Monday, November 6, 2017

Monthly Mantra 2017: November

I've been distant from this blog in the recent months (hell, the last year really) because I've come up short on what to write, what to say, and just overall inspiration to post anything.  I don't even know if anyone still reads this blog or follows my updates, or even really gives a shit about what I post - and that's okay.

When this blog first started picking up momentum a few years ago, I was obsessed with it.  I put my heart into writing posts, coming up with ideas, hosting giveaways, connecting with other people, and actively participating in the blog world.  Since Instagram and Snapchat became popular, the blogging community has turned into something entirely different.  We don't read as many blogs, write as many posts, or comment as much as we used to before.  People seem to prefer imagery over written words and I have given up on trying to keep up, let alone compete.

I've been working on so much in my life lately that I neglected to even write a post at all last month and that's just the way life is sometimes.  I do want to keep this blog active and I do want to continue writing posts, if only to document little snippets of my life and books I've read or poems I've written.  I don't have high hopes of being a professional blogger or collaborating with big brands anymore because it's not my passion but I will continue to write posts when the whim hits me.  Until then, follow your passion.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Real American by Julie Lythcott-Haims

I received a free copy of Real American: A Memoir in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

To be published by Henry Holt & Co. on October 3, 2017

Lythcott-Haims (How to Raise an Adult) has written a bold, impassioned memoir that explores the emotional and cultural divide imposed by American racism on people of mixed race. Born in 1967 to an African-American father and a white British mother, she was proud that her parents “broke the rules” despite the racial sneers and ridicule she experienced growing up in Palisades, N.Y., and Madison, Wis. However, the steadfast support of her loving mother and of her father, an accomplished physician appointed by President Carter as assistant surgeon general in 1977, couldn’t prepare the insecure, mixed-race teen for navigating a white world (“I don’t think of you as Black. I think of you as normal,” says one high school friend while the two were watching Gone with the Wind). Upon graduating from Stanford University (she would serve as dean of freshmen there years later), Lythcott-Haims married a white Jewish man and gave birth to “quadroon children,” which further complicated her quest for self-understanding. Later, she became empowered through her determination not to let hate define her or the lives of her children. Riveting and deeply felt, Lythcott-Haims’s memoir sheds fresh light on race and discrimination in American society.

This book appealed to me because...

I've read Ms. Lythcott-Haims' previous book, How to Raise an Adult, and learned so much from her about how parenting styles have changed over the years and how it affects child development.  So when I heard she was coming out with a memoir, I was so intrigued because she is such an accomplished and intelligent woman.

Upon reading it...

This book is a memoir by the author, who tells her story of growing up as a black woman in America.  Each chapter talks about different periods of her life and how she grew up in mostly white neighborhoods all her life and was ashamed at being black and having a white mother and black father, who tried too hard to make her accept herself.

I truly loved the way the book was written and I found myself getting lost within the pages of the memoir.  Constantly going back to mark pages and sections that resonated with me.  Though I am not black, Ms. Lythcott-Haims writes of feelings and doubts that any person who has ever felt like an outsider can understand and connect with.

She not only explains racism as it appears on the outside, but also how it feels to have to carry that extra burden of being different around all her life.  I cannot even imagine what it would be like to have to explain to my children about what to do if they ever get pulled over by the police, because since their skin is different everything they do is suspicious.  What kind of a world is this!?  Where people have to talk to their children about the possible dangers of the people who are supposed to be protecting them?

This book talks about the truth that we cannot understand.  I am glad to have read it and I have learned so much from it that I never knew before.  With everything going on with the world now, this is one of those books that will help us build a better future.  To make us better Americans.


"There's love at first sight.  There's American at first sight.  And from dozens of "where are you from" interactions with Americans over the years, I've learned that American at first sight is about looks - primarily skin color and hair texture - not nationality."


"These newly emboldened "Real Americans" issue angry orders to the rest of us: "If you don't like it, go back to where you came from."

