Enjoy the Small Blessings in Life (like Birthday Freebies!)

“The best things in life are free.”

“Nothing in life is free.”

These are two very different statements and both have significant ramifications for how and what we choose to pursue in life. Maybe it is possible that both carry truth and are worthy of intellectual pursuit. Well, we will save that for another day because today is my birthday and over the last nine years I have discovered that in fact some things in life are free (or basically free), especially on your birthday. Those things are called birthday freebies! And, as I am learning more and more to appreciate even the smallest blessings in life, I am proudly here to accept what has become one of my annual birthday blessings.

What are birthday freebies? Oh, I never thought you would ask. Well, they are free items or products that businesses offer to you every year on your birthday. In some cases, it comes in the form of a discount or credit.

How do you get these freebies? It differs by company; however, it is simply by signing up for an account with that company and providing your birth date. Once your birthday approaches, you will typically receive a “happy birthday” email with access to your free item or discount. Simple as that.

My journey to learning to accept these little birthday freebies is quite hilarious in retrospect. I was so resistant to accepting something so small, thoughtful, and FREE. I was introduced to the world of birthday freebies nine years ago by my boyfriend. For the first few years, I thought he was absolutely nuts for going around collecting all these freebies (now, here I am writing this blog post to tell you to go collect on your freebies). On his first birthday together, I was ready to make a BIG impression. You know, like show my love by purchasing some thoughtful gifts and going out to a nice restaurant big. Well, we definitely planned something nice that included food and a live event, but he also insisted that at some point around his birthday we go grab his freebies. So there we were, hopping in and out of the car in the weeks surrounding his birthday collecting his “gifts” at the places offering the best birthday deals.

At that time, I only knew about the Sephora birthday gift because I love them and no one rejects free makeup and samples from Sephora. So I would gladly accompany him to pick up his Sephora freebie because I knew he would give it to me since he could not use it. I would tag along and partake in the items he wanted to share but this did not mean I would become the freebie convert when my birthday rolled around. I guess subconsciously I felt like people might think I was a cheapskate, broke, or desperate. How ridiculous, right? It really is not that deep. Honestly, if someone gave me a gift card to a store or restaurant, I would happily accept it and head right on over at some point to spend the money. In this case, what is the difference? The store is basically giving me a gift card!

When it came to freebies, I guess he took the “best things in life are free” approach and I most definitely started out taking the “nothing in life is free” perspective.

My resistant in the beginning went a little something like this…

  • I am not going to give out my email to fifty thousands companies. They just want your personal information and there is already too much personal information out there.
  • I don’t have time for twenty thousand spam and sale emails a day. I already get too many junk emails.
  • I don’t have time to run all over town chasing freebies. If I want something that bad, I will buy it for myself.
  • I am not interested in that particular freebie or item.

And his rebuttals always included something like this…

  • Exactly. Your information is already out there. Just use a different email address than your main one if you are that concerned. You have like three email addresses anyway.
  • You do not have to collect them all. You only pick up what you want. You are not obligated to go get them.
  • What is the difference between a birthday freebie and when someone gives you a gift card?
  • Pay attention to the expiration dates. You can collect most throughout the entire month. You do not have to get everything at one time.
  • Everyone loves a good deal.

As the years rolled by, I started to discover the specific freebies I actually enjoyed and began looking forward to going to get my “gifts.” Look, the older you get, the less gifts you receive. This is like Christmas in February to me. Now, when my birthday rolls around, I begin checking my emails, starring the freebies, cross-referencing my list with his, making a plan of what I want to collect, and then the fun begins.

Some of my friends and family think I’m crazy just like I once thought he was. Listen, we work so hard and life can be stressful at times. If the universe wants to give me tons of small presents and discounts, I will happily and proudly receive these tiny blessings just for being born.

Some things in life are free, like birthday freebies. So, as my gift to you for your birthday, here is a list of some of my favorite freebies to enjoy during my birthday month. Happy birthday in advance!

Comment down below! What other great birthday freebies should I check out? What are the tiny blessings in life that make you happy?

Run At Your Own Pace

Dear Self,

When will you really start listening to me? You have more inside of you than you ever acknowledge or embrace! I hope today showed you a valuable life lesson — focus more on running YOUR best race at your own pace. Yes, you used to be able to run 4 to 5 miles everyday but that was 10 years ago when you were in high competition shape. You let life, work, and other things like metabolism and stress bring you to this point. (Ladies and gentleman, it is true…. 2 miles is now a STRUGGLE for this girl. She is not in the competitive or even physical shape that she used to be. In her mind, she thinks that she can get back to that point and knows that she can. However, one thing that she stumbles through sometimes is inconsistency and poor prioritization of self care. If she can finally pass that self-imposed hurdle then she will reach this goal. So far, she has been doing great).

When you first set out in your mind to run 3 miles without stopping today, I said “it’s about time that you get back at it.” But, I was nervous for you because this is not the first time you made this goal in the last year. You’ve started before with a image of ten years ago in your mind. Then, the burn in those legs starts about 0.5 miles in and you hear those voices of doubt telling you to just walk for a few seconds before getting back at it.

There was something different about today. You threw your headphones on and hit the road just as you did in the past. But this time, you said “even if I have to jog at the slowest pace of life, I will not stop” until this Nike Running App say “you have reached your goal.” I know that was a hard decision because you wondered how many people walking and running would wonder why you were running as fast as you could just as well speed walk. I saw you wondering who was looking at you and running past you but you stuck to the game plan. Although you were fighting the thoughts, I know you were worried that someone you know would see you struggling along with your little steps as you ran along the beach.

