If you scroll down to Xmas in Manhattan you've gone too far 😜

Thursday, May 18, 2017

January Trip Recap (Part 3)

Third out of four installments of my trip recap! This one all about home AKA Disney World!

Immediately after being "kicked out" of the cruise ship at an ungodly hour before 10am on January 7, we got our car from the cruise's terminal and drove to Orlando to stay for the next 2.5 weeks, because that is home, and that's the place you go to recharge and decompress, which by this point with my mom sick and my misadventures on the island the day before we really needed.
We had lots of plans to be "tourists" this time, since we haven't really seen non-disney properties in the area for years, but as already mentioned we debarked under less than ideal circumstances, (if you missed it you can read all about them here) and to make matters worst, when we got to Orlando we were received by a freakish 30 degree weather, which was a great shock to my system and got me sick tooπŸ™.
Half of our time in Orlando was spent recovering from the flu so we took it easy, only doing half days at the parks, visiting favorite restaurants and shops within Disney and between Lake Buenavista and Kissimmee and just sleeping the bug off to be honest.
All our plans went out the window and we used Disney for the most part as a breather from life as we usually do haha. At least there's no better place to stay inside than a Disney resort!

But now on to the main even during my time in Orlando. The absolute biggest highlight of those two weeks was meeting my first IGGPPC pen-pal and one of my very best friends person! Ann from Carnival Hearts πŸ˜ƒ
We've been friends for a couple of years now and one of our biggest bonds has been over Disney. We both grew up in the Orlando area and love going to the Disney parks as much as possible so getting to have our first in person meeting there was beyond perfect! You can read an interview we gave about a year ago for the IGGPPC blog about our friendship and daydreams to meet at a Disney park here!

It is sometimes weird and kinda surreal to hang out in person with someone you've only ever met through letters, but we had already shared so much and were now in the most magical of places that it all felt pretty natural within a few minutes, despite both of our social awkwardness.
My only regret if you can call it that, was that both me and my mom were sick and were not as energetic and enthusiastic as we wanted to be. Nevertheless I had a blast with both Ann and her boyfriend Steve and at least from my perspective, also hanging out with her boyfriend and my mom at the same time didn't feel awkward at all. We all got along pretty great and both Steve and my mom would give us "friend time" alone on rides or strolling around the parks so we could catch up which was amazing! <3 p="">
It was so fun to experience the parks with someone new and get to know each other better, picking up conversations from our last letters and doing our belated holiday gift swap in person! Ann and I got to play at all the parks together except for Epcot because that was the day I couldn't breathe and therefore didn't make it 😞 But we made the most of our time together and I even got to share some Animal Kingdom secrets she was unaware of. It was just so fun!
At animal kingdom, because we were wearing our "I'm Celebrating!" buttons, a cast member asked us about the story behind them and then got so excited about our friendship story, we got our picture taken, for a stories-thing the cast members share between themselves, and were given a free giant "friendship" Mickey cookie! It was such a magical experience and I can't wait for the next time we get to hang out together.
We had so many fun moments, at Hollywood Studios we got to ride Toy Story Mania 3 times in a row! Got to meet Moana and get our pictures taken using "the force" and shared a meal at my ultimate favorite restaurant in the entire world: The Sci-Fi Dinner πŸ’œ                                           Magic Kingdom was where we first met, but since my mom and I weren't feeling great after a quick trip to Tomorrowland we had to leave. On Ann's last day at the parks however, I caught up with her and Steve to enjoy our last few hours together as much as possible. My mom couldn't join us that night and the rain seemed to want to keep me and Ann apart since they were trapped going from ride to ride in Adventureland while I was stuck on Main Street. I eventually found them and we got to meet Aladdin and Jasmin, go on a few rides, have our own merry unbirthday party spinning the mad tea cups and have dinner together before saying goodbye at the main gate after getting our last friendship picture taken in front of the Mickey flowers.
"I've Decided We Should Be Pencils" Tank Top by Jordandene
I'm really grateful I got to meet Ann in person, and can't wait to see her again. Hanging out with her made my visit back home extra special. I started missing her the day after she left and not only do I wish we could live closer to each other but now I also want to meet other great friends I've only met through letters!
After Ann and Steve left the next biggest highlight was attending the first ever Epcot Festival of Arts which was a lot of fun. It's similar to the Flower and Garden Fest but with art, there's food shaped like art, different chalk paintings on the "streets" of the World showcase, a mural all guest can be a part of painting, concerts, and a figment art scavenger hunt which was the most fun for me! At the end if you completed it you got a magnet of figment as one famous painting.