There is no back to where I came from.

You stole my homeland from me.
Me from my homeland, I mean.
I don't even know where it is.


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Monthly Mantra 2017: September

August was such a productive month for me.  After years and years of having this dream of owning my own company and designing my own swimwear line, I've finally done it.  Well, I'm not officially licensed and launched yet, but I got started on putting in the work to make it happen.  I've created some sample products already and will begin punching out more inventory this month to do a full collection launch toward the end of October.  I'll be posting more about it here eventually, but maybe not until after I launch.  If you want, you can follow the IG page:  @halia.and.jade for updates and to see what styles I've got so far.

Also, I'm doing this all on my own right now and using my own money to purchase supplies little by little in order to build up my inventory and collection, so if you'd like to donate and support me, it would mean so much:

Friday, September 1, 2017

Books Lately: August '17

This month has been a pretty decent one for reading.  Much better than July, where I didn't finish a book at all, but still not my best month.  I've been spending most of my nights working on my side project this month (will post about all that next week) instead of reading so I wasn't able to get through as many books as I would have liked.  I'm currently in the beginning of another book and will try to read more this month, but no promises.  Anyway, here's what I read:

Feminine Genius, by LiYana Silver
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:
"What would happen if we took all the energy we spend self-bashing, self-improving, and chasing impossible standards and instead channel it into our true passions? HuffPost and Forbes writer LiYana Silver teaches how getting to know, listen, respect, and work with your body will lead you down an enlightened, powerful path to tapping into your deepest wisdom—for work, relationships, parenting, and every aspect of living. Through exercises, self-assessments, and journaling, readers learn how their “masculine” strengths are overused and how to embrace their sexuality in a way that radiantly balances their masculine and feminine strengths in order to achieve enormous effectiveness and fulfillment in life."

I'm all about Feminism, girl power, and self-love so this book intrigued me.  The first couple chapters were good but then I started to lose interest.  The author talks a lot about her life and how she found her "Feminine Genius" but it gets a little confusing when she throws in her client's stories along with hers.  And even without the client's stories, I feel like she's more than one woman because she talks about all these different experiences (standing in a river in Sedona, vacationing in Mexico, dinner party in New York, etc.) that just turned me off a bit.  The message of the book as a whole was great but wasn't really as empowering for me as I thought it would be.  Maybe it's because I started reading it and then put it away for a month before reading it again?  I'm not sure.  It was okay, just not my favorite read this month.

The Play of Death, by Oliver Potzsch

Description from Amazon:
"It is 1670 and Simon Fronwieser is in the town of Oberammergau to bring his seven-year-old son to boarding school. As he bids his boy a tearful farewell, news comes of a shocking murder: the man who was to play the part of Christ in the town’s Passion Play has been found dead, nailed to the set’s cross. As there is no doctor in town, Simon is brought in to examine the body. The chance to spend more time with his son and to investigate the murder quickly convince him to stay.

Soon he is joined by his father-in-law, Jakob Kuisl, the Schongau hangman, and the two begin piecing together the puzzle of the actor’s death. Was he murdered by a jealous rival? Are the recently arrived and unpopular immigrant workers somehow involved? Or is it a punishment from God for the villagers’ arrogance in trying to schedule the play four years earlier than prescribed by ancient custom? Once again, it looks like it is up to the Kuisls to unravel the mystery and bring a town’s dark secrets to light." 

I've been in love with The Hangman's Daughter series since the first book back in 2011 and I loved this one just as much as the others.  If you're a fan of history and mystery, you MUST read these books.  Oliver Potzsch does such an amazing job at telling a truly believable story that it's hard to discern the truth from the fiction.  There are so many different twists and turns in his stories to keep you guessing who the killers are until the very end which makes it so hard to put down!