Oddly enough, with each step something physical and mental re-energized within you. You were finding yourself again because you finally embraced your strength, momentary weakness, and personal pace. What I loved about you today is that you were ready to embrace where you are today! I’ve been trying to tell you this for a while now — where you start is not where you will end. Instead of spending so much time trying to figure out the end (which is impossible to know with certainty), why don’t you continue doing what you did today — focus on learning to embrace the process!

Today, you zoned in, you took a first step (for the likely the 100th time) and you ran slowly, very slowly, at times even embarrassingly slowly. HOWEVER, you completed your goal! You ran 3 miles without stopping once and managed to do it with a huge smile on your face and in your heart. Tomorrow, you will be strong enough to pick up the pace. Then, a year from now you will be even stronger than that. You will never get to your ultimate goal if you don’t complete the process. You will find new determination to never quit once you fully understand that repeated small successes will someday equal big wins.

Life is a race, but you already know this. Don’t spend too much time trying to overanalyze the run. Just run at whatever speed you can push yourself toward today. Some days will be a series of sprints while others will feel like a long endurance training session. The next steps for you are to continue to listen to your life. Learn when you are supposed to sprint and when it is time to regroup and slow things down. Confidently stay in your own lane and focus on your own form and breathing. Your race was designed for YOU. No one else can run it and you cannot run someone else’s journey. Looking to the left and right, worrying about who is passing you and who might catch up are only distractions.

Embrace your own journey. Feel the burn and adjust; don’t feel the burn and quit. You were never meant to run someone else’s race. You were meant to master your own. As the Nike Running App’s Coach Bennett said, “finishing my best doesn’t have to mean finishing first.”

#dearself is a series of blog posts written to my past, present, or future self. To follow the #dearself series, join our email list or follow The Life Me Blog on Facebook and Twitter @thelifemeblog 

Happiness is a Choice Not a Chase 

Dear Self,

Are you happy? You have asked yourself this question so many times throughout your life. Whenever people asked you where you envisioned your life in the future, your answer always included that you wanted “to be happy.” If someone asked you right now where you want to be 5, 10, or 20 years from now, “being happy” would definitely make the list. Sure, it’s a common goal. Then again, who would not want to be happy in this life?

I am OK with you leaving happiness on your list of goals as long as you promise me to remember one important principle — happiness is just as much a choice as it is a chase. There were so many times when you didn’t feel happy. It was sad for me to watch you become increasingly frustrated with not “feeling” happy because happiness is just that — a feeling.

The “feeling” came and went and the other feeling called blah came and went too. I cannot even tell you how many hours, days, weeks, and even months you spent trying to figure out what would make you happy. At times you looked like a deflated happy birthday balloon struggling to hold on to helium. You smiled and wished that people could not detect how frustrated or unhappy you were, but I know you and I knew better.

Yet, look at you now. Time taught you what me and life were trying to teach you all along — happiness is a choice not a chase. Even more, I was trying to show you that happiness is external and joy is something you find within. You were quite hardheaded at times, but you slowly started to learn that you could bring happiness into your life instead of waiting for it to come knocking on your door.  Please do me a favor. Do not go back to being a semi stress hoarder. I am going to need you to eliminate the joy killers in your life one by one.  Do not think for one second that you are going to just coast through life and stumble upon happiness. You are going to need to work at this thing! Even fairytales are not that smooth sailing.

By the way, can I just say one thing before I move on? Child, thank goodness you learned to stop equating people and things to your happiness! You were killing me with that emotional rollercoaster. Ugh! I’m sorry but I had to get that one out. Oh, and another thing… we secretly had a party when you discovered that happiness is not something you need to earn! I’m not sure how you developed that warped thinking. We put that thinking through the lie detector test and it determined that whoever told you that is indeed a liar.

So, now back to business. Your joy is what is going to endure when you have less than you hoped for. You do understand that life may become somewhat unpredictable, right? Well, it will be your choice to continue stamping your life with the hashtag #goodvibesonly.  Yes, good vibes only! Learn to breathe and give your mind a break from ruminating on things that stress, worry, or deplete your happiness. Not just once, but whenever your mind needs it. Breathe baby, breathe.

Honestly, I’m proud of your growth. You’ve moved from chasing happiness to choosing happiness. Now, the goal is to learn to maintain your inner joy among all the different demands of life. Overall, I think you are going to crush this goal. All you need to do is remember some of the things that help you stay in control of your joy.


  1. Organize and plan your day as much as a possible. Take control of the things you can and plan for success. This will allow you to make time for things that bring you happiness or at least help you to minimize your stress levels.
  2. Check your stress! Minimize it as much as you can.
  3. Be more conscious of the things that go well versus everything that may go wrong.
  4. Take a few moments to be thankful for both the small and big things in your life.
  5. Let it go. Don’t dwell on the negative for too long. Allow yourself time to mope and then move on. Tomorrow is a new day and this too shall pass.
  6. Be happy for someone else. Happiness is contagious 🙂
  7. Feed your happiness jar. Listen, read, explore, and surround yourself with things/people that inspire and motivate you.
  8. Practice self-care.
  9. Exercise, meditate, and pray.
  10. Be patient and don’t expect perfection; it’s not realistic.

