Why Birthdays Are Difficult for Creatives

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In just three days, I will be celebrating my 28th birthday. Despite all I have to be thankful for, I still find myself creeping into the birthday blues every year around April 26th. I find myself consumed with thoughts of “have I reached my maximum potential?” or “what more could I be doing?” So I’ve spent the past few weeks leading up to my birthday deeply immersing myself into activities to make me feel better about the fact that I’m not exactly where I want to be just yet. Birthdays are normally a cause for reflection and celebration but they can be difficult for the creative mind. Research shows that birthdays can cause disappointment and dissatisfaction due to not achieving expected accomplishments from the previous year. The deep reflection that particularly goes through the mind of creatives can make them wish they had done more to achieve their goals for the year.
This year I decided to make a conscious effort to combat my birthday blues using these tips:

1. Talk nice to yourself

The words you speak over yourself have power. Do not criticize yourself for what you have yet to achieve but praise yourself for what you have already accomplished. Look in the mirror and say something nice about what you see.

2. Confront your negative feelings

While you shouldn’t talk down to yourself, it is okay to acknowledge the feelings you have and why you’re feeling that way. Give yourself space to mourn over what you felt you could have done better but don’t dwell in it. Once you’ve addressed and made peace with those feelings, move forward in a more positive mindset.

3. Manage your expectations

Don’t let your expectations control you. Remember the journey that it took to get you to where you are. Reflect on how far you’ve come over the years. Realize that where you’re at now was once a goal. Let your thoughts be a motivating force that drives you to achieve more of your goals for next year.

4. Spend your birthday with the ones you love

Spending your birthday with your people you love doing an activity you love is a great way to cope with birthday depression. It also serves as a reminder of all the people who continue to root for you and your success.

Conclusion…

Creatives should avoid using their birthday as a measuring tool for success but as a celebration of life and progression. Time is one of the most valuable assets to a creative. Therefore, every day you wake up alive is not only more time but another opportunity to take a step or a leap towards reaching your goals.

Traveling for Cheap: Seeing the World with GroupOn

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I recently saw a tweet that stated, “Traveling is not cheap and everyone online on who says so is lying”. I saw many responses in agreement saying that traveling is a luxury to only those who can afford it. I can agree that traveling CAN be extremely expensive. However, it does not have to be. Travel deals through GroupOn can make traveling affordable for those even on the tightest of budgets.

After spending thousands of dollars on our wedding back in November, my husband and I did not want to break the bank for our honeymoon but still wanted it to be very special. We decided to book our honeymoon through GroupOn because we saw an unbelievable deal to go to Athens and Santorini, Greece for 7 days; all for the low price of $2500. This price included our international flights to Greece, bus transfers to and from the airport, flight transfers from Athens to Santorini, hotel stay in both cities, a sunset cruise in Santorini, a tour guide, and breakfast everyday. My husband was a little apprehensive at first to booking through GroupOn. Although I never traveled through GroupOn internationally, I have used it for hotel stays stateside. We decided to just take a leap of faith and book the trip voucher, which used the agency Affordable World. Here are our list of Pros and Cons from booking our international trip through GroupOn:

Pros:

1. Price

For what we received, we thought that $2500 was an incredible deal. Flights alone to Greece were $1700 roundtrip for both us, when we tried to book the trip to Greece without GroupOn.

2. There was practically no planning needed.

The trip comes with a fully printed itinerary that was given to us upon arrival. All the tour locations, bus/flights arrival and departure times, and hotel information were on the itinerary, which made the trip very straightforward. There  was no need to plan how we would get from point A to point B, which took a lot of stress off us. The tours highlighted key sightseeing landmarks, which made planning practically unnecessary.

3. Great for first time travelers

Because the trip comes with an English-speaking tour guide, it makes it very easy for first time travelers to a foreign country. The tour guide did not leave us until we reached security. They made sure we were all able to check-in.

Cons:

1. You may not get the exact dates you want

We ended up booking our honeymoon one week after our wedding because that was the closest date available to when we actually wanted to travel.

