Lessons of the Heart

July 28, 2016 @ 11:30AM

In hopes of being loved, I’ve given my heart away. I’ve done this time and time again like an insane person expecting a different result. What I’ve learned from this is that YOU are the guardian of your own heart. It is YOUR responsibility and up to your discretion who you feel is deserving enough to be part of it. Everyone will reveal their true colors and they’re not always what they seem–even if we use our best judgement– we might still be disappointed.

I’ve realized that each time it breaks, I pick up the pieces and eventually it will heal. There is no specific time frame when it all feels better. It feels better slowly– with each cry, laugh, song, new experience– until suddenly you no longer recognize the heaviness that once loomed over you in the mornings and nights you were alone.

Being open and vulnerable is not a sign of weakness. It’s been a painfully difficult process for me to accept how I’m feeling rather than deny I ever felt. But its been really rewarding to be able to recognize that and then allow myself to feel in its entirety without guilt. Love and acceptance comes first and foremost from self–accepting yourself exactly the way you are, where you are in life right now. You’re not crazy for having emotions, no matter what people might say (including yourself). A sympathetic response is not a substitute for empathy, it’s simply not enough and you deserve better.

As masochistic as it appears, I still want to give my heart to others wholeheartedly. I think it’s important not to let the fear of rejection, loss, or heartbreak change a hopeful heart into a bitter one. There’s a difference in learning to be more discerning with whom you share your heart with, and becoming cold because you no longer trust your heart. It’s so important to understand that these experiences are molding your heart so you can be better for someone who is worthy because they, too, have been taught how to cherish a heart.

With each experience, I grow stronger roots. A branch might break, but a new one will grow. You set your standards, and you will be surprised that there are people who will go above and beyond them. The people who support you through your ups and downs belong in your heart. I am lucky enough to have people who have found a permanent place in mine, and there will always be room for more love in my heart! I hope that you, too, allow every opportunity of love into your heart. May forgiveness bring you peace, freedom, and create more space for unconditional love.




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The Butterfly


“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly,
but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Maya Angelou

I read this quote the other day and it reminded me of when Steve Jobs said, “if you look really closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” This concept is reiterated in tons of other quotes and examples. People often only get to see what you’re willing to show and/or what they want to see. What I find interesting is that the journey to get to that pinnacle of apparent success is highly undervalued by the onlooker. I mean, people are looking for a quick fix that will bypass all the required steps. If they don’t receive a quick fix, they most likely are unwilling to undertake the journey themselves. Sure, there are ways to be more efficient, but that’s also a learned process. Learning takes time, patience, and dedication–all necessary attributes to ensure one foot continues to go in front of the other.

The lotus flower is rather symbolic in Buddhism. There’s a common analogy used of the beautiful lotus flower growing through the mud. The mud represents suffering and all the literal shit life throws at you, and of course, you are the lotus fighter flower. Being human, it’s impossible to experience internal growth and even happiness without also experiencing suffering. The world as we know it is made up of dichotomies and one value does not exist without an opposite value. Life is a dance of holding on and letting go, of reaping and sowing, and of watering the seeds you want to see grow.

Journey’s are not easy. In fact, it’s so much easier to take detours and delay as much as possible so you don’t have to take the journey–especially if it’s going to be alone! Whenever I notice myself seeking something externally, feeling inadequate, or going into fairy-tale mode, I know I’m distracting myself from looking within because it’s terrifying! I’m afraid of what I’ll discover. I get anxiety that whatever I end up finding will not be okay. How will I be able to handle it? What will happen? There are a thousand thoughts that appear before any actionable steps occur.

Usually the main actionable steps are shoving myself off this ledge I’ve created and hoping there’s something there to catch me. In complete honesty though, things have always worked out in my experiences. Even so, the unknown parts of yourself are still the scariest places to explore. But I imagine being thrown into this unknown is like skydiving for the first time- scary, wild, and freeing.



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Wild Fools

Wild Fools

Everyone is a soldier
Fighting their own wars
Some forces completely out of our control.

I am but one warrior
In a village of warriors
Yet we become an army.

