COUPLED: Reality TV and My 10 MUST-HAVES in a Man

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Everyone should have a “list” for what they are looking for in a partner right?? So here’s mine.

What I’m looking for in a man:

  • Christian with a strong relationship with God because LOVE IS 1 Corinthians 13:4 & I desire a Christ-centered relationship. (Patient, KIND, keeps no record of wrong doing, etc)
  • Unique sense of humor – I NEED to laugh! I’m a big kid and love laughing at myself, at my man, and with my man. Laughter really is the best medicine!!
  • Athletic/tall build – I’m 5’8” and I love wearing heels and want to still feel small next to him.
  • Amazing family/family oriented – when you date me you date my family. And when I date, I get attached to family rather quickly since I myself am so family oriented. I love big families with kids everywhere! The bigger the better.
  • Foooooiiiine… but yet doesn’t know how attractive he is. AKA HUMBLE.
  • Intelligence is sexy. So is generosity.
  • Must love and want kids. I’m not opposed a man who already has kids BUT I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to give that gift to my husband one day – our first child, together… that whole experience is something I dream about. I want to be a mommy!
  • Speaking of kids… MUST. LOVE. DOGS too!!!!!!!! Especially my dog, Romeo. Or it’s BUH-BYE papi.
  • Affirms and encourages me in my field of work without being jealous. (The right amount of jealousy is cute though.) *Words of affirmation is key* as it’s one of my love languages.
  • P.D.A is a must –I want a man who cant help but to have his hands all over me and is super affectionate no matter who is looking!!! My other love language is physical touch.
  • Protective – will defend me to no end. I want that “ride or die, Bonnie & Clyde, it’s you and me against the world” type of love. I’m just looking for a best friend, at the end of the day – that’s the best kind of relationship to have.

So lets talk about this whole COUPLED thing. It’s a new dating show on FOX and I am honored to say I am part of season 1! Shooting started in February and ended in March. Its been a week since the premiere and tomorrow is episode two. This is so exciting!! It’s a Mark Burnett Production so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity because Mark Burnett is known for being Christian, and none of his shows are salacious, malicious or defaming in any way. (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor)

As for me, I’ve always been in serious relationships (pretty much back to back) and never really just plain dated. After over a year of being single I knew it was time for me to get out there again and start to date. So why not do it on national television? And why not in the Caribbean?

Obviously I can’t share details or give too much away, but be sure to tune in every Tuesday night @9pm on Fox to see if I checked off “my list” and found me a man or not 😉

Be sure to follow along on social media @aliciamblanco throughout the season for behind the scenes pics from the season.

Besitos!

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From Miss Arizona to Misunderstood

By: Alicia M. Blanco

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Lately I’ve been doing a lot of traveling for work which I find to be extremely fulfilling and rejuvenating. (Refer back to my blog “Why Traveling is Good for your Mental Health” from last year.) In fact, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t blogged in almost a year!! But traveling is such an awesome part of life that I feel everyone should try to do more of. YOU MEET SO MANY PEOPLE, and these people from all around the world help to teach you more about yourself.

My newest “discovery” that I’ve acquired from my travels is that being misunderstood reeeeeallllllly sucks. Like, REALLY, REALLY SUCKS. Whether it’s an actual language barrier where you struggle to understand what the frack someone is saying and therefore preventing you from having a conversation of substance, or even being able to order a high-maintenance coffee (I like an iced, dirty venti chai tea latte with coconut milk and extra chai and two shots..and light ice. Because I’m a diva.) And you can forget trying to order a grande double shot vanilla bean frappuccino with exxxxxtra caramel inside the cup and on top with light whip cream…I guess it’s way too complicated of an order.

And then there are the cultural differences. Different people from different parts of the world will interact, speak, react, and even drive differently. Tempers are different. Attitudes are different. Levels of patience are different. EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT! (…and thank GOD for that because we would be so bored if everyone was the same, wouldn’t we!?)

But I would gladly take on annnnnny language barrier/misunderstanding in the world over being misunderstood for who I am on the inside.

Recently I’ve had a few experiences while traveling where my heart, my integrity and my character was misunderstood- and it absolutely wrecked me.

But I learned that even the crappy things that happen to us serve a huge purpose in our lives.

