New Blog Home!!

3 Jan

As I’ve said over and over, 2012 is going to be a year of stepping my game up, kicking some serious butt and taking names.  That being said, I am officially a blogging big girl and have become self-hosted!  Thanks so much for reading what I have to share here in my own little corner of the internet; I hope very much that you will continue to do so at my new home:  http://chasing-bliss.com/

Happy New Year!!!

Reflections on Gratitude and Angels

29 Nov

It is always interesting to me how something so mundane – for example, coming into my office for work – can transport me into a whirlwind of reflection.  When last I sat in this chair at this desk, it was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving and I was excited at the prospect of sharing a low-key weekend of delicious food and quality time with my family.   While my weekend started along that track, it progressed to include the tragic passing of a dear friend along with the memorial celebrating her full life – so much fit into what seems to be such a short amount of time.

Looking around on Sunday, it was such a beautiful sight to see how many other people were in attendance to share together in our luck at knowing such an amazing spirit.  She was so present  in every moment, from the photo slide show that portrayed glimpses into the numerous happy memories, to the playlist that had everyone up and dancing, to the stories shared of just how this person touched so many.  Despite her lingering illness, the sudden finality of such a young life is striking.  I, like surely everyone else, still get stuck between the “How could this possibly happen?!,”  the “It still doesn’t feel real,”  and the “Am I really never going to see her again?!”

I’m bothered by my difficulty at grasping the words I want to use to express the lessons in gratitude I am gleaning but here goes my shot.  Whenever someone joins the angels, it is completely tragic for those left behind.  When that new angel leaves behind such a legacy that her memorial is so truly her, a place to gather not to mourn per se, but to celebrate a life well lived, it truly defines that person’s existence.  How many people do we each know that touch us in such a way that we are forever changed – either so inspired or so challenged to become better versions of our current selves?  Furthermore – how often do we take the brief time necessary to express our gratitude to these angels on Earth for the gifts they leave us?  I know I certainly don’t often enough and thus my challenge for not only myself, but for all of us:  take some time each day to be actively grateful.  Don’t put it off because as cliché as it sounds, each day is such a delicate gift and we may not get that late chance.

My Heart Is Completely Broken

25 Nov

Each year, as the weather gets cooler and the leaves change to their gorgeous shades of red, orange and yellow, we prepare for the most recognizable day of gratitude in the American calendar:  Thanksgiving.   Plans are made for families and friends to find a way to each other and share time over far too much food and football.  In today’s on-the-go world, it is the necessary pause for reflection and connection, as stressful and harried as the prep work may be.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in whatever else is going on that we forget to take a breath to be thankful.  My friend Ally lived each day of her life with that Thanksgiving mindset.  So full of life, she was absolutely stunning – so beautiful both inside and out – and incredibly fun to be around.  I met her one typical night out my freshman and her junior years of college.  We were both friends with the same group of guys and she came to my rescue as we made our way to a bar.  Still very green, I didn’t have an ID to get in and she saved the day (albeit with the ID of an asian girl who looked nothing like me – but hey, that’s how Last Call - the most popular bar near St. John’s – worked!).  We got in and spent the rest of the night drinking and dancing with all of our friends and the dozens of other students out looking for a good time. 

Moving forward from that night, I got to know Ally as the one who would be one of the first on the dance floor and the one with whom you could share everything.  A truly amazing friend, she listened without judgment and always had your back.  She was one of those  people that everyone wanted to be around, a magnet that pulled you in and kept you close. She was one of those incredible types of people who could create inside jokes with someone on their first meeting and keep it going from that moment forward.

In September 2010, something happened that wasn’t supposed to:  Ally was diagnosed with Small Cell Cervical Cancer .  At 24, cancer was the last thing she should have had to worry about.  This type of cancer is very rare and aggressive which made it all that more scary.  Despite the challenges she knew lay ahead, Ally faced the illness straight on, refusing to be afraid and became very vocal in raising awarenes.  It is no coincidence that her last name was Strong because throughout her entire battle with this horrible disease, that’s exactly what she was:  a strong fighter. 

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, the unthinkable happened:  Ally lost her battle.  Upon hearing the news this morning that she was gone, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  It felt nearly impossible to get air into my lungs – I couldn’t breath – and my eyes were instantly filled with tears.  My heart is still aching.  Despite the progression of her illness, it never occurred to me that death was a possibility; I couldn’t (and still can’t) envision a world without this inspirational and vivacious girl.

