I don’t know about you, but April has been my hardest month of 2016 so far. Don’t get me wrong – April was really good. But it was an emotional rollercoaster filled with some really high highs and some really low lows. Since I like to end things on a positive note, let’s start with the lows, shall we?
Early this month, the world lost a bright light. You may know her as Daisy from the hit Bravo reality show, Blood, Sweat, & Heels, but I knew her simply as Lauren.
Back in the day, Lauren and I were part of a youth theatre ensemble called the Theatre Rascals. We spent a lot of time at rehearsals and Lauren always had this bright energy that rubbed off on everyone she came into contact with. She was always smiling and keeping us in stitches with her funny impersonations and stories. And she loved to shop! In our high school years, I often had random run-ins with her at the mall.
By the time we went to college, we lost touch, but I knew that after college, she’d moved to NYC to work in editorial for some big fashion publications like InStyle. Eventually, she wrote a book and became a fashion consultant on various shows like Good Morning America before joining the cast of Blood, Sweat, & Heels.
If you watched the show, you know that last year Lauren was diagnosed with and battled stage 3 cancer. What inspired me and countless others was that she always expressed such positivity, and she always gave thanks and glory to God despite her situation. Viewers of the show hoped that Daisy would return to life as usual when, at the end of last season, she celebrated finally completing her radiation treatments.
So late last summer, I was surprised to run into her at a grocery store near my house. She said that she’d recently moved back home to L.A. Just as bubbly and chipper as ever, she was chatting it up with people in line and the register clerk. When she told me to save her number in my phone, I asked if she wanted me to store her name as Daisy now, and she said, “Girl, please! I’m still Lauren.” We chatted a bit and exchanged a few text messages after that encounter – the most recent was following her birthday this past January. And then earlier this month, the world found out that she lost her battle to cancer at 36.
While we weren’t close friends, I learned a lot from Lauren’s short life: the importance of hustling for your dreams, giving God glory no matter the circumstances, and the importance of letting your light shine, especially when dealing with others. It’s true that people may not remember what you say or do, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel, and Lauren had a way of making people feel included; she treated everyone like a long-lost friend and her energy was always positive and uplifting. Reading messages that friends and fans have left for her on social media, everyone says the same thing about Lauren – that she was such a bright, beautiful soul.
Her death inspires me to take inventory of my own life and makes me think about how I want to be remembered. When I’m tired and feel like throwing in the towel on my dreams, when I feel like God has abandoned me when things aren’t going my way or when I can’t hear him clearly, and when I don’t feel like being bothered by anyone, I’ll remember the example that Lauren set.
Like most people, I was stunned when I got the news that Prince died. I was at work when my co-worker told me, and I thought it was some kind of sick hoax. But then I jumped online and saw a story from ABC News confirming his death.
Prince was (and still is) my absolute favorite artist, and one of the few I thought was worth seeing perform live. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go to one of his concerts several years ago. And when I tell you that no one was in their seats at that concert, I mean no one was sitting down; everyone was up dancing and singing along at the top of their lungs.
I’ve been listening to Prince since I was four-years-old when Purple Rain dropped. My parents can attest that I listened to his album on my Care Bears record player. Of course, I knew nothing about love or heartbreak at that time, but as I matured and started to get some relationship experience under my belt, Prince was there to counsel me through the highs and lows of love and life through his music. His loss is a huge blow. As my friend wrote on her timeline on the day of his death: “Music died today.”
Now, on to April’s highs…
Ok, so by now I’m sure that you’ve listened to and watched Lemonade. While I love me some Beyonce, I wouldn’t consider myself a diehard fan, and I’m not a part of her Beyhive. So trust me when I say that this visual album is pure fire! And it came at the perfect time too because instead of wallowing in sorrow over the death of Prince, I feel like Lemonade offered all of us Prince and Beyonce fans a sense of hope and healing.
With every album, I like Beyonce’s work more and more. She seems to be one of few artists these days who really takes her work seriously and challenges herself to continually grow. And her raw transparency on this album had me feeling an array of emotions – I still get a bit teary when watching and listening to “All Night”.
Regardless of whether you’ve been cheated on or not, this album is so relatable on so many levels, and I love her homage to the unique struggles that we black women face. What more can I say than Bey hit the ball out of the park with this one!
Following Hannah Bronfman
A video posted by Hannah Bronfman (@hannahbronfman) on
I don’t gush over too many Instagrammers, but I recently discovered and absolutely love Hannah Bronfman’s account. In addition to posting snapshots from her seemingly fabulous life where she moonlights as a DJ, brand ambassador for numerous brands, and a health/beauty/fitness guru, she often posts short workout videos that inspire me to get my *ish together and get my body right. I mean…look at her!
Birthday celebrations with friends
So I’m not at all into astrology, but I’ve always made a mental note of the fact that Aries is my love sign (although Jave isn’t an Aries). So it’s no surprise that some of my greatest friendships have been with other Leos (we roll in prides!) and with Aries. This month, Arah, one of my Aries besties and former roomies from college, celebrated her birthday with an escape room (sad to say that we didn’t make it out this time around!) and a Mexican lunch with friends at El Cholo’s. It’s always great when I can take a break from my daily grind and catch up with my girlfriends, and whenever we’re together, hilarity always ensues. So many stories, so much good food, so many laughs…it’s always a good time when we get together. By the end of the day, my cheeks were literally sore from all the laughter.