Being misunderstood taught me 3 things:

  1. I love my family and friends like CRAZY and need to show it more when I’m HOME!! – I always knew I loved them, but after so much traveling and several different time zones, I learned just how much I value their opinions– and only their opinions. “People who mind don’t matter and people who matter, don’t mind.” Knowing I have an amazing group of people to come home to whenever I’m gone for extended periods of time gets me through. While I am so inspired by all the people I am meeting while traveling, I had to learn to reject opinions from people who don’t fully know me. It took me a long time to do this but once I did, it was extremely liberating. You cannot let the opinions of others define you, or worse, hurt you. And you certainly shouldn’t let opinions change who you are. #ohhayyyllno “Lions don’t lose sleep over the opinions of sheep.” I definitely need to show more appreciation for the people I love when I’m home. Whenever I’m gone I find myself swearing I’m going to be better about calling my mama and sister every single day since it’s hard to do when traveling. I need their opinions. I need to hear their voices.
  2. Stereotypes still exist.. um, what the heck!? – Whenever I personally encounter being stereotyped for being a pageant girl, it hurts! I can’t tell you how many times people assume I have a competitive spirit in every aspect of my life… or they assume I’m nothing but makeup and hair full time and that I’m putting up a façade. In the social media crazed world we live in today, it’s impossible to avoid being judged. You can sit behind a computer screen (or on your phone) for hours just scrolling through someone’s profile and judging them without even realizing it!  WE ARE ALL GUILTY OF THIS. Ladies, you should NEVER have to explain who you are to anyone! Stay true to who you are, even if the world has stereotypes surrounding the way you look, dress, speak and carry yourself, just keep your chin up otherwise your crown may slip. Besides, going to Miss USA is a one of the greatest accomplishments of my whole life and I’m so proud of it! I shouldn’t have to defend it or adapt to others in order to be understood or accepted. (Side note: the irony about ever being called a “pageant girl” in a negative way, is that I wasn’t raised in the industry. I was dared into my first pageant in my early 20s. So I can’t help but to laugh whenever people think I was born and bred to COMPETE…as if that’s a bad thing anyway?!)
  3. KINDNESS is key. – The whole entire purpose of my blog is to promote kindness and paying it forward! While traveling, it just comes natural to me to stay true to myself and be kind, always – even when someone is being completely unkind towards me. One of my favorite scriptures says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 2:19-21 – Whenever I come across someone who is being difficult at the airport or on my flights or in my hotels, I overcome it by being extra nice. I always get such a priceless look on their faces.

It’s hard to put into words how gratifying it is to be kind when someone deserves it the least. I am always so hopeful that it will change the direction of their day, reboot their mindset altogether and maybe even lead to them taking on a different attitude and paying it forward for the rest of their day. And even if it doesn’t, I still walk away feeling good! Besides, everyone you meet is fighting something that you know NOTHING about. Always give the benefit of the doubt. Always be the advocate for someone who isn’t around to defend themselves. Take the high road. Speak words of encouragement. You never know how profoundly it can impact someone for the better!

Still, we are human and we are going to get hurt. The more I travel the more I’ve come to appreciate how drastically different we all handle being hurt. I think it’s a beautiful thing to learn from other people and it’s something I take seriously with every trip I take.

Anyways, just had to get this off my chest. Excited to be back in the blogsphere! I’m sure I will have lots to say in the coming months but no matter what, I’ll always stay true to myself no matter where I go in the world.

XO

Why Traveling Is Good For Your Mental Health

by: Alicia M. Blanco

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Recently I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel. It started back in September when I traveled to Israel.  Soon thereafter I was in Puerto Rico for a week. And, as I sit here finishing up all my packing for my second trip to Dubai this month, I can’t help but to recognize how much healthier I feel on the inside.

When you travel, you get away from the comfort of your routine. You disconnect. You un-plug. You checkout of everything; schedules, diets, drama, gossip, heartbreak, work, stress, work-related stress, and social media. You marvel in newness, freshness, different foods, cultures, people and beyond… it’s one of the greatest gifts you can ever give yourself in this life.

Several years ago, I was envisioning myself in this space. I very clearly saw myself disconnected from my comfort zones of Arizona and LA, and entirely consumed with the freedom and fullness that comes with traveling. I dreamt of collecting stamps on my then very empty passport and I even dreamt of singing around the world for beautiful and diverse audiences.  So, last year I put this vision into action when I created my vision board, complete with pictures and images of sandy beaches, tiki huts, and water so clear and blue that you felt like you were in a dream just looking at it. Besides all the pictures of traveling (as well as my dream home, husband, wedding and engagement ring), my vision board also includes images of music, singing, and even a Grammy. It’s the first thing I see in the morning everyday and at one point I didn’t even realize how much it consumed such a large portion of my life. I see these images constantly and frequently throughout the day, without even realizing it.