If you can choosing happiness and find that joy inside, I can almost promise you that happiness will keep choosing you.

Dear Reader, how do YOU continue to choose happiness everyday? Comment below! 

#dearself is a series of blog posts written to my past, present, or future self. To follow the #dearself series, join our email list or follow The Life Me Blog on Facebook and Twitter @thelifemeblog 

Read another blog post on Happiness: 10 Steps to Finding Happiness

5 Reasons Finding Inner Peace Is So Important To Your Success

Once upon a time, two people — my mom and dad — decided to have a baby. I had no choice in the matter, or at least that’s what I believed. For those philosophical and spiritual believers out there, I know that you are yelling at the screen right now. “God sent you here for a reason. You have a purpose for being here.” You are right and I believe that. I agree that my life on this planet matters to this world in ways both great and small. I guess the hardest part of life is not necessarily in being born, rather it is in trying to live.

There are so many pressures, messages, challenges, stressors, choices, and factors around us which make living a prosperous, happy, successful, and purposeful life a true journey. The journey is filled with ups and downs, peaks and valleys, highs and lows, and lots of tears and laughter. In the end, it all creates a beautiful story — a mosaic, a masterpiece. However, here is where the choice becomes our own. What colors are we going to paint our masterpiece with — vibrant shades of bright, colorful experiences and joys, or black and white shades of regret, fear, and deprivation?

I have found myself on a journey to answer this very question over the last few years of my life. While life has been quite good overall, I wonder what other colors I still have inside me to paint with. I spent time thinking about some reasons that might prevent me from shining as brightly as it can.

Finding and maintaining your inner peace is something you will have to put energy toward for the rest of your life. However, you will not be able to live this life successfully without it. Find your inner peace, then go paint your life masterpiece.

One thing is certain — the life journey of discoveries, successes, and personal empowerment requires possession and sustainability of a strong sense of inner peace. I’ve always believed that having a strong sense of confidence was the first step to truly pursuing insurmountable goals. From personal experience, I’ve found that finding a sense of inner peace is the best friend of confidence. These two co-conspirators — confidence and inner peace — will empower you to embrace life with fervor, direction, purpose, and perseverance.

Here are five reasons why finding inner peace is so important to your life’s journey:

1. Overcoming and embracing your past.

There are inevitably going to be some areas of your past that you wish you could travel back in time to change. Well, it’s NEVER going to happen. All the mistakes, happy times, losses, challenges, characteristics, and situations are what they are. We really only have two choices: be overcome with trying to change something we will never be able to or try to learn from the past and move forward. In this sense, we have to learn to accept the things we cannot change from our pasts. Inner peace will enable us to say, “I cannot change what has happened in my past, but I can control what might happen in my future.” The challenge is to allow your past to inform your present, but not to prevent yourself from being controlled by your past. Inner peace allows you to accept the positive (strength and courage) your past has developed within you while empowering you to release the guilt and anxiety associated with things that might have been different.

2. Accepting what you have right now.

This point builds off the importance of overcoming and embracing your past. Once you’ve accepted and come to peace with your past, you will likely complete an inventory of where you currently are bodily, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. This part of the process takes courage, strength, and honesty because it can send you back to square one of questioning your past. Finding inner peace in this area will allow you to complete an honest inventory about where you are now without destroying your self-image in the process. Inner peace in this area allows you to say, “I may not have everything I want, but I have everything I need within me to create my life masterpiece.” We already have the strength and power within us to become powerful beings. However, it takes effort in order to discover and believe this about ourselves.

3. Embracing your uniqueness.

Being different can feel like the greatest blessing and the greatest curse at different times of life. We are all encouraged to be different and unique, but at the same time, the world is sending us messages that there are standards and norms which we should strive to emulate, match, and live by. It’s important to learn from others around us, but the true test is to become who we are meant to be (not a carbon copy of someone else). Embracing your differences may take a lifetime, but it’s necessary to truly live the fullest life that was created for YOU. Finding inner peace allows us to begin the process of embracing our differences and seeing them as a part of our personal story.

4. Facing challenges and opposition.

Everything takes work, life included. For the most part, life comes with some basic instructions, but not with the complete dummy proof guide. There will be challenges. Those challenges will rattle us. Stress is inevitable. People will sometimes grind your gears.  In the same breath, I can say that life is both easy and difficult. In the complexity of life, it will be imperative to find a place of peace that you can return to for reassurance, relaxation, stability, and recharging. When life feels overwhelming, you will need an anchor — a place of faith. Even when life is going well, you will still need a place of inner peace to sustain you. How do you find inner peace? How do you protect the peace within your life?

I would love to share my tips on how I am finding inner peace. Be sure to let me know if that’s something you would like me to share! Comment below or message me on Facebook or Twitter!

5. Discovering your purpose and setting goals.

Good fighters right relaxed. When I watch UFC on television with my lovely man, I am always roaring on about how this fighter or that fighter is not “intense” enough. He always has to remind me that being intense before a fight is not necessarily a good thing. They are supposed to fight focused, yet relaxed and in control. What a great life lesson! Life is the ultimate fight. In order to continually discover our purpose and achieve our goals, we will have to fight for it — mostly against our inner thoughts, fears, and our perceived personal limitations. Finding our purpose and pursuing it will require a strong foundation of inner peace. Pursuing our goals will also require a strong foundation of inner peace, confidence, acceptance, and strength.

