Making the Whole Beautiful, Lessons from Puerto Rico

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The incredible thing about going through a divorce is that the world knows that every detail of your life isn’t pretty.

Now, this was always true.  Since the day I exited the womb.  But as human beings we are really good at trying to make it look like every detail is pretty.  That’s why we post vacation pictures like this on Instagram:

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Pretty.  We want everything to be pretty.

However, once the world knows it is not all pretty, there is no real need to keep up the act.

It is as if a sign is on my forehead reading:

“Here stands a girl with ugly life details”

Thank goodness.  It is so less exhausting to have people know it’s not all pretty.  Now I can focus on making the whole beautiful.

Pretty Details vs. Beautiful Whole

- It means that I do not look physically perfect all the time.  It’s much better to jump into ocean waves and mess up your hair than it is to sit on the sidelines with perfect curls.

Hint:  You can always throw on a hat, ladies.

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- It means I don’t make the conventionally “right” decisions all the time.  It’s much better to reschedule a college class and go on a vacation to another country than it is to miss out on exceptional experiences.

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- It means I am less concerned with the opinions of others.  Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.  You know what is my business?  What I do with the time I’m given.  

That’s why when I’m in Puerto Rico, I drink Puerto Rican rum and stuff my face with fried plantains:

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It’s also the same reason why I come back home and hit the gym and eat eggs and spinach for breakfast.

Because my body mirrors my quest for a beautiful whole.  Sometimes it indulges, sometimes it works hard.  It’s not always pretty, but it’s always beautiful.

The truth is I can’t go back and fix up the details to look pretty.

The truth is it is absolutely in my power to make the whole beautiful.

So here is to My Not So Pretty Details: bad hair days, broken relationships, dwindling bank accounts, bug bites

And here is to My Beautiful Whole: summer vacations, trying new things, eating, drinking, being afraid and doing it anyway

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P.S.  Look at that Puerto Rican sunset.

The Beautiful Whole is so much more photogenic than pretty details.

 

We Are Independent Together

Independent, Adj.:

free from outside control; not depending on anothers authority

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We gather around on the 4th of July with friends old and new, with family born to and chosen, and with strangers who become friends over a beer.  We grill meat and slice watermelon.  We find our red and blue clothing and put them together for only this yearly event.  We laugh and drink and share stories and drink and drink.  We stand outside in the heat and sweat, we dip our toes in the pool to cool off.   We kiss, we dance, we hug.  We drink some more.  We light things on fire.

We do this all to celebrate independence.  The state of being free from outside control, not depending on someone else’s authority. The forces around me do not have to control me.  I am independent.

I am independent.  But I am not alone.

Isn’t it funny that on the day we celebrate independence, we choose to join together with other human beings?  As a culture, we don’t celebrate Independence Day by going into our individual bedrooms and shutting off from humanity.  We gather.  We come together.  We connect.

Maybe a great irony of life is that to be truly independent, we need others.

To be free from the control of a tyrant, we needed an army.  To be free from the grasp of addiction, we need a support group.  To be free from a controlling relationship, we need our friends or family.  To be free from the pain of cancer, divorce, death, job loss, unfulfilled dreams – we need our tribe.  Our people.

To be free…we need to be joined.

Independence is not aloneness.

Independence is the choice to surround yourself with the good ones – ones who understand your crazy, appreciate your innate brilliance or lack thereof, will listen to your drama and hug you and tell you to get the hell out of your ugly situation, encourage you to chase your dreams, and always, always give you chocolate when it all goes to shit.

I am a strong, independent woman.  But I do not achieve this without my people. My family. My friends who have become my family.  My cheerleaders.

So, here is to our independence – our strength that comes from knowing someone is around to catch us when we trip, to hold our hands when we are terrified, to never let us quit unless quitting is the healthiest option, to laugh with us and laugh at us – our independence together.

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I’m Not Who I Was

A dear, precious friend of mine told me recently:

If you always do what you always did, you are always gonna get what you always got.

I think the ability to change is one of the greatest aspects of humanity.  We can change our minds, our clothes, our political affiliations, our religion, our place of residence, our tendencies and rhythms, our relationships and, ultimately, our lives.

I look back to a year ago.  I’m not the same woman.  My core is still there.  I still have introverted tendencies, I struggle with people-pleasing, I love music and books, I think we should all hug it out and be friends, and I really just adore eating dessert.  But I have changed a lot.  I make different decisions.  I don’t do what I always did, because then I would always get what I always got.  

~ Giving up all my passions and desires and dreams for somebody else didn’t work very well.

So I changed how I do that.

~ Saying “no” to anything that made me scared left me with a really boring existence.