When I found myself at the airport recently looking down at my passport, I realized how many of those stamps I had actually acquired over the last six months alone. As I found myself on the Sea of Galilee back in September, I realized I had this very image on my vision board with water so blue and beautiful that I felt like I was dreaming. Of course, this was way better. When I walked the streets of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico just after sunset and listened to the live salsa music, I felt completely at home. (The monfongo and arroz con gandules was mouthwatering. If you’re a foodie like me, traveling is good for your taste buds too.)  And when I checked into my beautiful hotel room in Dubai, I felt like I had seen that very space before in my mind. It was overwhelming.

To make all of this even more beautiful, I get to sing on my latest traveling adventures! I can honestly say that the very first time that the curtains were drawn and I sang the first note of “The Voice Within”, it was a surreal experience- nearly out of body. I knew I had been there before in my mind. That moment affirmed what I already knew: what you think about, you bring about. If you see it in your head, you will hold it in your hand. It’s the law of attraction.

Life will present moments where it feels like the stars have aligned and you can’t wipe the smile and simultaneous tears from your face even if you tried. It’s in those moments, at least for me, that I feel totally and completely balanced and whole. I feel a sense of health (both physically and MENTALLY), and an inner peace that’s truly indescribable.

“Let yourself go.” – Eat, Pray, Love.

Traveling has given me so much more than I was expecting. When I made my vision board over a year ago I never knew that the real thing would feel quite like this. Complete and utter bliss is when you find the thrill of running to your gate at an international airport. It’s looking out the window as your plane is about to land and seeing buildings you’ve only ever dreamt about. Its forcing yourself to learn different languages in order to communicate and expand your mind. Its making connections with people who may not speak the same language as you, but you feel as though you share so much in common because of the matching tags on your suitcases at baggage claim. It’s in the quiet moments in the morning inside your hotel room when you realize you’re waking up in an entirely different time zone – and world for that matter. Its in the space where you feel like the world is so much bigger, yet smaller than you thought it was. It’s in the discomfort and the unknown. It’s even in the jet lag. To travel is to live and grow into a better human being.

If you’ve been waiting for a sign to finally travel, consider this blog post your sign. There will always be a reason why you shouldn’t do it now. Money, timing, your job, your family… what’s your reason? No matter what it is, I hope you realize two things from my blog. 1) there is no perfect timing to do anything. Now is the time. And 2) your world and your life will be so much more fascinating when you get home from your travels. You’ll be more well-rounded, have more life experience, and you’ll see things differently than you ever did before. People included. Lastly, 3) you need to start envisioning what you want in life and believe with all your heart that it can indeed manifest when it’s time. God, the universe, your thoughts, all of these will serve you when you live your life with a plan and with wholehearted intention, day in and day out.

So please, pack your suitcase and just let go. Everything will still be here when you get back – only better.

P.S. Here’s an article I came across a few days ago that I feel says it perfectly and inspired me to write this post. It’s 6 Reasons Why Not Quitting Your Job to Travel is a Waste of Your Life

I Found My Inner Beauty at the Hospital

by: Brandi Miloy
@brandimilloy BrandiMilloy.com // POPSUGAR’s Lifestyle Expert & Host/Producer for Get the Dish with Brandi Milloy

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“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”

They say there are moments in your life that change you-that shape you into the person you become. They are decisions you make or maybe decisions you didn’t make, obstacles you’ve overcome or as Oprah says, they are your “a ha” moments.