Yes, we are waves in an ocean storm
We are the wind and leaves and dust in a tornado
We are the ants building and lifting.

We all march along the path with just our name
And along that road we’ll meet.

Connection is so important. I believe that no matter how introverted or independent or anti-people you may think you are–connection is vital–especially for us human beings. I believe this is the invisible thread for everything we know as the Universe. We are all connected. I feel this now more than before, and probably will feel it even more tomorrow or the next day.

The reason why I bring this up is because I have spent much time feeling disconnected and it was really gnawing at me internally. There’s definitely a difference between solitude and loneliness, and feeling disconnected is a terribly lonely place to be. I often feel people wont understand where I am coming from. Of course my story is so personal to me, I think you had to have been there to understand. And even if you were there, you only understand an atom of what I was going through because it was not you who felt that pain, exhaustion, desperation, or despair.

So yes, I felt very disconnected from my age group, friends, family, and strangers alike. I felt disconnected most significantly from myself! When you are in a cave long enough there is no distinction between night or day, outside or inside. The weight of rock becomes you and soon enough you cannot distinguish yourself from the cave.

It is only when you choose to step outside of the cave that the sun hits your face, the moon awakens your soul, and the stars dance for you. The cave is your thoughts and from these thoughts stem fears. And your thoughts are not you. At least, they are not you you.

Thoughts would eat me up alive if they could. They’re constantly whirring and begging for my attention; if I don’t pay attention to them they’ll rev up their engine and shift into 6th gear until I’m left spinning in circles following them. Track marks at a race, those are thoughts.

Thoughts can be stories we tell ourselves or about others. They can create a glass ceiling that says we cannot break through. Thoughts can drown out action simply by stating you can’t. They will always be there, but they don’t have to leave track marks. You certainly don’t have to keep following them, because you are the driver after-all.

I’m not sure what you are going through right now. I’m sure it’s something, because if there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that everyone is going through or will go through something. Maybe you are thinking about how your heart aches, or about what you could’ve done better, or what your future will be like. Even if it’s just for an hour or a day, imagine how much lighter you would feel without the weight of all those fears. Accept yourself for a moment, exactly as you are (not who you think you should be right now).

What I found that really helped me reconnect with the world was reaching out to people closest to me. Creating a daily schedule, writing it down, and sticking to it no matter how I felt. Making a list of reasonable goals and accomplishing them one by one. I reduced my time on the computer and spent more time reading or writing in my journal. It’s terrifying trying to reconnect to a world you feel out of place in, but in less than a month I successfully accomplished the goals I set for myself! And that is literally one of the best feelings in the world. Just know that you can do it too, and you aren’t alone in your pursuit of feeling more connected. Even the pursuit of feeling more connected already makes you connected.



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Iridescent Life

I used to feel as if life–whether it be in relationships, school, work, or everyday events– was completely chaotic. Like the small steel ball in pinball, some force would flick me into a random collision of events. Through physics and mathematics we are able to somewhat explain these events at a very objective level. However, when it happens to you, there is no objectivity. I understand what it feels like to be flung by nature’s hand. Life can lose more of its meaning, and events become tainted with resentment.

Lately I’ve been reading Einstein His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson.  It offers only a peek into the depths of this brilliant and unique mind and personality. A strong position of Einstein’s that is highlighted throughout is the importance of nurturing individuality. Initially, it seems almost like a contradiction. “There was a harmonious reality underlying the laws of the universe, Einstein felt, and the goal of science was to discover it.” If everything and everyone is connected, if there were an equation or explanation to encapsulate us all, what then makes us different? What assumes the role of an individual?

I’ve come to believe life is perfectly in order; that we meet people, not randomly, but because at that time we need to learn a lesson so to speak. We create patterns. For example, we meet a similar personality type, or are faced with a similar event that stirs up the same set of emotions, until we recognize and break the pattern. In relationships, sometimes we will grow together, and other times we grow apart. We may interpret the lesson differently and therefore branch out to continue our learning. One is not better than the other, we simply (and literally) have outgrown one another.