Basic Witches, by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:
"Tap your inner sorceress and channel the magical arts with this bewitching lifestyle guide. Need to exorcise a toxic friendship? Say the right symbolic curse and banish it from your life. Want to enhance your attractiveness? Pick the right power eye-shadow color and project otherworldly glamour. Interested in boosting your self-confidence? Whip up a tasty herbal “potion” to strengthen your resolve. All that plus historical and pop culture sidebars that situate today’s witchcraft trend within a broader context. With humor, heart, and a hip modern sensibility, this charming guide dispenses witchy wisdom for the curious, the cynical, and anyone who could use a magical boost to get through the day"

This was a cute, quick read. I enjoyed the illustrations throughout and the fun, girl-power vibes I was getting while reading it.  I wouldn't particularly purchase this book for myself right now, but I could see myself purchasing it when I was in my late teens/early adulthood.  The "spells" throughout were cute and though not really magical, they seemed like a fun way to meditate and focus on or shift focus from certain issues.  All in all, not something I would particularly read for myself, but definitely something I would gift to a niece.

Real American, by Julie Lythcott-Haims

See tomorrow's post for my full review of this book.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

LoveBug Probiotics: The Unboxing & First 2 Weeks

I was contacted by a rep from LoveBug Probiotics last month to try out a few of their products.  Not really understanding what probiotics were at the time, I took a crash course in Probiotic 101 via the articles on their website, and decided to try it out.  I already knew that my digestive system was out of whack so I figured, why not?

I received three different probiotic formulas:  Here's the Skinny (for general health), Yeast is a Beast (for women's health), and Colds Suck (for an immunity boost).  They also have formulas for babies, kids, and pre/post pregnancy.

Unboxing Thoughts:
- Blue box is so cute!
- Love that the bottles are separated and not just thrown in with some packing paper.
- The typography and font of the labels make it easier for me to tell the difference between the formulas.
- Glass bottles are a nice upgrade from the plastic bottles I'm used to.  

Instead of taking the formulas separately or alternating them, I opted to take them all together to really make the most of them.  I figure, general health is the basic, plus women's health because I am a female, and immunity boost because I am all about not getting sick (especially since it's back-to-school season).

Week 1 Thoughts:
- Damn this powder residue is making a mess.
- These glass bottles are going to be a pain to carry around with me all the time.
- O.M.G.  I'm going to swallow all of those pills?  Like, in one sitting?
- Okay, taste isn't so bad.  Not any different than other supplement tablets I've taken.

Week 2 Thoughts:
- Damn, that's still a lot of pills.
- I've been going to the bathroom every day pretty regularly.
- Surprisingly, I haven't felt heavy or bloated lately.
- I've only been drinking one cup of coffee a day this week and I haven't felt sluggish in the afternoons like I usually do.

I've got about a two week's supply left before I'm out but so far, I'm liking how it's been going.  I feel much healthier, I don't get that heavy or bloated feeling after eating anymore, my metabolism and energy have been up, and I've noticed that I've lost most of the weight I gained while on vacation.  I'll be posting my final thoughts in a couple weeks so stay tuned!

You can check out LoveBug Probiotics to learn about their products, formulas and probiotics in general.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Monthly Mantra 2017: August

July was a full-throttle roller coaster ride with ups and downs and twists and turns.  My family and I had SO much fun on vacation but it was also so exhausting!  Amusement parks just about every single day, long drives, early mornings and late nights, not to mention ALL the junk food.  We have tons of great experiences and memories to last us for a while, or at least until the next big vacation.

Now we're finally in August, which is the beginning of fall and the beginning of the school year and I'm so ready for it.  I've got some big plans for myself and I'm finally ready to commit to the goals and deadlines that I set in order to make it work.  No more excuses.

This month, I'll be working non-stop on myself inside and out.  Practicing my craft, working out, getting in-tune with my soul, eating healthier, reading (in case you were wondering where my Books Lately post is for July - I did not finish a single book), listening to and taking care of my body's needs, writing, and basically just finding a groove to get into where I will be happy and satisfied with everything that I have, yet focused and motivated to move forward with my plans and goals.