For me, these moments happen when things become clear and you are humbled and reminded what is important in life. For me, that’s my faith, my family, my friends and my health. I’ve experienced life-changing moments in my time. When I was 13 I was diagnosed with scoliosis, the curvature of the spine, and was fitted for a back brace that I wore 23 hours of the day for almost four years. During this time, I also had glasses and braces. I was the perfect recipe for being teased. I learned early on the importance of integrity, character and inner beauty. People would judge me based on all of the things they saw on the outside instead of getting to know me. Then I ended up losing my dream of being a college athlete after three back surgeries over the course of five years.  During this time I tried focusing on God’s plan for me and continued to put my trust in Him. I became a volunteer counselor for other young women going through the surgery. I used my experience as a way to connect with others who were struggling with accepting themselves. I became a motivational speaker on overcoming obstacles and staying positive despite your circumstances.  This experience absolutely taught me about compassion, love and acceptance. If I hadn’t of experienced any of my scoliosis issues I would have never been able to relate to those who feel like they don’t belong, victims of bullying or just people trying to find their way.  Because of this experience the way I view others is completely different.  When I see people, I see their actions, I hear their words and I feel their heart. The physical self is so insignificant.

Last October I volunteered in Uganda, Africa with the Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAUGanda.org). I shadowed palliative and hospice care workers and volunteers and helped to document their efforts while also supporting and developing their communications program. During a field visit we visited Mulago Hospital…if you can even call it a hospital. It’s old, dirty, and everything was makeshift and not quite functional. As we approached the building my gut just started hurting. When we arrived to the fourth floor we heard a woman screaming, yelling her lungs out. She was on the floor with other people and I couldn’t tell if she was sick or if someone had just passed but it was frightening. Then I looked around and noticed the floor was packed with people, sick people waiting to be seen. Some of them just lying there with visible sicknesses open sores, wounds, deformities, etc. None of the standards we are used to were there. The patient rooms are one big room on each floor, lined with beds but the beds are like cots and they have torn, old, mix matched sheets. And the smell is like sewer and rotten eggs and feces and B.O all in one. The sound of babies and children crying, people yelling…each floor has a guard so that the patients waiting don’t riot and try to barge in. Even that was scary to see. The wheel chairs are wooden, there is no elevator to climb the 6 floors (so they carry them in cots) and there is no air conditioning so it’s hot, humid and sticky.  In Uganda, the patient to doctor ration is 10,000 to 1. The need is so overwhelming you can’t even wrap your head around it.

I followed Dr. Jennifer and we visited children-all of them with terminal illnesses. Little helpless children who just lay there waiting to take their medicine. There’s no bright colors on the walls or stuffed animals for them to hold. Many of them have been abandoned by their parents. They are roomed with whoever is beside them-grown men, women, whoever.  Just windows and their holey mosquito net (if they’re lucky) to look at. The water they are served are in old plastic cooking oil containers and the food is rice beans or a boiled egg.  Barely any IV drips or monitors or any other process for keeping track of patients except for pieces of paper taped to the edge of their bed. And electricity is not available in the entire hospital-just some parts.  For pain control, they use liquid morphine in old water bottles to help ease their pain. There was so much to absorb I just couldn’t take it all in.
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The last patient we met is Teddy. She is 9 years old and has a tumor that has grown into the left side of her face. One of her eyes is shut because the mass is so big it has caused her teeth to shift since the tumor is taking over half of her head.  She looked weak but sat up to talk to the Doctor and the other nurses when she saw us. I learned that she is an orphan. Her parents died of HIV AIDS and TB. Her sister lives so far away that she has only visited once in years.

What I loved about meeting Teddy was that despite all of the circumstances around her, she was grateful.  She had personality and a great attitude. There are 59 languages spoken in Uganda so even some of the other local volunteers couldn’t understand what Teddy was saying but I knew what she was saying. You don’t have to understand to know what joy looks like on a child’s face. The positive energy she had was bursting out of her like a rainbow. She was so appreciative of the little time the doctors and volunteers had for her. You could tell she looked forward to it and it was her time to show off and keep them laughing and smiling.  As I was taking photos, Teddy even wanted me to take her picture! She was kind of being bashful at first but then posed for me a bit and giggled to herself like any girl would who kind of likes getting photos taken of herself. She was beautiful.

This is just one example of the compassion and love I witnessed when I served there. These people have nothing, come from nothing and expect nothing.  Especially the people I visited in hospice and palliative care-their health is deteriorating, their bodies are weak but their spirits are strong. SEEING and BEING with people who have NOTHING be SO thankful and joyful for God and all of his blessing is life changing…it brings me to tears.

