Confirmation Bias is Ruining America

I am out here and ready to fight…This ridiculous content running through my social media feeds is driving me insane.

I wrote about cognitive dissonance before on this blog, and this issue reminds me of the post. I say this because the crazy beliefs people in America hold right now are mounted on nothing more than bias. The majority of people sharing content, expressing their concerns, and outright rioting are placing their entire personalities on ideas that are usually FALSE. What is worse, is that these people are also completely unswayed by actual facts and instead propelled by the ignorance of other individuals or news outlets. I bang my head against the wall almost daily, crying WHY DO PEOPLE NOT FACT-CHECK?!

So today, I am writing about a phenomenon called confirmation bias. The term is used to explain people’s tendency to easily believe and adhere to information that better suits their own personal beliefs, and reject information that opposes their beliefs. For instance, if a person really loved waffles and found a Buzzfeed article suggesting that waffles were the best breakfast in America, they would probably be more inclined to share that information instead of a story that favors pancakes instead. This seems kinda logical, right? Who wouldn’t naturally lean towards the information that caters to their preference? The problems with confirmation bias lay within more complex topics. Sure, doting on your favorite food is an innocent behavior- but sharing articles with misinformation on politicians, racism, stocks, or even environmental issues is a bigger concern.

People are engulfed daily with news to process. We open Facebook to a madhouse of articles and shared posts. I can’t even tell you how many times a family member has posted gibberish about their least-favorite senator being a child-eating, Illumiti loving alien. There is literally *endless* information to be found online, and I honestly think it is dangerous when people instantly agree with the hooplah they see shared. No matter how untrue or misleading something might be, you can bet that people will absolutely eat it up if the information already leans towards what they personally believe.

This has been a problem since, well, forever. Ancient Greek historian Thucydides said humans “entrust to careless hope” what they wish to be true, and “thrust aside” what they don’t. Or take a look at early Catholicism or Christianity, where biblical texts were literally left out or edited to please whatever the ruling class wanted at the time. And did white people not convince themselves that black people were property, or even 3/5ths of a human, just to appease their own agendas and money making abilities? To put this all simply, I think humans just want to be “right”. They don’t quite care if it inconveniences people or completely neglects the morality or truths that oppose their views. Humans usually just want what will be easiest and most satisfactory for them at that particular time.

“AUSTIN, TX – APRIL 18: A protester holds up a sign protesting wearing a mask at the Texas State Capital building on April 18, 2020 in Austin, Texas. “(Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images) Funny how protests and using language such as “My Body, My Choice” only is acceptable when the issue is something *they* care about?

I am angry and frustrated because the increase of public unrest in our country has only been met with ignorance. With exception of a few politicians (hi, Bernie, I’m looking at you), the United States has really shown their ass when faced with high profile issues impacting the entire nation. Last year, citizens dealt with a whirlwind of chaos when the 2020 Covid pandemic hit; many government officials absolutely did not take the virus seriously, with our own President Trump not acting on the problem until months after he was notified. My lovely Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has repeatedly reopened the state despite the ridiculously high numbers of Covid cases. Both of these Republicans have failed citizens and heightened infection risks for millions- and why? Before shutdowns began in March of 2020, Trump was calling the Coronavirus “the Democrats’ new hoax“- mainly in relation to his (first) failed impeachment, and how that was obviously a Democratic hoax as well. This dismissive narrative fit perfectly with his predisposition to question authority, science, and invoke suspicion in his supporters so that they continued to trust him as their leader, and push aside any opposing views. Governor Abbott, in a way, had an easier time reopening a covid-ridden state because he and the majority of other Republicans have continuously agreed with Trump and his ridiculous statements- after all, since Covid isn’t even real, why should we shut down our economy and lose precious jobs and money?

Despite the science presented by experts, the dangers and warnings issued by the CDC, and thousands of people dying from the virus daily, there are still people in 2021 denying the pandemic and refusing to wear face coverings or social distance. The idea of trying to shut down any part of the country is met with criticism, despite it likely being the best method to reduce and potentially rid our country of the virus. Our country has been failed by our leaders, who have chosen to believe the (false) “facts” and policies that best align with their personal ideals and endeavors rather than the wellbeing of a nation. And to make matters worse, thousands of citizens have also fallen victim to confirmation bias because the views of their Republican leaders match their own problematic and selfish desires. Science and facts are extremely hard to accept when it is much easier to believe in a “hoax” and deflect socio-economic issues onto another party- especially now that Biden and Harris have taken over office.

“WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump.”(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) Protesting peacefully for BLM at the Capital was ridiculed and labeled “dangerous” by Trump, but when Trump supporters did it with genuine perilous intent, Trump dismisses the rioters as “good people”.

Our American government is supposed to distinguish between the church and the state. We the people have the right to freedoms of speech and religion amongst other things, but when our country seems to rely heavily on bias of the people in charge these rights become confusing. On one hand, our government officials have the right to believe in things like Christianity- but what happens when these leaders begin to impose their own moral compass onto the people? Trump seemed to have no problem influencing his presidency with overtones of conservative “Christian” values, which typically translated into policies such as opposition of gay rights or limiting access to women’s healthcare. Of course, those that guzzled up every word Trump spewed were usually elated by these policies. His following typically were conservative, religious folk that did not want to alter their traditional mindsets. Instead of considering any progressive forms of leadership, they simply accepted his proposals without batting an eye- and seeing how the Senate was ruled by the Republican party at the time, Trump was able to accomplish quite a bit of destruction due to congress almost always voting in his favor. I bring these points up because the last four years of government have not been led with equality and the interest of the people in mind; Trump’s America has seen some of the worst examples of racism, hatred and negligence because people have gone along with policies that support bigotry and harm to our democracy. Greed, racism, and classism have been prevalent themes throughout the entirety of Trump’s regime. The concept of confirmation bias has been shown strongly throughout the past four years, to the point that families and friends have been torn apart due to people’s inability to fact check and perhaps put aside their religious or personal set of morals for the greater good of the nation.

I can only hope for a brighter future for the United States and the American people. The last few years, in my opinion, has really shed light on the cracks of our nation and democracy. It has brought out the worst in people,and exposed those with bad intentions and judgemental, often prejudice beliefs. While I understand that our nation’s problems are politically much more complex than the opinions I glossed over in this post, I intended to pinpoint just a small sector of issues that hurt our country. I also understand that people might take offense to the arguments I present. All of this just goes to show that there is so much more conversation that is needed in order to reshape and ideally equalize our nation. In a perfect America, we would not have political “extremes” of either party, nor would we make such a fuss over issues that are greatly civil rights or humanitarian concerns. I long for a democracy that truly favors the people, and that does not fall victim to logical fallacies more often than it believes in truths and science- I can only keep my fingers crossed that this reality happens within my lifetime.

What are your thoughts on this?

-Nat

H.R. 127 (117th Congress): What We Know So Far

As a native Texan, I am exposed to pro-gun propaganda on the daily. Logging on Facebook, I see friends and family posed with their ammo at a gun range, or next to a deer they hunted. Whether or not I agree with gun ownership does not matter (for the sake of this post). While I have personal opinions on the issue, I do understand that the 2nd Amendment guarantees citizens the right to bear arms. I also understand that there are plenty of normal, law-abiding people in the country that own guns with zero problems. The south accounts for the majority of registered gun owners in the United States, with the great state of Texas topping that list with over 800,000 registered owners. Folks love their guns, their rights to guns, and the accessibility to guns here in the south- and without fail, any effort to minimize these things is met with enormous uproar and disagreement.

On January 4th of this new year, Dallas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee introduced bill H.R. 127 to the House of Representatives. This new bill proposes that all gun owners become licensed, and that certain ammunition would be prohibited to own. I learned about this new bill through social media, and saw the outrage and concern that many people expressed. I decided to do some research to see exactly what was happening, so that people can hopefully spread truthful information and not rumors.

All bills are available to the public online through Congress.gov. At the time of this post, however, not much information is available about the bill. Usually, the entirety of the text is viewable online- but, seeing how this bill was only introduced a week or so ago, the website might take some time to update. This provides the opportunity to dig into other bills on gun control.

The information viewable online is not yet complete.

For those that do not know how bills are passed into law, I will provide a brief and simplified explanation. (Alternatively, you can watch this groovy video from Schoolhouse Rock.): A bill is introduced to the House of Representatives. The House must vote on the bill, and if it receives the majority vote, is moves on to the Senate. The Senate votes on the bill, and if it passes then the bill is given to the President who then signs the bill to become law. So, to refute those who think the H.R. 127 bill is already being implemented, is actually has a long way to go before then!