The world has lost a gem but we have all gained a beautiful angel.  Gone, but never forgotten – I will love you and miss you always. Rest easy,  Allygirl 05.08.1986-11.24.2011

If you would like to help find an end to this rare and deadly form of cancer on Ally’s behalf, please visit and donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/auo90  Thank you.

My Firsthand Realization of the Connection Between Puerto Ricans and Baseball

18 Nov

My great-grandmother Brunhilda Ross (nee Torres) was a force to be reckoned with.  She was a strong Puerto Rican woman who loved hard and hated harder. . .once she even slapped a clerk at a chocolatier for not having the candy she wanted in stock.  If you were in her good graces, you would never be treated better than anyone else.  She could be very generous – showering her favorites with praise and gifts.  She could be motherly – one of my mother’s favorite memories was their date every year to see the Rockette’s at Radio City.  She was also headstrong and could be more than a little domineering.

I grew up basking in the glory of her adoration.  I can remember calling her to invite her to visit – I loved that she spent her golden years literally traveling the globe.  I eagerly awaited both her stories of foreign lands and the currency she brought back for me for my collection.  Gabby, my little sister, had the opposite experience with her.  Their stubborn dispositions led to butting heads on numerous occasions and Gab was called “diablo” more than once. 

On her visits to see my family, she would watch us until our parents returned from work.  I was ecstatic to not have to go to our daily afterschool program; everyone else? Not so much.   She was old school – what she said went, no exceptions and you better believe there was corporal punishment.   She upheld every one of the rules my parents set and then some with an iron fist.

One of these rules was our boundaries system.  We were only allowed to go about three or four houses down on either side without a parent being present.  These were marked by a curve in the road on one side and a lamppost on the other.  I was a pretty obedient child who generally stuck to these guidelines; Gabby was a bit more free in her interpretation of our invisible fence.  One day, when I was 7 or 8, making Gab 5 or 6, she decided to go for a bike ride.  It had just finished raining and the sidewalks were wet.  Despite being told “No,” Gabby decided to take the path of exercise and fresh air and out she went.  Little to our knowledge, this was a serious transgression in Bruni’s eyes.  She went running out of the house after Gabby.  As Gabby passed our house and the yelling coming out of our Great-Grandmother’s mouth, she pedaled her little legs past as fast as she could. 

This did not fly and Bruni marched right over to our tree and pulled off a branch the size of a bat (not joking, no exaggeration it felt like this 85-year-old woman turned into Godzilla before our eyes).  As she went after Gabby, paddle in hand, my brother followed her, who was followed by me.  When Gabby got to the lamppost, she turned her head and looked back at us.  You could see the wheels turning in her head – should she keep going?  Or should she turn around and head back our way?

She took the path of obedience.  As soon as she turned her bike around and bagan pedaling towards us, Bruni took her stance like she had entered the batter’s box.  She was ready.  Batter up:  in one swift swing Gabby was off her bike and battle was won.   She got in trouble for disobeying our Great-Grandmother (who left the next day) until our brother saved the day.  What was first a horror story has now become a family joke that when shared elicits both shaking heads and laughter.

#LATISM. . .El Corazón, La Familia

15 Nov

Last Wednesday, I landed in Chicago to attend the Latism (Latinos in Social Media) Conference.  I was excited to be there. . .full of anticipation for whatever tips I was sure to learn and for the relationships I was looking to build.  I was eager to learn – one of my favorite part of conferences is soaking up knowledge to better myself and my company.  I had been stalking the #Latism hashtag for weeks, taking note of all the innovative talent that was going to be around me.

BUT. . .as much as I was looking forward to Latism, there was also a part of me that was more than a little nervous – what if I wasn’t accepted?  I have long since had the identity crisis situation that many other Latinos feel – I am multi-ethnic but relate most to and classify myself as a Latina.  Not only that, I cringe to admit that I have long-lapsed in my Spanish and allowed it to get really rusty.   Listening and comprehending?  Sure.  Speaking back when spoken to?  Prefiero ingles, thank you very much. . .

Despite knowing that I am good at what I do and being certain that I have a lot to share, I had nightmares about not being able to understand people and thus being left behind.  Almost immediately, my fears were relieved.   Like music to my ears, Spanglish and english were all around me.  I was in Heaven!  In my flurry of nerves, I had let one huge reality escape me:  a central bond and theme of what it means to be Latino is that strong sense of community and family.