I deeply appreciate the people and events that have shown up in my life and although I recognize this, it can still feel like a cruel joke or sharp, agonizing pain. In times of despair, I find myself asking why? Why did I have to meet him or her, or go through this and that. This is what one may refer to as suffering. The constant weight of pain, found in every nerve and infecting every cell with lead. However heavy the weight may feel, peace and even goodness can be found in suffering when you learn to understand it. Pain keeps us present, and connected.

I never fully understood heartbreak, though, and even typing out the word I begin to cry. I think of people who have come in my life as great loves and left as strangers. I think of children growing up and their innocent curiosity slowly fading. I try to remember the voices and touch of loved ones. I see time now not as numbers, but through faces, including my own.

The individual is found in silence. It is what speaks to us when we are alone, sharing its knowledge and comfort especially during our times of need. It is the unknown strength and courage. The harmonic melody universal silence sings is love. Love infuses the many hues of life with an iridescence that transcends the question ‘why?’ I trust in this more than I trust in the pain felt from heartbreak.




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Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me” (Book Review)



I don’t know Mindy Kaling. I thought she was in The Bridesmaids, but actually she wasn’t. So I Googled her, and she was in The Office and No Strings Attached. Ah, yes! How could I forget? Then again, her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), is a collection of her unforgettable memories told by a self-proclaimed wallflower. I really like seeing her on screen, because there are very few, and largely misrepresented (ethnic) female characters. Ultimately, I wanted to read this book with no expectations, and will write my review based on that.

First off, I didn’t start to like the book until page 33–“Don’t Peak in High School.” I think before this, the book felt like a nervous comedian taking the stand. As the audience, I almost felt obligated to watch and cringe a little, with a laugh inserted every now and then. I began to wonder, do I have to read and review this? I could see how teenage girls would be the target demographic, but there had to be more, right? Up until page 33, I felt disconnected. Then I read “Don’t Peak in High School” and she spoke beautifully to my inner high school school girl. Finally, some words of insight that captured my attention on a deeper level.

Mindy continues this connection on a guided journey through college, after college, and so forth. Through her experiences, observations, hopes and dreams, she doesn’t hide that she hasn’t figured it all out. I think this is the exact reason why it’d be easy to imagine being friends with her and saying, “Hey, Mindy. Want to go into food-coma and do karaoke tonight?” It’s quite effortless for her to be transparent in her confessions, which many of us would think but be too reserved to say aloud.

Is this book for everyone? No, absolutely not. I believe a certain amount of patience, willingness to learn, and humor is necessary to fully enjoy it for what it is: a good weekend read while catching up on reality TV shows like The Bachelor in Paradise. It qualifies as a guilty pleasure, and I had a fun time imagining myself in her shoes and laughing! We could all use a little laughter, right? Thank you Mindy Kaling for sharing, and Birchbloggers for this pleasant surprise read!

~SPARKLE_N_SOUL 2014~ Lovely caption from a lovely book.

~SPARKLE_N_SOUL 2014~ Lovely caption from a lovely book.

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A Change Has Come

Today is my birthday (well, when I post this it will be at least). I’m turning 24 years old today, and when I was younger, this would have been considered ‘old’ in my mind. In fact, if you asked me last year, I would have said “I can’t believe I’ll be 24, that’s so old!”

Well today I’m here to say I can believe it, and I actually feel younger. For those of you who know me, this past year challenged me and changed me to my core. This was a very important, sacred year for me. I have changed, dramatically. Let me show you just the physical changes from taking Prednisone (a steroid used to treat–in my case–inflammation in my kidneys):

~~~SPARKLE_N_SOUL 2014~~~

~~~SPARKLE_N_SOUL 2014~~~

I cut my hair, because it was falling out. My face and eyes became large and puffy (referred to as a “Moon Face”). I went from 100lbs. to 125lbs. A size 00 petite to a size 8. My skin color even changed! I am no longer the same person, both inside and out. It took a (really) long time to be able to truly accept that. The girl I knew before (God, I love her), helped me learn and grow into the girl I am today. I use ‘girl’ purposefully, because I feel a youthful spirit lightening my being and calling me towards something where time is simply an illusion. This is what I wanted to begin to share with you today.