Most bills around gun control and reform that have been passed by the House have largely been over turn by the Senate. Two bills from February 2019 that proposed background checks for gun owners is still sitting in the Senate, untouched! The likely reason for this lays within the party divisions of each legislative branch. Even during the Trump administration, the House of Representatives held a Democratic majority which contributed to the House’s ability to pass more progressive bills. However, the Senate has been Republican led until recently, which explains their inability to pass bills that conservative members disagree with. Now that the Senate is tied in party members (50 Democrat, 50 Republican), these types of bills might have a higher chance of being passed- especially with the help of new Senate President, Kamala Harris.

Let’s say that H.R. 127 is passed, signed into law, and implemented. What would this type of bill look like in action? Well, as of right now, only 8 states in the U.S. implement gun registration laws. If all 50 states were to implement this, there would be huge adjustments in current practices. Moreover, having all gun owners oblige to licensing laws would mean the time between gun-application and gun-ownership would extend greatly. Usually, gun licensing require applicants to be present at law enforcement agencies- not only that, but the acquisition and renewal of a gun license might require special training or classes that further delays applicants from legally owning firearms. While there are both benefits and consequences to these requirements, most opponents to gun-control laws are concerned most with infringement to their 2nd amendment rights; applying for a license, paying multiple fees, attending training, and registering a weapon creates multiple scenarios that could prevent certain people from accessing guns.

When more information on this bill becomes available, I will provide an updated post. Right now, lots of chaos is happening within the government and I am sure that there will be more important matters in the House and Senate hands at the moment (i.e. impeaching Trump!). I hope this post clearifies the H.R. 127 bill for those curious.

What are your thoughts on this bill? Are you a supporter of gun reform?

-Nat

2020 Travels and Things (Part 4)

October

October, my birthday month, was relatively mellow. While I definitely wanted to find a way to celebrate my 23rd, I knew my options were limited because of the pandemic. It also doesn’t help that my birthday falls on Halloween, when most people would rather be at their own events than a birthday party. Jose, my family, and a handful of friends came over the weekend before my birthday to celebrate instead. We watched the Cowboys game (they lost), and cooked a seafood boil out on our patio. It was a sweet “party” even if it wasn’t as crazy as it could have been! But in reality, because I was pregnant I knew I couldn’t really party anyway.

The weekend of my birthday was spent in the east Texas countryside on a family friend’s ranch. They loaned the space out to my mother for a night so we could celebrate my birthday as well as her boyfriend’s, which was just a few days after mine. The place was huge and super fun, equipped with three fishing ponds stocked with fishies and 4-wheelers. We had a fun night and enjoyed chili dogs, cake, and the nice scenery. After leaving east Texas, Jose and I headed straight over to our friends Tracy and Jerry. They were taking us out to a reserved event with 80s music and a costume contest. The event was limited capacity, and attendees were required to actually purchase a table months in advance. The four of us had our own table in the back, and everyone was masked up. It was still a super fun time, and Jerry and Tracy actually were finalists in the costume contest!

The fillers of the month were eating lots of food, trying my best to keep it down (the baby made my life very difficult for many months lol), and praying that Trump didn’t win another election in this country.

November

We nestled into November very comfortably after Biden won against Trump. I cannot even explain the amount of relief after the election finally was over (of course, before the recounts and whatnot.) While I don’t agree with everything Biden did in his administration with Obama, I do think he is a much better fit for our country than Donald Trump. I have some faith that our country will restore a sense of justice, and assistance for the poor and middle class folk will be considered. I can only hope that Biden takes this pandemic (and the need for vaccinations and science) much more seriously than 45.

Jose and I spent some of our free time Christmas shopping, although a good portion of that was completed online. Jose was still working an insane amount of hours at Amazing (mandatory overtime due to Black Friday and Christmas), so I was home alone pretty often, or at my mother’s house with my sister. Madi and I planned a great deal on what we would be making for Thanksgiving, and deciding the best route to proceed because we knew seeing too many people for the holiday would be dangerous. We ended up inviting Jose’s dad and siblings over for the event, because we see them frequently anyway. My cousin Bailey also stopped by. Our family had made a ton of food- different casseroles, pulled pork, mashed potatoes, and way too many pies. Not to mention, Jose’s family brought over tamales and a huge zacahuil. I had never had a zacahuil before, and it ended up being a yummy and unique contribution to the usual Thanksgiving fare.

When Jose finally caught a break from work, he desperately wanted to travel out to Arkansas to see some of his family. I was extremely reluctant because, well, I was pregnant and throwing up all the time! But because I knew it was important to him, I eventually agreed and begrudgingly tagged along with Jose and Claudia on the 5 hour drive to Fayetteville. Of course, I complained the entire way, and in my defense I vomited the entire time we were there… In general, though, the little overnight trip was fun. We spent time out in nature, and Claudia took belated wedding photos of Jose and I in a beautiful church hidden in the woods. We also stopped along a few different viewpoints in the mountains, which was a very pretty sight with all of the fall colors in the trees. It would be fun to go again at some point, but I told Jose that I would be flying…

December

December began with my father and sister staying over my house. I had not seen my father in months, so it was great to catch up. We made perogies and played card games. Jose was still working overtime and didn’t get to stay over that night, because he works the overnight shift. He was exhausted all the time, and most of the time I saw him was either when he left for work or was asleep 😦

The second week in December, Jose and I attended a “friends” Thanksgiving two hours out at a lake house. (We all were negative for Covid before coming to the event.) We exchanged secret Santa gifts, ate a big meal together, and played games. The weather was freezing outside, but we also got to enjoy the outdoor firepit. Being the only pregnant (and sober) one there, I babysat while everyone else drank too much. It was fun to watch, and at least I had brought some sparkling cider with me.

Our anatomy scan for the baby went well during December, too! My mom was allowed to come into the ultrasound with me and she recorded the process of the tech scanning my belly and looking at the baby from all angles. I was so amazed how big the baby already was! He has visible bones, and is super active too. All of his measurements are normal, if not a little on the big side. My favorite part was receiving our ultrasound photos, one of which definitely shows the kid flicking us off.

Lots of animal related things happened throughout the month, too- besides our three cats being assholes (loving assholes), we stopped by the shelter to see an old 11 year old chonker named Mike. We were not planning for any more animals, but I saw Mike online and thought he was absolutely precious. We made a trip to the shelter and visited with him for half an hour, only to later discover that he was not suitable to live with any other animals, or small children- a double whammy for us with a baby on the way! Claudia’s dogs also had puppies, which are literally the cutest little creatures on Earth. The mommy dog, Zoe, had three boys and all of them are already claimed to loving homes. Safe to say it was sooo hard to not steal one!

For Christmas, we had an even smaller event than Thanksgiving. Jose and his dad came over to my mothers for Christmas Eve, and we all ate dinner together. The plan was for his dad and sister to return on Christmas day, but Claudia actually got into a bad car wreck on her way over to the house. She had to be sent to the ER for stitches on her face, which was super scary. We are all glad she is safe and okay, and as of writing this post she is actually back at work now. But whew, what a wild holiday. New Years, on the other hand, was calm as could be. Jose and I stayed at my mother’s house again with my sister to ring in the new year. We did face masks, then literally went to bed.

I appreciate anyone who has read all four (or any) parts of the series! I hope everyone has a much more enjoyable new year with more blessings, and far less stress. Although 2020 had some great moments, I am glad to be ushered into 2021.

2020 Travels and Things (Part 3)

As promised, the third installment of the series! You can catch part one here and part two here.

July

Jose and I really wanted to get out of the city, so we browsed some options to see where we could escape for a few days without being around a ton of people. Flights were still cheap, and Jose was adamant on returning to Denver because he had only been for our day trip with Eddy a few months back. We decided to take a flight to Colorado for a few days to explore the mountains.

