Lessons I Learned from Earning my Master’s Degree

Thanks to a recent shift in priorities and a social media hiatus, I have had a lot more time to write… Lessons I Learned from Earning my Master’s Degree was written in December of 2016 (ummm, I’ve been busy… better late than never). It’s finally seeing the light of day and that’s cool because life lessons are timeless things. Enjoy…


It’s a freezing December day, but the Breslin Center is packed and I am sweating under my cap and gown. I look around and I cannot believe this day is here. This journey that I have been on is coming to an end and I have so many emotions about it. My family is with my little 2 month old Baby B in the stands. I think of him and smile… And feel my milk come in. SHIT. While part of me is so sad this part of my journey is coming to an end, my body reminds me that it’s time. The next chapter is here in full force and it’s time to raise our tiny human.

D98C2027-DB9D-4447-8987-849DF2A33443The commencement speaker (whose name I cannot remember #MommyBrain) talked about how he became an accidental surgeon. It wasn’t his intended plan in life. I write this having my life echo that exact sentiment. When I earned my Bachelor’s degree a decade ago, I thought I was finished with my formal education. Yes, I believe you never really stop learning but for all intents and purposes I was finished learning in the classroom… Or so I thought. (There are many points in life where I believe God must watch us and just laugh and shake his head. For me, this is probably one of them.) During my Master’s pursuit, I solidified my path to becoming an accidental educator. I write this now having a Master’s in Higher Education and a Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Ed. In a nutshell, I found my calling working with college students and helping them become the best versions of themselves in and out of the classroom.

Working full-time and earning a degree isn’t for the faint of heart. Throw in growing a human, building a house and being a wife, and you have your work cut out for you. I learned a wealth of fascinating things in the classroom these past couple of years. Theories and practices that I will carry throughout my career. In addition to that, there are a multitude of things I learned outside the classroom that have become imbedded in who I am. The highlights of the journey are what follow…FullSizeRender 6

EVERYTHING WORTH DOING IN LIFE NEEDS A SOLID HASHTAG
By solid hashtag what I really mean is a strong “why”. Hashtags began as kind of a joke with my people. It started with the Fallon/Timberlake hashtag skit, (if you have zero idea what I am referring to… HERE also, you’re welcome.) then grew limbs and took on a life of its own. If a story is good enough to tell, it better end with a good hashtag or three as the punchline. A good hashtag can motivate you even on the worst days. #ThePursuit was mine for my Master’s and it carried me through the toughest days. A good hashtag can become your why- which is the most important of all things. In everything you do, I am a firm believer that you must know your why. Another way of saying this is come up with a damn good hashtag and use it everywhere to motivate the pants off of you. Times will get hard and you will lose the will to keep going and for these times you need to remember your why. #FindYourHashtag

WE STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
Sir Isaac Newton was onto something here. Though I am on this journey, I am not on this journey alone. My success is not mine alone- it is because of the educators and researchers who came before me, and the family and friends who stand beside me. I don’t believe in coincidences- we were born for this time in history. We are here to make discoveries, be successful in our endeavors and leave our little spot in the world better than we found it. “If I have seen further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” #YouWereBornForThisMoment

BE A SELFISH JERK
You know when you are on an airplane and the flight attendant tells you incase you lose cabin pressure to put the mask on yourself before you help the person next to you… This is just like that. Sometimes, to succeed in life in a certain season, you have to learn how to create boundaries and be selfish. Sometimes that makes you a selfish jerk. So be it. You have to learn to say “no” and “I can’t take that on right now”. You have to learn to protect your time and your resources. Life is ravenous and if you let it, it will eat away at everything you have worked so hard to build. It is up to you to protect that with a vengeance. Create boundaries and be a selfish jerk over the things you love. #BeSelfishSometimes

