In Memoriam: Carmen Alicea

My grandmother passed away peacefully in her sleep last night. Carmen Colón Alicea was a terrific mother, grandma and friend.

She took care of me when I was young, opening her home to me and my biological brother before I was adopted. I remember the report I wrote about her in elementary school, about when she came to New York City from Puerto Rico when she was 19. I admired her constant courage and loved her stories. We’d have BBQs parties in her backyard with so many of her friends- people from church, our neighbors, strangers she met at the grocery store. She was adored by everyone.

She was there when I registered for college courses and she stressed the importance of getting a good education. When I was in rehab six years ago, she visited me every day and made sure that I was doing okay. She tried to teach me how to cook and inspired me to study Spanish in school. The last conversation we had was in Spanish and she seemed so happy that she could talk to someone in her native language.

Carmen was strong and beautiful, kind and loyal- the kind of woman I aspire to be. Nana, you are the best and I will miss you forever.
Me, my mom, and my Nana- October 2014

Me, my mom, and my Nana- October 2014

Being Single = AWESOME (or Why You Should Take a Hiatus from Dating)

Truth.

I was a dating late bloomer. I had my first boyfriend when I was 24 (I know now the only reason I went out with him was for the sole fact that someone actually liked me!). For the following four years, I became a serial dater. I moved to Brooklyn, a place where dating is considered an Olympic event. I became good at jugging dates- I’d have brunch with Brian; a bike ride through downtown with Elliot and dinner and cocktails with Christian. Dating eventually became exhausting and I didn’t find myself in a substantial relationship despite desperately trying my hardest. After all that dating, I defined myself as “the girl looking for love.” I didn’t know who I was when I removed that label.

Last weekend, me and a dear friend reflected on her recent relationship endeavors- her ex boyfriend, a hook up at Burning Man, the guys she met on Tinder. As she talked, I had a flash back to a conversation I had with my old roommate, BB. In that momemtn, our roles were reversed- I was in my friend’s position, complaining about men and dating and relationship failures. I’d just broke up with Brian; BB and I were cooking dinner together when she gave me the best advice, words that I needed to hear and put into practice,” Andi, you should just be single.”

At first, I was taken aback by BB’s words but I listened. I realized that I was going out with guys for wrong reasons. I removed all my online dating profiles that night. I stopped flirting with cute guys on the subway and in line at the grocery store. I made a passionate effort to spend more time with my friends and gett freelance work (hello, South Brooklyn Post!). My life became less complicated. I grew closer to people that really mattered and learned how to love doing things solo: eating out; seeing a movie; exploring… all alone. I read more books, befriended strangers and developed other values in my life. I discovered that life isn’t about being in a relationship. Relationships exist to make your life better and what better than to rejuvenate the relationship with yourself?

A dating hiatus is a good thing. Put your romantic activities on pause so that you can take time to not only break a pattern but to also get to know you- so that when you do re-open your romantic doors, that you are coming from a healthier place. It’s not a prison sentence- it a treat for yourself. And who wouldn’t want to treat themselves to some self-love and self-care?

You said it, Donna!

You said it, Donna!

Seeking the Perfect Job

There is this measurement of success New Yorkers strive towards: it’s called the Trifecta. On the ends of this triangle, you have the perfect partner, the perfect apartment and the perfect job. Although I now live on the West Coast, the Trifecta is something I still aim toward- and I’m pretty close at achieving it: I have a terrific boyfriend and a house that I love. I’m just lacking the perfect career part.

Although many of my friends think the Trifecta is an urban myth, I believe that you can have it all… dream job included. I’ve been seeking out this job for a while now without any luck. I’ve held various positions in retail, education, the arts and non-profit but at the end of the day, nothing satisfies my core the way my relationship or home life does. I keep on going back to something a professor once told me- no one likes their job. I don’t believe that. There may be certain aspects that you don’t like about your position but you have to like it enough to keep it. I do believe there is a career out there for you (for everyone!) that keeps you full, so much that you’d never dream of leaving (even for retirement).

