A Love Letter to Planners

8-28-20 Melissabeee Post

Dear Planners of Mine (past and present),

You’ve always been there for me, ever since elementary school when I first met you. You never fail to show up for me, even when I’ve spilt coffee on you, neglected you for months, and then overly obsess over you for another few months, just to push you to the side for another few months after that. I know it’s complicated to be with me, but it works out because you understand what I need, when I need it…you aren’t too clingy, you remind me of the things I want to do and need to do. You give me the space to explore thoughts/ideas and capture memories for later. You provide me with the balanced structure and spontaneity I look for in my life. I love you.

Sincerely,

Melissa

*END SCENE*

Thank you for indulging me with the latest rendition of “What’s in Melissa’s Brain Today,” a never-ending play.


IMG_5216I have always written in journals growing up. I’ve recently unearthed a few of them from my parent’s garage. I’ve run the gamut of journal types: ones with locks, ones with glow-in-the-dark pages that you could only write on with specific gel pens, address books (remember those?!) with extensive note pages in the back, ring-bound, book-bound, ones with really fancy embroidered designs on the front covers, ones from the Sanrio store. I’ve had so many. But this isn’t a post about journals. This is a post about planners right?

I journaled pretty much my whole life up until college (I started a multitude of personal blogs, as a digital replacement, including this one…XANGA where you at), but I was formally introduced to planners in elementary school. I went to a private school and as part of the excitement of the first day back was being given a new plastic ring-bound planner. It had some Christian artwork on the front, most likely paired with some sort of quote from the Bible. It allowed me to write down all of my homework for the week and use that little ruler insert to mark my place in it. It was great times.

Even when I went off to college, I used the university planners that they sold at the campus bookstore up until junior year. They always helped me stay on top of my to-do list. It taught me different ways to prioritize and manage my time. Then when I transitioned into the workforce, I sort of lost my way (in many aspects lol). I didn’t know what worked best for me to manage what I felt was a less busy schedule. All I really had to track was work tasks right? Before I was tracking homework/project deadlines, internship shifts, work shifts, second internship shifts, organization meetings, etc. There was no shortage of tasks to fill my planners. But when all I really had to worry about was…work and hobbies (what’re those?) it felt odd. Don’t worry, I leveled up in my tracking and planning skills. I quickly learned how complex non-school life is and adapted what I needed in a planner. Starting my career helped me with that. Literally my day job is 85% planning.

So thus the exploration of planners began.

Obviously, some worked better for me than others. But oh boy, just like my multitude of journals, I’ve tried quite a few. The following are the ones I find worth talking about:

Lilly Pulizter 17-month Agenda (large planner $30 USD)

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The Lilly Pulitzer large agenda was the first planner I personally invested in. I think my dad bought me the Jonathan Adler one picked above (which has since been discontinued) as a gift. The Lilly Pulitzer agenda saw me through the last semester of college and into my first year of post-grad. It was fun, functional, and made me feel like an adult to walk into meetings with this planner in hand lol. The weekly pages shown above (lol @ Vegas plans) are pretty unstructured which worked for me during that time. This agenda is from 2013-2014, so I’m not sure if/how they’ve changed their layouts since then. Knowing me, I must have bought this planner after reading a review of some kind, was drawn towards the fun design elements and equally delightful stickers that came along with it. I thoroughly enjoyed using this planner and debated on buying another, but decided to try something new. Which brings me to the Passion Planner.

Passion Planner: Annual & Undated (all sizes: ~$30 USD)

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Passion Planner was just about 1 years old when I decided to try their first version of the planner. I’ve tried both the large and the small sizes available, but between the two, I definitely prefer their small version. It’s just more convenient for me. Can we also just appreciate the faux leather designs?! Beautiful. In total, I’ve used the Passion Planner for 4 years, which definitely shows how much I appreciate it and the company as a whole. There are so many great things I can say about this planner structure and its underlying tone, but here are a few of my favorite features:

  • Your Passion Roadmap: I love this two-page spread in the beginning of the planner that guides you through a step-by-step guide to mapping out your goals. It’s a brainstorming exercise that helps you to recognize, prioritize and place tangible deadlines for these goals: 3 months, 1 year, 3 years, and lifetime. As a woman who appreciates being strategic, the roadmap exercise definitely helps carve out paths towards goals. It makes them tangible and achievable.
  • The company is founded by a Filipinx entrepreneur based in San Diego, CA. That’s all. I’m proud to support such a valuable, POC-owned company.
  • They offer annual, academic and undated versions of their planner. Who doesn’t like having options?
  • Their weekly structure extra areas: this week’s focus, good things that happened, personal to-do list, work to-do list, space of infinite possibility. These are all carved out spaces on the two-page weekly spread that fosters creativity, prioritization and reflection. LOVE THAT.
  • Monthly reflection pages: Speaking of reflection, these pages, along with the roadmap, gives me those journal vibes I’ve enjoyed through the years. It ignites the side of my brain that is familiar with the process of journaling and stream of thought. These pages are not only an opportunity to see the month that just passed through the lens of gratitude, but an effective way to use the reflection as a jumping point to addressing goals in the month ahead. Acknowledge, pivot, and adjust where necessary. The core of the planner’s structure is to recognize that life happens, goals transform, and that there is space to be able to grow and change. Highly recommend.

What I’m Using Now: Inkwell Press Productivity Co. 360 Disc Planner 

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Don’t be fooled into thinking that I’ve been using the planner pictured since the start of this year, because full disclosure: I’ve had this planner for only one month. Yes, I realize that I’ve purchased a planner more than half way through the year. But there’s a reason. Similar to most folxs at the start of this new decade, I was feeling hopeful. Hopeful for change and apparently hopeful enough to be convinced to buy a personalized, hardcover bound planner from an Instagram advertisement that had been popping up in my feed for months leading into the new year. I bought it…HATED IT, attempted to use it because I had spent money on it, and failed at it. I actually gave up on that planner and went plannerless for the first two quarters of 2020. THE CHAOS. I won’t even get into the details of why the planner didn’t work for me, but overall, it was an aesthetics over function thing. 