DON’T BE A SELFISH JERK
If you know me at all you know it’s super easy for me to dig in my heels and be a selfish jerk. My Master’s taught me how to not do that- actually, Hubbz taught me that while I was getting my Master’s. My Master’s taught me that there is a balance in life, especially in marriage, that needs to be honored. My husband selflessly supported me through this process. He did this with no complaints… Like, zero. Even when I know for myself, I would have totally complained… He didn’t. He cleaned the house. He cooked soooo many dinners. He did the grocery shopping. He took care of the yard. He got the oil changes and filled the gas tanks. He shoveled the snow. He did the laundry. He did all of this (and more) while I studied and read and wrote papers for countless hours. He showed me what it meant to selflessly love another while supporting them in their endeavors with zero question. He allowed me to be privy to the blessing of his selfless love. #LessonsFromHubbz

SHOW GRATITUDE
I am a firm believer that in anything worth doing in life, it takes a village to help you accomplish it. At the end of the journey, after I walked across the stage, it was up to me to thank the people that helped me get there and make it through. The ones who planted the seeds, the ones who encouraged the process, the ones who prayed over us when things got hard, the ones who helped me see it through to the end. Gratitude is everything in life. When people talk about an attitude of gratitude, it’s a real thing that shouldn’t be downplayed. On our journeys through life, the most important thing we can do is have gratitude for and acknowledge the people who have helped us get to where we are going. Zig Ziglar knew what he was talking about when he said “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” #BeGrateful

Find your why- the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning and make it a #hashtag. Recognize that you didn’t get where you’re going alone. Be a selfish jerk over the important things. Don’t be a selfish jerk where it matters most. In everything, above all, show gratitude.

#MommywithaMasters

CheersDez cursiveslope

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Our Social Media Hiatus

On Easter Sunday, which also happened to be April Fool’s Day, Hubbz and I made a choice to (for the most part) give up social media… and no, this wasn’t April Fool’s Tomfoolery- this was a legit hiatus that was long overdue. Hubbz agreed because he’s a damn Champion and wanted to support me with this little experiment. I couldn’t go crazy and disconnect completely because a lot of my life is connected through social media. My job, my students, our church group and my essential oil peeps all use social media to stay connected so it is important and necessary to be plugged in, but Hubbz and I decided to scale way, way back and see what happened… we said we would give it a month. We turned off non-work related notifications, put apps on the last screen of our iPhones and made a pact to focus on the life that is right in front of us… WOAH YO, BRO.

Over time, the reasons for a social detox piled up and I did my best to sweep them under the rug pretending they weren’t a thing. Turns out, they were a thing. Here are some highlights (i.e. really embarrassing lowlights) for why a social media hiatus needed to be my new thing…

  1. I started to feel disconnected from the world. While I know that sounds super weird, it’s really not. I am reminded of the Steve Jobs’ quote “your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” I was spending so much time paying attention to other people’s lives that I was missing out on my own. (That’s super embarrassing when you say it out loud, BTDubs.) While my son is hilarious and adorable, I spent so much time capturing how hilarious and adorable he was that I was missing being in the moments of his hilarious and adorable. For me that is unacceptable. I would be spending time with Hubbz and immediately get on my phone to selfie or snapchat the moment when I could be in the moment talking to the sweetest, sexiest (that beard tho), funniest man I know. The brevity of life is not lost on me and I’ll be damned if I am going to miss out on another single moment with my guys.
  2. I started comparing my everyday life to everyone else’s highlight reel. If you don’t think this is the most depressing thing you can ever do in life, I urge you to try it (not really- it sucks). As I would scroll through fitness selfies, vacations, birthdays, anniversaries, and anything else people deem important enough to grace their Social Highlight Reel, I started to feel all Turdville, USA about my own life. Davvero!

    Embarrassing things that may or may not have come out of my mouth include:
    “Umm Hubbz, I need a fancy vacation somewhere tropical because I have always wanted to drink a pina colada and skinny dip in an infinity pool overlooking an ocean.
    Sooo Hubbz, I know I am a medium now (and used to rock a hefty XL) but Amber Dodzweit Riposta has a thigh gap and gun show arms… should I start counting macros again so I look like that?”
    Uhh Hubbz, why isn’t our golf league at a fancier golf course? Should we be looking at golf leagues at better courses?”

    This thinking annoyed my so bad that I wanted to punch myself in the throat just to shut me up…  so did Hubbz, though he never said it I am pretty confident the poor guy was thinking it. All of this comparing led me to feel crappy about this God-given life that most days I wake up in awe of. I started to think that it wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t doing enough or being enough. Um, hello, but get outta here with all that junk! I don’t have time to live an ungrateful life and I could feel discontentment and ungratefulness creeping in on the edges. No thank you! Buh-bye!