2. You must read the fine print

Thankfully, we did read the fine print and recognized that the standard price of $2300 didn’t include a flight transfer from Athens to Santorini but a Ferry transfer, which had an 8hour travel time. We were able to upgrade to the flight transfers for our new total of $2500. However, some of our fellow travelers in our group were not as lucky. They ended up purchasing flights same day rather than spending an entire day on the ferry returning to Athens.

3. You may have to do some research

You may have to do some on the exact locations of the hotels in reference to the city center and the sights. Our Athens hotel was beautiful but it was farther away from the city center. If we knew I’m advance, we might have chosen to purchase the upgraded hotel, which was right in the mix of all the city activities.

Conclusion    

Overall, my experience through GroupOn and Affordable World was a great one. I would definitely book again for another international trip. Most of the Cons did not affect us because we were flexible in our travel date and read every little thing in the fine prints. If you are looking to see the world inexpensively, I would recommend booking GroupOn for your next get-a-way!

I Dream of WE: You, Me & My Student Loans

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On November 4th 2018, my husband and I said “I do” to a lifetime together. Three months in and we are still beginning the process of merging our lives into one, from car insurance policies to retirement beneficiaries. When you add student loans into the mix, things can become…well complicated. Thankfully, my husband came into the marriage with no debt. However, my student loan debt luggage totals to approximately $60,000. Although, your spouse does not have a legal responsibility to pay back your student loans. Having debt can affect your marriage and can hold you back financially. Here are some of my tips for handling student loans as a couple.

  1. Look at the Numbers

How much debt are you bringing in exactly? Write it down and show it to your spouse. My training as a nurse has always taught me to assess the situation first. The principle is the same for figuring out a repayment plan for student loan debt. Rewinding back even further, it is okay to ask this question while seriously dating someone. If you are considering marriage, you’ll need to tackle finances together, which includes debt.

  1. Be Understanding

Student Loan debt isn’t a luxury. It isn’t the result of going out to buy a fancy car or racking up thousands of credit card debt. It was a ticket to an education that was otherwise unavailable to you without the loan. Be understanding in your conversation about student loan debt with your spouse and do not judge them for their decisions. They did what was best for them at that time.

  1. Sacrifice

While attempting to repay student loans, sacrifices will need to be made. Decide on what you are willing to sacrifice. We decided financial freedom was more important than buying a house right away. We decided that we would have to sacrifice our travels and limit ourselves to one vacation for the year. We decided that eating out needs to become more of a luxury and to limit it.

  1. Create A Plan Together

Student loans can affect your marriage. Even if only one person is paying them, that is money that could have otherwise been used to build wealth in the marriage. Our plan is holding off on buying a home, making bi-weekly payments, starting with the smallest loans and with the highest interest rates.  Although every couple handles finances differently, however you decide to do it…you must have a plan that you create together.

 

 

I Dream of WE: Priorities, Keeping Love on Top

57D66C54-93DE-43D7-BC8F-143E986F317DOn November 26th, I started a new position as the new Nurse-in-Charge (NIC) of the Ambulatory Surgery Department (ASD) and Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). This position would mean a nice pay increase (amazing right?!). However, it also meant more responsibility and longer hours. I’ve spent the majority of my more recent years in nursing working part-time. Nursing is a career where shifts and time off is never guaranteed. Therefore, I worked part-time for more flexibility in my schedule. Just over one month into the position, I am finding myself less patient and increasingly exhausted. As a newlywed, I now have to manage becoming a “boss” as well as having a happy home life. I see how easy it is to say “I’m too tired to….”. So to others who are also striving to make their marriage a priority, here are a few things that I have learned:

  1. I Miss You Like Everyday…

My husband and I have a shared google calendar that keeps us updated with what each other is doing. I schedule my work times and my on-call times into the calendar so that he always knows when I’m free. Therefore, if he suggests a date night or a weekend getaway, it alleviates me always saying…no I’m working that day or no I’m on call (which can be really frustrating being on the receiving end of that after a while). Technology can be great in that way. Also, it helps to send flirty text messages throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be long or in depth. However, receiving an “I miss you” or “I’m thinking about you” from my husband during the busy days as work keeps me going and feeling connected while we’re apart.