Cut to about a month ago when I decided enough was enough. I couldn’t go without a central location for organization for this long. So I did what I do best, which is dive head first into YouTube reviews. I knew that I wanted to try something new and was recommended a discbound planner by my friend and podcast co-host Vanessa, which definitely checked that box. After some research, I decided to invest in a 360 Disc Planner by Inkwell Press Productivity Co. The beauty of a discbound planner is that you have the ultimate customization options, so depending on the planner packs available with the particular brand you go with, you can pick and choose what elements in a planner work for you. Some people even mix and match between brands. What I like in the Inkwell Press system is customizable capabilities, their paper quality, clean designs, and of course the functionality of the page inserts. There are event little hidden gems in the page layouts that are made for people who know how to adapt structured pages to their liking. Every little detail has been considered.

Here’s how I assembled my 360 Disc Planner:

  • Cover: Orchid Chevron Hard Cover ($15.00 USD)
  • 360 Discs: Rose Gold Discs ($22.00)
  • Planner Inserts: Weekly Planner | Flex | Academic Year ($32.00)
  • Accessories:
    • Poly Monthly Tabs ($15.00)
    • Pen Loop ($5.00)
    • Triple Pocket Folder ($6.00)
    • Stickers (from their clearance section, $3.20)

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Now, I know what you are thinking. That is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a planner. It is. I even had a coupon that gave me a $10 discount, but still, that’s a pretty penny. I realize that not everyone is willing or able to invest that much money into a planner. I’m just particularly willing to invest in this planning system because it’s something that I made sure I’d be able to and want to use for years to come. I took into consideration my functionality needs and design preferences. The discs, cover, and all of the accessories will carry over to future years of use. The only thing that I’ll need to re-purchase every year is the planner inserts. That’s the beauty of the discbound system.

(SIDE NOTE: As I’m sitting outside under the patio writing this blog post, bird sh*t literally just plopped on my planner cover LOL. Luckily, it was an easy cleanup. Is the universe literally trying to sh*t on my dreams? *cue existential thoughts*)

Alright, if you’ve made it this far, wow. This was a post for the other planner nerds out there. The lesson I’ve learned in my years of planner exploration is that there isn’t one way to do things. Just like everything else in life. Do what works for you and be willing to reach out of your comfort zone from time to time. That’s what I’ll continue to do.

❤ Melissa

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Let it Ink in

Let it Ink in

Before I dive into this post, I’d like to do the age-old “Wow, life happened and that’s why I haven’t posted in a while” spiel. So thank you in advance for indulging me.

Oh hello there 2020! It feels like I stumbled into the new decade carrying the clutter of my mind that I was hoping to leave in 2019.  I’ve had a whirlwind of a start to the year and somehow I’ve arrived at the tail-end of February 2020 (as I’m writing this). It sort of feels like I’m on a treadmill, months behind, trying to catch up to the marathon that is this new decade. But here I am, trudging through as always. I’m more grateful than ever to be healthy, to have chosen and be a part of a support system that has carried me through more than they even know, and to be here to embark on this new year.

IMG_8883Speaking of running metaphors, I’ve started running again. Why you ask? Well, since you asked so nicely, I’ll tell you. The simple answer is that I signed up for a half marathon in April. Consequently, out of sheer fear of being unprepared for what will be my second half marathon, I’m training. The complicated answer, yet still pretty simple in my opinion, is that I think I needed a literal kick in the ass. To say the least, I’ve had a ROUGH past six months mentally and emotionally, but I think I needed a physical manifestation of pain and therefore growth. Oh…you thought that masochistic Melissa was left in 2019? Nope, she’s still here, alive and well. But let me explain so I don’t come off as a complete psychopath.

After running my first half marathon back in 2017, I remember telling myself, “Cool. That’s over, that was kind of horrible, I don’t think I’ll do that again.” But on a whim back in November, I decided to sign up for a half marathon to force myself out of a comfort zone that I’ve made for myself. I don’t consider myself a runner because frankly, I’m not really good at it. I’m slow, I somehow end up in pain most times and I wouldn’t say I have great endurance. Did I mention I’m slow? Anyways, thus far, I have definitely been reminded of how humbling navigating physical pain is, how encouraging it feels to work on overcoming it and how empowering it is to notice growth. So that’s why I’m doing it. I also felt like I needed to be outside more. S.A.D. got me good this winter.

Anyways, that was my not-so-short update on life since my last post. Now onto the real reason why I’m here. I got my first tattoo! Hence the cheesy post title *shrugs*. I wanted to document the origin of the idea and why it means so much to me. I originally meant to write and publish this post before the end of December, but like I mentioned, life happened, I took time to let myself process and I’m glad I waited to be in a lighter headspace. I’m hoping it’s helped me better articulate what you are about to read.


Taboo

I grew up in a culture and environment that considers tattoos taboo. It’s never been addressed directly, but the implication is there. The reaction I received (or lack there of) from my parents upon showing them my tattoo reinforces the taboo. There is a misunderstanding as to why I would even want a tattoo and no desire to want to know more about it. But it’s alright though, I’ve long since accepted my place as the family black sheep and this little tattoo is just buying into the branding. LOL. I know they still love me. Plus, if they really wanted to know what the tattoo means to me, this post will be here for them.


The Catalyst

I wanted a tattoo for a number of years and always seemed to find an excuse as to why I shouldn’t get one. All throughout college I wanted one, played with some design ideas, but never followed through. I thought that maybe I was just going through a delayed rebellious phase. LOL. I was scared that it would hurt. Well, it did hurt. But honestly, I’ve gone through emotional and mental strife worse than the physical pain of getting a tattoo…TMI? Sorry not sorry. I will also add that this is a pretty small and fine-lined tattoo. So I feel like I was spared a lot of pain.

A lot of my hesitation was also based on what others thought or may think about me. What would my parents think? What would future me think? I was told by some to really think about what I wanted and if in two years I still wanted it, then get it. Others questioned: How would I know I’ll like that (referring to the intended artwork) later in life? Well, I let a lot of time pass and here I was, heading towards 2020, a chameleon to what others thought on the matter. Why did I care so much about the hypothetical opinions about something as inconsequential as a freakin’ tattoo?! It was insanity. So that was the catalyst. The idea that I allowed myself to be a bystander in my own life scared me more than the potential thoughts my parents (or anyone really) would have, the pain I would “endure” to get the tattoo and the potential that my future-self would loathe my present-self for getting it. HOW INSANE IS THAT?? I’m trying to live my life in reality, not in hypotheticals people.