  3. I started to get anxious from overthinking. Ok this is some #realtalk and no, you don’t get to judge me. Sometimes I would see things on social and it gave me legit anxiety and caused me to overthink life… sometimes for longer than I would like to admit. SAY WHAAAAT. Yes, for reals. I would see something, overthink it for a couple hours and put myself in a bad mood. WTF, Bruh!? Ain’t nobody got time for that! If that has never happened to you, congratulations, you’re a different breed of human than the rest of us- but I bet if we’re being super honest, it’s probably happened to you too. We get one shot at this wild and crazy life and I have zero desire for anxiety and overthinking to take over my thoughts or come close to stealing my joy. I get Mama Bear protective over my happiness.

These three reasons kept showing up in my life and so one day I decided enough was enough. We had just gotten back from a breathtaking little family vacation and by that weekend, my zen was starting to wear off along with my tan… neither of which I appreciated. I lathered up with some sunless bronzer and made a pact with Hubbz to take back our time, sanity and zen AF mood.

I am going to be totally honest and say I was a lot terrified of the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that might set in disconnecting from social but I threw caution to the wind and did it anyway. The first few days, I would pick up my phone out of habit to scroll through Instagram or post to Snapchat. Not seeing the apps in their usual spot, I remembered the hiatus and put my phone down. During this time the world missed a lot of post-Orange Theory selfies, artsy photos of my Starbucks VBHR’s, the cuteness that is my son, our narcoleptic pup and hilarity of situations I find myself in with Hubbz. What I realized is, the moments of my life that I didn’t share were even more kick-ass because the people who I really wanted to share them with were right there sharing them with me… and I was fully present to feel them. It sounds basic, I know, but it blew my mind. The times I was alone and wanted to share something, I snapped a pic and texted it to people who I knew would truly appreciate it. Something started to happen in a short amount of time- by disconnecting, I began to connect deeper with the people that are right here with me.

In the first week of the hiatus, I finished two books. Two books… in a week! For the second one, I was sitting on the couch next to Hubbz and slammed it shut, gleefully announcing I was done! He looked at my bewildered, “What the hell! You just started it!” My reply… “And I just finished it, Homie!” (because sometimes I call my husband Homie.) This made me realize three things, 1) I am finally going to get through the stack of books sitting on my bookshelf. 2) I am definitely going to get to buy all the new books on my reading list. 3) It’s amazing what we can find the time for when we stop silently gawking at the lives of others and start investing in our own. #realtalk 😎

Total number of books I read in April… Ready for it? 5… AS IN 1-2-3-4-FIVE! Boom-Shaka-Laka! 🙌🏽 but then also 🤘🏽 …Oh… and I listened to a podcast called Dirty John. It was very unnerving but also wildly cathartic. It also made me remember how much I enjoyed listening to podcasts.

Over the course of the month, Hubbz and I have played more board games than I can count (no you can’t judge us- it’s our jam). I started and finished yet another puzzle (because they are the best thing ever and if you don’t think so we can’t be friends).

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We hit the range a few times (I impressed the hell outta my man) anddddd we kicked-off our summer golf league (I am so excited that I can’t even feel my face!!!) I have finished so many half-started blog posts (they will publish in May, so stay tuned!) And I finally, finally, did I mention FINALLY started writing my book!!! 

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We went on a zillion walks with our sweet son and played with bubbles in the crisp, spring Michigan air. Our little man celebrated his half-birthday (because in our house we celebrate half-birthdays) and I died a little… How is he almost TWO!?

IMG_0924I continued my weightloss journey (I am now a proud wearer of size: medium) and hit a new personal record for Fastest All-Out at Orange Theory (I channeled my inner Flo Jo and she would have been proud.) This month, we spent so much time with family and friends and it nourished the soul. Mostly, above everything, we laughed. We laughed so hard that sometimes we couldn’t catch our breath and it was awesome. This past month I realized that little pivots in how we spend our time offer the gift of more time.