 

  1. Say No, No, No, No

The desire to make more money and save more money makes it easy to pack on the hours. My husband had to remind me that sometimes time is greater than money. Sometimes I have to say no to that extra shift when asked. For him, sometimes it means saying no to the XBOX live party, so he can spend time with me for a couple hours when I get home from work.

 

  1. Always Stay Gracious

Because of my vigorous work schedule, my husband often has to step in and take care of things while I’m working. Thankfully his work schedule has flexibility and allows him to do so. Whether it is trip to the grocery store or fixing something I didn’t have a chance to get to, he always seems to get things done when I’m not around. I realized how important it is to not take that for granted and to say thank you for all he does.

 

  1. Crazy in Love

This may have been the hardest thing for me learn because it doesn’t come naturally to me. Growing up in a Haitian household, where blatant displays of affection wasn’t something I was used to seeing, has made me prone to shy away from affection as well. Being crazy in love and outwardly affectionate was something I had to learn to feed one of my husband’s primary love languages.

 

  1. A Perfect Duet

I probably will never be an Xbox gamer and my husband will probably never join a book club. One thing my husband and I both share is our love for music. After church on Saturdays, we’ll spend an hour or two just playing music together, with me on the piano and him on the drums. It became something we could look forward to every week. We also like to challenge each other to a game of Wordament. Although I continue to crush him in every round (don’t tell him I said this!), it gives us an opportunity to do something together and regularly when time is limited.

I haven’t figured it all out yet. I’m still learning to balance work and keeping love on top. However, I’ve realized that every new day is an opportunity to start over and create a love that lasts until the end of time!

I Dream of We: The Honeymoon is OVER!

IMG_9603My husband and I returned from our honeymoon in Greece just in time for Thanksgiving. Most people envision the honeymoon as the newlywed couple flying off to an exotic country, exploring and catching sunrays. It was my idea to honeymoon in Greece so I was more than excited. We traveled to Athens, the capital and visited Santorini, an island off the coast of Greece. I expected to fill ourselves to the brim with a variety of delicious Greek food and be amazed by the breath taking views of the country. I expected tons of sightseeing and romance. What I did not expect was to learn…

While in Santorini, my husband and I wanted to explore the island. Unlike Athens, taxis were not readily available. Although the bus system was commonly used, the schedule was in Greek and we couldn’t understand it. My husband suggested renting an ATV or a Moped for traveling around the island. The cautious and the nurse side of me said to myself “that this doesn’t seem like the greatest idea”. The roads of Santorini were narrow and hilly, with no barriers to the cliffs and the Aegean Sea below. It was definitely NOT something I would decide to do on my own. I was actually surprised of how fearful I was.

During our search for a rental shop, we found a place that rented UTV’s, which had the same open feel of an ATV but has two seats. When the salesperson told us how much it would be to rent, my husband was ready to say never mind and leave. It was pricey and he wasn’t sure if I really felt comfortable enough to do it. I knew he would say no if I wasn’t comfortable. So I encouraged him to just live in the moment and let’s do it. I believe that this was my first marital test. As we drove along the cliff side in an open vehicle, I reflected on why this experience was so important. It taught me to support and encourage him when he feels unsure. It taught me to trust him even though it scares me.

Although I know everyday we wont be driving along the cliffs, I realize that much of life will be filled with uncertainty. There will be moments when my husband feels unsure in his leading decision and will look to me for encouragement. I realize that there will be times where I need to trust the strength that God has placed in him. We truly had the time of our lives in Greece and I’ll cherish the memories for a lifetime. Even more so, I will cherish the lessons learned.