Symbolism

IMG_7339I’ve always feared and admired the commitment required when getting a tattoo. People decide to get tattoos for a plethora of reasons. Whether it’s to commemorate a loved one or important date in one’s life, or purely out of love of the craft and art. I love that a tattoo can be so many things for people. My body’s a temple right? Why not place some really beautiful pieces of art in that temple 🙂

This first tattoo means so many different things to me. So let’s break it down:

  1. The symbol – An ampersand. I’ve always loved how the symbol looked. I’ve seen it in so many pieces of literature, written so many different ways.  The flowing lines and the way it has been adapted throughout the years is amazing. An ampersand is a logogram representing the phrase “and, per se, and” AKA “and.” For me, it’s symbolizes continuation. There is more to me than what I allow most people to see; there is more to be experienced in the story that is my life; there are many more seasons of growth ahead of me; beyond the pain there are many more lessons to be learned; there are so many things and people to be grateful for in my life. This symbol encapsulates abundance and appreciation of myself and the life I have. My life is abundant. During some of my darker times, I need that reminder. Now I won’t forget.
  2. Position and Direction – The tattoo is on my inner left wrist, facing me. I wanted it to be seen and read by me before anyone else. It’s on my left arm because I’m left-handed and I wanted it placed there as a visual reminder that while I exist in a world tailored for the opposite of who I am: left-handed, woman, woman of color, etc. I find strength in those unique qualities. That is what makes me, me.
  3. Nature – Intertwined branches, leaves, flowers both as buds and fully bloomed illustrate the happenings of life. It’s an oxymoron, but the way the fine lines intertwine with each other is delicate. But in the same way, the intertwining of branches create strength that hold up the leaves and the flowers that come and go. As seasons pass, we grow new branches, those branches grow buds, those buds bloom into beautiful flowers, and then back to branches we go. It’s a constant cycle. Seeing the tattoo is a daily reminder to express gratitude for the delicate life I get to experience through it’s ups and downs; and the strength I’ve developed and will continue to develop along the way.

Onto the Next

I got this tattoo back in November 2019. I kept it to myself, close friends and family for these four months and I’m glad I did. It allowed me time to let it heal, get it re-touched, let it heal again, let myself get used to it, and really appreciate it. The first few weeks I actually freaked out and regretted getting it done (I didn’t tell anyone this though…I figured saying it out loud would make the regret true, so I didn’t). I found myself hiding it underneath sweaters and long sleeves, being hyper aware that my tattoo was underneath. But what I found comforting was that it was winter, so long sleeves and sweaters didn’t seem out of the ordinary. After those few weeks of doubt, I find myself literally stopping in the middle of my day, seeing it and mouthing the words “omg it’s so cute.” 🙂

I love what this cute little first tattoo of mine means to me. It’s part of my story and I am proud of it…and yes, you read it right. I did say first. I already have tattoos two and three brewing in my head. I’m also working on seeing who from my cousins would be down to go in on some ink with me. FAM TATTOO!! No real takers yet…but I totally get it. Maybe they’ll come around one day.

Big shout out to Wilber at Baron Art Tattoo! He adapted a sketch a friend of mine made into the final artwork. Their artists are all so talented and specialize in different types of tattoo art. Highly recommend, 10/10. Check them out if you are in the market for some ink. I went to their second location in Long Beach…so dangerously close to where I live lol.

Anyways, if you read this far, wow. Thank you for taking the time to share in this joy with me. Onto the next!

Hmm…is this going to turn into a tattoo blog now? *contemplates life choices* 😛

Sincerely,

Melissa ❤

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Energy in Motion

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For a long time I thought that my high level of sensitivity, introspection and empathy were weaknesses. I don’t really remember a distinctive moment when I realized that those very characteristics I considered weaknesses, have been strengths in disguise this whole time…but I want to say it happened within this past year. But who knows? What is time anyway? Lol. All I know is that some sort of evolution happened and all of a sudden I’m in a headspace where I am able to comprehend it.

I struggle everyday with the ebb and flow of my feelings…and oddly enough, I’m grateful for it. I feel things so deeply and think about things so thoroughly that it can be overwhelming. Ever experience being pummeled by an underestimated wave? Yeah, it’s a bit like that. Even as I am in the midst of a wave as I write this, not knowing which way is up or down, I find a sense of clarity…because I’m reminded that I know how to swim. I’m also reminded that I’ve established roots that I can use to navigate myself back when needed. These days, when people ask me if I’m okay in tumultuous moments, my answer is usually: no, but I will be.

I’d rather experience intense waves of emotion than exist in indifference…because I’ve been there before. There was a point in my life where I didn’t know if I could allow myself to feel…for anything or anyone. I let others tell me how to feel and what to think for so long that I ended up forgetting who I was. YIKES. Dark times, am I right? But with time, I relearned the following:

  • How to have an opinion, whether negative or positive about things, ideas and people
  • That having a unique and strong opinion is valid
  • Not only who I was but to appreciate myself and my accomplishments
  • That I have no reason to apologize for any of it (as long as I’m being respectful of others of course)

My ability to be passionate about a concept, to care so very deeply for someone and to be so driven towards a goal…is ultimately a gift (and a curse lol). These tendencies have shown me my best memories and my most impactful lessons. I’ve come to acknowledge that the frequency in which my thoughts and feelings emanate from me have attracted the unique experiences and relationships that I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of.

In the past, I coped with negativity by attempting to place blame, whether it be on circumstance, others or myself (emphasis on the latter). It seemed easier at the time, but that’s because I didn’t know how to swim. I didn’t know how to navigate the wave. So I dragged myself and others down with me. Not ideal. However, the current wave I’m treading through is taking me somewhere I’ve never been before and while it’s anxiety-inducing at times, I’m going to let it…because I know I can keep myself afloat.