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I have become a firm believer that once in awhile, in the middle of a perfectly good life, sometimes we need to hit the reset button. Not because anything is wrong but because we want to make our lives better, richer and overflowing with love and happiness. Our little social hiatus wasn’t forever but it lasted just long enough to allow us to think about how we are spending our lives and at what capacity. We have talked about making it an annual thing. I don’t know what we will end up doing but I do know that disconnecting and re-centering was not only needed and necessary but led us to have a lot of fun and connect so much deeper with the people in our lives. I urge you, sweet friends, to try it. You just might like what you discover.

CheersDez cursiveslope

Little Miracles and Cancelled Surgeries

I was supposed to be in surgery Wednesday morning. I had an almost 8 centimeter cyst on one of my ovaries that wasn’t going away and was growing steadily. Two weeks ago, my doctor scheduled surgery. I cried. I got mad at my body. Then, I decided underneath all of that emotion was fear. After much coaching from my People, I decided instead of being fearful I was going to pray it out and trust in the Lord. The more I prayed, the more I felt God saying “Hey Dez, how about you put your faith where you say your heart is and trust me.” #woah

Set with this God-given resolve, I got a small team together of Prayer Warriors. To be honest and tell one on myself, I was so ashamed about what was happening that I didn’t tell a lot of people and I didn’t reach out to ask for prayer like I normally do. I learned a lesson from this… don’t ever do that. It’s not our responsibility as followers of Jesus to live in shame and embarrassment. It’s our responsibility to be vulnerable and come together. Lesson learned on my part. Over the next two weeks, the small group of Prayer Warriors prayed, I prayed and we all waited. Two weeks felt like an eternity but everytime I would begin to feel the anxiety of worry I would lay my fears at the foot of the cross.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Though she wasn’t going to, I asked my doctor to run one last test the day before my surgery. She doesn’t normally do that because she said the likelihood of it resolving wasn’t great, but she agreed to recheck me anyway.

You guys, I was supposed to have surgery Wednesday morning… but I didn’t. As sure as I am typing these words, that cyst that had grown so large had shrunk in half in less than two weeks! My surgery was cancelled. #ThankYouJesus #HesOffTheHizzy

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

Hubbz and I took this little miracle as a prompting to do something different than the norm. We did something that is unthinkable in our modern-day society. We both took the day of my surgery off anyway. We were taking a moment to recenter our focus from our very busy schedules to what really matters… God, each other and our family.

We woke up and played with our son and didn’t rush to get out of our jammies. It was a leisurely morning with nothing to do and nowhere to be. Hubbz and I went to the gym together – something we haven’t done in so long. He got a lift in and I got in a solid hour of yoga. I sat in the steam room with no place to go and not a thing on my agenda.

It. Was. Glorious.

Hubbz and I met at a gym and spent years working out side-by-side (couples who lift together stay together #liftheavysquatlow) but in a world of to-do lists and deadlines it rarely happens anymore. To be in this space with Hubbz, so many good memories come flooding back. Post-workout we got brunch together at one of our favorite eateries. I met my Mom for tea and three hours later we still sat there cracking up with conversation. Though we see each other everyday, we rarely sit down and talk just the two of us with zero interruptions. It was soul-quenching. At night, my sweet cousin brought us dinner and we spent the night laughing till we cried a little. God turned a day that I had been dreading into a day that I would like to stream on repeat.

I was in a meeting early this week and I was told something that struck me in the gut of my heart. My colleague and I were talking and he reminded me ever so eloquently that “God is good and He is still on the throne.” I don’t know about you but I forget that… all the time. I let the demands of the world overwhelm me and my faith that I like to think is steadfast and unwavering becomes frail and weak. My sweet readers, I am sharing this story, this tiny little miracle God gave me to bring to light that despite what is happening around us and to us, God is good and he is still on the throne.

I urge you sweet readers and friends, in the midst of our busy and hurried lives, take the day. Take a breath and just take the day. Take the day to do things for yourself and your relationships and your family that are so vital and important to a happy life. Take the day and say your gratefuls. Take the day and just breath. Take the day and pour into yourself, your life and your loved ones.

No matter what is happening in our lives, God is good and He is still on the throne.