We rented a Jeep for the trip, and used the car as a make-shift camping tent. It saved us some money on a hotel, and it ended up being a pretty fun (although uncomfy) experience. The Jeep took us all over the place. We ventured into the mountains to Panorama Point, an absolutely breathtaking trailhead near the city of Boulder. I had been before in November of 2019, when I first visited Colorado with my Southwest Airlines friends. I was adamant to go again, because the weather was now a bit warmer and the scenery was just as fantastic. We snapped lots of photos before adventuring on into the mountains. Along the way, Jose and I stopped and picked up some cool looking rocks to bring back to Texas with us- we were flying Southwest and each were able to bring two free check-in bags, so we figured we would use one for the rocks (which somehow ended up being 24lbs…)

Eventually, we found ourselves at a small little lake called Glacier Lake up in the mountains. I am pretty sure this was on private property of some sort, because the entire lake was lined with little cabins, kayaks, and trucks. We didn’t stay too long- even though we both brought swimsuits, the altitude made the lake SUPER cold! The view was gorgeous though, and the pictures were worth freezing for a bit. After leaving the little lake, we made our way back down the mountain- we made a few pit stops along the way to take more photos, including an amazing area of train tracks hidden in the Rockies. We also stopped in a little town on the way down to explore, but we did not stay super long because the sun was going down and the weather was only getting chillier.

Before settling in and sleeping, we stopped by a food truck and ate some delicious Mexican food curb-side. It was super cold out, but the food was good and it was fun to try a new place. Our final stop of the day was in Cherry Creek State Park near Aurora, where we stayed for the night. In the morning, we woke up early to see the sunrise and loved the view of the mountains from the state park. It was so fun to adventure locally and see all the beautiful sights- the state park also has lots of wildlife, namely Muskrats that are ADORABLE to watch burrow in the ground. The day was spent packing up our rocks (we ran to the store and got a box for them hehe), getting coffee at a cute Denver shop, and returning the rental Jeep before we headed to the airport.

We didn’t spend too much time back in Texas before our next adventure. The short time we were back home, we rode kayaks on the lake near my mother’s house. She had purchased four kayaks early in the year, and was super excited for us all the start using them. A few days after our kayaking outing, we boarded a plane again (mask and sanitizer on deck) and flew out to Atlanta, Georgia to celebrate my sister’s birthday. My sister, Madison, wanted to venture to Atlanta to see the world’s biggest aquarium. The Georgia Aquarium is home to some of the largest species alive, including whale sharks which she was particularly keen to see. I was actually shocked to see that Georgia was upholding Covid safety MUCH better than Texas. Even on the streets of downtown Atlanta, everyone wore masks. Any building we entered into was monitored for capacity, and some places (like the aquarium) checked everyone for temperatures before entry.

Our first day in Georgia was spent adventuring the walkable downtown Atlanta, finding food, and journeying to the famous Ponce City Market. We stopped at a liquor store in downtown to get some Crown and sprite for us all to share during our stay. (Surprisingly, my sister drank the majority of it. I am not really a drinker, so I don’t think I had any!) The second day there, we walked down half a mile to the aquarium. I was very impressed by the sheer size of the place. There were numerous exhibits, and all the tanks were absolutely giant. I usually am pretty against the idea of animals in captivity, but seeing how much SPACE these fish and animals had made me feel much better about their quality of life. I was so impressed by the variety of species the aquarium had! We stayed there for a few hours admiring the wildlife, and catching a dolphin show at the end. For Madison’s birthday dinner, we made reservations at a super cute home-style restaurant that had a seasonal menu. We ordered fried chicken, greens, and some delicious honey-glazed fried zucchini. The staff even packed Madison a to-go birthday dessert!

On our last day in Georgia, we made a few tourist-y stops before heading to the airport. The first stop was a small farmers market off the road-side. My mom was in search of Georgia peaches (duh), and some cute preserves that she could bring home for us and for her boyfriend to try. She found lots of goodies, including delicious peach marmalades, jams, and even some home-made peach bread. Of course, I also got some photos with peaches for the aesthetic. After this, we ventured to the famous Georgia Chick-Fil-A! I learned that Chick-Fil-A actually was originated in Georgia, and one of their original locations makes themselves especially unique by offering a “Hawaiian” themed menu. All the employees are dressed in Hawaiian shirts, and the menu is full of INSANE items like fish tacos, boba-tea lemonade, and even sweet potato waffle fries! It was an amazing experience to be able to order so many yummy treats at a Chick-Fil-A. As far as I am aware, this is the ONLY location that offers such delicacies, so my cravings will have to wait until our next trip to Atlanta!

The only other “trip” I experienced in July was a small day trip to a river in Oklahoma. Jose and his family used to frequent this hidden spot, and he wanted to take me to see it too. The place is called Little Niagra, and it is located close to Panther Falls in Oklahoma. The water was gorgeous and bright blue! As the same implies, there were also some nice little waterfalls around the river area, too. It was too cold for me to swim comfortably, but I still got in the water and had fun regardless. It was a great day trip (only an hour and half out from Dallas) and I would definitely go again.

August

August was another super slow month. It was mainly filled with redecorating our new living room on a budget. Jose and I shopped around in thrift stores that were open, as well as looking online. We were able to re-do the entire living room for a couple hundred bucks! I am a huge germ freak, and clean/sweep/etc kinda obsessively, so at first the idea of having used furniture freaked me out. However, I realized that LOTS of thrift stores have furniture that is practically new, or barely used! Especially with small items like tables, lamps, etc, thrifting really is the best way to go. I am pickier with larger items like couches, but we got really lucky on ours. We found a super cute vintage couch with velvety seats, in really good condition. We also stumbled upon a nearly-new daybed that we placed on the other side on the living room, which is now used as a giant comfy couch for guests (or, more often, the cats.) I really love how it has turned out, and we add to it here and there when we get the chance. The thrill of going thrifting and finding amazing steals is exhilarating… I’ve even thought of opening a thrift-flip side gig, just because of how fun it is. The next DIY in the house will probably be the bedroom, or the baby nursery. We spent lots of time at home visiting the kitties, and enjoying time together. The two of us adventured to the Dallas Farmers Market once or twice to get some fresh air and explore the city. Otherwise, we both kept a pretty low profile and just worked and slept.

The main “event” of August was probably attending my friend’s wedding. Blair and her wonderful husband TK have been together for a few years, and I was thrilled when they finally got engaged last year! They planned for a big and beautiful wedding, but of course Covid had other plans. The two decided to keep their wedding date in place, and offered masks and social distancing at their wedding- part of which was outdoors. I snapped a photo of myself in the bathroom without a mask, but if I was around any of the guests, everyone had on a face covering. The event ended up being a smaller but very nice celebration, and I am so happy for them! The two are really so sweet together and deserve the best.

September

The best thing that happened in September was returning (AGAIN) to Denver, with one of my besties, Magnolia! Magnolia and I actually graduated highschool together, and both went on to attend NYU. She is one of the most intelligent, witty, and sweetest humans I have ever met. Now that she has moved back to Texas from New York, I get to see her much more often which makes me so happy! We decided in September to take a little girls trip together. She had never been to Colorado and seeing how it is one of my favorite destinations, I was eager to show her around.

We flew out to Denver airport and got a rental car for the trip. (Magnolia and I found a super cute and cheap Air BnB in Aurora, too, which ended up being SUPER comfy!) Our trip was action packed and super busy. On our first day, we ventured about two hours out to see the gorgeous Garden of The Gods. The “Garden” is actually a giant nature preserve in Colorado Springs that is home to giant sandstone formations, walking trails, and even horseback ride tours. I honestly did not realize how HUGE this place was until we started our hike! Thank goodness we brought sunscreen and water, because we ended up out in the sun for many hours. Magnolia and I explored through different trail-heads, enjoying the gorgeous weather and the even better views (you can actually spot Pike’s Peak from certain areas in the reserve!) We snapped lots of photos, and exhausted ourselves climbing up and down natural rock formations and seeing all the massive structures around us.

After we finally made it back to our rental car, we headed back towards Aurora only to spot a massive, insanely beautiful rock formation along the highway. In true adventurer fashion, we made a quick pit stop off the roadside to inspect this great natural sight. We decided to hike up the formation, which seemed to already have a few carved out trails made by other curious passer bys.. Once we reached higher elevation, the view were immaculate. We spotted a cute little firepit, and stopped to take in the sights.

On our second day, Magnolia and I ventured through Lo-Do (downtown Denver) for a few hours. We explored a dispensary, and of course grabbed a Starbucks drink to enjoy the day with. After, we drove in to the Cherry Creek State Park that I had visited before. We actually discovered the designated swimming spot and beach in the park, and took advantage of the beautiful water and sights. From the park, you could see the peaks of the mountains around- it honestly looked like a Bob Ross painting. We enjoyed the weather (which was surprisingly not too chilly), and waded in the water for an hour or so. Before leaving the park, we researched some near-by food stops to pick up on our way back to the Air BnB. We decided on a delicious Mediterranean place called FelFel. We each ordered a plate to take home, which was SO yummy. As we ate in the Air BnB, we watched Netflix and relaxed. Before going to bed, we thought it would be fun to walk through the gorgeous neighborhood for a bit, and end the evening with some star-gazing on the Air BnB porch. The air, vibes, and scenery of Colorado is simply immaculate- the entire state is so inviting, warming and lovely. I have never had a bad experience in Denver!