Everyone that came to the conference attended with the same goals: to meet and connect with like-minded, innovative Latinos; to celebrate each other’s successes, be it someone’s new business or someone else’s incredible outreach trip to DR; and lastly to learn as much as possible while keeping our dancing shoes on!  Almost immediately, bonds were formed and it was amazing to watch one connection lead to five to eleven and so on. 

By the end of our short time together, I had such a sense of encouragement.  I had a notebook, laptop and twitter feed filled with key points I couldn’t wait to share, but more importantly I had a heart full of the kind of love that comes from sharing the experiences of listening to (and being emotional over) Tony Melendez’s life story,  working hard all day only to dance all night,  being there as Dolores Huerta speak about meeting Cesar Chavez, and so much more.  I’m so inspired by everyone I met last week, mil gracias.

Pick-Up Lines That Will NEVER Work (But May Get You Slapped)

2 Nov

The average New York City inhabitant spends a good chunk of their morning and evening commutes in the Subway system.  Here you will cross thousands of other worker bees running to and fro, hurrying to get to the craziness of another workday or the relative calm sanctuary that is home.   Despite being surrounded at any given time by numerous strangers, you know that you will never see the majority of these people ever again, and thus you, like everyone around you, buries themselves into their books or magazines or tablets.  Maybe it’s been a rough day so you might just lean back, eyes closed, entranced into the music coming out of your ear buds. 

Whatever your style, one thing is clear and common:  you do not interact with others.  With the exception of a few scenarios (you are offering your seat to someone who is disabled/elderly/pregnant/female, you are apologizing for stepping on someone, you are sharing a laugh over an awkward crazy person causing a scene, etc), every good New Yorker (including the transplants) innately knows that you keep to yourself and do not force yourself into someone else’s life or reality.

Last week, I had the pleasure (and by pleasure I most certainly mean misfortune) of someone who was not aware of the proper subway etiquette mentioned previously.  There I sat, really enjoying the latest James Patterson book on my Kindle (yes I’m a thriller-loving, nerdface bookworm :]) about halfway into my trip home.  As the stops passed, people got on and off and the people on one side of me changed frequently.  On the other sat a man, non-descript but in his thirties. . .the type who blends in well and had I not had the interaction I am about to share with you, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed him.

Before long, I became distracted by him because it became apparent that he was smelling me – as in he would turn toward me and sniff in my direction and next to my hair.  I tried ignoring him but this did nothing.  Finally, I turned and said, “Can I help you?”  His response, with a smile was, “Your pheromones smell out of this world!”

I can only imagine the look of disgust that showed on my face.  I was so shocked that I jumped up and ran out the open doors and waited for the next train.  Gentlemen, even if you are thinking it, saying something so creepily inappropriate will never work.  Keep those thoughts to yourself – the ladies of NYC appreciate your cooperation.

Pushing Myself to Literally Become a Warrior! (And So Now I Am)

11 Oct

Earlier this summer, I was offered the chance to complete the Warrior Dash in Boston by Fitness magazine.  They would pay for my entry and send me a giant box full of fun new workout outfits and gear in exchange for allowing myself to be photographed running, covered in mud, leaping over fire and completing all of the other obstacles the race would put before me and then publish them in both the print and iPad versions of the magazine.

The entire week leading up to the race was a rainy one in Beantown and upon arrival, I was literally shocked at how intense and muddy everyone was.   Ok now I get it. . .so my sundress and heels made me look a liiiiiittle out of place. . .and so maybe I was judging the people around me. . .

Despite my reservations and nerves, I changed into the outfit I had chosen to race in and lined up with the rest of the people in my heat.  Everyone was really excited and the energy was so infectious!  Yes, wearing a white top and hot pink bottoms DID make me stand out from the crowd.

My heat was in the midafternoon, which meant that hundreds of people had used it ahead of us and conditions were intense.  Before long, my shoes were caked in mud. . .making it feel like I was running with weights on my feet.  I also made friends with a trio of guys and we may or may not have started a mud war that lasted from the top of the first hill about 100 meters into the course all the way until the finish line. . .

Some of the challenges were tougher than others.  For me, the ones in which you had to climb up a rope and over a 20 foot wall were difficult along with the spider ropes that were like 20 feet tall.  I’m not the most comfortable with heights and the mud and wetness made the wood and the ropes beyond slippery.