Overall a very different experience from what we have planned but so good and so necessary. After all like they say you have to be full of expectancy but never of expectations. Planning is never that great, taking it one day at a time is the way to go, we got lots of rest so we could have our health back for the road trip back home, had the most amazing few days with one of my besties and we were there at the right time for my new favorite Epcot festival. It was perfect despite life being lifeπŸ˜‰
<3 p="">                                                                                                                                                                        ✵For more pictures and random trip details from my traveling bear's perspective you can follow their insta account. If you scroll down enough you'll see the trip day to day. If you scroll down to Xmas in Manhattan you've gone too far 😜

Thursday, May 4, 2017

January Trip Recap (Part 2)

Second Installment on my adventures! This one is all about my Eatern-Caribbean cruise πŸ˜ƒ

From Dec 31 to January 7 my mom and I were on board the Disney Fantasy. To be completely honest this is my least favorite Disney ship, but still a Disney ship and any of them is better than pretty much any other cruise ship out there hehe.
We had the best last day of 2016 chilling by the pool, riding the water coaster (the Aqua Duck) and overall just enjoying ourselves on deck. Minus the bits when we were also trying to get the last bits of cell phone reception to wish our loved ones a happy new year, which was a mess because of everyone's time zone differences and the afore motioned distractions 😜. At night we had dinner and as usual a massive deck party to ring in the new year topped with fire works at sea. It was so fun! Even if incredibly packed and we didn’t get as good a view of the stage or the fireworks as we did back in 2013 but no complains! If you’re not at the Magic Kingdom to receive the year covered in Pixie Dust, a Disney Cruise is definitely second best! 

January 1st and 2nd were days at sea (but at least we’re talking about 2017 now!) Which one would assume are nothing but relaxing, but in general cruises have so much happening on a daily basis, and Disney cruises much more so, that sea days are usually a mad dash to catch as many possible activities and shows and explore all the magical details of the giant ship in just those few "off" days.

As Gold Castaway Members we even got a special "mixer" with Captain Mickey to attend first thing Jan 1st!

The third day brought us to the British Virgin Islands and we visited Tortola. This was a new island for me which is awesome, I love that feeling of visiting a new place for the very first time! I am so blessed and do not ever take it for granted, but I was a bit disappointed on the island or rather on the services. As it is to be expected the landscape is the same as the US Virgin Islands, which is amazing!😍 No complains on that department but the service and friendliness of the people leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to other islands in the area. One lady even wanted me to go fetch her the ingredients she left away from the kitchen while preparing my smoothie! Also the cleanliness of the non-natural areas isn’t as spotless as one would want and expect in a paradise island πŸ˜• 
It was super fun though, especially going to Pusser’s landing to enjoy the Caribbean vibes and watch pelicans chill on yachts, then walking to the “souvenir market” and getting to watch lots of tiny, fluffy baby chicks trying to escape, climb on or burry themselves under their mom haha. 
That night after all the port fun we had the Pirates in the Caribbean party, which is super fun. Everyone dresses up in their best buccaneer getups and there are character’s dressed up in their pirate’s best all over the ship and there is a deck party/show before dinner, then themed dinner and later at night Pirate’s club, which is a different mini show before having it be an open air night club that includes more fireworks at sea, making Disney cruises extra special. No one else can have fireworks at sea, let alone two shows in one weekπŸ˜ƒ

On January 4th we visited both St. John and St. Thomas. Since we had already visited these islands a few times before, I decided to put photography as my priority versus adventure. Big mistake! I mean yeah the views are amazing! But the way our tours were scheduled we had free time but not enough to go swim with seals or dolphinsπŸ™ And as I realized way too late, on the way to all the fun animal encounters you also get some picture stops...So this was a live and learn situation. As it was, we ended up going on a super fun ferry boat to St. John where we got beyond soaked after 10 minutes, explored St. John’s ancient sugar mill and high island points as well as their newer areas and then we headed back to St. Thomas for lunch and to just enjoy the bits of island and shopping areas closer to the port.