On our final day in the state, Magnolia and I ventured to a hiking spot called North Table Mountain Park. We parked our car near the west trailhead, and started our last adventure of the trip. The slope up the trail was INTENSE! The elevation paired with the incline really had me exhausted before we even reached the top. However, once we reached flatter land, I was so glad we stuck to the path. The land was beautiful, full of giant formations and areas for rock climbers to practice. We explored the area, snapped photos, and continued upward to fully see the views of the nature trail. With mountain peaks all around us and clear blue skies, we took a snack and water break in the rocks before making our way back. Before we got far down, we spotted a natural crater! The area was marked off for viewers to enjoy and it appeared as if many rock climbers had made their way up and down the giant space. It was a surprise to see because nowhere did the internet or trail advertise such a natural beauty! We felt really lucky to have spotted it, because had we gone the opposite was down the trail, it would have been missed!

Our trip was relatively short, but super fun none-the-less. We both had a great time, social distancing and all. Once the world returns to a bit of normality, we both would love to go to Colorado again- although next time, we would be better prepared! In retrospect, we both should have brought better hiking gear (especially me, wearing old sneakers…), and carved out more time to explore the especially large trails such as the Garden of the Gods. This was just one trip of many, I am sure!

Toxic People DO NOT CHANGE Unless They Want To (Hint: They Rarely Want To)

BOYYYYYYYY do I have a LOT to say on this topic. Now, let me preface this post by saying this:  no, I am not trying to be hip and trendy and ~eXpOsE tOxIc PeOpLe ~ and beg you to ~ ReMoVe FrOM uR LiFe wHat DoEsnT SeRvE YoU ~  or some basic ish like that. The internet is already full of pity parties and sob stories about “toxic” friends, exes, etc. and I am not here to contribute to the fest. This post is not your typical Huffington Post read or Thought Catalog article… sorry to disappoint. 😦  I’m here to share some facts, some hard learned lessons, and some general info for people who may be struggling or have struggled in the past with difficult relationships.

I want to start by describing what a “toxic” person really is. I am including information provided by psychology based resources, as well as some anecdotal ideas.

I personally feel that toxicity is related to unresolved trauma or confliction within a person. If a person is not insightful about their emotions and emotional triggers, they are more likely to react in ways that could be problematic or manipulative towards other people. This could look like:

You talk to your friend about something hurtful they said to you. Instead of expressing empathy, the friend projects their own issues onto you and the situation, making you feel guilty for bringing up your hurt feelings, and perhaps causing YOU to apologize instead.

Your partner makes remarks about women, clearly expressing his interest and attraction to them. You ask him to consider your feelings when he does this, and he immediately responds with “Well, you should stop being so insecure!”

There are other ways to describe a toxic person or situation, obviously, but in these two scenarios it is very apparent that there are internal tribulations within your friend or partner. I want to remind people that this type of response to an issue (a immediately negative, harsh, and accusatory response) is NOT normal. An emotionally sound, empathetic individual will use listening skills to understand and communicate with another person they ‘care’ about. A person who instead responds in a reactive, manipulative way may be too blinded by their own issues to create a safe and productive space to communicate.

With this being said, “toxic” people are rarely insightful to their problematic behavior. Often, they use manipulative tactics to victimize themselves, deflect the issue, or otherwise find a way out of any blame or fault. These types of people are unreachable and unteachable- NO matter of persuasion can convince them that they are the “issue”. Toxic people like this usually have narcissistic qualities– a common denominator in many stories of abusive exes, parents, or friends. Note what I just said: abusive. The toxicity that these people bring is considered both emotionally and mentally abusive. While it is (unfortunately) common to grow accustomed to toxic, dysfunctional behavior, it is so incredibly important to understand that this type of abuse can actually result in emotional trauma. Experiencing ongoing, long-term toxic behavior can leave you feeling constantly on-edge, overly apologetic, and even untrusting and suspicious of people. It becomes an exhausting cycle, and can make you feel like you’re going insane.

Empathetic, emotionally intelligent humans have the capability to sympathize, reflect on their actions, and adjust their behaviors as needed. Toxic, abusive people lack this insight, and therefore are much less likely to think anything they are doing or saying is ‘wrong’. Without the ability to critically think about our own actions, it is virtually impossible to understand the impact we can have on other people. For toxic individuals, deflecting the blame and finding other people or things at which to point the finger is an easy opt-out. This is why being around toxic folk can be so emotionally, mentally, and even physically draining. Nothing can be their ‘fault’- it’s simply impossible! It becomes up to you to solve their problems, take the blame, over-explain yourself, and stress yourself out knowing that nothing you say or do can ever be enough for them.

I will give a few personal examples. I once dated a guy for a few months, years ago, who was genuinely a violent and toxic man. His toxicity grew exponentially as we were together; his ‘tick’ was this ridiculous and sexist idea that women and men couldn’t be platonic friends. Because of his extreme beliefs, he increasingly imposed his will on me and my lifestyle which included many completely platonic male peers. I was friendly with males from past jobs, from traveling, from highschool and even college. Obviously I did not need to explain myself to him, but because of his insistence I found myself more and more stressed out any time a male friend reached out to me, liked my photo, or commented on my post. The guy I was dating eventually became irate, screaming and throwing things (including my phone) and demanding I block every man I know, even my family. I consulted with my family, friends, and even my therapist about this absurd requirement and everyone agreed that it was possessive and toxic. When I confronted the guy about it, he turned the entire situation around on me, claiming that I was insensitive for not taking his feelings into account, and that I shouldn’t be talking about our ‘private issues’ to my outside circles. He claimed that if I would simply be ‘less slutty’ (apparently having friends makes you a hoe, PSA!). then he wouldn’t have needed to break my door, throw my stuff around, and cause a scene. I dumped this guy super quickly, but not without multiple back and forth arguments about how terrible of a person I was because I refused to give up speaking to my friends and my FATHER.

A different, long-term guy I dated was also incredibly toxic. He was a manipulator, a liar, a gaslighter, and an overall asshole. With no regard for anyone’s feelings but his own, he put not only me through hell but my family and friends as well. My own mother has cried because of things he has told her, or the ways he would toss my mental and emotional state around like it was nothing. At one point, he called my LGBTQ+ friend a slur because I chose to hang out with said friend instead of him. I wrote previously about how terribly he treated me when I experienced a miscarriage with him. Hell, at one point in our relationship he recklessly drove with me passenger side, nearly crashing us and telling me that he “wished a car would have hit my side”. Any time I tried to stand up for myself, he took it as a threat to his own ego and would either whimper and cry with the expectation of me apologizing and caving in to his manipulation, or he would victimize himself and yell and shout at me for making an issue in the first place. Although he lied, took, and finessed his way though our relationship, he was always the one being “hurt” or “mislead” in the end. All of his friends are under the impression that he has never done a wrong thing in his life- despite the loads of evidence of him lying about other women, amongst other things. If he didn’t have money, it was because “the world was out to get him”. If he experienced ANY repercussions for his actions (getting into car troubles, getting fired, etc), it was because of something *I* or someone else did. His reaction to EVERYTHING was anger- because, as I mentioned above, he had virtually no emotional IQ. His entire existence was based off blaming other people, taking advantage of others, and skidding through life while avoiding consequences. It was exhausting, and I literally am still in therapy because of the disastrous experience I had with his toxicity.

(I also want to note, that up until my husband, I was just incredibly notorious for choosing BAD partners and putting up with bullshit. So, while these folks definitely WERE toxic, it was also my fault for sticking around and trying to fix things.)

Many people I am close to have experienced toxic people in their life. Some of my friends have left abusive relationships, only to still struggle with the trauma left on them. I know some folks that are struggling right now during the holiday season because they stopped talking to their toxic family and are now alone. Let me not even get started on stories I have heard on social media. Tik-Tok, Twitter, and even Facebook has exposed so many truths and similarities that women (and men) face in toxic relationships. Again, narcissistic qualities are almost always present in the perpetrator. Inability to take accountability. Gaslighting. The list goes on, and seeing that other people have been victims to similar abuse makes me feel less alone in the issue. I have begun to see that this, unfortunately, is a common experience in modern dating, relationships, and dynamics between family and friends.