I have this list of what the perfect job is for me: 1) I want to appease that need for satisfaction inside of me- I love writing and being creative. I love helping out a cause I believe in. Imagination + Passion = Happy Andrea. 2) Awesome co-workers. I don’t need to be best friends with my co-workers (although it has happened before) but I like to save the drama until we all leave for cocktail hour. 3) Great pay- I’m not looking for a six figure salary. I just want to be able to live comfortably, not paycheck to paycheck, and have the opportunity to put money in savings. 4) Benefits- with my tooth infection last month, I paid nearly about $1500 for treatment. Health, dental and vision insurance would be a godsend. Vacation time would also be nice (and I learned my lesson- I would actually use my time off to take a vacation!). Also, as I think more and more about having a family, I started researching things like maternal time off- I’d like to have some days I would need to take off to care for an ill child.

I don’t think I’m asking for too much but I’m not finding the job I desperately desire. I’ve had many interviews that lead to nowhere (I’ve been stood up on a couple of them- one this weekend, actually!), revamped my resume and my LinkedIn account on the daily, sent out thousands of emails and cover letters, asked friends and family for a bite… My boyfriend is encouraging, telling me that something will come up after I graduate with my bachelor’s in December but I disagree. I’ve spoken to many people- writers, advertisers, journalists, bloggers, marketers, creatives- who are in the same position I am in and can’t find a decent job. These people have master degrees, work-positive attitudes, years of experience (that’s another thing I hate- employers who like you but will not hire you due to your lack of certain experience. How am I am supposed to get that experience if no one hires me?). Part of me wants to put the blame on the small town I live in but I hear the same struggles from friends looking for work in major cities. How does one catch a break- their big break?

Despite all the negativity that runs through my mind, my heart still feels optimistic. I’m not going to stop applying for the dream job and in the meanwhile, I’m doing what I can to transform myself into the perfect candidate for that job. I participate in web seminars, instructing me how to make myself more marketable. I get advice from those individuals who have the kind of job I crave. I network heavily and think big with each resume I send out. I know that I will find that dream job soon and in the meanwhile, I celebrate my two complete corners of the Trifecta- hey, I almost have it all.

What Is Making Me Happy… And Bike Safety

Biking in autumn. I love it. The crunch of leaves as you ride over them. The chill in the air. You don’t feel like you sweated out a gallon of liquid at the end of your trek. Yes, it’s a cool 48 degree when I leave in the morning but it warms up to the low 80s in the afternoon. Oh, I love Northern Nevada weather. Perfect weather for long bike rides.

I’ve wanted to write about bike riding safety for a while. I commute 50 miles each week back and forth to my office and I’ve seen a lot of scary things. I don’t intend for this to be a PSA or even preachy but I do want people to read and understand a few things. I know that this blog doesn’t reach the masses and there is only so much screaming I can do at drivers who don’t share the road; but I hope you, dear reader, will take what I write to heart and respect your fellow bicyclists and surrounding drivers while out on the road.

First and foremost: WEAR A HELMET. Make sure you have working front and back lights, as well as check to see if your brakes work (next week, I’ll write more about bicycle maintenance and how to choose a proper helmet).

I don’t own a vehicle. The local bus system is slow (I could bus to work but I’d spend 4 hours commuting instead of a round trip 40 minutes each day). When a driver yells out their window, “Go get a car,” I want to tell, “I’m trying!” Owning a car is a luxury and it’s something I’m working hard to afford. Some people are unfortunately unfortunate not to have that opportunity and are trying the best they can to get to work and live their life. Respect that.

I’m fortunate to live in a town where the police are strict about motorists following bicycle laws. I love my Midtown neighborhood for all its bike lines but when there are no lanes, cyclists and motorists have laws they need to follow. When passing a cyclist, motorists must move into an adjacent lane to the left if possible. If there isn’t an adjacent left lane, motorists must pass with at least three feet of clearance (I’ve seen plenty of cops pull a car over when they didn’t give me the correct amount of space). Cyclists must obey all traffic signs and signals and use their hand signals when turning (see below).Also, drivers may not stop, park or drive on a designated bicycle path or lane- it can be dangerous to maneuver around a car when you don’t have to. And please don’t distract bicyclists. I’ve had so many instances where I almost got into an accident because the driver and/or the passenger was a jerk. I’m cat-called almost every day. I once had firecrackers thrown at me. A couple of weeks ago, someone screamed at me out the passenger-side window and then, stuck their iPhone out their window to film my reaction. Those moments are incredibly scary (and I will take down the license plate number to report the incident).