So I changed my response to scary things.

~ Staying silent when I should have shouted created inner-turmoil.

So you better believe I speak up.

~ Worrying about how people thought of me made me go insane.

So I am learning to take nothing personally.

I don’t do what I always did.  And I’m no longer getting what I always got.

We are not captives to our lives as they are today.  With hard work, tears, anger, frustration, and lots of beating your head against the wall, we begin to change.  Then it gets easier. Moments pop up that are fantastic and, sometimes, even easy.

We have the power to say “no more!”  We have the power to say “I want my life to be different!”

I’m not who I was.

Thank God, I’m not who I was.

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What I Do Know

There are so many things that I don’t know.

The older I get the more I realize it’s true.

I am limited.

I do not know why bad things happen to good people.

I do not know exactly what we are doing here or exactly where we go.

I do not know what God’s name actually is or even if he has a specific one.

But when I feel the sand in my toes…  I hear the waves crash… I see the Pacific to my left and the forest to my right…

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I know that I have seen God.  I have heard God.  I have felt God against my skin.

And really- what more must I know?

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I do not know if my politics are spot on.

I do not know if the battles I fight are worthy.

I do not know if the words I speak or write make a difference.

But when I see my friend look at her pregnant belly… expanding with life… expanding with love…

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I know that life matters.  I know that life is special.  I know that life is beautiful.

And really- what more must I know?

The Millennial Salon: “Wordsmiths: Architects, Imaginers, Historians” by Ashley @ Chaos and Words

As a writer and a reader, I am always so drawn to beautiful words.  When I found Ashley’s blog through Twitter, I knew she had to be featured here on The Millennial Salon.  I hadn’t anticipated how much her piece would move me.  Not only does she honor writers, she does so sublimely.  Ashely describes writers as “quietly bold.”  I couldn’t find a better description.  Everyone should read these words – Any writer MUST read these words.  I am proud to show this piece on my blog today.  Please do yourself a favor and check out Ashley’s blog after you read her “Wordsmiths: Architects, Imaginers, Historians” ~Taylor

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Wordsmiths: Architects, Imaginers, Historians

The thing about writing is that it feels both tangible and elusive to the individual behind the words. We pick through the letters, pluck the ones we choose, and place them in an orderly fashion across the page, the screen, the scrap of notebook paper. In doing so, it feels personal in the way that we view these words. They speak to us as we utilize them to speak to others. We build connections, convey emotions for those who cannot, and continue in this way even through the doubt, the worry, and the apathy.

Being a writer is about being quietly bold, about sitting behind the scenes and yet allowing our words to shout for understanding. We wish to be heard, and we sometimes are to our own surprise. Other times, we write even when no one is reading. The writer is a devotee to the script, an individual who will continue stringing together concepts and letters and sentences even in the silence. There is no other option, for without the writers of this world, messages and meaning and art would be lost.

For some, this may not be such a big deal, but imagine a world without your superhero movies (someone wrote them into existence), your Harry Potter marathons, your popcorn filled nights of vanishing into another dimension. Someone created all of it for your enjoyment, and perhaps you are more of a movie person, but those movies were written before they were acted and directed. Some of them are even based off books, off poems, off short stories. Without the writers of the world, where would you be then?

We create not just as an egotistical way to lay out our perceptions but also because inside of our minds live creatures and people and universes. They clamber up the sides of our brains, banging on the walls, squeezing their way out and paving pathways, evolving from being specters to becoming concrete. The characters with which you identify or loathe or question were written to evoke something from you, and in doing so, conversations are formed and associations built. Without writers writing from their imaginations, from their thoughts, from their experiences, our world would become still – hushed and voiceless. This quiet act of putting words down into something long-lasting has been going on for ages. It is what aids us in sharing our lives with friends and families, for it is communication exemplified. From Homer to Shakespeare to Emerson and Thoreau, there have been people writing so that later generations can take a peek into the past and attempt at understanding our present and develop a future.

To those who say they do not enjoy books or reading, I have always begged to differ. You may not enjoy the feel of the pages between your fingers as your eyes skim the words, devoting time to what has been written, but you perhaps enjoy the byproduct without realizing it. Writers are architects of creation, valiantly molding imagination into reality. History speaks because writers gave it a voice. There is so much to be learned about people, about life, about what it means to exist within violence and indifference and compassion. The quiet beings who are observing are also writing things down. How would you wish to be portrayed? When the future looks back at what we have done here, will we face them with heavy hearts or proud smiles?

Writers and journalists and novelists and playwrights are part of this vast humanity, aiding us in becoming permanent instead of forgotten as dust. It is the perfect balance, a perpetual and abstract presence for wordsmiths – writing as the years accumulate, our physical being fading with age and yet in a more profound way, creating in order for us all to be everlasting.