So… what is the point to this post? As the title suggests, I am emphasizing the fact that toxic humans usually will not change their behaviors unless THEY see the problem, accept it, and change it for themselves. No amount of love, sacrifice, or honesty on your behalf will convince them that they are problematic. Having children with a person will not make them change. Interventions with the person, ultimatums, and even leaving them will not convince them to change unless they want to. Even if they do see error in their ways, the getting up and fixing it (going to therapy, apologizing, taking accountability) is usually too scary, upsetting, and off-putting for these people. These people rarely want to make any changes to themselves or their lives before things are too late.

I hope that, for your own sake, you will understand the complexities of these toxic people and leave them be. It is not worth your mental or physical health to try to “fix” them. Your value and happiness is more important than waiting around for people who may never be who you want them to be! Lots of us have learned this lesson the hard way, and I encourage you to take our wisdom and save yourself time and suffering. This post is meant for education and awareness, not to expose or insult anyone. I just want to help people who might need it, if I can.

xoxo Nat

2020 Travels and Things (Part 2)

Hi friends! As promised, here is part 2 of my 2020 wrap-up. I hope you enjoy!

April

April was one of the slowest months I experienced in 2020. Places were shut down, and although some folks were taking advantage of the ridiculously cheap flights, I was nestled in my couch at home. My friend Kenzie was staying with me at the time, as her lease ended in April, and mine ended in May. To give her some time to look at places that would best fit her new needs (new job, new school), it was easier for her to crash at my place.

Most of our days were filled with snacks, the cats, and watching new T.V. shows. During this time, I watched the rest of Breaking Bad (which was absolutely fantastic), and dabbled in other shows I was interested in. To be honest, becoming interested in any television show or movie is difficult for me. I found myself resorting back to Jeopardy a lot, which is objectively my favorite show.

My friend Dalon stopped by a few times, as well as my friend Kase. Kenzie was always over (obviously), and so was Jose, so it was nice that we kinda isolated together and weren’t alone. To pass time, Jose and I started on a working out streak and would jog around my apartment complex multiple times a week. (I am a terrible runner, and running even half a mile takes me OUT).

One night, Jose’s sister Claudia took us back to their old apartment complex, where we tried to swim in one of the pools. It was way too cold, and I didn’t even have on proper swim gear anyway. At least we got pics for the gram, I guess.

May

MUCH more adventurous than the previous month, May started off on an excellent note with getting approved for a new townhome! I was soo ready to leave my old place. Although it was a fun and affordable little area, I made the mistake of not getting an apartment with laundry machines, PLUS I was on a third floor walk up. Grocery hauls were the worst, going out in rain or cold to have clean clothes was terrible, and my complex was notorious for towing cars- seriously, even *I* was towed from my own complex more than once. Screw that.

On the day that Jose and I were literally headed to drop off the security deposit to the leasing management, we found BABY KITTENS under a car in my complex parking lot!! We found four in total- two black kitties, a tabby, and a tuxedo. We searched around for the mommy cat, with no luck. While we were worried about where the mom cat could be, we were more worried about getting the babies out from under a car and inside away from the super hot Texas sun. We gathered all four of them up and rushed back upstairs and woke Kenzie up, who was once a vet tech. Safe to say we all fell in love!

We took the kitties to the vet, where they were examined and given de-worming treatment. The vet told us that the kittens were around 2 weeks old, and super fragile. We followed their instructions and bought kitten formula powder and bottles, and gave them a big box to sleep in with a heating pad. We all three took turns caring for the little ones, because they had to be fed every 2 hours around the clock. They were so young, that we had to help them go potty too- something usually momma cat does for them. It was very tiring but oh-so worth it. They were the most precious little things, and caring for them was an absolute joy. Seeing them grow (so fast!), play together, and start to adventure into big-kitty territory was sooo precious. After the kittens were old enough, my good friend Taylor adopted the Tuxedo baby and named him Jasper, while my other friend Calvin took the Tabby and named him Sora. We were left with the two black kitties, only one of which was a girl. I particularly loved her, who I named Rosie, because she was the runt of the group and very small.

Soon after we had found the kitties, Jose and I took a road trip to south Texas with his sister and their cousin, Angel. (We were able to organize Jose’s brother taking the cats for the time we were away, because Kenzie was working while we were gone.) Remember how I said I hate road trips? Yeah, this trip got me HELL-TO-THE-NO fucked UP. The trip ONE WAY from Dallas to McAllen is 9 hours, including minimal restroom breaks. I literally wanted to die the entire trip there (and back). I know, I’m the worst complainer alive probably, but I really did feel like it was that insufferable. Obviously being with Jose, Claudia, and Angel was super fun, but the act of sitting in a car for so long nearly made me cry. They claim it’s because I’m a white girl, which is probably a decent explanation…

Anyway, we left Dallas around 1am (I know, we are insane), and trekked through the night to our hotel on South Padre Island. Our plan was to stay there for two nights, enjoy the beach life, and travel the short distance over to McAllen area where their family and cousins live during our days there. The first day there, we napped for a bit in the morning before heading out to the beach- which, amazingly, was WALKING distance from our hotel. Jose and I stayed out there longer than Claudia and Angel, who left the beach after an hour or so in search of some fast food. I absolutely love the beach, so staying out for hours in the water is usually no problem for me! Luckily, Jose is the same, so we had lots of fun being outdoors with the beach very sparsely populated.

The only issue that occured from the beach was getting HELLA sunburnt. I reapplied sunscreen two or three times, but I guess my light skin was weak and couldn’t hold up a fight against Texas sun. Jose was burnt badly too, but his stubborn ass didn’t reapply sunscreen despite my efforts, so that one is on him… Sunburnt and hurting, we drove out to visit their family later that day. No one had been exposed to the virus and everyone had been wearing masks, so we felt safe seeing a few people at the time. His aunts fed us tamales and one of them graciously cut up some fresh aloe-vera plant for Jose and I to use on our skin. She also gifted us a plant to take home, which now is HUGE and resides outside in our backyard.

We slept at the hotel that night, then we headed home in the morning. It was really cool being so close to the Mexico border, so hopefully the next time I go down to south Texas I will have my passport and could maybe explore. (Also, whenever Covid is at rest…)

On May 15th, we moved into the new townhouse in a much better part of Dallas. It was a beautiful, 2 bed 2.5 bath house that was two stories! It also came equipped with a new washer and dryer setup. I love the location, and our gated community feels a lot safer compared to my previous apartment. Also, this location DOESN’T tow, so now my friends, family and I can rest in PEACE knowing none of our vehicles will be gone in the morning.

A while after moving into our new place, Rosie unfortunately passed away due to common kitten health problems. We did everything we could to save her, including multiple vet trips (and vet bills…) which proved to not help in the end. We buried her in our back yard, and planted a potted rose plant above her in memory. Instead of the other black kitten, Benito, going to a friend of ours, we decided to keep him for ourselves. He has grown up so much since summer-time, and is honestly a little asshole most days, but he keeps our household full of fun and entertains both us and Pocket and Princess.

June

June was an important time in history, with uproar around the world about the unjust murders of black men and women. Even my little, relatively conservative hometown in Texas had people who cared and wanted change to happen. The town hosted a peaceful protest, escorted by our city police that made a speech before the start of the protest/march. They discussed ways the department would be making changes and improving their training and expectations for their police officers, especially around the topic of police brutality and abuse of power. After the speakers, the protesters (including myself, Jose, and our friend Eddy) marched across a shut-down highway. We all stopped at the end of the street and sat in silence for seven minutes and forty six seconds, the same amount of time that officer Chauvin had his knee on the neck of George Floyd. It was a very pleasant protest experience, and I wish I had been able to attend more.

Later that month, Jose and I had a pool day with our friend Summer. It was super nice to be out in the sun, drinking beers and listening to music. We also grilled carne asada, and brought ingredients to make corn tortilla tacos for lunch. Just a few days after, we took a rendezvous trip down to Galveston Island just to get out of the city. We drove out in the middle of the night, so we arrived at the beachside in time to see the beautiful sunrise. We walked down the shore as the sunrose, with no one else on the beach except fishermen wading out in the water. We actually saw a small shark on the sand, which likely belonged to a fisherman! We stayed for one night at a cheap Air BnB, and got boba on our way back home to Dallas. If you can’t tell, both Jose and I are water signs and tend to be at peace around the ocean. Driving down to the beach is definitely our go-to move whenever we are depressed or sad.