With the rope ladders, being jumbled around as people scrambled about beside and below you made it especially trying.  Realizing that there was an enormous man directly behind me made me try to really fly.  Unfortunately, he was pretty much Tarzan and flung himself over the top landing right beside me.  Thanks to Physics, his landing, in turn, made me fly off the rope wall and down into a mud puddle.  I was NOT a happy girl. . .

After collecting myself, it was time for the main event:  the fire leaping.  I was glad I got to put my old college track hurdling experience into use. . .even if my form was more than a little rusty.  And plus jumping over fire makes you feel like a total badass. . .

Getting through the flames brought you right to the end:  the only obstacle between me and the finish line was a giant muddy hill to slide down.  If I look like I’m having fun, it’s short-lived. . .some kid slid into me right after this moment and we rolled like ragdolls into a thornbush.  Thanks for the resulting gash across my booty, guy :(

Finishing was really empowering.  I was really proud of myself. . .I made much better time than I was anticipating and did this crazy thing virtually by myself (my camera crew doesn’t count. . .though they were so fab!) and made some really fun new friends.  I also really liked that one of the race traditions is to donate your shoes which get cleaned up and given to charity. 

If you get the chance, I highly suggest trying the Warrior Dash . . .I’m already signing up to do one with friends in Ohio next season.  I’m also interested in other obstacle/endurance events like the Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race.  I am so thankful that Fitness gave me the opportunity to get over a few fears and really test myself.  You can find the full pictorial in the October issue, which is on newstands now :]

An Obese Boy and his Broccoli

5 Oct

There is an obese kitty that lives in my apartment named Oliver.  He loves to snuggle and sleep in my hair.  It often feels like he thinks he is a pup and provides us endless hours of entertainment.

Last night, we were laying around with our wine and our Most Eligible Dallas,  letting our food settle.  Elle had brought over her famous, award-winning spinach dip and we had spent the evening gorging on that, chips and cheese. The lonely vegetable tray we also got for dipping sat virtually untouched…that was until Olli spotted a raw piece of broccoli….

UPDATE:  Ok so the video wouldn’t load to ANYWHERE from my phone except onto FB.  Here’s the link to that. . .hope to have this glitch fixed soon! Fat little Oliver

The Grand Canyon Killer and Other Reasons Why I Avoid NYC Buses

30 Sep

Last night I met a man who is either a serial killer or who has some serious aspirations to become one.  It was late for a Thursday - around 1:15 am and I was just leaving my friends’ apartment.  As these friends lived down by the seaport, it was normal for the area to be a quiet ghost town but for someone who was used to being surrounded by the Big Apple’s constant hustle and bustle regardless of the time, it was a little eerie and off-putting.

As I scurried towards the subway that would take me back towards the relative safety of my lively neighborhood, I was pretty uncomfortable with both the silence and the fact that to get to the station, I was going to have to travel through Chinatown – an area of town I absolutely loathe.   It was at that moment that I spotted an M15 bus lighting up the night and heading exactly my way.  This would not only help me bypass 15 more minutes of walking, it would get me to a well-populated subway stop just 4 away from mine.

The driver waited patiently as I ran towards the bus.  He seemed pleasant enough and even inquired whether or not I was lost.  Deciding that he seemed safer than the homeless crackhead sprawled out sleeping the back, I sat in the front section.  Upon getting myself settled into my seat in preparation for the 65 block trip, I got the uncomfortable feeling that I was getting watched and looking up, I noticed the driver peering back at me in his mirror.  Something about him made all the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end.

Finally he stopped simply staring and spoke: an inquiry as to whether or not I liked the current weather.  As I responded that I was not really a fan of the humidity, he responded enthusiastically about how much I might love Arizona – one of his favorite places, known for its dry heat.  Just as I thought to myself that maybe I needed to lay off the Criminal Minds and Law&Order, the conversation turned from hiking in the beautiful Grand Canyon to some of the many murders that had occurred there.  I was barraged with stories of death and violence. . .husbands killing wives, boyfriends doing away with girlfriends – it didn’t take long to notice that all the victims in each of his stories were women.  He spoke passionately when talking about serial killers who’s “type” was young females and even mentioned that in Arizona’s deserts, it was easy for someone to disappear without a trace or for an act of violence to be disguised as an accident. 