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biophotoAshley is a writer and wannabe editor from South Carolina. She is a language and literature enthusiast as well as an activist to end violence against women. Her blog (chaosandwords.com) caters to the creative side of her brain, and she can also be found on twitter at @chaosandwords.

The Millennial Salon: Kylie Renee Photography

I find myself smiling when I look at Kylie’s photography. There is so much joy soaked into each shot.  My favorite aspect of her photos are her use of color.  This is great, happy art right here!  Kylie is so talented and has such a great eye!  Check out her fantastic photos, click on the links below for more, and contact her if you’re interested in a session! ~Taylor

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Kylie Ammons, a bright and outgoing Las Vegas teen,
became10170956_706593479398949_3544630752773208944_n a photography major at CSN and there discovered her passion. Her aspiration is to one day own a photography studio with varied focus. Kylie enjoys being able to capture the essence of a moment and bring it to light in a photograph. Her previous works have included scenes of nature and incredible portraits. “My life lies behind the lens of a camera,” says Kylie “it is my passion, my love, and ultimately my life.”
Personal Instagram: Kayrae16

 

 

The Millennial Salon: Art by Caroline Egeland

I just love creative people!  Caroline is not only creative in each piece of art she produces, she is also creative in her methods/mediums!  From paper cut-outs to wood, this young woman has nothing binding her to convention. (On top of it all, she’s a poet too!) I know you will all be as fascinated and inspired as I was when I first saw Caroline’s work.  Enjoy and check out her links below! ~Taylor

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Caroline Egeland is a 19-year-old freelance artist and spoken word poet who is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. Her main mediums are gouache paint, paper, craft knifes, spray paint and wood. Her work ranges from things like vibrant color studies and abstracts done on things like crude, unprimed wooden planks, intricate scenery and details as well as poems cut free-hand from paper with nothing but a craft knife, and geometric sketches and works exploring things like nature and theory.

More of her work may be viewed at:
You can like, get in touch with her about purchasing/commissioning, and follow her work to stay updated on things like gallery shows, poetry features, new art for sale and more at:

Be a Gatherer of Friendships and Experiences; Not a Gatherer of Things

I used to be a Gatherer of Things. The first few years of my adulthood were spent collecting objects by trading in the money I made working hard day to day. Pretty furniture, techy electronics, beautiful art, useful kitchen gadgets. An old-fashioned radio, a blender, bar stools, a flat screen TV. And cute containers to hold all my Things. Things. I gathered them for years. Then, a few months ago I stood before a 10’ by 10’ box that held my Things, and I shut the door knowing I wouldn’t see them again. There was no sadness. None. Things are incredibly and surprisingly easy to let go of. That lamp that I just NEEDED from Target did not mean anything to me anymore.   That wall-hanging that cost a week’s worth of working suddenly became insignificant.

I learned such a valuable lesson when I shut that door on my storage unit of Things. Things matter so little. It was amazing that I had spent so much time working so hard to buy so many Things that didn’t matter. If I’m being honest, I probably bought most of it to impress other people. I suddenly knew I couldn’t spend the rest of my life, my time and my money, as a Gatherer of Things. It was literally pointless. This January I decided my New Year’s Resolution would be to become a Gatherer of Friendships and Experiences instead. My time and my money would now invest in people and making memories.

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Amazingly, a third of the year has passed and I have a chunk of time to reflect upon my new pursuit:

~ Going back to school has been an incredible experience to gather. This time around I’m not checking off boxes. I’m invested. I damn well better learn everything I can. I’m soaking it up. Enjoying what I can and accepting the difficulties as part of the experience.

~ As an introvert, being a Gatherer of Friendships is a little unnatural for me. I am a hibernator.  It has taken a lot of feeling the fear, and doing it anyway. It has worked out beautifully. I have deepened old friendships and made new ones. Sometimes it really is as simple as saying “Hi, cute shoes.” Like magic.

~ I find myself saying “yes” a lot more and then following through. When concerts, events, parties, vacations, or get-togethers are offered to me, I try to make it happen. I used to say “yes” to everything I didn’t want to do. It’s wild how fun and enjoyable life can be when you say “yes” to the things you love!

~A lovely friend suggested the iPhone app “Day One” (GET IT!) to me and I have been documenting my experiences and friendships. You post a picture each day and write a little about it. It’s a personal photo-journal on my phone. I can scroll through the days and see all these precious people in my life and the incredible experiences.