We are all so incredibly blessed. And we all have talents that we can share and express in acts of kindness. I was able to use my journalism degree and communications background to help support the organization I chose to work with but I encourage you to share your talents with the world. If you are a singer, visit nursing homes and entertain. If you love basketball, try volunteering with a youth team. Love to read, visit the children’s hospital and read your heart out. There are so many random acts of kindness that can be done TODAY that can start a huge wave of change in the world! My hope for you is that by sharing your talents and connecting with others you too will find clarity in life and realize the “soul” purpose of life is to serve one another.

Eat, Pray, Love // Part 2

by: Alicia M. Blanco

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Now that I’m back in LA and able to really reflect on my “Eat Pray Love” adventure (and can FINALLY talk about the details) I feel really overwhelmed. It seems like it may be nearly impossible to express how emotional I’ve been.  So enjoy the pictures! Hopefully they will better describe what my writing simply can’t.

EAT.

The food in Israel was nothing short of amazing. On the first day that we went out for lunch, I think I ate enough for the rest of the week, for a family of four. I had four pita breads all to myself and an endless supply of hummus, chicken, falafel, vegetables, French fries… you name it. But it was the way in which all of our meals were presented to us that was especially magnificent. We were made to feel like royalty! They took such great care of us and presented each meal in such a detailed, ornate, elaborate and artistic way.  These pictures truly don’t do it justice.

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What an indescribable feeling it was to eat to our hearts content and in such a lavish setting. Thank you to Susie Castillo, Miss USA 2003 for capturing most of those AMAZING pictures of our meals!

Literally, every single meal was fit for a royal court and dignitaries, ambassadors, VIPs… so of course we felt overwhelmingly appreciative, gracious and ate like Queens. On this particular night we were joined by former Israeli Ambassador of the UN, Gabriella Shalev.


PRAY.

I felt closer to God than ever before in the week I spent in Israel. For me, being in the holy land was cleansing, healing and the biggest learning experience of my entire life. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit with me everywhere I went.

I felt closer to God than ever before in the week I spent in Israel. For me, being in the holy land was cleansing, healing and the biggest learning experience of my entire life. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit with me everywhere I went.

From the Western Wall (also known as the wailing wall in the Old City of Jerusalem where I was honored with the task of praying for several of you - THANK YOU to my bestie Kristen for capturing this picture of me leaning against the wall and praying!!!) to the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee...it was all just so magical and stunning to pray on an entirely different level. It truly left me so speechless and I felt like I was emotionally melting away any grief, pain, confusion, hurt or any other ailment holding me back in my life.  Such an intense wave of emotions.

Praying along the Western Wall (also known as the wailing wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.)

I was honored with the task of praying for several of you – THANK YOU to my bestie Kristen for capturing this picture of me leaning against the wall and praying!!!) to the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee…it was all just so magical and stunning to pray on an entirely different level. It truly left me so speechless and I felt like I was emotionally melting away any grief, pain, confusion, hurt or any other ailment holding me back in my life. Such an intense wave of emotions.

Lighting candles in prayer at The Church of the Holy Sepulchrer.

Lighting candles in prayer at The Church of the Holy Sepulchrer.

This is the exact spot where Jesus Christ was crucified. I was able to kneel down and pray over the shrine. It was incredible!

This is the exact spot where Jesus Christ was crucified. I was able to kneel down and pray over the shrine. It was incredible!

I bought some rosaries and other gifts in the Old City of Jerusalem and prayed over them at The Church of the Holy Sepulchrer. This is the actual stone slab where the body of Jesus Christ was cleaned off after he died.

I bought some rosaries and other gifts in the Old City of Jerusalem and prayed over them at The Church of the Holy Sepulchrer. This is the actual stone slab where the body of Jesus Christ was cleaned off after he died.

Praying with Susie.

Praying with Susie.

This was a level of prayer i will never forget. I will be thankful for the rest of my life for this experience.  And I pray you feel something stirring up inside of you simply by reading about my experience and seeing these pictures.

This was a level of prayer I will never forget. I will be thankful for the rest of my life for this experience. And I pray you feel something stirring up inside of you simply by reading about my experience and seeing these pictures.

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It was such an honor to be interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network about my blog! Speechless! I was able to talk about the Inner Beauty of Israel. Too cool!

It was such an honor to be interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network about my blog! Speechless! I was able to talk about the Inner Beauty of Israel. Too cool!