The weekend of June 18th, my mom, sister and I took a special girls trip to Austin and Fredericksburg to celebrate life after my depression and suicide attempt. We drove into Fredericksburg on our first day, and explored the small little town and all it’s downtown shops. Despite the smaller crowds, the town has a super cool policy that allows folks to purchase alcohol and walk around the downtown square with it. So, my mom and I bought some beers and sipped on them while we explored. We stopped by a sweets store and munched on some goodies, and my sister and mother found some cute items at some boutiques. After the sun began to set, we got back in the car and headed out for our hotel in Austin.

The next morning, we rented out paddleboards at the Colorado River that goes through the heart of the city. I had paddleboarded before, but it was the first time for my mom and sister. We had a lot of fun on the water, of course with sunglasses and SPF in hand. The weather was beautiful, and the river cuts through some amazing scenery in Austin! Up the river are great views of the city and its architecture, while the other direction is filled with trees and greenery. My mom especially loves outdoor activities, and she was super happy that all three of us did this together.

After our paddleboard session, we stopped by a delicious food spot down the street for some yummy Tex-Mex fare. The city of Austin is known for it’s fantastic food scene, so this spot definitely did not disappoint. Afterwards, we walked around a little hidden market near the restaurant and all three got coffees at a hole-in-the-wall coffeeshop. We had a three hour ride ahead of us, so we left Austin relatively early so that we could get home with enough time to enjoy the evening that night. The trip was really fun, although relatively stressful because pairing my mother, sister, and I together in a car for too long kidna creates chaos. I love them though!

2020 Travels and Things

Last year, I wrote about all of my goals for 2020 and how I wanted to continue traveling and exploring the world. I wanted to go to 12 new places, or around 1 new place per month. At the time, it seemed like a reasonable and fun challenge.

Once Covid-19 hit the U.S., lots of things changed. Staying away from others, in my home, was far from what I had pictured for my 2020 year. Despite the set-backs, I have travelled (SAFELY) a few times since Corona began. While I have been home much more than I would have liked to be, I still feel like my year has been decent. I wanted to share the fun stuff I experienced during this rough year, with hopes next year will be better.

For the ease of reading and enjoying, I have decided to make this a four-part series. I realized that I have quite a bit to write and share for each month, so giving yall three months at a time might make each post less daunting.

January

I rang in the new year with Jose and my other friend, Preston. We drank champagne and stayed in at my apartment in Dallas. I went to Colorado a few days later alongside my friend Eddy, where we stayed in a cool Air BnB with a giant projector and watched Breaking Bad. We got coffee the next morning at a cute shop called Pablo’s Coffee, then we stopped by the airport again to pick up our friend Kenzie.

We spent the day touring the Coors Light factory. We had the option to purchase a guided tour, that included a tasting of multiple different Coors beers at the end! Unfortunately we did not have time this trip, but it is something I would like to do in the future. Instead, we completed the self guided tour which was just as fun. The gift shop inside the building was huge, so we stopped by and purchased a few novelty items. I grabbed a cute beanie, pictured below. After our Coors tour, we asked a local worker about a nice place to hike. She suggested a local trail just minutes down the road, so we drove that way in our rental and spend a few hours hiking up the terrain. The weather was chilly, but wonderful, and the views were magnificent.

Later that month, Kenzie asked me to come with her on an impromptu trip to the Grand Canyon. (I should probably mention, Eddy and Kenzie worked for Southwest Airlines and had the privilege of free flights. I sometimes was given a free flight too. How cool is that?) So, with a 24 hours notice I packed a bag and headed to the airport. Kenzie and I flew into the Phoenix airport on a cool afternoon. We rented out a small little car, and explored the city for some grub. We settled on a cute little Mexican spot, where you walked into a little bus-like building to order your food. We ate some burritos on their outdoor patio and enjoyed the sunset. Phoenix is an absolute VIBE, by the way. The casual, chill atmosphere paired with the gorgeous mountains, cacti and weather is amazing. Absolutely I will visit again!

We drove the three hour trek to our Air BnB (not gonna lie it was low key sketch), which was just half an hour away from the Canyon. We slept just a few hours, because we agreed to wake up early and watch the sunrise. Despite being tired as heck, I am SO glad we did this! We drove our rental out in the fields and parked, listening to the iconic “Always Remember Us This Way” and watching in awe as the sun lit up the mountains, the land, then the whole sky.

We packed up from our BnB, then headed out to our destination. Along the way, we saw a few signs on the side of the road offering beef jerky for sale a few miles ahead. The signs were clever, and funny, basically saying things like “It’s good, I promise” and “I am not a weirdo”. So, obviously, we stopped alongside the road when we saw the man pitched up with his tent. Apparently, the jerky business was his father’s, who was too elderly to continue selling on his own. His son took up the business, and sold it in a few different markets… including the roadside. We bought a bag and monched on it while we continued to drive. It really was good, so thank you, strange jerky man!

We stopped by a Starbucks before entering in the private area for the park. A stranger randomly gifted us their day pass for the park area, which saved us a few bucks! So we happily drove in and found our way to the Grand Canyon tourist area. It was a super cute little area, with a few buildings dedicated to a gift shop, a visual guide with history info, and an area where you could wait for a free bus tour. Kenzie and I braced the cold to wait for the bus, which took us to MULTIPLE points alongside an area of the Canyon. I have NEVER seen something so wild, huge, and amazing! Both of our jaws dropped when the bus took the first turn, and the Canyon became visible. The bright reds were gorgeous, paired with the snow and greenery. We took so many pictures!

February

My main “trip” in February was attending Mardi Gras! I had never been before, and it was on my bucket list of things to do in my life. New Orleans was an entirely new city for me as well, so I was PUMPED to explore it.

I knew I wanted to attend for a while, so in 2019 I booked hotel reservations near NOLA to secure a spot before everything was either booked or sky-high expensive. In a very Natalie-esque fashion: DO now, PLAN later! aaand that is basically what happened. Plans were solidified about a month in advance. The entourage was myself, Kenzie, Jose, and our friend Summer. We borrowed Jose’s dad’s giant car to drive the 7+ hour trip down to the bayou.

If you know me, you are aware that a hate car rides. Cars scare me in general, and the thought of sitting on my butt bones for any longer than absolutely necessary sounds painful. The trek from Dallas to New Orleans is over 7 hours, and I knew from the start that I was gonna have a hard time. We planned accordingly and decided on making an overnight stop in Bossier city, a casino hot spot in Louisiana. It was almost at a halfway point between DFW and our destination, and we figured we could check out the slots, too.

In freezing temps, we checked into our little motel in Bossier and dressed up for our night out. We drove around to a few casinos, inhaling the cigarette smoke and trying to figure out why on earth there were SO MANY SLOT MACHINES. The good news was that in Louisiana, you can drink alcohol in the casinos for *free* so long as you are playing the slots. Meaning, you can do exactly as we did and put $5 into the penny slots, drink free tequila sunrises, and win absolutely nothing. It was more fun than it sounds.

The next morning we made the rest of the drive to New Orleans. Being the Saturday before Fat Tuesday, the city was PACKED. Driving through the French Quarter in broad daylight was very difficult, with thousands of people partying in the streets and music blasting from every street corner. We made it to our hotel, thankfully, and decided to uber to a restaurant before venturing into the city ourselves. The spot was a popular seafood place, which seemed fitting because NOLA is known for their amazing seafood fare. I ordered a fried seafood platter that had crab, shrimp, oysters and other goodies. It was yummmm. From there, we got a lift to downtown, where the madness happened.

First, I should probably mention that both Summer and Kenzie were already tipsy from dinner. Now, we were on Bourbon Street, where free reign of alcohol was every square inch you looked. Around this time, I kinda decided to just stay relatively sober because the party downtown was INSANE. When I tell you that this gathering was the MOST amount of humans I have ever seen in my life, all squished together in the dirty streets of the post-parade, Mardi Gras madness… holy hell. I could not even hear myself think. Moving down the streets was a challenge, and every single bar and shop was packed beyond belief. Live music was protruding from every bar, rowdy partiers lined the streets absolutely plastered from drinking all weekend. From the tops and porches of buildings, hundreds of people were shouting, drinking, and encouraging passing pedestrians to flash them so they could throw down piles and piles of beaded necklaces. (Speaking of which, the streets were absolutely FILLED with these beads! It was like Party City came in and dumped their entire inventory on to the streets of New Orleans.) We went inside to explore a few bars, and got a few drinks for the group at a perfectly jazzy, dark lit bar that was loud as could be, and lined up wall to wall. For a $7 drink, I didn’t really expect much- but holy SHIT that was strong! WAY too strong for me. I just wanted something to sip on while we explored, but this concoction basically tasted like liquor and spices in my mouth. I drank as much as I could bear, and let Jose sip on the rest of it, while Summer and Kenzie were still having a drunken blast with their night.