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I Dream of We: I’m Not Ready for Marriage

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As most of you know I moved back to Maryland and started a new job this past August. During my first couple of weeks at the job, I was sent an email to sign up for the Employee Rewards Program. I was excited to see all of the free stuff and discounts I qualified for! I clicked the link in the email only to be redirected to the employee education site about phishing and email scams! It was a test and I fell for it! This was the same way I felt only weeks after getting engaged. Getting married was a scam and I fell for it!

Society paints marriage as some magical happy loving thing. Weddings have become massive parties with through the roof costs. It’s easy to get bated into it without really being ready. While you may never be “ready”, some early realizations can give you a better understanding of what you are walking into. These were some of the things I wasn’t prepared for:

Exposed

Marriage doesn’t change anything it only amplifies what’s already there. When I got engaged, I was not prepared to come face to face with my flaws. A book called Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, says “What marriage has done for me is hold up a mirror to my sin…” I had to take a good look into the depths of my selfishness. This was the hardest part. You have to make a decision to either continue being that way and suffer or grow. I chose growth, which is a journey that I continue on every day.

Service

When you are single, you look for someone who can bring something to the table. What can he do for me? Are his finances in order? Does he have a good job? Once he’s made it through this vetting process, we often still have a mindset of what can he do for me. I realized during my engagement that marriage has more to do with me finding ways to serve my future husband better, rather than him serving me. So I had to transform my mentality from what he can do for me to what can I do for him?

Forgiveness

If you struggle to forgive, don’t get married! Well, at least consider seeing a counselor or other professional to work on forgiveness. The best relationships require a lot of it! I wasn’t prepared for the amount of forgiveness that my relationship would require even for the little things. I also realized that forgiveness is a process that begins with the choice to forgive.

Love

I still believe in love. My fiancé and I have a great love story that’s too long to tell for the purposes of this blog. People get married for many reasons but the foundation of my reasoning will always be love. However, love is also glamourized. The process of becoming one with my fiancé has made me realize that love most of the time isn’t a feeling…it’s a choice. I’ll never forget that one time my fiancé and I were having a heated discussion about something in the car on our way home (which I can’t even remember what it was about!) We were both frustrated. He passes the turn for my house and I figured he was distracted from the discussion. I said to him sharply, “Did you mean to pass my street?”. He looked at me and said, “yes I’m going to go put gas in your car so you don’t have to worry about it in the morning” My heart melted because even though we were disagreeing and he was frustrated with me. He chose to love instead! He didn’t need me to show HIM love either to give ME love. Why is that? Our #1 source of love will always be God’s love exclusively. Only Christ can make us happy. Because Christ loved us, we can love others. My fulfillment from love doesn’t come from my fiancé but comes from being loved by God. Even when he showers me in it, it just feels like an extra added bonus! So to be married ultimately, you need to have an understanding that above all you are loved by God. When I got engaged, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. This process has not only helped me grow closer to my future husband but to Christ as well.

Cinnamon Apple Pie Overnight Oats

With just two weeks left before my wedding, I have even more motivation to lose a stubborn 5lbs. When I’m trying to lose weight, oatmeal is always my go to because of how filling it is. I fell in love with overnight oats because as a nurse I needed food thats quick and portable. Overnight oats can be prepared the night before and its ready to go when I am in the morning.

Photo by Andrew & Carrie Purcell.

Here is my recipe for my favorite type of overnight oats:

  • 1/3 Cup of Rolled Oats or Old-fashioned oat
  • 1/3 Cup of Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • ½ Cup of Non-fat Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • Dash of Nutmeg
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • ½ Small Apple Diced

There are so many variations to overnight oats but this one is truly  my favorite! To create this dish, layer the uncooked oats, almond milk, Greek yogurt, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and apples in a mason jar or your cutest bowl. Pop it in the fridge for the night and take it out in the morning. You can sub the apples for your favorite fruit like pineapple, cherries, or blueberries. You add peanut butter or chia seeds. You can even add peanut butter and sub the apples for banana. So many to choose from! Rotate the overnight oats with other fruits for variety. Make five at a time for a quick on the go breakfast for girl boss!