Learning to be okay with not being okay all the time has been a catalyst to my growth process. In the words of the Queen Bee herself, “The tears we cry let us know we alive.” It’s so true. The most impactful learning moments are created when forced to face raw emotion. You feel most alive when you physically feel the emotion coursing through you. At least that’s how it is for me. I’ve joked about always having been a cry baby, but in reality it is a symbol of my emotional intelligence. I’ve learned that the act of crying is a vehicle for thoughts and emotions. Letting go of the ego and allowing vulnerability is where I find my strength. It’s energy in motion my friends, we must let it flow through us and allow ourselves to absorb all that it has to teach us, even though it’s not always a pretty site to see. Everyone else is doing the same thing we are: figuring it out. Your puffy eyes and red nose are a visual representation of progress ❤

“The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

To close out this train of thought, I’ve recently been reminded of the beauty in loss and it’s equal parts frightening and enlightening. That concoction of emotion is exciting. I’m looking forward to what it will bring into my life.

To those who have come and gone: I recognize that I am/was a part of your journey towards growth and I am not angry or resentful about that. You are a breathing, moving, thinking and feeling person just like me…navigating through discovering needs and wants in this thing called life. I am sincerely grateful that our lives intertwined, even if just briefly, regardless of the outcome. You are just as much a chapter of growth for me as I have been for you, so thank you.

Sincerely,

Melissa

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I’m Taking a Mental Health Day

 

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), October 10 is World Mental Health Day. WHO observes this day annually with the objective of raising awareness about the multitude of worldwide mental health issues and the importance of allocating resources in support of mental health. This year’s theme is “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.

WHO is focusing on the need for comprehensive mental health programs targeted specifically toward the younger generation, which I think is great. Unfortunately, the reality we exist in tends to approach mental health in a reactive manner: mental health issues are treatable. But very scarcely are we exposed to resources that teach us about preventative measures…methods that can be utilized to address potential issues before they have a chance to escalate.

WHO speaks of young people in a “changing world.” This era of young people: Millennials (myself included) and members of Generation Z, are coming of age in a technological environment that continues to expand at an exponential rate. With that, comes bounds of information at our fingertips, making the big ‘ol world seem a lot smaller…a lot faster.

From my own personal experience, remembering a portion of life sans Internet and growing up alongside its development, definitely helped shape how I view the world. For me, technology has given me instant access to a variety of cultures and perspectives; and it has helped me develop a strong sense of awe and empathy for others…something I don’t think would’ve been possible prior without literally traveling.

I gratefully exist in an increasingly sensitive, open-minded and fluid generation. I love it. Social boundaries are being broken, bent and re-construed in beautiful ways. However, traditional social structures label sensitivity as a negative; open-mindedness and exploration as a privilege (which is true, but it is seen through a negative lens). These filters lead to generalizations that Millennials and members of Generation Z are entitled, narcissistic and individualistic. What I’m getting at here is that while I see this “changing world” as an overall positive…it is accompanied by new, complex sociological and mental challenges.

Myself and most of my peers are at points in our lives where the terms “burnt out” or “overwhelmed” are common phrases used in conversation regarding well-being. We are the generation that went straight to college, racked up loans, jumped on that stable job to start paying those loans with a quickness…fast forward to 3-4 years in the workforce, grinding day-in and day-out. (ooooh I can already imagine how far back the eyes of Generation X and the Baby Boomers are rolling right now) We are the generation of dreamers: pursuing side hustles, fostering passion projects and/or creating our own jobs, with plans to break free from the traditional structures that we originated from.

Unlike generations before us, we are inundated with access to so much at all times that the stakes are constantly being raised, standards are increasingly higher, expectations are continually (and seemingly) unattainable, and our perception of our own potential for success is constantly being challenged through wide-casted comparisons to others. These technology-stemmed social pressures support a culture of overworking, overwhelming and overexerting ourselves…spreading ourselves too thin.


Stress Knows Not What Age Is

In the end, while the causes of previous generations’ development of mental health problems differ from that of today’s generation, they have similar origins. From my own observations of myself and those in my circle of family and friends, unaddressed stressors and their triggers are what lead to the development of anxieties, and frustrations. Regardless of one’s generation, it all seems to boil down to two things:

  1. a lack of self reflection – people are so busy with their lives hustling, stuck in routine, fixated on a goal (or multiple). It’s important for my sanity to step back on a regular basis to reflect on my intentions behind my actions, evaluate if those have changed and recalibrate if necessary. “Adjust accordingly” has been one of my mottos for a number of years now. It essentially reminds me to have a plan, know that the plan will be deviated and that the multiple deviations do not take away from the value of the original plan. If anything, deviations add to its charm.
  2. a lack of self care – Again…people are so busy living their lives that they forget to take care of themselves. Whether it’s something as simple as getting my nails done once in a while, making time for a hobby that I enjoy or sticking to a gym schedule…it all adds up. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes! We need to be happy with ourselves (or even just my day…I’ll take what I can get lol) in order to purely provide happiness for others…in my opinion. How can we take care of others effectively and wholeheartedly if we don’t take care of ourselves first?

It’s Okay

This past year has been one of constant self reflection. Not that I haven’t already been doing that, but this year I have actively chosen to take a more mindful approach to my mental health. Finding a balance between when to say yes or no to things, experiences and people I come across. Learning to identify the little things that bring me happiness and the bad habits I need to work my way out of.