Finding and maintaining your inner peace is something you will have to put energy toward for the rest of your life. However, you will not be able to live this life successfully without it. Find your inner peace, then go paint your life masterpiece.

Life Me: a mindset, a declaration, a movement.

If you would like me to share my personal journey to finding inner peace, leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook or Twitter!

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Success: Perfection or Productivity?

Have you ever wondered how someone with more responsibilities or demands is able to achieve more of their goals than you do? No, they are not perfect, alien, or some breed of human meets robot. Simply, they are probably just more highly productive and efficient than you. 

Now, if only we could be as perfect as they are then our lives would be better and we would be happy, right? That’s hard to say. So, let’s talk about this.

According to Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries, perfection is defined as

  • “having no mistakes or flaws”
  • “completely correct or accurate”
  • “having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.”
  • “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be”
  • “free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless”

Is perfection really attainable? And what exactly does perfection look like for me? These questions are complicated in the basic sense that we may all inevitably have different definitions of perfection. To further complicate the matter, shouldn’t we be looking at what “perfect” is for us based on our goals, dreams, values, and convictions, and not at what perfection looks like in other people? Well, this is exactly what make this all an on-going challenge.

Ultimately, we are all striving for some form of perfection. Although we logically know that (1) no one person is perfect and that (2) perfection is fleeting and hard to maintain, we still have this idea of perfection planted somewhere in our heads. The idea alone is not the problem. Rather, the problem lies in what happens to us emotionally when we recognize that we are not presently perfect and may never achieve perfection.

I really don’t know who sold us this dream of perfection because it definitely wasn’t the Disney films we watched as a child.  Even those characters experienced some kind of problems along the way! The movie endings were always perfect for them, but never what they envisioned when they started out. In life, we make these long lists that embody the full vision and wish lists of perfection. They assume the idea that if we can find or discover everything on our lists then life will be complete, happy, or whole. For most of us, happiness is connected to being as close to perfection as possible. However, success is rarely perfect and the road to success is not perfection either.

For the sake of discussion, let’s just hypothetically consider that we have achieved perfection. Yay! Pat yourself on the back! Well, not for too long because as we grow, change, and learn, our personal definition of perfection will change. It is like a never ending race that can become overwhelming, stressful, discouraging, depressing, and anxiety-producing.

However, there is hope!

Recently, I have been contemplating what my emotional and mental idea of perfection looks like. There’s going to be a lot going on in my life and I will not be already to plan for or guarantee perfection.

In the past I would get down on myself when I would make long goal and to-do list only to not get everything done. Thankfully, my Life Me mindset kicked in and I now have a great list of life hacks, edits, and simple changes which have enabled me to get more of the things done that I want and need to get done! Yet, it is still not perfection. However, before these hacks I would really feel emotionally defeated at the fact that I was not accomplishing everything, everyday, in every month as I wanted to for reasons both within and outside of my control (Let me know if you’d like me to share those tips. Just leave a comment below or message me on Facebook or Twitter). 

For the moment, I’m focusing on how to be as highly productive and efficient with my days as possible as opposed to having a “perfect” day. For me, productivity and efficiency is my new idea of perfection—a slight adjustment that has made the world of mental and emotional difference for me.

Through some time of planning and reflection, I figured it out! My mindset needed a shift if I planned on climbing the mountain of success effectively. So for the moment, I’m focusing on how to be as highly productive and efficient with my days as possible as opposed to having a “perfect” day.

For me, productivity and efficiency is my new idea of perfection—a slight adjustment that has made the world of mental and emotional difference. It has re-framed how I feel about my days, the intention in which I attack each day, and how I focus on things throughout my day. It has resulted in me actually accomplishing more in each new day than I thought I could. I now ask myself…

  1. What will productivity look like today?
  2. What do I need to get accomplished?
  3. What can I do/change to be more productive?

The goals haven’t changed; however, the approach has. If you adopt this mindset just know that there will be things that cannot be controlled completely through a pre-planned list and vision for the day. There are constantly things, such as work, family, friends, life, people, biological factors (sleep, health, nutrition), and weather, that either add to our daily “productivity list” or interfere with our ability to completely focus on the things we have set as priorities. But, that’s OK. If and when these matters arise, we can quickly recalculate how to handle them by determining when and how handling them would be the most efficiently and effective way possible. Some matters can wait, sometimes you can give yourself permission to say no, and other times, you might need to shift something to quickly handle life’s interruption.

Accepting that everyday will never be perfect is the first step to being more productive and happy. If I am being highly productive, using my time effectively, and placing optimal focus on the steps that bring me closer to my goals, then I am having the perfect day. That makes me extremely happy!

Some are still holding out hope that a magical unicorn will fall from the sky and reveal the secret to perpetual perfection. Until that happens, we can all strive to be as close as we can to achieving highly productive days. Before you know it each day will add up and you will look up to see that you’ve almost accomplished your goal(s)!

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Am I being productive?
  2. Am I doing things that bring me closer to my goals or am I doing things that pull me away from my goal?
  3. Am I focused on the things that I should be focused on?
  4. Am I wasting time on things that are not necessary?
  5. Am I spending too much time on things or people that will not increase my chances of achieving the vision of life I want to live?

Remember, success comes one deliberate step at a time and one productive day at a time.