Since being diagnosed, I’ve allowed the freedom of creativity to delve into a place I was too afraid to go before. This place is constantly testing me, and doubt does set in, but I do my best to challenge it. My diagnosis of Stage IV Lupus Nephritis felt first like a new beginning, then a devastating end, and up and down like that for the past year. Today, I realized Lupus was not the beginning nor end of my story, but rather a stepping stone to help further cultivate the seeds that were already planted.

My intention of starting this blog was not to be a ‘beauty blogger’ or even a ‘blogger.’  I don’t even want to be known for having Lupus!  I am a writer, a teacher, who wants to help others–who may or may not be going through similar experiences– but nonetheless can connect to and feel inspired by what I have to say. Of course, my ego and insecurities led me on a detour, and I felt uninspired (hence why I haven’t written in a while). I’m so happy now to have let that go, and start anew.

Today is my birthday, and like everyday, it is my favorite day to water these seeds and help them grow! Especially because you are reading this and growing with me. Thank you for being present, and for all the love and support!


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CHIKUHODO MK-2 Powder brush (Review)



CHIKUHODO is one of the best (and arguably the best) brush-manufacturers in the world, using traditional Japanese brush making techniques.  Their brushes are handcrafted, and their continued high-quality has led it to be the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for makeup brushes for brands like SUQQU, RMK, and Shiseido to name a few.  I’m happy to share my impressions of the CHIKUHODO MK-2 Powder brush!  But first, a MK-2 inspired Haiku written by yours truly:

Petals falling down

Like this brush made up of grace

Softly touch my face


-Very soft, non-irritating bristles
-Literally shed one hair (so far)
-Gorgeous lacquer handle made with Japanese “Makie” art


-You might be too afraid to use it!

-The handle is thicker than most others*
-If you are interested in “Makie” Japanese art, I researched it a while ago and found a rather old but good and informative video on Youtube.

Grade: A+

The MK-2 Powder brush is one of three brushes in the MK-series.  It is made up of 100% grey squirrel hair, and is incredibly (!) soft.  Its density and head shape offered more control and I was able to use it for applying powder, as well as blush and bronzer.  The application went on smoothly each time, no pun intended :).  After washing and using it for over a month, I’ve literally only noticed one hair that decided to leave the pack.

*At first, I was unfamiliar with the handle (since it is shorter and much thicker than many other makeup brush handles).  However, I quickly got used to it, and really appreciate how lightweight it is.

At this price ($266 found exclusively at http://www.now-eproject.com), you are not just paying for a makeup brush, you are investing in (functional) art and craftsmanship.  Similar to buying a beautiful decoration for your house, this too will add an extra elegant touch to your makeup (brush) collection.  It’s so lovely to look at, and applying makeup with it has been a very enjoyable experience for me.  If you have very sensitive skin, this gets an A+!  I would highly recommend CHIKUHODO’s MK-2 Powder Brush for sensitive skin and art lovers alike, just please don’t break the bank for it (or do, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you)!

Check out the MK-2 Powder Brush for yourself here!

More detailed pictures of the brush head before and after washing:





The following picture is a rough measurement of the brush while wet to show how dense it is, and how this could be conducive for different makeup applications:



Isn’t it pretty?:)mkhandcollage3.0hh



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DHC Deep Cleansing Oil (Review)

DHC offers gentle skincare and cosmetics from one of Japan’s top beauty companies. We have all heard the beneficial properties of virgin olive oil, and DHC has products based on those natural properties. I’m happy to present:

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

 “The ultimate makeup remover: This olive oil-based formula completely dissolves away dirt, excess oil, makeup and even waterproof mascara, leaving your skin soft and fresh, never greasy.”

–Directly from the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil box

Check out more DHC Beauty Skincare products and get FREE samples here



-Comes in a sturdy and convenient bottle
-Removes makeup and cleanses all in one step

-Does not dry out skin
-Made with olive oil and Vitamin E
-Easy to shop for now (offered online)

-Too “heavy” for summer
-Not fragrance-free
-Does not moisturize


This product comes in three sizes, 6.7fl. oz for $28.00 is the largest (a little on the pricey side).  I have this size and the 2.3fl. oz.  I love both bottles, they are really well made bottles, and the little guy is perfect to have while traveling.