Perspective is everything. I’ve always been one to give people the benefit of the doubt, to imagine myself in another’s shoes. It helps me empathize with others and their unique circumstances that I may not understand. However, it’s only recently that I started utilizing the concept of perspective on myself and my well-being. After many talks with friends and family, many moments of reflection, here is what I’ve learned in the past year and a half:

  1. It’s okay to say no – Humans are social beings. We want to be accepted by others. Typically the word “no” isn’t the path toward acceptance/blending in. But it’s okay to say no to a night out in exchange for a solo night in from time to time. It’s okay to say no to more work projects if it’s going to negatively affect my other projects and more importantly, my ability to work on them effectively.
  2. It’s okay to ask for help – I find solace in having control over a situation or project. But control doesn’t mean I need to do everything myself. I had to learn that asking for help does not mean I am incompetent. If anything it makes me a more competent human being to admit when I can’t handle something and to appropriately delegate.
  3. It’s okay to say “I don’t know” – There’s a saying that goes something like, play to your strengths and hire others to fill your weaknesses? I don’t know (lol no pun intended) what it is exactly and frankly, I’m too lazy to look it up…but the point is that it’s not the end of the world to not know something. That’s what Google is for.
  4. It’s okay to be scared – Fear is a lot of people’s reasons for not doing certain things. I continue to fight this fight. Isn’t there another saying that speaks to finding comfort in being uncomfortable? Well, there’s something to that. Doing something I am afraid of teaches me a lot of things about myself and my capabilities. I don’t consider myself a good public speaker and I never enjoyed public speaking. But my job requires it on a regular basis and even though it’s not my favorite thing in the world, I can see myself skills improve every time.

Good Mental Habits = Good Mental Health

When discussing goals, a lot of the time people are looking to break bad habits…what if we shift perspective and look at it as developing good habits? If we continue to build more good habits in our lives, won’t they eventually outweigh the bad habits? We all have our vices, but as long as we live an 80/20 lifestyle, I think we are good. That’s a B+ lol. We can’t all be A+ students.

Here are some things I try to incorporate into my day in order to give myself a mental break and decompress: 

At Work

  1. Take your designated breaks – I admit I’m really, really bad at this. Yes I had to add an extra “really.” But I am constantly trying to get better at this. I am entitled to my breaks and work will always be there waiting for me when I get back. It’s easy to get caught up in the work, but removing myself for even just 10 minutes gives my brain a much needed rest.
  2. Utilize the Pomodoro method – My brother introduced this workflow method to me and I try to use it as much as I can. It consists of 25 minutes of uninterrupted, focused work, followed by a 5 minute short break. Repeat. It’s kind of like a game and it helps me increase my productivity 🙂 I use tomato-timer.com. You should try it out!
  3. Stretch periodically – While using the Pomodoro method, stretch during breaks. It promotes blood flow and good posture…and who doesn’t want good posture!
  4. Stay comfy – We are at work for a huge chunk of our day. Why should we be uncomfortable? Take advantage of ergonomic evaluations and accommodations if available and make your workspace as comfortable as possible. I have house slippers at my desk because I see no point in wearing real shoes unless I’m in meetings or walking outside. My co-worker runs cold, so she has a blanket at her desk. Why suffer through cold for 8 hours a day? No need.

At Home (Not at Work)

  1. Find a physical activity that you enjoy – not everyone is a gym rat, but physical health is undeniably tied to mental health. So whether its going for a daily walk, jumping rope, rock climbing or Zumba, find something that doesn’t feel like a workout. I’m still figuring this one out…
  2. Read a book – o0o novel idea there! (no pun intended…or maybe it was) It’s sad how refreshing it is to detach from a screen and read an actual book. Remember those? They still exist lol. But seriously, I forget how much I enjoy reading  a good book until I carve out time to do it. Plus, while reading a book you are guaranteed no encounters or interactions with Internet trolls. SO GREAT.
  3. Do nothing for at least 15 minutes – Why are we constantly moving from one thing to the next? Wake up, work, come home, do errands, etc. Call it what you’d like: meditating, self-reflection, zen time. I think it’s important to actually be still and be okay with being still at least for 15 minutes. Try it, it’s kind of difficult at first, but it’s possible to build up to it. I like using the Headspace app.

On Vacation

  1. Stop and smell the roses! – I’m not one to stuff my itinerary with activities when I’m on vacation. It stresses me out trying to stay on schedule…while on vacation. It’s counterintuitive! For me, the act of wandering is an essential part of vacation to me. It’s not a vacation if I don’t take my time to immerse myself in the new environment around me.
  2. Exercise – I always feel extra good about myself when I sneak a workout in during a vacation. Vacations tend to be filled with good food and a lot of lounging, only to get back home feeling like a lump of lard. No bueno. Take advantage of that underutilized hotel gym…you can fist bump the one other person in there and it’ll be a cool moment lol. Or you can go for a morning/evening run or walk. It’s a great way to see a new city! Be safe of course.

Happy World Mental Health Day

I know we live in tumultuous times and there is a constant stream of bad news infiltrating our feeds. It’s overwhelming and exhausting fighting the good fight day in and day out. That’s why I think it’s more important than ever to make sure we are taking care of all aspects of ourselves: physically, spiritually and mentally. Hopefully this day is a reminder that your mental well-being is worth prioritizing. Cheers to your peace of mind ❤

Sincerely,

Melissa Beee

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Me, Myself & My Femininity

Femme Forever

Disclaimer: Perspective is everything, so I recognize that my specific experiences that have shaped my view on this topic may not be relatable to others out there. Also, I am in no way an expert in any of these topics. The following is just a stream of consciousness about a topic that I’ve most likely discussed among my peers and close friends. So, consider this your disclaimer! On that note…let’s talk femininity! 😉


We live in a day and age where the concept of a spectrum is being applied to traditionally polar social constructs. For example: gender identity. Traditionally, the identifiers are boy or girl; male or female; and with that comes the traditional descriptions behind masculine and feminine.

I was raised in a fairly conservative/sheltered environment, so I am absolutely continuing to learn and understand the concept of identity on a spectrum. I agree with the quote that claims that you are a reflection of the company you keep, so it makes me feel a sense of comfort knowing I can explore these topics with people in my life without having to feel judged or shut down. So shout out to those that exist on the same wavelength of learning about and discussing these topics with me ❤

With that said, I’m about to delve into a few traditional concepts of femininity and how I’ve navigated or continue to navigate through them.

Feminine: having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.

The above definition is what comes up when the word “feminine” is Googled. I personally believe that femininity is on a spectrum and is not limited to adjectives such as “delicate” or “pretty.” I actually cringe at how limiting those descriptors are. No one ever fits into one adjective. People are intensely more complex than those two words. What makes an individual…well, an individual is a beautiful blend of a breadth of traits.