And remember, productive days include time to manage stress and take care of your health — a healthy body and mind increases productivity!

Discussion: Talk to me! 😁

What are some ways you stay focused on your goals? What are some tips and tricks you use to stay productive? How do you protect your productivity? Please share below or come chat with me on Facebook and Twitter!

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Have a Life Question, Need Perspective, or have a Discussion Topic? Ask me @ http://wp.me/P31EeG-hg

Photo Credit: _dChris



My First Trip to Las Vegas: Is It Worth the Hype?

After returning from my first trip to Las Vegas, I was tasked with answering the usual post-vacation question– “how was it?” People who have never been to Las Vegas were secretly curious about whether I would divulge my “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” stories. Just how wild and crazy did this little lady right here get in Vegas? They didn’t have to come right out and say it, but I know they secretly wanted to know.

On the other hand, my other friends that previously visited Vegas were more curious about how I digested everything the infamous city had to offer. Well, for everyone wondering how my first trip to Las Vegas went, or for any other Las Vegas virgins out there that may have lived a slightly sheltered life like me, fasten your seat belts as we enter my version of wild and crazy– more like “obeying the speed limit”– edition to Vegas.

But, don’t worry! Although I didn’t personally live on the wild side, I got a solid understanding of where the wild side begins and ends in Vegas. Simply, here are my thoughts about Las Vegas:

There is something in Vegas for everyone — the old, young, boring, wild, mellow, sheltered, and daredevils, respectively. Vegas is what you choose to make it. If you want wild and crazy, there’s a place for you. If you want relaxed and chill, then there’s a place for you too! Let’s just say that I saw entire families with kids, the elderly, and everyone in between enjoying parts of The Strip. Like I said, there’s a place for everyone.

Overall, after sorting out my feelings, the pros, and the cons, I can definitely say I will be back!

Oh Las Vegas, you are very different, but I like you a lot.

Here are some more details and pictures from my trip. Enjoy!

Lights, lights, lights: To be expected, The Strip was grand, bright, and full of food options, fashion, entertainment, people, characters, and lots of bright lights. If I’m being totally honest, I should admit that I was very underwhelmed in my first hour in Vegas. I checked into the hotel around 7:30pm from the backside, right behind The Strip. I was expecting to see more people, more madness, more… I don’t know, but it just wasn’t what I expected. The area just seemed like any other city.  I couldn’t wrap my head around the hype in the first hour. But then again, I had not yet hit The Strip. I could see the bright lights from my hotel but it seemed surprisingly normal from where I stood. The Mr. had traveled to Vegas numerous times, so he kept reassuring me to  “wait until we get to The Strip.” What was lying right outside the front of the hotel started to sound exciting. So, ?I let go of the early judgement and decided to give The Strip a chance to woo me. Once we walked onto The Strip, it slowly started to make more sense…

Everything is bigger, brighter, and louder in Vegas. As I walked along The Strip slowly taking in the first night, there was so much to see that I couldn’t capture it all. As I tried to reconcile my preconceptions with the reality of Vegas, I spent most of my first night feeling out The Strip and determining whether we would make a good fit.


Behind the lights and inside the resorts and malls were just as ornate and grand views as presented on the outside. It’s a game of who can do it bigger and better, and I liked it. For example, all images below were taken INSIDE buildings. Yes, even the gondola ride and what looks like a statue beneath a blue sky!  (hover over the image for exact locations).

Freedom of Alcohol: Did you know that Nevada allows open containers, cocktails, and “refreshments” in specific areas on The Strip in Las Vegas? Also, did you know that the casinos serve free unlimited drinks (small tip per drink if you wish) as you sit and gamble? [Note: Always check for updates to local guidelines before your travel!] Well, I definitely had no idea! And this my friends is one reason why I say Vegas is what you make it. If you want to walk around drinking 24 hours of the day, in the shower, on the street, in restaurants, and even in your bed, you can. If you’re a more occasional drinker like myself, there’s a place for you too.

Casinos everywhere, obviously: There are casinos and smaller places to gamble everywhere– in most hotels, the airport, smaller establishments. Everywhere! This should be obvious, right? Then again, it’s Vegas!  This is the second reason why I say Vegas is what you make it. However, you had better have a good idea of what you are willing to gamble and LOSE in Vegas or else you may find yourself crying on a curb because you “lost it all!” Rule of thumb: Don’t gamble what you can’t afford to lose. Personally, I had fun on the penny slots and the machine version of Craps– which I taught myself laying in bed on the second morning there. Call me boring but I wasn’t willing to risk too much money, if any at all. Overall, I did pretty well on Craps! 🙂

The only thing I wasn’t quite prepared for in the casinos was the cigarette smoke. I’ve become accustomed to living in Boston with quite strict laws on where people can/cannot smoke — mostly not in buildings. Well, all casinos that I visited allowed indoor smoking. Luckily the ceilings are very high and there is pretty good ventilation so it doesn’t linger on your clothes when you leave! However, if someone chooses to sit at a machine next to you and light one up, there is nothing you can say to the person. If I don’t go back to Vegas, this would be the one small factor to blame. I had tons of fun in the casinos, but I don’t want to die from second-hand smoke. If you are a smoker, Vegas is your heaven.  I guess I will have to not become too paranoid about the health of my lungs if I want to spend my days winning big bucks in the casinos!