This is where things got weird. At this point in the night, it was nearly 3am, super cold out, and the streets were still packed as ever. We had gotten the idea to start moving out of the downtown area, to see if we could catch an uber somewhere back to our hotel. Well… as we were walking down the streets, all holding hands to not get lost, Kenzie realized she couldn’t find her phone! Before we could help her look, she had darted in the opposite direction, swallowed by the crowds and nowhere to be seen. The three of us embarked on the journey of finding our friend, who was drunk and apparently phone-less in the middle of Mardi Gras. We were wanting to locate the bar that we last left- ideally, that is where she would have headed. But in all the madness, it was almost impossible to find it! It was as if the bar disappeared into thin air, because it seemed like we traveled up and down those streets countless times without being able to locate it. Worse of all, we couldn’t even remember the name of the place, because we just walked into a random spot that caught our eye. I kept calling Kenzie’s phone, which did not ring, and tried to locate it with the Find My Iphone app only to see it had been DISCONNECTED.

Eventually, I got a ring on my phone from Kenzie’s mother. She frantically explained to me that Kenzie was able to reach her through a strangers phone, and she provided us with the name of the bar she was at. We were then able to GPS where the hell the spot was, and FINALLY we found her! Holy crab cakes. I made sure her mom knew that luckily, we found her daughter, but her phone was probably gone forever. (PSA, even as adults please share your contact information with loved ones. THIS IS SUCH A GOOD EXAMPLE OF AN EMERGENCY SITUATION. YIKIES). Before we left, we decided that we all four needed a pee break, so we stood in line together and all squeezed into the little women’s bathroom for a bit of relief. On a decent note, Jose forgot that he brought a joint with him, and we decided that the dirty bathroom in the middle of Mardi Gras was a great place to smoke weed. Honestly, best point of the night. After a ridiculously expensive Uber ride, we got back to the hotel and passed out.

The next morning, we packed up the car and rode into the city again. We found parking, and grabbed brunch at a cute restaurant right across the pier. We all shared a pitcher of sangria, as well as some delicious beignets. I had a classic muffuletta sandwich, which was also super delish. The rest of our day was much easier than the previous night, as the streets were significantly less crowded, and the beautiful city was much easier to see! We wandered around the shops, stopping at the famous Cafe Du Monde to pick up coffee for souvenirs. Exploring the port was especially fun; being able to see the art of the city, the giant boats on the dock, and the locals of New Orleans really brought out the charm of the city. We took off on our way back home in the late afternoon, knowing a long drive was ahead of us. Despite all the ups and downs of the trip, we all look back now and are so glad we went.

March

Ah, yes. The beginning of this Covid madness. As the country began to learn about the virus, I was laid off from my office job and suddenly found myself with a ton of time on my hands. I was used to working my 9-5 during the week, and picking up a shift or two at a bar where I worked my second gig. Now, everything just came to a stop. It was pretty weird! Foolishly, I expected things to go back to normal within a week or two. (Oh boy, was I wrong.)

At the beginning of the month, Jose was also let go from his job, and we decided to take a rendezvous to the beach. Despite March still being in spring, Texas assumed it was summer and the weather was really nice for a trip to the ocean. We took the three hour trip to Galveston, enjoying the ride and listening to Bad Bunny. We rented out a cheap hotel on the island, and spent a majority of our time at the shore and exploring Pleasant Pier, an iconic Galveston food and carnival ride destination. Jose forced me on to some rides, which at first I was excited to go on. I have liked rollercoasters in the past, but I guess my tolerance has drastically changed because I nearly shit bricks on the few rides we got on. I did, however, enjoy the merry-go-round ride made for children. To end our first and last night there, we found delicious tacos at a Michoacana and chowed down a few yards away from the ocean. The weather was amazing, the ocean breeze was refreshing and we had the beautiful view of Pleasant Pier. It was a super fun and enjoyable time, but looking back, I am simply thankful we did not contract the virus.

Shortly after that, my friend Eddy offered Jose and I a roundtrip ticket to go to Denver with him. He wanted to explore the city and pick up a few things, and Jose had never been to Colorado. We gratefully accepted the invitation, and boarded the flight with masks in hand. At the time, no place was requiring face masks! So many people at the airport and in the flight were mask-free. While we were still unsure of the severity of the virus at the time, we played it safe and came prepared with face coverings and hand-sanitizer. We enjoyed our ‘freebie’ day trip to the gorgeous city, and I really loved being able to show Jose a few parts of Denver. We left later that day, with some goodies in hand.

I met up with my girlfriend Tracy and her husband to grab a few drinks at a bar, right before the pandemic became huge. This was before Texas shut everything down! It was a really nice outing and time to visit, despite things being confusing around the world. I don’t think anyone really knew the kind of severity Covid had at this time. The majority of folks just thought it was something that would pass, and not be so bad. Tracy, who is immunocompromised, really had to hunker down after this because of her lupus. I’m glad we were at least able to see each other in a ‘normal’ setting before shit hit the fan.

After everything shut down, Jose and I took a short day-trip to Sulphur Springs, Texas where a pair of GLASS bathrooms are located. My grandmother actually lives just around the corner from these bathrooms, so my family and I saw and explored them years ago when they were first built. Jose, however, had never been to the small east Texas town, and was very inclined to go. We explored the vacant down-town square and took photos and videos of the obscure bathrooms, which were basically square buildings with one-sided see through glass. Why anyone would want to watch folks outside while they pee or poo is beyond me, but it is a funny thing to see none-the-less.

Besides these trips and outings, I spent the majority of March at home. I stocked up on alcohol while I could, and had a few folks over to drink with here and there. It is still so crazy to imagine what life was like before shutdown, quarantine, and the worsening of the pandemic. I played the next few months much more safely, with caution being taken any time I took a trip or any outing.

Baby Time!

Our first sonogram at 7 weeks!

Despite the really terrible things 2020 has brought on, I still have found this year to bring many blessings and wake up calls. One of those blessings would be my husband, Jose, who is one of the best humans I have met in my life.

We were friends for a long time, before ever dating or becoming a couple. I think this set us up for success, in reality, because I knew how great of a human he was in a completely platonic way before anything else happened. Once we decided to be together, lots of things just fell into place perfectly. I could not have asked for it to have turned out better.

Shortly after getting married in September, we found out that I was pregnant! The new was exciting and also a bit scary, seeing how soon it happened. But, in relation to my past with pregnancy and loss, I felt really confident this time around.

In 2019, I was still in a back and forth, toxic relationship with my ex. I discovered I was pregnant in December 2018, and was stressed during the entire pregnancy. My ex, at the time, was heavily pressuring me into an abortion. He told me at one point that if I did not abort, that he would kick me in the stomach. I refused to abort, because I wanted to keep my baby, and it was not his choice.

I spent the next few months in distress, to say in the least. My ex was still talking to other girls, lying to me about a lot of what he was doing, and overall treated me very poorly. Verbal abuse, emotional abuse and neglect were common, and I was an emotional mess. I spent a lot of time crying, worrying, and not getting any sleep. Financially I was struggling, and my ex did not help with that situation, either. I wasn’t eating enough, I was constantly sad or angry, and somehow I still had to work a 40 hour work week. To put it simply, it was a lot to deal with.

Despite seeing a healthy heartbeat at my first checkup at 7 weeks, I lost the pregnancy in the third month. It was a very scary, traumatic experience and made me very anxious to ever have another pregnancy. I was deeply hurt and depressed, and did not speak about the issue often because very few folks even knew I was pregnant at the time.

Alongside the miscarriage, I was also struggling with the new discovery of my bicornuate uterus. While it is not entirely uncommon, my OBGYN considers the condition to be sort-of like a “unicorn” of uteri and that not a huge population of women are affected. My uterus (or rather, two uterus) are deviated deeply, making the cavity of each uterus very small. This condition, in general, makes pregnancy a difficult and sometimes high-risk experience. I was terrified that all my pregnancies would result in miscarriage because of it.

This was our 11 week sonogram!

Flash-forward to now, late 2020. I am just over 17 weeks pregnant as I type this, and so far, this pregnancy has been healthy. My husband is a life-saver, and it is an amazing feeling to know and see how much he adores me and the unborn baby. He has made this pregnancy a really nice, exciting experience- a complete 180 difference from my last one. Jose has been over the moon the entire time, and his family is incredibly supportive, excited, and uplifting as well.