Swimming in the Dead Sea

Swimming in the Dead Sea

Boat ride on the Sea of Galilee

I remember one moment in particular when we were on our boat ride in the Sea of Galilee listening to some praise and worship music- I felt like I was literally floating in the clouds. The power of prayer is simply priceless and to be able to say that I prayed in Israel is truly a dream come true for me. I pray to go back to Israel again very soon.


LOVE.

SHE SAID YES! After a whirlwind trip of eating and praying in Israel, I got to spend the weekend in New York City with some of my very best girlfriends for a “girls trip” – yet little did our girl Nia Sanchez know that we were REALLY there for her surprise engagement!!! Extra exclamation marks for that!!!!

SHE SAID YES!

After a whirlwind trip of eating and praying in Israel, I got to spend the weekend in New York City with some of my very best girlfriends for a “girls trip” – yet little did our girl Nia Sanchez know that we were REALLY there for her surprise engagement!!! Extra exclamation marks for that!!!!

Nia is the reigning Miss USA and she’s been dating her man, Daniel Booko, for about a year and a half. It has been so much fun watching their love story unfold. So when Daniel called all of us ladies going to NYC for the weekend to inform us that he would be proposing while we were there, we got so much more excited about our trip.   We were so honored to be entrusted with the responsibility of tricking Nia into joining us for a “rooftop dinner and some drinks” that night (as well as making sure she got all dressed up and got her nails done that day too, etc.)

Nia is the reigning Miss USA and she’s been dating her man, Daniel Booko, for about a year and a half. It has been so much fun watching their love story unfold. So when Daniel called all of us ladies going to NYC for the weekend to inform us that he would be proposing while we were there, we got so much more excited about our trip. We were so honored to be entrusted with the responsibility of tricking Nia into joining us for a “rooftop dinner and some drinks” that night (as well as making sure she got all dressed up and got her nails done that day too, etc.)

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I am so blessed to have such a loving group of girlfriends. My time in NYC was all about LOVE!

I am so blessed to have such a loving group of girlfriends. My time in NYC was all about LOVE!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

This was just minutes after it happened. We were so happy and overflowing with LOVE!

This was just minutes after it happened. We were so happy and overflowing with LOVE!

If you know me well, you know I’m a huge fan of fairytale love stories, romance, relationships, being swept off your feet, the whole nine. I just love Love so much. I’m totally and completely a relationship type person. And just as much, I’m also totally and completely a family oriented person. I am really attracted to men with strong relationships with his family. I’ve even been known to encourage boyfriends in my past to send flowers and/or a random call or text to his mom and sisters, if applicable.  I love that stuff.

I also dream of my future husbands’ family being so in love with me and being excited to welcome me into their family.  This is why being part of Nia’s engagement completely solidified the importance of being embraced and accepted by your partners’ family.

This is Daniels sister. She is the cutest!! I think this picture really captures the love the Booko family has for Nia. She was tremendous help to Daniel on this unforgettable day. She drove out from Boston to NYC the day before to help set up the rooftop with candles, flowers, pictures, balloons, champagne, and a candy bar. Too sweet. She also made sure the happy couple called up the rest of the family to share the exciting news right away. Hearing how happy his family sounded with each phone call was so beautifully overwhelming. They love Nia so much. I was bawling.  It’s so important. Love and support from family is priceless.

Nia hugging her soon to be sister-in-law, right after the proposal.

This is Daniels sister. She is the cutest!! I think this picture really captures the love the Booko family has for Nia. She was tremendous help to Daniel on this unforgettable day. She drove out from Boston to NYC the day before to help set up the rooftop with candles, flowers, pictures, balloons, champagne, and a candy bar. Too sweet. She also made sure the happy couple called up the rest of the family to share the exciting news right away. Hearing how happy his family sounded with each phone call was so beautifully overwhelming. They love Nia so much. I was bawling. It’s so important. Love and support from family is priceless. Ironically, just hours before the engagement, Nia shared with us how much she wanted to be part of Daniel’s amazing family one day. I took all of this as just validation and confirmation for my heart. Family is everything.