Dress comfortably, especially in the daytime: I was a little worried about how to dress before arriving. My perception of Vegas was filled with images gathered from celebrity social media feeds, reality shows, movies, and the various bachelor/bachelorette party photos posted on my friends’ social media feeds. One thing I knew for sure was I didn’t feel like wearing party dresses and heels all day every day! Thank God for the Mr and other friends telling me to pack some cute comfortable outfits. Why? Well, (1) The Strip is every long, (2) most places require you to walk, (3) the hotels are so large you will inevitably need to walk a lot within the resort, and (4) sometimes you just want to be comfortable! Unless you are going to a particular event, party, club, restaurant, or you simply prefer the high fashion life, do not feel obligated to dress up in your best party outfit every day. I kept it casual in the day and only dressed up based on which restaurant or lounge I was going to at night. Since we went in late February, the weather was not even close to peak heat-wave summer temperatures. It was about 73-74 degrees in day and 55-60 degrees in the evenings– too hot for long sleeves in the day and too cold for short-sleeves in the evening. There were awkward shifts of temperature, but I made it work.

Daylight Time is Just as Fun: Vegas definitely comes to life at night. When I went to bed at 1am/2am Vegas time (4am/5am back home), Vegas was still very, very, very alive! I felt like an old grandma going to bed that early, but we can thank jet-lag for that. Personally, I love seeing new things and enjoying the beauty of a city, so daytime walks and adventures are just as appealing to me as romantic nightly dinners.

I thought Vegas would be dead in the day, but I was absolutely wrong! I must say I loved daytime and nighttime Vegas equally as much.

The Food is Amazing, everywhere: The good thing about having a lot of businesses competing with one another is that close competition makes everyone put their best foot forward! There were many different food options at every price range on The Strip. If you want fast-food chains, you got it. If you want to pig out at a buffet, there’s a home for you. If you want average priced food from a restaurant, bar, or lounge, you better not suffer from indecision. And finally, if you want to go all out on a upscale fancy restaurant, there’s plenty of options. Vegas understands that people like to drink and will also need to eat to sober up! With that said, food options are available 24/7.

In addition, most hotels will give you a credit to cover breakfast so that you only have to worry about lunch, snacks, dinner, and drinks. I don’t want to bore you with the food porn pictures from all the places I ate, but I must shout out one amazing meal that I had at Ruth’s Chris– a very upscale establishment worth every penny! The steak alone ranks at the top of the list for best meals ever eaten at any restaurant in my life! Post Ruth’s Chris, we grabbed cupcakes from Sprinkles– also one of the best cupcakes I’ve had in my life.

The smoke in the casinos could keep me from returning to Las Vegas, but the amazing food might offset the risk of second-hand smoke. Hmm, dilemma– die early or die happy?

Deals: As soon as you hit the hotels on or off The Strip, people are trying to lure you with a deal, discount, and entertainment of all sorts. As soon as I entered the hotel, I saw slots, tables, lights, and then boom– a lovely welcoming committee. I thought it was the hotel check-in staff, but I was mistaken. It was a friendly group trying to get me to go to a time-share presentation at one of the neighboring properties. Feeling duped, I initially declined and found my way to check-in. Despite the initial annoyance, there were many great deals available. From shows to food to gambling to cocktails and adventures, there were lots of discounts and deals everywhere.

One weird things that caught me off guard were the people in the streets clicking small flyers at me. About every 100 steps, someone would click a flyer at the people walking by. On it was a picture of a naked girl or exotic dancer and the location of places you can go to enjoy the X-rated landscapes. I personally declined, but I’m sure one of you out there might want to walk on the wild side.

You might meet/see the range of random to the famous on one street: I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Steve Wynn– CEO of Wynn Resorts Unlimited (developer of Wynn Properties, the Mirage, Bellagio, Treasure Island, Encore, and more)– and his wife Andrea for about 30 minutes on our second night in Vegas. It was such a wonderful and inspiring conversation! I am sure if I went to more of the top clubs in Vegas I might have run into some other popular celebrities, but clubs are not my style and I am not a fan girl.

There were other famous figures randomly sprinkled throughout The Strip — Iron Man, Superman, Walter White from Breaking Bad, and many more. Only issue is that all the latter were normal people dressed up like characters who want to charge you for taking a picture with them. If odd characters aren’t weird enough, the homeless people on The Strip will be very alarming. I actually witnessed a homeless man steal some items from the front of a Walgreens and run out being chased by the store’s staff. It reminded me that everything that glitters is not gold. Beneath the hype, wealth, success, and fame hides many people in our communities that need serious help and hope.

Summary: Overall, my perception of Vegas before the trip matched only 25% of what I actually discovered during my first trip. I know there was probably a lot of drugs, high-roller gambling, violence, and lots of “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” rendezvouses and sex happening right before my blinded eyes. But like I said, Vegas is what you make of it.  One thing I know about myself is that I love happy adventures but I don’t like wild and crazy. By the end of the trip, Vegas and I figured out how to co-exist. As stated earlier…

Oh Las Vegas, you are very different, but I like you a lot.

P.S. When I return, I would love to visit Downtown and old Las Vegas and the Fremont Street Experience. I’ve heard that both are just as exciting as The Strip!

Until next time…

Have you visited Las Vegas? What were your thoughts? What places should I check out if I go back?

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Why Focusing In Life is So Hard

You want to know why it’s so hard to focus on your own life and ride your own wavelength of zen? Well, I re-discovered the answer today. Wait for it… Wait for it…

It’s because everyone around you is so DARN LOUD!