Wish me luck that everything doesn't fall to shit.  Or, if it does, at least that I'll be able to handle it without losing my shit!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Books Lately: June '17

June started off as a really productive reading month but my reading interest sort of fizzled out by the middle of the month.  I started three different books toward the end of June but couldn't finish any of them.  I've got a few long flights coming up so I'll probably be able to get a lot of reading done during that time.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Description from Amazon:
"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. 

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life."

Jana from Jana Says posted about this book on IG in the beginning of the month and I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle (app).  This was one of those books that I found hard to put down.  Angie Thomas is an amazing author who writes a story that made me feel so many strong emotions throughout.  The characters are so real and down-to-earth that it makes it hard not to love them.  This is story sends a very strong political and emotional message in such a positive, constructive way, that it forces you to acknowledge the wrongdoings in the world and empowers you to join in the efforts of making a change.  I HIGHLY recommend you read this book and then share it with everyone you know.

A Woman of Integrity, by J. David Simons
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from Amazon:
"Finding herself to be on the wrong side of fifty for a female film star, Laura Scott's career is on the slide. She has an opportunity to reverse this downward spiral when she is offered the starring role in a one-woman play about the life and loves of Hollywood silent screen actress turned pioneering pilot, Georgie Hepburn. Laura jumps at the chance for Georgie is someone she has admired for her courage and integrity ever since she was a child. But as Laura discovers more about Georgie, she realises there is always a price to pay for integrity - in her own life as well as Georgie's.Acclaimed author J David Simons' fifth novel, this is a subtle and complex exploration of a creative life and the challenges faced when a person's desire to be authentic comes under pressure."

I really didn't think I'd love this book as much as I did.  It had been on my TBR list for a while and when I finally got around to reading it, I found it hard to put down.  The story of Georgie Hepburn was so fascinating and inspiring and I absolutely loved her character.  Laura Scott was quite a mess in the beginning of this book but her passion for learning about and retelling Georgie's life helped to put her on the right track.  It made me think about the choices in my life that I've made, good and bad, and how those decisions continue to shape who I am as a person.

The Recovery Letters, by James Whitley
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.** 

Description from Amazon:
"In 2012, The Recovery Letters was launched to host a series of letters online written by people recovering from depression, addressed to those currently affected by a mental health condition. Addressed to 'Dear You', the inspirational and heartfelt letters provided hope and support to those experiencing depression and were testament that recovery was possible

Now for the first time, these letters have been compiled into an anthology for people living with depression and are interspersed with motivating quotes and additional resources as well as new material written specifically for the book. This powerful collection of personal letters from people with first-hand experiences of depression will serve as a comforting resource for anyone on the journey to recovery."

As a person who lives with bouts of self-diagnosed depression, I appreciated this book quite a bit.  Suicide rates on Guam have been rising and it makes me wonder how many of those people could have been helped by a book like this.  I'm currently not going through a gloomy episode but I can understand how someone who is going through it can be helped by the letters written in this book.  Depression is like living in a dark and lonely bubble, where everything else around you is muted and seems unreachable, so having people who have been in their own bubbles and know what it feels like really does give you hope that one day your bubble will burst and you'll be "normal" again.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who suffers from and/or knows someone who suffers from depression.

Everything Reminds You of Something Else, by Elana Wolff
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.** 

Description from Amazon:
"Thin is the line between dreaming and wakefulness, wellness and disorder, here and there, this and that. Elana Wolff's poems illuminate the porousness of states and relations, the connective compulsion of poetic perception, in language that blends the oracular and the everyday, the elliptical and the lucent, the playful and the heart-raking. The de- and re-constructive workings of the poems in Everything Reminds You of Something Else argue for empathy and attentiveness. At the core of this work is the belief that art is the sanest rage."

I think I've burned myself out on poetry books because I wasn't really feeling this one so much.  There were a few poems and lines that I did like, but most of her references flew over my head.