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I know some Things are necessary. Let’s be real. I sleep on a bed. I have a toothbrush (you’re welcome). I have more shoes than I need and an overabundance eye-shadow (maybe shoes and eye-shadow are not completely necessary). I will undoubtedly buy beautiful art and techy electronics once more.  Things will be a part of my life. But I will be damned if I allow my life to be made up of Things. Things leave. Things are nothing. But people. People mean a whole lot. Experiencing the world around us, that means a whole lot.   Be a Gatherer of Friendships and Experiences. Maybe be a Gatherer of Family (kids are fun to make, I hear), a Gatherer of Knowledge, a Gatherer of Laughter, a Gatherer of Kisses, a Gatherer of Memories. A Gatherer of Life.

So here is to tea with a new friend, vacations, watching the rain, musicals and sporting events, holding hands, family dinners and board games, bar-hops and art shows, watching Netflix way into the night with a sweet friend, new restaurants, walks with the dog, deep conversations, funny conversations, and simply sitting to listen to good music!

Or in the words of the poet Mary Oliver:

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. 

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument. 

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
-Mary Oliver

The Millennial Salon: “You Are Awesome” by Amanda Lemay

Amanda is a beautiful person inside and out.  When you read her writing, you can easily find that to be true.  She is inspirational and encouraging in ways that I only wish I could be.  This piece touched me and I’m sure it will touch you as well.  I feel pretty dang awesome!  – Taylor

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You are awesome.
Has someone told you that today already? Someone should have. Because it is true.
My question to you is this, do you believe it?
What does being awesome even look like?
I am sure you think that being awesome resembles an actor’s life. Doing what they are good at. Looking amazing. Well they should right, they have a crew of professional makeup artists, personal trainers, and designer clothes that were graciously donated to them so they could flaunt someone else’s creation on their awesome body.
Or maybe looking awesome has nothing to do with physical appearance for you.
Maybe being awesome in your life looks like a professional career you can take home and make your parents proud with. Financial security and a college degree to backup your newfound career path and societal status.
Maybe being awesome doesn’t look like physical appearance, or financial success, maybe it looks like living in your dream house in your dream city. Maybe it looks like having a family. Maybe it looks like waking up every morning happy.

Maybe. Maybe you have no idea what feeling awesome truly means.
And I think you are right.
In today’s society, in the society us millennial generation grew up in, our concepts of success and happiness have been misunderstood and completely changed that I would argue no one truly knows what it feels like to be awesome.
Sure all of our goals, dreams, and successes are awesome things. Because they are. But do you feel awesome for achieving them? Or do you feel regret because you had to forgo something, or someone, just to attain a certain societal “awesome” level.
I want to try and convey to you that you do not need to attain these things to be awesome. Why? Because you were born awesome.
You are one in a million, so why try your entire life to live up to someone else’s interpretation of “awesome.”
Why let someone tell you what you should do to become happy when that goes against what you know will make you happy.
So ignore the negative comments. Learn from the constructive criticism.
Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and remind you of how awesome you are.
Most importantly live this awesome life you were given. Everything that has happened so far has shaped your character and made you who you are today. The awesome person who smiles, dances (no matter how good or bad), sings, and laughs! This life was made for you, and it is up to you to live it.
There is not another person our there just like you. So no matter what you do. Who you become. You are awesome.
You were born that way.
And don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Photo: one in a million

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imageAmanda Lemay is a Las Vegas native who finds the simple joys in everyday life. Currently she works part-time for a local youth ministry – Central Christian Church Summerlin Fuse – and gets to spend her days working with the brilliant and stubborn teenagers in her community. Although just embarking on her journey as a young college kid figuring things out her heart is passionate about instilling confidence and encouragement into everyone she meets and hopes to one day be a youth director and writer. 

 

The Millennial Salon: Art by Diantha

It was important to me to include teenagers in The Millennial Salon.  I strongly believe that teens are not just the artists/creators of our future, but the artists/creators of today.  Their age provides them with an insight that we tend to lose as we age. The way they view the world, the way they create new things, and the way they think are all incredibly important for “adults” to remember.  Teenagers should be given way more credit: and not just for their potential, but for their current contributions.  Diantha is one of these artists.  Talented, absolutely.  Creative, undoubtedly. I am exceedingly proud to feature her fabulous work.  - Taylor

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IMG_2636Chrome City

IMG_2639The Mighty Jungle

IMG_2651Me, Myself, and I

IMG_2666The Monster in You

IMG_2683The Kiss of Death

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Diantha S. will be attending LVA, Las Vegas Academy, for visual arts next year.  She has always been involved in art and creative activities.  She started at a young age and thanks her elementary art teacher for her start of inspiration.  She finds her creative muse from nature usually.  Enjoys other arts such as piano and theater.