I spent years internally debating what defined me as a girl and now as a woman (LOL. Cue Britney Spears’ “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”). This may be the first time I’m ever writing about this subject, but the formulation of my femininity versus the patriarchal definition of femininity has been a reoccurring notion throughout my life. I just didn’t know it as a 9 year old questioning the rationale of a dress…go figure. In fact, I still have this debate with myself all the time and it always seems to be about the little things. Funnily enough, its these little things that end up mattering so much for some reason.


Here are three concepts that I’ve found to contribute in some fashion to the general idea of femininity and my thoughts on them:


Make-up

I’m constantly questioning my need for eyeliner (or make up in general) at work because if I don’t I’m afraid that I’ll either look like a 10 year old boy or be barraged with comments pertaining to looking like I’m tired or “not myself.” Which if you think about it, what kind of messed up insecurity is that? Also, FYI to anyone that says those things to people, that’s #RUDE. LOL. I’ll have you know that I am for the most part an adequately-rested and/or well-caffeinated human being.

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Cabin Trip 2018: No wifi, no make-up, no problem

Anyways, I think what prompted me to write down these thoughts about femininity in the first place came from my reflection about my recent cabin trip with friends to Sequoia. A group of mostly guys and a handful of girls spending a weekend in a cabin in the middle of nature. No make up, no dress up, just pure comfy clothes all day. As we filed into the car, I remembering saying out loud how excited I was to not wear make up for a whole three days…and that externalization of my feelings about make up in that moment actually caught me off guard. It made me think of my dependence on beauty products to make me feel and look some type of way. But liberating myself from make up for at least a full 72 hours…was REFRESHING. My face could really breath. I remember looking in the mirror on Sunday morning, brushing my teeth and liking what I saw lol.

 

That’s something I’ve been working on for the past…I want to say, 2-3 years. Accepting my body as a whole for what it is….including my face. There was a point in my life where I never left the house without some sort of make up on. These days, I am slowly increasing the quality of make up I purchase and decreasing the amount of overall quantity of make up I use on a daily basis. I am also increasing the number of makeup-less days (mostly weekends. It’s a work-in-progress). Those past two sentences seriously sounds like the steps of breaking an addiction. And maybe I am. I mean, I’ve never really worn a lot of make up. I’m honestly just too lazy for all of it everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy the process of make up…It’s just so odd how a bit of concealer and powder can contribute to someone’s definition of femininity.

 


Clothes

Oh, clothes. I didn’t know what fashion really was or even cared until I was forced into it when I started college. Remember when I said I grew up in a conservative/sheltered environment? A big chunk of that environment was going to private, Roman Catholic school from kindergarten through high school. This meant that I wore a school uniform from the age of 5 until about 17. It didn’t dawn on me that I needed to make clothing choices seven days a week until I started college.*insert shrugging emoji* Catholic school girl problems lol.

I always sensed a sort of pressure to be more girly than I personally felt I was…I can even say that some level of this pressure still exists for me to this day (but again, work-in-progress people). Outside of the uniforms, growing up I always found myself challenging the norm of what it meant to be “girly.” AKA I wasn’t a fan of dresses and dresses are the article of clothing traditionally associated with the idea of femininity. But to me, dresses didn’t seem practical. To the dismay of my poor mom, I specifically hated every dress I had to wear to my piano recitals. That forced smile in the picture below (left) just says it all…sorry mom. Lol. The crunchy, over-hair sprayed ‘do didn’t help my confidence either.

 

Going back to the spectrum thing. I felt like I’ve always existed in the middle somewhere. I definitely had a desire for toys that were traditionally marketed towards girls, but I also wondered why I never received those fake tool sets/belts as gifts for my birthday. I wanted to pretend to use a hammer and nails too! I also liked getting into the dirt outside, getting my nails dirty and digging for treasure because for a good while, I wanted to become an anthropologist and uncover fossils for a living (Don’t judge me).

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College Days 2011: I was all about hair-length feather earrings on one ear and thrift store tops.

It was only until college that I started to enjoy clothes and saw it as a tool to express myself. It was no longer something that helped define me as either a “girly girl” or a “tom boy.” I came to the realization that I could be all of the above! I rocked all kinds of accessories in college (including hair length feather earrings) and tried all kinds of combinations of clothes…obviously some I regret looking back at pictures now, but you live, you wait 5 years and then you laugh at it lol. College is also when I actually embraced dresses! I discovered how convenient they can actually be. Wearing dresses meant spending less time trying to coordinate multiple pieces of clothing together. Who knew dresses would save me so much time (peak fashion laziness achieved).

 


Hobbies

I’ve dabbled in a variety of hobbies growing up, but the only one that had longevity was piano lessons. I remember doing ballet as a little girl and always thinking I wasn’t “girly” (let alone graceful) enough for ballet slippers and the leotards. Not long after I started, I stopped going because I would cry every time.

In junior high, I went through this “tom boy” phase. Not a fan of that phrase, but that’s what my parents called it. Mind you, this was during the height of My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy and Paramore. Part of this phase was wanting to skateboard. My supportive parents (bless their hearts) even went as far as to bring me to the local skate shop to customize my very own skateboard. Then when it came to actually learning how to skateboard, it dawned on me how much I don’t like falling down. So…that was the end of that.

Another part of this phase was wanting to learn the drums. I wondered why I never saw a girl drummer in any of the bands I listened to, so I was determined to be the first one. Again, my supportive parents even got me a full drum set. They took me to lessons and I remembered enjoying it other than the fact that I was the only girl in class. But wasn’t that the point? I was supposed to be excited about that fact…but I let that intimidate me and I ended up quitting. Which is something I regret to this day.

I look back at these attempts to find what activities I was good at and realized that I let these weird constructs of what a “girl hobby” versus a “boy hobby” is dictate my life for a long time. Piano was the only extra curricular where I saw a good split between boys and girls, so that’s where I felt comfortable. When the activity I was participating in was on polarizing ends of the spectrum, I felt out of place. Interesting how that works…and how cool would it have been for me to be a ballet-dancing drummer extraordinaire!