The great thing about biking around Reno is the comradery I’ve experienced. There are several other cyclists I see on my way to work. We ding our bike bells at each other and exchanges hellos. I’m friends with the guys at my local bike shop. If I ever need bike help, I can go into a Midtown bar or restaurant and someone will lend me a wrench or a tire pump. As Reno grows, my hope is to see more bicyclists on the roads. That will happen when people- both drivers and cyclists- obey the laws more frequently and feel safer.

Each week, my favorite NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour ends their program with the question, “What is making me happy this week?” The podcast’s commentators then share the best parts of their lives from Sunday ’til Saturday. As I’m trying to live a more positive life and focus more on my own happiness, I started asking myself this question, with hopes that I can happiness everywhere in my world.

Your Partner and Your Time

I hate break ups. Even though I don’t follow celebrity gossip, when I get a spam email about so-and-so’s split I cry a little inside for them. When I found out my neighbors broke up, I was heartbroken for them. They were a cute couple who were always kind enough to take out our trash to the curb on garbage day and let me play with their puppy. The reason for their break-up: they didn’t have time for each other.

I’m always freaking about time- or the lack of time. I’m always on the go between work, school, friendships and my extracurriculars (just last night, I sat during my play’s rehearsal, crying at the thought of an extra weekend rehearsal when I need more time to study for a midterm). I’m always pushing myself and well, let’s admit this now: I don’t know how to say ‘no’ when people ask. So, I get roped into doing things. Even though I like being busy and my keeping things interesting, it’s exhausting. (I’ll write more about time management later.)

Despite all activity, I always make time for Steve. I’m fortunate to have an easygoing boyfriend who appreciates that I have a productive schedule (he does, too, working almost 60 hours a week for Tesla). But we haven’t always been this way. We have fought in the past about our schedules and not spending enough time with each other. That fight was a wake up call. Knowing that my boyfriend would always be there despite my schedule was something that I took for granted. I thought, his schedule could just revolve around mine. But it doesn’t work like that.

How do you go about fixing a problem like that? Easy. Make the time. At the start of every week, I take out my hand calendar and write down all the things I have to do. Work in the morning. Exercise in the afternoon. Rehearsal every other evening. Homework at night. I find the holes in my schedule and dedicate them to Steve. If I’m finding not enough holes, I ask myself if I really need to do something and either cancel it or move it- if I have to skip a run or cancel a dinner with friends, so be it (I’m grateful to have the most understanding friends on the planet). It also help that Steve and I are almost the same person when it comes to shared likes. We’re happy with simple things- drinking at the bar next door or grabbing burritos before watching a couple episodes of “Frasier.” I also believe that making plans with your partner is important. We enjoy traveling and are busy making holiday plans (a white sandy Christmas, anyone?). Even at the end of the day, we both are excited to hear about the day’s mild drama and snuggle with each other in bed. We both know that our time together isn’t almost perfect but our relationship is almost flawless.

What are your tips for a good relationship, dear reader? And how do you spend time with your significant other?

What is Making Me Happy This Week

Thank you, Jesus; it’s Friday.

Seriously.

Sometimes you have a week that’s more stressful than eventful (complete with a nasty head cold). When Friday rolls around, you’re so excited to have two days off to bum on the couch (can I get an amen for Netflix and pizza delivery?).  Add a friend visiting from out of town and a couple of concerts to dance at and it looks like it going to be the perfect weekend.

I love Fridays.

Each week, my favorite NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour ends their program with the question, “What is making me happy this week?” The podcast’s commentators then share the best parts of their lives from Sunday ’til Saturday. As I’m trying to live a more positive life and focus more on my own happiness, I started asking myself this question, with hopes that I can happiness everywhere in my world.