The Restaurant Series: B52

71F2183A-9318-4683-9EAE-46617DAEF525After watching “What the Health” documentary on Netflix. I made the decision to significantly decrease the amount of dairy products I consume. I wouldn’t call myself vegan but I do like to enjoy an occasional vegan meal. I’ve been vegetarian for almost 10 years now. On my tour of vegan restaurants in Pittsburgh, I found myself at B52, which is located in the Upper Lawrenceville area. There is usually street parking within walking distance. Initially when I looked up the restaurant, I found the website unimpressive. It redirects you to facebook and grubhub to even look at the menu, which I found odd. However, I decided to give it a try anyhow and I was glad I did! Their “mezzes” or appetizers include a variety of delicious dips served with fresh warm pita bread that leaves you wanting more. The Seitan Shwarma Sandwich and the Spicy Kofta Tofu Sandwich are some of the best vegan sandwiches I’ve ever had. With a simple cost of $9 for a sandwich, the restaurant is quite affordable for vegan food. Their carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, which was their dessert of the day, was big enough to share. They also have a chocolate list which is just enough sweet after a filling meal. The downside to B52 is that there is limited and tight seating. However if you have a chance to go during non-peak times, it is definitely worth the trip. Happy Eating!

Taco Tuesday : The Veggie Street Taco

The Veggie Street Taco Recipe 

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Ingredients:
2 corn tortillas (80 cal each)
3T Asiago cheese (or your favorite cheese!)
2T Black Sean Salsa
1/2c red potatoes
1t olive oil
2T guac
2/3 Cup chopped onion, pepper, zucchini, & squash medley

Preparation:
This is the perfect veggie taco for your Taco Tuesday Fix! Coat a non-stick frying pan with Olive Oil cooking spray. Sauté chopped onion, pepper, zucchini, & squash medley for 2-3 minutes. Add red potatoes, olive oil, and garlic salt for flavor. Sauté for a few more minutes until everything looks golden brown. Set the veggies aside and put the corn tortillas in the pan. Sprinkle half the asiago cheese on each tortilla. Warm until shells are soft and the cheese is melted. Serve the tacos layered with veggies and potatoes, salsa, then guacamole.

Tips:
-Precook potatoes for a quicker and easier sautéing
-Add your favorite protein for a more filling taco.
-Enjoy with a side of apples for dessert.

Happy Eating! 

 

The Restaurant Series: Another Broken Egg

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This weekend I visited Huntsville, Alabama for my Alma Mater’s Alumni Weekend. Many know that Huntsville is known as the Rocket City. However, what most people don’t know is that Huntsville is filled with many great restaurants. So of course while I was in town I took the time to visit one of my favorites, Another Broken Egg. This restaurant is a Brunch spot, with most of the locations having hours from 07:00 am – 2:00 pm and are somewhere in the South/West Coast.

My fiance and I dined in on Easter Sunday, which is usually a busy time for most Brunch locations. There was about a 35 minute wait for a table. Luckily, they had games such as Corn Hole set up outside, which made the wait seem very quick. We ordered the New Orleans inspired Beignets for an appetizer, which was a sweet start to our meals. They also come in half-orders which is great for those who fill up easily on appetizers. I decided on the Huevos Rancheros for my meal, which was delicious. Although I went with coffee for my drink of choice, there is also a full bar for those who prefer mimosas or bloody mary’s.

One of my favorite things about Another Broken Egg is the antique-inspired china. The atmosphere is a Sunday afternoon at grandmas vibe. Overall, my rating would be an 8.5/10. They would have had a perfect score however, the tortilla shells were a bit difficult to cut into. Usually, they are fresh, light, and crunchy. All in all, Another Broken Egg has multiple other tasty items, including the Cinnamon Roll French Toast and Eggs Benedict. They are also vegetarian friendly, which gives a women like me much to choose from!

Rating: 8.5/10