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Photo source: @Kolars Instagram

I actually had a “world’s colliding” moment last year when I was in Joshua Tree for my cousin’s birthday. Part of the festivities included attending a music festival. It was there that I saw the Kolars, an indie alternative band from Los Angeles. One half of the band was a woman who sang and played the drums…WHILE tap dancing. Her individual definition of femininity was beaming through her grunge, quirk and grace. She is what I call GOALS my friends. That could’ve been me! Maybe…LOL.

 

 


Anyways, that concludes my mini-analysis of how the idea of femininity and my own personal definitions have developed over time. Thank you for indulging me. 🙂 

Oh, and happy Women’s Equality Day! On this day, I am reminded that while I’ve had the privilege of making significant personal progress in regards to finding where I fit in this world as a woman, there are many women out there who still do not have that privilege. There are many women out there that live in parts of the world where the patriarchy is law and their voices are not heard. I can only hope that the other women out there that have the power and the privilege to make change, continue to bring other women up and expand this culture of supporting and liberating other women along the way. #GIRLGANG ❤

Sincerely,

Melissa Beee

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5 Things You Must Do in Chicago // Spring & Summer Edition

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Chi-Town, Chi-City, the Windy City. It’s the midwest, it’s young and restless. LOL. Actually, it’s not so young. It’s a city known for it’s historic and innovative architecture, shady political climate and it’s predictably unpredictable weather. You are probably like what? How can weather be predictably unpredictable? Well, during the four days I was there recently in June, it was 90 degrees one day, 50 degrees and raining the next . I was sunburnt and freezing in a span of 14 hours. Nevertheless, Chicago is a city that I continue to love!

I never really had any reason to visit Chicago until my cousin moved out there for medical school 5-6 years ago. A few years later, one of my childhood friends would also move out there to attend the same medical school. Shout out to Rosalind Franklin University and Chicago Medical School! 😉 Since then, I’ve visited a total of four times, including my most recent trip in June 2018. This trip was extra special because my family and I witnessed my cousin and her fiancé officially become freakin’ doctors ❤

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Spring-almost-summer is a great time to visit Chicago let. me. tell. you. Even with the random rain and wind chill we experienced, it was significantly easier to explore the city. I’ve been to Chicago during a “mild winter” (average temperature of 12 – 20 degrees) and it is NO BUENO.  I mean, I’m sure it’s beautiful in more open areas, but dirty ice along the streets, pot holes galore and signs warning you about falling icicles aren’t really the most appealing things to see. How do you prepare yourself to dodge an icicle anyways? Also, if you were ever wondering what it’s like to freeze and sweat at the same time, bike through the streets of Chicago with a full down coat on. LOL.

In no way am I Chicago expert, but since I have a few visits under my belt, I thought I would share some of my favorite things to do in the windy city during the spring/summer months:

1. Bike Your Way Through the City

I’ve rented bikes two out of the four times I’ve been to Chi-Town and it’s been one of my favorite ways to “see as the locals do.” There’s something satisfying about feeling the wind on your face and literally navigating yourself through huge intersections of an unfamiliar city that you don’t get when you jump in a Lyft or Uber.

I’m sure there are a variety of bike rental options out there, but both times I used Divvy bikes since their pick-up/drop-off stations are numerous and scattered throughout the city.  Biking is not only a good way to incorporate a workout into your weekend of deep dish pizza indulgence, but it’s also a liberating way to experience the city.

We rode our bikes throughout Millennium Park, along the lakefront all the way to the Shedd Aquarium and along the river. It can be a bit intimidating at first, but long as you stick to the bike lanes, stay alert and are mindful of the rules, I think it’s definitely worth it.

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Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain, Grant Park

2. Kayak Through the Chicago River

Chicago is known for its unique architectural styles, ranging from towering steel skyscrapers to beautiful brick-laden buildings sprinkled throughout the city. The formation of the city’s beautiful skyline is full of such eye-opening history…and you can learn all the interesting details while kayaking through the river! What better way to see the city than to paddle your way through the river that winds through it? (and you best believe I sang “Just Around the Riverbend”)

I’ve taken the architecture tour twice with Wateriders, and both times were amazing. I had “Joel The Tour Guide” both times I’ve gone, and each time he manages to memorize the names of everyone in the group. Joel and his staff are personable, accommodating and entertaining. Wateriders also offer a variety of other tours including a Ghosts and Gangsters tour and a Moonlight Paddle. Of course these tours are only hosted during the Spring/Summer months, so I suggest you take advantage of that. You won’t regret it! (Just remember to wear sunscreen…and not a jean jacket…like I did)


3. Purchase a CityPASS

The official Chicago CityPASS is a convenient way to see the popular tourist spots on your list. For $106 (adult pricing) you can gain priority entrance to the following attractions:

It’s definitely worth it, especially during peak tourist hours (aka weekends). As long as you hit up at least four of the available attractions, you get your money’s worth.


4. Take Public Transportation

Skip trying to find parking in the city and buy a Ventra card! Prices vary depending on your preference. It’s as simple as pressing a few buttons on one of the automatic kiosks at each train station. Once you buy the card, you can either add a certain sum of money to it, or buy a pass for a certain number of days. Since my recent trip was four days, I ended up buying a 7-day pass. It gave me access to the above ground train, subway and the bus system. Public transit is an immersive way of learning about a new city and allows for more exploration, because you’ll need to navigate from station to station. Super convenient and more affordable than renting a car!

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5. Visit Maggie Daley Park

Your kids…or your own inner kid will thank you for visiting this amazing park! Maggie Daley Park, along with the famous Millennium Park, is another free (for the more part) attraction to take advantage of within The Loop. Once you are done taking your “Bean” photos at Millennium Park, take a short stroll over the picturesque BP Pedestrian Bridge to Maggie Daley Park.

The park’s attractions are tucked between nooks of tree groves and features: the below pictured fantastical rope bridge at their Play Garden, a freakin’ rock climbing wall, many places to lay down a picnic blanket, an ice skating ribbon (forget your boring rink!) during the colder months, and more! For a full list of the park’s attractions, visit their website 🙂

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Obviously there are hundreds of other things to do in Chi-town (I didn’t even get into all the food I ate), but I thought I’d share some of my favorites 🙂 Hopefully that was helpful! Let me know what your favorite things about Chicago are if you’ve visited before.