The Setting

I wrote this post yesterday during a fit of frustration on the plane to a hopefully calming vacation in Las Vegas while attempting to read My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel amidst the cackles and clangor of inebriated passengers as they become new found airline besties.

The Story (and Lesson):

Listen, I’m all for freedom of friendliness, libation, and acquaintance; but by golly, do they have to be so LOUD? Then again this is a country built on freedom of speech, so who am I to tell the new found besties to sacrifice their hyperactive happiness for my peace and serenity. I mentally rummaged through all the fine print I read inside the safety manual. There was a lot of reassuring information about oxygen masks, life vests, safety devices, and “in the event of an emergency” situations, but nothing about being courteous to your neighbors. But wait, isn’t this an emergency? Am I not being forced to sacrifice my page-turning enjoyment to listen to the loudest passengers that have ever flown on a plane, ever? Doesn’t that warrant some kind of rescuing?

With no way to politely ask these chatty birds to pipe down, I decided to make something of this experience and share the lessons this noise has forced me to tackle. What else am I supposed to do? Do you want me to risk a confrontation, get booted off the plane, and possibly get arrested because I had to defend myself against one of these tipsy passengers when they try to punch my lights out? No! I am saying no to violence and that’s my final answer, for now. Instead, I will take a deep breath and patiently hoped for some desperately annoyed passenger to do what I don’t have the gumption to do — ask them to shut up! Oops, I mean to “please, if you would be so kind, might you quiet down a bit?”

As I become more and more frustrated by each screech and shout, the feeling inside reminds me of moments in my life when I’ve felt trapped, frustrated, limited, and a victim of other people inserting noise into my rather happy place. Those were times when I found it most difficult to focus on my journey. Right now, I would do anything to be able to go into my own head and turn up the selective attention dial to “I can’t hear you” mode but nothing is a match for the voices of Godzilla. The more I think about ways I can tune these various conversations out is the more anxious and tense I am becoming. Under other circumstances I would have reveled in the opportunity to eavesdrop on the fascinating conversations around me. Honestly, they are discussing interesting interpretations of life. The two new buddies behind me are shifting in and out of intellectual conversations about love, relationships, passion, religion, happiness, spirituality, God, and new places to experience once we reached our destination. Our other friends across the isle are adding to the noise with topics including food, TV shows, etc. The problem isn’t them per se — well maybe it is because there is no need to shout at the top of your lungs if someone is sitting right next to you– but it is more the fact that I am not in the mood to listen to their stories at this volume at this moment. I want to read my book during this flight and then reflect on life.

Though quite terrifying– if you really think too hard about it– there’s something quite calming and spiritual about flying. The views, the perspective, and the fact that my life is in the hands of complete strangers surrounded by complete strangers for hours while thousands of feet above the ground is both unsettling and kind of magical. That is until turbulence hits and I am reminded that death could be imminent. Oddly, I am sure that fewer planes have crashed from turbulence than during take off or landing, but I could be wrong. Anyone know? Well, just as a wrote this paragraph I can report that I am entering the first phase of a full on panic attack, so let’s change the subject back to the chatterboxes behind me.

As I said before, in my mind this plane ride included a specific plan for my time– me, God, reflection, and a book, not writing a blog post about my frustration with the noise. I’m sure I would have found “the best method for tuning out deafening voices” in the book about anxiety but I was only able to get to page 32 before the voices of Godzilla destroyed my focus. Still annoyed but determined, I am deciding to start talking to myself — in a healthy way. “You’re stronger than this. Don’t let them distract you. You had a goal in mind, so stick to it!” Typically I would be completely oblivious to the loud mouths around me as they are drowned out by my music or a movie. However, I forgot my headphones this time! Thankfully my other-better-equal half is always thinking ahead and he brought an extra pair. Nonetheless, I didn’t planned on plugging my ears with noise-cancelling headphones; I planned on having an intellectually stimulating experience with my books. As you can surmise by now, their volume has reached the decibel that would interrupt even the most focused person’s brain frequencies! So, I am taking the headphones, but it is still not working.

I am asking myself over and over, “Why is it so hard to just focus? Why can’t you just push through? Is it really that hard to tune them out or are you just being petty?” Feeling defeated, I am reminded of the times in my life when I felt overwhelmed by the noise around me — times I’ve been focused on something in my life and then every voice begins playing in my head (again, not in the DSM-5 diagnosis kind of way). They are the times in which all the negative, positive, confused, logical, irrational, intellectual, and analytical voices/thoughts tell me how to be confident, worried, certain, and fearless all in the same frequency. Ay dios mios! As my mind is shifting to those moments when I’ve asked the same question –“Why is it so hard to just focus?” — I am beginning to recognize a parallel between my focus, life, and the challenge of tuning out noise. I am not sure I really want to confront it, but here goes. Simply realized, the more voices and noise in my head– including my own at times– is the more difficult it is for me to focus on my own life and my own journey.

Some noises are louder than others — fear, other people’s opinions, opposing viewpoints, societal and family expectations, cultural norms, and internal self-talk. At times, it can just be too loud, too confusing, too opposing, too headache producing, and too tiring to combat. Although annoyed at my clangorous neighbors, I am happy that I had the chance to look myself in the mirror and confront factors that at times make it hard for me to focus. Although a critical exercise, confronting these factors one time on a plane is not going make me a master at tuning out the loudest noises in my life. It is going to require mental maturity and mental martial arts!