I’m impressed with how well the Deep Cleansing Oil is able to remove makeup.  It does not remove all waterproof mascara or eyeliner (I usually end up using a q-tip afterwards), but does keep traces of makeup [very] minimal.  (BTW, I have yet to find a cleanser that can remove all makeup alone–especially eye makeup).

It’s fairly gentle, but would be even better if it were fragrance-free, especially since it’s being used around the eye area. (Scent is somewhat musky and doesn’t really ‘add’ anything to it).  I appreciate that it doesn’t leave my face feeling tightly pulled (haha) like some other oil cleansers I’ve tried before.  With that said, I still feel like it lacks proper moisture.

If you enjoy pampering yourself, this product is a must try since it takes time, and you get to massage it into your face.  It’s a great way to relax and enjoy your skincare routine.  If you’ve been curious about oil cleansers, this is probably going to be a better option (but I’m unconvinced this is the “ultimate” makeup remover)!  I would recommend trying this if you are not prone to breakouts.

NOTE: A new bottle will be fuller


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Love Thyself | 8 Beliefs

July 10, 2014 6:44PM (Revised August 8, 2015)

A wise man once said ‘know thyself.’ A wise woman would’ve said ‘love thyself.’ And her name is Hollycrates, :).

Its taken me approximately 22 years to figure out exactly what that means for me. Twenty-two years is a really long time, especially since it is my current lifespan minus one.

Here are 8 beliefs I’ve learned to accept with all my heart:

  1. Others approval matters little when I have my own.
  2. I am worthy.
  3. I value myself enough to let you go.
  4. My thoughts, words, and actions all belong to me.
  5.  You get what you give yourself in life.
  6. Love thyself, all else will fall into place.
  7. Being beautiful has nothing to do with the way you look.
  8. If you get rid of the weeds in your life, you make room for more flowers.

I cannot recall the countless times I’ve allowed my standards to be bent over what seemed to be a good thing. A gesture that would eventually allow negativity to seep into the cracks of my walls. I’ve been betrayed by others, but the most disappointing betrayal was that of myself.

Loving myself was not easy to do, but looking back I see how I made it so difficult. What I am most grateful for is that those around me continued to love me even when I didn’t. The moment I found freedom from my own betrayal was when I began to really understand how to love and accept myself.

If your intuition tells you something isn’t right, be a detective and find out why. Ignoring it is a great example of how to waste your life. I’m still learning, but I feel like I haven’t had to worry about negativity since I’ve torn down my walls and replaced them with trust, loving kindness, and thoughtful reflection.

Thank you for reading, and I wish you happiness, health, love, and success!


Hollene ❤


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CeraVe PM Lotion (Review)

I’m pleased to introduce…


“Developed with dermatologists and accepted by the National Eczema Association, CeraVe® now has a full line of products recommended for Face and Body to address not only dry skin but also for use as part of a recommended skin care regimen suitable for those with skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea and atopic dermatitis.” (Story of CeraVe)



-A really great solution to dryness
-Gentle enough for sensitive skin
-Made with a wonderful mix of ingredients (ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid to name a few)
-Non-comedogenic (A.K.A does not clog pores)

-Affordable (~$12 for 3fl. oz.)

-The lotion pump dispenser usually disconnects from the head of the pump (this has happened to me about 75% of the time–inconvenient to ‘knock’ lotion out of the bottle)
-This specific moisturizer is not sold in a bigger size


This is absolutely one of my favorite [night-time] facial moisturizers.  After trying countless of products from various brands (high and low-end alike), I’m truly impressed with how effective and inexpensive this lovely little moisturizer is.  It is very gentle on my skin, lightweight, fragrance-free, and packed with ingredients that leaves my skin happy and soft!  It absorbs without feeling greasy.  I have been using this for the past 2 years and love it!  Although the PM moisturizer is not sold in a larger size, I have found that the CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion in 12oz. works well as a substitute.  If you have not tried this brand out, I highly recommend it!

I usually buy mine from Target!

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