Sincerely,

Melissa Beee

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Palm Springs, CA // Desert Weekend Getaway

Palm Springs, CA // Desert Weekend Getaway

How is it already Fall?! Summer 2017 flew by with a quickness. Between balancing event planning at work and eventful weekends with family and friends this summer, my poor travel photos and video footage quickly got buried. So, consider this post as my attempt to dig them up and make treasure out of the ones I captured in Palm Springs, CA. There’s definitely more adventure-type posts coming soon. So look forward to those 6 months from now…LOL. Just kidding. Maybe.


 Check out my little Palm Springs travel video here:


I thought about it, and I want to say that Palm Springs is one of my favorite mini getaway destinations. I’ve been almost a handful to times and there hasn’t been a time when I didn’t enjoy it. Whether it was with my friend’s family or with my friends, there was always something enjoyable about it.

Everyone has a different definition for “staycation,” but for me, anything slightly beyond the outskirts of the county line qualifies as one. It’s approximately 2 hours away, yet it seems like a completely different atmosphere. Maybe it has something to do with Palm Spring’s proximity to LA. It’s comfortably close and far enough. Isn’t it amazing how you can drive two hours in any direction from LA (…assuming little traffic) and find yourself in completely different terrain? I would say Palm Springs is two things the heart of LA isn’t: serene and spacious.

So what’s the deal about Palm Springs? It used to be known as the wild spring break destination for college students, but what’s so cool about it now? Maybe a better question to ask is: What’s always been so cool about it?  It may have fallen from the top college spring breaking spot, but I think that’s part of its charm. While everyone else is hopping on planes or driving off to Vegas, Palm Springs sits quietly along the 10 freeway, a sparkling desert oasis in the distance, an underrated destination to sneak away to. If you are into mid-century modern architecture, quirky art, mountainscapes (not sure if that’s a real word), cute brunch spots, poolside chilling and vintage shopping…Palm Springs, CA is definitely for you. By the way, if you plan a visit in the summer…you also have to be okay with melting into the ground in triple digit heat. No joke.

Here are a few “10 outta 10, would recommend” tidbits I came across during my recent trip to this desert oasis:

Food // Drink

The summer heat is no joke, so if you are planning on walking the streets of downtown, be sure to take a pit stop at these places to stay hydrated & fueled up:

  • For Coffee // Koffi – There are three locations to choose from, so whether you are staying in North Palm Springs, South Palm Springs or just outside of town in Rancho Mirage, you’ll have one near by. They carry staple coffee favorites and pastries to pair. From the couple of times I’ve been there, it seems like a spot revered by locals and tourists.
  • For Breakfast & Brunch // Farm – Southern French-inspired breakfast and brunch. What more can I say? Nothing really. I will mention this though, if you can bear the heat, or if you are visiting during their non-sweltering season, I highly recommend sitting in their patio area. The aesthetic removes you from Palm Springs itself (except for the heat) and creates the illusion of being in a countryside backyard enjoying your French Aunt’s cooking. Okay, that’s all about that.
  • For Ice Cream // Ice Cream & Shop(pe) – Attached to Arrive Hotel on Palm Canyon Dr., it’s a quirky gift shop and gourmet ice cream stop all-in-one. Their rotating list of homemade ice creams and sorbets has many flavors to choose from. It’s a great balance between classics (with a twist) and completely unique flavors. We stumbled upon it after having dinner at Reservoir, a restaurant also adjacent to the hotel. Grab dinner, grab a drink, hang out in their pool lounge area, then grab some ice cream before you leave. Sounds like a perfect night to me.

Sites // Activities

Definitely check out a few sites while you are in the area. I’m kind of a closeted interior design/architecture fangirl. So Palm Springs was a fitting place to indulge in tile work, woodwork, coffee tables and more! Here’s where I visited:

  • Parker Palm Springs – The photos above are just their lobby area…so that gives you a small peek into how the rest of the hotel’s design standards are. Hotel guests can roam the grounds and lounge around on their hammocks and abundant lawn seating. Their patio brunch restaurant, Norma’s (pictured above in the food & drink section), offers a mid-50s vibe with it’s olive green, orange creamsicle and muted teal color scheme.
  • That Pink Door – Apparently there is an official Palm Springs door tour, which is interesting. It’s an open invitation to stalk people’s houses to admire their eclectic front doors and aesthetically pleasing landscaping. But because of the heat, we ended up just visiting the coveted Pink Door, took pics and ran back inside the air-conditioned car. Definitely an Instagram-friendly spot. I would’ve wanted to do the whole tour if we had the time.
  • Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – Not pictured, but during a past visit to Palm Springs, I’ve taken this amazing/scary, rotating tram ride up the Chino Canyon mountainside in San Jacinto National Park. No explanation needed other than it’s worth it to witness beautiful, scenic views 8,516 feet above the valley. There are two observation decks, two restaurants, a number of hiking trails and a museum. It’s also much cooler up there!

Fun Facts

Did you know that the summer time in Palm Springs is their off-season? I didn’t either until one of our Lyft drivers told us when we were wondering why half of the restaurants we wanted to go to weren’t open and noticed there weren’t many people walking around town. Apparently after festival season (Coachella & Stage Coach), tourist activity winds down as the desert gets even hotter, so a number of business owners find it better to close up shop on a few strategic, slow summer weeks. Who would’ve known? Not me apparently!


Girls Weekend

My recent trip to Palm Springs was one I’ll always remember because it’s the girls weekend that transformed us from childhood best friends into a “bridal gang.” It’s the weekend that Lauren asked us to be her bridesmaids!! ❤ What an official door-opening into the chapter of young adulthood it was.

My heart is warm knowing that we can still make it a priority to remove ourselves from our busy schedules once in a while to reconnect with one another. I love and appreciate these girls more than they probably know and this trip was was much needed. Check them out below 😉 Anyways, cheers to more girls weekends and sharing life’s milestones with one another! xx

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Sincerely,

Melissa Beee.