CheersDez cursiveslope

Riding the Struggle Bus into 2018

YOU. GUYS. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! It is my most sincere hope that 2018 finds you extraordinarily happy, tenaciously hopeful and ridiculously healthy!

2018 has entered my life in the middle of an interesting season… Exhaustion. Pure, utter, unadulterated exhaustion. Mentally, physically, emotionally and even a little spiritually exhausted. This whole living life exhausted thing is new for me and to be totes honest, I don’t like it. This past month I have taken a pause and have done A LOT of thinking. While I am not one to get into the “New Year, New Me” thing, this year it hit me that maybe that’s EXACTLY what I need. Not getting into the new years resolution fad over the years has allowed me to stay ridiculously comfy and play a small-ish game that I can’t really lose. Both of these things my perfectionist nature loves… HOWEVER… I am done with that thinking.

It’s about to get all “New Year, New Me” up in here so if you’re not ready for that you should stop reading… don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

For some time now I have been contemplating the difference between being comfortable with the skin I’m in and being a raging fat-ass. I feel like lately I am equal parts of both. While some of you may see this as horrendous self-talk, I can assure you it’s not. I use the term fat-ass in an endearing and loving way. What I have come to terms with is that I have become a comfortable-in-the-skin-I’m-in-fat-ass… therein lies the problem. Putting all my ego and vanity aside, it’s not a healthy place for me to be. Not emotionally, not spiritually, not mentally and certainly not physically. While I know the truths of this to the very squishy gut of my soul, I also know that I love food… and by food I mean anything that’s not a lean protein or vegetable. If junk food were a person, I would have the biggest crush. Problem is, junk food is like the guy that all your friends think you should stay away from but you just keep going back to it because, well, it’s delicious.

All of this thinking about this comfortable fat-assness has led me to the conclusion that something has to change. While this change is something I have vowed to have happen every single Sunday night since BabyB’s debut on the planet, here we are, 14+ months post-baby and well… ahem. That jiggle is still in my middle and that junk is still in my trunk.

The ugly truth is that I am hovering 1-2 lbs above my pre-baby weight. This alone doesn’t sound so bad, right? Except thanks to fertility drugs and emotional eating, 1-2 lbs above my pre-baby weight also happens to be the weight of a small human. My 5’2″ frame is riding the Struggle Bus straight to OhShitsVille and if I don’t do something seriously soon it’s not going to be good.

I know what you are thinking right about now, why the blog post about this?

Because B-R-U-H.

We have got work to do. By “we” I mean I… and I need some accountability partners. Left to my own devices, I will pick laziness and gluttony 100% of the time. Accountability partners are a powerful thing.

Do you have any goals for 2018? (They don’t have to be physique centered, they can be anything!)

Do you want to join me in reaching those goals?

Do you want to become stronger than your strongest excuse?

I’m not striving for perfection, just progress sprinkled with a ton of grace.

I left a lot in 2017 that’s not coming with me in 2018.

People (Byeeeeeee Felicia).

Baggage (ugh, it was sooo heavy).

Thoughts (gotta get that mind right).

Ideas (woke AF).

I would love to have you partner with me on this adventure through the Facebook Group I created… a 2018 Challenge to Change. I would love to go on this journey with you- to help each other, to empower each other, to share our stories and to be accountable.

If you are inspired, or maybe just a little curious, join us here:

2018 Challenge to Change Facebook Group

This year it’s time to write a new story. Time to shoot for the moon. Time to thrive.

CheersDez cursiveslope

100 Days of Yoga: COMPLETED

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WELL. I DID IT. I completed the 100 Days of Yoga Challenge. I’m kinda sitting over here waiting for someone to show up with a medal for me. Yes, a real medal that I can wear basically everyday of my life because that challenge was hard! I’d like it to be me in lotus pose looking all zen, with my cutest yoga pants on and my hair all jacked-up to Jesus. I’ll walk down the street and people will be like “Woah, she has a medal” and I’ll just wink and casually say “100 Days of Yoga, Bruh.” That may or may not be a fantasy… don’t judge me… whatever.