Ironically, just hours before the engagement, Nia shared with us how much she wanted to be part of Daniel’s amazing family one day. I took all of this as just validation and confirmation for my heart. Family is everything.   I can think of no greater way to wrap up my Eat Pray Love journey than to witness my friends dream love story become a reality so whimsically. Nia has such a GLOW to her now that she is so madly in love. I think most women would agree that when we are loved like never before, then we are unstoppable and can't help but to reciprocate that love right back to our man. And that’s the way love should be…

I can think of no greater way to wrap up my Eat Pray Love journey than to witness my friends dream love story become a reality so whimsically. Nia has such a GLOW to her now that she is so madly in love. I think most women would agree that when we are loved like never before, then we are unstoppable and can’t help but to reciprocate that love right back to our man. And that’s the way love should be…

A little sidenote about this picture of me in front of the L O V E statue... I honestly didn't even go looking for it! We just so happened to stumble across it on our way to dinner. I saw it and immediately started to cry. I felt like it was God concluding my Eat Pray Love journey so poetically. I repeat, I wasn't even looking for it! And yet BAM, there it was...and it found me.

LOVE.

A little sidenote about this picture of me in front of the L O V E statue… I honestly didn’t even go looking for it! We just so happened to stumble across it on our way to dinner. I saw it and immediately started to cry. I felt like it was God concluding my Eat Pray Love journey so poetically. I repeat, I wasn’t even looking for it! And yet BAM, there it was…and it found me.

And that’s exactly how I promise to live the rest of my dating life.  I won’t go looking for it or try so long and so hard to make something work. I know in my heart that when I’m least expecting it, it will find ME. He will pursue me, court me, protect me, and never give up on me.  I know it won’t be easy, love never is, but I also know it shouldn’t be so hard either.  #love

That’s another thing I learned while in Israel – life is so precious and tomorrow has no guarantees. In the event of a bomb threat, everyone has fifteen seconds to get to a bomb shelter. Fifteen seconds. When I heard that, I promised myself to enjoy every second of my life.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13

I love you all for reading this!!

3 Things Israel Confirmed For Me In Just One Day

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After my first 24 hours in Israel I can honestly say my life will never be the same. Imagine where my mind will be after my full week here!? It’s hard to put into words just how amazing this experience has been so far, but I will try. (Please excuse the typos – We are about to run out for the day but I wanted to get this posted before I left!)

Day One was spent on a tour of the Barzilai Medical Center which treats many of the injured from Gaza and Israel. We were privileged to visit and hand out toys in the children’s ward. Afterwards we were off to a high school in Sderot which is right on the frontline of Gaza. Yeah, I was scared. But when I realized that these kids live in this fear every single day, I recognized how truly privileged I am and suddenly felt fearless, and really damn thankful too. Saw my first bomb shelter ever on campus…

We also visited a Police Station in Sderot where we saw firsthand just a few of the remains of rockets fired at Israel.

Lunch was amazing… (so that’s what hummus is supposed to taste like…) Hey #Merica, just so you know, our hummus is no Bueno compared to the real thing!

We ended day one on a tour of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Base where I met the most extraordinary people in my life. In particular, my conversations with the women on the frontline were the most compelling.

Here are the 3 Things Israel Confirmed for me in just One Day

1)     Being educated is so sexy – As we sat in a conference room at the IDF and listened to the personal stories of these young men and women in the military, it became clear that even through a thin language barrier, these were extremely educated people… I mean, kids. They knew e v e r y t h i n g in great detail about their country, its history, statistics, facts and everything else in between. It was really powerful to be amongst such intelligent individuals who were as passionate about defending their country as they were about knowing every single thing about it. Also notably impressive was that there was no sense of “man vs woman” or women being treated differently just because they were women. Nope. All equal here.

Dinner later that day with former Israeli Ambassador of the UN Gabriella Shalev was equally significant of the importance of obtaining a higher education. Her resume was miles long and I just felt so honored to be in her presence. There is something soooo attractive and alluring about a beautiful and educated mind. She didn’t have to say much for all of us to feel how powerful she was.

2)     Loving your job is as important as drinking water every day. – On the bus leaving the base, a few of the female soldiers got to ride back with us. My friend Kristen who is also on this amazing adventure with me asked one of the women, “how do you stay so happy?” – Her response was that she wakes up every single day “so excited” about what she does. HELLO BRAVE AND SELFLESS WARRIOR… I found that to be absolutely incredible. This woman in particular is 24 years old and has been serving for five years. She said, “I promised myself that every day I would be excited and to never let go of that promise.” Five years later, and I can honestly say its been a while since I’ve seen someone light up so when talking about what they do. This is a woman who risks her life that I’m talking about!!! So the next time I want to complain about work in America, I’m just gunna shut the heck up… wow.