Next time I’m going back to Ocean World or something similar so I can have more exciting stories to tell hehe 😜

January 5th was our last full day at sea which we finally took more for relaxing this time. We enjoyed ourselves by just going to a couple shows, playing mini golf on deck and having more pool time before the semi-formal dinner.
Next day our port adventure was Disney’s private Island, Castaway Cay
This is usually my utmost favorite island in the Caribbean, there are so many things to do and enjoy, there's never enough time to have all the adventures and enjoy every hidden scenic gem, but some changes seem to be happening that not everything I remember was operational, and to my iggle dismay the post office closed early, way before I could get my special stamps! 😒
There was still enough adventure to go around and we started the day on the island parasailing. This was my second time trying it and therefore the experience was less nerve- wracking than three years ago, sadly it was booked solid and they didn’t offer repeats or single rides this time, but it was super fun for me and totally relaxing for my mom lol. After returning to land we were supposed to go snorkeling but mom had gotten sick the day before and as the day’s temperatures increased she started feeling worst. We hadn’t noticed it before but apparently a bug was making the rounds in the ship and some stresses we had over this week depleted our immune systems. My mom waited for me to snorkel on my own, but without a grown up to make sure I didn’t drift off to open sea or drown I was to stressed to enjoy it. Also, the floaty bag I got my iPhone worked great outside of the water but not under, it wouldn’t recognize my finger on the screen so it didn’t focus on the fish, which were also much harder to see than in Hawaii. So I ended up out of the ocean after only about 30 mins just in time to find my mom ready to return to the ship😞
I stayed behind with the plan to just take some pictures around the island, shop for some island-exclusive goodies and head back on board early. This is when the real adventure began…
For some reason while asking a cast member at the shops where the best vistas around the main area were, he didn’t seem to know and a lady overheard us and decided to give me directions for the look-out tower. My mom and I had heard about it the night before but she told me it was inaccessible unless you took a bike, I do not know how to ride a bike so it was out of the question. I told this to the random lady and she said from where we were it was close by on foot and sent me around a not very traveled loop. I ended up getting lost in the 5K loop, where no cast members patrol, hardly any visitors ever go by and if they do is on bike! So because of bogus directions I ended up making the 5K loop and then some, carrying shopping bags and camera equipment, completely on my own, under the 90 degree sun with no water and wearing water-shoes not made for walking!! There was hardly any one I could ask for help and those I did see were unable or unwilling to help! By the time I made it back to the main areas I ended up in the grown up beach which is super boring and isolated and full of drunk people so I had to wait for a tram to come get me as the one that saw me approach left me anyway! I’m sure in the future this will be a very funny story of my misadventures but I still get annoyed. I was so exhausted and dehydrated when I made it back to the ship! For a while there I was even worried of not making it to the all aboard time, my phone had no reception and I had not brought the sea phone with me to let anyone know I was in a marshy area of the island! 
The day ended with me passing out for a while before dinner and then having to go to the last dinner alone with my bear since my mom was still not feeling well.
I know it happens, but don’t you kinda hate it when life happens while you're on vacation? LOL

Overall this was the least super-amazing Disney cruise in general. There were definitely lessons in tolerance and letting go at every moment. Lots of buttons got pushed with the staff not meeting Disney standards of service, not speaking English when visiting only English speaking Islands in an American ship! Lack of vegan options which we had never had a problem with before, super rude, loud and intrusive guests, Disney’s weird allowance of so much alcohol everywhere which is pretty new and leads to obnoxious and inappropriate drunk people…the couple of misadventures and of course my mom getting sick… But as I always say, if I don’t travel it I don’t learn it lol. My biggest lessons usually happen while traveling. And I don’t think I truly managed to learn these lessons, they still got me pretty peeved so at least I know where to focus on my growth so things like these don’t repeat and we get to enjoy our next cruise as much as we have every other Disney one!

*For more pictures and random trip details from my traveling bear's perspective you can follow their insta account. If you scroll down enough you'll see the trip day to day. If you scroll down to Xmas in Manhattan you've gone too far 😜