To bring you up to speed, 100 Days of Yoga started out as a conversation over a tea latte (made with almond milk) that you can read about HERE. The journey offered amazing lessons along the way and I attempted to capture them on the fly (HERE)… except life got in the way so that was the last of them. Now that it’s completed (and I wait for someone to award me with a medal) I can share the wit and wisdom from the mat.

100 days + 71 days = 100 Days of Yoga

Lesson One: Sometimes the best laid plans get derailed and set on fire by life.

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 9.35.04 PM.pngOn May 17th, I started… on November 3rd, I finished… do the math (or maybe, don’t.) Sometimes it takes more than 100 days to accomplish 100 Days of Yoga. Sometimes your time frame gets adjusted because #Life. There were times I forgot, times I was too tired, times I was just having more fun doing something else. There were times I got sick of it, times I had more important things to do. Times I wanted to sit on the couch, eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup and watch a DVR. I learned recently that given the choice between my mat or poolside with a Bloody Mary I will choose the latter 100% of the time. I started off getting mad at myself for these life choices. Why couldn’t I just freaking make this a priority and finish in 100 Days!? About Day 37 I was on a bridge in Chicago far past my bedtime with entirely too much wine making me feel all zen. Standing in tree pose with three of my favorite humans waiting on me take this photo, it dawned on me… I realized I wasn’t finishing in 100 days because I was having too much dang fun doing life off the mat. I decided to quit berating myself and lean into the process. Lean into the journey and just enjoy it, no matter how long it takes.

Yoga Makes Fat Rolls Pop Out

Lesson 2: There are times when fat rolls are just a part of life.

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 9.36.01 PM.pngSometimes I had to video my practice, other times, I had people capture photos for me. Lord have mercy on all the footage that died on the cutting room floor because I was not letting it see the light of day. There is nothing that makes you want to schedule liposuction tomorrow like seeing yourself, post-baby do yoga. In my head I felt lean and strong and flexible, on camera, it looked like a whale was trying to fold itself into a pretzel. Ever seen that in real life? I hadn’t either till it was time to post my yoga poses to Instagram… there aren’t enough filters for that. Clarendon? Juno? Perpetua? Lark? DELETE. Just delete, walk away and let’s pretend like that never happened… except it had, and it needed to, so I put the best filter on it and posted it anyway. While I work on boosting my self-talk and accepting a little back fat and lack of a thigh gap, I cling to the idea that with enough workouts, the right amount of macros and high quality H2O, I will have my body back. In the meantime, I’ve gotten pretty damn strong and my flexibility is off the charts. While transparency is something I strive for in life, #LAWD sometimes it just ain’t pretty.

Headstands are a stupid thing to do

Lesson 3: Standing is for your feet, not your cabeza.

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 9.38.38 PM.pngI love inversions. I love being upside down and what that does to my body. I love the feeling of my legs getting a break and the stretch my body feels. I love balancing. The way my muscles feel as they are locked and engaged steadying my body upside down and holding it in the moment. That being said, sometimes you start off on your head but end up flat on your back… with an ice pack… after 7 different trips to the chiropractor. #truestory It was my idea to do a headstand on an adirondack chair, but, Newsflash: It was a dumb idea. We didn’t see that one coming now did we!? #WhatCouldGoWrong

Yoga is more fun with other humans
Lesson 4: Sometimes you rope in the people you love and IT. IS. GLORIOUS.
Some of my best moments on the mat are with the village that surrounds my life. My sister is the one who didn’t let me off the hook in doing this challenge and I am a better human for that. The time I can spend on the mat with her, breathing, focusing, pushing my body to the limit is such an incredible blessing. The moments I begged Hubbz to join me were never dull. While I tried to always be all serious and zen, we usually ended up laughing so hard that tears happened in the eye holes. Hubbz is hilarious and he has this uncanny ability to never under any circumstance allow me to take myself or life too serious.

 100 Days of Yoga offered so many deep notions about life. The four that stuck out the most for me are to enjoy life outside your best laid timeframes, accept your body exactly where it is – and then you have space to transform it, keep your feet firmly rooted on the ground and enjoy the people around you. It is my hope that you think about something you would like to do for 100 Days… and then GO DO IT! You only get one shot at this wild and fancy life and I pray that you make the most of it.
Namaste,
Dez

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