3)     Never judge a book by its cover. – If Israel had a “cover” title based on what the media portrays, it would be “danger” “warfare” “disagreement” “pain” “death” “conflict”… and yet after just one day I’ve come to realize that this couldn’t be any further from the truth. When I told a few people where I would be going for a week, I got a lot of responses like “but why?” “have you been watching the news?” “don’t you know what’s going on over there?” “why Israel? Now? Really? Are you crazy?”

And I would lying to you if I said that these same thoughts didn’t cross my mind too. They certainly did. However, I think this is what life is all about – getting out there and seeing the world firsthand, not just the exotic and “safe” places, but also the places that are seemingly in trouble. If God presented this amazing opportunity to me, I know it’s with great purpose and I trust He will protect all of us throughout the journey. There is a reason I am here. Reasons I haven’t even been able to fully process quite yet. (I’m honestly still a bit in shock that I’m here. Thankful is an understatement though.)

At the welcome dinner receptions, all of us were presented with necklaces that read, “One nation” on them. The presenter explained how significant it was that we always remember that despite all the things we “see” and “hear” about Israel, that there is still an immense sense of inner beauty all around this place. It’s within the hearts of the innocent children and families who really just want a quiet and peaceful lifestyle. It’s in the hospitals which despite ample difficulties, still manage to perform lifesaving operations and provide treatments. It’s in the selflessness of the military and their passion to serve their country. It’s everywhere and it’s so clear you can almost touch it with your bare hands. Never judge a book by its cover. As a former reporter I cant tell you how much the news annoys the crap out of me…

It’s important to stay informed but don’t get sucked into believing every little last “detail” that gets dragged on and fabricated in the media. That’s annoying and stupid.

Time to head out for Day Two! We are going to The Old City of Jerusalem and visiting the prayer walls! I am in shock that I get to experience something so amazing as this. Thanks to everyone who sent prayer requests to me on social media. I read each and every single one of your messages and will take them with me today. STAY TUNED FOR MORE POSTS LIKE THIS! 🙂

EAT, PRAY, LOVE!

by: Alicia M. Blanco

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One of my all-time favorite movies ever is Eat, Pray, Love staring Julia Roberts. Roberts plays writer Liz Gilbert, a woman who finds herself within a midlife crises despite having everything a modern woman is supposed to dream of having in a lifetime. Even with a doting husband, a dream home and a booming career, she wants out of her situation entirely. Newly divorced, she quickly jumps right back into yet another unhealthy relationship and ends up in the same state of mind – confused, unhappy and wanting more out of her life. At a crossroads, she steps out of her comfort zone and makes the drastic decision to travel to Italy, India and Bali for one full year on a quest of self-discovery.

For years I have marveled over the idea of spontaneously traveling and discovering new places and ultimately finding myself along the way. I can’t begin to tell you how many times that I’ve seen this movie and I always tell myself, “one day I’m gunna do that..” but, as we all know, stuff gets in the way, life gets busy and there’s always an excuse whether it’s money or other circumstances keeping me from going for it.

But after years of relentless prayer, positive affirmations speaking these opportunities into existence, and vision boards filled with images of places I want to see and travel to, God has worked it all out for me.

So, this will be my last blog post from #Murica, at least until mid-October. I leave tomorrow to a ‘far away place’ that I’m not yet allowed to disclose until I arrive. I can’t wait to share everything with you guys!!!  I will do my best to post pictures and blogs about my journey as much as possible.

I firmly believe that this will be a trip of clarity, detox, release, abundance, freedom, emotion and epiphany. When I get back to the United States I will be a changed woman. This I know for sure.

And I can’t believe I get to Start The Wave in another country… or two.

***In addition, The Wave now has its own app called Ripil. Download the app today and watch your small ripple build into a huge wave as you keep track of your random acts of kindness across the world with me! You’d be surprised with how far your good deed will travel and who it will land on. That’s why this new app is simply perfect. It tracks your acts, gives you ideas on what you can do in your school, neighborhood, community, job…it’s basically just the bomb.com (wait do people still say that?)

I’m a little hype right now because there’s so much good news. Hard to keep it all in and still make sense when I write!

Ayyy, there’s so much more I want to say but for now all I can say is that my next blog will be from a whole new wooooorld! So stay tuned 🙂

I’ve only ever used my passport once when I went to The Bahamas. Ah! Prayers are welcome.