Today, I am reminded that I have a lot more work to do. It would be great to block out the noise by creating a magical force-field around my head, but I’m sure that would not prevent me from concocting some ridiculous thinking within my own head.

Today, I have learned two things:

  1. I now understand why people invest in quality noise-cancelling headphones,
  2. no matter how noise cancelling the headphones, it’s much harder to cancel out the noise that exist — or you allow to exist — inside your own head, and
  3. be ready to listen and adapt when life speaks.

The good news is that this lesson has made me more of a noise-cancelling ninja and our neighbors alcohol consumption has finally caught up to them! The four amigos are quietly resting. Maybe now I can get back to focusing on my book or at least enjoying the remaining moments of this amazing view in peace and quiet.

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Get Lost (Every Once in a While…)

“Beep. Beep!” The church vans pulls up and I know for sure that if one particular person is driving the van that week, we were in for an adventure. Working on a weekly rotation, each driver offered a variety of excitement each week. Whether it was leaving a church member because they were taking too long to come out of their house or knocking off side mirrors of cars parked along narrow streets, each week was an experience. However, looking back on those times one person’s interesting driving taught me more about life than I ever realized until now.

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a moving-away party for two very special people at my childhood church. Besides the million questions people asked about where I’ve been and what I’m up to now, it was a lovely event. I knew in advance there was going to be a “tribute” portion of the event, so of course I felt like I had to prepare to say something to this amazing couple (that has happened to know me since birth). Do you know how hard it is to capture everything you want to say about people you’ve known your entire life in TWO MINUTES!? Yes, we only had two minutes because the organizers of the event wanted to prevent a luncheon from turning into an all-night open mic night from 150 people. And to no one’s surprise, everyone spoke way past two minutes. But I digress.

As I thought about all the memories I had of this amazing couple — which are many — the church van rides stuck out when it came to David; it perfectly captures who he is. After riding in the van every week for years, I felt like I knew how to get to everyone’s house and how to drive despite having never set foot behind the wheel. If my 13 year old self ever needed to advise the grown-ups on directions, I was your girl. However, whenever David drove I was lost, confused, slightly scared, and very intrigued.

Confusing turns and back road adventures painted the majority of David’s weekly drive. Yet, somehow we always managed to efficiently and quickly reach the next destination. To avoid lights, get to the next destination with as little traffic as possible, he would take these back roads that my inexperienced mind never knew of. Turn after turn after turn, I was convinced we were lost and going to make it to church way past on-time. Whenever I felt we had taken too my turns to possibly be heading in the right direction, I either whispered to someone or publicly questioned — “are we lost?” David’s response ranged from “no” to “not quite,” but there was never a “yes.” As if he had branded a map of the city in his head, we would some how magically appear at our next destination. We never got lost… (that he every admitted)!

At some point as I got older I finally asked him how he knew all those back-roads. His answer: he learned them by joy-riding through the city and intentionally traveling down roads to see where they would lead. He would get lost but soon find that he would emerge onto a street that was familiar and could lead him back home. It was a sort of deliberate attempt to explore, get lost, and discover new things before finding his way again. What a risk!

Being older now, I recognize the strong link between his success, his faith, and his fearlessness — three essential factors of life. He was never afraid to get lost because, despite which way he turned, he had a strong confidence that he was never truly lost. Such a profound lesson and thought: (1) Be willing to get lost; you never know what successes, shortcuts, and opportunity you will find around the corner. (2) Don’t panic if you find yourself on an unknown street; the worst that can happen is you retrace your steps, ask for directions, or keep going until you see a sign of familiarity.

Reminiscing about these excursions made me think about the degree of faith and fearlessness he had to possess in order get to discover and remember these back roads. We have to ask ourselves — What’s out there waiting to be explored? Why are we so afraid to go off script? There’s something to be said about what he did — he explored when he had time and when “I wonder if I go down this road…” came to his mind. Thinking about his faith and fearlessness made me wonder — What if I take more time to get lost? What will I find?

I recalled the many times I was driving home from an event or store and thought “I wonder what’s down this street…” Overtime, I’ve discovered beautiful parks, neighborhoods, stores, restaurants, lakes, and shortcuts by  willingly getting lost every once in a while.

Most recently, getting lost helped me discover something beautiful and peaceful near my new apartment…


I arrived extremely early for the apartment showing and parked across from the building. Slightly bored and curious, I decided to see what the neighborhood had to over. To my surprised I stumbled across a private beach, the ocean, and close proximity to other wonderful places to explore. Honestly, the apartment alone didn’t sell me, but the neighborhood, water, views, and places to explore did. It taught me to trust God, life, and to never be afraid to explore; you don’t know what is around the corner, literally.

This probably is very underwhelming to you. Water. What’s the big deal? Well, I love to walk by water, see water (particularly the a beach or the ocean), and sit by water. There is just something very calming about watching the waves, wondering about the life that lives beneath, and enjoying a sunset reflecting off the subtle waves. It’s peaceful and makes me wonder about life, God, balance, and physical and mental relaxation.



Now if I can only do a better job of applying this to my goals and dreams; I wonder what I will find…

Related Posts:

On the Other Side of Fear

GPS: Shut Up And Fly

Picture Perfect Puzzle Pieces

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