Some Good in the World

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… And it’s worth fighting for.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Friday night, I watched a woman’s bicycle get stolen. She left her bike in front of the neighborhood convenience store, stopping inside for a quick minute. I noticed a man wander around the parking lot, looking over his shoulder as hopped on the bike and rode away. As soon as the woman stepped out, I knew what happened. I saw it but I didn’t stop it and I felt guilty about it all weekend.

I know that I shouldn’t blame myself for what happened but I do- I can’t imagine what I’d do to prevent the theft but I wish I did something. My boyfriend and I had our bikes stolen this summer and the act left me heartbroken and incredibly angry. I’ve spent the last couple days thinking about all the terrible things going on in the world: the crisis in Syria and all the stories of people trying to escape. Terrible weather patterns with massive amounts of flooding. Last week’s shooting in Oregon. All the bikes in Reno alone that were stolen last week…

Stop. Stop STOP.

There is good in the world and every now and then, we all need to be reminded of it. Better yet, we all to remember that we have the power of goodness in ourselves. We can gift the world with our kindness and generosity. Although I still feel horrible about what I witnessed last week, I’m choosing to be proactive with my feelings instead of drown in them. I have a little ritual which I call “My Rule of Three,” three things I can do every day to make the world a little bit better: 1) When I get ready each morning, I spend sometime in the shower, thinking about the things I’m thankful for (today’s list included frosted marble cake and weekend plans I’m looking forward to). 2) I look for beauty throughout my day. I wake up with the sun and during my commute to work, I see the prettiest sunrises. Other times, I’m happy to see the pictures of my friends on Facebook and Instagram, living out great adventures and documenting their exciting lives. When I’m sad, I think of the beautiful things I saw. 3) I do something nice for someone else. I buy a stranger’s coffee or I compliment someone’s cute shoes. I put down the computer to talk eye-to-eye with Steve or spend a little extra time cuddling my overly-anxious cat. I try to do something that would make someone’s day.

Atrocities cloud our world but we can choose to rise above the hate and sourness. It takes a little practice but I believe that we all can do it- we all have goodness in us. I never got the name of the woman from Friday but if I ever ran into again, I’ll buy her a new bike.

What are the good things in your life, dear reader, and how do you practice kindness?

Who doesn’t love hugs?

What is Making Me Happy This Week

There’s something enchanting about the rain. Maybe it’s the closeness it brings- you just want to cuddle up with your pet cat and a good book during a thrashing storm or with a close friend under a small umbrella (especially after a delicious gourmet dinner of scallops and watermelon salad). My employer thinks I’m crazy but I love biking in the rain. Yesterday, it poured as I biked the seven miles to my office. The lights from the streetlamps danced in the puddles and I felt Parisian as I watched their movements. The region I live in is in desperate need of moisture so I welcome the rain with open arms. I ignored the chill in the air and gathered up my umbrella, galoshes and plastic poncho- I’m not making a fashion statement but I’m enjoying the ride.

Each week, my favorite NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour ends their program with the question, “What is making me happy this week?” The podcast’s commentators then share the best parts of their lives from Sunday ’til Saturday. As I’m trying to live a more positive life and focus more on my own happiness, I started asking myself this question, with hopes that I can happiness everywhere in my world.

A Slice of Courage: Maria Shriver

There are some people that I consider otherworldly- their contributions to our planet are extraordinary. They are the people that are making good change happen.

Shriver may have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth but she has used her famous family’s name to spawn greatness. Her parents were political but they focused on family. Shriver became a journalist, focusing on women’s issues and those with special needs. She followed in her mother’s footsteps with the organization of the Special Olympics and launched many special services when she was the First Lady of California. In the midst of scandal and her divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger, she held her head high and retained her class.

Every week, Shriver sends out Maria‘s M-Powering Message, an email that highlights world news and suggests how we can get involved with causes and organizations around the globe (it’s something that I always look forward to reading). From her beliefs about the Pope (and how freaking awesome he is) to environmental policies, she encourages courage- that others stand up for themselves, celebrate differences and keep fighting the good, moral fight.

#PassItForward.