I am a big believer in listening to what my intuition tells me so it was at this point that I started to literally be afraid - as in terrified to the point that I texted the driver ID# and the bus route I was on to one of my friends.  I kicked myself for telling the driver which stop I was riding to. 

Normal protocol for New York City’s MTA public buses is to skip stops in which there are no passengers waiting to get on and no passengers riding have signaled that they would like to get off.  My driver pulled over briefly at every desolate stop, making the trip last as long as possible.  At 42nd St, which was about 25 minutes into a ride that felt like 3 hours, a hoodrat-looking young guy got on.  I had never been so happy to see a stranger before in my life!  My face must have been very readable because he looked me in the eyes with questioning concern and sat across the aisle.  Before long, he too was seeing just why I was so freaked out.

Deciding that 10 streets was an easy walk to the subway and that I had reached my limit on the late-night crime tales, I interrupted the final account of a wayward girlfriend who met her grisly end by being thrown over the side of a cliff and into the river to inform the busdriver that I would get off the next stop.  I saw the bench signifying my safety get closer and I breathed a sigh of relief. . .until he didn’t stop.  At this point, I was pretty much having a panic attack in my brain.  Mid-internal freakout, I vaguely heard the driver say he would drop me at my intended destination.

Those 10 city streets were the longest of my life and when I was finally released, I literally sprinted all the way into the subway.  Safely nestled among other young professionals on their way home, the adrenaline was coursing through my veins and I could hear my heart pounding in my ears as I recounted everything I had just heard.   Whether it was just that the driver was a lonely, overly-enthusiastic, creepy storyteller or that his passionate speech was a cover for more sinister fantasies, I came to an easy conclusion:  it will be a long time before I brave those buses again.

Skinny Single Summer

15 Sep

As the weather begins to cool and my birthday has passed (September 9th is STILL summer as far as I’m concerned), it is time to admit that the seasons are beginning to change and autumn is arriving. 

A record number of my girlfriends and I began this past summer without boyfriends (a rarity for us, believe me), and thus the season was dubbed Skinny Single Summer.  We really stepped our life game, as young, attractive, successful 20-somethings, up.  So with all this new me-time and experience for self-reflection, what are the three biggest lessons Skinny Single Summer taught me?

For starters, there are a lot and I mean A LOT of freaks inhabiting this beautiful concrete jungle I currently call home.  In the past three months, I went on almost more dates than I thought I could possibly handle.  While it’s true that I have been on some fun ones, I have also been on more than a few horrific dates. . .some, like this one, I blogged about. . .others were pushed back into the far crevices in my brain only to make a guest appearance at a later date if I’m feeling short on material.  However, at the beginning of the summer, despite full knowledge that the freaks are out there, I made a promise to accept dates from guys I normally might not for superficial reasons and as cliché as it sounds, my eyes were opened to different types of people that I had been missing out on up until this point.  So it’s true, I have the “physical type” of the guy I’m most often attracted to, I’m not going to rule someone out simple because he doesn’t match up perfectly to that.

Second, my sister is one of the most fabulous people I know.  I have always loved her so much and considered her one of my best friends, but in some part of my brain, I couldn’t shake thinking of her as my little baby sister. . .some sort of child, I guess.  In the five+ weeks she spent staying with me, I really got to see and appreciate her in a way that I hadn’t since I came to NYC six years ago.  Seeing how hard she works and how kind of a heart she has when she interacts with others,  I can’t help but be so proud of who she has become :]

Finally, while being in a relationship can be so rewarding – I’m a team-oriented person so I like that feeling of having someone who always has my back – flying solo can be just as rewarding.  I really got to know myself and it was freeing to do exactly what I wanted whenever I wanted without having to consider someone else’s opinions or feelings.  In some ways, I feel like parts of myself that had been tucked away were reawakened as I did my self-exploring. 

So what now?  I’m putting much more of a focus on my little 238 item bucket list. . .I like the way challenging myself and pushing myself feels.  While you won’t see me doing something like hillbilly hand fishing (as it is my literal definition of a nightmare), I will be doing a lot more stepping outside of my comfort zone.  I’ve also decided that whoever my next relationship will be is going to be someone really special, as opposed to liking aspects of someone and hoping the rest will follow.  This also means checking my own baggage and allowing the possibility of getting hurt.  Am I ready?  I’m terrified. . .but bring it on!

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