Then, a few weeks later, I took my other Aries bestie, Christina, out for sushi for her birthday. I’ve known Christina since I was seven – she was one of the first friends I made when my family and I moved back from Panama. When Christina and I met nearly 30 years ago (wow!), we discovered that our parents actually knew each other back in the day. So as you can imagine, over the years, Christina and I have become family. Her family is my second family, and vice versa. Along with Christina, I have about five other girlfriends that I’ve been tight with since we were kids. So whenever any of us get together, we don’t miss a beat; it’s like catching up with family. We don’t hang out nearly as much as we should, but when we do, I truly cherish our moments together.
The arts & our anniversary
I love the arts! I’ve always vowed that when I’m in a position to do so, I’m going to become a philanthropist and give to organizations committed to the arts – especially those committed to programs for youth in the arts.
Being heavily involved in the arts as a youth kept me from falling into so many traps that I saw some of my peers fall into. Weeknights after school and on weekends, I was always too busy with theatre or dance rehearsals of some sort to get caught up in mess. And while these extracurricular activities were always my choice, I credit my parents with keeping me on a tight schedule. When I was a kid in Panama, our housekeeper used to tell my mom, “Dana…she’s not bad…pero traviesa.” So my parents knew that if they didn’t keep me busy, I’d get into some sort of mischief.
So this month I was in heaven because I got to partake in three arts-related activities. First, we finally visited The Broad, the L.A. museum with a waitlist that’s created somewhat of a frenzy here. I really enjoyed The Broad’s architecture and galleries which made the art more approachable and made me feel like we were part of some of the exhibits. If you plan on visiting L.A., I recommend securing your free tickets and getting on the waitlist now.
Then, a few weeks later, my mom and I spent some rare mother-daughter only QT together at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where we saw a performance by Complexions Contemporary Ballet, a NYC-based dance company founded by former Ailey dancers, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson.
While I was initially turned off by the choice of music – Ballad Unto by Bach – for the first half of the show, the second half was pure perfection with five short dances followed by INNVERSIONS, a tribute to Stevie Wonder. Stevie and ballet?! I can’t begin to tell you how much my soul was on fire with sheer joy as we watched Ashley Mayeux and Terk Waters take center stage with a combo of ballet, jazz, and contemporary to some of Stevie’s greatest hits like “As”. It was the picture of happiness!
Last but not least in the arts department, to celebrate 8 years of marriage, Jave bought us tickets to a concert by the L.A. Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. You may recall that last month, we took a tour of the concert hall (which I’ll be writing about on the blog soon), but the tour covered everything but the actual auditorium.
I kept hinting to Jave that I’d love to go to the symphony there, and whaddya know?! He actually listened to me (after 8 years of marriage) and bought tickets! I like classical music, but I’m not exactly a huge fan. However, I love new experiences, and going to the symphony was a first for both of us; it won’t be our last.
Pink Pangea is an online community for women travelers, and this month, they interviewed me about my most recent trip to Jamaica. Click here to read the full scoop on our trip including my most memorable experiences, my biggest disappointments, and tips for roadtripping around the island.
Also, please check out a collaborative post I’m featured in on the blog Travel Far Enough, in which several travelers and I share what first inspired us to travel. Read it here.
So, in addition to holding down my full time job and building my travel business, lately, I’ve also been busy selling real estate. Shortly after graduating from law school several years ago, I got my broker’s license, but I never really used it because I was too focused on building my corporate career. Looking back, I wish I’d started selling real estate a lot sooner.
So after my brother, who’s also a broker, invited me to join his brokerage at the beginning of this year, I’ve been grinding like a madwoman – #nodaysoff – in pursuit of my freedom from the 9 to 5. So I count it a pure blessing that this month I closed my first ever escrow! Now, I just need to keep the momentum as I slowly but surely plan my escape from the corporate plantation.
April Travel Deals – Time Card Express®
A short 15-minute drive from the airport, at Club Arias, guests get a taste of the true spirit of Aruba along with around-the-clock, personalized service that’s earned the B&B a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence. So whether you want breakfast in bed followed by a day at the beach, or whether you want to explore the island followed by an afternoon spent lounging poolside, Club Arias will cater to your whims to help you fully enjoy the Aruban vacation of your dreams. Click here to get this deal!
Book a custom trip to Nicaragua with Buen Viaje Tours, a sustainability-minded operator that offers a variety of unique Nicaraguan adventures. Whether you want to soak up the local culture, take a yoga retreat, explore the country from behind the lens of your camera, or indulge in Nicaragua’s food scene, Buen Viaje Tours offers an itinerary to match your interests. From the time you get picked up from the airport to the time you leave, Buen Viaje Tours will cover all the details of your trip so that all you have to do is show up and enjoy your journey. Click here if you’re ready to book your Nicaraguan adventure.
Conveniently near cafes, restaurants, boutiques, a farmer’s market and so much more, The Dreamcatcher is a traveler’s sanctuary a short 10-minute walk to Condado and a quick 10-minute drive to Old San Juan. Whether you want to learn how to salsa, freshen up in the outdoor shower, get an in-room massage, or chill in the Buddha Garden, The Dreamcatcher offers the ideal place to mellow out and escape from the chaos of your daily routine back at home. Click here to book your San Juan home away from home!
If you’re looking for a unique Peruvian trek, consider venturing on “the road of the Apu Ausangate” with Andean Lodges, an outfitter that operates a luxury lodge-to-lodge hike known as The Apu’s Trail. You’ll load your bags on llamas before setting out on this 5 day/4 night trek that covers roughly 34 miles of spectacular scenery. Each night you’ll stay in a different luxury lodge known as a “tambo” where you’ll indulge in a delicious meal, a hot shower, and a good night’s sleep in your private room. To get more info and to book this once in a lifetime trek, click here.