The emotional turmoil of having a pregnancy after loss has been very difficult to manage. I wake up every day, happy to see a growing belly, but also terrified that something might not be right during the next appointment. I am scared to go to the bathroom, fearing that I will see blood, and every pain or cramp sends me into anxiety. I am so blessed that I have Jose in my life, and that both our families have been wonderful during this journey. I know that the universe has heard my prayers and manifestations, and is finally sending me blessings and happiness.

Jose and I wanted a girl for the longest. I mean, what woman doesn’t want a “mini-me”? (Okay, I take that back, maybe a lot of women don’t… hehe). Jose also saw himself as a girl dad, dressing her up and pampering her. But, come our gender reveal, we found out we are having a boy! Admittedly it has taken me a minute to come to reality with that, but of course, I am still happy as ever.

It’s a BOY!

We have already been gifted so much baby gear. Jose’s dad just bought us a beautiful crib, and we are in the process of converting our second room into a nursery. I will write more on the process of this, as well as other pregnancy experiences I have. For now, I just wanted to announce the happy news to all.

We are so excited to meet our little one in May 2021!

xoxo Nat

How to Start Seeing Red Flags After Growing Accustomed to Trauma

While I want to assume that most people in this world are nice, caring individuals, I have to accept that there are a lot of mean folks out there, too. Perhaps ‘mean’ isn’t the right term- people can be stubborn, rude, aggressive, violent, unappreciative, emotionally insensitive… the list goes on. Not everyone you meet will be as kind as you are, and it is important to remember that.

“Red flags” are basically warning signs. They can be noticed in people when you are getting to know them. They can alert you that something is off, or not quite right with them, and often is associated with an odd ‘gut feeling’. Sometimes, red flags can be misinterpreted, and it is important to note that not everyone operates on the same wavelength so misunderstandings when meeting new people are not inherently bad. However, keeping an eye open to ‘off’ traits of a person is very important for your own safety, mental health, and well-being.

In an ideal universe, you were raised in a loving and caring home, won homecoming King and Queen at your high school, went off to marry your sweetheart and have a beautiful, stress-free life. For most of us, however, this simply isn’t the case. It is not uncommon to have been raised with a chaotic family, witnessing and perhaps even suffering verbal, physical, or other abuse. Even if you didn’t experience a dysfunctional home life, your dating life could have been tainted by people who lied, cheater, or otherwise abused you. Of course, I am simply touching the surface of the intricacies of traumas, abuse, and ‘broken’ homes. I am just here to say that all of these traumatic events can make it very difficult to see ‘red flags’ as we get older.

Growing up with the ‘norm’ being dysfunction can be a very confusing experience. We are accustomed to the ups and downs, to being ‘on-guard’, or to hearing yelling and shouting all the time. Or, if you experienced a long term, abusive relationship, your abilities to detect what is ‘wrong’ and what is normal can become weary. Red flags? What red flags? This is what I’m used to!

Our weakened capabilities to fend off (potential) predators can result in repeated abuse. It is not uncommon for people to find themselves in back-to-back relationships with abusive partners, or to repeatedly make ‘friends’ only for them to steal or lie to you. Identifying red flags is an incredibly important step to stop the circular cycle of trauma, abuse, and dysfunction.

I have experienced a great deal of trauma in my past, and unfortunately have dated many men who were absolutely less than sub-par partners. I bounced back and forth between a few unstable and very unhealthy relationships, experiencing abuse in many forms before finally leaving the situation. Towards the end of 2019, I began to realize that these patterns were not serving me in any capacity. I was only hurting myself by meeting and dating people who had problematic traits. I needed to refocus my life onto myself, my well-being, and my standards in a relationship. I did not deserve to be yelled at, lied to, or mistreated. I deserved better.

When you are used to being mistreated, it becomes very difficult to treat yourself with kindness and respect. It is even more difficult to recognize toxic traits in people before you become close to them. However, learning to do both of these things is imperative to your own happiness.

While my advice is mainly anecdotal, I wanted to offer some options to people trying to “re-set” their standards their and ability to see red flags (before they become bigger problems).

  • Find a therapist specialized in trauma. Seriously, this is a huge factor. Therapy will help you reflect on your past, and assist you in better identifying troublesome habits. You can work on healing yourself while better preparing your mind, body, and psyche for the present and the future.
  • Read books. Make sure they are written by experts in psychology, or authors that are reliable and not trying to shove their own agenda down your throat. (I only say this because the amount of Jesus-centric “self help” books I have filtered through is ridiculous. Unless, of course, the Jesus thing is your jam.) This tip can also apply to blogs (maybe like mine!), articles, or other reliable, honest mental health resources. My personal choice for literature on this topic is Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. I read it for the first time a few years back, and have reread it multiple times since. My past therapy groups have also highly recommended it. It is a fantastic tool to reshape your views on boundaries with yourself, your partners, and others.
  • STAY SINGLE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! (Kinda contrary to the whole Jesus thing I just said, but oh well.) If you aren’t in a (healthy) relationship or marriage already, please do yourself a favor and stay single while you figure this out! Dating/hookups/flings only make things 10x worse when you are trying to evolve and become a better YOU. This is a great time to focus on all the things about yourself that you might have neglected in the past. What hobbies do YOU like? What things should you be doing to take care of yourself, like eating better or being more active? What about going back to school, or starting a certificate? There are so many ways to turn that nervous, anxiously single energy around and re-focus on yourself.
  • Focus on the family and friends that genuinely love and care about you. I hope that all of you have at least a handful of healthy, loving, and reliable people in your lives that you can turn to when things get rough. The love and care that they provide you should be guidelines to how ‘new’ people in your life should treat you. Healthy family and friends can also provide insight on to a person you introduce to them (like a new friend or partner), and could help you see ‘red flags’ before you do.

I hope this post helps people in some way. I know that healing and recovering from trauma can be very difficult, and a long process. Stay encouraged and know that even a small step forward is a step in the right direction.

Nat

I’m Back…

My last post on this blog was 9 months ago, in January. Now, it is mid-October and lots of changes have happened in my life.

I have wanted to return to the blog for a while now, but truthfully I have been unsure about what to post. Not that my life has been uneventful (it hasn’t), but after a while of getting into a rut of depression, and not posting regularly, I felt almost guilty trying to come up with something to post here when I’ve been so quiet.

If you have kept up with any of my other socials, you’ll see I’ve been alive and well. I have travelled quite a bit (at least, as much as I could with Covid), I have done a couple of modeling gigs, and even got married! I will need to make separate posts on all these topics because I definitely intend to get this site back up to date.

In March, I was working still at a psychiatrist’s office before getting laid-off before Covid hit. I’ve been waitressing part time, to make ends meet. I am blessed that financially, things have been okay. There have definitely been really bad points these past few months, but I have been able to keep things together as much as possible. I feel really lucky to be able to say that.

After being laid off, my life became unusually quiet. I was used to working two jobs, going to school, and trying to manage a social life. Suddenly, everything just came to a hault. The first few weeks, maybe even month or so, were actually pretty nice. I was happy to not have anywhere or anyone to report to, for the first time in years. But after a while, my depression started to deepen and things became much more difficult. I’m sure that a lot of people in the world right now can relate.

I’ve tried my absolute best to stay occupied and productive. But, admittedly, I have done less during these months than I feel I should have. In reality, I suppose I’ve accomplished a bit…I:

  • Moved into a townhouse
  • Finished some school
  • Fostered kittens
  • Got married
  • Maintained some form of income
  • Stayed on top of my antidepressants
  • Continued going to therapy

But there is such a huge part of me that feels unaccomplished. Why did I not let my blog flourish with all this new free time? Why did I not do better in school? Why did I not master a new hobby? I feel overwhelmed with things I could, or maybe “should” have done differently these past months. In many ways, I wish I allocated my time and energy differently so that I would have more to show by the end of the year.

Then again, I have to remind myself that this type of thinking is not healthy nor is it realistic. A lot of things have changed in the world this year. Between a global pandemic, personal depression, the rampant racism in the U.S., and the stress of the November elections, there has been *plenty* to deal with without adding on new hobbies or whatever else I “should” have been doing. I guess it is okay to just survive, for the time being.

In the past, I have aimed to post at least once a month so that at the end of the calendar year, I have a multitude of posts to refer back to. Because there has been such a delay between this post and my last, my intentions are to post more regularly so that I can get this blog back up and running.

How have you been handling 2020?

Nat